Superman postsTuesday March 05, 2013
'Superman,' 'Man of Steel,' and the US/UK Switcheroo
In casting Zack Snyder's upcoming “Man of Steel,” they kept flying back-and-forth across the pond. The American becomes the Brit, and the Brit the American:
- Superman, Kal-El, who was played by an American (Christopher Reeve), is now being played by a Brit (Henry Cavill).
- Superman's father, Jor-El, who was played by an American (Marlon Brando), is now being played by a Brit/Kiwi (Russell Crowe).
- Superman's nemesis, Zod, who was played by a Brit (Terrence Stamp), is now being played by an American (Michael Shannon).
Back in '78, the villains were British—as they were in “Star Wars”—because, I suppose, the Brits, even at that late day, were shorthand for “Empire.” Is that the U.S. now?
As for the Brits, they're our superheroes. The lastest incarnations of Batman (Wales, UK), Spider-Man (Surrey, UK), Thor (Melbourne, Aus.), Mr. Fantastic (Wales, UK), Charles Xavier (Port Glasgow, Scotland), Magneto (Killarney, Ireland), the Beast (Berkshire, UK), the Wolverine (Sydney, Aus.), and now Superman (Jersey, UK), are all British.
I guess America still has Iron Man (NYC) and Captain America (Boston). Not to mention Ghost Rider (Long Beach, Calif.). Which most people don't want to mention.
Here's the “Man of Steel” rundown:
Kneel before Zod! Terrence Stamp (UK) in 1978 and Michael Shannon (US) in 2013.
Jor-El (US) and Lara (UK) with baby Kal-El in 1978's “Superman”
Jor-El (New Zealand) and Lara (Israel) with baby Kal-El in 2013's “Man of Steel”
Superman (US) looking at Lois in 1978's “Superman”
Superman (UK) looking at Lois in 2013's “Man of Steel”
Max Landis and 'the Death and Return of Superman'
A few weeks back, during music breaks on the “Karl Show (Starring Jason),” Karl and Jason talked up “Chronicle,” and screenwriter Max Winter, son of Jon, who apparently, recently, had a few scripts on “The Black List,” which are the great unmade (soon-to-be-made) scripts making the rounds in Hollywood. Karl said the dude had also done a video on “The Death and Return of Superman.” I asked for a link.
Turns out I'd watched a bit of it before but turned it off, or the web equivalent, because Landis' persona, his general pronouncements, and the scotch sloshing around his glass, all annoyed me too much. This time I watched the whole thing. Here it is:
Landis, who was born in 1985, is railing against “The Death and Return of Superman,” a comic-book storyline that began in 1992 with, yes, the death of the world's first superhero, continued into a storyline in which four super men vie for the now-open position of “Superman,” and ended with Superman's return, not from death, but from a Kryptonian-type “healing coma,” which is similar to our “human death.”
Right. Lame. And Landis rightly rails against it. But he begins so poorly. First words:
Nobody gives a fuck about Superman. You don't give a fuck about Superman even if you think you do. What's special about him? That he was the first superhero? That's it.
How untrue is this? It's not even true for Landis. Here he is in a more recent video:
Lastly, a quick note to people who have been saying 'I hate Superman.' If I hate Superman, would I have spent two months of my life and 16 minutes of yours talking about him? I LOVE Superman.
Landis' conclusion is that, rather than being about the death of Superman, the storyline was ultimately about the death of death, since, afterward, no character died, truly died, in comic books. I'd say that's the perspective of the young. When the “death of Superman” story broke into the mainstream media in 1992, I was 29 years old, 15 years removed from my comic-buying days, but even I knew they weren't talking about the real death of Superman. Did the Green Goblin die? Did Gwen Stacy? Everyone comes back. If there's money to be made, you come back. And there's nothing but money to be made from Superman.
In fact, rather than being about the death of death, you could argue that “The Death of Superman” began the birth of “the death of” storyline: Superman, Captain America, whomever. But they all come back. It's the industry that's dying.
Superman at the 1940 World's Fair: two years after his birth; 52 years before his “death.”
Look! On the Internet! It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Henry Cavill!
Here's the long shot:
And here's the close-up:
Jeff Wells talks a bit about the costume: the subdued reds, the criss-cross texture, the pleats of the cape. He's agin it. But he doesn't mention the most obvious deficiency:
Where's the curl?
This is a step back to George Reeves' Superman's hair. I‘ll gladly give up the red undieswhich director Zack Snyder may in fact be doing. But the curl is as much part of Superman’s coiffure as muttonchops are to Wolverine.
I‘ll say this, though. I don’t know about Zack Snyder but at least Cavill looks like he means business.
Sun, Son and Superman
The morning after I watched “Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics,” I woke up thinking of that scene from Bryan Singer's “Superman Returns” (2006) where the yellow sun revives Superman, who's near death. It's almost pagan, I thought. He's like a sun god, I thought. Then I recalled the obvious Christ allusions in the film (“They only lack the light to show the way,“ his father, Jor-el, says. ”For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son”), and wondered if Singer wasn’t attempting to merge sun and son, pagan and Christian, into one. One man, one superman, to unite us all. Superman sacrificies for us, he shows us the light, even as his light, his power, comes from a less Judeo-Christian source.
Or has this conjoining of religious influences been there all along?
I know: sun/son. Give me 48-odd years and sometimes the other shoe drops.
Waiting for a Superman (Movie)
The other day on Facebook I mentioned that I've only bought eight new songs this year—and it's nearly the end of May. My friend Andy, recently of Hanoi, suggested the latest Iron & Wine collection, which I promptly bought, and which includes this cover of the Flaming Lips' song “Waiting for a Superman.” It's quite beautiful. You can listen to it here, but, as always, I recommend buying. Support your local artists. Even when they're not local.
Here are the lyrics:
I asked you a question
I didn't need you to reply
Is it getting heavy?
But then I realized
It's getting heavy
Well I thought it was already as heavy as can be
Is it overwhelming
To use a crane to crush a fly?
It's a good time for Superman
To lift the sun into the sky
Because it's getting heavy
Hell I thought it was already as heavy as can be
Waiting for Superman
That they should try to
Hold on the best they can
He hasn't dropped them, forgot them or anything
It's just too heavy for Superman to lift
The people working on the next Superman movie should listen to this song over and over. The question they need to answer, to make the movie work, is right here: What's too heavy for Superman to lift?
Answer that and you've got a story.
Oh, and I'm still taking suggestions for new music if anyone's got ideas.
Things Superman can lift: a car, a lion, Goebbels.