In which Mike rambles on about Superman to no good effect.

§ September 7th, 2004 § Filed under superman, Uncategorized Comments Off on In which Mike rambles on about Superman to no good effect.

So a few days ago I was listening to a Los Angeles radio talk-show trio who, between talking about stories they say they got out of the newspaper but really just stole from Fark, made a brief mention of the forever-forthcoming new Superman movie. One of the trio said something to the effect of “why are they doing another Superman movie? Haven’t they done enough movies and TV shows about him?”

Honestly, I had trouble disagreeing with him. Will filmmakers have something new to say about Superman this time around, or will it be just another special effects extravaganza, with more budget than sense? We’ve already seen the straight-foward adventure angle (the movie serials and the George Reeves TV show), the focus on “realistic” effects (the Christopher Reeve movies…at least at first), and the romantic angle (The Adventures of Lois and Clark…not a bad show, for at least the first season). Supes’ younger years have been pretty well covered as well, with the Superboy show from the late ’80s/early ’90s, and of course the current incarnation of Smallville.*

So, if that fella on the radio show is any indication, there may be a percentage of the movie-going audience who’s not going to be terribly interested in seeing yet another Superman film, unless they have some kind of new take we haven’t already seen. (Personally, as I’ve stated before, I think they should just wait for Smallville to run its course, then do a Superman movie with the same cast. It’ll never happen, but it would be nice.)

And that got me to thinking about a somewhat-related topic…when’s the last time anything interesting has been done with Superman in the comics? Now I’m not talking about the Elseworlds or graphic novels or such. I’m talking about the actual (Adventures of) Superman and Action comic series, the ones that have been published continuously since the 1930s, plus the newer Superman series that began in ’86…the series that are published pretty much solely to perpetuate the trademark shepherd along the legend of the Superman character. By “interesting,” I don’t mean temporary costume changes (like the electric Superman), or storylines (like Supes’ “death” and return). I mean significant, permanent changes to the character or to the dynamics of relationships within the books.

The most recent change is probably the marraige of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, putting to an end the quintessential comics love triangle. Prior to that was Clark telling Lois that he was indeed Superman, putting an end to one of the primary Superman plot-movers from the last half-century. Before that were what are turning out to be the only two major surviving changes made by John Byrne during his ’80s revamp – the removal of Superboy from the Superman story, and the survival of Ma and Pa Kent into Clark’s adulthood. Before that was the decision to make Clark Kent a TV reporter (which he was though most of the 70s into the mid-80s), and before that…the addition of another super-powered Kryptonian (Supergirl), maybe? The addition of his life as Superboy?

And what will be the next big change? The seemingly-obvious one would be the addition of a super-baby for the happy couple, but that may bend the Superman formula to the point of breaking (and wouldn’t bode well for Lois, as anyone who’s read this essay could tell you). More likely we’ll get another company-wide revamping of the superhero characters, resulting in a “back to square one” continuity for the Superman cast. Or, less drastically but still tragic, the loss of one or both of Superman’s adoptive parents.

In case you couldn’t tell, I don’t really have much of a point to all this, beyond considering what changes could be made to Superman without interfering with the character’s current raison d’etre: merchandising and other mass media tie-ins.

* This brief list doesn’t include the cartoons, or the pilots for the Superboy and Superpup shows (from 1961 and 1958, respectively). And, as bizarre-looking as that Superpup show may be, having seen it I can say that it was perfectly acceptable children’s entertainment. A little…weird, perhaps, but kids can use a little more weirdness in their lives.

Comments are closed.