27th Aug2021

‘Superman ’78 #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Robert Venditti | Art by Wilfredo Torres | Published by DC Comics

If ever there was a book I was guaranteed to review, it was this one. I cannot put into words how much I love the original Superman film, and the Christopher Reeve version of both Kal-El and Clark Kent. I first saw it as a young kid and was absolutely mesmerised by it. I have watched it literally hundreds of times down the years. Reviewing this book was an obvious slam dunk. Why Superman ’78 though? Those nostalgia dollars. DC have put out a few of these nostalgia fest books, Adam West’s Batman and Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman notably, and all have been hugely entertaining. There’s clearly a huge audience for these books, one of which is typing this. Superman ’78 though is the big one. The film literally changed superhero movies and DC Comics with its release, and I’m hoping this book can capture a little of that magic.

We start by revisiting the death of Krypton, the white antiseptic Krypton of Marlon Brando’ Jor-El, and Susannah York’s Lara. An added wrinkle here is that its destruction was watched by a certain Brainiac, as Kal-El’s ship hurtles towards Earth. On to the modern day, and Clark is trying to catch up to Lois on the bustling streets of Metropolis. In two pages Venditti and Torres show us they’ve got that Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder chemistry pitch perfect, and I’m that little kid again watching all this on a big screen in the Holloway Road Odeon. Even the interaction between Perry White and Clark is pure Richard Donner. Just as Perry tells Clark to get out there as good stories don’t just fall from the sky, a good story falls from the sky. Brainiac has arrived on Earth.

After a wave of destruction similar to that of Zod and his Phantom Zone escapees in Superman II, Clark changes into Superman with that classic movie scene of Clark Kent running down the street while ripping open his shirt moment. If I could own a piece of original art from this book, that two panel page would be it. Just gorgeous stuff. Superman does his normal saving the day, by taking out the menace with one punch. Actually, no he doesn’t. This is the robotic Brainiac, and he gives back as good as he gets. His analysis shows Superman is non-human, Kryptonian, and he adjusts his attack. Clark goes backwards through a skyscraper. Ouch.

Back on his feet, Superman steps up the force of his attack, and takes Brainiac’s head clean off. This, of course, isn’t really Brainiac at all, but a drone sent out to gather information in advance. The look of Brainiac and the ship is a tribute I’m assuming to the early 80’s makeover by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane, which obviously fits the style of this era. Another tick in the nostalgia geek box too. The real Brainiac is the classic bald, green skinned fella, busy miniaturising and collecting civilizations for their own good and keeping them in bottle aboard his ship. He’s none too happy with a rogue Kryptonian muddying the waters on a backwater planet like Earth, so is determined to do something about it. Metropolis and Superman are about to get a huge surprise.

This book literally oozed nostalgia and affection for the period, not only of the DC cinematic universe but also the comics of the time too. Although Wilfredo Torres has his own very distinct style, there were times when it felt like I was admiring a Curt Swan rendered Superman panel. Some of the figure placements were pure Swan. Other times, it looked though Christopher Reeve scenes had been lifted from the film and reinserted into a comic book. It all just felt ‘right’. Fantastic visuals aside, Robert Venditti did a great job with the script, evoking the period and the actors perfectly. Crafting an original story that felt completely organic was also a nice achievement too. You couldn’t have chosen two creators with more affection and sympathy for their material.

This was exactly what I hoped it would be. A love letter to a time and place that means a lot to a lot of people, myself included. Richard Donner would be proud.

***** 5/5


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