Tagged: Man Of Steel

Mindy Newell: Man Of $teel

In 1978, we were enticed to go see Superman this way:

  • You will believe a man could fly.

In 2013, we have been enticed to go see Man Of Steel like this:

  • He can walk through fire.
  • He can melt glaciers with his eyes.
  • He can rip through metal with his bare hands.
  • So, how does the Man of Steel shave?
  • Apparently with a Gillette razor.


  • Fly in for Sears Memorial Day Mattress Spectacular and get up to 60% off plus an extra 10% off mattresses over $999.
  • Plus special financing.
  • Plus free delivery and haul-away.
  • This is something super.
  • This is Sears.

Newell Art 130624Does Superman prefer Sealy, Simmons, Serta, Stearns & Foster, Tempur-Pedic, or Sears’s own Sears-O-Pedic? And what size mattress – twin, full, queen, king, or California king?

According to a June 3rd article in Advertising Age by Maureen Morrison, Man Of Steel had already made $160 million even before it even opened in cinemas around the world. The British newspaper The Independent upped that ante, reporting on June 10th that Man Of Steel had snared $170 million in product placement and advertising before it opened on June 14th.

Product placement isn’t new. In the “director’s cut” of Superman, there is a scene just before Martha Kent sees Clark out in the wheat field of the farm that didn’t make it into the theatrical version – and by the way, any theories on just how long it was between Jonathan’s death and Clark getting the call from the green crystal? At the funeral Martha’s hair is grey, but on the day Clark leaves for the “North,” her hair, as Clark later describes it to Lois, is “silver-white.” Anyway, in the aforementioned scene we watch as Martha does her morning routing, yelling at Clark to “get up, breakfast!” and placing a box of Cheerios on the kitchen table. And later in the film, Superman hurdles Zod into the Coca-Cola sign in Times Square – well, Metropolis’s version of Times Square – and while attempting to save the passengers on a bus thrown by the super-villains, Superman crushes a Marlboro delivery truck (Cigarette advertising? How retro!)

But these placements were subtle, and actually added to the reality – the first voice we hear in the 1978 Superman is Marlon Brando’s “This is no fantasy.” – of the film, aiding our suspension of disbelief.

But the amount of “product” associated with the newest film is really stunning. According to Morrison’s article, “there are more than 100 global promotional partners” attached to Man Of Steel. Some of them, in addition to the Sears Roebuck Company and Gillette, are:

  • Warby-Parker Shades, where you can buy a pair of Clark Kent eyeglasses
  • Hershey’s
  • Chrysler, which is offering two different “Superman” S-class cars
  • Kellogg’s
  • Walmart
  • Nokia
  • Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr, where you can eat a “Super Bacon Cheeseburger”
  • United States Army National Guard, which is using Man Of Steel as an enlistment tool
  • Under Armor
  • Mattel
  • Budweiser
  • Toshiba

To borrow from another DC iconic hero:

Holy marketing, Batman!!!!!

•     •     •     •     •

A confession. I did go to Gillette’s YouTube site to watch four videos entitled “How Does the Man of Steel Shave?” Bill Nye the Science Guy, Kevin Smith, Mayim Bialik – a PhD. in neuroscience? Really? – and Mythbusters’ Andy and Jamie offer their theories on how Kal-el goes from heavily bearded in the beginning of the film to smooth-shaven by the time he’s fighting Zod. And I must also confess that the vids are fun and entertaining. The four hypotheses are: (1) LHC Worm Hole Theory; (2) Materials Science Theory; (3) Follicle Denaturation Theory; and (4) Baby Rocket Theory.

I leave it to you to match up the theories with their progenitors.




Marc Alan Fishman: OK WB, Now What?

Fishman Art 130622I’ve little to no doubt by the time I write this article everyone on this site, and every other comic-ish site will have weighed in on Man of Steel. For what it’s worth? I liked it a whole bunch. Disaster porn? Sure. The controversial ending? Made complete sense to me. And I’m not even a pessimist. I found the flick to be a popcorn chomping, scenery eating behemoth on par with Marvel’s Cap or Thor. Feel free to disagree with me. This li’l op-ed though isn’t about Man of Steel as much as it’s about what it means for DC in the near and not-so-near future.

The fact is the movie is making money. Good money. The most money to come in for the month of June in fact. And with no “big” weekend coming to theaters presumably until The Lone Ranger bombs, DC should be on the road now to adding some serious shekels to their calamitous coffers. Many nerds (myself included) all figured that all this time Marvel was running away with all the sick-movie profits. But let’s look at the tale of the tape:

According to Box Office Mojo: Iron Man 1 and 2, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, and The Avengers totaled roughly 1.75 billion dollars domestically. In the same amount of time Nolan’s Batman franchise, Watchmen, The Losers, Jonah Hex, and Green Lantern earned 1.45 billion. All things considered? It’s not necessarily a run away gravy train for Mickey now is it?

We all know the old adage: war is won with a single battle. Man of Steel rights a train derailed with Green Lantern. The fact of the matter is in the last five years of blockbusters, Mickey was laying foundation while DC merely rented a timeshare. It’s no secret (especially if you read comic book movie news on the Internet) that the Brothers Warner wanted Man of Steel to be the initial volley towards a larger franchise universe of their own. It’s fair enough to consider the movie to be a success. So, what’s next?

We know there’s talks to get Supes back in the multiplex as soon as late next year. Unless they actually know how to reverse time by flying around the Earth though? Color me doubtful. And the rumor mill has also turned out gems like a possible Batman / Superman team up. Or a Justice League movie that will spin-out into single character franchises. I envision the execs over at the Warner lot looking at a pile of New 52 books, with a sweaty Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns (no doubt wearing a dunce cap over his Green Lantern: The Movie cap) doing their best to help them plan. And somewhere behind two-way glass, Christopher Nolan sits in his private Inception pod (yeah it’s a pod now) smugly scoffing.

Enough pussy-footing around. If the reigns were in my hands, I’d bank on what made Warner money. While every comic-classicist sharpens their knives I boldly say the unthinkable. If you made money going real and dark? Go real and dark. There was optimism, hope, and smiles to be had in Man of Steel. Seriously. If DC uses that at it’s base, and builds a Justice League that stands with Big Blue in their front court? Those are big shoulders to do it with. Add in Jospeh Gordon-Leavitt’s Batman (heresy!) and introduce the movie-going public to Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Cyborg? Well, it’ll sure give Whedon and his Bro-Vengers a little competition. Put the movie in the hands of a capable comic-inspired director. Say… Brad Bird. And if Nolan can assist in crafting a picture that isn’t just filler, quips, and a fifty minute fight sequence… you’ve got yourself the making of a real counter blow to the powerhouse mouse.

At the end of the day, Man of Steel was a solid start to a new beginning. While many our brethren ball their fists and curse at the wind, many others are finding a new take on a familiar face. I hope sincerely that DC and WB figure out what worked (Optimism. Confidence.) and what didn’t (Wanton destruction.) and use it to find solid footing on a new course. The world needs a Justice League movie. We need a great Wonder Woman franchise. They need a movie DCU. It’s time to look up, up, and away from the past and soar towards a more profitable future. And I for one will be looking forward to the movies.

Because you know, their comics sure ain’t doing it for me right now.*

*My apologies to Scott Snyder and Gail Simone who totally get a pass

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Martha Thomases Stands for Hope

Thomases Art 130621Late to the Man of Steel party, but I am compelled to weigh in. Here are my thoughts, which I don’t think are spoilers, but be warned if you’re squeamish about such things.

When I worked at DC in the 1990s, I was known as the person who liked Superman. Which is odd, really, because without Superman, there would be no DC. In any case, the consensus was that Superman wasn’t cool because he wasn’t dark or broody. Over the next decade, Superman became cool, not only in the comics, but also on a top-rated television program. People stood on line at Macy’s anchor store for the chance to meet editor Mike Carlin.

And then Superman Returns bombed, and the conventional wisdom was that Superman, as a character, needed to be dark and brooding after all. He had to be made “modern.”

Anyone who was reading Superman before John Byrne’s 1986 reboot will remember a dark and brooding character. The late, pre-Crisis Superman was always thinking mournfully of his lost planet, his lost birth family, his lost adopted family, and his sense that he could never have a family of his own. Alan Moore captured this brilliantly in his 1985 story, “For the Man Who Has Everything.”

This film is certainly dark. In a recent interview, Bill Nye said, “Space brings out the best in us.” But not, apparently in our production design.

On all of Krypton, it seems, the only colors are blacks, grays and metallic. There do not seem to be any blondes. We don’t see any vegetation above ground, and the Kryptonians we see wear either armor with capes or robes that appear to be ceremonial. It’s beautiful, but it really took my out of the movie, as I wondered how any civilization could be so determinately dreary. I suppose it’s possible that an entire planet could have its own art director to show how Seriously Dark and Mature they are, but to me it just seemed like the everybody went Goth at the same time. When we have the big reveal of Kal-El’s Superman suit, I wondered when Jor-El had discovered blue and red.

Amy Adams is a delightful Lois Lane, maybe the best I’ve ever seen. Her performance is completely believable as a hard-charging, ambitious reporter. She never plays girly or helpless. I only wish she would give lessons to Maureen Dowd.

Laurence Fishburne is a terrific Perry White. If only he had more to do.

The real hero of the movie, to me, is Christopher Meloni, in his most memorable movie role since Wet Hot American Summer.

Which brings me to my biggest regret. The body count in this movie is ridiculously high. The final battle over Metropolis must kill hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people. And it’s not just Zod and his minions who destroy. Superman topples his share of skyscrapers. My Superman would have moved the battle to an ocean. The ending, to my mind, is completely out of character. I know it’s been done in the comics, but there was immediate fall-out and regret, which we don’t see here.

It’s especially disturbing, given that Warner Bros. apparently went out of their way to market this movie as something traditionally religious families would enjoy. The script makes a big deal about Clark being 33 years old (which seems to me to be too old for Clark to be so naive, but I’m not in film marketing), Even if one can ignore the Jewish roots (which, before that, were Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian) of most of the Superman mythos, one would still notice the tug-of-war between Jonathan and Martha Kent over whether Clark should stay in or out of the closet about his differences.

Maybe this is the problem. Maybe trying to make a film that will appeal to those too self-conscious to be hopeful at the same time trying to appeal to evangelicals produces a mush.

Or maybe the creative team needs another film to find their legs. That’s what happened with Batman.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Dennis O’Neil: Super-Success

O'Neil Art 130620Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…

Superman, crossing his eyes, thumbing his nose and sticking out his tongue. He’s directing his scorn toward all the nay-sayers who predicted a cool reception for The Man of Steel. The picture officially opened Friday morning and by Friday afternoon one web news site was describing it as “disappointing.” Disappointing, maybe, to Marvel Comics execs, but most of the rest of us thought it was pretty darn okay. The reviews were mixed, but the theater exit polls gave it an A minus and it ended up reaping enough profit to be the biggest June movie opening ever.

I think it deserves its success. The director, Zack Snyder, and the writer, David Goyer, did exactly what they had to do, and what previous film makers failed to do – reinvent an elderly icon for a contemporary audience. Way back in 1959, editor Julius Schwartz, did that for the comics and now Snyder, Goyer, and their posse, along with a few other creative teams, have done it for the multiplex.

I won’t go into particulars here… Okay, one particular: the villain. He was played by Michael Shannon, our best filmic heavy, both in movies and on television, and he didn’t think of himself as an evil doer. On the contrary: he considered himself to be a savior whose actions were done “for the greater good.” Something familiar about that? In what I’ll hesitantly refer to as real life, those who perpetrate war and genocide and wholesale slaughter always do it for a cause, often religious nor nationalistic, they believe to be vital and benevolent. They’re the heroes and their opposition is villainy and the poor simpletons who are crushed along the way are necessary sacrifices or, as the current terminology has it, collateral damage. Fanatics, these “heroes,” who believe that they could not possibly be wrong. Michael Shannon’s General Zod can stand as their avatar.

Time was when characters in superhero stories were occasionally referred to as “supervillains” and I don’t recall them denying the eponym. In fact, some of them belonged to a kind of miscreants club, pretty much limited to folk who dressed in odd costumes, that called itself “The Secret Society of Super Villains.” The comic book of that title was published by DC in the mid-seventies and collected in a hardcover anthology. The stories were written by Gerry Conway, one of the medium’s major talents, and were fine for their era, when comics were in their adolescence, unsure of what, exactly, they should be and still in thrall to the notion that they weren’t…respectable. Or serious. Or art or… something. Many of the baddies seem to exist only to give the goodies somebody to beat. Now, in both comics and their lumbering descendants, the flicks, writers are willing and able to acknowledge and dramatize the world’s real evil, which can be tragic.

Consider The Man of Steel a parable for our times. An entertaining one.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Emily S. Whitten: Superman and Man of Steel

Whitten Art 130618As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been a Superman fan pretty much forever. Superman was my first encounter with superheroes, beginning with watching the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie when I was very small. Through the years, Superman has remained one of my favorite superheroes. Sure, I love Deadpool (obviously!), and I’ve always been a big X-Men fan… and Batman… and Spider-Man… and I could go on and on from there – but Superman, the most unequivocal and steadfast symbol of hope and ethical humanity in the whole collection, has always been there in the background, informing my appreciation of the rest of the bunch.

Some people say that Superman is a boring character. He’s too perfect. He’s incredibly powerful and can do almost anything, way beyond what most of us can fathom, and he’s constantly doing the “right” or noble thing. How interesting can someone like that be?

Very interesting, I think. It’s Superman’s decision about how to use his power; his nobility; and his steadfast idealism in the way he decides to live his life for humanity and constantly be striving to do that right thing that have made him a multi-generational symbol and inspiration. At the same time, it is also his choice to live for humanity that drives him to live amongst humanity, and thus empathize with their plights, and, eventually, fall in love with one of them – Lois Lane.

Lois is the other half of what makes Superman so interesting. She’s a strong character in her own right, as she has to be to match up to someone as powerful as Superman. But she’s also only human, with human difficulties. Lois humanizes Superman, she pulls him back to Earth from the skies in which he might otherwise constantly float above us all. Sure, as a child, Superman is in touch with humanity, anchored by his parents and their desire to raise him with a strict moral code that respects and teaches responsibility for humanity. But once Clark seriously takes on the Superman persona and is living far from his parents as an adult in a strange city, someone else’s influence is needed. Enter Lois.

In most iterations of Superman, Lois does not, for at least a significant period of time, know that Superman and Clark Kent are the same man. Various reasons for this remaining the status quo of their relationship exist, from the potential danger to Lois if she knows Superman’s secret identity to Clark’s insecurity about her feelings for him as Clark, or his desire for her to, essentially, “like him for him,” and not for being some kind of alien demigod. This dynamic not only serves to anchor Clark, but also to drive the story – as a lot of the drama, humor, and interest of the Superman story stems from Clark’s attempts to live a double life and somehow still win over the woman he loves and attain a very human kind of happiness.

Superman’s power and nobility, combined with Clark’s very human relationship with Lois Lane, are what make him such an interesting character, and what make me throw up my hands in disbelief when someone says that Superman is boring. Because how could an interaction of our human struggles with our human desire to be heroic be boring? How could it be just another story? Well, if people make it that way, I suppose. If people stray from what makes Clark-and-Superman great, and try to instead fit him into the box of every other superhero out there.

Now, let’s talk about Man of Steel.


On a strictly is-it-an-enjoyably-watchable -movie level, I liked Man of Steel. Except for the overly long fight scenes (of which there were several), the pacing is pretty good. The cinematography is good. The story is fairly cohesive and easy to follow (despite some odd plot holes/questions, like how Superman’s costume was just hanging around on a ship that had been buried in Earth’s icy caverns thousands of years before the destruction of Krypton). Henry Cavill is delicious, and also shirtless in pretty much his very first scene. Shirtless and on fire. And it’s hot (all puns intended). Amy Adams is also adorable. Overall the acting is pretty top-notch. And there are many recognizable genre, TV, and mainstream actors to clap about (including at least two Battlestar: Galactica dudes, Tahmoh Penikett and Alessandro Juliani). There is also some blatant product placement…that works (Clark’s childhood friend Pete Ross works at an IHOP. After watching the movie, my friend and fellow journalist Alicia and I were forced, forced I tell you, to go to IHOP because we suddenly had IHOP cravings. But it was delicious, so that’s okay).

On a Superman mythos level, things get a lot shakier. One thing I did enjoy was the minor Superman character name-drops. Pete Ross, as mentioned, shows up in both Clark’s flashbacks and present day. Dr. Emil Hamilton is there as a military scientist or consultant. Steve Lombard is working at The Daily Planet. And there’s a wee Lana Lang on the flashback bus when it goes into the river. I also actually really enjoyed the first part of the movie, from Krypton through about the first two or so flashbacks. This is one film I’ve seen that actually world-built Krypton to a realistic extent and then spent some time there. Sure, there are echoes of what’s been developed before, and the combination of technology and organic, mythical-looking creatures was a bit weird at first, but I loved details like the floating silver orbs that are a combination of personal assistants and bodyguards, and also allow for a sort of 3-D video communication (or for a 3-D ultrasound!). And I liked the extent to which they managed to make the look of Kryptonian attire realistically tie in with Superman’s costumed appearance.

After Krypton, the first few scenes establish a Clark who’s wandering the world, interspersed with some growing-up time. These scenes are very enjoyable. The current scenes show a Clark that, like a well-developed Krypton, we don’t usually get to see much on screen. Clark’s soul-searching and wanderings as a young man are referenced in several versions of the Superman story, but we don’t often actually see them. And each of the early flashbacks shows a young Clark who is learning about his powers, and about his responsibilities, in a way that is organic and not heavy-handed.

Once the movie has spent some time on this, however, it moves more firmly into the present day origin story, with just a few more flashbacks here and there. These are of an older Clark and, while I get that teens are difficult and superteens perhaps even more difficult, these scenes are devoid of the familial love and warmth that marks the earlier scenes. They also include a scene in which Clark literally stands fifty feet away from his dad and watches him get swept away by a tornado. While the movie tries to make this into a character development point, it’s such a wrong note for Superman that I just couldn’t get behind it. Keeping his powers a secret or not, no Superman I’m interested in would be that selfish, even if his dad was telling him not to save him. It’s around this point that the movie also moves firmly into being, essentially, an alien disaster movie that happens to feature Superman.

Given the trailers we’d been seeing, and the fact that both Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan were signed on, I feared that we were going to get a very grimdark Superman in Man of Steel. And although the first several scenes were all fairly serious, since they cut back and forth it relieved the grimness somewhat, and I thought maybe my fears were going to be unfounded. Well, not so much. After the first few cuts back and forth, things turn continuously grim and grimmer in Man of Steel. Death and destruction (on a global scale) begin to appear everywhere and only increase for the rest of the story; and boy, is it exhausting to watch. It’s also not what I wanted to see in a Superman movie.

During Man of Steel, we are told by Jor-El that the S on Superman’s chest means “hope” to Kryptonians. And that’s exactly what Superman is supposed to be for us – a symbol of hope. He is our hope that there are people like him out there, and that it’s okay to believe they exist – which is important, because if they do exist, and succeed at existing, then maybe it’s not so unrealistic for us to try to be a little bit like them. Maybe we can be heroes too, at least now and again. In a way, Superman is the first part of that iconic last line of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current…” Superman reflects the best of human idealism, and the struggle to move forward, despite obstacles, and to continue moving forward. Superman is a symbol of hope…but this is not a hopeful movie.

There are a lot of dark superhero movies out there. The recent movies of Superman’s sometimes-partner Batman, for instance, are dark; and that works for him. I loved The Dark Knight, but I don’t need a hundred Dark Knights. The world is depressing enough right now, and I don’t need to constantly see destruction and death on the big screen; because we see it every day. What I need right now, what I crave, is a movie that shows me a hero who strives and succeeds at being better than that. At being better than all of the “reality” we are facing both in reality and in our current media. At actually “saving the world,” and not being beaten down by it in the end. At being a steadfast constant who won’t break under the pressure. And what I really want to know, after seeing Man of Steel, which could have been the perfect vehicle for this, is: why couldn’t this movie’s producers have been “the brave and the bold” movie team who dared to actually celebrate an ideal and a hopeful future in which disaster is not an inevitable and acceptable norm? In which there is somebody who can actually stop the world from being destroyed before half of it is gone?

Instead, they opted for a Superman whose introductory film features a final body count that at least equals if not exceeds that of the villain, General Zod (and that includes General Zod, since Superman, albeit reluctantly, straight-up snaps Zod’s neck in the end). As someone on Twitter said, “There is no Man of Steel criticism more stark than the fact that Earth would have been better off had Kal-El died on Krypton.” And as writer Brian Reed snarks, a conversation between Zod and Superman that would easily fit in this movie could be: “I’ll kill all of these humans you love.” “I punched you through 30 buildings. I’ve probably killed more of them than you at this point.” That…is a sad state of affairs.

Along with all of the death, the film also features a metric ton of property (and Earth) destruction, and Superman and the Kryptonians constantly whaling on each other to the point where my soul was craving even a smidge of character development, and welcomed Perry White and Steve Lombard’s struggle to free some random Daily Planet intern from rubble. You know your Superman movie is in trouble when a watcher is more interested in that than in Superman. Maybe because your Superman movie tries but fails to show the complexity or nuances of being both Superman and Clark Kent? Because it’s too busy showing things blowing up and the whole world falling apart? Yeah, maybe that.

One way in which the movie does try to humanize the adult Clark is via the introduction of Lois, and his interactions with her. But in my view, this is another great failure of the movie. Lois, as a character in Man of Steel, is great. She’s smart and upbeat and determined and fearless and loyal and successful and kind and has a strong sense of what’s right. She goes after the story, and gets the story, and has earned the respect of her editor and fellow reporters, and she is all around the sort of Lois I want to see. Lois and Superman, in their interactions, are also very strong.

But do you notice what’s missing about the previous sentence? Any mention of Clark. The meeting of Lois and Superman in this movie is just that – a meeting in which Lois knows him as Superman from the get-go. Yes, his name might be Clark, and she knows that too, but that’s incidental to all of their interactions. And while that may not greatly affect the dynamic of this particular movie as a movie, what does it do to the Superman mythos and to any potential sequels? Well, it strips out the human factor, the fun, the heart, and the drama that all come from the original Lois and Clark dynamic. It strips out a large part of what makes that story great.

As mentioned, when Superman is forced to be Clark around the woman he loves, and to wonder if she’ll ever love him for himself, rather than just for his powers as Superman, it brings him down to Earth, and to humanity, and gives him a reason to strive to be a better human, as well as a better superhero. It also makes the story a lot more fun; even if eventually, Lois does discover the truth. The story leading up to the reveal makes the reveal that much better, and also makes the relationship that much deeper. But here, it’s like they decided to skip right to the third season of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – when those first two seasons were what makes anything after them work at all.

To catastrophically misunderstand this dynamic to such an extent was so unbelievable to me that, even though it’s a weak storytelling element and has been done before, in Man of Steel I kept waiting and hoping for amnesia. I seriously thought that when Superman saved Lois from the burning Kryptonian escape pod and she said, “I’m sorry…” the sentence was going to end with, “…but I don’t remember how I got here.” I couldn’t believe that they’d seriously set up the entire relationship to be Lois and Superman-who-also-happens-to-masquerade-as-Clark-to-other-people. And yet, they did. What a disappointment. Sure, maybe they can make it work if they do another movie, or a Justice League movie, or whatever; but it won’t be the Superman I know anymore, or the Superman I love.

In our post-mortem discussion of this movie, my friend Alicia said that Henry Cavill, while very good, would never be her Superman. And while I love Henry Cavill, and think he acquitted himself as well as the script would allow, I agree with her with a bit of a rephrase (because really, Henry Cavill isn’t the problem). Man of Steel will never be my Superman. And while I realize that heroes can be re-made for modern times, and sometimes should be to keep things fresh, Superman is one of those rare few where messing with his core story too much just flat out ruins who he is.

Superman is known as the Big Blue Boy Scout for a reason. Sure, the nickname is affectionately snarky; but it’s also a great compliment – a nickname for a hero who always does the right thing and acts to help others, and who is always prepared to solve the world’s problems and deal with its disasters. The goal of making a movie about Superman should be to maintain the bright ideal he has always been when at his best, without making him unrelatable or cheesy. I don’t know what Man of Steel set out to do, but in the end, it certainly didn’t feel like that. If I don’t leave a movie about Superman feeling like there’s some hope in the world, then that movie is not about the Superman I love. And Man of Steel didn’t leave me with much hope.

Well, that’s about all the movie analysis I can manage for one day, but until next time, Servo Lectio!




Mindy Newell: The Man of Steel… And Dad

Newell Art 130617Martha Thomases’s column on Friday addressed the sexism and gender issue that is suddenly so rampant in the comics medium and its, ahem, sisters, science fiction and gaming, as I did last week – again.

Sexism and gender issues are nothing new to me in my other life as a registered nurse. Do I have to tell you that nurses have been the targets of sexist bullshit forever? (Female nurses, that is. Male nurses are part of the “club.”) However, these days most hospital administrations have strict “zero tolerance” policies, meaning that any type of hostile behavior, including sexism, is not, well, tolerated. And most of them mean it. If it happens, the perpetrator is usually given a choice – attend a proscribed amount of therapy sessions or be fired, although there are several “behaviors” that will cause immediate termination (such as calling your workmate a “fucking Jew,” which happened to me several years ago and he was out on his butt within the hour). However, if the perpetrator completes the program and still “acts out,” well, say goodbye, asshole. No “three strikes, you’re out.” Oh, and if the asshole doesn’t complete the program, then “make a new plan, Sam.”

Too bad we don’t have a zero tolerance policy in place in comics.

On the other hand, just as Martha (and Emily) pointed out that women are becoming the driving force behind comics, those women coming up behind me in nursing are also becoming the driving force of the nursing profession, standing up and saying, “you’re going to treat me with respect, mister.” And the men are listening.

•     •     •     •     •

I’m not rushing to see Man Of Steel, though I loved Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, in The Tudors. Instead I’ve been on a Christopher Reeve binge, watching Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie and his director’s cut of Superman II.

Donner and his creative consultant, Tom Mankiewicz rewrote the original story and script by Mario Puzo, David and Leslie Newman, and Robert Benton, which they felt was too campy (it included a cameo by Telly Savalas as Kojak), as one complete story. As the first film moves towards its climax, Superman diverts the missile headed towards Hackensack-ack-ack-ack-ack, New Jersey – “Lex,” Miss Tessmacher (Valerie Perrine) says, “my mother lives in Hackensack.” Lex Luther (Gene Hackman) just looks at his watch and shakes his head – into space, where it explodes harmlessly…or so we think.

As rewritten by Donner and Mankiewicz, there was to be a coda to the film, in which we see that the nuclear explosion rips open the Phantom Zone and frees General Zod, Ursa, and Nog, followed by a banner that would read “To Be Continued In Superman II.” It was the perfect cliffhanger. But “creative differences” led to Donner’s dismissal by the Salkinds, and Mankiewicz went with him. Richard Lester was hired in his stead, so we got the theatrical version of Superman II, which was an independent sequel, not a continuation (and includes the coda, now moved to the beginning of the film).

There are some glitches in the director’s cut version of Superman II, because not all of the originally shot sequences could be found and restored, but it does include additional scenes between Kal-el and Jor-el, which serve to not only deepen and humanize their relationship, but also strengthen the film’s theme. And it’s not only the relationship between father and son that benefits – the bond between Lois and Superman is further intensified and explored.

Im-not-so-ho, it’s a travesty that Donner and Mankiewicz were unable to bring their true vision to the screen, because both really got the character and the mythos. It’s so apparent that they totally respected the source material, and on the commentary they talk about the plans they had, how they could have created a franchise perhaps equaling Star Wars, because there was just so much there in Superman’s history waiting to be translated to the big screen. The four disc set I have (available on Amazon (here) also includes some nifty extras, such as Reeve’s screen test and the screen tests of many of the actresses – Anne Archer, Leslie Ann Warren, Stockard Channing – being considered for Lois, which at the time was a hungrily sought-after role. (I think Channing’s take on Lois was especially interesting, but she was a bit too “Rizzo,” a bit too Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday.) But the charisma between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in her brilliant screen test is easily apparent – and that test became a key scene in the restoration.

•     •     •     •     •

Tomorrow, as I write this, is Father’s Day.

I was going to go down to South Jersey today to visit my dad in an attempt to avoid the traffic, but I had fucked around all morning, sipping tea, working on the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle – everyone thinks that Sunday’s puzzle is the hardest, but it’s not, it’s Saturday’s that makes you sweat – and listening to NPR…

…and then I read this week’s Entertainment Weekly’s cover story on Superman – EW was not much impressed with Man Of Steel, btw, giving it a “C”…

…and then I sat down at the computer to balance my checkbook before I left and instead played various forms of Solitaire…

…and then boss man Mike Gold called and an hour later we hung up and I looked at the clock and it was coming on 1 P.M. – holy cow!! – and I hadn’t even taken a shower yet.

But it turns out that not going today was a good thing, because my mom just called, and we’re going to take my dad (who’s been living in the rehab/nursing home facility of their complex since his third seizure) over to my brother’s house for a Father’s Day celebration, and my mom – she fell two weeks ago, and although she didn’t break anything, thank God, she is in a lot of pain, and besides, the months since my dad first got sick have not been good for her physically, emotionally, and cognitively – is going to need help getting my dad dressed and ready to go, which really means that I will be the one getting my dad dressed and out.

It’s a blessing and a miracle that I can still hug my dad and see him smile at me and kiss me and call me Mindela* – though to tell you the truth, my real dad, one of the Greatest Generation, the P-51 fighter jock, the man who taught me what integrity and honor really means, is already gone, if you know what I mean – because, to tell you the truth, I didn’t think he would be, and also to tell you the truth, I don’t think he’ll be here when Father’s Day rolls around again.

So fuck the traffic.

*Little Mindy. Adding la (“little”) at the end of a name is a common endearment in Yiddish.




The Point Radio: Who Knew Their SUPERMAN & Who Will Be WHO?


There is a lot riding on MAN OF STEEL – ranging from making Superman a successful movie franchise to starting the path to a line of DC superhero films. So with so much at stake, you might be shocked to hear who decided to follow the path of there character from TV & comics, and who did not. We’ve got the confessions from Henry Cavill to Russell Crowe to Amy Adams. Plus more on SyFy‘s second season of CONTINIUUM and who really will be the new DOCTOR WHO?

Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: Just How Different Is MAN OF STEEL?


It’s finally for MAN OF STEEL to hit theaters and make it’s mark among super-hero films. We start our in depth look talking to Henry Cavill, Zack Snider and Amy Adams about just what the changes are to the Superman mythos. Plus SyFy‘s CONTINUUM hits a new season and we’ve got an exclusive preview with star Rachel Nichols, but is SyFy also dumping WAREHOUSE 13? We’ve got the answer.

Take us ANYWHERE! The Point Radio App is now in the iTunes App store – and it’s FREE! Just search under “pop culture The Point”. The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any other  mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Mindy Newell: Star Child

Newell Art 130603I’m writing this while listening to John Williams’ magnificent score for Superman – the one and only Superman, starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder.


Well, this morning (Sunday, June 2, 2013) I was doing my usual routine, sipping tea at the breakfast table, working on the New York Times Sunday crossword and listening to NPR. (Yeah, I’m a media multi-tasker.) NPR’s Studio 360 series “American Icons” was about to start. It turned to be a rebroadcast of a program that originally aired on July 6, 2007.

And today’s icon was…


I didn’t remember hearing the original broadcast, and I’m guessing the station chose to rerun it because Man Of Steel is about to be released. At any rate, being a comic geek, I was delighted. Commentators included Margot Kidder, Jack Lawson, Bryan Singer, Michael Chabon, Jules Feifer, and Art Spiegelman. It touched on many areas – of course Siegel and Schuster and the shitty way they were treated by DC (NPR never reins in its guests, which is why I love it!), the relation of Superman to Jewish mythology and the immigrant experience, the history of Superman in the media, from the comics to radio to the dynamic Fleisher Studios animated movie shorts to television to the big screen – although there was no conversation about Man Of Steel, since it was a rebroadcast from just before Superman Returns was released.

Even though it is an old program, the content was still relevant – proving their point that Superman is an American icon. And the producers did their homework. A section that I especially liked was the discussion of Superman: Red Sun (by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Killian Plunkett. The prestige format mini-series, which hit the bookshelves in 2003 and was later collected and released as a graphic novel, was published under DC’s Elseworlds imprint, and explored this particular “what if?” scenario: What if Kal-El’s rocket from Krypton had landed in the Ukrainian farmlands during the Cold War? What if Superman wasn’t raised to fight for truth, justice, and the American way, but – as Millar wrote – “the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact?”

This led to a really cool conversation on totalitarianism, fascism, World War II and the Nazis, and the use of Superman during that time as a propaganda tool by the American government to promote American ideals and values. As fellow columnist Robert Greenberger wrote here at ComicMix on December 7, 2009 , “a special edition of Superman…was produced for the U.S. Army. The Army had a problem at the time – they were drafting thousands of men a year, but many of them had no education to speak of, with large swaths of them functionally illiterate, and they were expected to operate complex machinery pretty quickly. They had to learn how to read, and fast. The troops also needed cheap and portable entertainment, something that could be carried through the battlefields of Europe and Asia. So with the cooperation of National Periodical Publications, the forerunner to DC Comics, this edition was produced by the War Department with simplified dialogue and word balloons. Hundreds of thousands of copies were distributed to GIs, and it helped them learn to read and to pass the time. And of course, copies of the comics were handed out to kids in faraway lands, as gestures of goodwill.”

The guests also discussed Superman and his role as the ultimate superhero, someone who has the power to do either enormous good or enormous evil. Either way, isn’t his decision to act at all, to interfere in the lives of the mortals beneath him, that of Nietzsche’s “übermench,” who will decide the fate of society?

IM-always-Not-So-Ho, Studio 360 did a great job dissecting what it is about the Kryptonian that makes him an American icon, and I totally recommend going to the NPR website and either streaming it or downloading it for podcast for your listening pleasure.


Williams’ score is still playing.

What really strikes me as I sit here, scenes from the movie replaying in my head – the oh-so-cool opening with the kid reading a comic and the camera zooming in on the Daily Planet as it transitions from comic page to “reality,” Superman rescuing the cat from the tree, of course Superman’s first rescue of Lois (“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?!”), the finale with Superman flying in orbit around the Earth and Christopher Reeve looking at us and smiling as he zooms off camera – is the impressive way that Williams leads the music from a grand, baroque science-fiction scenario (Krypton) to the down-to-earth gentleness of the Kent’s farm to the majestic sweep of the Kansas prairies as Clark follows his destiny to the romantic, impossible reality of Superman in Metropolis.

This is the Superman I love.

This is Superman. An American icon.




Mike Gold: Superman’s Two Fathers

Gold Art 130522They still haven’t made me all excited about The Man of Steel, but at least by now we’ve been given the opportunity to see where it’s going. It’s the human story about a guy who isn’t human, superior stranger in a strange land, trapped in a world he could easily remake and he’s as humble as he is confused as he is powerful.

O.K., fine. That doesn’t compensate for the repetitive redundancy and duplicative dynamic of their restarting the franchise and retelling the origin and screwing around with something that’s been around 22 years longer than the 50-star American flag.

Not that I have an attitude about it. Honest, I hope The Man of Steel is thrilling and successful. The word out of Hollywood – a bitchy and petty place on its best day – is that if MOS fails, say bye-bye to the Justice League movie. They’ll just continue to grind out teeny-bopper versions of their characters for The CW, or whatever they’re calling their teevee network this year.

Superman deserves better than the dark self-obsessed trailers we’ve been seeing and, again, I hope the movie transcends their promotion. Back in 1978, before today’s latest Warner Bros. executives could walk (yeah, there was another upheaval in the corporate order last week), Richard Donner did something nobody had ever done before: he treated a major superhero seriously and respectfully as a cultural icon. In the process, he created a whole new genre of motion picture and he wound up making a massive fortune – for Marvel Comics, who, unlike Warner Bros., got the point.

When it comes right down to it, the origin is irrelevant. It’s a macguffin, an excuse upon which to hang a story. Iron Man built himself. Incredible. Spider-Man got bit by a spider. Amazing. The X-Men got themselves born. Uncanny. Now tell us a story worthy of our massive financial investment in your picture because, outside of idle gossip, we don’t truly care how much money you spent on your financial investment. Movie-goers just want to have fun.

This advice comes way too late, but that’s okay. They wouldn’t have listened to me earlier (although the last time they did we saved The Flash’s superhero costume in the teevee series). If Warners wants to reboot the Superman franchise and create a successful DC Comics superhero movie sub-genre, they should follow Donner’s lead and treat their characters seriously and respectfully as cultural icons. Give us a great story and make us care about the characters as they exist today. Keep Kal-El’s backhand off of his forehead.

In other words, get on with it. Stop trying to imitate Star Wars – that’s the wrong genre. Stop imitating Greek tragedy before somebody remembers Lysistrata was a satire. Stop pissing on the past just because you’ve got a big… budget.

Or, failing that, get Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. to drive a Hummer full of money onto Joss Whedon’s lawn and ring the doorbell. In Hollywood, imitation is the sincerest form of co-optation.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: Mindy Newell (what?)