The Ominous Octopus

Friday, November 30, 2012

Superman Book by Larry Tye

This is not a book for everyone.

I didn't actually read a lot of it. I started reading it and I kept coming across words that were foreign ( presumably Yiddish ) and then there were things I didn't agree with, and things that were demonstrably wrong.
This book tells you that when Superman first came to Earth, he landed in Kansas. The original comics didn't have anything of the kind in them. Early on they mentioned Cleveland, Ohio as the city where Superman was living and the implication was that he came to Earth someplace closer than Kansas, although this place wasn't specified. You might compare it to Li'l Abner's starting out in Dogpatch, Kentucky and going to New York in some of his adventures.
Then there's the "Starchild" business. Starchild I remember first from the term being used in other science fiction stories, such as Jack Williamson's "Starchild Triology". Later on I saw in one of the Christopher Reeve Superman novelizations that they were saying that "Kal-El" meant "Starchild". I don't think it goes any further back than that in Superman stories.
On page 97 we are told that "shorts" ( meaning serials - the individual episodes were short subjects, the total being considered a serial ) "often" failed and were then sold to less critical foreign countries. I don't know how many of the serials were considered failures when they were originally made, but they were supplied to the theaters along with the studio's feature films and it doesn't look like there should have been that much of a problem as long as the studio continued to make a profit. They had a guaranteed income as long as they were run in the theaters. Reasons given for the discontinuation of the serials involve things like rising cost and competition from television, but these affected the entire industry and not just certain serials.
Then there was the notorious incident* in the tv episode "The Unholy Three" where the old woman in the wheelchair was pushed down the steps. Here you get the impression that she was killed. It tells you that the man who had previously killed his uncle uncle in this episode but failed to kill Perry White and Jimmy Olsen "did manage to viciously silence a wheelchair-bound old lady named Elsa by shoving her and her chair down a ramp to the basement. Splat."  Actually she was shown still alive at the end of the episode.
Noel Neill is said to have not gotten any residuals for the show. Other sources have said that she got some residuals, although these didn't last long.
Finally, the book is not neutral where Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates are being discussed. It tells you that some people had complaints about Noel Neill, but fails to mention any kind of criticism of Phyllis Coates. And then there's the matter of how Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates are said to feel about each other. It says the two didn't like each other. From what I remember, Phyllis Coates is the one that said that, not Noel Neill. So it could even be something Phyllis Coates came up with on her own.
The whole book is one-sided, and it sure isn't on my side.
For anyone wanting to read a history of Superman, I reccomend Les Daniels' book, SUPERMAN: THE COMPLETE HISTORY.
This one is actually pretty good, and has a lot of illustrations. Even the cover looks better to me.
And for those who are interested in Noel Neill I reccomend this book:
by Larry Ward, who actually knows Noel Neill.
And this one, by the same author.
Recomended, as they say, by Noel Neill.
If nobody likes her, how can they manage to sell any of these books?
* Not just fans, but even some of the people who worked on the show complained about this scene.

1 comment:

  1. We do have a comment concerning the serials in this period:
    In Cliffhangerserials@yahoogroups.com, "Ed Hulse" wrote:

    Serials were like any other movies: Some made money,
    some lost money. Serials were made cheaply, therefore
    the financial risk was minimized. Foreign sales could
    mean the difference between profit and less, but the
    major serial-releasing companies of the sound era --
    Universal, Republic and Columbia -- had enough domestic
    outlets to turn profits on their serials until the
    early and mid Fifties. A studio's regional exchanges
    had a certain outlet of leeway in how much they charged
    in rental, and in certain areas an exhibitor could get
    chapters for as little as three dollars each. Normally
    such deals were reserved for situations in which a
    sales rep was trying to get theaters in his territory
    to commit to larger purchases -- rentals of entire
    product lines.