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Thinking ''Superman''

By RD Heldenfels Published: June 27, 2006

Beacon Journal movie critic George Thomas and I sat down last week and recorded a podcast about our various likes and dislikes regarding Superman, as a tie-in to -- what else -- ''Superman Returns.'' It was a really nostalgic journey for me, and one that reminded me how much the various incarnations of Superman have been a part of my life.

I was a comic-book kid, for starters, reading not just the ''Superman'' title but ''Lois Lane'' and ''Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen,'' and ''Superboy'' and sundry crossovers and team-ups of the superheroes. (Justice League of America sticks in the mind. Snapper Carr. And those parallel-world comics with the old-school Justice Society.) I found Brainiac frightening and Bizarro World funny, and was aware of the various LL's in Superman's romantic life (Lori Lemaris!) and the city-in-a-bottle from Krypton and the ever-growing versions of kryptonite. (Red seemed the most interesting.)

Of course, I also watched the ''Adventures of Superman'' TV series, although even as a kid George Reeves didn't seem to fit the bill from the comic books. And the suit was baggy. (Watching the show again on DVD, I have come to appreciate Reeves's performance more, although the suit's still a disappointment.I thought Jack Larson's Jimmy Olsen was OK (though the comic-book Jimmy was more daring) and would skip the reruns of the Phyllis Coates episodes, preferring to wait for Noel Neill.

Then, for a long time, I drifted away. The cartoon series were bad. The live-action ''Batman'' with Adam West suggested that all the old DC heroes were a joke, and by the time I hit college I had discovered Marvel and all the more genuine angst in its characters. Then, for a long time, I pretty much gave up the comic books.

Like so many people, Christopher Reeve brought me back to Superman -- although I like the second movie better than the more ambitiously mythic first. I came back to the comics for the wedding and the death of Superman. I came back to TV for ''Lois & Clark,'' at least the early seasons. The Seinfeld commercials were amusing (and Bizarro Jerry is a really good ''Seinfeld''). I have tried to like ''Smallville,'' and I respect its ambition, but it never became must viewing.

All of this was stirring in my head when I talked with George, and when I was watching the recent Superman documentary (now on DVD). Both those things have me wanting to see the new movie. Maybe not enough to stand in line in the next few days, but I want to get to it. Superman and I have a long history together, and neither of us is done yet.

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