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
For the last week, we’ve been looking at the new version of Lex Luthor that was invented for Superman: The Movie — a down-at-the-heels art thief, inventor and real estate magnate, lurking underneath Metropolis’ Grand Central Terminal in a lair made out of other people’s property. The movie Luthor doesn’t need death rays; he’s got sarcasm, and National Geographic, and the ability to reprogram ballistic missiles. He’s sophisticated and urbane, and he plays the piano. He wouldn’t dream of putting on a silly costume, and trying to punch Superman in the face.
So that puts him at odds with the trend of modern thought at DC Comics in the mid-to-late 70s, where they’d spent the last several years turning Luthor into a cartoon character.
Continue reading Superman 1.49: The Look of Luthor
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
So here’s the thing: I’m currently telling the story of the development of blockbuster superhero movies in chronological order, and at the moment, I’ve only gotten as far as 27 minutes into the genre’s first film, 1978’s Superman: The Movie.
But while I’m doing that, the world is moving on, churning out new superhero movies at an unbelievable clip, and leaving me even further behind. Out in the world, this history is still unfolding, and if I ignored what’s happening right now, then this project would be a dusty museum piece, rather than a living story that’s connected to who and where we currently are.
So when a new superhero movie is released — which at this point might as well be every couple of weeks — I want to take the time to compare the new film with the movie that I’m currently writing about, to draw connections between them, and explore where this genre is headed. As of this weekend, the latest release is Sony’s Spider-Man spinoff Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which as far as tone is concerned is about as far away from Superman: The Movie as you can get.
Here we stand, on a family farm in Smallville, Kansas, where Jonathan Kent is about to deliver some inspirational words of advice about restraining our darker impulses in order to find our true purpose in life, and then along comes Venom, who encourages us to do exactly the opposite.
Continue reading Venom: Let There Be Carnage 91.1: The Murderability of Crowds