Monday, March 8, 2010

The (auto)biography

People involved in Superman productions seem to want to tell their stories. Probably the earliest is Kirk Aly's A Job For Superman. Alyn starred in the Superman serials of the late forties. He was the first man to play Superman in front of the camera. As with several of these books, I haven't read this one. It's sitting in IU's Lilly Library, which means I'd have to devote several hours to sitting in the library and reading it. It's a special rare book library, and you can't check out its contents.

Next is Noel Neill's Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Neill toured the country speaking to colleges and whatnot a few decades ago. She was one of two actors to play Lois Lane on The Adventures of Superman television show in the fifties. She's still known as Lois. Last year, during the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Il, the local dignitaries, Neill, and Superman ceremonially broke ground on the site of a new statue, one that will depict Lois Lane as played by Neill. It's right up the road from the famous Superman statue at the Metropolis courthouse. Haven't read it.

I've actually got pictures of the groundbreaking, but not with me. Darnit.

Then there's Superman on Broadway, by Bob Holiday and Chuck Harter. Holiday starred as Superman in the short lived It's a Bird, it's a Plane, It's Superman broadway show. Evidently this has been revived periodically, and was filmed for television, resulting in what's considered the worst of all Superman productions. Haven't read this one, either. Three strikes.

Then there are two books by Christopher Reeve: Still Me and Nothing Is Impossible. I have read these, mostly because the local library has them. They're less about Superman than I assume the others must be. Reeve tried to distance himself from the role somewhat, though he can't avoid it in these books. The second is more interesting since it essentially gives Reeve's interpretation of the character. The first gives Reeve's perspective on the films' production.

Since I've read two out of five of these books, I don't have a genre description or contents breakdown. They're sort of memoirs, sort of autobiographies. There are biographies of Reeve out there, which I am trying to convince myself I don't have to track down. The production histories operate as a kind of biographies of the shows and movies, so they complement these books since they delve deeper into the actors' lives than production histories can.

Then there's George Reeves. He's got a small industry going in the book publishing world. There's Speeding Bullet: The Life and Bizarre Death of George Reeves. There's Hollywood Kryptonite: The Bulldog, the Lady, and the Death of Superman. There's Behind the Crimson Cape: the cinema of George Reeves. There are entries on him in The Hollywood Book of Death and others of that kind. The only one I've read is Hollywood Kryptonite, which is more or less a conspiracy theory kind of book.

In Other News:

Here's an interesting article explaining why the author, Robert Cargill, thinks Christopher Nolan should not be involved in producing a new Superman movie. Nolan, as you may know, recently directed two Batman movies, the second of which became one of the most profitable movies of all time. The author's reasons for wanting Nolan off the project are five in number, but are really just one: Nolan's previous films are all very different and darker than Superman should be, in his opinion. He's right in that they are all quite dark and different from Superman in genre, theme, and mood. This, of course, doesn't guarantee that Nolan's involvement in a Superman film would make it like his other projects. What's even more interesting is this statement:

2) Superman isn't a detective. Nolan thrives telling noir-ish detective stories. Superman isn't a detective. He's a reporter. He hits things. Hard. And flies fast. And burns holes in things. And blows cold air that freezes things. Thinking? That ain't his style. He's not dumb, but a good Superman story isn't about him tracking down criminals; it is about a world in peril with only one man who can save it.


He is Mom, baseball, and apple pie, and he stands for "truth, justice, and the American way." There's NOTHING dark about him or his story, only a sadness that drives his overtly boy scout tendencies.

These areCargill's idea of Superman. Not too different from others', I'd guess, but interesting. Sure, he hits things, but so does Batman. And sure, Batman's the detective, but Superman's a reporter, which means he's a writer. And writers think about things an awful lot. There's also a lot of comics pages devoted to Superman doing experiments and whatnot in the Fortress of Solitude. It's partly how he fills his downtime and how he tries to solve various problems on earth. Still, Cargill's right about the Superman of the movies.

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