Wow, what a thoughtful, well-written and well-conceived Superman story. I wasn’t as enamored with Volume One. But this follow-up is thoroughly more satisfying.
DC Comics’ “Earth One” graphic novel series re-tells the origins of their superheroes as if they were conceived by writers today, as opposed to some 75 years ago, and if characters lived in today's world. Great liberties are allowed to be taken, with writers and artists picking and choosing what elements from what’s been written before to keep, what to be inspired by and what to completely revise. The hope is that the tone and material will be more accessible, relatable and appealing to new readers wanting something less fanciful or, essentially, less comic book-y, yet still present the same spirit of what made each hero so popular and lasting to begin with.
Three books have been published in the series so far, one for Batman (with a broad-shouldered, combat-hardened Alfred who walks with a cane as the reluctant assistant and mentor to Bruce) and now two for Superman, whose lead shares much more in spirit to the alien orphan played by Henry Cavill than the all-American charmer fighting for truth and justice presented by Christopher Reeve or George Reeves. Until now my favorite was Batman Earth One, but this second Superman book is also a surprise winner.
A direct sequel to Volume One, Volume Two explores some very common sense ideas about a super-powered boy concealing his abilities his entire childhood and how it affects the way he thinks as he grows into a young man now burdening himself with the responsibility to help those in need while still maintaining an alternate identity among mankind.
It also includes the best quote ever to come from Pa Kent to his teenage son: “All I’m saying, son, is – man of steel – woman of tissue paper.”
That tells you one topic that’s covered! There are a few PG-13 topics in this story, which chooses to skew the story more into a character study about Clark than an action-adventure tale about a caped hero. This story spends more time showing a Clark Kent awkwardly pursuing a hidden, normal life behind his horn-rimmed glasses than the destructive nature of his alter ego which is a big question mark to the world at large, particularly how concerned should they be about this person that governments cannot control. There’s also a really sweet flashback to Clark’s first pet, a cat named Fuzzball.
Lois Lane is here, as are Perry and Jimmy. But she’s not the one in a relationship with Clark shown in decades of Superman stories. Instead, a sexy red-haired neighbor goes after our naïve lead character and what develops is both funny and meaningful. Instead, Lois can’t get over Kent scooping the entire world by getting The First Interview with Superman. So being a naturally competitive reporter, she’s out to find dirt on this new guy from Smallville. It’s a plausible, adversarial reaction for someone like a Lois. And the villain, the Parasite, is introduced in a well-developed, fairly grounded storyline whose addictive search for physical strength also feeds organically to the subplot about the world’s and its government’s fears about Superman and how they wish they could control him.
So it’s less about titans fighting each other, skyscrapers demolished in their wake (which does happen here). Instead, it takes its time crafting real characters in plausible situations, especially Clark’s. And it slowly drew me in so by the end, I was genuinely surprised and satisfied by the conclusions reached in the handful of subplots told. I'm not a Superman fan either, I'm a Batman fan. But I really enjoyed this book.
Man of Steel will be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray in 11 days. And Superman being one of those entertainment properties having gazillions of around the world wanting their hero presented in something special, this Blu-ray is being offered in several different, unique editions. And for your educational pleasure, I thought I'd whip out a quick blog listing those editions for you.
There's seven in total. - UPDATED 11/3/13: Eight! Added a cool exclusive edition from Australia that I found after my original posting.
Plus one from a land across the moat.
Standard Combo Pack
3D Combo Pack
Limited Edition 3D Combo Pack Gift Set
RETAILER EXCLUSIVE: Amazon
RETAILER EXCLUSIVE: Walmart
RETAILER EXCLUSIVE: Target
RETAILER EXCLUSIVE: WBShop.com
REGION EXCLUSIVE: Germany
And finally here's one that's available in Germany. It includes Region B discs so if you decide you want this one, you'll need to own a region-free Blu-ray Disc player to play the movie (unless you plan to use the discs as coasters).
REGION EXCLUSIVE: Australia
Added November 3, 2013.
Just found this this morning, available exclusively in the Australian market.
Australia Blu-ray Discs are also traditional Region B discs (US is Region A).
A Bonus Feature
Hope you enjoyed the recap. Do you know which one you're going to get? Or will you just stream it on Netflix?
Speaking of Netflix, I'm not a Netflix subscriber so I'm not sure if they also provide the bonus material with movies. But this new short is included when you pick up a copy of Man of Steel. Enjoy and thanks for reading!
Back in 2007, Warner Bros. Animation started released direct-to-home video animated movies featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and other heroes published by DC Comics. Most of the films, which each run some 70-odd minutes long, were adaptations of popular graphic novels like The Dark Knight Returns and All-Star Superman. But there are a few, like Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight, that were original scripts rooted in comic book lore.
"New Frontier" figurine
As a life-long DC guy, I’ve enjoyed watching every single one as they are released. Best Buy started including an exclusive toy figurine beginning with the second title Justice League: The New Frontier. As a toy guy and as someone who also loved the original graphic novel, it was easy to decide to pick it up. Since then, Best Buy has gone and offered an exclusive toy figurine for all but one title (Batman: Gotham Knight). So guess who was a sucker getting every single one?
This past weekend, a friend mentioned watching one of them. It was one of the ones released midway in the series. Being as old as I’m getting, I couldn’t remember if I enjoyed it or not.
I watched it again and realized it wasn't one of my favorites.
So, for my own benefit that I can have something to refer to to remind myself which films I enjoyed the most and also to introduce you kind readers to these films, below is a list of the DC Universe Animated Movies currently available to buy or rent and my ratings of each. And as it so happens this may be a good time to explore these. The next title, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, is due out in two weeks. It’s based on a story published in the summer of 2011 that directly leads into that fall’s reboot of DC Comics’ entire line of comic books. Marketed as “The New 52”, every DC Comics title was reset to issue number 1 when a new timeline resulted from the conclusion of the Flashpoint story, making Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all the rest exist in a present day time frame when the public had only been aware of these superheroes for five years. The idea was that this rebooting of origins, simplifying of 70-odd years of back stories and even fashion makeovers of heroes’ uniforms could make it easier and more appealing for brand new readers to jump into comic books, especially given the current Hollywood environment of heavily promoted and popular summer blockbuster movies based on comic book properties.
Before Flashpoint, movies previously produced have mainly been from a selection of popular graphic novels written in the past thirty years. Given the nature of Flashpoint’s role in DC’s publishing work, it wouldn't be surprising at all if the film adaptation served a similar purpose, rebooting the film series to feature stories based on the world of The New 52, perhaps focusing on lesser-known heroes. UPDATE: Confirmed just this morning that, at least initially, it's the former. See more details at the end of my blog.
So maybe this is an opportune moment to chat about these existing films. If you haven’t seen any, I recommend you consider giving my favorite five of the lot a try. They’re shown with comments in CAPS. And they’re really, really good!
Film 1 - Superman: Doomsday (2007) – Good.
Film 2 - Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) – Great!
Film 3 - Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) – Okay. Released the same time The Dark Knight debuted in theatres, a collection of six original short stories presented in various anime-style animation.
Film 4 – Wonder Woman (2009) – Great! An origin story not based on a specific graphic novel.
Film 5 – Green Lantern: First Flight (2009) – Fun! An origin story not based on a specific graphic novel.
Film 6 – Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) – Okay.
Film 7 – Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) – Loved it!
Film 8 – Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) – TOP FIVE
Film 9 – Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010) – Okay.
Film 10 – All-Star Superman (2011) – Great adaptation!
Film 11 – Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011) Good. Another collection of short stories featuring selected members of the Green Lantern Corps, released at the time of Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern film.
Film 12 – Batman: Year One (2011) – TOP FIVE!
Film 13 – Justice League: Doom (2012) – TOP FIVE!
Film 14 – Superman vs. The Elite (2012) – Not my fave.
Film 15 – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part One (2012) – AMAZE-BALLS!!
Film 16 – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part Two (2013) – GREAT!
Film 17 – Superman: Unbound (2013) – Okay. More interesting to watch immediately after Apocalyse since this takes place after that story.
And this just in...
As I was putting the finishing touches on this blog, Newsarama posted a tweet from Warner Bros. today confirming that the next DCU Animated movie will indeed take place in DC's New 52 universe. Justice League: War will adapt one of the first New 52 stories, Justice League: Origin, collecting the first six issues of the N52 title and describing how these seven heroes first met and how the Justice League ultimately came to be.
On the one hand, it's about time! N52 debuted almost two years ago, so it makes perfect sense to finally have the heroes' comic book looks and back stories finally align with this popular animated film series. On the other hand, I hated this story! It was mainly the personalities carved out by writer Geoff Johns that disappointed me, and how conflicts between them just felt more contrived for conflict's sake. I was also reading the solo books for The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Batman and Superman as this story was unfolding, and because of the different writers across the books, I also became distracted when many of the heroes' personalities weren't consistent from the solo book to the Justice League book.
So it wasn't a great read for me. But what can I do? I guess just continue to hope that Best Buy goes on including figurines with each new N52 movie so my collection continues to grow. Because as I said, I'm a DC guy. I'm still gonna watch these movies!
Here's the trailer for the new movie, which goes on sale in exactly two weeks.
This has been a hard blog to write. This is my fifth attempt to write something down about Man of Steel without it meandering into an overly long diatribe.
Three weeks after first seeing it, I still love Man of Steel! I’ve seen it twice now and wouldn’t mind seeing it one more time in theatres before owning it on Blu-ray. But not everyone has enjoyed the movie. I talked to some of my friends who were disappointed with the film. It was almost like we’d seen two different movies, when really we were seeing one movie two different ways. And even some of the online feedback from the comic book world thought the film went too far with one scene, arguing that it was a decision the world's greatest superhero would never choose to do.
Enjoying the movie as much as I did makes me want to defend the film. That’s not to say my opinion is better than anyone who didn’t enjoy the movie. But as much as I got out of listening to my friends tell me what they didn’t like about it, I hope folks who didn’t enjoy Man of Steel will be open to what I have to say about it. And if you are among those who have decided to wait until later to see the movie, this blog is spoiler free unless you click on some of the links below.
First, to be fair, I’ll list some of the reasons my friends gave me for why they didn’t enjoy Man of Steel, presented in about the order it was consistently given to me.
The Level of Destruction – It is overwhelming in this movie! It goes to a degree never before seen in a superhero movie. And it is clearly provocative in the way it’s depicted. That said, there’s a part of me that chose to view the film only within the context the story being told in this film and not bring to it outside notions, including the events of recent tragic, true-life events. And choosing to do that, I only saw what the film showed: a no-holds barred fight between two and more super-powered beings taking place on our world. It happened in a small town and then a large metropolis. And it was devastating! By contrast, it was nothing like the fight shown towards the end of 1981's Superman II, and in the context of this film, it couldn’t be. That doesn’t mean, however, that the visuals won’t disturb some sensitive viewers. The distinct visuals in the film were certainly a calculated risk on the part of the filmmakers. But in my eyes, it’s exactly what could result if such a fight between creatures took place here. So I accepted it.
The Lapses in Logic - Yeah, this movie is not perfect, and this is one point I can agree with whole-heartedly! And for me, they all involve Lois. Risk falling off a narrow ledge to follow a stranger into an ice cave? Decide to snap a picture of something that could easily be as malevolent as it is a curiosity? Shout out someone’s name and reveal someone’s identity within earshot of others? Fall so easily in love with an alien? And then, there’s the moment Lois is brought up to the spaceship, more as a plot device than anything else. And does she really need to be in the plane delivering the package? Also, can’t deny Jonathan Kent’s last scene being a WTF moment, at least the first time I saw it. So here I saw the same film my friends saw. But I still thought the many strengths of the film far outweighed its obvious weaknesses.
Superman Not Being Superman – So, where were all those super rescues we have all seen before, most notably in the Christopher Reeve films and Superman Returns? Those little scenes during heightened action and the world crumbling around the innocent people west of the San Andreas Fault and huge metal objects raining down in Metropoiis that remind and re-inforce the idea to the audience that this is why he is the world’s greatest superhero Superman? Well, my answer to this is two-fold. First, I go back to when I previously said that I chose not to bring in previous notions with me when I saw this film, and that includes the idea of the Richard Donner-directed Christopher Reeve films and Superman Returns. This isn’t those films, so I think it’s unfair to expect moments from any of the former films to naturally be in this one. It’s akin to saying “This movie sucks because it didn’t show kryptonite or Lex Luthor.” But I acknowledge that this film didn’t show more than three scenes of Superman doing that ol’ Superman thing of an actual rescue of or prevention of harm to innocent bystanders. Those moments were the soldier in Smallville, Lois in the skies over Metropolis, and the family at the end of the battle. That’s all I can recall. Was that enough? No, at least by many people’s accounts. Superman should be shown saving people and making rescues; that is the expectation when watching a Superman movie. But that leads to my second argument, that this Superman in Man of Steel really isn't Superman. Not the Superman the movie-going audience has always seen in every other such film. Not yet anyway. By the end of this movie, we’re not even sure that Superman is even called that by the world at large. All we know is that the military knows he’s good and has called him Superman, but we’re not yet shown what the world at large truly yet knows about this visitor from a stranger planet who was sought out these other stranger visitors who freaked everyone out by hacking into the world’s communication network to send a bizarre and troubling message around the world. To my mind, a more appropriate title for Man of Steel could be Superboy, a story about the hero who finally came out to reveal his true nature but has yet to earn the credit of being the world’s greatest superhero. Yeah, Man of Steel is a Superman movie, but if you think about it, he’s not really Superman, at least not yet. This first time out, he had a lot of things to process during his coming out party, and it’s easy to argue that he made a lot of tactical errors with everything he decided to take on on his first day at work. And seeing it this way makes it very plausible to me that this "rookie" Superman, while having heroic qualities, is yet to become the hero folks expected to see the first time at bat.
It Wasn’t Fun – This one took me longer to understand, but I can see it now. I didn’t spend a lot of time laughing when I watched Man of Steel. The only audibles I uttered during the movie were “Wow” and “WHOA!” and that happened frequently. Then I got the notion to re-watch Batman Begins. Batman Begins was written by David Goyer, who co-wrote the story and wrote the screenplay for Man of Steel, so I watched the film to compare it against his newest origin script. And I discovered, much to my surprise, that I laughed out loud a lot as I watched the supposedly darker, heavier film called Batman Begins. And those moments were always courtesy of Michael Caine’s Alfred and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox. Their moments brought levity and genuine humor to the film, which was pretty nearly absent in Man of Steel. A friend pointed out that in The Avengers, there’s major destruction and carnage too, but it was somehow easier to accept and avoid any somber overtones because the heroes had funny moments during the action. Can’t argue with that. Trouble is there are no characters like Alfred and Lucius in Man of Steel to introduce that levity organically into the situations. So maybe on balance, Man of Steel could’ve earned more points by lightening it up here and there. But that’s not the story they chose to tell, and I can’t hold it against them, being someone who enjoyed and appreciated the risks they took to tell their story and felt they were successful with it. With the way this film ended tho’, it’s a sure bet that in the sequel, the offices of the Daily Planet will provide fodder for humor and levity as characters dance around secrets and lies.
So, are you with me so far? Well, that’s okay if you’re not. Man of Steel and Superman: The Movie are about as equal as Batman Begins is to Tim Burton’s Batman, meaning they’re not! But each has their devoted fans and followers, and that’s okay. And I think all four films are awesome films, for what they are.
One final thought. One thing I was surprised that was less of an issue with my friends and more an issue with diehard Superman fans was how Superman defeats General Zod in Man of Steel. I won’t spoil it, but here’s a link that summarizes the blog by Mark Waid, writer of a lauded recent update on the Man of Steel's origin Superman: Birthright (Yeah, there are origin reboots happening all the time in the comic books too!). His blog was the catalyst for great discussion on the Internet about the villain's dramatic resolution the week the film debuted. I was shocked at how it ended, but as contrived as that moment played out, the surprise turned again into acceptance. Despite what folks believe “their” Superman would do, in the context of this world and this Superman’s experiences and inexperience, it was plausible to me. And despite what folks say, I believe there was an appropriate response afterwards, if somewhat abbreviated by editing and moving on to the film's final scenes. It may just have been a response too short for folks to realize had happened and/or bought.
So that's my two cents. Thanks for actually making it through to the end here. If you have anything to share, please do below. I'm still interested in hearing what folks think about this film.
But I'm ready for the sequel! And if they go in the direction I’ve suggested, go ahead and titled it Superman.
According to court testimony, the character "Superman" made his first appearance in comic books on April 18, 1938. It happened to be in the first issue of a title called Action Comics, a new anthology book containing several short stories about action heroes with Superman featured on the cover and in the opening story.
Also debuting in that issue were the characters of "Clark Kent", Superman's alter ego, and "Lois Lane", both reporters working for a big-city newspaper called the Daily Star. The Daily Planet, editor-in-chief Perry White, photographer Jimmy Olson, arch villain Lex Luthor, even the name of the planet "Krypton" would not appear until later, added to the Superman mythos as his popularly grew, expanding into his own featured title Superman a year later and then beyond the printed page into other entertainment media: the Fleisher Brothers' animated shorts, a radio series, the Kirk Alyn movie serials and the George Reeves television series.
So, today officially marks Superman and Lois Lane's 75th birthdays.
Happy Birthday, you two!
Perhaps not coincidentally, this week also marked the debut of the third and final official trailer of Superman's latest appearance on the big screen. This new trailer for "Man of Steel" runs three minutes long and features several new scenes including the debut of cinema's newest take on the world of Krypton and the major villain of the film, General Zod as played by Michael Shannon.
And like the trailers before it, it continues to reveal a more grounded, intimate tone to Superman's character. While we certainly get the point that there will be lots of action in the film, we find that the the man who would become Superman has been growing up as a man who fears what mankind will think of him, a boy who is told he isn't even from this planet and at first doesn't realize how he fits in to this world.
All he wants is to be his father's son.
As a result of that scene revealed in the new trailer, featuring Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, much discussion among comic book geeks around the Internet this week has been about the film's screenwriter David Goyer (Blade, the Dark Knight trilogy) and a scene from a comic book story first published in 2009. Superman: Secret Origin was written by Geoff Johns, a superstar writer who's success crafting stories with heart and action for characters such as Green Lantern, Flash and Superman among others has garnered him a huge fan following, and drawn by Gary Frank, whose model for illustrating Superman in this story was obviously inspired by an actor who inspired generations not only for his portrayal of the hero fighting for truth, justice and the American Way but for his courage in his personal life.
The next year, the six issues of Superman: Secret Origin were collected and released as a trade paperback, and Goyer wrote the foreward for it. What fans of the new movie trailer are keying in on are these words from that foreward.
There is a heart breaking moment halfway through the first chapter in which young Clark is told the truth about his heritage. He races out into the night, sobbing, stumbling through the cornfields. Eventually, his foster father, Jonathan, finds him.
He goes on to say:
As I write this, I am midway through my first draft of a new Superman screenplay. It’s a task that has stymied many talented fimmakers in the years since Donner’s film. And for all I know, it will end up stymying me as well.
And the following pages from the first issue of Secret Origin are also being circulated with acknowledgments to Goyer's quote.
I love sharing this because it's given me an ideal opportunity to share with folks who may not read them or who even regard comic books with little significance of the quality, artistry and heart that this medium, occasionally loftily referred to as "sequential art", is capable of.
I think it's awesome and among the reasons why I continue to read comic books enthusiastically every week that new issues come out. It's not everyone's cup of joe, but it is mine.
And, just like he successfully did writing the screenplays for the Dark Knight trilogy, it looks like with "Man of Steel", which opens June 16, Goyer found inspiration from some of the best comic books out there to read.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!