DCnU Superman (2011).
Here's a twist. There's more to explaining the paranormal than standing in a dungeon with night vision TV cameras and an EMF reader. And there's more to rationalizing the unseen, the hidden, the compelling mysteries of our world than debunking them in scientific terms. It's time to talk about the peculiar power of curses. Curses born of suffering. Curses that last beyond the grave. How does the strange psychological and social alchemy of a curse - a powerful, dark, cryptic wish on someone else's welfare - bear out in the real world?
- Scriptwriter David Seltzer's plane was struck by lightning.
- Star Gregory Peck, in a separate incident, had his plane struck by lightning.
- Richard Donner's hotel was bombed by the Provisional IRA .
- Gregory Peck canceled his reservation on a flight. The plane he had originally chartered crashed, killing all on board (a group of Japanese businessmen).
- A warden at the safari park used in the "crazy baboon" scene was attacked and killed by a lion the day after the crew left.
- Rottweilers hired for the film attacked their trainers.
- On the first day of shooting, the principal members of the crew got in a head-on car crash.
David Lynch made one of his more troubling, yet brilliant, yet troubling, films, Inland Empire (2006), about a remake of a cursed movie inside a cursed movie, with the two looping back on each other like a Möbius strip.
But there is one more film curse on the list: Superman. And what better time to talk about the famous Superman curse than when DC Comics has turned itself inside out and rebooted its fictional universe, in part because of Superman.
Siegel and Shuster had invented one of America's greatest heroes, perhaps, as Meltzer says - the world's greatest hero. And he's a hero, to borrow from Lermontov, for our times. But in the decades that followed, Superman became a symbol of another American complex (perhaps a world complex) - the stuggle between the haves and the have nots. Siegel and Shuster created Superman before they sold the character to the company that was DC's predecessor. They were the original copyright holders and did not create the hero under a work-for-hire contract. They were paid $130 for their creation in 1938, relinquishing copyright control to DC, an agreement that was later partly overturned.On the night of June 2, 1932, the world's first superhero was born — not on the mythical planet of Krypton but from a little-known tragedy on the streets of Cleveland.
It was Thursday night, about 8:10 p.m., and Mitchell Siegel, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, was in his secondhand clothing store on the near East Side. According to a police report, three men entered. One asked to see a suit of clothes and walked out without paying for it. In the commotion of the robbery, Siegel, 60, fell to the ground and died.
The police report mentions a gunshot being heard. But the coroner, the police and Siegel's wife said Siegel died of a heart attack. No one was ever arrested.
What happened next has exploded some of the longest-held beliefs about the origins of Superman and the two teenage boys, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who invented America's best-known comic-book hero.
Past accounts suggest Siegel and Shuster, both 17, awkward and unpopular in high school, invented the meek Clark Kent and his powerful alter-ego, Superman, to attract girls and rise above their humble Cleveland beginnings.
But now it appears that the origin might have been more profound — that it was the death of Jerry Siegel's father that pushed the devastated teen to come up with the idea of a "Superman" to right all wrongs.
"In 50 years of interviews, Jerry Siegel never once mentioned that his father died in a robbery," says Brad Meltzer, a best-selling author whose novel, The Book of Lies ... links the Siegel murder to a biblical conspiracy plot.
"But think about it," Meltzer says. "Your father dies in a robbery, and you invent a bulletproof man who becomes the world's greatest hero. I'm sorry, but there's a story there."
Siegel's curse, combined with memories of the controversial 1959 suicide of actor George Reeve who first played Superman (dramatized in the excellent movie Hollywoodland, which is possibly the second-most compelling Superman film ever made), led to stories of the Superman curse. This curse has been considered mainly to affect actors and crew associated with Superman film productions:"I hope it super-bombs. I hope loyal Superman fans stay away from it in droves. I hope the whole world, becoming aware of the stench that surrounds Superman, will avoid the movie like the plague. The publishers of Superman comic books, National Periodical Publications Inc, killed my days, murdered my nights, choked my happiness, strangled my career. I consider National's executives economic murderers, money-mad monsters."
- George Reeves' suicide, 1959.
- Bud Collyer voiced the first Superman cartoon from 1941-43 and again in 1966, after which he died of a circulatory ailment.
- Lee Quigley, who played Superman as a baby in the 1978 film, died in 1991 at age 14 due to solvent abuse.
- Kirk Alyn played Superman in two low-budget 1940s serials but failed to find work afterwards because he was too closely identified with the role.
- Christopher Reeve played Superman/Clark Kent in the Superman film series, was typecast, and died young in 2004 as a result of paralysis incurred through a horse riding accident in 1995. His wife died shortly after at age 44 of lung cancer, although she never smoked.
- Margot Kidder, who played Superman’s love interest Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve, suffers from intense bipolar disorder. In April 1996, she went missing for several days and was found by police in a paranoid, delusional state.
- Comedian Richard Pryor, who had previously suffered from a drug addiction that led to a near fatal suicide attempt, starred as villain/anti-hero Gus Gorman in 1983’s Superman III. Three years later, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He died of cardiac arrest on December 10, 2005
After all, what does Superman stand for, this great hero who battled crime and injustice at America's heart? Does he stand for 'Truth, Justice and the American Way'? Or does he stand for corporate greed and profits? Is DC's core motivation in creating the DCnU dodging the Superman copyright, rather than finding a settlement? Is DCnU in fact DC's desperate manouevre in the eleventh hour to keep using the hero without fully compensating his creators' estates? Is DC reworking Superman into a character who only reflects the bits of the hero to which the company owns the rights? Is this why DCnU has broken up Superman and Lois Lane? I discussed the importance of the court cases and related them to the DCnU reboot, here.
Whatever you think of the DCnU, it's a sign of the times. CNN's reviewer noticed these themes in the DCnU's 52 September titles:
Will DC's grasp of the Zeitgeist - likely driven by this strange copyright battle - be a pyrrhic victory? If DC really did launch the DCnU in an effort to avoid a copyright settlement, has it somehow stripped Superman of his heroism? I am not talking so much about what George Perez and Grant Morrison will do with the character in upcoming stories, but the underlying motivations - the inescapable boardroom truths and values, the Fourth Wall decisions - which drive the changes.It’s true the times, they are a changin’. In my next piece on reading the New 52, I’ll reveal how deeply tied to our zeitgeist these comic books really are. Subjects like class, diversity, mass media and terrorism permeate the re-launch and show just how much of a cultural event this really is. The presence of these topical themes suggests again that the company really wants readers to identify with their new universe, whether they’re new, old or returning. After reading all 52 issues I can’t say for certain that their strategies will work.
And if that's the case, if DC unwittingly strips its greatest hero of his core heroism, will the DCnU lead to the final fulfillment of the Superman curse? At the seminal moment when print and film media finally merge, that would be the ultimate Millennial irony. Curses, judgments, and the transformation of the media may together deliver the final verdict on what now can be considered just and injust, what is right and wrong, and what is heroic and what isn't in this crazy world.
See all my posts on Horror themes.
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