Yet another "Death of Superman" post.

§ October 29th, 2007 § Filed under death of superman Comments Off on Yet another "Death of Superman" post.

Finally got around to seeing Superman/Doomsday, DC’s inaugural effort in their new line of direct-to-DVD animated movies. So, now I can go back and read all the reviews and such that I sorta glossed over for the last month while avoiding “spoilers.” (Wait…Superman died, and came back? Get outta here!)

The film itself is fine, if a very stripped down, simplistic version of the near-epic “Death/Return of Superman” storyline from the early ’90s. While one could fill, oh, say, an entire blog post of the differences between the original comic book version of the story and the animated version, there is one primary difference I wanted to note. And this difference is intrinsic to the formats these two interpretations of the story have taken.

The actual impact of Superman’s death in the course of this story (um…SPOILER, I guess?) is much, much less in the cartoon, if only because Superman’s removal from the narrative is all of about fifteen minutes or so. It’s just a very brief plot twist, there to give Luthor the opportunity to replace him with with a clone Superman under his command. The real Supes eventually wakes up, recovers in his Fortress, and comes back for the big fight scene. The end. The viewer never really feels that Superman is gone, because, well, “how can I miss you when you won’t go away?”

On the other hand…after Superman’s death in the funnybooks, he was gone. For the couple months that followed, we had Superman books with no Superman…pages filled with funerals and tributes and mourners and no real clue given as to how Superman would eventually return. The Superman books even went on a brief hiatus…they stopped publishing for a month or so, which I was going to say would be unheard of today, delaying publication of a top selling comic book. But then I remembered DC’s botched relaunch of Wonder Woman, and Marvel’s year and a half (and growing) gap between issues of Ultimate Hulk/Wolverine, et al, so it’s not so uncommon nowadays, really.

But it really did make an impact when the Superman books stopped publishing, even for as briefly as they did, as the four Super-books had functioned essentially as one weekly title, a new issue of each Superman series every week. To have that schedule interrupted underscored the alleged death of the character. Okay, we had specials and whatnot in the interim, and when the titles relaunched a few weeks later, we still had no Superman. We had folks who took the Superman name, and maybe one or two who could have been a drastically changed Big Blue, but things weren’t quite back to normal yet…and it would still be a couple months before the situation was resolved.

In short, the comics gave us time to get used to the idea, to really feel the impact, of Superman being gone. The movie doesn’t. And, like I said, it’s intrinsic to the format…it can’t really be considered a criticism, because it’s not like the film could end with Superman’s death, with a note to “come back in Summer ’08 for the shocking conclusion.” Of course, no one familiar with comics really thought Superman was gone for good, but that extra gap the comics provided helped enhance the illusion.

The primary special feature on the disc is a longish documentary of the original “Death/Return” comics, with plenty of interviews with the folks responsible and lots of memories of the madness that followed. Period footage (I’m using “period” to refer to events from fifteen years ago…is that overstating it?) shows what the actual “Super-retreat” editorial meetings looked like, where the creative teams got together and hammered out the Superman plots for the following year. I’d always pictured editor Mike Carlin sitting in a throne like this one, making decrees with a wave of his scepter (tipped with the “S” logo), but seeing the actual meeting room in the documentary has spoiled that vision a bit.

There are some close-ups of the the white boards being used for plot notes in the meeting room, which allows for some DVD-pausin’ fun:

For some reason, the big “FIGHT!!!” notes make me laugh:

Interestingly, when discussing the four replacement Supermen that turned up in the “Return of Superman” storyline, Superboy is (aside from a brief shot of his legs) never shown onscreen. When discussing Steel, or the Cyborg Superman, and so on, lots and lots and lots of images from the comics featuring those characters are presented. Superboy? Nada. (Presumably because of this, I’m guessing.)

Something else I’ve learned from this documentary: creator Dan Jurgens does not age. The man still looks like he’s in high school. Clearly he’s found the Fountain of Youth, and must be forced to divulge its location.

There’s also a brief documentary focusing on the vocal talents behind the cartoon (Ray Wise as Perry White? No way!), which suffers from an extreme lack of any screentime for John DiMaggio, the voice of Futurama‘s Bender and the voice of the Toyman from this Superman cartoon. We also get a commentary track (which I haven’t listened to yet), a preview of the next animated film (The New Frontier, which doesn’t look half-bad), and one of those DVD games which I didn’t have the patience to try. Sorry.

Overall…slight but watchable, with good vocal performances, some satisfyingly destructive action scenes, and backed up with a solid documentary about the comics themselves. If you’re expecting anything close to the story that the original comics provided, forget about it. Taken on its own, however, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour or two.

In other news:

  • Apparently Green Lantern is on track to being a film, again, with more directors and writers and such tied to the project. Well, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m still disappointed we’re not getting the Jack Black version, which would have kicked ass and you know it.

    From another article on the subject:

    “Michael Green, who also has prior experience with Berlanti on Everwood and Jack & Bobby, wrote Superman/Batman for Marvel Comics.”


  • An article from my alma mater’s campus newspaper talks about Halloween costumes, and includes this passage of absolute truth:

    “One idea you may consider is being Wonder Woman or Swamp Thing, especially since Swamp Thing is probably the biggest badass ever.”

    You’re damn right. Though having Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman in the same sentence there briefly put the image of Swampy in WW’s bathing suit costume and tiara, and I don’t think I need that idea in my head. Get out, get out!

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