In 1883 Friedrich Nietzsche’s book Also Sprach Zarathustra was published. In this discursive book he advocated the evolutionary concept of the Übermensch, the superior man of earth. In 1903 George Bernard Shaw took the Übermensch concept and wrote the brilliant play—Man and Superman.
Thirty years later two high school students (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) would continue down these lines to create an American icon which has endured for 75 years. In 1938 this is what appeared:
I grew up reading Superman and Action Comics. I enjoyed the cartoons, and when the Adventures of Superman with George Reeves flew onto our black and white boxes with flickering images and uneven sound I was fascinated.
For in our mountain hamlet we had an antenna which was always at the mercy of the wind, especially the winter winds. It was not until 1966 that we had this new-fangled line called cable strung across the valley floor. It was also in 1966 we got an Emerson Color TV Set.
Superman cartoons became like the comic books—full color. Occasional reruns of the Adventures of Superman were always a welcome treat.
Over the decades I have collected Superman memorabilia. For me Superman is the hero of heroes—like Hercules and Ulysses.
With the advent of DVD I have collected all of it from the late 1940 Kirk Alyn’s serials to Tom Welling’s Smallville. However, all has not been peaches and cream on the film front.
Superman III was a fair film, and IV was a bitter disappointment which should not have been made. Superman Returns would have been better if it had focused on Superman’s return to his place of origins and what he found. This would have been a great film.
Now, the Man of Steel is set to grace or ruin the viewing experiences of Superman fans. There has been a lot of hype about Zack Snyder’s revisionist venture of 148 minutes with Hans Zimmer’s music. This will be a totally different experience from the previous films.
Now, there is nothing wrong with updating Superman. The Superboy series did a good job with Clark, Lana and Lex in college. Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman gave a different twist with a very suave, GQ Clark Kent. Smallville added a whole new dimension of Clark Kent and his alter ego from high school freshman to being a reporter at the Daily Planet and the man in blue.
Each of these incarnations added to the Superman mythos. However, each of these incarnations never forgot the essence of Superman—who and what he was as Clark Kent and the strange visitor from another planet—alien yet human instilled with sound values of the American way of life. Well, it was Kansas after all where Americans had old-fashioned values, worked the ground, went to church and built communities—true Americana.
Regardless of how the Man of Steel does this summer (it has a lot to live up to fly past the meteoric rise of Iron Man 3), Superman will continue for the next twenty-five years so as to celebrate his 100th Anniversary as an American icon.
Recently, DC has been doing some revisionist renderings of Superman. The breakup with Lois Lane to hook him up with Wonder Woman is a little spicy to say the least. Wonder Woman and Superman make a power couple, but the mythology is being messed with a bit too much.
DC and Warner are still at the gate in comparison to Marvel’s onslaught of films. It should have been the other way around, but history is history no matter how sad and tragic to the fans of DC and the angst of the top honchoes at DC and Warner.
Let’s hope DC and Warner remembers this significant fact. It’s the loyal fans who should never be disappointed because without the core what do they have?
May Superman endure in whatever incarnation he appears in the years to come. It would be nice if Clark Kent made an appearance on the CW’s Arrow, but DC and Warner seems to have a penchant for bad creative decisions when it comes down to what would delight fans.
G. D. Williams © 2013
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Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!
Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.
Man of Steel
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
THR: If Warner Bros called and asked you to help solve their Justice League problem, would you take that call?
Lindelof: The Justice League problem? I think a lot of that depends on Man of Steel. The Justice League problem is not a problem of who is the bad guy that Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, Superman, whoever you decide to pit them against. The problem is: What’s the tone of that movie? They’ve been struggling with launching their own tone. The tone of Green Lantern is very different from the tone of The Dark Knight. They clearly inhabit two entirely different worlds. You want to feel like someone is establishing a world where the Justice League can exist; maybe Man of Steel is that movie. If Man of Steel works and it’s great, I think it starts to make sense where Paradise Island is in that world. Because that’s an entirely different world than the one Christopher Nolan introduced.
THR: I was disheartened when Man of Steel was rated PG-13.
Lindelof: It should be PG. In the spirit of not throwing stones from the glass house in which one resides, the same should be said of Star Trek. The limitation between PG and PG-13, particularly as it pertains to violence–there’s no sex in Star Trek; there are a couple of “s-words,” but only because we already knew we were going to get PG-13. They are easily excisable. I always loved that moment in Temple of Doom when Indy says, “Shit.” Because that’s exactly what he would say. You don’t use it to be gratuitous, but it’s what a character would say in that moment. Donner’s Superman is a very adult movie. It doesn’t feel like its being whitewashed or watered down in any way. It feels real, cool, fun, escapist and upbeat. The larger thing for Man of Steel is like, “Yes, we all are consuming darker stories.” Again, glass house. But it’s like, “Is there any way we can get the word dark in it?”
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While I’m certain the Man of Steel sequel will be a cash cow for the studio, I worry that the film will fall well short of fans’ expectations and put the future of the DC Universe in jeopardy. The studio seems hell-bent on keeping pace with the Marvel Universe instead of taking their time to layout a successful plan for creating their own.
As I’ve said before, what’s made the Marvel Universe so great is that they’ve not only given each major character their own solo film, but they created a believable world where heroes can actually exist. It feels like Warner Bros. wants to stick to the Nolan-Dark-Knight blueprint and try and fit heroes into a world grounded in reality. Not the right way to go.