SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
This past weekend was the online Cloud Comic Con, presented by the fine folks behind the Glasgow Comic Con, and I had a wonderful conversation with Tim Pilcher, covering many aspects of my career. You can find it at the three hour mark, below:
In honor of the sadly late, but always great Richard DOnner, a offer a tribute. One of the finest and most beautiful scenes ever put to film...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUUGDRxJnFUThree minutes, and an icon is rendered a human, a hero, and heartbroken.A true cinematic artist.Jack
That movie remains my all-time favorite superhero film. It's really not one film, it's multiple films that all dovetail perfectly to make something both epic and intimate. And fun!Thanks, Richard Donner, wherever you are!
Actually Dematteis, I believe your favorite superhero movie is the 1980 Italian film. Pumaman.Though as for Superman 78, if I remember correctly, Donner said that he wanted each part of CLark's life (Krypton, Smallville,Superman) to feel like a complete story in itself. And indeed he succeeded.But, let us not forget his contibutions to comics as a medium.First, being Donner's assistant... if I remember correctly... was how Geoff Johns got his name thrown about the comic world.More specifically, he and Johns co-wrote the story "Last Son." A truly interesting and human story about Superman and Lois adopting a Kryptonian child.If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. If you have read it... then why the hell am I wasting my time telling you to read it? You know how good it is.Jack
Never read it. I'll check it out!
Well, I would recommend it. Not surprisingly, there is a similar tone to the Superman '78 movie.The issues that contain the story are Action Comics #s 844-846, 851, and Action Comics Annual #11.There was a delay for a few months, I don;t know why, could have been art, Johns being stretched thin (which he very much was at the time), Donner's schedule, or the Countdown event DC started at the time which disrupted a lot of books.The issues in between are good and kind of connected, but a little disruptive to the story since they were done a little on the fly. So... you know.Jack
One thing I long ago realized about Donner's Superman is that it is an advertisement for belief.Not in some metaphysical way, or through Superman as a representation for God or what have you, or the faith in heroes, or the goodness of man, or any of that high flying stuff.Rather the faith in a project, and how it can transform things.Let's be honest, Lex Luthor's plot is ridiculous. Superman's earnestness a tad over the top. Supes Flying around the Earth to change time, insane. Lois Lane's overarching sense of wonder, a little unbelievable. Yet, we do believe it. We believe in their world, because the people who made the movie believed in it. Their faith that this world could exist transferred onto us. No one was more the pusher of that than Donner himself. He was the one that actually had them change it from the campy romp the script originally was. I know this is a hard concept to grasp for you, with your gritty and grounded in reality tales of Justice Leaguers starting resorts on living islands, but sometimes the world of comics can get a bit ridiculous. If the creator does not believe it, why would the audience?Let that be a lesson Dematteis, not all your stories have to be your super somber and melodramatic meditations on Silver Surfer at a clam bake and Dog-men, with the mannerisms of a house pet, who become super-powered space-cops through nepotism. It is okay to try something new and be a little weird at times. Never to o lat to turn over that new leaf.Jack
I'll take that under consideration, Jack!And you're right: There are parts of that movie that are totally loopy—I don't know if they'd fly today (no pun intended)—but they all work in context because the whole movie is woven together with the magic of belief.
Funny thing is Superman 78 was far less grounded than the Superman TV (which first introduced me to comics). Weird since back in the 50s, the comics could not be more off the wall. What is also forgotten is that Reagan stole Superman and Star War's place in American history. People often claim that it was Regan that made America feel the sign to start being hopeful feeling good again. Inaccurate, it was those two movies.People like to pretend the era of New Hollywood was all so original, but there were a lot of tropes that echoed through them Wallowing in hopelessness and bitter endings based on moral wins, or the exposing the horrible truths of the world. Virtuous heroes die, the horrible power structures crush the hero, the anti-hero is a broken man.Even happy and kids movies are dark and heavy. Both Rocky and the Bad News Bears are about losing, but winning because you gave it your all.Not to say I don't like the films, Taxi Driver and All the Presidents Men both should have won the Oscar that year. Dawn of the Dead, Foxy Brown, Coffy, Logan's Run, all great Genre movies.The Parallax View, Running Man, Boys from Brazil, are amazing thrillers... Dematteis.It is cliche, but true, Godfather and Godfather II are two of the greatest movies EVER.But they are heavy movies. The reflect the hangover the Baby Boomers had when the revolution turned to crime, Cynicism, addiction, cults, divorce, and STDs.But Star Wars and Superman gave the nation what it NEEDED in the moment. Hope that can be good, and that evil can be punished. That role very much underappreciated.UNinteresting side note, Superman came out, my Mom had just met my dad... give or take a month... and having been a fan as a kid, went to see the movie with he and my oldest brother. And when Krypton explodes, according to my Mom, he crawled into her lap and closed his eyes.Also what is overlooked, the possible influence the movie had on Post-Crisis Superan.I know. PC Superman was less goofy, Lex was more menacing... yadda, yadda. However...Both:-Focused on the idea of Clark as the main person, with a desire for interpersonal relationships-Had Lex as a business man... of sorts-The movie is set u in five parts, Krypton, Smallville, Superman in Metropolis, and the other two the action. When Byrne relaunched Superman, he was writing two books for the main ongoing saga, and delved into Supes world with three mini series, World of Krypton, World of Smallville, and World of Metropolis.Not to mention there is a good less onto contrast it with involving faith and making sure it is translated. Gerry Conway may have believed in the JLD... I know, I apologize, but it does track... but he made a crucial fall. He tried to write a Marvel book, and include the Marvel fatalism. You know, questioning if they are up to the battle. Up to the task. Pretty common stuff.However, by half way through, Martian Manhunter was still saying he was not sure if there was a League to save when they moved to NYC. Elongated Man and Sue loved to complain about the situation. Aquaman abandoned the team early.None of that is bad on its own, and used int he proper amount, but I can't help but wonder if it hypnotized people. IF the established heroes are doubting the League without Supes, Bats, and Wondy, why should the reader.Remember, I love the team, but if you were already on the fence or looking for a reason to go...Finally, I hope you are rightfully ashamed that this is not YOUR handy work:https://braveandboldlost.blogspot.com/2021/07/blue-beetles-and-beatles.htmlJack
Great thoughts about the Superman movie and all that preceded it, Jack, but it's that Beetles/Beatles cover that really got me!
I like that the thing you were most interested I had nothing to do with.As I said, I hope you are rightfully embarrassed that this was not your idea. You have written either 6 or 1 million Blue Beetle stories, but I don't ever recall one reference connecting the two. Not even Ted complaining that Booster called him Ringo.I know how important the Beatles were too you, especially int eh summer. Sitting in your Brooklyn bedroom, now too old to chase fire flies or catch frogs, you cursed being stuck in a one horse town where both cows an d pigs out numbered people.You walked by the fields of wheat on your neighbor's property, once a place for grand adventures now seemed more like cages keeping you from the big city where the action was.Those Beatles albums made you think it was possible to escape, and see a building besides a silo that rose above two stories. As you heard Lennon's screechy voice, you could squint at the barns, and almost believe you were in the city.Then of course, when you borrowed your father;s truck, and had the mop-tops on the radio, you would race down the old dirt road on the edge of town and hit the gas, knowing the only cop in town was tucked into bed. It almost felt like you could fly with that rock and-or roll playing at those speeds.And of course, they soothed your heart when Nancy McGowan broke up with you because you missed the harvest dance because your corn didn't place in teh 4H contests.Then of course, Here Comes the Sun played in your head as you looked out on a rising sun coming up over the iconic Brooklyn fields and their miles of uninterrupted space, as you prepared to go to college and thought..."Maybe I was too hard on this place. MAybe Brooklyn, and its simple ways did right by me after all. Man has a life for adventure, but only a few years to grow up in such a quiet, uneventful place, where you can meditate on the simple things of life without the big city rushing you along."Classic Brooklyn kid, you love wide open spaces and simple living as a child, loathe them as a teen for being boring and too safe, then just when you think you won;t see the ocean of crops waving in the breeze ever again you get misty eyed,That whole life was betrayed by you not doing that first, Dematteis. The fields, MA Johnson's diner, the hardworking farmers you went to church with, the your teacher Old Mrs. Thompkins and her one room school house she paid for repairs on herself, the county fair, the friendly cows you helped grow, your neighbor Widow Mrs. Irish and the pies she baked for all of Brooklyn in a flood (five whole pies that took), all of these hallmarks of your life in Brooklyn and the VERY REAL people i just mentioned who helped make you what you are today.Maybe next time I guess. Hopefully all your 4H ribbons are hidden, and you don't see any crops rising as majestic as they did in Brooklyn. You might get a bit teary eyed.Jack
Once again, Jack, you've completely captured my childhood in words. Uncanny!
Well Dematteis, don't seem so shocked. You did publish that thinly veiled memoir in the 90s, you remember... it was called "The Last One."It is just a shame that you let down all the people who encouraged those dreams the Beatles lit fire to in your head, by not doing the reference first. But, technically speaking, it was your adolescence I so masterfully unfolded in a quilt of guilt.You country boys just let every thought fall out if four mouth, don't you? Hopefully when you DID finally get to the big city you were not too much prey for the local con artists.But I do need to warn toy about something. Apparently, creators are starting to put political and social commentary into comics. I know, shocking.You might want to rally Englehart, Starlin, Wolfman, Nocenti, Brubaker, Gaiman, Roger Stern, Neal Adams, Claremont, Conway, Grell, Moore, Miller, and the ghosts of O'Neil, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Ditko, Eisner, Siegel, Gerber, and Wein. Together you all might be able to stop this trend of commentary before it becomes common place. Good Luck!Also, you know, no one ever talks about how amazing is is Superman is still around. The Shadow, whom Supes gets his last name from, ceased publication shortly after WWII. Part of which was because the idea of an urban vigilante dealing in extremes was not as palatable as before.Superman was just as extreme. Sure, he did not blow people away with a pair of .45s, but he was a radical. Notably taking on social ills like abusing workers and poor housing for lower income people.Sure, there was some changes during the war, but that was mostly because the Nazis were the big threat now. Sure, Seigel was fired, but the character was still able to mutate to survive. Not enough is maede of that.Batman's change to a more family friendly version was metatextually discussed in story in New Frontier, but not Superman's.There have been stories that like new frontier discuss a difference in story, but not a reason why. Just that it was different, and that it mattered, but that is not who superman is now.Strange.Jack
I love the early, pugnacious, political Superman. Some of those stories are among the best Superman tales ever told.(I especially love the one where he tricks the military into destroying, then rebuilding, the city's slums so folks can have better housing.)Hardly escapist fiction!
I don;t know, if you are a kid during the Great Depression, and your dad is struggling to make end meet, and the news is nothing but bad, I think having a guy do that kind of stuff would be pretty escapist.Hell, I am an adult in 2021, and there are times that people abusing their power or the down trodden getting treated well seems like pure escapist fantasy.Jack
My apologies. After "people abusing their power" it was supposed say "being punisehed.Without that the maening is teh complete opposite than what I intended.Jack
I feel like in a way, the Golden Age Superman is one of the most screwed over characters in comic history.Many people like to look at those early stories as just the moment, or in the case of the insufferable "modern mythology" theory, that mythologies just need to work what they are. This overlooks the reality of the situation, that it was a creation of two kids from Cleveland, writing an expression of what they felt the world needed.Often in talking about the origins of the character everything is cited as origins, except the world that they lived in and how it effected these real people.Siegel's father was killed in the family store at the depths of the Depression, which threw the family's financial situation into distress, with the formerly middle-class family with all kids college bound now having to work to support the family.They lived in an in industrial city, where people lost jobs because factories did not have enough product to make. Union members got the shit beaten out of them by cops for striking bad conditions. Hell, Cleveland exclusively dealt with the torso murder, whose victims were killed gruesomely starting in 1935 and ending just months after Superman hit the stands. It also is what cratered the careers of police hero of the previous decade because he could not make an arrest... and not because he burned a cardboard village with some of the poorest people in the city to the ground while chasing the criminal.These are not random trivia, they are the world that informed the creation of Superman. They are a part of the DNA of those stories. However, it constantly ignored for flashy ideas like "the American dream" or Jewish identity in America, or the "mythology" being born , apparently out of thin air in their minds. That part is lost.I'm not one to feel bad about the low amount Siegel and Shuster got for Superman. It sucks, but they signed on the dotted line. They were not coerced or tricked, they agreed.However, I do think it is a drag that they were fired from the strip they created, and that DC dismantled much of their view of Superman.Metropolis lost the Cleveland esthetic, he lost his attitude, he became friends with authority figures.That is not to say DC ruined the character, he was in favor of racial integration in the EARLY 50s. But still that personal touch was lost, and I think that was part of why popularity eventually waned a few decades after Siegel and Shuster were fired. He became a symbol.Sure, Post-Crisis (and occasionally before) they brought back the personal humanity, and the emotional reactions to evil. His greatest villain was a business man. But being a symbol over all just would not go away, and kept undermining that basic idea.The problem with symbols is that they mean different things to different people. To my ancestors and yours, immigrating to America, the flag was a symbol of hope for a better life... it did not have the same effect on the Plains Indians.Just a quick aside, I think it is kind of weird that occasionally people suggest making an American Indian Captain America, but I think that is really weird and misses the point. Specifically, the point that Indian tribes are individual nations, right down to how the U.S. and individual states work with them. So, if you are going to do anything with the angle, it sort of diminishes the culture they came from. Just let it be Sam.Anyway, back to Superman...continued...
There was a guy on the internet who after... something in November 2020... said clinging to characters like Superman was more important than ever because after the event evil was winning.People also like to corrupt symbols. The best example is the swastika aka the greatest symbol of evil in the western world. However, as I'm sure you know, it started as as an Indian good luck symbol, so ubiquitous before being perverted that across the river from me, in Windsor, Canada, in the 1910s there was a hockey team called the Windsor Swastikas. look them up, it is super weird to see 100+ years later, and after the rise of Nazism.And in some minds Superman has that. Being just some ill-defined symbol of American Supremacy and might or "old fashioned values" and all the less that stellar things those can imply.They also love to tear them down. Look no further than all the stories in the past 35 years where Superman is either a government stooge or increasingly a villain who takes over the world. The antithesis of the character's original intent is the most common story thread for him now.Or in comparing him to the Ubermensch, both Netzche and Nazi, usually by people who don't know about the realities of any of the three, but like to try and sound smart regardless of the orifice it comes from.Again, this is not to say there are not good stories ( I actually think a lot of squaring of the circle has happened), or that they all have abandoned the core, or that I don't understand the need to roll with the times. But it is weird how much the original has escaped the public consciousness. especially outside the comic reading world.Just a thought. Or... series of themJack
Interesting thoughts, as always. And I think you know how much I love that early, pugnacious version of Supes. I also love the George Reeves Supes. And the Chris Reeve Supes. And...As the guy who was planning on having Black Crow become the new Captain America way back in the early 80s, I have to disagree with you re: a Native American Cap. I think it would have been a powerful statement. And no need to debate about it. We can agree to disagree.
I actually think the George Reeves TV show had some serious GA Superman Elements at times.And yes, I love the Christopher Reeves Superman as well, the first film, the second, and even the parts with Lana Lang int eh third.I just think it is strange that those early days are some times weirdly overlooked. Not even overloked, they will come up at times, but they are overlooked in weird ways,New Frontier is a great mini series and animated film, and I recommend to any who have not experienced. BUt it is weird that Batman gets a metacontextual story about him going from grim vigilante to more friendly caped crusader, but Superman is viewed as always being in line with authority figures. Still a great story though.Any time Superman makes a comment or does something with real world ills these days people get upset, but that was the impetus of his creation. Trying to set right an unfair world, where it seemed like the status quo was stacked against him.One thing I had to learn is that Superman is as wide of a picture as Batman, he just isn't always treated as such.Usually the first to go is those early days. Which is strange, since it is at the core. There was a story in the 90s, where Louise Simonson updated the Action Comics #1, with the spousal abuse, and showed it was more complicated with the fallout. That he still had that righteous anger, but he learned that he had to think what the best possible idea was, that Superman was not always the best way to fix things.I don't know. It would just be nice to see the GA Supes show up in some capacity. he increased power level is probably at least part of it. He got so insanely powerful in the Silver Age, the rules had to change. Of course that would not stop him from speaking out. There are e times Supes icon status has made him too much like a politician.However, there may be hope. This very week, Superman: Son of Kal-El came out, where Superman's son who has been aged to a teenager (you wrote comics for decades, you don't get to be confused by that, just be glad it was less disturbing than Carol Danver's son) takes center stage, and says he wants to take on the big problems and root causes. So, maybe they found a loophole.Though, if I had to guess, despite the first issue being enjoyable and peeking my interest...despite presence of Damian Wayne... I think there will be backlash if that comes to pass. Claiming an agenda harms Superman or some suchWay of the world these days I am afraid.Jack
The George Reeves Superman was a tough son of a gun in the early years, before the show (like the comics) got cleaned up and became a shiny, ultra-kiddie version of the character.As someone who turned the Red Skull's daughter from a child to a murderous super villain, I get the aging thing.DC should definitely do a SUPERMAN '39 series. I'd be on board for that!
I do like the idea of a Superman '38, I have long believed revisiting the golden and silver ages of DC with modern writing wound be a recipe for some really interesting stories.However, I think the last thing comic fans need these days is another hit of nostalgia. The series may be good, but I worried what that particular disease is doing to elements of the comic reading community.By the way, genuinely excited about Justice League Infinity #2.Jack
SUPERMAN '38 wouldn't exactly be nostalgia, since I'd guess no one reading comics today was reading them in 1938...but I get your point!