Look, Up in the Sky
Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman 2006
I just recently mentioned that many of these comic book documentaries all felt the same, with plenty of comic book illustrations and talking head interviews with artists and writers. This one is actually quite a notable step up and part of that comes with the pedigree. At least in part, it was created to tie in with Superman Returns, which brought about plenty of Superman nostalgia as it was basically created as a sequel to Superman II. It also helped bring about the Richard Donner cut of that movie, and as a result, this has a lot of star power in terms of its interviews. It also has a large amount of varying media depictions of Superman starting from the early radio programs all the way up through Smallville and Superman Returns. But similar to my recent viewing of the Shazam DC Spotlight, this didn’t feel like it was just a promotional vehicle for Superman Returns, it was a full fledged Superman documentary that gave equal weight to the new movie as it did every other part of Superman’s history. And it did such with a fair amount of interesting and entertaining information.
The basics of this documentary is that it goes through the history of Superman as a character starting off as a pitch from Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster, going through Action comics and various other Superman spin-offs like Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, and on through the movies and TV shows. There is definitely some favoritism going on with more time spent on certain projects like the George Reeves TV series and the Christopher Reeve movies while quickly skimming over the SuperFriends and Superman the Animated series. It felt like they even gave more screen time to a failed pilot called Superpup than they did for SuperFriends where they basically just used a clip from the show as a joke to signify Superman’s decline in popularity around that time.
But when the doc does focus on a specific project, they give some great information. Especially surrounding the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie. They have a large number of various screen tests with different people trying out for Superman and Lois Lane, like Stockard Channing and Leslie Ann Warren who also played Lois Lane in the odd 70’s TV musical. There’s also screen test footage with Christopher Reeve who immediately nailed the role despite having to deal with pit sweat in the costume. They also spent some time discussing both George Reeves’s suicide and Christopher Reeve’s horse riding accident.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, there was actually not much time spent on Superman comics. There was generally some side notes that revolved around other media like how the Jimmy Olsen spin off comic was made due to the popularity of the character introduced in the radio program. Or how Lois and Clark’s engagement tied into the TV series Lois and Clark which led to their comics wedding and increased popularity among women comic readers. The most time was spent on the comic event the Death of Superman which they noted partly became national news because literally nothing else of note happened that day.
One of the other generally interesting things about this documentary was the breadth of celebrities that were interviewed. Everyone from the majority of the cast of Superman Returns, to Ilya Salkind, John Peters, Margot Kidder, Noel Neill, Dean Cain, Richard Donner, and several others directly involved in Superman’s multimedia past to seemingly more random people like Gene Simmons and Bill Mumy. Although Mumy did have a small role in the 80’s Superboy series, he was initially tagged as just a “comics fan”. Surprisingly while they did have a brief sound bite from Stan Lee, they never did have Kevin Smith who tends to be a mainstay on many comic book documentaries and is known for his story about working on the Superman Lives script. A Superman project which was also barely a footnote in this documentary.
While this doc was quite interesting, there has actually been so much headway made with Superman as a character in multimedia and comics that a follow up to this doc would be quite welcome. As it stops at 2006 when it was made, it completely misses out on all the DC Animated movies that were released straight to home video as well as the DC Extended Universe and the Krypton series. At the time this doc was made, Smallville was only halfway through its eventual 10 year run. It would of course be impossible to be able to cover every significant moment in Superman’s nearly 60 years of history as of when this documentary was made but there were still moments that could have been covered better. As it was, at nearly 2 hours, it was interesting and fascinating throughout. Really the biggest problem with this doc was the negativity surrounding Bryan Singer and Kevin Spacey who produced and narrated the doc respectively. Despite that, it was still great to go through the character’s history from start to 2006. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.