Warner Bros.’ announcement of a “Batman vs. Superman” sequel to Man of Steel at Comic-Con International triggered a 161 percent surge in digital sales of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in July, setting a record for a full-priced DC Entertainment digital title, Variety reports.
The publisher previously mentioned “a huge jump in month-over-month [digital] sales” of Frank Miller’s pioneering 1986 work, but didn’t offer more than that. Like most publishers, DC doesn’t reveal actual sales figures for either print or digital.
The influential four-issue miniseries brings an aging Batman out of retirement a decade after the death of Jason Todd to save Gotham from sinking deeper into decay and lawlessness. With the help of a new, female Robin, Carrie Kelly, the Dark Knight ends the threat of the mutant gangs that have overrun the city and confronts two of his greatest enemies. But then he must face his former ally Superman in a battle that only one will survive.
Although Man of Steel director Zack Snyder was quick to caution at Comic-Con that the sequel wouldn’t be an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, actor Harry Lennix read dialogue from the book — “I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat” — and Miller was reportedly set to meet with the filmmaker.
So have you heard there’s a new Superman movie out? It’s mostly playing in small art-house theaters with a minimal marketing budget, so you might’ve totally missed it. You should check it out.
If you haven’t seen it, fair warning: Here there be spoilers.
This isn’t a review because, honestly, you’ve probably already made up your mind. However, it is a look at how the changes to the Superman mythos made in Man of Steel have altered the origin, and indeed the character, intrinsically.
A lot of these observations were inspired by a podcast discussion of the movie at Part-Time Fanboy, in which host Kristian Horn caught on to something that hadn’t really stood out to me on my first viewing (the episode was recorded earlier in the week and should be available today). Since the recording, I’ve been thinking about what he said, and the more I think about it, the more I see how it seriously alters Clark Kent, and may in fact be the root of my problems with the Man of Steel.
Most people just looking for an exciting movie or a badass Superman enjoyed Man of Steel, and there is plenty to like: There’s some excellent design, particularly of Krypton, the bar has been raised on super-person battles, and most of the acting is fine to actually quite good; Kevin Costner’s delivery of the line “You are my son,” despite being over-used in trailers, choked me up.
Warner Bros.’ Man of Steel has grossed $141.3 million domestically since its June 14 premiere, breaking the record for a June opening on its way to a $214.6 million worldwide box office. That’s not bad for four days’ work. Of course, the franchise reboot had an estimated $225 million production budget, plus another $150 million for marketing and distribution, so Zack Snyder & Co. still have a way to go.
Clearly the film has legs, which means plenty of more Superman stories online and in print. Here are just a handful of them (warning: potential spoilers!):
• BuzzFeed turned to Watson Technical Consulting to calculate the real-life toll Man of Steel’s sprawling battle between Superman and General Zod would take on Metropolis — or, in this case, New York City — both in terms of money and human life. The disaster experts paint a grim picture in the days following the fight: 129,000 known dead, more than 250,000 missing (most of whom would’ve also died) and nearly 1 million injured. The strictly physical damage is pegged at $700 million, compared to 9/11′s $55 billion (with a further economic impact of $123 billion). The overall damage would be about $2 trillion.
One big potential problem with any Superman incarnation is his relationship with the audience. Even if the story centers around a credible moral dilemma, it risks having him make a choice with which the audience disagrees. Put another way, you can start with a Superman with a definite code of ethics, who always tries to do the right thing, and who puts others’ welfare above his own, and you might still end up with the Injustice comic, the pure-Straczynski issues of “Grounded,” or Superman Returns. For a significant group of fans, these are cautionary examples of How Not To Do Superman (although apparently those Injustice comics sell reasonably well…).
Accordingly, it helps if the audience trusts the particular Superman writer, which is where Scott Snyder, David Goyer, and Christopher Nolan come in. Snyder is already a big deal at DC thanks to his Batman work. Likewise, last year Goyer (screenwriter) and Nolan (producer/director) wrapped up a wildly successful Batman film trilogy.
Still, it’s easy to do Batman. For one thing, Batman doesn’t need to be a nice guy. Like James Bond or Don Draper, his main focus is the work, and the style with which he gets the particular job done. If Bats gets to make a hard moral choice, as he did at the conclusion of The Dark Knight, that’s just gravy.
With that in mind, we turn to the week’s two newest Superman vehicles, one an ongoing comic book, and the other a new film incarnation, to see what choices they present to our hero.
With director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel opening today nationwide (many theaters had screenings as early as 12:01 a.m.), it’s impossible to swing a dead Kent without hitting a dozen Superman-related items online or in print. Although most of them are directly related to the Warner Bros. franchise reboot, there are plenty with clear comic-book ties. Here are just a handful of them:
• Superman gets the cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly, on which Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson’s rendition of the Last Son of Krypton (from December 1972′s Action Comics #419) is given prominence over the movie and TV versions — possibly because Man of Steel star Henry Cavill was featured in April, but hey, we’ll take it. But poor, poor Brandon Routh …
• Mark Waid, whose 2003-2004 miniseries Superman: Birthright (with Leinil Francis Yu) influenced Man of Steel, saw the movie last night and tweeted, “That thunder you heard at around 9:15 EST was the sound of my heart breaking in two.” He followed that with a review on his Thrillbent website that he prefaced with, “It’s a good science-fiction movie, but it’s very cold. It’s not a very satisfying super-hero movie. That said, if your favorite part of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE was Superman standing in the Fortress while Jor-El lectured him, you’re gonna love MAN OF STEEL.”
I can’t help but admire the devotion to a comic book or a character that leads some fans to create tributes in the form of tribute films, webseries, or trailers for motion pictures that will probably never exist — and I wish I had that sort of passion for a work of fiction (and, y’know, the talent and resources to do something like that).
Luckily for us, however, the folks at the production company Will & Tale don’t lack in any of those areas, and gleefully undertook a three-month “passion project” to create an unofficial title sequence for director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
If it’s the first Grumpy Old Fan of 2013, it must be time for “Ten From the Old Year, Ten For the New.” For those who came in late, every January I evaluate 10 predictions/observations from the previous year, and present 10 for the next. Accordingly, first we have commentary on 2012′s items.
1. The Dark Knight Rises. I had three rather superficial questions about the final Christopher Nolan Batman movie. First, “[c]an it make a skillion dollars?” Not quite — while it did make over a billion dollars worldwide, it didn’t make as much as its predecessor domestically, and it came in second to The Avengers. Next was “[w]ill it have Robin?” Well … [SPOILER ALERT] it depends on your definition of “Robin,” I suppose. And finally, referring to certain issues about Bane’s elocution, “[w]ill it have subtitles?” Nope — as it turns out, they weren’t needed. Instead, Bane’s accent was perfectly suited to breaking not just Batman, but Alex Trebek as well.
“It’s a more serious version of Superman. It’s not like a heart attack. We took the mythology seriously. We take him as a character seriously. I believe the movie would appeal to anyone. I think that you’re going to see a Superman you’ve never seen before. We approached it as though no other films had been made. He’s the king-daddy. Honestly that’s why I wanted to do it. I’m interested in Superman because he’s the father of all superheroes. He’s this amazing ambassador for all superheroes. What was it about him that cracked the code that made pop culture embrace this other mythology? What we‘ve made as a film not only examines that but is also an amazing adventure story. It’s been an honor to work on. As a comic book fan, Superman is like the Rosetta Stone of all superheroes. I wanted to be sure the movie treated it respectfully.”
– Man of Steel director Zack Snyder, discussing his upcoming reboot of Warner Bros.’ Superman franchise, as well as his 2009 adaptation of Watchmen
Season’s Greetings and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what we’ve been reading lately. Today our special guests are Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows, editors of Devastator: The Quarterly Comedy Magazine for Humans. Their latest issue has a video game theme, with contributions from James Kochalka, Corey Lewis, Danny Hellman and many more. And if you head over to their website between now through Dec. 16, the code ROBOT6 gets you 20 percent off single issues.
To see what Amanda, Geoffrey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.