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  1. #1
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    Default What do you think of when you hear the phrase ''classic Superman''?

    This was inspired by the other thread about the need for the return of ''Classic Superman''...which of course, naturally begs the question what does one mean by ''Classic Superman''?

    I'm not talking about your favorite take on Superman or even which one you think is 'objectively' (is there such a thing when it comes to pop-culture?) great. I'm talking about what is your idea of a ''classic'' Superman? It may not even necessarily be one particular version, but a blend of different versions and ideas.

    To me, the ''classic Superman'' is the Superman of the 70's and 80's - the Bronze Age and the early Post-COIE era. Something like this:



    Or this...



    I'm a child of the 90's and when I first discovered Superman, in the early 00's, through watching reruns of STAS, it was this broad 70's/80's era which felt ''classic'' to me. It did inspire STAS in no small measure. And later, when I watched the Donner movie, and its sequels, I broadly felt the same ''classic'' sensibility. A lot of the adaptations since then that I feel have starred a ''classic'' take on Superman and his world have been derived from some blend of Post-COIE and Donner - Lois & Clark, CWs Supergirl and now Superman & Lois.

    Now mind you, these aren't necessarily my favorite takes on Superman. MOS remains my personal favorite Superman live-action movie (though even that film borrows heavily from the Post-COIE era and the Donner movie - albeit with a darker, or I would say more 'realist' tone). I love Morrison's Golden Age-inspired New 52 Superman. I've come to develop a deep appreciation for the original Siegal/Shuster Superman as well. American Alien might be one of my favorite reinventions of Superman. But to me, my baseline understanding of Superman, what feels like ''classic'' Superman to be, is a vague blend of the Bronze Age (mostly by way of Donner) and early Post-COIE. Everything else feels like a progression of that (S&L or any other post-marriage status quo), an intentional subversion or alternative to that (New 52, the Snyderverse to an extent), or a pre-cursor to that (the Golden Age and Silver Age).

    I must make a note here of the Fleischer cartoons. Those these far predate the ''classic Superman'' I have in my mind, sometimes they do blend in with my vision of what's classic. Possibly because these cartoons did heavily influence STAS and the rest of the DCAU that I grew up with. I guess after the Donner movie, it might be the adaptation that has endured the most through pop-cultural osmosis. It might be the earliest version of Superman that could be widely considered a ''classic''. So it rates an honorary mention for sure...

    Last edited by bat39; 08-07-2022 at 09:55 AM.

  2. #2
    Fantastic Member Jeffrey2's Avatar
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    For me the "classic" Superman is an amalgam of stuff from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Those were the days, BTW, when Superman was at the top of the comic book sales charts. The reinventions which started in the 90s were the start of a long and continuing decline in the popularity of the IP.

    In terms of live-action the cornerstone is the Donner STM film and Superman 2. That is not to say subsequent projects should mimic STM as SR did. After MOS, SR is my least favorite Superman film. What did STM have that MOS and SR did not have? Donner called it verisimilitude, but other words apply as well. Magical, alluring, uplifting - a certain "je ne sais quoi pas". All those descriptors entail a film that at its core is filled with hope and the promise of a bright tomorrow. Some of the best moments of STM (and the first two L&C seasons) were the light moments filled with banter between Lois and Clark or Lois and Superman. Who can forget the terrace scene where Lois asks Superman "how big are you?" and quickly catches herself and says I mean "how tall are you?". Or "who's got you?!". Those lines stick in my mind while I can't recall a single line from SR or MOS. The final scene from Superboy captures some of the Kidder spunkiness - just with Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk).

    On TV the term classic Superman conjures up Superboy. The early 90s series had a great mix of action and fun. The suit colors are vibrant and, beyond that, most of the scenes are filmed during the day which is why Superboy is visually sharp and focused. Unlike S&L where many of the action scenes are filmed at night or in dim settings. I enjoy S&L but wish its filmography was more like that of Superboy. As with MOS, the S&L super suit is dark. It doesn't stand out in scenes but is part of a "grainy" mix. This too is one of BvS's problems. The fight scene where Bats takes down Supes is dark. So dark that at times one can't make out the images. BTW, by the end of Snyder's extended JL cut Superman is wearing a black suit which takes away from any sense of hope a reborn Superman should have exuded.

    The filmography as well as the writing should sharply distinguish Superman from other characters in a way that lifts him up as an ideal that humanity can strive for. STM got it right when Jor El says "they are a great people" - humanity - "they just need someone to show the way". That someone is Kal and that is what has been missing in so much which has come since the 90s.

    Lastly, Superman should be forever 29. Young and in the early stages of his career. No marriage, no kids. Kal may want those things, but he chooses to not have a wife/family and instead dedicates himself to humanity - lifting them up and showing the way. Youth, BTW, holds the promise of better tomorrows and never-ending sunrises. That is part of Superman's allure.
    Last edited by Jeffrey2; 08-07-2022 at 09:58 AM.

  3. #3
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    In terms of comics? Silver Age Superman. It's what's often referenced when pop culture references Superman, right? The triangle of two (and the characterizations of the parties involved), the wacky powers, the near invincibility unless faced with Kryptonite or such, that picture of him sneezing away solar systems that's always posted in power level discussions, the art-style... everything there screams "classic" to me.

    Bronze Age already has this "we're updating the classics" feel, nevermind Post-Crisis. New 52 is too controversial to be called classic, Rebirth and onwards is too far down the timeline (Superman married and with a kid? That kid is now a young man and Superman himself, while Clark is Old Man Superman?) to be thought of as "classic" at this point.

    And as for Golden Age? I'd love to call that "classic Superman", but let's all be honest, the pop culture conception of Superman bears little resemblance to that guy.

    In terms of media adaptations? The Reeves movies. Love them, hate them, be indifferent to them, for a lot of people that's "classic Superman", and whether they think Superman should be like that or Superman should move away from that, it's always in terms of that being the standard.

  4. #4
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    "Classic" Superman is absolutely the Silver Age version. That's where the majority of his mythos cemented itself, and everything ever since has built off and revolved around it. Even the stuff that (one way or another) goes in different directions, like the 86 reboot or early New52, usually does so in relation to the Silver Age, either contradicting it for "something new" or doubling down on it to get "back to basics."

    I don't even think this is a subjective thing, it's about as objective as literary analysis can get.

    And for the record, the Silver Age isn't my favorite era. It's not even in my top 3.
    "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quinlan58 View Post
    In terms of comics? Silver Age Superman. It's what's often referenced when pop culture references Superman, right? The triangle of two (and the characterizations of the parties involved), the wacky powers, the near invincibility unless faced with Kryptonite or such, that picture of him sneezing away solar systems that's always posted in power level discussions, the art-style... everything there screams "classic" to me.

    Bronze Age already has this "we're updating the classics" feel, nevermind Post-Crisis. New 52 is too controversial to be called classic, Rebirth and onwards is too far down the timeline (Superman married and with a kid? That kid is now a young man and Superman himself, while Clark is Old Man Superman?) to be thought of as "classic" at this point.

    And as for Golden Age? I'd love to call that "classic Superman", but let's all be honest, the pop culture conception of Superman bears little resemblance to that guy.

    In terms of media adaptations? The Reeves movies. Love them, hate them, be indifferent to them, for a lot of people that's "classic Superman", and whether they think Superman should be like that or Superman should move away from that, it's always in terms of that being the standard.
    In general I'd agree with you. But the reason I'd personally go with Bronze Age more than Silver Age is that a lot of the far-out Silver Age stuff does not form most people's perceptions of Superman today. On average, people are more likely to know about the crystal fortress and the helicopter rescue than they are to know about Superman lifting a gigantic key to open the Fortress or Clark starting his career as Superboy (or even Superbaby!) Yeah, technically most of the Silver Age stuff was still around in the Bronze Age, but that was the point where the writers started taking the character and his world a bit more seriously again, and its that seriousness (or verisimilitude as Donner put it) that's reflected in the movie. In a way, Byrne's Post-COIE did the same thing the movie did - strip away some of the Silver Age excesses and boil the character back down to the essentials. Of course, the final result was significantly different in both cases (particularly when it came to stuff like whether Clark Kent or Kal-El was the real identity and whether both Kents were alive or one/both of them was dead). But there is enough that's similar in the Donner and Post-COIE approaches to Superman that these days, the popular conception of the character is some blend of both of them. I mean even if you check out something as recent as Superman: Space Age - while it's literally set during the era of the Silver Age comics, the major influences seem to be the Bronze Age, the Donner movies, and a bit of Post-COIE.

  6. #6
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    The vibe of the Fleischer toons and that Ruby Spears cartoon version from the 90s or whenever. Basically he is a fun loving well mannered guy of strong conviction and astounding power and intellect. He lives up to his design: a Genius of Intellect, a Hercules of Strength, and a Nemesis to Wrong Doers.

  7. #7
    Astonishing Member Johnny Thunders!'s Avatar
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    I think Superman deconstructions and evil Supermen give you an idea of who classic Superman is, whatever is the opposite or whatever the deconstruction is trying to parody, that’s the classic Superman. And those deconstructions start way back when. I read the Lion Headed Superman adventure this morning and that often gets cited as what people hate about classic Superman, but like a lot of those bizarre adventures, they are actually deconstructions of classic Superman.

  8. #8
    Ultimate Member Last Son of Krypton's Avatar
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    Pre-Crisis Superman, both Golden and Silver/Bronze Age.

  9. #9
    Invincible Member MajorHoy's Avatar
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    Curt Swan.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    "Classic" Superman is absolutely the Silver Age version. That's where the majority of his mythos cemented itself, and everything ever since has built off and revolved around it. Even the stuff that (one way or another) goes in different directions, like the 86 reboot or early New52, usually does so in relation to the Silver Age, either contradicting it for "something new" or doubling down on it to get "back to basics."

    I don't even think this is a subjective thing, it's about as objective as literary analysis can get.

    And for the record, the Silver Age isn't my favorite era. It's not even in my top 3.
    Missed out on your post during my previous reply so tackling it here!

    Again, I don't think you're necessarily wrong (I don't think either of us is wrong because I do believe there can't be an objective right answer here)...but here's my two cents for what it's worth.

    The Silver Age is definitely the era where Superman was the top-dog as far as comic sales were concerned (in the Golden Age it was Captain Marvel/Shazam who dominated, and post-Silver Age its been Batman or other - usually Marvel - characters). And a large chunk of his mythos were created during that period.

    But those elements of his mythos were refined into their most iconic forms after the Silver Age. The way I see it, the Silver Age provided the raw material of sheer bonkers creativity that later creators shaped into what we think of as the ''classic'' Superman.

    I know its a matter of semantics to some extent and that many use the terms Silver Age and Bronze Age interchangeably. It was the same continuity after all.

    But just think about it - how many of the truly iconic Superman adaptations really draw from the Silver Age more than they do from other eras or sources?

    The Donner movie took a very Bronze Age approach to the Superman mythos, treating it with seriousness and stripping away some of the sillier elements like Superboy or the giant key to enter the Fortress or red kryptonite. And in doing so, it became itself a kind of base template for many other adaptations to follow, as well as the comics themselves.

    The DCAU Superman tonally owes a lot more to the Bronze Age and Post-COIE eras (and aesthetically to the Golden Age-era Fleischer cartoons) than to the actual Silver Age. Snyder's Superman is a grittier take on Donner and Post-COIE. Lois & Clark, S&L, CW's Supergirl, even Smallville, all to varying degrees borrow from Donner and Post-COIE.

    I'd argue that the only adaptations which really reflect the pure unadulterated Silver Age are the various Superman cartoons of the 60's and 70's and the All Star Superman animated film (the comic too is a celebration of the Silver Age).

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    "Classic" Superman is absolutely the Silver Age version. That's where the majority of his mythos cemented itself, and everything ever since has built off and revolved around it. Even the stuff that (one way or another) goes in different directions, like the 86 reboot or early New52, usually does so in relation to the Silver Age, either contradicting it for "something new" or doubling down on it to get "back to basics."

    I don't even think this is a subjective thing, it's about as objective as literary analysis can get.

    And for the record, the Silver Age isn't my favorite era. It's not even in my top 3.
    I think it’s comic book “classic” Superman, definitely… but I think the larger pop culture one is shaped by the more post-crisis-friendly Tv shows and cartoons as it is the Donner films’ Silver Age elements.

    For instance, I think Businessman Lex is now a “classic” archetype thanks to Lois and Clark, Smallville, and STAS.
    Like action, adventure, rogues, and outlaws? Like anti-heroes, femme fatales, mysteries and thrillers?

    I wrote a book with them. Outlaw’s Shadow: A Sherwood Noir. Robin Hood’s evil counterpart, Guy of Gisbourne, is the main character. Feel free to give it a look: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asi...E2PKBNJFH76GQP

  12. #12
    Ultimate Member Vordan's Avatar
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    Echoing the majority of people it’s the Silver Age version. That’s still “classic” Superman to most people. Well that and Chris Reeve
    For when my rants on the forums just aren’t enough: https://thevindicativevordan.tumblr.com/

  13. #13
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    If this is about artistic renditions then it would to be between Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Jerry Ordway, Kerry Gammill, George Perez and the nigh incomparable John Byrne. Any of these inking Byrne equals EXCELLENCE

  14. #14
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bat39 View Post
    Again, I don't think you're necessarily wrong (I don't think either of us is wrong because I do believe there can't be an objective right answer here)...but here's my two cents for what it's worth.

    -------

    I know its a matter of semantics to some extent and that many use the terms Silver Age and Bronze Age interchangeably. It was the same continuity after all.

    But just think about it - how many of the truly iconic Superman adaptations really draw from the Silver Age more than they do from other eras or sources?
    You're absolutely right, a lot of adaptations pull from the Bronze Age and up. But 90% of what those stories use, in both the source material and the adaptations, originate from the Silver Age. I agree with you that the Silver Age provided the raw materials that later ages refined, developed, and perfected....but that's all still building off of the Silver; the mythos is still cemented in a lot of stuff introduced in that era, and if they evolved and developed beyond those early iterations, it's still coming from a Silver source.

    And no, there's not really a "wrong" answer here....but I think this is one of those semi-unusual instances in literature where some answers are more right than others. In any case, I think you and I are on about the same page with it, or at least pretty close.

    Quote Originally Posted by godisawesome View Post
    I think it’s comic book “classic” Superman, definitely… but I think the larger pop culture one is shaped by the more post-crisis-friendly Tv shows and cartoons as it is the Donner films’ Silver Age elements.
    In larger media? Yeah I'm pretty sure Donner is what's considered "THE classic." But I consider Donner to be a slice of the Silver/Bronze Age anyway.
    "We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe."

    ~ Black Panther.

  15. #15
    Black Belt in Bad Ideas Robanker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    "Classic" Superman is absolutely the Silver Age version. That's where the majority of his mythos cemented itself, and everything ever since has built off and revolved around it. Even the stuff that (one way or another) goes in different directions, like the 86 reboot or early New52, usually does so in relation to the Silver Age, either contradicting it for "something new" or doubling down on it to get "back to basics."

    I don't even think this is a subjective thing, it's about as objective as literary analysis can get.

    And for the record, the Silver Age isn't my favorite era. It's not even in my top 3.
    My thoughts exactly. "Classic Superman" doesn't equate my favorite, but the only contenders are Silver Age and Byrne insofar as that's usually people's touchstone, and the main difference is whichever heritage they feel Clark should pull most from.

    But as a general point, it's likely the Silver Age for reasons Ascended stated.
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