The world of comic book fans is fraught with frenzied fanatics bent on arguing their point of view to the extent of nausea induction. It’s always been this way. I remember an argument I had as a teen with a kid I knew from the comic shop I frequented about who would win a battle between Silver Surfer and Wolverine. He, being the typical unenlightened Marvel fiend, drooled at the mere thought of Wolverine in tight yellow spandex. I, however, was of sound and logical mind…and had a huge man-crush on the wielder of the Power Cosmic. It was a duel for the ages. It was, of course, unending and without resolution since my point was that Silver Surfer, with his infinite resources of power, enough to fight the mighty Galactus, could simply incinerate Wolverine in an instant. His point boiled down to this:“Wolverine is more popular, so he’d win.” Wow. Amazing point.
Why do I tell this tale of geeked-out dumb assedness? Because it’s important to understand the past to grasp the value of this fact: it is inarguable that All-Star Superman is an amazing and truly epic tale. Comic nerds can argue virtually any point, but I would be hard-pressed to find any true comic fan who couldn’t appreciate this book. DC Comics could not have picked a finer storyline to make into a full-length movie.
All-Star Superman is as visually dynamic in movie form as it is as a comic, which is not always the case. The only other that comes to mind is Batman: The Animated Series because it maintained the quality of story-telling that fans of Batman expected but was also able to create its own unique view of Gotham, but I digress.
Superman tells the tale of the end of Superman’s life. It’s true. DC Comics allowed Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly to kill Superman. And not in the mamby-pamby way they let Dan Jurgens did it back in the 90s, this time he stays dead…or does he? He does, at least as far as you can see. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The movie starts out with Superman saving P.R.O.J.E.C.T. leader Leo Quintum and his crew during the first manned mission to the sun. The mission had been sabotaged by none other than Lex Luthor. During this event Superman’s cells are hyper-exposed to solar radiation, and as such, they become super-charged and start to convert to pure energy. Quintum, who plays a much larger role in the comic than in the movie, sets out to find a cure or at least a way of replacing the man of steel.
The movie progresses much the same as the comic, with Clark exposing the truth of his superhuman nature to Lois Lane and then her being given his super powers for one day. The appearance of Samson and Atlas, leading to the altercation with the Ultra-Sphinx, also occurs. It then jumps ahead to Clark’s interview with Luthor at Stykers Island prison. Here the movie diverges from the comic a little when the involvement of Parasite is laid out differently but is no less action packed.
After Clark successfully escapes he, as Superman, says goodbye to Lois and explains that he’s taking the Kandorians to a planet he’s located for them far off in the galaxy. Upon returning he finds Bar-El and Lilo, Kryptonian astronauts who had been lost in space but followed the energy signature of Kal’s ship to Earth, planning to rebuild Earth in Krypton’s image and that they’ve moved in to his fortress, destroying the statues of his Kryptonian parents in the process. As in the comic this incites a battle between Kal-El and Bar-El, breaking the moon in the process. The one difference in this arc of the story is that in the comic when Superman sends them to the Phantom Zone it is with the intention of letting them be the law there; in the movie it doesn’t touch on that at all.
The movie then dives right into the final act. Luthor has partnered with Solaris and used the super-computer sun to corrupt one of Superman’s robots. This act gains him access to the super-serum created to give Lois Lane powers, which he drinks just before he is meant to be put to death. Luthor goes on a rampage and sets the stage for his final battle with Superman, ever.
The differences between the comic and the movie are pretty significant from a percentage point of view; five of the twelve issues are not covered at all or parts are changed significantly to be included. But in the end it doesn’t really matter and won’t affect your enjoyment of the movie whatsoever. The issues left out are: four, six, seven, eight and ten. Four is more of a Jimmy story. Seven and eight involve the Bizarro world invading Earth, which makes sense why they didn’t include it; it would have eaten up a ton of screen time. Ten covers an alternate version of the resolution for the bottle city of Kandor. Issue six is something I would have loved to see included in the movie, but it does divert from the streamlined issues that make up the movie.
Six involves a point in Kal-El’s life when he was younger, still living in Smallville with his parents. A trio of men show up unexpectedly to help Pa Kent with the harvest. Clark senses something strange about them but can’t put his finger on it. As it turns out, he’s right. Each of the men is actually a Superman, members of the Superman Squad. They are at this point in the time stream to stop and contain the Chronovore, a beast that eats time. There is a lot of significance in this issue: first, it shows this reality’s version of how Clark’s dad perishes. Second, and possibly even more important, it plants the idea that Superman eventually does return from repairing the sun in a new form.
I’m glad to see Warner Bros. continuing to grow the Superman franchise as it builds up to the new live-action movie it has planned. To date this is the best DC Comics animated movie, with “Batman: Under the Red Hood” a close second. Based on the quality of the story arc they chose to follow for the movie, the stunning designs and for overall excellence I give All-Star Superman: The Movie