Look! Up in the sky!

By | Tuesday, June 13, 2006 Leave a Comment
I just watched Look, Up in the Sky - The Amazing Story of Superman -- a documentary on, obviously enough, Superman. I'm not a huge Superman fan, personally, but Superman's history parallels comic book history rather closely, so I feel I know a lot about him considering I don't really like the character.

Okay, that was Bias #1. Bias #2 is that, even without seeing it, it's fairly evident that this was made in no small part to help promote the new Superman movie coming out next week.

Both those items out of the way, though, I will have to say that I was fairly impressed overall. The documentary covered A LOT of material. They dug up footage from nearly every incarnation of the character (I didn't see anything of the late-1980s pre-Dini cartoon) and got interviews with a wide range of people involved in the Superman mythos. There were some standards -- Paul Levitz, Mark Wade, Margot Kidder, Noel Neill, etc. -- but they also pulled in Jack Larson, Ilya Salkind, and Lesley Ann Warren (none of whom I think I've ever seen interviewed previously).

I don't recall anything that was expressly wrong or misleading, which is a pleasant surprise for a comic book related documentary; however, there were some things that got glossed over. Like the fact that Siegel and Shuster would rather have done Superman as a newspaper strip initially. Or that they spent most of their lives destitute because DC shafted them out of the character's royalties. The legal battles that occurred when everyone and their brother tried to copy Superman. Granted, there are time limitations and you can't touch on each and every aspect of the character's 70-year history, but some of that seems more relevant to me than, say, an interview with Adam West.

What I found very interesting is that the documentary focuses on Superman the franchise moreso than Superman the character. There's very little mention of what happens in any of the stories (comics, TV, movies, radio, whatever...) unless it's told in relation to cross-marketing with other media. The premise of the film seems to be that Superman is the global icon that he is precisely because he was marketed extremely well in the late 1930s and early 1940s. That, sure, there's something to be said for him being a great creation, but that wouldn't matter if he wasn't sold to the consumer public.

I might be coming across as cynical -- which I probably am -- but it really was a well-done documentary on the whole. Even after seeing it on A&E, I'm considering buying the DVD when it comes out later this month.
Newer Post Older Post Home