Before Superman, there was a Major who fueled the DC Comics machine

Comic book fans love a meaty origins story, and Berkeley author Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson has a heckuva one to tell. It’s not only a true story on the rollicking formative period of a powerful publishing house but also one that gives an inside look at the genesis of perhaps comics’ best-known character, Superman.

Wheeler-Nicholson is the granddaughter of Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, founder of National Allied Publications, which later became National Comics Publication, which eventually morphed into DC Comics. She’s a writer, speaker and a frequent panelist at San Diego’s Comic-Con.

In her book “DC Comics Before Superman” (Hermes Press, $60, 256 pages), Wheeler-Nicholson details how her grandfather – referred to affectionately as the Major – went from an adventurous military career to becoming a prolific writer and intrepid comic book publisher noted much more for nurturing creativity than for his accounting acumen.

Her book takes a detailed overview of the early years of comics and the pulps – those inexpensively produced comics printed on wood pulp and narrating cliffhanging adventures.

Wheeler-Nicholson, a friend of mine, says stitching this together required the assistance of many, including a helpful online community devoted to pulps and comics.

She knew from the get-go that she had better get the dates and facts right, or she’d hear back from that engaged community.

“These comics guys, you better not mess with the details,” she says laughing.

About 20 years ago, Wheeler-Nicholson started a deep dive into her grandfather’s colorful backstory. She recalls growing up and hearing relatives refer to her grandfather’s work as “trashy novels. They didn’t even use the name pulps.”

While she enjoyed comics as a child and later embraced underground comics, her appreciation for the form took root when she read her grandfather’s pulps, which he began writing around 1924. He went on to publish New Fun Comics #1 in 1935, which – unlike others at that time – featured all original stories.

In fact, one of the biggest draws of “DC Comics Before Superman” is that it assembles illustrated panels from the pulps and the comic books. Gathering those for the book might seem to have presented the biggest challenge. But Wheeler-Nicholson said it was easier than expected.

“The reason for that is David Armstrong. He had most of these pages.”

Armstrong is a highly regarded comics collector who – in the book’s afterword – discusses a desire to make a comic book documentary series. Well-versed in film and TV, Armstrong decided to start video interviews with comic book veterans, including some who worked with the Major. They provided context and insight and telling details.

One comic the Major wrote that Wheeler-Nicholson connects with is “The Monastery of the Blue God,” a fast-paced narrative emblematic of pulps of the time with a storyline built on hidden treasures, numerous locations and a despicable villain. Unbeknownst to many, it also served as a love letter that the Major penned to his wife, Elsa Bjorkbom.

Part of what motivated Wheeler-Nicholson to write her book was that she could pick up on these personal clues others might miss.

“The comics guys had no idea that that comic is full of biographical details about my grandfather,” she said.

Certainly, the Major’s life reads like an action comic.

Wheeler-Nicholson 

Born in Tennessee in 1890 but raised largely in the Pacific Northwest by a mother who was a journalist, the Major served under John J. (“Black Jack”) Pershing in 1912 and was a commander of “buffalo soldiers” troop in the Philippines. His run-in with a colonel while he was trying to improve how African-American troops were being treated turned out be one of several factors that needled military brass. An eventual court martial and a trial that led to all but one charge being dropped clipped his military career.

So he gravitated to writing – no surprise, given ink was in his family’s bloodlines.He produced more than 154 stories in various forms and wrote for the pulps.

As publisher, he eventually went on to release works by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, creators of Superman. He was also in on the early stages of Clark Kent. Wheeler-Nicholson refers in her book to a letter in which the Major discussed the possibility of turning Superman into a four-color comic. Siegel, however, wasn’t sold about teaming up with the Major and requested that he return the artwork. The Major did.

During these early years of the comic book industry, creativity was in full force, and the Major loved that part, Wheeler-Nicholson said.

“My grandfather just kind of threw out ideas,” she said. “It was very exciting. This was brand new.”

Wheeler-Nicholson speaks with great enthusiasm about the artwork in those early stories, and while she’s impressed by some modern works, including Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” she prefers the earlier ones.

“I find them too busy,” she said.” There’s not enough space in them. And they have a sameness in the storylines and the characters and the look. However, having said that, there’s a lot of innovation. And there is some amazing work.”

She’s also pleased to see the heightened presence of women in the profession and that they’re getting recognized for their work. In contrast, she estimates the “pulp” community breakdown is 93.4 percent male.

“Women took over the Eisners (the annual comics awards) this year and not just younger women,” she said. “That’s very exciting.”

While women were the rarity on the early comic scene, Wheeler-Nicholson was pleased to see how the Major created strong female characters in his work.

Sadly, he lost the company after partnering with Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, who forced him into bankruptcy, and he was out of the publishing business.

But the Major carried on his literary career, writing books that were mostly about war and returning to the pulps. He died in 1965 in Long Island, New York.

Wheeler-Nicholson said she gained an even greater appreciation for her granddad while researching the book.

“The more I learned about him, the more I became just in awe of his creativity,” she said. “He was just incredibly courageous.”

He, of course, had his doubts and his fears and his flaws. But then he would just press on anyway, she said.

You might even say just how a superhero would act.


From: https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/12/19/before-superman-there-was-a-major-who-fueled-the-dc-comics-machine/

Before Superman, there was a Major who fueled the DC Comics machine

Comic book fans love a meaty origins story, and Berkeley author Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson has a heckuva one to tell. It’s not only a true story on the rollicking formative period of a powerful publishing house but also one that gives an inside look at the genesis of perhaps comics’ best-known character, Superman.

Wheeler-Nicholson is the granddaughter of Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, founder of National Allied Publications, which later became National Comics Publication, which eventually morphed into DC Comics. She’s a writer, speaker and a frequent panelist at San Diego’s Comic-Con.

In her book “DC Comics Before Superman” (Hermes Press, $60, 256 pages), Wheeler-Nicholson details how her grandfather – referred to affectionately as the Major – went from an adventurous military career to becoming a prolific writer and intrepid comic book publisher noted much more for nurturing creativity than for his accounting acumen.

Her book takes a detailed overview of the early years of comics and the pulps – those inexpensively produced comics printed on wood pulp and narrating cliffhanging adventures.

Wheeler-Nicholson, a friend of mine, says stitching this together required the assistance of many, including a helpful online community devoted to pulps and comics.

She knew from the get-go that she had better get the dates and facts right, or she’d hear back from that engaged community.

“These comics guys, you better not mess with the details,” she says laughing.

About 20 years ago, Wheeler-Nicholson started a deep dive into her grandfather’s colorful backstory. She recalls growing up and hearing relatives refer to her grandfather’s work as “trashy novels. They didn’t even use the name pulps.”

While she enjoyed comics as a child and later embraced underground comics, her appreciation for the form took root when she read her grandfather’s pulps, which he began writing around 1924. He went on to publish New Fun Comics #1 in 1935, which – unlike others at that time – featured all original stories.

In fact, one of the biggest draws of “DC Comics Before Superman” is that it assembles illustrated panels from the pulps and the comic books. Gathering those for the book might seem to have presented the biggest challenge. But Wheeler-Nicholson said it was easier than expected.

“The reason for that is David Armstrong. He had most of these pages.”

Armstrong is a highly regarded comics collector who – in the book’s afterword – discusses a desire to make a comic book documentary series. Well-versed in film and TV, Armstrong decided to start video interviews with comic book veterans, including some who worked with the Major. They provided context and insight and telling details.

One comic the General wrote that Wheeler-Nicholson connects with is “The Monastery of the Blue God,” a fast-paced narrative emblematic of pulps of the time with a storyline built on hidden treasures, numerous locations and a despicable villain. Unbeknownst to many, it also servesd as a love letter that the Major penned to his wife, Elsa Bjorkbom.

Part of what motivated Wheeler-Nicholson to write her book was that she could pick up on these personal clues others might miss.

“The comics guys had no idea that that comic is full of biographical details about my grandfather,” she said.

Certainly, the Major’s life reads like an action comic.

Wheeler-Nicholson 

Born in Tennessee in 1890 but raised largely in the Pacific Northwest by a mother who was a journalist, the Major served under John J. (“Black Jack”) Pershing in 1912 and was a commander of “buffalo soldiers” troop in the Philippines. His run-in with a colonel while he was trying to improve how African-American troops were being treated turned out be one of several factors that needled military brass. An eventual court martial and a trial that led to all but one charge being dropped clipped his military career.

So he gravitated to writing – no surprise, given ink was in his family’s bloodlines.He produced more than 154 stories in various forms and wrote for the pulps.

As publisher, he eventually went on to release works by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, creators of Superman. He was also in on the early stages of Clark Kent. Wheeler-Nicholson refers in her book to a letter in which the Major discussed the possibility of turning Superman into a four-color comic. Siegel, however, wasn’t sold about teaming up with the Major and requested that he return the artwork. The Major did.

During these early years of the comic book industry, creativity was in full force, and the Major loved that part, Wheeler-Nicholson said.

“My grandfather just kind of threw out ideas,” she said. “It was very exciting. This was brand new.”

Wheeler-Nicholson speaks with great enthusiasm about the artwork in those early stories, and while she’s impressed by some modern works, including Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” she prefers the earlier ones.

“I find them too busy,” she said.” There’s not enough space in them. And they have a sameness in the storylines and the characters and the look. However, having said that, there’s a lot of innovation. And there is some amazing work.”

She’s also pleased to see the heightened presence of women in the profession and that they’re getting recognized for their work. In contrast, she estimates the “pulp” community breakdown is 93.4 percent male.

“Women took over the Eisners (the annual comics awards) this year and not just younger women,” she said. “That’s very exciting.”

While women were the rarity on the early comic scene, Wheeler-Nicholson was pleased to see how the Major created strong female characters in his work.

Sadly, he lost the company after partnering with Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, who forced him into bankruptcy, and he was out of the publishing business.

But the Major carried on his literary career, writing books that were mostly about war and returning to the pulps. He died in 1965 in Long Island, New York.

Wheeler-Nicholson said she gained an even greater appreciation for her granddad while researching the book.

“The more I learned about him, the more I became just in awe of his creativity,” she said. “He was just incredibly courageous.”

He, of course, had his doubts and his fears and his flaws. But then he would just press on anyway, she said.

You might even say just how a superhero would act.


From: https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/12/19/before-superman-there-was-a-major-who-fueled-the-dc-comics-machine/

Yes, Aquaman and Superman played high school soccer together in Iowa

CLOSE

At the London premiere of superhero caper “Aquaman,” stars Jason Momoa and Amber Heard talk about signing up for the project, while director James Wan discusses how “ridiculous” some of the staging looked on set. (Nov. 27)
AP

Who needs a Justice League when Iowa has the Norwalk Warriors?

The Norwalk varsity soccer team hosted a pair of would-be superheroes in the mid-1990s, with “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa and “Superman Returns” actor Brandon Routh scoring screamers together years before becoming Hollywood stars.

So, yes — as one meme suggests — Superman and Aquaman played high school soccer together in small-town Iowa, 10 miles south of Des Moines.

Norwalk High School launched a soccer program in 1994, with Momoa playing from ’94-1997. Routh joined the team from ’95-1998. It wasn’t a hero’s ending for the future stars, though. State archives show the Warriors did not appear in a spring state tournament until 2004. 

Routh reprised the role of Clark Kent for the 2006 film, directed by Bryan Singer. Momoa appears Friday as Arthur Curry in “Aquaman,” the season’s most anticipated superhero flick.

“I’ve known Jason forever and now he is Aquaman and I was Superman,” Routh told the Register in 2015. “We played soccer together in high school and youth soccer. I see him around every once in a while.”

From 2015: June 12 declared Brandon Routh Day

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A photo of the 1995 Norwalk Warriors high school soccer team, shown in the Norwalk High School yearbook. The team featured would-be hollywood stars Brandon Routh and Jason Momoa.Aquaman star Jason Momoa, pictured with the sophomore class in the 1995 Norwalk High School yearbook.Jason Momoa strikes a muscular figure as the title hero of Aquaman.Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman in Justice LeagueConi Momoa, from left, Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa, Jason Momoa, Lisa Bonet, and Lola Iolani Momoa arrive at the premiere of Aquaman at TCL Chinese Theatre on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in Los Angeles.Actors Patrick Wilson, left, Amber Heard and Jason Momoa participate in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film Aquaman at AOL Studios on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, in New York.SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Jason Momoa Episode 1754 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kenan Thompson as Zerbo, Heidi Gardner as Brienne of Tarth, and host Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo during the Khal Drogo's Ghost Dojo sketch on Saturday, December 8, 2018 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)Jason Momoa discusses DC's Aquaman at Comic-Con.LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 24:  Actor Jason Momoa attendsJason Momoa, as Aquaman from left, Gal Gadot, as Wonder

  • A photo of the 1995 Norwalk Warriors high school soccer team, shown in the Norwalk High School yearbook. The team featured would-be hollywood stars Brandon Routh and Jason Momoa.1 of 10
  • Aquaman star Jason Momoa, pictured with the sophomore class in the 1995 Norwalk High School yearbook.2 of 10
  • Jason Momoa strikes a muscular figure as the title hero of Aquaman.3 of 10
  • Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman in Justice League4 of 10
  • Coni Momoa, from left, Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa, Jason Momoa, Lisa Bonet, and Lola Iolani Momoa arrive at the premiere of Aquaman at TCL Chinese Theatre on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in Los Angeles.5 of 10
  • Actors Patrick Wilson, left, Amber Heard and Jason Momoa participate in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film Aquaman at AOL Studios on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, in New York.6 of 10
  • SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Jason Momoa Episode 1754 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kenan Thompson as Zerbo, Heidi Gardner as Brienne of Tarth, and host Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo during the Khal Drogo's Ghost Dojo sketch on Saturday, December 8, 2018 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)7 of 10
  • Jason Momoa discusses DC's Aquaman at Comic-Con.8 of 10
  • LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 24:  Actor Jason Momoa attends9 of 10
  • Jason Momoa, as Aquaman from left, Gal Gadot, as Wonder10 of 10

“Aquaman,” the latest film in the DC Extended Universe (the home of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman; not to be confused with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, home of the Avengers), enters wide release Friday. The film promises to serve audiences a coming-to-power story for the underwater hero DC first put to page in 1941.

In interviews earlier this year, Momoa noted the influence his Warren County upbringing had on playing Aquaman. He told A-List in the United Kingdom that “being born in Hawaii and raised in Iowa, (there were) two very different worlds much like Atlantis and the surface world.”

More: Jason Momoa does the Haka with his kids at ‘Aquaman’ premiere

More: Iowa-raised Jason Momoa gets musical and muscular on his ‘Saturday Night Live’ debut

Speaking with Men’s Journal, the “Game of Thrones” star and recent “SNL” host compared Curry’s fictional background to his own.

“It’s probably the character I’ve played that’s most like me. Like him, I grew up a huge outsider. I was just with my mother; he was just with his father — and I know what that’s like, not having a parent around.”

Who knows? The next Wonder Woman could be shooting hoops in Polk City right now.

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From: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/entertainment/2018/12/18/jason-momoa-aquaman-dc-film-norwalk-warriors-soccer-superman-brandon-routh-iowa-comics-movies/2310163002/

Muhammad Ali Was This Close to Portraying Superman in the 1978 Film

Boxer and honoree Muhammad Ali arrives at the 20th Annual ‘Midsummer Night’s Magic Awards Dinner’ on July 13, 2005 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Amanda Edwards (Getty Images)

Muhammad Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, but he almost flew like a DC Comics superhero.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the heavyweight champion was on the shortlist to become Superman in the 1978 film of the same name, which ultimately starred Christopher Reeve.

“One of the conditions with DC Comics was I had to make a list of actors to play Superman that they had to approve,” said producer Ilya Salkind, in an interview to commemorate the film’s 40th anniversary. Superman originally debuted in theaters on Dec. 15, 1978.

“I had a made a list … that was absolutely hilarious because they had approved people like Cassius Clay then, they had approved Al Pacino, they had approved Dustin Hoffman,” he continued. “They had approved them, they could play Superman.”

Wow, imagine a Cassius Clay Clark Kent. Not even the white man’s racist saltiness could be his kryptonite.

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That same year, Muhammad Ali did end up appearing in a collector’s item comic book released by DC entitled, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, which was a big fucking deal.

As writer Todd Steven Burroughs wrote for The Root in 2016:

Ali trains Superman at the Fortress of Solitude and then, in a massive arena packed with beings from different galaxies (and a universe-wide television audience), kicks the Man of Steel’s white, red and blue ass! Then the champ takes on the alien, who looks like a cross between, well, the Hulk and Hulk Hogan, and wins! Super black power, baby! Power to the people! The Earth was saved by the Greatest in the universe, in fact and fiction!

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I mean, Ali was already a superhero—cape or no cape—but that definitely would’ve been fire. Not only would we have had a black superman on the big screen, but the blackest superman.

And the Greatest.

From: https://thegrapevine.theroot.com/muhammad-ali-was-this-close-to-portraying-superman-in-t-1831150366

‘Aquaman’ is Warner Bros’ chance to turn the tide for its troubled DC superhero movies

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Aquaman

From Gotham City to Metropolis, it’s been a bumpy ride for Warner Bros’ series of interconnected films based on DC comic book characters. With next weekend’s release of “Aquaman,” the studio will turn to the underwater city of Atlantis for signs of a brighter future.

As a standalone movie, “Aquaman” is a sprawling, globe-trotting epic about a half-human, half-Atlantean hero who must foil his sea-dwelling brother’s campaign to wage war against the surface world.

But as the latest movie in Warner’s DC cinematic universe, it’s an opportunity to get audiences excited about a string of upcoming movies, after several of the studios’ superhero films failed to generate much enthusiasm.

It’s been a year since Warner released “Justice League,” it’s big-budget superhero team-up flick that disappointed both critically and commercially. Despite boasting a roster of heavyweights including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman (not to mention Aquaman), the movie earned just $669 million worldwide.

For context, that fell short of the global receipts for any of Warner’s four previously interlinked DC movies. It was also less than half what any of Disney’s three “Avengers” movies have earned.

The failure prompted Warner Bros to shake up the team in charge of DC movies and galvanized an earlier decision to de-emphasize the interconnected nature of the films. The massive success of last year’s “Wonder Woman,” which was only loosely connected to other DC movies, also drove that decision.

Now, “Aquaman” can test whether Warner will score another hit with a solo superhero movie.

“I think ‘Aquaman’ is a really important movie for them, and if the China box office is any indication, they’ve got a mega-hit on their hands that could play well into 2019,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

“Aquaman” drummed up nearly $94 million in its opening weekend in China — making it Warner’s best Middle Kingdom debut to date. With a 74 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is also the best-reviewed movie in the DC universe behind “Wonder Woman.”

Analysts say “Aquaman” is also getting a boost from DC’s choice to cast Jason Momoa in the lead role. The Hawaii-born actor is a fan favorite who had his breakout role as barbarian chieftain Khal Drogo in HBO’s hit fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”

“There’s no better brand ambassador for DC and ‘Aquaman’ than Jason Momoa,” Dergarabedian said. “He’s everywhere. He’s so excited. I think you can tell, and I think that’s infectious.”

Forecasting indicates that “Aquaman” will earn about $65 million at U.S. theaters over its opening weekend, and potentially hit $100 million during the full five days leading into Christmas, which falls on a Tuesday this year.

Holiday weekend openings make comparisons difficult, but that would be a very respectable premiere for a live-action superhero movie. “Wonder Woman,” Warner’s biggest DC hit at U.S. theaters to date, earned $103 million during its opening weekend.

Christmas releases also tend to have legs because many Americans see several movies during the holidays, says Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.

“I think Aquaman is in that position to open at $60 [million] but still earn $200 to $250 domestically,” he said.

That would put “Aquaman” in a league with other solo superhero movie successes like Disney’s “Doctor Strange” and Twentieth Century Fox’s last Wolverine sequel “Logan.” But it would fall short of the total U.S. box office haul for breakout hits like “Wonder Woman” and “Deadpool.”

A survey of movie-goers by BoxOffice.com found that 83 percent of them that saw the “Aquaman” trailer are interested in seeing the movie. That compares to 88 percent for Sony’s “Venom,” which ultimately debuted to $80 million in October.

‘You definitely won’t be bored’

“Aquaman” does face a somewhat crowded release window. It opens one weekend after Sony’s critically acclaimed “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” and shares a release with Paramount’s Transformers spin-off “Bumblebee.” Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns” debuts two days earlier.

However, analysts say “Aquaman” will benefit from the fact that Warner hasn’t released a DC movie in over a year.

Fans are looking forward to “Aquaman” as the first film since the end of the “Snyderverse,” said Alisha Grauso, editorial lead at Atom Tickets. That’s the grim and gritty universe crafted by Zack Snyder, who directed 2013’s “Man of Steel,” 2016’s “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” and the ill-fated “Justice League.”

The world of “Aquaman” was instead envisioned by James Wan, the director behind the “Saw” horror franchise. According to Grauso, Wan manages to mix “Lovecraftian horror” and “Arthurian legend” into a coherent visual language that amounts to “bonkers world-building.”

“It’s honestly kind of insane to watch, but it’s such a good time from start to finish,” she said. “You will definitely not be bored.”

That could get movie-goers excited for what’s to come. Next year, Warner releases a comedic adaptation of “Shazam!”, the DC comic about a boy with the ability to transform into an adult superhero. The studio is also filming an origin story about The Joker, the iconic Batman villain, slated for a 2019 opening.

In 2020, Warner releases a Wonder Women sequel set during the Cold War, as well as the female anti-hero ensemble flick “Birds of Prey.” The latter features the return of fan-favorite character Harley Quinn after a well-received debut in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.”

Grauso thinks it’s wise for DC to gravitate towards more self-contained, director-driven movies at this particular point in cinematic history. It’s true that Disney and Marvel Studios have made billions on their unprecedented model of decade-long storytelling building up to this year’s mega-event “Avengers: Infinity War.” Yet recent superhero movie releases have shown that what fans ultimately crave are good stories that are true to the characters.

“You don’t have to do the Marvel model to work. Fox showed that with ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan,'” said Grauso. “You can have individual, standalone movies that are wildly different form one another and they can still work as long as they’re good.”

Tom DiChristopher CNBC

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From: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/14/aquaman-is-warner-bros-big-chance-to-turn-the-tide-for-dc-movies.html

‘Superman’: Muhammad Ali Was on Short List to Star in 1978 Film

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee — and fly like a man of steel. 

Muhammad Ali was on the short list to play Superman in the 1978 film, producer Ilya Salkind discussed on the commentary track in the newest edition of the film recently released to coincide with Saturday’s 40th anniversary.

“One of the conditions with DC Comics was I had to make a list of actors to play Superman that they had to approve,” Salkind explained. 

“I had a made a list … that was absolutely hilarious because they had approved people like Cassius Clay then, they had approved Al Pacino, they had approved Dustin Hoffman,” he said. “They had approved them, they could play Superman.”

The Ali idea was not that far-fetched. The same year the film was released, the heavyweight boxing champion and Superman teamed up in the comics to defeat an alien invasion of Earth.

Salkind said the casting process was “complex” and confusing at times. DC had approval not just on casting, but also sets and costumes. 

“We met with Dustin at Cannes  … we had dinner with Dustin to play Lex Luthor, which would have been pretty exciting.” But it “didn’t work out,” he said without more of an explanation. 

Ultimately the role went to Gene Hackman. 

Salkind shared a story that after he was cast, Hackman still had a mustache that director Richard Donner did not believe fit the character. So, he had the make-up department make him a fake mustache and while wearing it, he told Hackman he would shave his off if Hackman did the same. The actor agreed. Only after Hackman was done did Donner reveal his was a fake, Salkind said.  

Superman opened on Dec. 15, 1978 and filmmakers such as The Dark Knight‘s Christopher Nolan and Wonder Woman‘s Patty Jenkins have cited it as inspiration. It earned $134 million globally (more than $1.1 billion in today’s dollars).

From: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/superman-muhammad-ali-was-short-list-star-1978-film-1169417

‘Superman: The Movie’ turns 40

Röhnert/ullstein bild via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Although the Man of Steel turned 80 this past spring, the original — and some say most comics-faithful — big-bow of Superman turns 40 years old Saturday.

Superman: The Movie featured a pitch-perfect performance from the late Christopher Reeve in the tights and cape of the Kryptonian hero, as well as the eyeglasses of his mild-mannered reporter alter-ego, Clark Kent.

Director Richard Donner called the shots on the acclaimed film, which also boasted performances from Oscar winner Marlon Brando as Superman’s dad, Jor-El; another Academy Award winner in Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor; and the late Margot Kidder as intrepid reporter Lois Lane.  And of course, its stirring soundtrack and theme were provided by Oscar-winning legend John Williams.

Mario Puzo of The Godfather fame wrote the screenplay, and Brando himself made upward of $20 million for just 12 days of work.

Made for $55 million — at the time, the most expensive movie ever made — Superman went on to make $300 million worldwide and spawned three sequels starring Reeve. The second, 1981’s Superman II — is still considered one of the genre’s finest, even in a day and age where superhero movies are commonplace.

Superman was nominated for three Academy Awards — Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Original Score — and won the Academy’s special achievement award for Visual Effects, for making people believe, as the movie’s poster claimed, “that a man can fly.” 

The Library of Congress recognized Superman in 2017 by inducting it into the National Film Registry.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

From: https://www.ktsa.com/superman-the-movie-turns-40/

Forty years on from Superman: The Movie, I still believe a man can fly

The nuns got me into hot supermen in tight red pants. All Catholic schools in Britain of the early 1980s were fitted out with their own set of 1940s nuns. It was a less austere one who mentioned that Superman: The Movie was on television that Christmas. You’d think King of Kings would be a more Catholically apt recommendation? Maybe Sister Anne-Marie saw religious parallels in the man from Krypton’s story. Superman walks on water, is relatively chaste, his origin story is all but Moses in the reeds, and his dad (Marlon Brando) was played by an acting god trying to be God. When we were required to talk to the other deity via prayer at junior school, it was always Brando’s Jor-El I pictured: “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned … I quite enjoyed parts of Superman IV – The Quest for Peace, even though I know you weren’t in it.”

Forty years later, it is impossible to overestimate the cinematic superpowers of Richard Donner’s masterwork. The end result of many attempts to bring DC Comics’ icon onto the big screen, the 1978 classic is the template all superheroes overlook at their peril. A heady mix of Americana married to a crime-ridden east coast via screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz’s barbed wit, John Williams’ grand orchestral movements, Boy Scout heroism devoid of politics and a through line of humanity over spectacle, Superman is a Kryptonian crystal all superhero movie-makers must keep safe in their barn at all costs.

I don’t think Sister Anne-Marie had that in mind when she mentioned Superman: The Movie. Yet it was Christopher Reeve who gave me my first inkling of abs, thighs and everything in-between. His Clark got me well and truly spinning in my phone box, as Reeve pitched Kent like one of those cute Mormon boys who doesn’t know he is cute. Throw in Margot Kidder’s definitive Lois Lane and the end result is a comic-book, east coast echo of Mona and Mouse from Maupin’s Tales of the City (also 1978).

Superman: The Movie (Trailer)

Reeve was picturesque – an on-screen soul with dignity, diplomacy, and compassion. His benevolence cast a longer shadow than his cape. He was the poster boy for movie escapism at the end of a decade that saw the likes of Nixon and Vietnam leave America’s psyche in a precarious way. For years I thought New York was called Metropolis. Studebakers, high school cardigans, skyscrapers, press rooms, subways, hot dog stands, Marlboro billboards and yellow school buses – that is what the US first meant to me. Superman did that.

What I really wanted was to work with Clark and do that walk-and-talk lunch-break thing Lois and he had perfected. As it happened, that Jor-El god did look kindly down on me. In March 1984, I was walking down Guildford High Street when Christopher Reeve ambled into my path. Amid my Clark mania, this eight-year-old froze. No one else had clocked him. I wasn’t sure I had. And before I could wave for his attention like Lois Lane stuck in traffic, Reeve nodded at my stares and was gone – off to a matinee at a local theatre he was performing in. “You’ll believe a man can fly”, said the posters. Well, no one believed this kid once encountered the man of steel. They still don’t.



‘A film can be as key to the framing of an early childhood as a sibling or an inspiring teacher.’ Photograph: Mark O’Connell

Something very haunting remains about Superman’s motifs of growing up. When I moved on from my childhood home and the corn fields around it, Superman and composer John Williams’ best work soundtracked my hand soaring over the crops of my youth for one last time. A film can be as key to the framing of an early childhood as a sibling or an inspiring teacher.

The reason we have the monolithic Marvel films today is because of Superman. The reason we have Caped Crusader movies is because Donner’s box office hit encouraged Warner Bros to make Batman at Pinewood Studios in 1989 with Mankiewicz’s fingerprints on the script, a big score, a physical production and that comic-strip panel sense of America and adventure. Forty years later, I still believe a man can fly. This wannabe Daily Planet intern is not so sure we’ll say the same of Ant-Man, Iron Man or any Marvel man in the heroic wake of Christopher Reeve and Richard Donner’s granite ode to movie escapism.

Mark O’Connell is the author of Watching Skies – Star Wars, Spielberg and Us, published by The History Press.

From: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/14/40-years-superman-movie-fly-christopher-reeve-1978-blockbuster

Why We Need Superman Now

When Bendis was 6 years old, he got up at the Passover table like a plump little Babe Ruth and called his shot: He was going to draw Spider-Man. 

Oddly, Bendis’ path parallels that of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. Bendis grew up in University Heights, where Siegel lived after moving out of Glenville. Bendis’ parents divorced when he was young; Siegel’s father died during a robbery in Siegel’s youth. His mother’s job in publishing meant they had little money, like Siegel. And, like Siegel and Shuster, Bendis was infatuated with the pulpiest literature available — comics.

“The draw is story,” Bendis says. ”When you’re young, your hero is the hero of the story itself. But as you get older, you start to realize your hero is the person who wrote it.” 

Bendis wanted what every kid wants: to be a hero. So he applied to the Cleveland Institute of Art. 

He got his start while still in school. Bendis’ earliest successes were crime comics for independent presses, many of them set on the streets of Cleveland. Bendis wrote what he saw riding his bicycle throughout the city and heard as he worked at Super City Comics in the Arcade. 

That’s where Michael Sangiacomo, a Plain Dealer reporter and writer of the Journey Into Comics column, first met Bendis. They became friends. 

“He was stealing as many comics as he could, slacking off most of the time, reading books and drawing,” says Sangiacomo. “He had the greatest job in the world. He’d just sit there, draw and take comics.” 

In the early days, Bendis used himself and his friends as models for his work, posing them for photographs in real-life settings that he then drew. A.K.A. Goldfish was about a con man, modeled on his librarian friend John Skrtic. Based on a gun-toting woman he met at a Cleveland coffee shop, Jinx told the story of a Cleveland bounty hunter named Jinx Alameda and featured Bendis’ stand-in as a no-good two-timer named Columbia. 

Cleveland factored into Bendis’ later work too, such as a fictionalized version of Eliot Ness chasing the torso murderer in a graphic novel called Torso. In United States of Murder Inc., a graphic novel about a young Mafioso, Bendis even named a crime family after Sangiacomo.

Inspired by the plays of David Mamet and the novels of Richard Price, Bendis gravitated toward rat-a-tat dialogue that often draws comparisons to Aaron Sorkin. He also illustrated some of his own work and wasn’t afraid to cleave with comics convention. 

In several spreads of Torso, which Bendis wrote and penciled, the panels tumble down the page like a falling stack of cards, forcing the reader to turn the book vertically to keep reading. In another, as Eliot Ness questions a suspect, the panels spiral inward. The reader must turn the book round and round, mirroring the experience of the interrogation.

“I took big swings, and I like that those things are what people remember,” Bendis says. “That’s what got me to Marvel.”

On the side, Bendis contributed illustrations to The Plain Dealer Sunday magazine and to Cleveland Magazine. With stories and work keeping Bendis busy into the nighttime hours, he had trouble dragging himself to an 8:30 a.m. art history class. A few electives short, he never finished the degree. 

“School seemed to be actually getting in the way,” Bendis says. “So I just stopped and started making my comics, continuing my education and journey on my own.”

Bendis’ break into the comics mainstream came in 2000, when he started writing Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil for Marvel Comics, which was clawing its way back from bankruptcy. His rise paralleled Marvel’s resurgence, as he took a turn writing what seems like every character in the Marvel universe: X-Men, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man. He created his own characters too, like the iconic Jessica Jones.

But his 2011 breakout was Miles Morales, the new kid behind Spider-Man’s mask. Half-black and half-Latino, Morales had to navigate not just the life of a young person with extraordinary powers, but the reality of doing so with dark skin. 

The character set off a media firestorm. Glenn Beck criticized the change on his radio show, which led to a Bendis appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. But most of the response Bendis received directly, he says, was positive.

Bendis had a similarly affirmational experience with Superman. DC Comics had already offered him the opportunity to write any marquee character when Bendis traveled to Cleveland for his brother Jared’s wedding last October. 

Skrtic, now the director of public services at the Cleveland Public Library, had been bugging Bendis about creating a living archive of his work at CPL, but also insisted he check out the library’s Superman: From Cleveland to Krypton exhibit. So Bendis stopped by.

Bendis posted a short video of his visit on YouTube. He wanders wordlessly among the comics in glass cases, checks out the excerpts from the Superman movies and weaves around the David Deming statue of Superman in flight. 

“Profound” is how Bendis describes the experience to me. Here was Superman, in the place he used to hang out when he first started making comics, right across the street from the Arcade where he used to work. It all seemed like a flashing cosmic sign. 

“I was like, ‘OK, God,’?” Bendis recalls. “I get it.”

* * *

Superman embodies truth, justice and the American way, but he loathes politics. When Americans start fighting over their ideals, Superman often steps into the background. 

“He represents the America that we want to be,” says Weldon. “Not necessarily the America we are.” 

But Superman was not always so circumspect. At his creation, in fact, Siegel and Shuster’s pre-war Superman was a New Dealer gone militant, a vigilante. 

In 1938’s genre-defining Action Comics No. 1, Superman breaks into the governor’s mansion to stop an unjust execution. He scares the wits out of a scummy domestic abuser, whose knife shatters on Superman’s unbreakable skin. He weenies out of rescuing Lois Lane from some gruff gangsters as Clark Kent, then swoops in as Superman to save her. Then he uses his ability to leap over a building in a single bound to terrify a lobbyist who has been corrupting politicians. 

“He was a progressive icon. He went after corporate fat cats, crooked government folks, people who sold slot machines in stores, reckless drivers,” says Weldon. “Basically, the title he got, long before ‘Man of Steel,’ long before ‘Man of Tomorrow,’ that is introduced in the very first issue, is ‘Champion of the Oppressed.’?”

But World War II, an existential threat to democracy, changed everything for Superman. Fighting in the war himself would have stretched his fiction to breaking. Instead, Superman reveled in symbolic gestures of support. He planted victory gardens, broke up spy rings and appeared on the cover of his comics with servicemen. Superman became a symbol of the system he once bucked. 

The best any modern Superman can hope for, then, is to demonstrate the enduring importance of the ideals for which he fights but refrain from defining them, or risk writing off decades of history. 

At times, that makes Superman a boring character, a hopeless square. He is a constant, so we take him for granted. But when the ideals Superman represents, and thus Superman himself, are under attack, he can roar. The question is how loud.

In 2000 and 2001, around the time of the George W. Bush vs. Al Gore campaign, Superman confronted the prescient oddity of archnemesis Lex Luthor winning the presidency. DC Comics reissued the story this year, featuring a cover portrait of Lex Luthor styled like Donald Trump on the The Art of the Deal. 

At Luthor’s inauguration, a super-villainous terrorist named Earthquake attacks. Superman swoops in to save President Luthor and defeat Earthquake, who burrows back into the ground, crying, “Fools! Fools!! I didn’t come to battle any of you! I came to destroy the man we all agree is evil!” 

But that would not be Superman’s way. 

Later, Superman and Batman team up to fight Luthor. “If I am guilty of one mistake, it was putting my faith in the American public not to vote for him. The world will never know how I struggled with the decision to stay out of the electoral process,” Superman muses. “Should I have gone on television and told the voters not to elect this man? And what then?” 

Telling Americans how to vote, how to define their ideals, would be antithetical to Superman’s code, even if he believes their choice was a mistake. This is Superman’s delicate balance: He must model good behavior, without making moral judgments.

Eventually, Superman and Batman use a kind of journalism to change public opinion: They broadcast Luthor’s my-evil-plan confession to televisions around the world during a very comic-y final battle. 

Turns out, Luthor had been conspiring with Darkseid all along. 

“I choose to fight for Truth, Justice and The American Way,” Superman thinks, as he punches Luthor into oblivion. “And for all its flaws, American democracy does work. That’s not just something I learned growing up on a farm in Kansas. That’s been my life.”

Batman and Superman effectively impeach Luthor with evidence of his misdeeds. But they intend to let the people decide the validity of Luthor’s presidency.

“The United States doesn’t need me to dictate, or worse, deprive her people of that most precious gift,” Superman thinks to himself. “The freedom of choice.”

As with every Superman writer, Bendis must wrestle with a character who lives such statements. Superman is not to be bent to anyone’s political ends. But, as Bendis writes him, Superman also won’t allow his ideals or his person to be abused. He is a reticent warrior, but a warrior nonetheless.

In Bendis’ Superman No. 1, Superman meets with the Martian Manhunter, J’Onn, for a conversation. J’Onn tells his Justice League teammate that it’s time he do more. Superman should step up as a world leader and speak a certain truth that the way the world works now, with wars and money and borders, is “garbage.” 

“Could it be that the only thing the world needs more than Superman is a Superman who is actively leading the world into its future?” J’Onn says. “A Superman who is ready to take this great civilization to the stars?”

Superman’s face softens into a half-smile: “Lead the world?”

“Take over all of it and set it toward a future in which hope isn’t just an ideal, but a—” says J’Onn.

Superman’s eyes narrow and flick suddenly to J’Onn’s face. His eyebrows furrow. He frowns angrily: “Take?”

Bendis has shown what would happen if Superman were to use his power to put his ideals into practice — corruption, dictatorship and, ultimately, fear. 

Superman uses his power sparingly, and only in service to the common good. He knows better than to use it to his own ends, even if he thinks them noble. Superman shows that truth, justice and the American way matter, but he would never try to reshape the world in their image. 

He sets a humble example. He waits for us to do it for him, if we so choose. 

Maybe that is brave. Maybe it is cowardly. But it is Superman’s way.

Writing that moment was special, Bendis says. “I got excited about it because it was one of the very first times where Superman himself was having the conversation for me,” Bendis says. “His morality was in the forefront of how I was reacting to the conversation, not mine.” 

Bendis arrived at a truth about Superman, the quiet radical. 

“Clark has a line in the sand,” Bendis says. “And that was it.”

From: https://clevelandmagazine.com/in-the-cle/the-read/articles/our-superman

Elseworlds Ending Explained: What Does it Mean for the Future of the Arrowverse?

This article contains Elseworlds spoilers.

Well, you certainly can’t say that Elseworlds was boring. Or safe. And you certainly can’t say that they didn’t give us one hell of a surprise in that ending. The Arrowverse is becoming the most intricate, risky live action superhero universe in history. Yes, it’s at least as big and crazy (perhaps even moreso in some ways) than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we had best enjoy this while we have it, because it’s unlikely we’ll ever see this much crazy DC Comics love on screen in one place at one time ever again.

So while it would seem that the Elseworlds ending was a happy and neat one (everything is back to normal! Superman and Lois Lane are gonna have a kid! Oliver is less of a dick than he was at the start of the crossover!), there’s a whole lot of stuff hiding between the lines that will pay off in a big way down the road. And by “pay off” I mean “probably piss a whole lot of people off, but it will still be really cool when it happens.” 

What follows is both an explainer for folks who might not have wasted as much of their lives on the minutiae of DC Comics continuity as I have, with a heaping helping of educated (but perhaps wild) speculation thrown in for good measure. 

What did Oliver Sacrifice?

Oliver made some kind of bargain with the Monitor in order to keep Barry and Kara from dying in their attempt to save the world from the effects of the Book of Destiny. When Superman looked into the Book of Destiny, he saw Kara and Barry’s deaths. It’s implied that they would have died in their efforts here, but there are implications that come from the comics as well.

Both Barry and Kara famously died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book story. It’s possible that what Clark saw in the Book of Destiny wasn’t just their possible deaths here, but perhaps their more likely deaths in the future Crisis. But considering they were on the verge of disintegrating (which is pretty much exactly how Barry died in the Crisis comics), it’s safe to say that Superman saw what he saw, and Oliver’s bargain with the Monitor was to prevent that from coming to pass, whether now or in the future.

Oliver goes and confronts the Monitor to point out that if it takes the death of inspirational heroes like Barry Allen and Kara Danvers, then Monitor’s entire plan is flawed. Monitor asks Oliver what he would sacrifice to bring balance to destiny if they were to live. While it isn’t revealed on screen, based on Ollie’s now traditional crossover ending conversation over a beer with Barry, where he insists that people like Barry and Kara are better heroes than he is, and inspire him to do more, I’m willing to bet that Oliver offered his own life to the Monitor in exchange for Barry and Kara. Right now, based on the infamous future newspaper that has been hanging around The Flash  since episode one, we know that Barry Allen is destined to die (or at least disappear) in a Crisis of some kind, most likely the Crisis on Infinite Earths. And since these shows love being faithful to iconic moments from the comics, that means there’s a danger that Kara is probably going to croak, too. 

At least that’s what’s supposed to happen if we’re following the comics. But here on our world, Arrow is now in its seventh season, and while it has rebounded considerably over this year and season six, it’s still a long time for a superhero show to be on the air. The CW’s superhero TV schedule is looking increasingly crowded these days, with Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Black Lightning, and Arrow, not to mention the Batwoman series that will arrive in 2019. If Warner Bros. TV and the CW are looking for a graceful, heroic way to show Oliver Queen the door, without the awkwardness of canceling the show that started it all, having him sacrifice his life so that two other heroes can carry on would be the way to do it.

So that means Kara is safe, right? Well…

What’s Up With Superman?

Since Tyler Hoechlin’s introduction as the Man of Steel in the opening episodes of Supergirl season 2, fans have been clamoring for a CW Superman TV series. Executives have more or less dismissed it, but the introduction of Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane (a brilliant Lois, by the way), the impending introduction of Lex Luthor over on Supergirl, and the fact that Hoechlin continues to prove that he has that certain indefinable quality that makes for a great Superman performance, you would think that this is something that the powers that be would be more willing to explore. But the revelation that Lois is pregnant and that Superman is looking to “hang up his cape” and go offworld for a while and leave the world in Kara’s care would seem to put an end to that, right?

Well…not so fast. Throughout Elseworlds, these characters have been talking to fans pretty directly. Oliver’s “this is why nobody talks about Gotham” in “Elseworlds Part 2” was more than just a piece of Batman-explaining worldbuilding to set up the Batwoman TV show, it was a direct answer to fan theories and questions, as was his indignant “I’m the first vigilante” comment. Clark telling Kara that “the world doesn’t need a Superman as long as Supergirl is around” is basically, “chill, one Kryptonian on TV is enough,” right? Right. So it’s settled.

EXCEPT…

If we’re going by comic book lore, then Supergirl is supposed to die in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The “Book of Destiny” can be seen as a metaphor for fan expectations based on what we know from the comics, and that brings us back to Oliver’s bargain with the Monitor. Does one Oliver Queen really equal two other superheroes to bring balance to Destiny? That math doesn’t line up. It still means one hero has to die.

further reading: Every DC Comics Easter Egg in Elseworlds

If it’s Kara, that opens the door for that Superman TV series. Now, before you all try and kill me, as badly as I want this Tyler Hoechlin/Elizabeth Tulloch show to happen, I don’t think it should come at the expense of Kara’s life. Anyway, this is the part of my theory that I am far less confident about. However, if I were a betting man, I’d feel pretty good about Oliver being the one to croak during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

UNLESS…

Maybe this quote from Clark wasn’t meant to open the door to a Superman TV series. Maybe it really does close it. If anyone else would be willing to sacrifice themselves so other heroes can live, it’s Superman (not that Kara would allow it if she could help it). Don’t be surprised if Clark steps in to sacrifice himself so Kara can go on, or if he and Oliver already planned the two heroes for two heroes swap in a scene we didn’t see.

WHO WAS JOHN DEEGAN TALKING TO?

But then there’s the actual ending, with a rather annoyed Batwoman calling up Oliver to let him know about what’s going on at Arkham Asylum. Dr. Destiny has made friends with his neighbor, Roger Hayden, Psycho-Pirate. That gold mask he’s so fond of his called a Medusa Mask, and it allows him to manipulate the emotions of others. Psycho-Pirate is a minor DC villain who nevertheless played a major role in the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. His dialogue here, “worlds will live, worlds will die, and nothing will ever be the same” was the actual tagline that DC Comics used to advertise Crisis on Infinite Earths in the lead up to its launch in 1985.

What’s interesting is that after the DC Multiverse was merged into one Earth at the end of Crisis, Hayden was the only character who remembered the existence of the Multiverse as it was pre-Crisis. Here, Hayden appeared to be displaying a knowledge of what was coming. Does he know what’s coming? Or has he already lived it before? Is he a refugee from another Earth already and that’s what drove him mad? I hope we get to spend a little time exploring this before they go all in on the Crisis next year, because it could be fascinating.

WHAT IS CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS?

That’s way too big a question to answer in this article. Allow me to direct you to this one instead.

Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.

From: https://www.denofgeek.com/us/tv/dc-entertainment/278127/elseworlds-ending-arrowverse-crossover-crisis-on-infinite-earths

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