SUPERMAN ’78: Why This Is the Only SUPERMAN Comic Book I’ve Ever Wanted to Read

Only been waiting for, oh, almost 43 years…

Promo art by Wilfredo Torres

DC on Tuesday announced that it would be producing Superman ’78 — a new, six-issue comics series by Robert Venditti and Wilfredo Torres, based on the cinematic world of Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel. (Batman ’89 is coming too; click here for all the details. They’ll blow your mind.)

I can say without exaggeration that this is the one Superman comic book that I’ve only ever really, truly wanted to read – and here’s why:

When Superman: The Movie came out at the end of 1978, I wasn’t all that eager to see it. Even though it was a big comic book movie, I just wasn’t that much a fan of the Man of Steel.

I mean, I appreciated that he was the alpha male of comics and DC’s biggest hero and all that. But I was a Batman kid through and through and Superman comics kind of left me cold. Sure, I liked his cartoons and old TV show well enough, but really, his screen appearances paled next to the Caped Crusader’s and even the other guys’ Spider-Man.

But I did see it pretty soon after it came out while visiting a cousin and I loved it. For the first time in my almost 12 years, I understood what made Superman so great – his confidence and kindness, his bravery and humility. I ended up seeing Supeman in theaters three times during that initial run and once it hit HBO, I watched it over and over and over – at least 25 times overall. I memorized it – and have seen it dozens of times since.

Naturally, I gave the comics another shot, but – and no disrespect intended at all to the creators of the time – they just didn’t grab me. Just one of those things, but as much as I tried, the only Superman I loved, the only one I related to, was the one that Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve gave us.

And the same holds true today.

My first foray into regular Superman reading was when John Byrne took over in the ’80s; his version, which I really dug, was the closest to the Donner/Reeve version I’d seen and it’s stuck with me to this day as the best ever put to page. I’ve also loved the work of Geoff Johns (with or without Donner as a co-writer) and Gary Frank, not to mention the all-too-brief Peter Tomasi/Dan Jurgens/Pat Gleason Rebirth era.

What all those comics have in common is that Reeve’s Superman is at their core. For years now, whenever I’ve read Superman, if the Man of Steel says or does something that seems out of character – if I can’t imagine Christopher Reeve saying it or doing it — then I’m taken right out of the story and, just as likely, the series itself.

Wilfredo Torres has been posting Superman illos on Twitter for years now.

But even at their best, those versions of Superman are echoes of the magic captured by Donner and Reeve – not to mention Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Terence Stamp and the rest.

Superman: The Movie remains, more than 42 years after its release, the definitive version of the Man of Tomorrow – and now, finally, after decades of pining, I will finally be able to read a comic starring that very one. Not a reasonable facsimile, not one who is inspired by the landmark film. That Superman. (Unlike the 1989 Batman movie, there were never Superman: The Movie or Superman II adaptations, thanks to an onerous licensing deal with original screenwriter Mario Puzo. Adaptations of the execrable Superman III and IV featured a more generic Man of Steel.)

I have so many questions, as I’m sure you do: Who will be the primary villain? Brainiac, finally? Other members of the rogue’s gallery?

And how will they handle the “casting”? What actors are available – and which aren’t? Mike Allred got away in the Batman ’66 comic with basing his Poison Ivy on Ann-Margret and (thanks to yours truly’s drumbeating) his Ra’s al Ghul on Christopher Lee. But those were still just pastiches, thanks to legal issues. What tricks will we see this time?

Plus, there’s the million-dollar question: Will it be good? Writer Rob Venditti has the chops for sure and artist Wilfredo Torres has been showing off his Superman: The Movie bona fides on Twitter for a few years now. (Click here.)

All I can tell you is that I absolutely, positively cannot wait to find out. Because after four-plus decades, I will get to read the one Superman comic book series I have been waiting for.

The one.

Superman ’78 will debut digitally July 27 and will be collected in both print issue form and hardcover. (Click here for more details).

MORE

— 13 GREAT ILLUSTRATIONS: The SUPERMAN ’78 Art of WILFREDO TORRES. Click here.

— 13 GREAT ILLUSTRATIONS: The BATMAN ’89 Art of JOE QUINONES. Click here.

— The SUPERMAN ’78/BATMAN ’89 Comic Book Index of News and Features. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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9 Comments

  1. Leonard Nimoy as Brainiac

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  2. “Superman: The Movie remains, more than 42 years after its release, the definitive version of the Man of Tomorrow.”

    I think that this comment captures exactly the brand management problem that DC has when it comes to Superman. I believe that your sentiment is genuinely felt, but it’s a sentiment shared by a small (albeit vocal and influential) minority of the audience. Superman 1978 does not have broad, enduring popularity that the film’s fans would like to believe. It’s more akin to The Adventures of Robin Hood than it is to Star Wars (e.g., a fondly but vaguely remembered artifact of a time past rather than a vital and enduring cultural totem).

    And because this vocal and influential minority of the audience won’t move on, won’t let the character evolve to be relevant to today’s audiences, DC has allowed the Superman brand to be hijacked by nostalgists who threaten to doom the character to long-term cultural irrelevance. There’s a reason that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman made more money individually than any of the first five Phase One MCU films, and more money combined than the first two films in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy: Because the broader audience is craving–begging for–a Superman that reflects them and the contemporary society that they live in.

    To be clear, I really like the first two Reeve films (and for the record, the Lester Cut of Superman II is far, far superior than the Donner Cut), but I can also view them objectively and see that they are not the masterpieces that the nostalgists would like everyone to believe. As charming as the films are, if you spend more than five seconds thinking about it, Reeve’s version of the character is a total, unrepentant sociopath. In the scene on Lois’ balcony where he tells her flat out, “I never lie,” he then follows up that line less than 30 seconds later by literally lying to her face (“Clark? Who’s that? Your boyfriend?”). And I think other non-nostalgist members of the audience see this discordance, too, which is why the film falls so flat with so many people who didn’t grow up with it.

    All that being said, I think Wilfredo Torres is a fabulous artist and I look forward to this series. Like I said, I like these movies, but I also recognize their place as historical artifacts and feel they should be viewed as such, and not used as weights to drag the character down to cultural irrelevancy.

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    • There’s much in Daniel’s post I agree with. There’re also things I don’t agree with. For example, I’m not sure I’m all in with the notion that nostalgic fans have hijacked DC’s Superman brand via their eternal love for Christopher Reeve’s embodiment of Superman. But I appreciate the argument.

      Ever since the railing BvS received, I spent more time that I expected to to attempt to understand why it was so hated. And hated beyond the “Martha” thing. And I’ve come to understand this one simple notion. The breath of my knowledge about Superman and DC Comics far exceeds the knowledge that general audiences have of the character and its universe, and that knowledge is a handicap. It’s a handicap when it comes to empathize how audiences view these new DC films coming out today.

      When I see BvS, I also recognize The Death of Superman and The Dark Knight Returns. Criticisms about how to successfully craft a good script aside, my geek cred blinded me to how audiences who had never read, let alone heard of, these two graphic novels.

      Several of my friends – we’re in the 50-something age category by the way – only get their DC Comics feed through film, television and animated series, not by reading comic books. So the idea that Superman and Batman would fight – in their first ever cinematic adventure – broke their hearts. And I TOTALLY get that now. I challenged them to read more books, but in the end, I recognized that wasn’t necessarily the right response to their reaction.

      Like it or not, Superman: The Movie, and Adam West’s Batman TV series and movie before that, created a divergence of audiences, one filmmakers have naively ignored. As comic book adventures became more sophisticated, earning the more mature marketing description of “graphic novel”, its readership evolved in their expectations. But those fans of the movies and TV shows remained in the same innocent universe as the 60’s and 70’s material they consumed. Even their first introduction of a dark knight via Tim Burton’s gothic yet extremely satisfying Batman was never as dark and gritty as the source material that helped inspire the film. But Burton and Michael Keaton’s biggest hurdle to overcome back then was Keaton’s Mr. Mom movie and fears of Adam West’s campy Batman depiction. The film overcame that low threshold supremely.

      I think today’s challenge for DC live-action content to is recognize the divergence I pointed out above and that Christopher Reeve, Michael Keaton, and Adam West fans will always have some sizable measure of online presence. DC has comic book audiences and they have nostalgic audiences who’ve never read a comic book. Gotta please ’em both somehow. Unfortunately, despite how much I enjoyed and appreciated it, BvS was too big a serving of the comic book lore at one time for the latter crowd.

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      • I remember the hoopla surrounding The Dark Knight, and how it was a “great” Batman movie. And maybe it was, but my reaction at the time was “Eh, I’ve read so many better Batman COMICS. Not impressed.”

        I feel like if you ask 100 people, normies or fans, “who is the definitive Superman actor?”, Christopher Reeve would be the overwhelmingly most popular answer. I don’t even think it’s that related to a person’s age or whether they saw the movie in the theater or anything. I think it’s just a cultural memetic thing that Reeve is Superman. The only other competition is Routh, Cain, and Cavil, but that’s not really any competition at all.

        I think at one time, Adam West was the “definitive” Batman, but since the 9 or so Batman movies, I don’t think there IS a definitive Batman. His DNA has been spread pretty thin across them all. I think Keaton and Bale are probably the frontrunners in a RECOGNITION contest, but I don’t think we’ve had our breakout Batman performance, yet. (and, no, I don’t think Pattinson will be it, but I could be wrong.

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    • I think Torres is really great at tracing stills from the movies, but check out Gary Frank’s Superman. He was drawing a distilled version of Christopher Reeve, not referencing specific stills and poses.

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  3. This article had me totally excited about reading the new “Superman ’78” series this summer.

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  4. “Peter Pan flew with children, Lois. In a fairy tale…” There’s more charm, class, grace, elegance, wit, wonder, romance, joy, hope, and intelligence in this one line from ‘Superman: The Movie’ than in all of Zack Snyder’s grim-dark, nihilistic, art-school fascism. To quote Neil Gaiman, when it comes to Superman, “You don’t make it relevant. You make it inspiring.”

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  5. I wish I could find the Superman (1978) main title with the original sound effects. What’s available now isn’t quite what I grew up with. Apparently, when they did the 2006 restoration they accidentally destroyed the media that held the original sound effects, so they recreated them as best they could. It isn’t quite the same. For the original sound effects, you need an old VHS copy of the film.

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