Usually on Saturday Night Showcase I show off a work of fiction, a good example of the things we talk about in the positive about storytelling. Tonight, as part of the what’s left of the month tribute to Superman (next year Google Calendar will remind me it’s Superman and Lois’s birthday) I thought I’d bring you an official documentary about the various adaptations of Superman…which of course ignores the cartoons except for the Fleischer shorts and some lip service to Superfriends and the DCAU. The Filmation show gets a clip and the Ruby-Spears show is ignored completely. I’m surprised the comics get equal focus with the shows and movies.
Look Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story Of Superman initially came out as a promotion for Superman Returns but actually discussed the comics as honestly as it does the live-action shows, the radio show, that crap musical, the movies, the serials, and the Fleischer shorts. It’s not a deep dive but a brief overview of the comics and adaptations. They of course never mention how National Comics screwed over Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, or this wouldn’t have been posted to DC’s official YouTube channel in 2020. However, it is a mostly decent look at the long history of the Man Of Steel. Sadly Dan DiDio makes a cameo but it’s short so don’t let it ruin things. Enjoy.
Superman Returns failed due to being more of a tribute to the Richard Donner film, and a number of other bad decisions that I’ve only heard about. I kind of want to see this someday knowing the bad decisions like the kid coming from the…night in the Fortress that the documentary actually admits wasn’t a good idea. They also acknowledge that Wertham hated Superman, when usually you just hear about Batman and Robin being impacted by Wertham and those like him.
But as I said the animated adventures of Superman was ignored outside of the Fleischer shorts and a brief mention of his Superfriends appearance and the DCAU. The Filmation shorts have an interesting backstory about how The New Adventures Of Superman basically made Filmation, or how the Ruby-Spears show was trapped between pre and post Crisis On Infinite Earths depictions. The “Superman’s Family Album” segment predates Smallville in showing Clark’s early years and Super Power Team: Galactic Guardians, the last season of Superfriends, did their own take on Superman’s death long before DC did it. And yet they acknowledge the musical and Superpup!
Interesting that Gene Simmons acknowledges the Moses allegory for Kal-El’s launch into space. The whole Christ thing didn’t come until later and frankly I don’t like the idea. I blame the first Donner film for that. Superman isn’t Jesus outside of “shining a light in the darkness” I guess. Overall it was a good special though. Too bad the movie it was made to support turned out to not be that great. Like Henry Cavill, I think Brandon Routh was a good choice to play Superman if either had been given a better script to work with. Sadly it’s a lesson that DC has failed to learn and Marvel has forgotten. The special even acknowledged that faithfulness to the source material made for good movies and moving away from it led to bad ones. The sooner modern Hollywood gets this the sooner good adaptations become the rule rather than barely an exception.