Showing posts with label superman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label superman. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Official Signal Watch TL; DR "Man of Steel" Discussion

I went to the midnight show of Man of Steel and returned home in the wee hours.  I left kind of a rambling initial reaction here.  I went to work, I came home.  I've seen the movie again (in 3D IMAX with Simon, Angela and Jamie), and I've had time to process the film much, much more.

And, since that first post, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to approach commentary on the movie.  As this will be one of my final posts going into hiatus, we might as well talk about this movie as the intersection between the two major topics of this blog: film and Superman.



Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Tour of the Signal Watch Fortress of Solitude

I saw online some folks were doing tours of their Superman collections. Well, it seemed like a SUPER idea to participate.

My Fortress is in disarray at the moment as I'm currently consolidating my collection and removing large portions of it.  I'm going to humblebrag and note that what you see here is only part of what I had on display until recently.  I'm really winnowing it down to Superman and Wonder Woman these days.

I started collecting Superman stuff in college, and I don't have much in the way of vintage. So the collection takes you from the late 90's til now, I guess.


your entry from the hallway to the Fortress

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Superman: Unchained #1" Review

This comic was $5.  Five dollars.  Five hundred pennies.  Half of ten dollars.  It is worth roughly $2.25, on a very good day.

I'm realizing how spoiled I've gotten by reading $1 online comics from folks like MonkeyBrain.

Jim Lee likes to draw Superman sort of hunched over.  I don't really know why.  He also likes to draw his head sort of unusually small.  Also, as Co-Publisher of DC Comics he can apparently greenlight the single dumbest, least narratively driven, least impressive, most expensive fold out insert in a comic.  Ever.

I really needed a huge image of space debris to tell the story.  Thanks.

"Man of Steel" has now been witnessed

Well, yup.  It's 3:10ish in the AM and I am home.  Just saw Man of Steel with Kevin and Juan.



spoilers below


Monday, June 10, 2013

Supermarathon: All-Star Superman

Thanks to what's looking to be a busy week, this is the last installment of the Supermarathon as I'm booked pretty solid until Thursday night.  I hope I did us proud.

All-Star Superman adapts the 12 issue series that ran unevenly for years back when DC was playing havoc with schedules and you never really knew when a comic was coming out.  The art and story were worth it, and both were savaged at the time of the series' start, with the usual complaints about Morrison's writing drawing confusion and fans of the Jim Lee or Kubert school of illustration baffled by the stylized work of Frank Quitely.

You can view the film at Netflix Streaming.

No sooner than the series ended than word leaked that this comic was truly something unique, and - in what I've since come to simply expect when it comes to Superman - be it this comic or early reactions to Man of Steel, its fascinating to see the audience react to the core of the character and ask "why isn't the character usually like this?" or "where did this come from?" to ideas that were 40-50 years old at the time of the comic's publication.



That said, it took Morrison's storytelling and the voice he imbued in Superman and Luthor to make the series shine.  And, I'd argue, it took the clear, concise, character-driven storytelling of Dwayne McDuffie to take the comic and turn it into a movie that works despite the strange, episodic nature of the narrative.

For those who haven't read the comic, I won't bore you with what was cut to make the movie.  The DC Animation team managed to keep most of the story in place to keep the relevant bits intact and maintain the core of the story, even if its heart-breaking to know what might have been.  They also managed to keep much of the look of the comic, something I thought impossible, even if the 16x9 dimensions occasionally lose the impact of Quitely's page design.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Supermarathon! Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut

For a long time a few things were known about the production of Superman II.  

1.  Originally the first film and the second were shot together and were more of a piece.  However, the movies were split up into two films and portions of the story from what became Superman II were used in Superman: The Movie.  
2.  Director Richard Donner was fired from Superman II and director Richard Lester was brought onboard. Lester reshot large parts of the movie to ensure his credit for the movie.  He had a different approach from Donner, and insisted on a wackier tone.  
3.  Gene Hackman basically didn't return for Superman II's reshoots, and Marlon Brando's portions were cut from the film.

While you likely didn't notice it much as a kid, and were able to give over a lot to superhero logic, Superman II may have the exciting supervillain fight, but it's tonally all over the place and the plot sometimes feels held together by bubble gum and tape.  

It's difficult to know exactly what Richard Donner originally intended and what he would have left in back in 1980 or so, as some scenes are deeply cut from the theatrical release, especially trimmed for hammy comedy which can sometimes feel a bit burdensome in the version that's more familiar.  But this version feels superior from a storytelling standpoint in so many ways that its hard not to want to see it as the "real" version, much as I consider the extended cut of Superman: The Movie as the official version and don't really bother with the original cut anymore.  

Firstly, you can tell everyone is still feeling all right in this movie, that the reshoots and time on the set hasn't taken its toll.  Reeve is buff, his hair in place and I don't think we get the pit stains.  Margot Kidder, especially, still seems on, is always well lit, her hair seemingly professionally done, etc...  And the cinematography seems better by leaps and bounds.  

While the "big city gal fads" of the theatrical release provide some color, watching Lois squeeze orange juice is kind of a half-gag, and it's not missed in this version.  

Also, the reveal of Clark Kent to Lois that he is Superman works terrifically better from a storytelling perspective than expecting that Superman would trip over a rug.  Despite the fact the footage used is from audition film, it feels terrifically stronger from a story telling standpoint.  I suspect that the scene would have only improved if Donner had managed to get it in front of the actual cameras.  

What really seals the deal is the continuation of the father/ son story between Jor-El and Superman, and what each continues to receive from the other as, even in death, Jor-El gives the last of what he is over to his son.  The cheesy appearance of Lara in the theatrical cut and the awkward transition from Superman to the white collared-shirted Clark doesn't occur and continuity feels much more intact.  

And the Phantom Zone villains feel genuinely more menacing under Donner's direction and oversight.  

In short, if you've never seen this cut, I highly recommend revisiting the movie through this version.

Superman: The Happiest Fella?

Just up here in space, smiling at nobody

There have been a lot of posts (hi, Max!) and articles by longtime Superman fans regarding the to-date seemingly somber tone of the new Superman film, Man of Steel.

Folks are worried about a "grim'n'gritty" Superman versus the cheerful fellow who takes delight in his powers that you've seen since Superman's first appearance in Action Comics #1.  That imagery has been a part of the "discovery" part of the story for Superman in one form or another in all sorts of representations, from Superboy comics, to the animated series, to Superman Returns and Superman: The Movie where we see a young Clark Kent running faster than a freight train and beating Brad and the gang back past the Kent homestead.  And, of course, the absolutely terrific "reveal" sequence when Superman saves Lois and then runs around Metropolis saving the day.

Probably the most joyful you're likely to see Superman is in Superman: The Movie after The Man of Steel first appears and then flies around Metropolis performing super good deeds.

In fact, I've gone on record as saying that the key to my understanding of Superman in many ways is the moment wherein he saves Lois, reminds her of the relative safety of air travel, and then turns around and lets loose with this huge grin before flying away:

"Man, I wish she'd fall out of a helicopter EVERY day!"

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Amazing color footage of Superman Day at 1939 World's Fair!

This is really remarkable. All those kids in Superman shirts! It's hard to imagine, this was just about 1 year after Superman debuted in the comics and already the character was a hit with the masses.

You can see DC publisher Harry Donenfeld riding an elephant, Jack Liebowitz and MC Gaines, and Jerry Siegel. I half think the woman at the end might be Siegel's first wife, but I'm not sure.



I've read about so many of these people over the years, it's wild to see them in living color.

This is all before DC really settled on the looks of Superman "S" shiefd, as evidenced by the costume and the kids' shirts.

I'm always amazed to see footage like this, candid shots of folks on the street, to see what people actually looked like and how they dressed, rather than relying on the soft filter of the Hollywood lens.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Supermarathon! Superman Returns

I've already written plenty on this movie over the past 7 years.  I mean, a lot.  Leading up to the movie, I did a whole "Summer of Superman" theme, and it was sort of a thing.  I even got re-blogged by Pop Candy at USA Today thanks to our own JimD.

I won't deluge you with all the links where the movie got a mention, but here are a few.  I'm not proud of some of this.

The first blush comments

When the press (that had oddly really been pulling for this movie to fail) started reporting with glee that there would be no sequel and I got a little pissy

Watching the movie again about 5 months later

And then in November when I watched the movie during my "let's review everything in 2012" deal

I don't think my opinions or feelings have changed much since that viewing in November 2012.  Superman Returns is a strange movie.  Beautifully shot, amazing art and set design, and it really swung for the fences when it came to subtext and layering.  But given public opinion and some wonky bits, it's a mixed bag.




Monday, May 27, 2013

Supermarathon! 50th Anniversary TV Special

A bonus feature in some of the various Superman DVD and BluRay box sets, the Superman 50th Anniversary Special is kind of must-see Superman TV from an era when adults were all kind of patronizing jerks about Superman.  Except for Hal Holbrook.

I recall Superman's 50th Anniversary mostly thanks to the terrific Time Magazine cover on a week during which nothing else must have been happening in the world.


What's most amazing about the special is the amazing array of talent that was known at the time, and the talent that shows up in supporting roles.

The show is presented as a sort of retrospective on the career of Superman as if he were real and Dana Carvey is your celebrity host for the walkthrough of Superman's life.  There are man-on-the-street interviews cut in, which seem as if they really asked people questions about Superman and used what they said.  It's pretty good stuff.  Others are clearly actors, and there are some sort of mini-skits thrown in for good measure, along with footage from cartoons, serials, The Adventures of Superman and the Superman movies.

Supermarathon! Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Ah.  Yes.

So, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

I recall this movie coming out, hanging around local theater Showplace 6 for maybe a week or two and then disappearing.  I vaguely remember bad reviews, but as a kid who was used to every movie he loved receiving bad reviews, this wasn't anything to sweat.

One day in the Spring of 1995 I was doing laundry at my first apartment, and I remember watching the entire thing, with commercial breaks, on Austin's UHF affiliate as I ran down to the laundry room during commercial breaks to swap out loads.

Superman unilaterally threatens every nation on Earth

The thing about Superman IV is that it actually has a pretty solid premise going in, a premise that it jettisons partway through and replaces with a blow-dried Rocky Horror stand-in with shiny fingernails.

I like that the film attempts to take Superman through the question of responsibility of a Superman when it comes to the nuclear question, and that he starts at "that's not really my decision" - changes his mind - and then, through the course of the narrative, sees that mankind needs to make a decision on its own.  You can see the high-minded ideals Reeve brought to the screenwriters as a co-creator of the story.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Supermarathon: Some 60's Cartoons and "Panic in the Sky"

Back in the 1960's, Filmation had just been formed, and they had a contract to develop some cartoons based upon DC Comics characters.

The New Adventures of Superman rolled out as one of these cartoons, short cartoons long enough to get packaged with other DC characters, so you got a full cartoon between each commercial.  The animation is of the "limited" animation variety.  Lots of Superman's mouth moving and nothing else.  A static Superman in flying position as the background scrolls by behind him.  Lots of stuff re-used.  All to contain cost to deliver just a whole ton of these things at a reasonable cost.

By modern TV cartoon standards, the animations doesn't look so hot, the voice acting is stiff and awkwardly paced (Filmation would go on to do He-Man in the 1980's, a show which - even then - I thought had some very strange voices), and the stories are nigh non-existent.  Still, it's pretty clear these cartoons were aimed at little kids, and as straightforward Superman adventures, they do the trick.  And, as its more likely kids will come to Superman via cartoons than comics, it's not a bad first exposure.  If the kids can make heads or tails of 1960's technology and fashion.*

And, I like the theme song. It's jazzy!

Here's the pilot cartoon in its entirety.



I also watched a few episodes of Season 2 of The Adventures of Superman (live action, black & white, Noel Neill as Lois), including the famous episode Panic in the Sky.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Supermarathon: Superman III

Watching Superman III is an exercise in trying to guess what everyone involved was thinking.



For the third installment, the Salkinds kept Richard Lester on board as director, and with the Newmans on as writers (who had drafted an earlier script of Superman I and II, but who had been re-written by Tom Mankiewicz).  The camp and and slapsticky nature that reared it's head in Superman II in the theatrical release is back in full force, right from the choreographed opening that feels perhaps inspired by old silent comedies and Rube Goldberg machinations.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Calling it now: Everyone will now suddenly like Superman

Firstly, I am totally OK with this.

One does not spend ten years extolling the virtues of Superman and then get pouty when public opinion changes (thanks to the movie.  I'm not taking credit).  I'm not going to decide I don't like Superman because comics fans and the public alike shake off the past couple of decades of proudly proclaiming Batman's a hero and Superman's a zero.  And if people find something to like about Superman: GREAT!

Believe me, having a movie that sells people on Superman is going to make whatever I've been up to the past several years a lot easier to understand, and when it comes to family, friends and co-workers, I can use whatever help I can get.  Hopefully someone will do a follow up with a great Barks/ Rosa Ducks movie and I won't have to explain anything about myself ever again.

This all hinges on Man of Steel being a watchable film, and the trailers are pretty promising.  I have a strong feeling that even if the movie is not my cup of tea, the groundwork is already there to get people thinking about Superman a lot differently.

what are they looking at?  Where are they?


So, I just ran across an opinion piece at Comic Book Resources in which the writer points to various comics released over the past decade and, in my opinion, has found "his Superman".  No doubt a discriminating reader of comics, what with having a column and at least one podcast about comics, this writer finally found a way to "get" Superman.  He's got his in.

And, in many, ways, that's sort of what it takes.  If you can't find a point of accessibility, why would you like the character?

Not only is Superman one of the longest running characters in fiction, he's appeared in so many media over the years, the character has become this wall of iconography that's criss-crossed generations, nations, etc...  The very constancy of the character's omnipresence in culture, his association with comics, his occasional guest appearances, etc... all can lead to a belief that you gave the character a shot but you were too smart for what Superman was selling.  I know!  I've been there.  See yesterday's post on my era as an X-reader.  Couldn't get me to touch a Superman comic back then.

Tickets Purchased - Man of Steel is GO for Midnight Screening

I have purchased 3 tickets for the midnight screening of Man of Steel for The Alamo Ritz.



If you are interested in joining us here in Austin, I'll be with JuanD and KevinW (and owing a lot of apologies to Jamie).

There is likely to be a secondary screening on Saturday, so if you want in on that, give me a holler.

If you're up for being a REAL Superman fan and making the midnight show, we'll be there!

To join us, get your tickets here.




Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WB wants to be clear with you, "Man of Steel" is an action movie

Apparently someone at WB was a little miffed that the prior trailers for Man of Steel were not action packed enough. Well, no worries, my attention depleted fellow citizens, WB is here to PUT ACTION IN YOUR EYEHOLES.



Anyway, looks action packed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Supermarathon! Adventures of Superman: Superman on Earth! and The Haunted Lighthouse!

Few shows change tonally over a few seasons so much as The Adventures of Superman.  And I kind of love all the takes.  Really, I can't think of anything I don't like about The Adventures of Superman.  

in the old days, Superman didn't need a scaly outfit and proudly wore his pants really high

Monday, May 13, 2013

Neverending Battle Fatigue

I recently attended a small Toy and Comic Expo here in Central Texas.  I say small, but it had major cast members of The Walking Dead in attendance* (I don't watch the show, and I still recognized them), the event filled a few ballrooms, and had a Batmobile (you saw the pictures.  No reason for me to show off further.).

But I also walked out without buying anything.

I've talked here before about how Cons are not my cup of tea, but at this Con, I felt like such an outside observer that I felt like I was at someone else's party.

how your comics blogger feels on the inside

I quit writing posts on how I was cutting back my DC Comics selections, and in short order, I will have stopped buying any new DC Comics.  I just can't buy the new Superman stuff (Scott Lobdell on both main titles, really?) just to bridge my collection, just as I avoid the 90's mullet-era Superman for the convoluted contortions the writers were going through as they wrestled with the Post-Crisis rules imposed on Superman.

I don't understand the enthusiasm for most of today's comics from DC and Marvel, but I do get my fix from other books - like the stuff coming from MonkeyBrain, some from Dynamite and IDW, but my pull list has shrunk to about 3-4 comics on a good week.  Last week I didn't pull anything, and I see about a week per month where that's true.  Looking at the solicits for an upcoming month tells me that stepping away means it would be work to even try to get back into any of these comics, and at the cost and high likelyhood of a comic at DC getting the axe, it's not really worth it.

Walking around the con, I could identify only a fraction of the costumes on the attendees, and then, mostly from commercials I'd seen for video games while watching shows aimed at a younger demographic, like Archer.