Happy New Year! I hope you had as wonderful a holiday as I did. With the time off without briefs to write or court to prepare for, I finally was able to catch up on a lot of Superman media and enjoy some of the Superman-related gifts I was given. They ended up being a great sampling of Superman through several ages, mediums, and perspectives. I was able to enjoy:
- Superman: The Sunday Classics (1939-1942, 190 pages) – Anthology of full-color newspaper strips
- It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman (1966, 50 minutes) – Broadway Musical Album
- Superman: Comic Strip Hero (1981, 50 minutes) – BBC documentary in anticipation of Superman II
- American Icon: Superman (2006, 50 minutes) – Public Radio following Superman Returns
- Adventures of Superman (2013-2014, 51 issues) – Digital First Series out-of-continuity stories
- Superman: Doomed (2014, 544 pages) – Recent New 52 story arc
Brief impressions or comments on each:
Superman: The Sunday Classics (1939-1942, 190 pages)
Of a different era, there certainly is a different style and elements that would be questioned for their political correctness today, but even the early strips contained many of the trappings we associate with Superman to this day, with the conspicuous absence of the power of flight (although the influence of the Fleischer cartoons might be seen in the later strips). Superman has super breath, x-ray vision, telescopic vision, super hearing, and can render people unconscious with a nerve pinch. He’s happy to help without thanks, but not afraid to threaten to extort information (or even a bank loan so a logger can make payroll). Superman wants to be a journalist in order to be aware of trouble even in the first strip. Although he’s repeatedly called the Man of Steel and the Man of Tomorrow, he’s actually successfully knocked out by narcotic gas in one story. It’s easy to see why these could have been captured the imaginations of so many in its time.
It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman (1966, 50 minutes)
Not the best musical, but with with a few great numbers. “You’ve Got Possibilities” is clever, catchy, and the anthem to my love life. “Doing Good” and “We Need Him” are satirical insights into the public perception of Superman in the 60s while Adam West’s Batman was a television sensation. The other numbers don’t do much for me, but they’re interesting to hear.
Superman: Comic Strip Hero (1981, 50 minutes)
The documentary aired after Superman II had debuted in the States but before the UK premier. Cheeky and subversive (as you might expect from a British documentary about the American superhero) it doesn’t exactly celebrate Superman but it doesn’t dismiss him either. You get to hear from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, DC’s Editor-in-Chief at the time, and many diehard Superman fans. However, you also hear directly from Fredric Whertham, Art Spiegleman, Larry Niven, and other dissenters who take issue with Superman… either specifically or symbolically as representative of the entire superhero comic genre. The cynicism makes it apparent why in only a few years, Watchmen would thoroughly deconstruct the genre, The Dark Knight Returns would take hold, and Superman would be re-imagined and relaunched in Man of Steel all in 1986.
American Icon: Superman (2006, 50 minutes)
A full on analysis and deconstruction of Superman, you can read my thoughts on this here. Briefly though, completely worth a listen!
Adventures of Superman (2013-2014, 51 issues)
I enjoyed this anthology for the clever ideas, intriguing twists, the sentimentality, and the tradition when unshackled by continuity. It lacks a certain degree of depth of character capable of being perpetuated but I’m so happy this exists for the flavor. I’ve been buying these digitally as they came out but never had a chance to read them all. I hope they get released in a single physical volume. I know that’s not their intended format, but it was a pleasure to read the Sunday Classics mentioned above and you may recall the epic Wednesday Comics (2010) in newspaper page aspect ratio and size.
Superman: Doomed (2014, 544 pages)
Overall, quite a serviceable story. Not likely to be anyone’s favorite of all time but solid. I don’t need my every Superman experience to be life-changing and sometimes it’s nice just to have a story to read. The weakest tie-ins were the Supergirl crossovers in my opinion, but everything else seemed like it mattered enough to justify the crossover.