Can anything destroy Superman? As one of the most recognizable and perenially famous characters in history, it doesn't appear that anything can, despite many many competent competitors.
While he was first, he's not always the best. Superman is a lot like Doom. Superman was the very first superhero, just like Doom was the very first first-person shooter game. Both ideas caught on like wildfire, and resulted in endless imitators, but many of those imitators started building on those ideas and made the original look primitive. We now have superheroes with everyday problems, moral struggles and varying storylines. We also have FPSes that have outdone Doom in every way. In Doom, all you did was walk around and shoot stuff. With Superman, all there was to it was that he was super and he rescued people. Doom was soon seen as merely quaint--just like Superman. But both concepts have managed to live to this very day. Superman just got another movie. And hey, so did Doom!
Perhaps the simplicity of the Superman concept is what has kept it alive for so long. We may identify more with Spider-Man, and find the X-Men more fascinating, but Superman is comfort food. There's nothing brainy or deep about him, but he never changes (except in some pretty embarrassing occasions, but more on those later). He always stands for truth and justice, though not so much "The Americans always getting their own way" these days, or he'd get nasty letters.
Superman was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1938. He remains their only successful creation--everything else they tried failed to catch on.
Six issues and done. Go figure.
The Superman concept is bizarre in nature, and it's certainly resulted in a lot of bizarre literature. (Scroll down the page to see Superman as a tree.) There have been high and low points in the long and twisted mythos of the red-caped humanoid alien. And the Super Hall of Shame is all about the lowest of the low! It's time for a stroll through some of the worst concepts and ideas to ever bare the "S".....
I know....duh. Everyone knows this had to go on the list somewhere, so why not at the beginning? You might be wondering what I can say that hasn't already been said. Well, there's one thing I've observed and Superman III is a great way to point it out: Superman never jumps the shark. He leaps over 10,000,000 sharks in a single bound, going from spectacular to horrifying in mere seconds.
Superman III starts off kind of fun, actually, but with every minute and every appearance from Richard Pryor it gets worse and worse until you just can't believe what you're seeing. WHAT a fall from Superman II. Normal concepts get bad gradually. But live-action Superman series have a knack for going REALLY rotten if allowed to continue too long. It happened here, it happened with Lois and Clark, and it's happening now with Smallville.
I recently acquired 75 episodes of the old Superman TV show, videotaped off KATU in the early 80's. I'd heard the new DVDs of this series have material cut out, and not by choice--the holders of the master copies didn't treat them well over the decades. I was also planning to make that show the original subject of this page, but as you can see, a better idea hit me.
The Adventures of Superman lasted six seasons and generated high ratings right up to the end--when its star George Reeves kinda shot himself. A seventh season was in the planning, but it had to be abandoned...or did it? The network execs got a truly inspired idea...continue the show with Superman reincarnated as a dog!
It never got past the pilot stage, but that one pilot still exists, and you can see clips from it on the "Look, Up In the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman" documentary, available wherever DVDs are sold. Wow.
Lois Joanne Lane has always been strong, fiery and self-sufficient from the very first issue of Action Comics, when she responded to Clark's request for a date with "I suppose I'll give you a break...for a change." But there was this period between 1946 and 1964 where all women put their hair in bonnets and spent all day cleaning their houses while all men went to work in white-collar jobs but never removed their suits and hats, not even for lovemaking--which didn't happen because they all slept in separate beds and storks delivered children to them, who grew up wearing shoddy beanies on their heads and said things like "Golly, fellers!"
This strange disease known as the "Fifties" affected everything, including Lois Lane. During this period, she was either spending time whining that Superman should marry her or being thrown into peril from whom only Superman could rescue her. It was this Lois that wound up on the original Superman TV series.
How stiff was Stepford Lois?
She was so stiff that there's this one episode where Superman and his friends are trapped in a pit with Kryptonite rays weakening Superman, and the walls are closing in on them. Superman stopped the walls by shoving LOIS in between them. Now THAT'S stiff, man.
The Legion of Superpets
Yes...DC tried it once and some of them still show up from time to time (the most recent example being Cartoon Network's "Krypto the Superdog" show).
There are some super-spinoffs that have worked. But "Superpets"? No. That's just stupid.
Lois and Clark's Failed Expedition
It was the first full week of February in 1996 when ABC ran promos for a Lois and Clark episode that promised the pair were actually going to get married. Normally, such an event would have months of prior promotion, so I thought the claim was a little suspicious...even though the actual Superman comic book had been making plans to finally marry Clark and Lois on the same week.
The episode ran, and the wedding happened, and
for a few minutes it seemed like DC was actually allowing
this--but PSYCHE!! In the end, Clark
found out he didn't marry Lois after all! He married a CLONE of
Lois! A clone of Lois that eats frogs! The REAL Lois was
in another state, as a lounge singer with amnesia!
And the wedding issue of the Superman comic book? It hit stands with a different cover announcing the engagement was broken off.
There's a point where the Lois and Clark show started to decline in ratings, and this is it. None of the viewers ever forgave the writers. A few months later the show resolved that awful plot twist and actually did marry off Lois and Clark, but no one was paying attention anymore. It didn't help that from the "frog-eating clone" point, the show really started dipping into insanity plotwise.
The wedding issue of Superman also came out at that time--but due to the emergency rescheduling (they were following the show, because they wanted the timing to be the same) the book was rushed and didn't live up to sixty years of expectations. Supes' honeymoon issue was even worse.
After nearly sixty years of celibacy, the look on Superman's face is understandable.
Hey wait a minute....why is he just sitting there? He's SUPERMAN--he can at least break those flimsy ropes, right?
Sadly, wrong. The comic had just finished a storyline called "The Final Night." In it Superman lost all his powers, so he married Lois as a mortal Kryptonian. He CAN'T break free--talk about lousy luck.
So what COULD he do with Lois? Um...reminisce. The plot of the issue was that their room was being robbed, and while they were tied up they discussed their favorite adventures from the recent past. Then panels from those adventures were shown. ......Yes, that's right. Superman's honeymoon issue, the issue sixty years in the making, was a clip show. This was due to the deadline--the issue came out one week after the rushed wedding issue and there was no time at all to put together a complete story.
.....And you thought Superman III was a disappointment.
Superman Gets Superfly
Over the years, there have been many attempts to revitalize or modernize the Superman character, usually with tacky and transparent results. One of the worst happened in January of 1997, right after Supes lost all his powers and married Lois. He found a way to get most of his powers back--by donning a funky new suit.
The "S" now stood for "Smurf on Steroids." The move plummeted sales and DC had to switch back to the traditional interpretation. It's a wonder Static Shock didn't approach him and start yelling "WATZUP WITCHOO MAN YOU WANNA STEAL MY COSTUME I'M GONNA SO SUE YOU WHAT YOU WANNA DO NEXT YOU GONNA STEAL MY EBONICS TOO YOU BETTA WATCH YOUR BACK MAN!!"
Superman 64 is considered by most people to be the worst game ever published for the Nintendo 64 system--quite ironic when you consider its source material. Bruce Timm had an awesome Superman cartoon running at the time, which is now regarded as one of the finest interpretations of the character put on film. The staff tried several novel ideas and breathed fresh life into the concept. For example, instead of Lex Luthor as the main villain, they brought in Jack Kirby's Darkseid character--a stony ruthless alien dictator with plans to own the universe and with strength easily matching Superman's. Darkseid was Superman's total opposite and he posed a real threat--whereas there are so many ways to kill Lex it'd barely take any Super-time at all. Many villains are a mere thorn in his side, but Darkseid drove Superman so crazy that they slugged it out rather viciously in later Justice League episodes.
Superman 64 was based on Timm's animated show, but in licensing only. To prove that point, you meet Darkseid in the middle of the game and he is just standing there in the middle of a parking garage. You punch his lights out--with ONE PUNCH--and carry him over your head to the police. Where they apparently have no problem keeping him in jail. Right.
As for the setup, Lex Luthor has Superman trapped in a vicious virtual replica of Metropolis! Lex paid the bare minimum to create this thing, since the draw distance is about five feet in all directions. The programmers covered the breaking-off point with fog and called it "Kryptonite Fog." Then they forced Superman to fly through rings--over and over and over! This is all you do, and with horrible flight controls to boot--except for the short missions in between where all you do is clumsily use your powers on things.
Any Superman cover from the 1940s through the 1970's
As you are already aware, there's an entire website devoted to displaying these for your amusement. They're unbelievable.
It's not like the history of Superman has produced all lemons.
"Kneel Before Zod!" --Zod
"Farewell, old friend. In the end, the world didn't really need a Superman...just a really brave one." --BT's animated series
"Su.....per.....maaaaan." --The Iron Giant
We wouldn't put up with him if he didn't deliver a good story every now and then. When it's good, it is very very
good, but when it is bad it is horrid.
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