Whenever we first talked about Man of Steel director Zack Snyder producing a short retrospective for Superman’s 75th anniversary, it was a couple of weeks before the film was released and Metropolis got utterly destroyed. Then all the news about Superman and Batman coming together for Man of Steel 2 came out, and then we found out Ben Affleck was going to play Batman, and all of a sudden this 2-minute animation was the farthest thing from my mind. But now the clip is here, and it is, in a word, super.
Snyder worked with Bruce Timm (Superman: The Animated Series) and Warner Bros. to create this fascinating and fluid trip through each style changing iteration and form of media of Superman’s evolution. Beginning with the iconic first appearance in the 1938 debut issue of Action Comics, we follow Supes into the Fleishman cartoons of the 1940s, which were some of my favorites as a kid, thanks to huge VHS collections. You’ll notice each time a comic book is shown, it’s a transition from one era to the next, with all of the art in the background specifically chosen by a delegated “Superman 75th Anniversary Advisory Committee.”
From there, things go black and white in reference to the George Reeves-starring series from the 1950s – notice the stance from the opening credits – and then zips into the Silver Age, where Superman faces Brainiac and Bizarro before joining Supergirl and the Super Family animals to fly over the Kent farm. Is that Mr. Mxyxdf…Mr. Mxymmp…that little guy who doesn’t want to say his name backwards? It sure is. Right before the back of Andy Warhol’s head.
The Super Friends appear and Muhammad Ali whips Superman’s ass before we finally get to a reference to Richard Donner’s film and Christopher Reeve himself. Or at least his likeness. We get a glimpse at the Atari game, which makes GTA V look like crap. And then there’s the hero killer Doomsday himself. Even though I was never into Superman as much as I was Batman and Marvel comics, I was particularly bothered by that comic. And then a whole slew of “new” Supermen hit the scene and I lost what little enjoyment for the franchise that I had left.
But then we jump to Timm’s animated series and a dual Kingdom Come/Smallville reference before Superman fights Darkseid to mark the release of Justice League #1 and the entire New 52 brand relaunch. And then of course it ends with a shot of Henry Cavill from Snyder’s own film before Superman flies up to the top of the 75 for the logo reveal. Then there are 13 seconds of darkness for whatever reason. I’m guessing it’s for an applause break.
All in all, it’s a really well-executed journey through the “life” of one of fiction’s most memorable characters. While there’s no reason to complain about anything, I almost wish there had been a little more Lex Luthor than just the one appearance. As well, Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns got the shaft. (Though that film kind of gave the shaft to a lot of Superman fans, so it’s probably okay.)
What did you guys think about the short, and what’s your favorite version of the hero? Let us know in the comments. (Oh, and for a quick rundown of every reference seen in the video – and there are many more than I mentioned – check out this annotated list from DC.)