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Author Topic: Superman III (1983) and the Comics  (Read 9413 times)

Offline Silver Nemesis

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Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« on: Tue, 19 Feb 2013, 21:24 »
The following is a collaborative analysis of Richard Lester's Superman III (1983) by myself and thecolorsblend.

Let's start off by adressing the biggest criticism people hurl at this movie Richard Pryor. Superman III was produced during the Bronze Age era. It was very common in comics of that vintage to showcase a guest star who would propel much of the plot. He would serve as a device to get other elements of the plot moving rather than acting as a villain (although sometimes that was the case). Here are just a few examples:

Superman v1 #253 (Billy Anders)
Superman v1 #261 (Carol Ferris/Star Sapphire)
Superman v1 #262 (Paul Demeos)
Superman v1 Annual #09 (Curt Swan... yes, *THAT* Curt Swan)
 
Each of the above characters take centre stage in their respective issues and drive a huge percentage of the plot and the conflicts. So the notion of a guest character like Gus Gorman sharing the spotlight with Superman is not without precedent in the source material.

Moving on to the plot itself. The main love interest in the film is Lana Lang. Lana is typically associated with Clark's early years living in Smallville. But she did show up in Metropolis as an adult in later comics. This led to a rivalry developing between Lana and Lois for Superman's affections during the Silver Age. Curiously, neither of them was too interested in Clark, whereas in the movie Lana is more attracted to Clark than she is Superman. This reflects the changing dynamic between the characters during the Bronze Age era. In the following example from Action Comics #543 (May 1983) Lana describes how her feelings of friendship towards Clark are maturing into feelings of a romantic nature. Clark in turn realises that Lana is finally more interested in his civilian alter ego than his costumed persona. The film presents a similar take on their relationship.


The synthetic kryptonite Gus Gorman gives to Superman induces the same unpredictable effects as red kryptonite does in the comics.


The sequence where the kryptonite causes Superman to split into two separate beings one Superman, the other Clark is adapted from 'The Splitting of Superboy' (Adventure Comics #255, December 1958). In both stories Superman is exposed to kryptonite radiation that has the strange effect of dividing him into two. In the comic it is the Clark doppelganger that is evil, while in the movie it is the Superman version.


In both stories the good and evil versions end up fighting each other in a junkyard.



Red kryptonite caused Superman to split into two people a second time in 'The Feud Between Superman and Clark Kent!' (Action Comics #293, October 1962). This time is was the adult Superman that was afflicted. The Clark Kent version is the good half in this story, while the Superman version is bad.


The bad Superman displays an increased libido.


His misguided super-activities have a negative impact on the people of Earth.


Interestingly, this story also features a scene where the bad Superman tries to impress Lois by making the Earth spin faster. This has the effect of making time pass more quickly. A possible influence on the time reversal scene from the first film?

There are several other issues where red kryptonite splits Superman and Clark into two different people. Usually the Superman version is the bad one, and typically he ends up fighting the good/Clark side of his personality before the two of them finally remerge. So this is one aspect of the movie that has many precedents in the comics.

Earlier treatments of the Superman III script featured Brainiac as a primary villain. The supercomputer at the end of the film is perhaps a reference to this plot point. One earlier outline of the story is said to have revealed that Gus Gorman himself was Brainiac in disguise. If we examine the supercomputer from that perspective, it can be seen as a variation on the Pre-Crisis villain Computo.



Computo was a supercomputer constructed by Brainiac 5 in 'Computo the Conqueror!' (Adventure Comics #340, January 1966). Like Gorman's computer, Computo is constructed with good intentions. But it quickly becomes self-aware and turns on its creator.



Computo is able to keep the Legion of Superheroes at bay by exploiting their individual weaknesses. This includes using a kryptonite ray to fend off Superman.


The idea of kryptonite radiation being channelled through a beam has been used in the comics many times. Here's an example from 'The Death of Superman!' (Superman #149, November 1961).


Towards the end of the film Superman crushes a piece of coal to turn it into a diamond. He first did this in the comics in 'The Wish That Came True' (Action Comics #115, December 1947).


The bad Superman also did this in the aforementioned Action Comics #293.


In the movie he uses the diamond to make a ring for Lana. Lois is jealous when she finds out about this (the following comparison is taken from Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #7, February 1959).


The movie ends with Lana getting a job at the Daily Planet, hinting that she may have a future career in journalism. In the Bronze Age comics Lana moved to Metropolis and worked as a television reporter for WMET-TV. She's also worked for Perry White in the comics, as seen here in 'Lana Lang, Superwoman' (Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #17, May 1960).


And that's all we have for Superman III.
« Last Edit: Tue, 9 Jan 2018, 22:11 by Silver Nemesis »

Offline thecolorsblend

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Re: Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 20 Feb 2013, 05:37 »
AWESOME! You connected the dots on stuff that honestly never would've occurred to me. Great job!

Offline Paul (ral)

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Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 20 Feb 2013, 17:54 »
Great post guys.

Offline gordonblu

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Re: Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 20 Feb 2013, 21:19 »
The mind boggles at how thorough you guys are! Massive props to you both!
Why is there always someone who bring eggs and tomatoes to a speech?

Offline Silver Nemesis

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Re: Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 21 Feb 2013, 20:16 »
I'm glad to hear people are enjoying these.

We've been looking into doing an analysis of Superman IV. So far I've drawn a blank on that one, but colors has already found some interesting references.

Offline Kamdan

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Re: Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 21 Feb 2013, 23:04 »
Is there a Superman II comparison in the works?

Offline greggbray

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Re: Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 25 Feb 2013, 02:00 »
This is terrific!

Offline Avilos

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Re: Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 26 Feb 2013, 22:12 »
I love these comic comparisons you have done. The Batman ones and now Superman. I been aware of these for awhile. I figured I should finally join to thank you.

Not that you need it but I could certainly help on Superman. I could add info on Smallville or the other series if you ever do them.

If I had more time and discipline, and computer skills I would have done something like this myself. The fact that you found stuff I did not know impresses me. Plus actually scanning images for the actual comics really explains it. That takes real work.

Notice that Action Comics #543 came out in 1983 the same year as the movie. DC had to be aware of the plot of the movie, which had to of been shot the year or 2 before. I wonder if the movie influenced the comics. Lana accepting Clark over Superman is so similar and had never been done before, it makes you wonder. Of course it could just be a coincidence. Its happened before.

Offline Paul (ral)

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Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 26 Feb 2013, 22:40 »
Welcome to the site!

thecolorsblend has done a great Smallville comparison thread
http://www.batman-online.com/forum/index.php?topic=2238

Offline Bobthegoon89

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Re: Superman III (1983) and the Comics
« Reply #9 on: Mon, 4 Mar 2013, 03:00 »
I'm one of those few people I guess in support of Superman III. It's not a patch on the previous entries but I could never despise a Reeve Superman picture. I'd happily view it anyday in place of a Smallville episode or Lois and Clark, even a George Reeves Superman.

However it's a great shame we never got what Iyla Salkind himself orginally wanted: a live action appearance by both Brainiac and Mr Mxylptlk (whose name I can't pronounce nor even spell! lol). What a sequel that would have been as the Superman films have always seemingly struggled with adapting any sort of comic book villans. To have a team up between these two (however bizaare and perhaps even unfilmable for even the early 80's Supes pictures) might have been very special, pre-dating the team ups of the Batman films. Course the Brainiac element sort of managed to get into the final film. I do like Superman III's theme of Superman versus sentient computers (a concept even pre-dating James Cameron's Terminator idea by just a year although that's always been a popular sci-fi theme if you've watched Dr Who's "The War Machines" from 1966! *ahem*). With today's far more advanced technology and machinery it may be an area it could go into again in the Cavill films. Well Facebook and Twitter are practically ruling the world and Mark Zuckerberg is as close to Ross Webster as you'll get!

I read Salkind wanted Dudely Moore to play Mxy. Whether he wouldv'e been a suitable follow up to Terence Stamp or Gene Hackman as a threat to Chris Reeve is a matter of debate. I think it wouldv'e been a fun choice. I recently watched the Salkind produced Santa Claus movie over Christmas in which Moore does a fine job teleporting around John Lithgow's office in elf-like manner. It certainly was the Mxy that never was.

The original choice to have Mxy also suggests the third movie was always going to be a more humourous outing for the series. Most of the early Superman villains such as the Toyman where deliberatly created as "clowns" to defeat Superman through humiliation rather than always through Bane-like brute force. You get it with the poor man's Joker known as the Prankster also. So I've never really understood the complaints about the films comedy factor. Comedy has in fact been a theme in many early Superman stories and it gives a nice variety to situations.

 

    
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