Hollywood fantasy Superman (1978), turning 30 this month, is still considered a contemporary classic. Director Richard Donner had completed most of the filming of the sequel, which was re-scripted and re-shot by Richard Lester. The controversy associated with this can fill pages, but fans can either opt for Superman II (1980) or the restored Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006).
Christopher Reeve offered a refreshing performance as the title character. There have been a series of films, comic books, television serials and video games modelled on at least one element from the original version, including Reeve’s face. Even other superhero stories began to follow similar narratives. By 2006, a ‘new’ avatar was on his way.
Filmmaker Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X2) rebooted the 1970-81 series, ignoring the third and fourth parts because they were commercial failures. Though his film Superman Returns, which had earned more than the first instalment, had received fair reviews, it did not measure up to the first part. However, if one reads Superman Returns: The Prequels presented by Bryan Singer, with Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, the nostalgia associated with Superman and the anticipation for Returns begins to build up.
Superman Returns: The Prequels brings out four perspectives of Superman. The first section Krypton to Earth has Kal-El (known to the world as Superman) being coached from birth by his father Jor-El. This is purely a direct link to the movie version, as all the lines have been used. Fans will be quite familiar with Jor-El’s iconic quote: “The son becomes the father. The father… the son.”
The second section is Ma Kent, and it slightly deviates from Donner’s tale, unlike the first part that has Kal-El’s foster
parents Jonathan and Martha Kent resembling the actors in the film. This is by far the most sensitive take on the superhero, as it showcases the importance of Kal alias Clark Kent growing up in Smallville. There are no traces of action in this piece. Martha Kent merely recalls her son’s teenage
super-antics. She misses the two men of her life. Her husband had passed away, and her adopted son had been missing for
The third is a complete U-turn from the cinematic one. Titled Lex Luthor, this story is of Superman’s adversary speculating on what had gone wrong when he had first dealt with the Man of Steel. It seems as though he is formulating a solution to meeting him again. For some reason,
Luthor knew that he would have to face him, because they shared an intrinsic bond that no one understood. Readers well acquainted with Gene Hackman’s Luthor will see a re-imagined character, a villain who is far more lethal than the predecessor. Rather, he is more of an anti-hero.
The final addition to Superman Returns: The Prequels is Lois Lane, and those who liked Margot Kidder’s performance will not have to worry about the artwork using Kate
Bosworth’s face instead.
What made the Superman series interesting (even the ones that did not do well at the box office) was the human touch, be it Clark Kent’s chemistry with Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole) in Superman III (1983) or Clark and Superman’s double date with Lacy Warfield (Mariel Hemingway) and Lois in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). Returning to the subject, the best scene of the 1978 film was obviously Superman taking Lois out for a flight and soaring to the acclaimed music director John Williams’ beautifully composed The Flying Sequence.
A reference to that has been made, and it is recommended to pause and gaze at that page longingly. Since the rest of the chapter has a grim tone (with light-hearted moments from time to time), its feminine angle completes the image of Superman.
To summarise, every section of the gra­phic novel has one thing in common. Superman will return, and when he does, he will have to face a whole new world, spanning from the dead planet Krypton to the vibrant Earth.
Nithin blogs at www.atlasreborn.blogspot.com.