October 17, 2013
Posted by Danny
Last week at the New York Comic-Con, the 75th anniversary of Superman was commemorated with the release of a fantastic animated sequence that soared through the archetypal superhero’s illustrious seven-and-a-half decades in just two minutes, from Joe Schuster’s first sketch of the character right through to Henry Cavill’s turn in Man of Steel earlier this year.
Created to be part of the extras for the forthcoming home video release of Man of Steel, the short – conceived by Bruce Timm, produced by Warner Bros Animation and directed by Zack Snyder – does a marvellous job of dynamically going through the various eras and looks of Superman in comics, television and film (and, with a wonderful dash of nostalgia for my age group, the early 80’s video game!), taking in the likes of the seminal 1940’s Fleischer cartoons, the 50’s black-and-white TV show, the bonkers Silver Age SF stories, Curt Swan’s quintessential comics incarnation, the ground-breaking 1978 movie, the Dan Jurgens dominated 90’s, Alex Ross’s compellingly realistic depiction via Kingdom Come and Jim Lee’s New 52 version (boo!).
Inevitably, it’s easy to quibble about what notable moments of Superman’s history got left out, but I did think it was a little disappointing that TV Man of Steel Dean Cain got left out of the mix. Given that the cinematic Superman was firmly languishing in Development Hell throughout all of the 1990’s, Lois & Clark: The New Adventure’s of Superman played a vital role in maintaining the character’s wider cultural profile – not least helping to capitalise on the vast surge of popularity Superman received following the hugely-publicised Death of Superman storyline in 1992.
Musically, it goes without saying that the presence of John Williams’ flawless character theme for Superman: The Movie was as inevitable as it was expected and, sure enough, it covers the first half of the short, the opening staccato strings providing a pleasing background to the running Golden Age Superman as he prepares to leap a tall building – The Daily Planet, to be precise – in, of course, a single bound. Williams’ music segues in to Hans Zimmer’s main theme from Man of Steel and while I thought Zimmer did a fine job with his score for that rather serious movie, I was struck by the sheer difference in tone when you hear them side by side and that, frankly, Zimmer’s work pales incredibly in comparison to William’s dead-on evocation of Superman’s innate wonder and fun. Still: a minor quibble! Here’s the clip:
In the wake of the short’s release, artist Dusty Abell, who worked on the project, provided a peek in to the development process by posting up this superb character chart of the various incarnations of Superman that were up for inclusion. He does a brilliant job of translating the very distinct versions in to their animated forms – particularly the live action versions. It’s a delightful tribute to a true cultural icon and, for the committed Superman fan, it’s wonderful spotting all the nuances within – I especially liked it when Superman pats Krypto the Super-Dog on the head. I can’t wait to see it in full high-definition!