Category Archives: Superman

Everybody Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief

The impending expiry of the WGA contract at the end of October is threatening production of the Justice League of America movie intended to be directed by George Miller of Happy Feet fame/notoriety. Admittedly he also directed the Mad Max trilogy so he might not have been completely inept, but the last news we heard was that Jessica Biel was in, then out, as Wonder Woman.

I actually think she wouldn’t be such a bad choice for the role, but I still think the movie is just a bad idea in general before Singer’s second Superman film or Nolan’s (hopeful) third if last Batman picture. Even though Superman and Batman would most likely not be played by Brandon Routh and Christian Bale in a Justice League movie — which I think is a good idea whether it were made next year or after the conclusions of the individual franchises — I think it makes most sense not to have the characters appear concurrently in separate continuities.

Let Nolan and Bale finish their trilogy, then reinvent Batman as a character that would be compatible with superpowered partners for a Justice League adventure. Let Singer and Routh have another try at a movie worthy of Action Comics, then recast Superman with an actor that would be more credible as the leader of a team of superheroes.

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Sincerest Flattery

Though the story inside was illustrated by Curt Swan, the cover of Superman #403 was drawn by Eduardo Barreto and bears a date of January 1985:

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I’ve had that issue of Superman since I was four years old, but I only just came across the cover of Spectacular Spider-Man #99, illustrated by Al Milgrom, cover date February 1985:

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Close Encounters of the Salkind

Tom Mankiewicz, the man who actually wrote most of Superman and Superman II, gives Newsarama what might be the greatest interview ever. By all accounts the producers of Superman were basically crooks, for example signing Ann-Margaret to play Miss Teschmacher then signing Valrie Plame for the same role because they could pay her less. When Mankiewicz said, “But how’s that possible? You just made a deal with Ann-Margret,” Alexander Salkind replied, “She can sue.” The interview is full of gems like this:

Donner and the Salkinds just loathed each other. Donner had called them assholes in print. The old man, Alexander Salkind, had paid the government of Costa Rica money to make him the cultural attaché to Switzerland. This gave him a diplomatic passport which made him immune from arrest because he was wanted on lots of fraud charges.

Alexander Salkind couldn’t even attend any of the openings in the United States because there was a warrant for his arrest. The FBI said, “I’m sorry, cultural attaché from Costa Rica to Switzerland doesn’t cut it with us. That’s not a diplomatic passport as far as we’re concerned.” So he couldn’t show up for any of the openings. In the meantime, another parallel story was going on.

Richard Lester was owed several million dollars by the Salkinds because of his share of the profits from directing The Three and Four Musketeers. Lester sued them and he won the lawsuit except he won it against a Bahamian corporation which was a company that was broke. So he couldn’t get any money. In essence the Salkinds did two things when the first Superman opened. They fired Donner immediately because they hated him and they said to Lester “If you finish Superman II we’ll pay you the money we owe you.”

Of course, their other absolutely inexcusable thing that they did was they took Brando out of the second movie. They read in the contract that he had a piece of the gross and if he didn’t appear in the film they didn’t have to pay him so they just cut him out.

I hate to sound pretentious by using words like arc but when Jor-El sends his son to Earth, it’s almost God sending Christ to earth or it could be Allah sending Mohammed to Earth. Then when the son screws up in the second picture and he loses his powers and falls in love, he in essence, becomes a selfish human and has to go back to the Fortress of Solitude and apologize to his father. All those scenes with Brando were just wonderful and they were all taken out and replaced with Susannah York, who had nothing to do with anything. She is a perfectly nice woman and a very good actress but was available for, I’m guessing, $5000 a week.

I never understood that because obviously the first one was a hit and the second one was going to be a hit so there was money for everybody. Marlon may be the signature star of the 20th century so cutting him out was just inexcusable. Then Lester called Donner said, “Listen, you’ve already shot 75 or 80 percent of [Superman II] so let’s share credit.” Donner said, “No, I don’t share credit.” Then Lester and the Salkinds found out that, according to the Director’s Guild, unless Lester had directed 40 or 45 percent of the picture, he couldn’t get his name on it as director. So they started eliminating scenes and sequences that we had shot already and replacing them with other ones.

Terry Semel asked me to go back and work on the film but Donner and I were friends had offices as Warners at the time. I said, “Terry I can’t do that. Dick is my friend and he brought me on the picture and it’s just inexcusable that he got fired by these people when he delivered them this huge hit movie.” Then Terry said “Well could you fly to London and arrange to accidentally run into Lester and have dinner with him?” I said, “No, I can’t do that either.” Terry said, “I understand.”

So they got David and Leslie Newman to write these scenes. In the new cut of Superman II, Lois throws herself out the window because she knows Clark is Superman and that he’ll catch her. There’s also a scene where she shoots Clark. Then there are all the Brando scenes. There’s about 45 minutes to an hour worth of new stuff. In my opinion it’s a vastly better movie than the one that was released theatrically. What they did was make a really good movie for the theatrical version of Superman II when they could have had an exceptional movie.

Mankiewicz also correctly diagnoses the big problem with Superman IV, whose story was conceived by Christopher Reeve:

Christopher Reeve, who was the nicest guy in the world and such an idealist, was about to do Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and he asked me to help him. I said to him, “Chris you’re forgetting the rules of Superman. World disarmament is a wonderful thing but Superman can’t get involved in things like that because everybody knows he could disarm the whole world in 20 minutes if he wanted to do. You can’t bring up famine in a Superman movie because Superman could feed the world if he wanted to. So don’t get into those areas because it’s not going to work. Chris understood but he went ahead and did it anyway. He’s a very idealistic guy and I think that put a lid on Superman for a while.

Incidentally, Mankiewicz was also the screenwriter of Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun, and I agree 100% with his opinion of Daniel Craig compared to the other Bonds:

I didn’t dislike Pierce Brosnan but I didn’t think he was exceptional. I’ve seen the new one [Casino Royale] and I think Daniel Craig is just great. He’s a wonderful actor. Even though I’m a friend of Roger Moore’s and it was fun working with Roger there was something about Sean [Connery]. Sean has the face of a bastard. Sean looked dangerous and Daniel Craig is dangerous and that’s a really good thing.

The difference between Sean and Roger, was that Sean could sit at a table with a girl at a nightclub and either lean across and kiss her or stick a knife in her under the table and then say, “Excuse me waiter, I have nothing to cut my meat with.” Whereas Roger could kiss the girl but if he stuck a knife in her it would look nasty because Roger looks like a nice guy.

Action Cinema

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The interface between comics and cinema continues in Action Comics, now co-written by Richard Donner in same the month as his new cut of Superman II debuts.

Superman’s post-IC reintroduction to the DC universe “One Year Later” in the 8-part “Up, Up, and Away” story by Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns was in effect an in-continuity reimagining of the Superman Returns plot: Superman returns to Metropolis after a long absence (one year instead of five) to thwart Lex Luthor’s discovery of Kryptonian technology resulting in giant crystals sprouting up through the Earth’s surface during which Superman is overexposed to Kryptonite and loses his powers culminating in a dramatic free-fall to earth, and while Superman is weakened Lex gets in a few punches (also evoking Superman #164, October 1963).

But the arc’s most explicit acknowledgment of the film series was its ending which for the first time since 1978 introduced Donner’s “crystal cathedral” style Fortress of Solitude into DCU continuity.

Now, with Richard Donner collaborating with his former assistant Geoff Johns, Action Comics is exploring another theme from Superman Returns: Superman as father. But rather than following Singer’s recapitulation of Superman’s Kryptonian relationship, with Kal-El succeeding Jor-El role as the genetic father of a boy adopted by human parents, Donner is letting Superman imitate his earthly father Jonathan Kent as the surrogate parent of an orphan boy evidently from Krypton.

However, I’m not reading the series (waiting for the trade) so I’ll have to direct you to Double Articulation for Jim Roeg’s analysis of the story’s imitation of the characteristics of film practice. But having flipped through a copy last week, I concur with his praise of Adam Kubert’s art which in my opinion overshadows his brother Andy’s current work on Batman.

Kubert’s Clark (shown above) takes a cue from Morrison and Frank Quitely’s interpretation over in his All Star title — hunched over, slightly dishevelled, hair mussed — reinforcing New Earth’s departure from John Byrne’s depiction of Metropolis Clark as confident and slick.

I just love Adam’s work on this and can’t wait till it’s collected.

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Clark Kent on the Night Beat

Jim Roeg’s description of “the Metropolis story” genre of Superman tales reminds me of one of my favorite radio dramas called Nightbeat and “starring Frank Lovejoy as Randy Stone,” a reporter for the Chicago Star who strolls the streets of windy city in search of a story for tomorrow morning’s column. Airing from 1950 to ’52, Nightbeat was a superior production thanks in large part to Frank Lovejoy, one of the finest radio actors with a distinctive voice that nonchalantly exuded cool, making his occasionally Chandlereque narration sound completely natural rather than self-consciously stylish.

Though his stories were usually the type that found their way to private investigators like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, the fact that Randy Stone was a reporter searching for a human interest story made him, if not less cynical, at least a little more sympathetic than the ordinary noir protagonist.

This situating of a reporter in a noir tale made for one of the best installments of the Bruce Timm-created Superman animated series. Titled “The Late Mr. Kent”, the episode not only features first person narration but one of the darkest endings of a children’s cartoon ever!

It begins with a memorial service for Clark Kent witnessed by Superman who then begins narrating in noirish voice-over how Clark’s “death” came about while investigating a murder. Not only does it end with a very crooked cop being executed via gas chamber (a Saturday morning first?), but he realizes Superman’s secret identity seconds beforehand, making Superman an unwitting beneficiary of his death!

Superman (Is Murdered and Ben Affleck) Returns

Only in Hollywood!

When I first heard about this project I thought it was going to be fairly cheesy, like a made for TV movie, and my hopes weren’t improved when I heard Ben Affleck was cast as the guy who played Superman in the 1950s TV show. But now that I see the trailer, it looks much better than I expected, with Bob Hoskins, Diane Lane, and Adrian Brody.

Originally titled “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” (too cynical even for Hollywood I guess), the story of George Reeves’ suicide or unsolved murder now calls itself “Hollywoodland”, a great title to match the very L.A. Confidential-type story. I pretty much hate Ben Affleck’s hammy acting (no matter what Kevin Smith says) but there’s a possibility the return of Affleck after two years of wound-licking and baby-making could actually be worthwhile (though there’s admittedly only one shot of him saying anything in the trailer).

Media finally notice Superman allegory 28 years late

Three weeks after my post on the Christology of Superman, CNN comes up with a non-story suggesting (or saying others have suggested) that Warner Bros. is incorporating a Christian allegory into the plot of Superman Returns — basically amounting to He's Gone But Now He's Back — in order to tap into the megabucks that fuelled the box office successes of The Passion and Narnia. (HT to the Jawa Report.)

Speculation was originally prompted by the first teaser trailer which featured Marlon Brando's voice talking about sending his only son to the earth to be its savior. Fair enough. But the article never observes that this stuff was all in the original movie (the origin of the Brando recording, after all!), and Singer is just trying to make his sequel consistent with the Donner films.

Superman for Seasons Past

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The concept of Batman Confidential admittedly doesn't sound any different than Legends of the Dark Knight, but I'm very excited about Superman Confidential because the first story arc will be written by Darwyn Cooke and drawn by Tim Sale.

I think we've seen enough of Sale's version of Batman (I count 32 full-length issues plus 6 of Catwoman, not to mention covers for Detective and Batgirl) but only four issues of his interpretation of Superman — arguably his best work — so I'm glad DC decided not to give Sale his "default" assignment.

Yet the new piece won't be a simple rehash of his Superman for All Seasons material. According to an interview at Newsarama, Sale says:

The art style I'm using is different, but the innocence that my Superman has is the same. There is more variety in his expressions perhaps, in this version than the one I drew in For All Seasons.

I wanted very much to have a different look than For All Seasons, both because I want that look to be special for the stories I do with Jeph, and because I felt this story deserved its own look. I do think I have matured as an artist since then also, and there will be some difference from that, too.

The Superman Juggernaut Continues

I can't remember a movie that has released three different full length trailers within a month's time, but the Singer (not sewing) machine is charging faster than a locomotive (to mix Superman metaphors).

Instead of the international trailer I saw before X-Men 3, citizens of the United States evidently got to see a totally different trailer in front of the sequel to Singer's ex-franchise. Download directly from one of these links:

Small | Medium | Large | Largest 

Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape

I'm at the library so I haven't even seen this with sound yet but the new international trailer for Superman Returns (which I would guess will be attached to X-Men 3 in the States as well) makes it look like the greatest movie ever made. You can download it in four sizes from this page.

Wait till you see the last shot.

UPDATE: Wow, I take that back now that I see it with the volume up. It was edited poorly, the order didn't work, the pacing was terrible, several shots were held too long, and the voiceovers were pasted together badly.

The last trailer from three weeks ago was made way better.

…but that last shot is still pretty cool.