Superman’s Curse

Greetings, faithful readers and welcome to another edition of ‘The Right Thing.’

Seems like we had quite the little flurry of activity around this here Left Behind video game. It actually produced my favorite quote in a blog ever:

“This is cheese at its moldiest form!!! I think I hate it so much that I actually love it! There is a good chance I will buy this game.” Posted by none other than Dan-O the Mighty. Well said, sir.

I concur. Who will be the first to acquire a copy of this game and give us a hands-on review? Maybe (dare I say it…) a Left Behind tournament? Oh baby. I’ll bring the wings.

This past week’s last comment asked me who I was rooting for in the Super Bowl, so I thought I’d make that a matter of public record: I’m rooting for the Colts. I really stopped paying attention after the Giants got eliminated, but I think Peyton Manning is ready to get the job done.

Plus, as far as I’m concerned, the Chicago Bears are still stuck in the ‘80’s with Mike Ditka and Refrigerator Perry. Anybody out there remember him?

Anyways, on to this week’s topic: Superman’s Curse.

I did a lot of reading about Superheroes in the last couple of months. Take a quick scroll down and peruse my ‘Recently Consumed’ list and you’ll see what I mean. *** By the way, all the items in those lists are clickable and will take you to the corresponding page on in case you’re interested.

So I absolutely had a blast doing all this research, and now that the sermon series on Superheroes is over, I find myself still wanting to read up! There is seriously a lot of relevant and very cool stuff to learn about the Superhero universe, and I’m a good chunk of the way towards being semi-well-read when it comes to this stuff.

Superman’s mythology is interesting enough on it’s own, but there are some real-life things tied into it that I didn’t have time to go into in my Sunday messages. The foremost of which is referred to as ‘Superman’s Curse.’

200pxreevessupermanjpgThe actor who played Superman on television during the heyday of his popularity in the 1950’s was an actor named George Reeves. He was incredibly popular and loved by all. But by the time he reached the age of 40, he was tired of “running around in his underwear all day.”

Reeves was an accomplished actor who couldn’t seem to get work doing anything else. In fact, when he finally did find a small part in a movie, the audience yelled ‘Superman!!’ every time he appeared on screen. He had been hopelessly typecast.

Reeves was obviously disturbed by this, but maintained a positive attitude both on, and off the set and was reported always to be the consummate gentleman.

He had just signed on to do a sixth season of the TV show when he was found dead in his own home of a gunshot wound to the head. The death was labeled a suicide despite the following facts: There were no fingerprints on the gun, not even his own; there were no powder burns on his hands or the entry wound, there was a shell casing found beneath him, and there were other bullet holes found in the walls of the room.

Reeves’ death remains one of the sinister mysteries in the history of Hollywood. Incidentally, the story is explored in the movie Hollywoodland, which I have not seen, but plan to soon after it releases on Tuesday, 2/6.

Superman’s character fell from public favor for a long time as far as television, but Reeves’ death did not really affect comic book sales. Here, Supe was as popular as ever, even producing spin-off comics starring Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane.

Things continued this way for roughly the next two decades until the late 70’s. 1978, to be exact – the year that marked the advent of Richard Donner’s classic film ‘Superman: The Movie.’ This movie was an event not to be missed. The whole country was talking about it.

175pxcroppedlairsupes1jpg Superman had returned to the screen, driven by a stellar performance by a relative newcomer to the movie business. His name? Reeve. Christopher. No relation.

Christopher Reeve IS superman to generations of Americans including myself. When he was paralyzed in a horseback riding accident in 2001, America gasped. It’s not like people really thought the guy was bulletproof, but seeing Superman in a wheelchair was tough.

And when it happened, the press wasted no time in talking about ‘The Curse of Superman.’ Reeve had suffered the same typecasting woes as his similarly named predecessor and now tragedy had befallen him as well. The “curse” is spoken of often enough that Brandon Routh, who plays the Man of Steel in Singer’s 2006 Superman Returns, speaks about it on the special feature of the dvd. It was something he actually had to consider before he took the role.

The name Reeve means ‘judge.’ In more rural areas if you’re caught speeding, you might have to go before the local reeve. Interesting stuff considering Superman’s parallel to Jesus.

The thing, as we’ve noted, about Superman’s story is that it’s transcendent. It reminds us of other stories, and other stories hearken us back to it. For example, the story of the Matrix. Neo is a Christ-figure, and the parallels to Superman are endless. He too is impervious to bullets. He too can fly. And he too must sacrifice himself to save humanity.

At the end of ‘The Matrix,’ Neo steps out of a phone booth before he flies away – an obvious ‘Superman’ reference. And in the Matrix Reloaded, when his friends are trying to local Neo in the Matrix, his operator finds him and says ‘He’s doing his Superman thing again.’

And in case you hadn’t seen it coming yet… the name of the actor that plays Neo? Reeves. Keanu. No relation.

I am no believer in curses and particularly not in this one. For one thing, Keanu is doing just fine. Except for the fact that he still talks like he’s in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

And Christopher? That guy became more of a hero after the accident. People always say stuff like this after someone passes away, but seriously. He became a role-model to people all over the world, with disabilities and without.

So, to wrap up – you’ve inherited a name. Others had it before you did. But that name does not define you, whatever may have come before. The choice you are making right now are the ones that are deciding your future.

Go find a phone booth and step out into who God made you to be.

It’s late ya’ll. I’m turning in.

No ‘Right Thing’ reference this week. I’m too tired. ☺



Bert Crabbe says:

Joe, thanks so much for the heads-up. Oddly enough, I just ordered the Richard Donner cut of Superman II from Netflix and it just arrived! Now my only problem is, it’s been so long since I saw the original theatrical release that I don’t think I’ll be able to spot the differences. Hopefully there’ll be some goodies in the special features, or maybe a commentary track.
Anyway, thanks for the good look, and the info on the movie. I didn’t know that stuff! I am continuing to be amazed at how much there is to learn in the comic book universe!!

Joe Evak says:

Pastor Bert,
I too am a fan of the Christopher Reeve version of Superman and thought only the original Richard Donner movie was any good. All of the sequels, I felt, were subpar and kind of cheesey. I am sure you know Richard Donner filmed most of Superman II at the same time they filmed the original. They stopped due to the studio deadline to release the first movie. Then when it came time to complete II, they didn’t want him back due to irreconcilable differences between the producers and director. It made no sense because the Original movie was a huge success. Anyway, they brought in a new director, Richard Lester, who reshot a lot of the Donner footage and basically made a campy, cheesey in my opinion, sequel. Just this past year, they went back to Donner to let him make his cut of the movie using what he shot plus some of the Lester footage when he had no other option. They did have to make some compromises, but it’s very interesting to see his version of the film and how much different it came out. I’ll bring the DVD in for you to watch if you are interested. It gives a lot of the history of the whole situation too. Very interesting.

Bert Crabbe says:

Dan, I am in your hands. Hook me up with whatever goodness a man like me needs to have a good solid comic-book education.
And if you want any of the books I mentioned (check the lists on the left), I’m done with them and will not likely return to them anytime soon, if ever.
So that’s the word, Professor. I shall await my first assignment. :)

Dan O'Leary says:

Well V for Vendetta is a must. I also believe firmly that Batman: Hush is the greatest comic series of all time. Superman: No Tomorrow was good. (Both those last two were drawn by Jim Lee). Hulk: Grey is nice. The Origin of Wolverine and The End of Wolverine were fairly interesting, as well as drawn amazingly. And you can’t go wrong with the Death and Life of Superman series. I have many more, but these could get you started. Oh, and if you liked the movie Sin City, the comics were better. Let me know which one(s) you want.

Bert Crabbe says:

Hey Dan,
Yeah, it’s definitely been fun talking about this stuff in the context of the gospel. If you can choke it down, you should listen to this week’s message when it posts on the website. I said a lot of the same stuff you wrote about Superman’s identity.
My bust about the bad date. Not sure where I got that from…
And yeah, I’d love to glom some comics. I’m getting into some of the classics right now – I recently purchased a really nice leatherbound copy of The Complete Frank Miller Batman, which includes Year One and The Dark Night Returns. And I also just got the X-Men’s God Loves, Man Kills, which X-2 was based on.
I’m hoping soon to borrow a copy of Watchmen from a friend. Any other suggestions are welcome – from you or anyone else who may be reading!

Dan O'Leary says:

Fantastic blog. I thouroughly enjoyed reading this week because of the application you threw in the end about how we all have names and this “curse” is merely garbage that is not ours.
It must be noted that Superman died and came back to life. Clark Kent didn’t die, it was Superman who died… because that is the name he truly was.
If you think about it, Superman is one of the only heroes who hides his identity with his earthly name. “Clark Kent” is the made-up character and Superman (or Kal-El) is his true self, whereas with Spiderman his identity is Peter Parker and he hides under the mask of Spiderman. Superman hides under the mask of Clark Kent.
I think the only reference that beats this argument is Batman, because he truly is Batman. He is always putting on an act when he is Bruce Wayne… but what do I know?
Oh, definitely no disrespect, but just to clarify: Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in 1995, not 2001. I remember this only because I remember it was only about a year or two after “The Death of Superman” comic came out (1993) and I thought that was ironic.
Anyway, I have always been so interested in the link between comic book heroes and salvation for the human race. I have an extensive comic book collection if you would like to borrow some and read up on the action (just in case you do a round 2 of Amazing Stories). Peace.