Friday, July 12, 2013

Superman And me

Superman was the first superhero to enter my consciousness. I have a clear memory as a 4-year old, of fighting with my older sister over the TV. It seems that re-runs of the 50’s series ran opposite of Howdy Doodey on our local station and I wanted to see Supes! I also remember walking as a little boy, through a newsstand at Miami International Airport and being transfixed by the cover of an early 80-page Superman Annual. When I came to be a collector in 1967, I was more of a Marvel guy, but I still bought a few DC titles. Occasionally that would include a copy of Action or Superman but it never became a regular purchase habit. By the time the first Donner movie came out, I was pretty much a movie snob and deemed it too lowbrow to be worth seeing. I did catch it on cable and it was a mixed bag. I did enjoy the bits on Krypton and in Smallville but detested the heavy comedy element and in particular Gene Hackman’s interpretation of Lex Luthor. I remained unimpressed with the balance of the Chris Reeves franchise. When John Byrne rebooted the character in the mid-80’s, I became intrigued with the hero and for the first time I bought Superman titles on a regular basis. My loyalty was as brief as Byrne’s tenure. The next time Kal-El caught my fancy was when I discovered the Bruce Timm animated version. These I found near perfect and I habitually videotaped them. I also started a regular diet of the comics based on the animated show. When 2006 rolled around I was genuinely excited and hopeful for the “Superman Returns” movie. Once again it was a mixed bag. I loved sequences like the airliner rescue and the bit where bullets bounced off Superman’s eyes. But Singer brought in too, too many conceits from the 70/80’s films to suite my tastes.


When the Byrne books were coming out, I was in my late 20’s and as I read them something very fundamental came to my attention. How I missed it before is a mystery but I realized that Kal and I share something in common. Both he and I are adoptees, born to one set of parents but raised by another. It brought me closer to the fictional character.

That brings us to “Man Of Steel”. For me it lived up totally to my high expectations. It’s very strong on hitting the charged emotional beats concerning the “adoptee issues”. Figuring out the specifics in the ‘nature vs nurture’ argument has been an issue for me. I think some people might be turned off by the depiction of Krypton but I dug it very much. I was legitimately shocked at the carnage and violence but I accepted it as a genuine peek into what sort of things might happen if such super beings were in conflict on our planet. I enjoyed how Snyder and Nolan re-mixed the classic elements in a new way, similar to the reformulation of Batman in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Like those, this is a very dark interpretation of the character. Unlike the Marvel movies, there are little to no comic beats in “Man Of Steel” I can unequivocally say that this is my favorite, live-action version of Superman. But I can see how the heavy, operatic and brutal tone might turn some folks off.


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