Introduction: The American Way
My history of superhero movies begins in the obvious place: with singing cowboys.
1.1: Jesus Saves But Mostly He Saves Lois Lane
The first superhero movie starts out in an old-timey June 1938… but the Superman of ’38 was entirely out of his mind.
1.2: It Was Ilya’s Idea
Introducing executive producer Ilya Salkind and his crime syndicate family, through the medium of his lunatic DVD commentary.
1.3: Brando and the Money
In the behind-the-scenes mythology of Superman: The Movie, the most important tale is the legend of Marlon Brando’s salary.
1.4: The Kojak Moment
From lollipops to Kleenex, or: why it took five writers to make a decent Superman script.
1.5: The Discovery of Fire
It’s the end of the credits! The Salkinds leave Rome and get a new director because everyone they know is under investigation, and the director of The Omen gets an omen of his own.
1.6: We Built This City
It’s Jor-El vs the anti-roxxers in a battle to save Krypton, an objectively terrible planet.
1.7: Jor-El and the Magic Wand
In which Jor-El glides around a dark set, reading cue cards and carrying an inexplicable lucite rod.
1.8: See You Later
Presenting the secret origin of the Phantom Zone, a spooky ghost dimension of numbskulls and failures, which was originally created so that Superboy could talk to an electric typewriter.
1.9: Staff Meeting in Space
Jor-El and the science council get together to talk things over, with catastrophic results.
1.10: Crazy Little Thing Called Love
A sci-fi society remembers what “feelings” are, and we learn why they needed four writers to turn the Superman: The Movie script into a good movie.
1.11: A Misuse of Energy
Doomed investigator Jiffy Pop the Science Cop heads for Jor-El’s laboratory, in the several unhelpful alternate versions of Superman: The Movie.
1.12: Glass Houses
And that’s a wrap on the home planet, as Kal-El becomes the first Kryptonian infant to break the glass ceiling.
1.13: … Except for Star Wars
Superman was the most exciting spectacle of its time… except for Star Wars, which did the same stuff but bigger and eighteen months earlier. Why did a sci-fi serial overshadow the first superhero movie?
1.14: Music from the Hearts of Space
I attempt to write about John Williams’ music, which I am absolutely not qualified to do.
1.15: Journey Across the Gulf of Space!
Little Kal-El travels through the trackless depths of the cosmos, listening to audiobooks, and accompanied by a stowaway super-monkey.
1.16: Passing Motorists
Presenting the true and actually canonical story of how Ma and Pa Kent changed their names, opened up a general store, drank spiked lemonade, and died of a pirate fever after opening a treasure chest during their Caribbean vacation.
1.17: For Unto Us
Okay, so Jor-El sent to Earth his only son. Does that mean that Superman is retelling the story of Jesus?
1.18: Opening the Box
Childless couple Jonathan and Martha Kent pick up an unearthly creature that looks like a human baby, and take it home with them… just like the parents in Richard Donner’s previous film, The Omen.
1.19: Left Behind
Young Clark Kent arrives from the uncanny valley, as the origin story enters yet another phase.
1.20: Contest of Champions
Meanwhile, at the newsstand, the American child is tested to the limits of their knowledge, patience and fiscal capacity, in a head-to-head competition that is not for the weak.
Venom: There Must Be Carnage 91.1: The Murderability of Crowds
We interrupt the story of Superman to look at another movie about a powerful, dangerous space monster in the guise of a newspaper reporter, who beats people up and wrecks their homes in the service of fighting crime — Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
1.21: Strangers on a Train
Clark dashes by a passenger train, which carries a reminder of his black-and-white past.
1.22: The Death of Uncle Ben
As Jonathan Kent grabs his left arm and sinks slowly in the west, I ask the question: Is his death really necessary?
1.23: The Myth of the Monomyth
It’s time for us to ask whether Superman: The Movie follows Joseph Campbell’s model of the Hero’s Journey, as an example of the universal monomyth. The answer, obviously, is of course it fucking doesn’t.
1.24: A Balanced Breakfast
As the grieving widow pours her son a bowl of great-tasting, heart-healthy Cheerios, I take a look at some vintage Superman product placement from 1941.
1.25: Syd Field Forever
We finally shake the dust of Smallville off our shoes, and talk about why the film’s three-act structure isn’t what everybody says it is.
1.26: Let It Go
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight, as young Clark Kent walks out into the wilderness and summons an ice castle.
1.27: House of Wax
The true story of how Superman got his creepy private exploding wax museum and super-gymnasium, in his extremely pregnable Fortress of Solitude.
1.28: Grad School
Clark Kent attends a twelve-year standing-room-only seminar on the subject of nothing in particular, led by his father, who’s been dead for many thousands of our years.
1.29: Fear of Flying
Everybody knows that Superman can fly; it’s what we love most about him. So why did it take five years for Siegel and Shuster to understand that?
1.30: After Brando
The fall of Krypton was the easy part; now they have to film five people flying on three sets of wires, and the producers think there’s such a thing as a schedule.
1.31: Metropolis Now
It should be simple — Metropolis is New York, end of story — but, as always, Batman ruins everything.
1.32: Murder, With a Smile
Arriving at the Daily Planet, we find out what the tone of Superman: The Movie is going to be — and it turns out to be screwball comedy.
1.33: The Coming of Clark Kent
The key to getting the audience to like a new character is to make a friend, make a joke, and make a plot point. So how does the movie get us to warm up to an awkward, clumsy Clark Kent, when everybody else in the scene gets all the funny lines?
1.34: Meanwhile, in the Comics
Everybody figured a blockbuster Superman movie would bring lots of new readers to the newsstand, but the sales of Action Comics actually dropped in 1979. What was happening in the comics, that didn’t appeal to the people filling up seats in the movie theaters?
1.35: The Dentist
The casting process for the multi-million-dollar blockbuster Superman: The Movie involved Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, an Olympic gold medalist… and a dentist from Beverly Hills. How did they end up making the perfect choice?
1.36: When the Shooting Starts
It’s dysfunctional relationships week on Superheroes Every Day, kicking off with the moment that the Salkinds declared war on the director that they were currently employing to direct their movie.
1.37: The Invention of Lois Lane
When Lois Lane was first introduced, she could hardly stand to be in the same room as Clark Kent. How did she become Clark’s friend, and why did the radio show figure it out before the comics did?
1.38: Unattainable You
A bitter critique of Superman and Lois’ complex relationship over its first three decades, thanks to The Great Superman Book.
1.39: Chasing Lois
To cast Lois Lane, Richard Donner did screen tests with six intelligent, funny and attractive actresses. What did he see in Margot Kidder that made her his perfect Lois?
1.40: Everyone Looks Like Lois
After eight decades, it’s time for us to investigate that mysterious year when every woman in Action Comics looked like Lois Lane… and finally uncover the terrifying truth that’s been hiding in plain sight all this time.
1.41: Levitate Me
Clark and Lois demonstrate how his human being costume works, separating the two of them by erecting a barrier of transparent glass.
1.42: Another Sunny Day in Comedy New York
Lois and Clark fall victim to a theatrical sarcasm crime spree, which leads to a perfect moment that sets a standard for other superhero movies to aspire to.
1.43: The Training
Even when we’re in Metropolis, the style of the movie keeps changing every few minutes. Here’s how the movie walks us through the transition from the sunny streets of comedy New York, through a cop movie and then downstairs into a Bond film.
1.44: The Man Behind the Curtain
Introducing Lex Luthor, self-described criminal mastermind and mythopoetic trickster figure, who fills the world with chaos and distraction.
1.45: Hair Today
In this post, I reveal the true explanation for why Lex Luthor lost his hair, which everybody gets wrong except for me. And I have the receipts.
Eternals 92.1: The Adventures of Fancy People
This weekend, I interrupt my history of superhero movies to reflect on the newest addition — Eternals, the story of rich people from space who have been gradually gentrifying human history for thousands of years.
1.46: Criminal Minds
The inside story on how Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor lost his mustache and kept his hair, temporarily.
1.47: Lair Life
Today, we take a tour of the enormous and complicated fantasy space that we call Lex Luthor’s lair.
1.48: Feed the Babies
There’s one more area of Lex’s lair to explore — his pit of ravenous creatures, who didn’t make the final cut.
1.49: The Look of Luthor
Lex Luthor’s down-at-the-heels con artist costume is perfect for the movie, but in the comics, the toys and the cartoons of the time, his fashion sense was very different…
1.50: Dawn of the Blockbuster
What did a blockbuster movie look like when they started, all the way back in 1913?
1.51: The Long Walk
Clark and Lois walk through the Daily Planet in a remarkable two-minute tracking shot inspired by a 1944 screwball comedy.
1.52: Clap Your Hands
The movie performs a Ritual of Summoning disguised as an action sequence, willing Superman into existence with the power of anticipation and desire.
1.53: The Heights
Lois’ rooftop helicopter crash is the most complex effects sequence in the movie, involving a helicopter that can’t fly, a rooftop that isn’t a rooftop, and a building that’s only about two-thirds of the building.
1.54: The Stupid Question
They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but then somebody asks what happens to Clark Kent’s clothes when he changes into Superman, and you realize that there might be an exception. How do you solve this problem, without killing the character?
1.55: The Bad Outfit
Say, Jim: it’s time to talk about why the only Black character with a speaking part in the movie is a pimp. Whoo!
1.56: The Catch
When Superman catches Lois in the helicopter rescue scene, the one thing that would ruin the moment is if she was grateful, rather than horrified.
1.57: A Man Can Fly
Getting Superman to soar across the screen was crucial to the success of Superman: The Movie. How did they make it look real in the first movie, and then get it wrong in the sequels?
1.58: The Alternative
While Richard Donner and the Superman crew were struggling to get Christopher Reeve up into the air in 1978, the Action Comics team provided an alternative — the Supermobile, a flying die-cast sensation introduced with a four-issue toy commercial.
1.59: The Alternative, part 2
The second half of the thrilling story of the Supermobile, a skirmish in the neverending battle between Art and Commerce that took up a full four issues of Action Comics in 1978.
1.60: Stop the Steal
“Oh, Superman, I’m glad you’re here,” the superintendent of police might say to the glowing, radioactive archangel that’s manifested in his office, holding a blazing sword. “We’ve got a mystery on our hands, and you’re just the one to help us figure it out.”
1.61: Thrill of the Chase
Eight reasons why the car chase in Superman: The Movie isn’t a very good scene, and why it doesn’t matter.
1.62: Catching the Cat
Superman can change the course of mighty rivers, and bend steel in his bare hands. Why did it take him two days to not get a cat out of a tree?
1.63: Human History, and How to Not Interfere With It
Jor-El says that Superman must not interfere with human history, but how does a hero who loves smacking dudes in the face hold himself back from punching the ultimate supervillain, Adolf Hitler?
1.64: Human History, and How to Not Interfere With It, part 2
Superman stayed away from the front lines during World War II, but in 1969, he paid a visit to the jungles of Vietnam, to help a troop of American soldiers deal with an inscrutable dragon lady villainess, and teach a cowardly G.I. how to kill like a man.
1.65: You’re Doing It Wrong
Superman goes home and gets a deleted lecture from his dad, which is the last thing we need.
1.66: So Below
As the new king of the sky reveals himself to an admiring public, Lex Luthor does the backstroke, and unilaterally declares war on the sun.
1.67: The Gauntlet
The first half of Superman: The Movie is very close to the script that Richard Donner was given — but they drastically restructured the second half. Why did they cut the gauntlet and the volcano, and keep Superman and Lex apart until the end of the movie?
Today, we look at the 1915 blockbuster The Birth of a Nation, a groundbreaking film that electrified America, in the wrong direction. What can the most racist film ever made teach us about how blockbuster movies work?
1.69: The Chief
The 1940s Superman radio show turned Perry White into a starring role, as soon as he opened his mouth. Why did it take so long for the comic book to get him out from behind his desk? Also, why is Superman so bad at poetry?
1.70: The Other Balcony Scene
But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is Central Park West, and Juliet is the sun.
1.71: The Workout
The process of building Christopher Reeve’s body was a major feature in the pre-release marketing of Superman: The Movie. Why are we so interested in the superhero celebrity workout?
1.72: The Color of Underwear
Lois Lane has a enormous extraterrestrial on the terrace, made out of barbells and steak dinners. How does she manage to take control of the scene?
1.73: The Takeoff
Superman trains a new co-pilot, in a five-minute sex scene disguised as a special-effects spectacle.
1.74: Frequently Asked Questions
True confession: I love musical numbers, but I hate “Can You Read My Mind” like I hate cancer and World War II.
1.75: The Other Stupid Question
Why doesn’t Lois recognize that Superman and Clark Kent? Because every time you try to talk about it, the story just gets weirder.
Spider-Man: No Way Home 93.1: The Big Deal
This weekend, I interrupt my history of superhero movies to talk about Spider-Man: No Way Home, and consider whether having too much continuity is a burden or a gift.
1.76: The Stupid Answer
1978’s answer to the question that we shouldn’t have asked: Does Superman know how stupid his Clark Kent disguise is?
1.77: The Center Cannot Hold
Today’s post: Why Superman: The Movie wrapped production a year before they actually wrapped production.
1.78: The Reading Room
Lex Luthor does a Sherlock Holmes impression, and pulls a plot point out of his Addis Ababa.
Kryptonite is a magical plot generator from outer space that was introduced on the Superman radio show in 1943, but it took six years to make its way into the comics, in a clumsy introduction that got retconned almost immediately.
1.80: The Silver Age of Kryptonite
The story of Red Kryptonite, and how it took over Superman comics in the 1960s.
Kryptonite is a productive story generator for Superman comics, but in the 1970s, they tried to kick the K habit, unsuccessfully. Why was that experiment doomed to fail?
1.82: The Trickster
How mythopoetic trickster figure Lex Luthor disrupts the grown-up world, using 1970s sitcom sexism.
1.83: Superman’s Pal
Jimmy Olsen is the only character to appear in all five of the original Superman movies, but he doesn’t actually do anything in them. Why is he even in this movie?
The battle between Art and Commerce heats up, as the Salkinds lie, Richard Donner builds a cathedral, and Warner Bros. chooses a side…
1.85: An Oral History of Christopher Reeve Being a Dick During the Filming of Superman: The Movie
He’s not here to make friends. He’s here to play the game.
1.86: Another Day, Another Door
Superman gets hit with Lex Luthor’s supersonic Grindr profile — 1.3 miles away, 48 years old, looking for Chat, Dates, Gloating and Comeuppance.
1.87: The Other Movie About Black People
Continuing my series on the history of blockbuster movies, I look at Gone With the Wind, the most popular movie of all time, which doesn’t openly shill for the Ku Klux Klan but it comes pretty damn close.
1.88: Toward a General Theory of the Ding-Dong
Asking the crucial question: Is Otis enjoyable or irritating? Also, why can’t he pronounce Luthor’s name?
1.89: Bad Girl Goes Good
Supercrime vixen Eve Teschmacher “reforms” for a total of two minutes, and during that period, she commits sexual assault. How does she stay out of prison?
1.90: You’ll Believe a Man Can Buy
Presenting the highs and lows of Superman: The Movie merchandise, from lunchboxes to pogo sticks, cookie jars and the baffling LiteWriter.
1.91: Defining Disaster
As Superman tries to chase two missiles in opposite directions, we see the fault lines opening up that will ultimately destroy the franchise.
1.92: The Curse of Jerry Siegel
In 1975, Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel put a curse on the Superman movie, in another skirmish in the never-ending war between Art and Commerce.
1.93: The Fish Movie
Watching the 1975 killer shark movie Jaws, I finally answer the question: what are blockbuster movies for, and how do they work?
1.94: The Shakedown
Just a few weeks before the premiere of Superman: The Movie, executive producer Alexander Salkind tells Warner Bros. that he won’t give them the completed film unless they give him an extra 15 million dollars.
1.95: Speak Truth to Power
Everything that’s wrong about the San Andreas Fault sequence, in as few words as possible.
Extra: A Small Amount of The Exciting Original Story of Superman: Last Son of Krypton
A special weekend post presenting the book that Warner Books published instead of the Superman novelization, three sentences per chapter.
1.96: Mixed Messages
From pure delight to tedious ice show: how do the critics’ reactions to Superman: The Movie help us understand how superhero movies work?
1.97: Man of Steal
The story of the Man of Steal, executive producer Alexander Salkind, who missed the premiere of Superman: The Movie because he was in Mexico, hiding from Interpol.
1.98: That Dam Scene
Here at the end of Superman: The Movie, the miniatures suddenly get less convincing. What does the dam-bursting scene tell us about how the production wrapped up?
1.98: Turn the World Around
Today, we discuss why making the world spin backwards is an acceptable way to solve your problems.
1.100: One Hundred and Thirty-Four Million Dollars
It’s the final post on Superman: The Movie! The film was a big hit, so why didn’t they make any other big superhero movies for ten years?
2.1: Things That Richard Donner Probably Shouldn’t Have Said
My coverage of the second movie begins with the story of how director Richard Donner torpedoed his own film.
2.2: It Wasn’t Ilya’s Fault
In his DVD commentary, Ilya Salkind explains that the main theme of Superman II is: why is everybody being emotionally hurtful to Ilya Salkind?
2.3: Let’s Twist Again
As three supervillains gloat over their tiny triumphs, we ask: Why was Superman II started by the A-squad, and then disassembled and completed by the B-squad?
2.4: Fight the Tower
Faced with Superman II’s somewhat bewildering opening sequence, we ask: what’s going on, why are we in France, and when did Lois Lane become a supersoldier?
2.5: The Donner Party
And elsewhere, in the almost-was: a way better opening sequence for Superman II, which sat in the vault for thirty years, feeling smug.
2.6: Gone Out the Window
Today, we ask the question: Why is Lois Lane the most dangerous villain in Superman II?
2.7: To Get to the Other Side
Clark Kent gets halfway across the street, in a scene that demonstrates Richard Lester’s approach to comedy and set design.
2.8: Orange You Glad
An examination of the difference between the free-range Lois Lane of the first Superman movie, and the caged Lois of Superman II.
2.9: From Original Material
An explanation for why the score for Superman II sounded a lot like the score for the first Superman film.
2.10: Meanwhile, in 1981
While big-screen Superman is tangling with Kryptonian criminals, newsstand Superman fights for truth and justice against the forces of evil, including Adolf Hitler, asshole aliens, millionaire date-rapists, his own clone, and the tendency of young women to fall out of windows.
2.11: Kill the Moon
The villains arrive in Superman II wearing high fashion in low gravity, murdering the entire population of the moon as an appetizer.
2.12: The Nice Guy
Today, we check out Hero at Large, a 1980 romcom starring John Ritter, which tries to show that real life is more important than superhero movies, and utterly fails on every level.
2.13: The Great Escape
Okay, so maybe I get your point about Lex and Otis.
2.14: How Suite It Is
In Superman II, the “honeymoon racket” plot thread is forgotten halfway through the movie, so why did the filmmakers choose to put Lois and Clark in this pink fluffy box?
2.15: The Symposium
Should Superman marry Lois Lane? DC Comics brought the best minds of 1977 together to consider the question, with depressing results.
2.16: The Fall of Man
Margot Kidder finally smiles, in the first scene directed by Richard Lester that’s legitimately better than the alternative.
2.17: The Curriculum
Kal-El completes his student evaluation form for Kryptonian Education Crystal # Three-Zero-Eight: Earth Culture (Section B).
2.18: Mother’s Day
Today, we look at a scene between Jor-El, who should have been in the movie, and Lex Luthor, who probably shouldn’t.
2.19: Die Hard
Today, we look at the race to righteousness that is the Superman II board game, where players collect a team of supervillains in order to crush their opponents, who play rival Supermen.
2.20: Lois’ Leap
Lois Lane takes a leap of faith into the raging waters of the Niagara River, while Clark Kent stands there and watches her drown.
2.21: First Contact
A bunch of fancy white people show up in a new place they’ve never seen before and instantly decide that they own it, which is typical white people behavior.
2.22: What Really Matters
Obviously, The Empire Strikes Back is a better movie than Superman II, because it made more money and that’s all that matters. But what does that success tell us about how sequels work? Also: Why Star Wars is basically The Muppet Movie in space.
2.23: The One Where Lois Finds Out
Lois brings a handgun to her honeymoon, in the alternate hotel scene that proves Richard Donner’s version of Superman II would have been a whole lot better.
2.24: Kneel Before Clark
She’s discovered Superman’s secret, so Lois spends a minute and a half kneeling on the floor, looking up at him like a housepet. Kneel before Clark!
2.25: Before the Flood
Today, we ask the question: What was the internet like, when you could only get it once a month, in magazine form?
2.26: The Preposterous Invasion
As the three Phantom Zone villains start to come to grips with the Earth, we consider: How do you plausibly establish that the world could be taken over by three people?
2.27: Think Globally, Kill Locally
Three supercriminals from space show up to destroy the one town in America where it might be an improvement.
2.28: We Serve
The Kryptonian super creeps establish their dominance, in a video game tutorial level that finally figures out how to make them scary.
2.29: Home, and Other Dangerous Places
Ace reporter Lois Lane is stranded in the Arctic without a notebook, or any decent dialogue to say.
2.30: The King of Chickens
General Zod establishes his domination over the world… and then can’t think of a single thing to do with it.
Fantastic Four 28.1: Fun with the Fantastic Four, part 1
I’m the special guest on The Signal Watch Podcast, talking about the 2005 Fantastic Four movie, and asking: How does something sneak up on you in space?
The Batman 94.1: This Would Be a Good Town Not to Be From
It’s another opening weekend popcorn post! The Batman is all about how terrible white people are, and I have to admit, it makes a compelling case.
2.31: War of the Wordles
Meanwhile, on the newsstands in 1981, Superman teams up with Popeye and battles Isaac Asimov… and I discover the sinister secrets of planet Wordle.
2.32: Mama Don’t Preach
Why does Superman’s mom say that he has to quit his job and move out of the house just because he wants to marry someone that she doesn’t like?
2.33: Who You Callin’ Kleenex?
Looking at “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”, we ask: Why do people think that Superman is more powerful than Lois Lane?
2.34: Mars Attacks
The villains from the Phantom Zone take over the Oval Office, which is defended by mall cops with cheap handguns. How does Superman II turn this silly, illogical sequence into a confrontation that no one can forget?
Fantastic Four 60.1: Fun with the Fantastic Four, part 2
In the second part of my guest appearance on the Signal Watch podcast, we look at the tragically botched 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, a movie that takes place underground and in the dark.
2.35: Mostly About Hot Dogs
In the Superman II diner scene, Clark Kent and Lois Lane harass and bully a guy until he runs away. Remind me again what the point of this scene is?
2.36: The Do-Over
In which Hot Clark — the unsatisfying mixture of Superman and Clark Kent — treks all the way back home to the North Pole, to regain his birthright, somehow.
2.37: Another World
Star Wars and Superman were enormous hits, so the next logical step in 1980 was a blockbuster movie about a science-fiction comic strip adventure hero. What went wrong with Flash Gordon?
2.38: A List of Things That Our Kryptonian Overlords Don’t Care About
A helpful list of things to keep in mind, during our leaders’ glorious subjugation of humankind.
2.39: Lost in Place
Luthor pops up again at the White House, which raises the question: What’s wrong with the three-act structure in Superman II?
2.40: The Reshoots
A look at how Richard Lester created a whole bunch of visual continuity errors without actually adding very much to the scene.
2.41: The Big Dance
Color commentary on Superman II‘s big dumb fistfight in the sky.
2.42: Save My Baby!!
As the climactic and hazardous Superman II battle rages overhead, the rubberneckers of Metropolis are unbelievably chill about their own personal safety… except for one. Save my baby!!
Hey, did you guys ever notice that there’s some product placement in the battle sequence?
2.44: The Grim Barbarity of Lois Lane
While Superman’s busy kicking the President in the face and promoting cigarettes, we check in on how the Superman Family has been keeping themselves occupied.
2.45: Things I Want to Tell You
Today, a post about the special effects, miniatures and cars from the Metropolis street battle scene, but mostly cars.
2.46: The Blowdown
The Metropolis super-breath battle is a triumph of shtick over sense, which usually I would be in favor of. So why do I feel like the scene doesn’t work?
2.47: The Snowdown
It’s the second ultimate showdown between good and evil in a row, where Superman and the Kryptonian villains invent brand-new nonsensical powers that don’t even work. Plus: the dumbest line of dialogue in movie history!
2.48: The Miracle
The mystery of Miracle Monday, the book they published instead of the Superman II novelization, which includes a step-by-step description of how Lex Luthor broke out of prison by turning himself into a gas with his mind.
2.49: President falls down crevasse, administration’s agenda in doubt
It’s the actual final showdown, where Superman gets to stop the unstoppable.
Morbius 95.1: The Sinister Sick
A special opening weekend popcorn post about Morbius, a movie about a sad-sack trenchcoat doctor who fucks around with bats and finds out.
2.50: Ice Cops
Presenting the three possible fates of Lex Luthor and the Kryptonian villains, including the one where Superman murders them all, and flies away with Lois.
2.51: Hated the First, Loved the Second
The critics agreed in 1981 that Superman II was a good movie, except for the villains, the special effects, the music, the action sequences and the President’s toupee.
2.52: Light the Lights
In 1980, as Christopher Reeve was finishing Superman II and starting on the next phase of his career, he got his second big break: as a guest star on The Muppet Show.
1.98: Here We Go Again
By the end of Superman II, Lois Lane had sustained significant character growth, so obviously the only thing to do was reverse the entire movie and reset her to factory settings.
The New Mutants 86.1: Control Control Control Control Control and Control
It’s another podcast episode with The Signal Watch where I get really drunk and trash-talk a non-MCU Marvel movie! This time, it’s The New Mutants, the 2020 misfire about why you can’t lock up five supermutants in a haunted hospital.
2.54: The Scene of the Crime
Superman has toppled the Phantom Zone criminals’ despotic global regime, so now there’s just one more problem to take care of: a truck driver who makes life at a shitty roadside diner a fraction of a degree less pleasant.
2.55: One Hundred and Eight Million Dollars
Superman II had a record-setting opening weekend, and played well around the world… and then Margot Kidder spoke her truth about the Salkinds.
3.1: The Birth of Modern Comics, But Not Yet
A muck-encrusted mockery of a movie rises from the blog, a misshapen and misunderstood monstrosity that can only be called… Swamp Thing!
3.2: Dark Genesis
After Superman: The Movie, it was obvious that the next superhero in line should have been Batman. So why did we get a Swamp Thing movie instead?
3.3 It Wasn’t Wes’ Fault
Today, we ask the question: Why did Wes Craven not like Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing?
3.4: Love and Death
Alice Cable arrives for her first day at a top-secret swampside summer camp, while camouflage water ninjas kill her co-worker with a pocket snake.
3.5: Premium Cable
People say that the character of Alice Cable in the Swamp Thing movie is a cross between Matt Cable and Abby Arcane from the comics, but she isn’t. Sometimes I think people find ways to be wrong on purpose.
3.6: The Endless Anger of Harry Ritter
What’s going on here? Get that damn thing outta sight! All it takes is one loudmouth to spill this to Holland, and the whole project goes to hell in a handbasket!
3.7: The Mysteries of Alessandro
Alec introduces Cable to a cooper’s digger, an imaginary science critter who doesn’t need to breathe and spawns angry, one-celled animals that explode on contact.
3.8: Beauty, and the Other One
Adrienne Barbeau and I have many things in common — in fact, some people find it difficult to tell us apart — but the main similarity is that we both hate the way that her hair looks in Swamp Thing.
3.9: Sensor and Sensibility
Today, we try and fail to answer the crucial question: Why does the laser-induced subsonic field generator have a broken sensor in Sector 3, and what was it trying to sense?
3.10: Let the Great Experiment Begin!
Alec Holland creates a magical explosive plant potion with his Radio Shack TRS-80, and worries about overpopulation on a set that cannot support the number of people in the scene.
Alec and Cable manage to steal a quick romcom moment in the corner of the lab, just before the tide comes in, and sweeps Ray Wise out of the movie.
3.12: The Hostiles
I’m not saying that every single person in a movie needs to be attractive, although now that I say that, I can’t really think of a downside.
3.13: The Birth of Tragedy
Today in What Doesn’t Make Sense in the First Twenty-Five Minutes of Swamp Thing: Why does Arcane disguise himself as the project field supervisor, and then learn nothing about the project?
3.14: Mister A
Arcane doesn’t make a lot of sense as a villain, but that’s because he’s actually two villains, one of which also doesn’t make sense.
3.15: Feel the Burn
A deep dive into the burning man’s feelings, as we say goodbye to Alec Holland.
Ghost Rider 31.1: We Have Got to Stop Finding Things Cool
On a new podcast episode with The Signal Watch, we take a flying leap into another terrible non-MCU Marvel movie! This time, it’s Ghost Rider, the 2007 Nicolas Cage movie made out of spooky desktop screensavers.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness 96.1: Everything Somewhere
My list of grievances.
3.16: Suiting Up
How do you end up with the costume we see in the movie? Well, you start by hiring a low-cost, under-experienced designer, and then gradually recognize how unworkable their ideas are.
3.17: People Make Choices
With time running out, the Swamp Thing costume designer makes a rubber suit in the wrong size and hopes that everything will work out, which it doesn’t.
3.18: The Rubber Meets the Road
A vaguely acceptable Swamp Thing costume is delivered to the movie set, where it instantly begins to disintegrate on contact with the swamp water.
3.19: The Unknown Soldiers
A look at the short life and grim death of Arcane’s merc army, who die without dignity or IMDb credits for the sake of a comedy action sequence.
3.20: Seize the Day
I try to get a handle on Arcane, the presumed-dead billionaire scientist, cult leader, practical joker and possible drug-smuggler who plans to rule the world by drinking a magic potion.
3.21: The Other It
I turn the clock back to 1940 to look at “It”, the original source of Swamp Thing and the rest of the comic book muck-monsters.
Daredevil 18.1: Literally the Poor Man’s Batman
On another podcast episode with The Signal Watch, we look at Daredevil, the 2003 Ben Affleck effort about a blind lawyer who believes in justice so hard that he’ll kill as many people as it takes to achieve it.
3.22: The Kid
Delving into the mystery of Jude, an unwatched minor who runs America’s grungiest gas station. Is there any evidence that he is a human child?
3.23: A Time of Running
If Cable is supposed to be a tough, capable agent, why can’t she fire a gun, or run without falling over?
3.24: Shaggy Bog Stories
An introduction to Swamp Thing’s 1940s ancestor, a messy miracle called the Heap, who’s here to eat dog and kill Nazis.
Alec Holland returns to the scene of the crime, for a meditation on men and monsters.
Thor: Love and Thunder 97.1: Things That Happened to Thor
A weekend popcorn post about Thor: Love and Thunder, the story of unbelievably pretty people who spend all their time pretending that being pretty isn’t a big deal.
3.26: The Chatterbox
Swamp Thing can run, he can fight, and he can stop a car with his bare hands. But can… he… talk?
3.27: The Boat Fight
It’s time for the big action-adventure reshoot, taking the production to a lake outside Los Angeles for a visually incoherent boat fight which I analyze in ludicrous detail.
3.28: The Notebook
As Cable stashes her priceless red leather notebook in the care of a magical swamp orphan with a rowboat, we ask: Is this a Hitchcock-style MacGuffin, or a George Lucas-style MacGuffin?
3.29: The Book of Jude
Swamp Thing uses his bio-restorative powers to bring a young child back to life, raising the question: Can you be a Christ figure if you go around crushing guys’ skulls with your bare hands?
3.30: And Another Thing
Having one drippy swamp zombie as the lead of a superhero book is silly and unllikely. How in the world did we end up with two of them?
Elektra 25.1: Go Ninja Go Ninja Go
The start of a two-part podcast episode with The Signal Watch about Elektra, the utterly failed 2005 sequel to the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie.
3.31: A Tale of Two Kisses
Cable gets “surprised” by two kisses during the movie; the first one’s framed as romantic, and the second one as an assault. What’s the difference?
3.32: Mostly Armless
Swamp Thing solves his problems, and ours, by crushing a dude’s head with one hand.
3.33: Meeting the Monster
The slow reveal of the creature that crushed Swamp Thing at the box office.
Elektra 25.2: This Will Make You Happy
The second part of our two-part Elektra podcast, in which I will convince you to watch at least part of this stupid movie.
3.34: The Secret Life of Plants
The movie gives us one brief moment of sensible character development, before it all goes horribly wrong.
3.35: Swamp Music
Today, we listen to the soundtrack, which ignores the villain, and gives up about 80% of the way into the movie.
3.36: The Anatomy Lesson
We look at the alternate cut of Swamp Thing intended for the sophisticated European market, which features a 30-second scene where Adrienne Barbeau washes off the gross swamp water with a topless dip in the same water.
3.37: Because You Demanded It
The most important Swamp Thing movie tie-in was the 1982 relaunch of the Swamp Thing comic book, which actively despised the movie it was tied into.
3.38: Party at Arcane’s Place
Federal agent Alice Cable is smart, tough and self-actualized, but then she gets captured and tied up, and doesn’t take a single unassisted step for the last twenty-five minutes of the movie.
3.39: Who Henches the Henchman?
Arcane has developed an innovative new technology that will make him the undisputed leader in global food production. But first, he’s going to swallow it and see if he turns into a really strong monster!
3.40: The Unconcluded Caramel Kane
The Swamp Thing novelization features a deep dive into the villain’s methods, side hustles and breakfast orders, served up the incomparable, bespectacled Caramel Kane.
Inhumans 70b.1: Welcome to the Family Madrigal
The first part of our Signal Watch podcast examination of the 2017 mistake Inhumans, a show about a family of rich, spoiled moon mutants who immediately make every situation worse.
3.41: A Disaster on Every Count
The contemporary Swamp Thing reviews struggle to identify what the film is: a kids’ movie, a fairy tale, a disaster or a camp homage to ’50s B-movies? Also: was it good for South Carolina?
3.42: The Monster at the End of This Movie
The story of how Wes Craven asked for a majestic hawk-eyed wolf-god, and got a charmless pigweasel with a mullet and a wetsuit.
Inhumans 70b.2: I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon
Find out how to lose a million viewers in a week with part 2 of our four-part Inhumans podcast! Laugh and learn along with the only show on network television that doesn’t know how DNA works.
3.43: Wes’ Lament
We return to Wes Craven’s commentary, for one last bad day in the bayou.
3.44: En Garde
It all ends in a mess, just a foggy, soggy sword fight in sector 3 that doesn’t really get us anywhere.
3.45: Six Million Dollars
The finale of the Swamp Thing phase of my life, with reflections on soggy box office and mendacious producers.
Inhumans 70b.3: Are We the Baddies?
In the third part of our podcast adventure, Ryan and I discuss episodes 5 and 6 of Inhumans, a show where the beautiful surfer dude is smarter than the entire royal family of the moon.