Anders Bergstrom's blog on Words, Films, and Music

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm going to admit that I've never loved Superman. I've always had a serious respect for the character; he is an icon of the comicbook artform. Yet I never really had the same affinity for him the way I do for Batman (my personal favourite) or even Spider-man (who else comes closer to "me" as a superhero?). On the other hand, Superman has a mythology that is unrivaled in comics: the origin story, Lois Lane, Smallville, Jimmy Olson, Kryptonite, Lex Luthor. Perhaps only Batman comes close in having such a richly developed mythology (I use the word mythology here, specifically, for those two characters, because while the stories have appeared in many forms, there isn't really a definitive single story that explains all; they are constructed of repeated motifs that have made their way into the narrative consciousness...not unlike classical myths). But Superman has rarely, in my opinion, been treated in a way that would make me really fall for character. Perhaps the closest moments would be the Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s. I have a fondness for the first two thirds of Donner's 1978 Superman film, and think that John Williams theme is perhaps one of the greatest movie themes of all time, but the failure to utilize Lex Luthor as anything other than comedy (though I do love Gene Hackman) taints the film for me. Again, John Byrne's 1986 mini-series, Man of Steel, also contains moments of brilliance, but is far from a perfect imagining of the character.

So it's rare that I find Superman particularly compelling. But today seemed to be his day to make me sit up and take notice in a way I haven't in a long time. I picked up Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's addition to the new DC All Star imprint (the first which was All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder): All Star Superman. The team behind Marvel's much maligned, but in my opinion brilliant, New X-men tackles the "World's Greatest Superhero." So what do we get? We get an icon treated with respect. We get Luthor acting appropriately villanous. We get iconic versions of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White ("Great Caeser's Ghost!"). We get Superman behaving appropriately heroic. And we get new and wild things that feel fresh and classic at the same time (Who knew that Willy Wonka was a daring researcher and adventurer?)--which was what I thought was the point behind DC's All Star line in the first place.

In some ways this first issue capitalizes on the promise of the All Star line up more fully than Miller's B&RTBW in offering non-continuity based stories that explore modern takes on the heroes while staying true to the mythology. Miller's story seems to me to really be a take on his own Year One continuity--Batman: Year Two anyone?-- but Morrison's Superman story here is original and seems far more "super" than any have in a long time. Quitely's art is classic, bringing to mind the Fleischer Superman cartoons. The way he portray's Clark/Superman's transformation and differences in body posture, etc make it believable that people could not recognize the differece, but are also clearly the same person. In the end, the comic is a fully satisfying modern comic book, but also fittingly mythic in it's take on that most iconic of superheroes. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Superman, but never read one of the comics.

The "return" of Superman continued today as the new teaser trailer for Bryan Singer's Superman Returns debuted online (for real this time). I've expressed doubts about this film before, and while I'm still not completely won over, this trailer did get me excited. The music, the look, even the costume which I was questioning looks good here. But the main thing is the voiceover by one of the greatest actors of all time reprising (post-humously) his role as Superman's father. Yes, that's correct. Marlon Brando is Jor-El!

7 comments:

rochelle laura knox said...

since when do you have time to write EXTRA essays!!! the "graphic novel" is gaining reputability. save this post; it might be publishable some day!

Ewan said...

Dear Anton,

Today i took my bicycle down to the square. A little dickie bird flew to my shoulder.

-Marlo...

Luke said...

I don't about that trailer. Anton and saw it on the bg screen last night and eh. While it did make me want to see a little more,what with it's quick fade in and fade out's. I wasn't sure about the costume. It's lighted and colored pretty slick but it dosn;t feel like super man. Christopher Reeves costume was a little bright, but it was a shining beacon of hope at the same time. What Really got me up in arms was the logo splash at the end of the trailer. EWWW!!! it looks cheesy, unheroic, like somthing i'd find on a mustard bottle. I did like the look of the daily planet, maybe the next trailer will give me a better idea on the film.

What I did find interesting was the trailer for "the women in the water"..Paul Giamotic in a M. Night film? could be interesting

Anders said...

As I said in my post Luke, I still have major doubts about this one, even if the trailer got me excited (it was Marlo and the music mostly). And you're right the logo is lame, and on his costume it's way too small.

Anders said...

Oh, but do go out and buy All Star Superman.

rochelle laura knox said...

they think superman is jesus.

Kevin Ziegler said...

That's what I was thinking: very Jesus-like. Brando is going to send his only son to help all of humankind. I remember in the mid-nineties Superman pulled off the whole resurrection trick, so the connection holds true. Who knows, maybe Supermanity will spring up in the next century and become a genuine religion