It’s always the easy stuff that gets you

It’s a truism that when you’re writing, it’ll always be the bonehead easy stuff you get wrong. Anything tricky, after all, you’ll look up and confirm. The stuff you think you’ve always known will be where you make your errors, and of course you never bother checking the stuff you know.

Turns out I know bupkes about Superman. I think I’ve seen part of a movie and a few partial episodes of the TV show, and I thought I’d read a few of the comic books, but then I realized those were Spiderman… in fact, I think the TV episodes I saw were Spiderman, too, so maybe my Superman knowledge is worse than pathetic.

My boss is a Superman expert, and he set me straight on my astonishingly dense series of errors from last night:

  • George Reeves was the first; Christopher Reeve (no S) was the second
  • They’re not related
  • Superman actually started in animated films in the 40s
  • …oh hell, let’s hear it from the expert, shall we?

As Dr. Potter writes,

The first time Superman appeared in the movies was in a series of excellent animated features by the Fleischer Studios in the early 1940’s. To this day, these animated films are considered classics by professionals in the field.

The first person to play Superman in the movies was Kirk Alyn, who played the character in two serials (as they were called in those days) in the 1940’s. Unfortunately, these were rather cheesy films, low budget and to make matters worse, whenever Superman had to fly, they reverted to animation! So, for example, Kirk would run behind a rock and an animated Superman would take off into the sky. This didn’t fool anyone at the time, not even little kids.

George Reeves first donned the cape in a movie called “Superman and the Mole Men”. Due the success of this film, they decided to create a TV series called “Adventures of Superman” starring George as the Man of Steel. This TV show aired from 1952 to 1958. In the movie as well as the TV show, for the first time, they actually had a real person (George, of course) up on wires and appearing to fly. No animation! Of course, the special effects were extremely crude by today’s standards. Indeed, recently Warner Brothers (who now owns DC Comics, who in turn own the rights to Superman) has issued the first 4 seasons of “Adventures of Superman” on DVD and thanks to the digital remastering, it is very easy to *see* the wires holding George up! It was this version of Superman that I grew up with as a little boy. And of course, the story goes that Reeves committed suicide because he was so depressed over being typecast as Superman and couldn’t find any other work as an actor.

Then, as you know, Christopher Reeve became the Man of Tomorrow in 1978 in a very high budget, much publicized, and extremely successful movie. Chris appeared as Superman in 4 movies, the third of which was pretty disappointing and the fourth of which was so bad that we would all like to forget it ever happened!

And now, finally after all these years, “Superman Returns” with Brandon Routh.

So there you have it: I know bupkes about Superman. I do know a good song when I hear one, though, and I think you should hear it, too.