All posts by Danny Horn

About Danny Horn

Product Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation. I write a daily blog, Dark Shadows Every Day, about the 1960s vampire soap opera. Founder of Muppet Wiki and Tough Pigs, a Muppet fansite.

Superman III 4.13: The Girl Who Waited

She catches his eye, and for a moment, all Creation holds its breath. There’s a pretty girl in the room, and against all odds, she’s actually happy to lay eyes on Clark Kent.

A divorced mother scraping by as a secretary, friendly but lonely, pretty and vivacious and just mildly out of synch with the rest of the world, she stands out from the crowd of Smallville lifers. She dreams of the day when she can break out of this burg, and go be a divorced mother scraping by as a secretary in the big city.

She’s a fun character played by an adorable actress, and I have just one question: Who is this dame supposed to be, anyway? Because they keep calling her Lana Lang, and that can’t be right, because Lana Lang was Superman’s first and most formidable supervillain.

Continue reading Superman III 4.13: The Girl Who Waited

Superman III 4.12: Mission: Smallville

So obviously there isn’t an actual news story in Clark Kent going back to Kansas for his high school reunion. How could there be?

This is a man whose entire life is newsworthy. Just the fact that he exists is a civilization-stunner on its own, upending everything that we know about aviation and muscle mass, among other things. He’s constantly monitoring the world around him to detect the slightest hint of calamity, and then dives straight towards it for a photogenic rescue, full of human interest. He is everybody’s favorite news story, twenty-four hours a day.

So where is the news angle on a brightly-decorated high school gymnasium in a state that, for Superman, is literally flyover country? The only headline that I see in this room is Hayseeds, Appleknockers Have Pleasant Rube Reunion, and that’s not going to make much of a dent in newsstand sales in Metropolis.

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Lois & Clark 11b.1: All I Want for Christmas Is You

December is a time when wishes come true, and my dearest wish has always been to have a Christmas special of my very own. This year, Santa Claus — represented here by Signal Watch host Ryan Steans — has given me a Christmas podcast episode to talk about my very favorite thing, which is ranking Superman actors by hotness.

We’re talking about “Twas the Night Before Mxymas”, from the fourth season of the ’90s TV show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In this episode, Lois Lane needs to learn how to experience the wonder of Christmas, although she already has pretty much every possible reason to be happy, and should really not be obsessed with how much stuffing she needs to make.

Ryan and I discuss all kinds of festive topics, including why Lois Lane is one of the greatest characters in fiction, how to tell a Superman story with hardly any special effects, and why you should never pay attention to what happens to actors that you have a crush on. Come deck the halls with us!

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Superman III 4.11: Meanwhile, in 1983

But what, I’m sure you’re asking, is happening on the racks? As I go through these movies on the blog, I like to check in on what’s happening in the comics that year, because you never know what might happen if you don’t keep an eye on things. For example: in summer 1982, while I was occupied writing about rubber-suit swamp monsters, Action Comics went and split Superman into two half-powered twin Supermans, and they left him like that for eight months.

The gimmick is that in August 1982, Superman is suddenly sucked through the timestream into 14th century England for some reason — “Great Rao!” he observes, “I’m back in the Middle Ages!” — where he gets in between two squabbling wizard spouses who each want to use his invulnerable body to obtain the Power Ultimate, whatever that is. It seems like some kind of domestic dispute.

Lord Satanis stands on one side of Superman, and his wife, the Sorceress Syrene, stands on the other side, and they pull on the Action Ace like he’s a wishbone, and then he snaps in half, sorcerously. Now we’ve got one half-Superman who’s invulnerable and has heat-vision but doesn’t have flight, speed or super-strength, and another half-Superman who’s got flight, speed and super-strength but isn’t invulnerable and doesn’t have heat-vision, and if you ever lose track of which one has which powers, then Superman will spend the next eight months patiently explaining it to you, every five minutes.

Continue reading Superman III 4.11: Meanwhile, in 1983

Superman III 4.10: Oh, It’s You

The situation could hardly be worse. An enormous chemical plant out in the middle of somewhere has burst into flames in all directions, with fire and smoke pouring out of every window it can find. Firefighters are crawling all over the scene, spraying their hoses at everything that looks hot, and the fire just keeps on burning anyway; I’m not sure it’s even noticed.

There are workers trapped on the roof, scurrying haplessly from one bad outcome to another, and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do. “Get me the number three ladder truck in here!” the fire chief hollers, and one of his men counters, “It won’t reach!” I don’t know why they didn’t bring the truck with the tall ladders on this trip; this town needs taller ladders or shorter factories.

And then an omnipotent space angel materializes behind the fire chief, wearing a circus acrobat suit. “Chief, how can I help?” it booms, raw power sizzling from every pore.

“Get this man a helmet!” the chief shouts, and then turns and recognizes what’s next to him. “Oh, it’s you,” he says.

Continue reading Superman III 4.10: Oh, It’s You

Superman III 4.9: The Sorceror’s Apprentice

I mean, these days Gus Gorman would probably be the hapless head of a secretly bankrupt crypto exchange, breathlessly spinning imaginary plates and having no idea why people even believe in him.

“You start with a company that builds a box,” he would explain. “And of course, so far, we haven’t exactly given a compelling reason for why there ever would be any proceeds from this box, but I don’t know, you know, maybe there will be, so that’s sort of where you start.

“And now all of a sudden everyone’s like, wow, people just decided to put $200 million in the box. This is a pretty cool box, right? Like, this is a valuable box, as demonstrated by all the money that people have apparently decided should be in the box. And who are we to say that they’re wrong about that? Like, you know, this is, I mean boxes can be great. Look, I love boxes as much as the next guy.”

And there he flies, bold Icarus, flapping his waxen wings en route to the sky, and then the sea. We are strangely vulnerable to know-nothing hucksters, it appears, especially in tech, where people remake the world by typing things. And there’s Gus Gorman, fast-talking his way to illusory riches, and everybody marvels: look at all those pretty red flags, waving in unison.

As Gus Gorman and his fellow techbros know only too well, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some just kind of randomly have greatness that comes out of nowhere, as a plot device in a story that they probably think they’re the heroes of.

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 99.1: Make the Movie Anyway

These are uncharted waters. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a mega-franchise that produces hits so dependably that it’s acquired a logic of its own, which does not resemble normal human artistic endeavor.

In 2018, Marvel Studios produced Black Panther, a profoundly successful movie about a character who was not particularly well-known before he started showing up in Marvel movies. The film made a staggering amount of money, with a $700 million domestic box office take. It was the #1 movie of the year in the United States, even beating that year’s Avengers crossover.

They planned to make a sequel, of course, with Chadwick Boseman returning as King T’Challa. Writer-director Ryan Coogler started working on a script, and most of the original cast signed on for the second movie. They were about seven months away from the start of filming on Black Panther 2 when the news broke that Boseman had died of colon cancer, a condition that he’d been struggling with privately since 2016.

At that point, the normal thing for the studio to do would be to announce that the film was cancelled, and that the MCU would regretfully move on without Black Panther. Instead, they decided to make the movie anyway, rewriting the script to have the lead character die offscreen on page 2.

This is a bizarre way for a movie studio to behave. They made a two hour and forty-minute film about how bummed they are that they couldn’t make a sequel to Black Panther, and released it to theaters, and then everybody showed up and loved it anyway.

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Superman III 4.8: The Loss of Lois

She’s only got three minutes, and she lands four solid jokes, which is four more than practically anyone else in the movie. Lois Lane — up until this point, the single most important human being in the world — has been suddenly and mysteriously called away to Bermuda, for a surfside adventure that’s probably way more interesting than anything we’re going to experience in Smallville. She is with us, and then she is gone, like a forgotten promise, and Superman III has to stumble along without her.

Obviously, this is a dreadful mistake. If Warner Bros had asked people in pre-market testing whether they wanted Lois Lane to appear in the next Superman movie, 94% of respondents would have said yes, and the other 6% wouldn’t have understood the question, because it’s such a stupid idea that you’d think they must be asking about something else.

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Superman III 4.6: A Monsignor Moment

“There are some things about commercial film making that are in really bad taste,” Christopher Reeve told the LA Times in June 1983, passive-aggressively promoting his new blockbuster Superman film.

“For a film to be commercial,” he explained, “it must earn money, and that results in strategic planning in certain degrees — the goal being to earn even more money. When it comes to a showdown between quality and integrity and commercial expedience, guess which wins?”

Oh, and go see Superman III, he absolutely did not add.

Continue reading Superman III 4.6: A Monsignor Moment