This Blog Temporarily Closed Due To Holiday Shenanigans

I.e. I got a Switch and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee.

I’ll talk to you guys next week.

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It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s… Superman (1978)!

This year is the fortieth anniversary of Richard Donner’s Superman move and given that I’m currently working on Superman fanfiction, I thought I would do an article on the first big-budget, blockbuster superhero move… and what it did to comics for the next forty years.

Join me under the cut!

The Good

The Costume

Starting from Batman (1989) and lasting until Iron Man (2008), superhero movies believed that the only way audiences could buy their colourful characters as serious was by sticking them in black leather. Or latex. The original X-Men trilogy was by far the worst offender for this, but it affected every superhero property that wasn’t Spider-Man. Granted, for a character like Blade it didn’t matter so much because he wore black leather in the comics anyway and wasn’t a superhero, not really. But for everybody else? Eh, not so much.

It’s a credit to Donner and his that in their search for verisimilitude they didn’t feel the need to put Superman in a leather or latex outfit (or to ditch the trunks) but kept him in the tights from the comics. More cinematic versions of superheroes could do well to learn from Donner’s vision.

Christopher Reeve’s Performance

I will get to all the things Superman (1978) did wrong with the Superman character further down, but make no mistake: Christopher Reeve made everything he was given work. Superman is a distinct character from Clark Kent and both are engaging and sympathetic.

The Tone

Richard Donner faced an impossible task, one that has plagued everybody working in comics since the Silver Age: how do you keep these characters and their problems serious while dealing with the innate silliness and repetitive nature of the medium? Bryan Singer made fun of the codenames and put his characters in black leather, a mindset he never really grew out of. James Mangold took Logan out of the costume entirely. Batman (1966) went full on camp. So on and so forth.

Donner and his team, in my opinion, struck the perfect balance. There’s no lampshading, no attempt to rationalize the goofiness of Superman’s costume or of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. They’re just there, but their actions are real and have dramatic weight and impact. A lot of modern blockbusters… don’t.

It Started The Superhero Movie Genre

‘Nuff said.

The Bad

From a comics book perspective… there’s a lot wrong with this movie.

The Christ Allegory

Yeah, I’m not sure where Donner and his writers dug this idea from. It’s not true to the comics, at all. Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster were Jewish, for one thing, and based Superman’s origin on Moses. Further, Superman had no divine mission sent by Space-Dad in the comics: in the earliest story, Superman chooses to fight evil purely on his own (Siegel and Shuster, “Superman, Champion of the Oppressed!”), with a later story having Jonathan Kent urge Superman to do good on his death bed (Siegel and Shuster, “The Origin of Superman”). Later versions of Superman’s origin would play with this, but the whole ‘Superman was sent to save us by Jor-El!’ just isn’t true to the source material.

Jor-El

For that matter, what Marlon Brando, Tom Mankiewicz and Richard Donner did to Jor-El is nothing short of a travesty. Jor-El comes across as cold, alien and manipulitave. To top it all off, he even overwrites his own son’s personality mid-way through the film! Again, not comics accurate. Not even remotely.

Superman Himself

Let’s see: he doesn’t choose to become Superman himself but is instead brainwashed, lacks most of his comic-book personality… yeah, they did Superman wrong in this movie. Reading the contemporary comics written by Elliot S! Maggin are revelation. Here Clark is three-dimensional and fully-fleshed out. He has a sly, subtle sense of humour combined with a willingness to prank his co-workers. He’s serious but not to the point of being grim, fully capable of giving a full-belly laugh when the situation warrants. He’s not above temptation but struggles with it. And, perhaps most importantly, he chooses to do good of his own free will.

‘But wait!’ you say. ‘Reeve was obviously basing his performance on Silver and Golden Age Superman who was a much simpler character!’

Yeah, that argument only works in the context of Reeve’s version of Clark Kent, who is milquetoast in the original, Shuster comics. A characterization that was already being challenged by the Fleischer shorts (still, hands down, the best Superman adaptation) and directly contradicted by George Reeves’ version of Clark, who was a much tougher soul.

Here’s the thing, though. Reeve’s version of Superman does not resemble any comic book version of the character produced either during or before the movie. Siegel and Shuster wrote him as a punk, a rebel, a tough guy and a thorn in the side of authority. He fights war-profiteers, slum lords, corrupt executives. He’s no boy scout.

It would be writer Otto Binder and editor Mort Weisinger who would transform Clark into the Big Blue Boy Scout… and he was still more complex than Reeve’s Superman! Weisinger’s Superman was a trickster, something of a scientific genius and a do-gooder.

None of this is a slam against Reeve. He did fantastic with the material he had. But the material was lacking.

Lex Luthor

Lex, buddy, what did they do to you? Where is the scheming mad scientist with global ambitions? Where’s the tough guy in the green and purple battle suit, taking it to Superman mano-a-mano? I get that Lex as Magnificent Bastard Corrupt Corporate Executive is a recent (post-Crisis) invention, but it’s still a step of from what we got. ‘Cause what we got was Gene Hackman in a wig.

Hackman’s a great actor, no question. But his version of Lex, a crooked real estate mogul with nukes, isn’t true to any version of Lex from the comics. And while his dialogue with Otis and Miss Tessmacher is often genuinely hilarious, it’s from a different show and a different time. Worse, it’s this version of Lex that would give us Kevin Spacey’s and (urgh beyond all urgh) Jesse Eisenberg’s.

Lois Lane

I grant you that Lois, hard-charging and aggressive Lois, is hard to write for without making her totally unsympathetic or kind of a stalker. But they still failed.

The Kents

In traditional Superman lore, it is the Kents who teach Clark his morality and guide him on the way to becoming Superman. Not so much in this movie, leading to Man of Steel where Jonathan Kent actively tries to convince Clark not to use his powers.

Oy vey.

See you next week!


If you enjoyed this article, please support me on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/joshstoodley) or by my original fiction on Amazon. Or buy me a coffee (http://ko-fi.com/falconlord)

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Tips For Writing Historical Fiction [#1]

The Twelve Caesars

Today I feel like giving away some of my tips for writing historical fiction. Note, my views on the matter are subjective. I have always had an interest in history and historical fiction, but I was always hard-pressed to find good pieces of work. Although, to be honest, I have many librarian friends and they have a hard time finding me any book I will like. I am rather picky. Anyways, onward to the main course.

  1. Historical Fiction does not have to a difficult read. – You can write it in a semi-modern day voice. It also helps the reader who wants to know about the time era and does not want to decipher every word. The author can write in a few era appropriate phrases and such to immerse the reader. But I find some books with a glossary may just want to lean into a more immersive experience.

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Female Figurines and a Shipwreck: Two Poems from “Bone Antler Stone”

Human Pages

Here are two of my favorite poems from Bone Antler Stone: one on the famous ice age “Venus” figurines from 20-30,000 years ago, and another on a shipwreck from 1300 BC. You can order the entire collection here, or find more poems from the book here.

5a97d40daae60530008b461d-960-720Female Figurines

for Evie

Hum the words with me and you might understand:
mammoth ivory, hematite, limestone,
black jet, soapstone, antler and fired clay –
all of these become our bodies because
our bodies are the place of becoming.
They would not emphasize our hips and breasts
or underline the low triangled cleft,
and would not know to rhyme the bison horn
with the horned moon and our monthly flesh
without the genius our nine months gives them
in our seething, essential, swelling dark.
Feast and wear and build with bone, skin and sinew,
but by taking the time to…

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The Eleventh Film – Horror/Science Fiction Flash Fiction Series

Barnaby Taylor

The Eleventh Film Part V

The world’s first public film screening was held in Paris on December 28th 1895.
Eleven short films were on the bill that night.
Only ten films are listed for posterity.
The eleventh film had no name.
It was the night sky.
There was a meteor shower.
The film ran for five eighths of a second.
The audience didn’t notice.
There are no explanations.
No knowing how it happened.
What went wrong.
How it was made?
It is simply the case that this was the moment when the terrible truth got told to the world.
And what was this truth?
That everything will end.

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YAY!!! It imported!!!

The Twelve Caesars

My tumblr imported! We’re all up to-date now!!! I am so happy. If you see a post that needs credit to it, please let me know and I will put it on there. I know the last time I did a Tumblr import on here, some of the creation credit was a bit messy. But I don’t have time to go through 1710 posts. So, just message me on Twitter or WordPress if you see anything I need to fix.

Thanks,

TTC

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Humble Tiberius is a Myth [Commentary #3]

The Twelve Caesars

I am about 1 ½ pages into Tacitus’ Annals and I think this is a myth that needs to be talked about. Not just here on Tumblr, but one that many believe to be true from what I have heard.

It’s the myth that Tiberius never wanted power and was a humble guy to start with. Or in general, during his time in power until he became old and paranoid.


While reading Tacitus’ Annals, Tacitus speaks about Tiberius’ relation to the senate and general relation to the power he obtained after Augustus’ death.

“For Tiberius would inaugurate everything with the consuls, as though the ancient constitution remained, and he hesitated about being emperor. Even the proclamation by which he summoned the senators to their chamber, he issued merely with the title of Tribune, which he had received under Augustus.  The wording of the proclamation was brief, and in a very modest tone. “He would,” it…

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The Death of Posthumus Agrippa [Commentary #2]

The Twelve Caesars

“The first crime of the new reign was the murder of Postumus Agrippa. Though he was surprised and unarmed, a centurion of the firmest resolution despatched [sic] him with difficulty. Tiberius gave no explanation of the matter to the Senate; he pretended that there were directions from his father ordering the tribune in charge of the prisoner not to delay the slaughter of Agrippa, whenever he should himself have breathed his last…It was more probable that Tiberius and Livia, the one from fear, the other from a stepmother’s enmity, hurried on the destruction of a youth whom they suspected and hated” (Tactius, Annals, Book 1)

Tacitus is trying so hard to blame Livia for everything, however, it seems far more reasonable to believe Tiberius murdered Postumus to test his new power. His mother, Livia, even if she was ‘evil’ wouldn’t have any reason to kill Postumus. Tiberius was already in power and Livia wouldn’t want to upset…

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