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 →
And meanwhile, on the newsstands, 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.
Here’s a rundown of what was happening in Action Comics in 1981, while Superman was battling Kryptonian criminals on the big screen…
Continue reading Superman II 2.10: Meanwhile, in 1981 →
I believe that I left you yesterday teetering on a knife’s edge, wondering how Action Comics ever got away with spending four months in 1978 justifying the production of a frankly disappointing die-cast toy. As you’ll recall, Corgi, one of the finest names in the British die-cast novelties market, wanted to make a Superman-themed companion piece to its successful line of Batman toys. The caped crusader had an easily merchandisable Batmobile, Batboat and Batcopter, so Superman was going to get a Supermobile, whether he needed it or not, which he didn’t.
Showing a ready willingness to bend to the needs of die-cast commerce, Action Comics produced a four-issue toy commercial, starting with issue #480 in February 1978. That first installment set up the premise of the storyline: A wave of red-sun radiation that has washed over the Earth, causing several problems.
First, it’s reactivated the deactivated Amazo, an enormous terrifying android who has all the powers of the Justice League and never lets you forget it. Now Amazo is hunting down his mad scientist creator, Professor Ivo, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Second problem: The red-sun radiation has dimmed Superman’s powers, leaving him vulnerable and helpless. Problem number three is that Amazo has tricked all of the other superheroes into gathering on the Justice League satellite, which he’s propelled into another dimensional plane.
As of the middle of the second issue, Amazo has tracked the weakening Superman to his Fortress of Solitude, where the action ace has concealed Professor Ivo, and the only way that Superman can fight the android is to jump into his souped-up Supermobile hot rod, and show the boys and girls at home all of its exciting action features.
Continue reading Superman 1.59: The Alternative, part 2 →
Superman is up in the air at last, and now — at the late date of 70 minutes into a 140-minute experience — we might say that Superman: The Movie has finally begun. He’s rocketed skyward, a danger to sneak thieves and drug smugglers, and a friend in need to cats and kings.
As we discussed yesterday, the film’s special effects crew finally figured out how to produce credible shots of the action ace soaring through the sky, which is great, but it involved a great deal of wear and tear on the harnesses, the front projection equipment and the lead actor. It’s too bad that the Superman crew didn’t realize that there was an alternative, which was proposed in Action Comics in spring 1978, on behalf of a British toy company.
Continue reading Superman 1.58: The Alternative →
The year was 1978. With a blockbuster Superman movie on the horizon, DC Comics editor Julie Schwarz said that he didn’t plan on changing anything in the Superman comics to tie in with the movie, because a) the books were already selling well, and b) the movie would bring in new readers.
Neither of those statements turned out to be true.
In reality, the sales of both Action Comics and Superman had been falling precipitously for over a decade. Between 1965 and 1975, Action Comics lost 56% of its sales — 525,000 copies a month to 231,000 — and Superman lost 64%, going from a healthy 824,000 copies a month to an anemic 296,000 in ten years.
In 1979, when Superman: The Movie was by far the #1 box office draw in the country, Action Comics sales actually dropped, from 184,000 in 1978 to 161,000 in 1979, and they kept on going down. Superman sales went up a little bit, from 223,000 to 246,000, but then they dropped all the way to 179,000 in 1980.
It’s now an accepted fact that successful superhero movies encourage people to watch more superhero movies, but they don’t do much for comics sales. Today, we’re going to take a look at a 1978 issue of Action Comics, and see if we can figure out why.
Continue reading Superman 1.34: Meanwhile, in the Comics →
Martha wakes up, and remembers.
In that first moment just after dawn, her head still clearing from sleep, there’s a fraction of a second when nothing has changed.
She opens her eyes and Jonathan isn’t there, because he couldn’t sleep — worried about the taxes again — and he ended up dozing in the armchair in the living room, a magazine in his lap.
She opens her eyes and Jonathan isn’t there, because his leg is bothering him again, and he went downstairs to do those funny exercises the doctor told him to try.
She opens her eyes and Jonathan isn’t there, because
Because he isn’t there.
And Martha remembers.
There’s work to do. It’s a farm, there’s always work to do, and now there’s even more. She’ll get up, and get dressed, and she’ll make breakfast for Clark — a complete breakfast, the best way to start the day, with two eggs, a slice of buttered toast, a glass of orange juice and the delicious whole-grain oats crunch of General Mills’ Cheerios.
Continue reading Superman 1.24: A Balanced Breakfast →
And in the other corner: General Zod and his Kryptonian dance crew, appearing temporarily in their standing-room-only farewell stadium show.
Now, I think it’s fair to say that there were mistakes on both sides. Yes, Non is a mindless aberration whose only means of expression are wanton violence and destruction. True, the woman Ursa’s perversions and unreasoning hatred of all mankind have threatened even the children of the planet Krypton. Admittedly, General Zod — once trusted by this council, charged with maintaining the defense of the planet Krypton itself — was chief architect of this intended revolution and author of this insidious plot to establish a new order amongst us, with himself as absolute ruler.
I think the important thing is that we come together as a bipartisan coalition, put the past behind us, and start working on the issues that really matter to the average Kryptonian.
Continue reading Superman 1.8: See You Later →
It’s a delicious fakeout. Nobody had seen a big budget movie based on a comic book before, and didn’t know what to expect. So when the movie opens with a little boy reading aloud from a comic book, it looks like all of your worst fears have come true.
Continue reading Superman 1.1: Jesus Saves But Mostly He Saves Lois Lane →