Monday, October 11, 2004


I believed a man can fly

I know that I'm not going to be the only person out there blogging away about Christopher Reeve's remarkable life and premature death yesterday at the age of 52. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention something.

I love the first two Superman movies. That's not such a shock, really. I'm a huge comics fan, and I was already reading and collecting them back when those movies came out. There are a lot of great moments in the first two, especially. They gave dignity and honor to the super-hero genre, and still had fun with it.

Gene Hackman's Luthor is hysterical, as is Jackie Cooper's bombastic Perry White. Terrance Stamp's General Zod (You will kneeeeeel before me Jor-El! And one day, your HEIRS!) is maybe one of the great movie villains of all time. Margot Kidder does what she has to do as Lois.

But Reeve's Superman is now and was then a revelation. We really did believe that he could fly. We thrilled with the guy when he called General Zod out for a mammoth battle over Times Square ("General? Would you like to step outside?").

And most of all, Reeve's Superman showed us what the character was supposed to be about. His Clark Kent was us - stumbling around, flustered around the people we love, funny and sweet, not particularly brave, but one of us nonetheless. His Superman was what we all imagine ourselves to be - if we were to take off the glasses and the goofy suit, and really show our true face and our true power to the world. We wouldn't be able to save everybody, but we could all make a difference.

(He also, incidentally, finally solved comics' greatest mystery: why Lois Lane doesn't figure out that Clark and Supes are the same guy. Reeve's Clark and Superman don't look alike. They don't sound alike. They're just two guys with dark hair - a description that also suits Alec Baldwin and Jerry Seinfeld, and I'm fairly certain they're not the same guy.)

We believed that his Superman was here for us, whether our lives were really in danger, or whether the cat was simply up in the tree. We all sleep better at night believing that Superman might be out there to help us out if the chips are down.

There's a cheesy exchange at the end of that first movie, but I still get goosebumps when I hear it. Superman flies off after having saved Lois and Jimmy out in the middle of the desert, presumably to go off and "save Clark Kent". Jimmy turns to Lois:

Jimmy: I think he really cares about you, Miss Lane.

Lois: Clark? Well, of course he does, Jimmy, he -

Jimmy: No, not Mr. Kent (points upward toward Superman)

Lois: Oh. (a beat) Well, Superman cares about everybody, Jimmy.

And he did. Reeve showed us a man of steel who was out there fighting for us and with us. We'll all miss Reeve, but that Superman - and what he stands for - is thankfully still out there.

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