Man of Steel


Original sketch of Superman by Joe Shuster.

Driving past Greg Kanan‘s new comic book store in Kingston, NY, I popped in to say “Hi.” Shelves and piles of pulp publications seemed like another, older era. The visit made me think of Joe Shuster, and his lackluster career as illustration innovator. How could Joe, and his partner, Jerry Siegel, have ever imagined the lasting impact their  character, Superman, would create and how far it would come, leaving them discarded in the dustbin of time. A hundred and fifty dollars probably seemed like a windfall in the depressed 30’s – that is what they sold the rights for to their protagonist’s existence at DC Comics. That princely sum, of course, soared into the stratosphere of earnings for DC and when Joe and Jerry realized their mistake, the courts upheld DC’s clam to all rights and Joe and Jerry’s names were removed from their protégée altogether.

Nights of Horror

One of Joe Shuster’s illustrations for an Eddy Mishkin publication.

By the 50’s Joe was indagent and almost blind, but was still plying his craft as an illustrator. The vicissitudes of life found him penning far less wholesome characters than super heros; instead, cranking out leather clad domintrics for the likes of Eddy Mishkin at Wholesale Books. Using an anagram to sign his work, Josh (for his first and last name), Shuster eluded the fracas Mishkin went through for obscenity during the US senator Estes Kefauver Commission’s hearings. The hearings were spawned by the Brooklyn Thrill Killings, involving a group of teenage boys tried and convicted for the murders of two homeless men on the Brooklyn waterfront. The irony in the boys testimonies was claiming they had been influenced by comic books (some of Shuster’s), Eddy Mishkin’s books and Crime and Punishment; which led to the commission’s investigation. Comic books and purulent pulp publications were glommed together in the same shameful category. I remember my forth grade teacher explaining to my impressionable  fellow classmates that “DC” stood for “devil comics.” My, how times have changed. Mishkin was prosecuted and convicted. Shuster seemed to be the first casualty in the subsequent “curse of Superman.” George ReevesChristopher Reeve and Lee Quigley are all associated with their involvement with the Superman character and their tragic deaths after portraying the Man of Steel.

Later the same evening that I stopped by Greg’s store, I went to see the newest version of the Superman films, Man of Steel. Predictable. I am not sure if anyone really enjoys the over saturation of CG violence, for me it was much like the Magic Mountain overkill parodied in Jodorousky‘s bandidos endless shooting of the protagonist  in a display of abject futility and half the budget of the film used for body hit squibs.

What was alarming is the visual reference to the World Trade Center collapse and the one shot of Superman sheering off the pilings of a parking garage in a controlled implosion identical to Building Number Seven. Need we be reminded? I guess Zack Snyder thought so, but I’m not sure how this ties into the Warner Brothers campaign to woo the “Christian audience.” Because this film is aimed at the juvinal crowd the “comic book” quality is lost to stark realism. “Dick Tracy” and “Who Shot Roger Rabbit?” suffered no ill effects with the cartoon motif intact.

Betty Page

Betty Page

Betty Boop

Betty Boop.

The film also has the strangest display of noses on characters – even the proboscis on the young Clark Kent is so exaggerated in one up the nostrils shot making the kid look deformed. The “pulled bleach” quality of the production is a cliché’ but I like it, it works – unless you are a woman. In the case of the thespian, Louis Lane (Amy Adams), her skin tone takes on the look of lizard skin; which I guess works with her irreverent personality and kick-butt persona.

The trend of having woman, ala’ Niki, be the bad-ass is taken to a new level with Antie Traue as Faora Ul the heavy. Betty Boop on steroids or real life Betty Page look alike, similar to Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) character in Pulp Fictiondefine the bad girl image on screen. In one scene, it takes a SWAT team to surround Louis Lane just to get her into police headquarters for questioning. A strong message to

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.

today’s youth of the omnipotent power of  government control. Such a message is hard to decipher – “hold or fold.” With global unrest witnessed daily on TV and internet display, the film seems to be saying you need stainless steel cojones, even as a female, if you are to act and think individually. Not so subtle are the endorsements of some flagging US corporations: Sears, Seven Eleven and Ihop are shamelessly prominent throughout the film.

Antje Traue

Antje Traue

All of the original story of Superman is there, born Kal- El on the planet Krypton, rocketed to Earth as an infant, Krypton’s destruction and the adoption of Clark Kent by a Kanas farmer and his wife. Jimmy Olsen, somehow he didn’t make the cut, maybe because his bow-tie  character could not be adapted to the chain link costumes – which were one of the high points of the film. The wardrobes are superb. No cobalt blue spandex jump suit, or bright red cape – everything is desaturated mute.

Rob Niosi

Rob Niosi – super guy.

Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill

I was distracted while watching  Man of Steel, which wasn’t a bad thing, thinking how much Henry Cavill looks like my ol’ friend Rob Niosi. A super person in his own right, Rob personifies fantasy – he lives it. Visiting his Washington Heights apartment in the early Eighties, I could not escape his rich imagination surrounded by the customized interior made to resemble the inside of a space ship. Rob has done the visual special effects for several of my films as well as his own. A master of visual illusions, he enhances any productions with his magic touch. His recent endeavor is creating a time machine , not sure how that’s going, but I haven’t seen Rob for awhile. Could that be him standing akimbo in the background of a photo with General MacArthur on the Manila Beach. Don’t know but it sure looks like him.

Final Wham Bam cover-1

Check out Larry’s Rialto Report pod cast interview by Ashley West:>

Copies of e-book and paperback available at: < >

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~ by Larry Revene on June 30, 2013.

One Response to “Man of Steel”

  1. fame is fleeting, names get written out of history for royalties


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