I did my top 20 horror and SF films last year, and found doing the lists to be more fun than expected, so in a massive bit of logic here’s my top 20 films adapted or inspired from comics. I need to point out I mean comics, not ‘superhero comics’ which is a lazy, and incorrect way to describe a wonderfully varied medium and it’d also cut out some bloody good films!
Previously, in this list at #20, X Men, 19, The Crow, 18, Heavy Metal, 17, Spider Man ,16, The Avengers, 15, Danger: Diabolik, 14, The Dark Knight Trilogy , 13, A History of Violence, 12, Kick Ass , 11,Spider Man 2 , 10, Barbarella, 9, Batman Returns, 8, X Men 2, 7, Dredd, 6, Batman, 5, Akira , 4, American Splendor, 3, Batman: The Movie and 2, Ghost World.
Number one on my list is the one and only Superman: The Movie.
When I was working this list out a few months ago this was in my top ten though nowhere near the top. As I thought more and more about it, I realised I was trying hard to avoid the cliche of sticking this at the top and although there’s things in my list I’d now like to change (having now seen Iron Man 3 I’d easily place it in my top 20 in the lower regions) I was being an arse to myself if I didn’t have this film at the top of my list.
In December 1978 I was taken by both my parents to the ABC cinema in Glasgow on a snowy, cold, dark night to see Superman. I’d been going on about it since seeing a teaser trailer some months before that made me wet my pants.
Imagine being 10 or 11, loving comics and sitting there in a dark cinema watching that come flying at you. Even if you didn’t know who these people all were, you knew they were important because their names were flying at you across the sky and the music sounded really, really important!
DC Comics throughout 1977 and 1978 advertised the coming of the film ,and although I was mainly a Marvel lad at the time, I still bought the Justice League of America and The Flash, so I was fully aware of what was happening which was a serious big-budget Superman film with serious film stars. I couldn’t wait, and the tagline ‘you’ll believe a man can fly’ was something I wanted to believe because it’s bloody Superman!
Obviously as a child I wanted to be excited and although I didn’t know who Christopher Reeve was, I knew as soon as he appeared on screen in the Superman outfit that this man was Superman. He was perfect. In fact the entire film was perfect from the first part on a ghostly alien Krypton with a not too bloated Marlon Brando, to the touching section in Smallville with young Clark Kent growing up and the rest of the film exploding into life when it hits Metropolis and we finally see that a man can fly. For the entire length of the film I forgot about the cold and the snow and the wind. I forgot about the grinding pain life actually was then. I was taken away by Richard Donner’s wonderful film into a world where heroes were bold and villains like Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor were just bastards.
On the way home I was still buzzing from seeing the film, even though it was a heavy snowstorm and it was freezing. As I reluctantly climbed into bed (I remember getting home and reading all my Superman comics, well, as many as I could) all I had in my mind was John Williams fantastic score, and the thought of Christopher Reeve’s Superman soaring into the sky…
Of course some of the effects don’t hold up in 2014, and at times the story creaks, but Reeve holds it all together brilliantly and with Margot Kidder being a Lois Lane who is interesting enough to attract an alien like Superman, her Lois Lane is still by far the definitive version, but it’s always going to be Christopher Reeve with his perfect version of Clark Kent and his definitive Superman that will make this film what it is which is a classic of modern cinema. Man of Steel might have the effects but it doesn’t have the joy, or the fun, or the romance let alone the obvious love for the subject that Superman :The Movie has.
To be fair though, few films have.
A final word for Superman II.
It’s a flawed film. I wish Richard Donner had completed it but he didn’t so we ended up with the mash-up which the film was (though the Donner Cut is around, it’s a painful glimpse of what could have been) but it still has plenty to offer, especially Terrance Stamp’s wonderful villain General Zod, and the first real superhero fight on a cinema screen which matched a child’s idea of what a fight would look like in the ‘real’ world.
I enjoy Superman II still to this day. It doesn’t quite still hold the place in my heart that it used to or the first film does, but it’d be remiss of me to miss out mentioning it.
That’s it then. My top 20 comic book films. What’s next for my best of lists?
Well, how does my top 20 documentaries sound?