10 February 2012

Max Landis and the "death" of Superman

Supergeek Max Landis
When does a Youtube fan video become a legitimate film? When it features the likes of Elijah Wood, Simon Pegg, Ron Howard, and Mandy Moore. Or perhaps when written by and starring the son of one of the most iconic comedy film directors of the last century. Max Landis, son of John Landis (Blues Brothers, Animal House, Coming to America, Michael Jackson's "Thriller;" need I continue?), seems to be a bit of a comic book geek. Judging from the reception of Chronicle (written by Landis), a sort of Blair Witch Project faux-superhero home video, he's already begun to redefine the idea of the superhero in Hollywood.

A look at his IMDB profile also lists a writer credit for a short entitled The Death and Return of Superman. DAROS (produced by Brian Basham) features Landis as he tells the tale of, well -- read the title, but also of comic books in the 1990s, when a single issue could potentially sell in the millions and, as a friend of mine recounts, one's first comic book could have even been purchased at a hair salon. Acting out the hilarious events of the *sigh* classic Superman story are Elijah Wood as Cyborg Superman, Mandy Moore as Lois Lane, and more, as Landis narrates from a white leather chair, Johnny Walker Black in hand, in what appears to be the Matrix white room.

Superman #75
I remember the death and subsequent return of Superman quite well. Relatively new to comic books in 1992, the death of a superhero was baffling and exciting. Supes' death in Superman #75 was polybagged with his grisly, bloody shield on front. But it couldn't be opened! No, there was value inside. Comics were expected to be retirement income in the nineties. With no such thing as torrents and pirating; there was no way to know its contents. Purchasing another copy never occurred to me. Don't judge me. So there it stood in my white cardboard comic box, bagged and boarded seemingly forever.

Then I became aware of the newsstand edition -- a cheaper (in quality and price) copy I could purchase to read. I get the impression there were comic-book-store-comics and everywhere-else-comics back then. They were everywhere in the nineties! Anyway, I'm sure I loved the issue at the time, but looking back now, the frat boy punch-fest that Landis describes is pretty accurate. And pretty dumb. I followed all of the "Funeral For A Friend" and "Reign of Supermen" events that followed until, What? Superman was returning?!

Adventures of
Superman #175
The Adventures of Superman #175 came out a mere year later, polybagged in white with the classic shield proudly displayed. Classy, right? This time I bought two copies; price be damned! I immediately tore one open as soon as I closed the door to my bedroom to find inside was a holographic cover of Superman flying toward an outreached hand (layers of special packaging!) The tale of Pa Kent ushering Supes home from some Kryptonian netherworld was ludicrous even for my 15-year old self.

I was outraged. It may have been the first time I felt victim to some cheap marketing gimmick. I tore the pages out, sold all my Superman comics during a yard sale, and all future The Death of So-And-So stories were ruined for me forever, whether legit story or marketing ploy. Even Superman as a character was off-limits until Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman nearly 15 years later.
Superman #75 by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding; DC 1992
Watch Landis explain Batman's own "death" event (which to this day I have not read despite its general acclaim) while preparing Insalata Caprese below and subscribe to the his Youtube page for more comics videos including a drunken lecture on the history of Robin.

Score: Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest | DJ Concept, Flight Patterns | Eels, Electro-Shock Blues | Rustie, Glass Swords


Sobo said...

Great post man! I'm sorry I didn't get to it sooner after you texted me. I couldn't agree more with everything you said. It completely destroyed any credibility the big companies have when touting a "death."

Also Batman's the only character I actively keep up on and I don't particularly love Knightfall. It reads like a series of ideas a teenager would have only written by real writers.

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