Published: December 29th, 2015 Written by: Marv Wolfman, Dan Jurgens Art by: Steve Erwin, Dan Jurgens, George Perez
DC Comics, 190 Pages
I loved the first volume of this series but crazily enough, I found this one to be even a wee bit better, as the story of Deathstroke takes shape and becomes more fleshed out, allowing him to evolve beyond just a simple anti-hero that looks cool and shows up once in awhile in other characters’ books.
This also spends some time on developing Pat Trayce, another version of the Vigilante character. While I wasn’t totally sold on her, I really grew to like her in this volume and I hope her run as a character and a major part of this series isn’t short-lived. I know that she’s pretty much been nonexistent since this series in the early ’90s but I don’t know her fate and don’t want it spoiled. I just hope she isn’t killed off before she really comes into her own.
This volume collects a few stories but the one I liked most had to deal with Deathstroke accidentally hurting Lois Lane’s sister, which brought out Superman and opened up the story to show us the personal relationship that Deathstroke had with Lois’ father, an ally during his time at war.
We also see Deathstroke face off against some of the Justice League while Nightwing also gets involved towards the end of this volume.
This volume really solidified Wintergreen as one of my favorite minor DC characters. He’s essentially Deathstroke’s Alfred and while I’ve always seen him that way, this collection of issues really made me appreciate him and the two men’s relationship a lot more than I already did.
All in all, this was superb. Now on to volume three!
Rating: 9.25/10 Pairs well with: the other volumes in the original Deathstroke: The Terminator series from 1991 to 1996.
Published: October 8th, 2013 Written by: Geoff Johns, Richard Donner Art by: Adam Kubert
DC Comics, 252 Pages
I wanted to read this because it was the first official comic book appearance of General Zod, the made-for-the-big-screen villain from the first two Superman movies by Richard Donner.
What makes this even cooler is that Donner worked on this story with Geoff Johns.
This collection is actually two separate stories. However, they both feature Zod with the first one being primarily about the character and his introduction into DC Comics canon. The second story primarily features Brainiac as the antagonist.
Ultimately, this was a really good read and one of my favorite Superman trade paperbacks of recent memory. Both stories were solid and they actually connect in a way that makes wedging both of them together, a more enjoyable, overall narrative.
I thought that Donner and Johns came up with a pretty satisfying story to introduce Zod and his family. I also thought that the Adam Kubert art was top notch but I’ve also always loved all the Kuberts.
If you grew up with the two Donner Superman films like I did, this should definitely peak your interest. It’s a worthwhile story that was both engaging and entertaining while also being a great homage to Donner’s Superman film work.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: other Superman comics featuring General Zod.
Published: November 22nd, 2017 – December 18th, 2019 Written by: Geoff Johns Art by: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson Based on:Watchmen by Alan Moore
DC Comics, 456 Pages
Well, Doomsday Clock has finally ended! This twelve issue series wasn’t supposed to stretch out for over two years but it did. I’m glad that I didn’t start reading it until it was over, as I would’ve forgotten all the details due to the delays and the dozens of other comics I would’ve read between each issue.
Now that it’s all out, I finally read it: binging through it in two days.
I guess my first thoughts on it are that it is underwhelming and that it doesn’t justify its need to exist.
I had always been against new Watchmen stories without the involvement of Alan Moore. My mind changed, however, when I read some of the Before Watchmen stories from a couple years ago.
They made me see Watchmen the same way I see other comic book properties and that’s as a sort of modern mythology that is told and retold by countless others, each bringing something new and unique to the table. Superman and Batman have had countless writers and many of them have evolved and grown the character in great ways beyond their original concept. Granted, some writers have gravely failed too.
Generally, I like Geoff Johns’ work, so I wan’t against the idea of him tackling the Watchmen property.
Ultimately, though, this took too long to come out, especially with how sloppily put together it feels.
This is one of those stories where it feels like a lot happened but also like nothing happened.
It tries to merge the Watchmen universe with the DC universe but it doesn’t work. But I’m also over the crossover trope of using inter-dimensional portals or a superbeing that basically acts as a super-dimensional portal. That being said, I don’t know how else to bring these universes together but that also makes me ask why they had to try it in the first place?
Watchmen is very much its own thing, as is DC. Hell, Marvel is also its own thing in that same regard and whenever they tried to crossover Marvel and DC, which happened multiple times, it always felt forced, clunky and weird.
The only real highlight of this was seeing how certain characters from different universes would interact with one another but honestly, none of it was as cool as I felt it should have been and it all felt pretty pointless and made me realize how bad the Rebirth era of DC Comics has been – well, for the most part, as I liked some titles in the last few years.
In the end, this doesn’t feel any different than one of any of the dozen indie publisher crossovers that pit Green Lanterns against Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Star Trek crews or the apes from Planet of the Apes. While those crazy crossovers are neat to a point, they’ve been done to death in recent years. And despite this being better written and having better art than the other franchise mashups, it feels like DC Comics were really late to the party and didn’t even realize that it was over.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with:Watchmen and the Before Watchmen stuff, as well as just about everything under the DC Rebirth banner.
Published: December 2nd, 1970 Written by: Jack Kirby Art by: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Neal Adams (cover)
DC Comics, 22 Pages
Man, this was a weird ass comic book! But it was also done by Jack Kirby during his stint at DC Comic, where he did some really outside of the box stuff that led to the creation of his Fourth World universe within the larger DC Universe.
This issue of Jimmy Olsen was tied to all of that, as this is the first appearance of Darkseid, one of the greatest villains in the entire history of DC Comics.
I wanted to read this, as I’ve been reading a lot of the first appearances of some of my favorite villains. That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this comic but it was pretty insane.
This issue is trippy as hell! I’m not sure if that was normal with Jimmy Olsen but I really dug it, even if it was hard to make sense of the proceedings, as I don’t have the issues around this to give it more context.
Superman even shows up in this but he was a pretty regular fixture in this title. Sadly, we don’t get to see Supes square off with Darkseid. In fact, we only get a peek at Darkside in one panel. That’s it, his big debut was just in a single panel where he was a talking head in a TV set, giving commands to one of his minions.
This is creative, kind of nuts and it flew by. I can’t say that it’s a solid comic as a standalone issue but reading it was interesting, as it was a quick, small sample of Kirby’s earliest work at DC.
For Jack Kirby fans, this is worth checking out.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: any of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World titles at DC Comics.
Also known as: Superman V, Superman Reborn (working titles), Red Sun (fake working title) Release Date: June 21st, 2006 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Bryan Singer Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Bryan Singer Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster Music by: John Ottman, John Williams (original themes) Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey, Kal Penn, Sam Huntington, Kevin Spacey, Marlon Brando (archive footage), Richard Branson (cameo)
Legendary Pictures, DC Comics, Peters Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Warner Bros., 154 Minutes
“You can print money, manufacture diamonds, and people are a dime a dozen, but they’ll always need land. It’s the one thing they’re not making any more of.” – Lex Luthor
I haven’t seen this film since it first came out. There were things I liked about it but I never had much urge to revisit it. Seeing it again, twelve years later, I was reminded why.
To start, this is a motion picture that had it’s heart in the right place. It was an homage to the style and tone of the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films. In fact, this is a loose sequel to those; it ignores Supermans III and IV.
But while this does have its heart in the right place, it was lacking a soul. It tried quite hard to pull off the magic that existed in the first two Reeve films but it lacked its spirit and its charm.
That being said, I did like Brandon Routh as Superman and I thought his Clark Kent was good. But if I have to compare him to Reeve, he is short on personality. I don’t think that’s his fault though, as he is pretty damn charming in a lot of other films and television shows he’s been in. He’s one of the shining stars of Legends of Tomorrow. But I feel like he was sort of forced to give an understated performance here. And maybe the studio was too afraid to make him too Reeve-like but if he is playing the Reeve version of Superman, there should be some consistency.
I wasn’t crazy about most of the cast, despite the fact that most of them are talented. Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane also seemed to lack the energy and spirit she needed. She didn’t have the spunk of Margot Kidder and felt less like that version of Lois than Routh felt like the Reeve version of Superman.
Kevin Spacey was okay as Lex Luthor but he also didn’t feel like the Gene Hackman version.
So are you starting to see the problem here?
This film exists as a new Superman III but the new cast doesn’t quite fill the shoes of the first two movies. I think that this comes down to the script, as none of the characters are written in the same way as they were in those Richard Donner directed classics from 1978 and 1980.
Another big issue I have with this is that the story is boring and Lex’s evil scheme is mundane. Maybe this was all done to setup something bigger in the future but since this didn’t get any of the planned sequels, all we got was a lot of drama and Superman throwing a continent into space. Hell, the scheme in the real Superman III was much better than what they came up with here.
As far as positives, I did like the score and the inclusion of the original John Williams themes. Honestly, the Williams theme immediately gets you pumped up during the credits and it actually makes this film better. Ultimately, as I said, the heart was there and the tone felt right. But then again, the tone sort of loses its essence. As the film rolls on, it doesn’t seem to go anywhere and we’re given a threat that doesn’t create any sort of exciting battle or action.
Most of the action in the film is vehicle action: a runaway car, a seaplane in danger, an out of control airplane hauling a space shuttle and Lex’s helicopter escape.
This film came out in a time when digital effects could do anything but all Superman really did was lift a large land mass. They could have had him fight Darkseid, Brainiac, Metallo, Mongul, Doomsday or any other great villain from his large rogues gallery.
I wish that this would have been a great film. I wish it would have birthed a new series of films. It just didn’t resonate with me, most critics and or the audience.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: the first two Christopher Reeve starring Superman films and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.
Also known as: Superman IV, Superman 4 Release Date: July 23rd, 1987 (London premiere) Directed by: Sidney J. Furie Written by: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, Christopher Reeve Based on:Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster Music by: Alexander Courage, John Williams (themes) Cast: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mark Pillow, Mariel Hemingway
Cannon Group Inc., Golan-Globus Productions, London-Cannon Films, Warner Bros., 90 Minutes
“And there will be peace. There will be peace when the people of the world, want it so badly, that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them. I just wish you could all see the Earth the way that I see it. Because when you really look at it, it’s just one world.” – Superman
Most people hate this movie or at the very least, love trashing it for sport. It’s certainly a bad film but I really enjoy it because with it’s bizarre goofiness, it’s got charm and it was made by Cannon Films.
Unlike Superman III, another bad chapter in this franchise, this film got Gene Hackman back and didn’t limit Margot Kidder to just two scenes. But where the heck was Annette O’Toole, who I adored in Superman III? Well, Superman does get another alternate love interest in this one and it’s Mariel Hemingway. I was crushing on her hard when this came out and I was 8 years-old.
Anyway, this film also adds in Jon Cryer, just a year after he touched filmgoers hearts as Ducky in Pretty In Pink. He’s basically Ducky again but really dumbed down and with a weird surfer/stoner accent. He’s like Ducky had a baby with Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But I did love Cryer in this, as Lenny Luthor, Lex’s idiot nephew and replacement for Ned Beatty’s Otis.
But speaking of my previous piece on this movie, it is a film that is politically heavy. It features a story that sees Superman take it upon himself to rid the entire world of nuclear weapons. Strangely, every nation at the UN cheers for this and none see it as an act of war for being forcibly disarmed.
This movie also introduces us to a cool villain, made from a strand of Superman’s hair and a nuclear missile thrown into the sun. He is Nuclear Man and he always looked badass. As a kid, I always wanted him to eventually get worked into the comics. He finally made an appearance this year in a Brian Michael Bendis Superman story but was just there to be quick fodder for another villain.
Superman IV is incredibly short when compared to the other movies. If you own this on DVD though, you will notice that there are a ton of deleted scenes and really, this could’ve been longer. I’ve actually hoped for an extended edition release of this with all those scenes restored, especially the ones featuring the prototype of Nuclear Man, who was cut from the finished film entirely. He was very much like Bizarro, even if his scenes were terribly stupid.
This is the worst film in the Christopher Reeve string of movies. I still have a lot of love for it though because in spite of it’s awfulness, it was imaginative and a little nuts.
Rating: 4.75/10 Pairs well with: The other films in the Superman series with Christopher Reeve.
Also known as: Superman vs. Superman (original script title) Release Date: June 17th, 1983 Directed by: Richard Lester Written by: David Newman, Leslie Newman Based on:Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster Music by: Ken Thorne, John Williams (themes), Giorgio Moroder (songs) Cast: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Robert Vaughn, Annette O’Toole, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Marc McClure, Gavan O’Herlihy, Frank Oz (scene deleted)
Cantharus Productions N.V., Dovemead Films, Warner Bros., 125 Minutes
“I ask you to kill Superman, and you’re telling me you couldn’t even do that one, simple thing.” – Ross Webster
Out of the original four Superman movies, the first two were good, the last two were not so good. However, Superman III is still much better than Superman IV. And it does actually work as a film depending upon your perspective. But I’ll get into that.
The producers of this film series did some really bizarre stuff with this chapter.
First off, they had some issues with Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder. Hackman was completely written out of the film and replaced by Robert Vaughn as a very Lex Luthor type of character named Ross Webster. He had an evil sister and a girlfriend that was probably supposed to be Miss Tessmacher in the original version of the script.
As far as Margot Kidder went, she was limited to just two scenes and the producers brought in Annette O’Toole to play Lana Lang, a new love interest for Clark Kent. Oddly enough, O’Toole would go on to have a ten year run on Smallville where she played Clark Kent’s mother Martha Kent.
The strangest change of all was the inclusion of Richard Pryor. As great as the man was, this took Superman and turned it into a straight up comedy movie. The producers had heard that Pryor was a fan of the series though, so they threw a bunch of money at him and got him in this picture. Pryor later said that he didn’t like the script but he couldn’t say “no” to the money.
The big shift in tone works against the film series and it turned things into a joke.
However, if you just look at this as a Richard Pryor movie that just happens to have Superman in it, it works in that regard. Now it isn’t Pryor’s best and it is probably one of his worst, as his comedies are all pretty damn good, but as a comedy film this isn’t a complete waste. Frankly, this is how I have to perceive the movie in order to enjoy it.
In fairness, getting past all the weird creative choices, I did like the additions to the cast. I thought O’Toole was nice and sweet and I liked her. Her ex-boyfriend, played by Gavan O’Herlihy (Airk from Willow) was a fun character and a solid ’80s douche. It’s the villains that really stood out for me though. Robert Vaughn is fantastic in this cheese fest and is arguably better as a Luthor character than Gene Hackman. Annie Ross, who played his evil sister was a convincing witch of a lady and Pamela Stephenson was more than satisfactory as this film’s stand in for Miss Tessmacher.
I liked this movie a lot more as a kid but the two sequences I enjoyed most are still enjoyable for me today. Those are the two big battles: Superman vs. Superman and Superman vs. the super computer. I do have to point out that the scene where Annie Ross gets sucked into the computer and turned into a killer cyborg scared the crap out of me when I was four. Now it’s silly as hell but silly in the best way. I also feel like this was a real missed opportunity because the super computer possessing people could have been a good Brainiac story. Originally, Brainiac was supposed to be a villain in this, as was Supergirl.
A lot of people hate Superman III and I understand their frustration with it. But a lot of time has passed and if you just look at this as a Richard Pryor movie with Supes in it, it’s not so bad.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: The other films in the Superman series with Christopher Reeve. Also, the Richard Pryor films of the ’80s.
Release Date: December 4th, 1980 (Australia) Directed by: Richard Lester, Richard Donner (uncredited) Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman Based on:Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster Music by: Ken Thorne Cast: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Terence Stamp, Susannah York, Jack O’Halloran, Marc McClure, Sarah Douglas, Clifton James, Marlon Brando (appears only in the Richard Donner Cut)
Film Export A.G., Dovemead Limited, International Film Productions, Warner Bros., 127 Minutes (original cut), 116 Minutes (Richard Donner Cut)
“Come to me, son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!” – General Zod
In all honesty, I like Superman and Superman II just about the same. II gets a bit of an edge though just because I like the story better and the threat in the film is a credible threat, as it pits Superman against an adversary that matches his power level.
While I love Lex Luthor, the character, and I also love the mind versus might rivalry, the Gene Hackman version of the character just doesn’t hit the right mark. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Hackman and his character in these movies but he doesn’t feel like the Lex of the comics I grew up with. He is to Luthor what Cesar Romero was to the Joker. He’s damn entertaining and enjoyable but he’s lacking the darkness that’s needed to truly be villainous.
General Zod, however, is an incredible opponent. He was created for this film series but he was so damn good that he would go on to be in the comics. Terence Stamp really brought some much needed testosterone to the table and his minions, played by Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran, were pretty cool villains as well. Man, I was crushing hard on Sarah Douglas when I was a kid.
I also really liked the romance in this movie and usually I don’t care about that crap in these sort of films. I just like how Clark and Lois’ relationship blossomed and how it was really tested and pushed Superman into having to make an incredibly hard decision, which he then had to try and fix because saving the world is his destiny, even if that means he can’t love a human. Yeah, the story around this was actually weird and nonsensical but the point of it and the challenge made me accept it.
Getting back to Lex Luthor though, his role in this film seemed pretty pointless. Once again, he was the top billed star but it’s like they had nothing for him to do. He breaks out of prison, leaves poor Otis behind, breaks into Superman’s house and then aligns himself with Zod, who didn’t need Luthor’s help at all, let’s be honest. Luthor is just sort of wedged into the film just because they had to have a name as big as Gene Hackman’s, after Marlon Brando’s Jor-El was killed off in the first picture. I should note that Brando did film footage for the film but he wanted more money than the producers were willing to pay, so it was edited out of the final cut. He does appear in the Richard Donner cut of the film though.
This chapter in the Superman movie saga is a great extension of what the first movie was. Really, they just feel like two halves of a whole. The movies did a lot of their filming simultaneously because the producers knew there would be a sequel. Some of the filming on II got put on hold though, as it was holding up the production of I and the studio wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to miss its Christmas time release. There was a lot of conflict, behind the scenes, and Richard Donner was fired after directing most of II. He wasn’t given credit for his work and Richard Lester took over. Lester would also go on to direct the terrible Superman III, showing that he wasn’t as skilled as Donner. On a side note, the Richard Donner Cut was released years later, which most people seem to enjoy more.
Despite the backstage politics, this still ended up being my favorite film in the franchise.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with:Superman: The Movie, the 1980 Flash Gordon.
Release Date: December 10th, 1978 (Washington D.C. premiere) Directed by: Richard Donner Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton Based on:Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster Music by: John Williams Cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Trevor Howard, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Maria Schell, Terence Stamp, Phyllis Thaxter, Susannah York, Jack O’Halloran, Marc McClure, Sarah Douglas, Harry Andrews, Rex Reed (cameo)
Film Export A.G., Dovemead Limited, International Film Productions, Warner Bros., 143 Minutes, 127 Minutes (1980 video release), 151 Minutes (2000 restoration), 188 Minutes (Extended version)
Few films feel as vast and epic as the 1978 Superman film. This was also the first superhero movie where the comic book medium was actually taken seriously. Years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC knocked it out of the park with this, the first real superhero movie.
It hasn’t aged too well and I’ve always had some issues with the story and the use of Superman’s powers in this film but this is still a true classic that opened a lot of doors for comic book films, even if it still took a long time for the genre to reach the level it has in the 2010s.
The thing that makes this film work is that it understands the spirit of Superman. It was made and written with great care, Christopher Reeve was fantastic in the role and for years, he was who I saw as the character, even when reading the comics. I know that some people had reservations about him and his portrayal of the character but he was wholesome and believable as far as creating the two personas: Superman and Clark Kent.
I was never crazy about Margot Kidder as Lois Lane but I see things differently now and I do like her take on the character. I like her attitude, her sass and her no nonsense persona. She feels like a tough New York girl (Metropolis in the movie) that can handle her own.
I was also never crazy about Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, especially since he refused to shave his head. I also thought his scheme was goofy and bizarre but not completely outside of what classic comic books were. Looking at this in the context of the original source material, the scheme isn’t too far fetched.
As a fan of the character and the comics, I liked that Superman had his normal power set but the script was written in such a way that it invented powers just to solve problems in the movie. Like the scene where he flies so fast he changes the direction of Earth’s orbit to time travel back before Lois was swallowed into a fault was beyond stupid even for 1978. It created a lot of plot holes, not that some didn’t already exist. At this point it became pure fantasy nonsense, ignoring any sort of real science or staying grounded in the source material.
Richard Donner did a fine job as the director and this is also one of John Williams’ best scores of all-time. The music really set the tone and enhanced Donner’s visual style.
I loved the Krypton stuff in the beginning and Brando was great even if he wasn’t completely on his A game. However, the bit with General Zod and his crew feels unnecessary within this film, as they don’t have an effect on anything until the second movie. Sure, they contributed to Krypton’s problems, which led to its destruction, but they didn’t need to be on screen characters.
Despite my issues with the picture, it’s still damn good and a lot of fun. I also grew up watching this a lot and I can’t not feel nostalgic for it.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with:Superman II, the 1980 Flash Gordon.