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Weekend Binge: Superman '78 Takes New Flight

Weekend Binge: Superman '78 Takes New Flight

By Alex Jaffe Friday, August 19th, 2022

Each Friday, we'll be letting a different DC.com writer share what they'll be reading over the weekend and why you might want to check it out. Here's this week's suggestion for a perfect Weekend Binge!

Can you read my mind? Because if you do, you already know what to read on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE this weekend. This week we’re thinking about Superman ‘78, an exhilarating follow-up to the classic Superman movie saga of the ’70s and ’80s. To many, Superman represents the first true example that the fantasy and wonder of a comic book superhero can be translated to the big screen and become something more. Interestingly, Superman ‘78 does the same in reverse: it takes the majestic spectacle of film, and the humanity of its actors, and recaptures them in the medium from whence they came. Whether you’re feeling overdue for a return to director Richard Donner’s Metropolis or are just curious how they pull it off, Superman ‘78 is worth your Weekend Binge.


The Premise:

Just as its title implies, Superman ‘78 returns us to the world of Superman we first got to know in the 1978 Superman film directed by Richard Donner and starring the unassailable Christopher Reeve. This series places us between the events of Superman II and III. Superman’s now an established hero who has saved the world from both Lex Luthor and General Zod…and has some complicated feelings about the legacy of his people as a result. But the arrival on Earth of a new alien threat, the mechanical Brainiac, doesn’t just present a new challenge for Superman, but an opportunity to experience the Krypton he never knew.


Let’s Talk Talent:

Just like Superman director Richard Donner and his insurmountable task of bringing Superman to life, Superman ‘78 author Robert Venditti is a man with a reputation for accomplishing the impossible. As a DC writer, Venditti has united the “core four” human Green Lanterns in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, giving fans of Hal, John, Guy and Kyle a shared group dynamic which GL fans could only dream of before. He followed up on the promise of Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity with a twelve-issue series set on one of the established Earths in our vast Orrery of Worlds with Freedom Fighters. But the accomplishment which proved Venditti most worthy of taking on the challenge of translating Donner and Reeve’s Superman with verisimilitude was solving the riddle of Hawkman.

In the 2018 Hawkman series, Robert Venditti adroitly addressed Carter Hall’s confusing backstory with inspired elegance in a single issue, and spent the remainder of the series building from there. Who better than the author who gave Hawkman his finest series to make you believe a man can fly?

Bringing the likenesses of Chirstopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman to the page with astounding clarity is Wilfredo Torres, who’s no stranger to taking on the most iconic figures of the Golden Age with his prior work on The Shadow and Doc Savage. Torres has been working in the industry for a decade now, but his work in Superman ‘78 represents what might be his greatest artistic challenge yet—and one to which he rises gracefully, bringing his work to unseen heights. We can only imagine what bold new directions he’ll go to from here after lifting up the Man of Steel.


A Few Reasons to Read:

  • Superman Returns! For a lot of us, the 1978 Superman movie is how we first got to know the greatest hero in comics. Superman ‘78 captures its particular blend of romance, humor and optimism in a way which rings true to Donner’s original vision. And maybe for the first time since 2006’s “Donner Cut” of Superman II, Superman ‘78 truly succeeds in making you feel like you’ve come home.
     
  • A Long-Awaited Villain: One behind-the-scenes legend of Superman movie history is that originally, the villain of Superman III was meant to be Brainiac, Superman’s enemy from the stars and collector of worlds. The idea was scrapped in favor of a spotlight on comedian and Superman fan Richard Pryor (who eagle-eyed readers might be able to spot in this book as well). But Superman ‘78 gives us a look at what might have been, with an ’80s-inspired design and motivations which make Brainiac more sympathetic and personal to Superman than we’ve ever seen him before.

  • A Thematic Conclusion: Among its many other themes, the original Superman movie features a young Clark Kent forging a relationship across time and space with his departed father, Jor-El. With the by-and-large absence of actor Marlon Brando from the sequel, Superman II further develops a connection between Superman and his mother, Lara. What we hadn’t seen much focus on, though, is Jor-El and Lara’s relationship together, and how they might relate to their son Kal-El as co-parents. That’s a dynamic we couldn’t even imagine having the opportunity to explore with Christopher Reeve’s Superman…until now.
     
  • Lex Luthor, Back on His Bull—: When it comes to larger-than-life cinematic villains, it’s hard to top Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. That Luthor, the one who proudly calls himself the greatest criminal mastermind the world has ever known, is back on full display in Superman ‘78… and this time, he and Superman have to join forces to contend with Brainiac. Can they really trust each other? Of course not, don’t be ridiculous. But don’t you want to see how that plays out?


Why it’s Worth Your Time:

Superman ‘78 is a bit of a publishing miracle, returning us to a very particular iteration of Superman many of us never thought we’d get to see again. If you’re a longtime DC fan, you probably have a favorite version of a favorite character who’s been relegated to history as time has moved on. What Superman ‘78 promises is that there’s always hope you might see the iteration you love again, crafted by a team who cares about that particular take on the character as much as you do.

What Superman ‘78 delivers is the idea that no one, and nothing, is ever really gone as long as enough people continue to believe. It’s a testament to just how powerful a belief the original films instilled in all of us and the awe they continue to inspire to this day.

And hey, if you’ve got an HBO Max subscription, they’ve got the original Superman movies up on the service right now. We say go ahead and treat yourself to a triple feature of Superman, Superman II and Superman ‘78. Up, up, and away.


Superman '78 by Robert Venditti, Wilfredo Torres and Jordie Bellaire is available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.