So it turns out people aren’t tired of superhero movies after all, judging by the first weekend take for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which earned more money in a four-day frame than any other movie that has ever been made except for Avengers: Endgame. It looks like these films are going to be around for a while as a dominant pop cultural force, and comic book readers know exactly what to expect.
When there’s a new movie that’s coming up based on a Marvel or DC property, that means it’s time to relaunch the comic book, and have a new #1 out on the racks for people to pick up, read for two issues, and then decide that they don’t like it as much as the movie. These days, the relaunch titles last for about 12 to 18 months, and then get replaced by whatever’s coming next in the movie release schedule.
In 2021, we’ve seen relaunches for Shang-Chi (vol 2), Black Widow (vol 8), Eternals (vol 5), Suicide Squad (vol 7) and Venom (vol 5), plus a new Hawkeye: Kate Bishop title to tie in with the Disney+ show. This is what comics are for now, to support the movies and to occasionally come up with a new bit of intellectual property, like a Black Spider-Man, a female Spider-Man, a Black female Iron Man, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, a bisexual Superman and a Black gay Aquaman, all of them ready to be turned into cartoons, live-action TV shows and blockbuster movies, whenever people get around to it.
But back in 1978, DC wasn’t really sure what they were supposed to do about the upcoming Superman movie, except buy tickets, so their response was all over the place.
They started a new Superman team-up title called DC Comics Presents, and they launched a new “Mr. and Mrs. Superman” back-up feature in the Superman book about a newlywed Lois and Clark, in an alternate universe. They also wrote a four-issue story designed to sell diecast Supermobile toys, and they published a special Superman vs Muhammad Ali comic.
On the other hand, in what seem like perverse anti-tie-ins, they didn’t publish any comics that feature Lex Luthor all year, plus they reprinted the story “Kryptonite Nevermore!” from 1971, to make sure that readers were aware that Superman wasn’t vulnerable to Kryptonite anymore. They also published a story called “The Super Sellout of Metropolis!” which I interpret as a way of working through their ambivalent feelings about the movie.
And to cap off the year, just in time for the movie release, they published a story called “The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!” which offered a full and unnecessary explanation for why nobody recognizes Superman, when he’s in the guise and garb.