Another New Superman #1
It’s Superman Day and I’m just getting home from the Superman Celebration. I had a wonderful time this year as always and highly recommended for every Superman fan.
Earlier this year DC published a new “facsimile edition” of Superman #1. This made me want to revisit my earlier post on the issue and how there have been changes to it over the years.
From what I’ve seen there are seven different versions of the cover. I’ve given them all handy names for clarity.
- OG. This is the original as published in 1939
- Licensed. This version is used on merchandise that features the cover. In my collection I have a notebook, magnet, and short comic box. The differences from the original are the color of the roof top, the fully colored in logo top, there is a red rather than yellow border on S shield, his costume is a darker blue, and the 10 cent price is in black.
- Archive. This was first seen in the recolored Archive hardcovers (as noted in my previous post) and also seen in the Golden Age Omnibus and Chronicles trade paperback series. - The suit is a lighter blue, the building behind him isn’t colored, and the text isn’t red.
- Millenium Edition. First seen in DC’s Millenium reprint lines. This is the version they used for the newest facsimile except without the foil. Because this was originally for a foil cover there is a gradient on the yellow at the bottom which really stands out on the new facsimile edition. Additionally, the roof under his hand isn’t colored pink and he has a red belt loop.
- Masterpiece - This version from 1999 was packaged with a hardcover book and statue; and is a very accurate reprint. The logo is missing a tiny black line on the S, everything is colored with Ben-Day dots, and his skin tone is very light.
- Famous first inside cover. The inside cover from the Famous First oversized edition in the 70s. Superman’s hair is darker blue and there is more white on the logo
- Famous first outside cover. The inside cover from the Famous First oversized edition in the 70s. It is missing the tiny black line on the S and the blue in the logo doesn’t line up exactly.
I love the giant Famous First reprints, but I think the Masterpiece version is my favorite coloring. The Millenium version is decent but I hate the gradient and they should not have used it for the facsimile. Also the facsimile is modern comic sized which feels off, is missing the 10 cents price and has copyright text on the bottom. The Archive recoloring is bad. Kind of shocking that they marketed this as an accurate recolor in these beautiful expensive hardcovers but did such a poor job. Licensed is fine for consumer products, I get the changes they’ve made because it makes it look more like the modern costume. They are going for recognition.
I’ve only identified three versions of the interiors as detailed in the earlier post: The Original (which is the same as the Famous First and Masterpiece versions making them the most accurate), the Archive recoloring (which is reused in the new facsimile), and the Millenium Edition (also used in the Chronicles trade paperback, and Golden Age Omnibus).
Here are some detailed shots comparing the new facsimile cover to the Masterpiece cover:
June 12, 2023
Earlier this year Superman fans got something we haven’t had since 1983: a new Superman logo wordmark. For the last 40 years we’ve been using the logo that debuted in Superman (Volume 1) #386.
With the debut of Superman (Volume 6) designer Darran Robinson (his website was darranrobinson.design but that seems to be down) has redrawn the Superman logo. He posted the following image to social media announcing the redesign, but this doesn’t tell the entire story.
Those first few years there was lots of variability. The wordmark first appeared with our hero in Action Comics #1 in the very first panel:
The wordmark was inconsistent over the next couple of years, looking like it was handdrawn each time. It was typically used on the first panel of every story and then finally on a cover in Action Comics #12. But it’s the cover of Superman #1 that really stands out. That’s where that first version comes from in Robinson’s image.
Over the next few covers of the quarterly Superman title and in the issues again we saw lots of inconsistency, likely due to different artists drawing it by hand. That is until we get Superman #6. The logo was finally standardized and consistent (and the 1940 version from Robinson’s image).
Although this didn’t hit the interiors for a while as even in Superman #6 the first panel has a logo that looks handdrawn.
Now I say handdrawn for these as if to imply they had other options in 1940. No computers here. But the new logo created for Superman #6 was then machine reproduced for covers and issues moving forward. The first appearance of this logo on an interior panel looks to be Action Comics #29.
This logo would remain in use all the way up to 1983. Now there are some notable exceptions including the Fleischer cartoons, the Adventures of Superman television show, and even Superman the Movie. But outside that this is the logo you’d see on every comic book and related piece of merchandising.
When we changed over in 1983 the older logo was banished. Being seen only sporadically over the next 40 years. Some notable places include period correct DVD releases of the Adventures of Superman and the Filmation New Adventures of Superman. The Superman “classic” merchandise line. The new Super Powers toy line (even though the original line had the post ‘83 logo). A house ad for Bendis’ Superman #1 relaunch. And the most recent use: Superman: Space Age. It jumps out to me every time I see it as feeling old.
Now of course the post ’83 logo has had many variations. Computer generated versions made to look shiny starting with Superman (volume 2) #178, the infamous electric version in the late 90s. But over all we kept coming back to a really standard version (albeit in many colors). All from a company who changed their logo three times in the interim.
When DC published their “Connect” previews issue it still had that ’83 logo, with some computer shine added to it ala the aforementioned Superman 178. So when the book shipped I was surprised!
Now why have I written 800+ words on a logo that has only subtly changed over the last 85 years? Because I really don’t like this new version. I’m fine with them adding some Photoshop shine to it, but I think the 83 logo is perfect. I fully admit that it could be because it’s the logo I’ve lived with my entire life (I was born in 83). But I don’t like the squared off U, P, and R. I do see how it aligns with the earlier logo, but that logo feels old. The rounding of those letters feels smooth and pleasing to my eye. Plus when it was originally drawn in Action Comics #1 those letters were rounded. I think they were only squared off for consistency and ease of duplication.
I am personally not a huge fan of the trade dress in many recent DC books. Lots of them have little to no regards for the history of the characters or their logos. The recent Son of Kal-El, Superboy Man of Tomorrow, and Adventures of Superman Jon Kent logos do nothing for me. I actually do like the My Adventures with Superman logo from the upcoming cartoon for a couple reasons. It is reminiscent of the Action Comics font, cartoons often have unique logos (Fleischer & The Animated Series), and the incorporation of the new S design.
I’m not anti-change in my Superman books. I love when they change the status quo and challenge us as readers. But I hope this change goes the way of some of the other big Superman changes and is rolled back.
June 5, 2023
Ultimate Superman the Movie Release
Since I was so disappointed in many aspects of the new 4K box set that was just released I thought it would be fun to dream up the ultimate home version of just Superman the Movie. Maybe it’s something that would come for the 50th anniversary in five years.
For packaging inspiration I took a look at another Warners release: Blade Runner. It’s an equally legendary film from the same studio so it’s a good comparison. Several high end boutique labels put out special editions of this movie. It’s notable to say, like Superman, there are several cuts of Blade Runner fans are interested in. The following deluxe editions only include the “Final Cut”. But there are also Workprint, US theatrical, International theatrical, and Directors Cuts which have been released in the past. It seems these labels are more concerned with the collectibility of their packages rather than the best possible release of a film. The exclusion of these cuts makes me think these boutique labels should not be the ones to handle the final release; but they can provide inspiration.
Manta Labs do these fantastic Steelbook sets for their releases. They also did a Batman v Superman edition so Superman the Movie isn’t out of the question. Each release has at least two different slip covers and they offer a “one click” box that includes both versions with extras. The first slip cover has a lenticular image on both sides and the other is plain each with different art. The actual Steelbooks are the same and typically feature classic poster art. The Blade Runner edition even offers a third lenticular version. They include character cards and post cards. Most of their releases have an “in universe item” for example a little monolith from 2001. The Superman version could have a Fortress of
Titans of Cult also does great special edition Steelbooks. They come in a big plastic case with unique art and an extra item. Blade Runner comes with a pin and coasters. A Reeve style Superman pin would be sweet. Titans does unique art for their releases, not something that already exists like posters or concept art. If they came up with something great this could be cool but the existing art is already fantastic.
Vice Press Film Vault special editions have an acetate slip-cover detailing the title’s numbered entry in the collection and artwork printed on a rigid clamshell outer case with a magnetic clasp. Each set contains a digipak housing the film, a branded envelope, deluxe art-cards, and an etched and individually numbered crystal display plaque, bearing each film’s title treatment and motif. Like Titans they all have unique new pieces of art for the cover with a matching poster. Some editions have an in-world artifact which in this case could again be a fortress crystal. Blade Runner comes with large format art cards featuring concept drawings, behind the scenes imagery, film trivia, and original theatrical poster artwork. Would love to get those for Superman, the lobby cards are fantastic.
I love the steelbook cover that we got. This is maybe the best possible cover, but it would be nice to have some more art on the back. The S with a Roman numeral 1 is boring. The ideal back would be the Bob Peak art with Superman and Lois. The Reeve flying poster would be second best, but it doesn’t scream back cover. The Peak painting has a flying away feel which would be good for the back.
If we go the single steelbook route rather than a box set we’d need a slipcover so a good book could be included with it. A slip cover with the standard poster on the front and the Superman and Lois Bob Peak painting on the back could be awesome.
Aother option is a lenticular slipcover. We got the lenticular card with the Kryptonian supervillains in the Phantom Zone in the latest box. That would make a great back cover. On the front we could have the flying poster lenticular or even some version of the regular (bad) 4K art lenticular. It would be less bad in a lenticular image.
With a nice slipcover the Steelbook itself can be metallic with an embossed marketing S just like the mylar poster. Maybe the back has the Superman the Movie text again like the mylar posters of the time. This would set it apart from the existing Steelbook. The look would be similar to the recent Disney minimalist Steelbooks.
The main poster itself on the slipcover might not be enough for Warners to release though. They like to have the name of the movie and the star big on the cover so it stands out on shelves. Maybe the J Card around it with all the details and the name of the movie could make up for the cover being minimalist.
For extras this set should include reproductions of the lobby cards. I’d like an booklet with essays similar to Criterion releases filled with behind the scenes photos maybe from Caped Wonder. The book in the latest box isn’t good enough for this release. Just photos from the movie is easy. So much great behind the scenes content exists and if we are going to have a book the opportunity should be taken for something special.
Now for the Good Stuff: The Discs!
Disc One: Theatrical Cut
New 4K scan of the theatrical cut with Dolby Vision. Plus I want the theatrical four channel audio mix in lossless. Throw in the Atmos track if you want since modern viewers would like an Atmos option. This makes it an upgrade over both existing 4Ks in both video and audio.
This disc should include the existing commentary by Pierre Spengler and Ilya Salkind
Disc Two: Special Edition
Preferably a new scan in 4K Dolby Vision but fine if it’s the same Blu-Ray. The theatrical version is the canonical version so it should get the best treatment. This disc should include the Atmos track since this is the version the new sound effects were made for.
This disc should include the existing commentary by Donner and Mankiewicz along with the music only track in hi-res lossless stereo, similar to previous releases.
Disc Three: Extended Cut
Three hour TV cut again preferably a new 4K Dolby Vision scan, but fine if it’s the existing Blu-Ray. I personally love this version and am so glad Warner Archives gave it to us. Any complete package should have this version. This cut is almost a bonus feature so the movie audio track isn’t super critical. It’s not the reference version of the film.
Since a creator commentary doesn’t exist for this version that wouldn’t be possible. But there does exist a commentary track by Caped Wonder Jim & Jay from their podcast September 2020.
Disc Four: Extras
All the existing extras:
- The Making of Superman The Movie TV special
- Taking Flight: The Development of Superman
- Making Superman: Filming the legend
- The Magic Behind The Cape
- Theatrical trailers and TV spots
- Screen tests
We should get some new extras created for this set:
- New documentary featurette about the restoration
- Reeve legacy reunion panel (I’m sure video of this panel exists and would be a nice inclusion)
- La-La Land soundtrack restoration featurette with Mike Matessino (the recent La-La Land release of the soundtrack is incredible, an interview with Matessino detailing this would be awesome)
Importantly, I don’t want a promotional featurette with unrelated talking heads saying how great the movie is like we got on the Fleischer disc. We don’t need the Bugs Bunny cartoons, Fleischer shorts, or Superman and the Mole Men as much as I love them. This set should be tightly focused on this movie.
May 29, 2023
Max Fleischer’s Superman Blu-Ray Review
My History With These Shorts
Back in the late 80s and early 90s I remember visting discount stores with my parents and seeing bins of VHS tapes with Superman on them. Back then I didn’t know if they were old or new, but I always wanted them. I never knew if I already had cartoons on them or what was available, or even how many existed. There was no internet for me to consult. I had no concept of public domain releases. These various VHS releases and the Super Powers VHS the Filmation cartoons; along with my HBO taped copies of Superman the Movie and Superman IV were all the Superman media I had access to. At 8 or 9 years old I remember loving these. I watched them all the time with no idea they were already 50 years old at that point.
Fast forward to the DVD era in the very early 2000s. At this point I knew what was up. I understood that these were theatrical shorts created by Fleischer and later Famous Studios in the early 1940s. I knew that the shorts were in the public domain which explained the multitude of VHS collections I saw as a kid. I knew I wanted these on DVD so I found two DVDs collecting them all. They were titled Superman vs The Monsters & Villains and Superman vs Nature & War. The DVD package described them as the “digitally restored classic collection”. Later I discovered the Bosko release. The Complete Superman Collection Diamond Anniversary Edition claims they were restored to their best possible quality. “The images are superbly clear and the original mono soundtrack is nearly flawless” states the back cover. I remember it being touted at the time as the best version of these shorts available. Soon after though came some official releases that got my attention.
2006 was a banner year for fans of Superman media. The release of Superman Returns started a big archival DVD release project that eventually got us everything from the theatrical serials to Superboy to Lois and Clark. When Superman and Superman II were released on DVD separately and in the Ultimate Collector’s Edition tin we were treated to the first official DVD version. The DVDs claimed the shorts were “remastered from superior original vault elements.” It’s not exactly clear what vault elements these are, but I assume from watching them that they are 35mm theatrical prints. You can see the cue to end the reel at the end of The Mechanical Monsters, which I assume wouldn’t be on the negatives just the prints. We also get the first featurette “First Flight”. These versions were eventually released on a standalone DVD in April 2009. At this point we got the additional featurette “The Man, The Myth, Superman”. These official releases were definitely better than the Bosko disc
specifically in brightness and color. I assumed this was the best we were going to get. The shorts were old and not well preserved. Since they are public domain it didn’t seem like something Warners was going to put money or more time into.
With the release of the Superman Motion Picture Anthology blu-ray set we got the same standard definition versions as extras along with the First Flight featurette. Again putting SD versions on here dashed my hopes we’d ever get HD versions. The new 4K box comes with the same blu-ray discs from this set, so the same SD versions released again.
A glimmer of hope came when the DCU streaming service briefly offered these up in HD. Frankly this came and went so fast I didn’t get a chance to watch them all and I don’t remember the quality.
Now, 2023, the blu-ray. This exciting news.
Warner Bros. Discovery’s advanced remastering process began with a 4K, 16-bit scan of Fleischer’s original 35mm successive exposure negative. Staying true to the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37-to-1, the highest quality raw image was then scanned and then entered into the recombine process — utilizing special proprietary software to merge the successive exposure Technicolor negatives into a single RGB color image. The end result are pristine animated shorts that have been restored to the animators’ originally intended production quality.
This is real detail. Much better than “remastered from superior original vault elements.” Then came the first review. Uh-oh. Too much DNR? Compression artifacts? Other reviews had conflicting stories. Was this going to be a smoothed out mess or was it the way these shorts should be? Dear reader I had to find out myself.
The Actual Release
First, the presentation. This new Blu-Ray edition is in a standard plastic blu-ray case. The plastic is flimsy, but this is because a portion of it is cut out to use less materials. I’m all for that even if it does make the collection feel cheap. All 17 theatrical shorts are collected on one BD-50 disc. I should mention that the DVD release came with a premium slipcover that makes it feel like a much nicer set.
The cover uses the same Superman carrying Lois art as the DVD edition, but a new World War 2 background is added. Soldiers, planes, guns, spotlights, the works. Strange decision considering the most skippable shorts are the ones relating to the war. They fix the biggest mistake with the DVD packaging here though: 1941-1943 not 1942 as the DVD states. The cover introduces a new problem though. The wrong Superman wordmark logo was chosen for this. The DVD edition used the wordmark from the shorts which I think was the right choice. It might not be the most instantly recognizable version, but being a wordmark it’s not like there would be consumer confusion on what they were buying. All the movie boxsets use a generic font so it isn’t like home releases are required to have the wordmark. The one they’ve chosen for this release is the version used in comics and merchandising from 1983 until this year when the comic wordmark was updated for the new #1 issue (more on that at a
later date). In Superman #6 from the fall of 1940 the Superman wordmark had been standardized and used until 1983. If they wanted to use a traditional wordmark instead of the version from the shorts they should have used this pre-83 version. But they could have at least used the 2023 version. Weird that this 2023 release uses a wordmark that ended use in 2022. Smacks as lazy to me.
The back is very standard. We get a short description, a list of the special features. The image here is pretty ugly, they definitely made a bad choice of frames here. It’s presented out of context like the cover as well; bursting through a wall. In the short Clark had just changed into Superman and looks to his right before taking off to the left.
Some strange decisions were made on the inside. Since blu-ray cases are transparent they decided to print on both sides of the cover. But because chunks of the plastic case are cut out the presentation gets jumbled. A final Superman image taken out of context is presented here and like the back cover was also not a great choice. He looks more like the imposter Superman from Showdown; which coincidentally is where this image was taken from.
The disc itself is plain brown with the title and all the requisite logos. A step down from the DVD release that had nice images of Superman on each disc.
When you insert the disc you are presented with a widescreen image of the cover with the menu on the bottom. Bottom menus work well on blu-ray because of the pop-up menu feature this format has. With DVDs you are always jumping back to the main menu to see the chapters, options, or special features. It does mean the DVD release has a leg up on it with a few different images chosen for the menus. Although flipside the blu-ray doesn’t have annoying ads shoved in your face once you start the disc. I noticed a couple issues with the menu though. The first is pixelation which can be clearly seen on the S:
The other is there is an Audio menu item, but in it there is only one choice: English. Really strange to have this menu but no actual options in it. Maybe it’s there for international releases?
Let me briefly mention the new featurette Max Fleischer’s Superman: Speeding Toward Tomorrow before getting to the good stuff. This featurette was completely uninteresting to me. Talking heads saying how great these cartoons are. Yes of course we already know that. We bought the disc already! The only interesting thing about this is the unrestored shots it includes.
Now the video quality. The thing everyone is talking about. As mentioned above some folks on the internet have cried foul at this release because it looks too clean. Saying that in WBD’s effort to clean the picture they removed too much film grain and fine detail. The main evidence for this is shots from the new featurette. They show new HD clips from these shorts, but with no clean up. They are full of film grain, but also lots of other artifacts from being so old. Now there is no indication that these clips are from the new 4K 16-bit scan of the negatives. I actually think these are scans from a release print. The dirt and scratches on them look more like issues from a release print than from a negative. It’s possible that the version WDB used for the final product was much cleaner than the version used for these clips. I don’t work in the film industry, I have no insider knowledge of this so I could be really wrong.
I recently watched the MVD blu-ray release of The Point, an animated film from the 70s. The blu-ray notes that it was scanned in 2K from a 16mm release print because the whereabouts of some of the negative elements is unknown. It also notes that the condition of the elements made a complete restoration unfeasible. While thousands of individual pieces of image damage were removed entirely, some slight imperfections appear intermittently in the film. Watching the blu-ray looks like you are watching a 50 year old 16mm print for better or for worse. There are scenes with a vertical line through them. But when watching one of the standard definition documentaries there are clips of the film without any noise whatsoever. Just super clean images, but sadly in standard definition. This leads me to believe those old standard def scenes were struck from the negative or a much
newer print that is no longer available. In comparison the featurette HD clips we see of these Superman shorts look like the HD version of The Point. Full of grain, but also scratches, dirt, and other assorted problems. The full presentation of these shorts looks like the SD clips of The Point except in HD. Super clean, with no noise and very little grain.
I personally, did not find the lack of grain to be a dealbreaker. There are some textures that are softened, but it’s not clear if this is against the original creative intent. Grain is a part of movies shot on film, there is no denying it. If this were a live action movie shot on film with no grain I’d be unhappy. But this is animation. These shorts only have grain because of the limitations of the technology they were working with at the time. If they could have taken the original background paintings and cells and projected them onto a screen I think it would have looked close to this blu-ray release. There are of course problems with this restoration method. Namely you lose fine detail and can introduce edge enhancement artifacts. For me detail was clear throughout, but I did see the occasional artifact. Here is a close up of an example: If you look closely at the left side of the building you can see a sort of halo around it. Not great, maybe not a deal breaker, but not great.
As this is a bonafide classic it would have been nice to get an archival quality release befitting it’s status. But WBD decided instead to release a version that a wider audience would get enjoyment from. And frankly if I ignore that snob part of my brain these look awesome. I love the colors, I love the clarity. These fans are calling for Warner Archive to handle the release because they have different priorities. I’m not sure that would give fans the results they expect. After watching these I watched the Warner Archives restoration of the 1944 Popeye short “She Sick Sailor”. It had more grain than this release, but was also very clean. No other artifacts or noise unlike the clips we get in the featurette.
As far as compression artifacts due to low bit rate, I didn’t see any. It’s possible they were there and I was so engaged with shorts that I just didn’t notice them. I’m watching on a 77” 4K screen so if there were issues like that I think I would have seen them.
I did notice an error though. At the beginning of Volcano we get a different intro. “Able to soar higher than any plane”. It’s right on the original DVD, but in this blu-ray we get the image of the plane but the audio still says leap tall buildings in a single bound. With the amount of time and effort put into this I’m bothered by these kinds of problems. I did read that some of the ending music was wrong, but I didn’t do a back to back comparison of every episode to confirm. Shame on you Warners.
I took some photos of my television to highlight some differences here. I don’t have a way to get screenshots off a blu-ray or DVD currently, but I thought this would be illustrative of the differences.
This is from the Bosko release: The SD version from iTunes (which is no longer available): The original official DVD: This new blu-ray: The unrestored version from the featurette:
Digital Version Notes
iTunes has removed the standard definition versions from sale. Rather than upgrade what people already have from SD to HD they have made the “episode” numbers start with 101 instead of 1. A bit of a bummer for folks who bought these in iTunes already and want the HD versions. They’ve always been good about free upgrades from HD to 4K movies. At least it’s only $9.99 right now for the whole set. Cheaper than the blu-ray, but missing the featurettes.
iTunes also chose the ugly back of the box art for the purchase screen. Bizarre choice. Quick comparison to the awesome image they chose for the Filmation cartoon purchase screen.
Should You Buy This?
Do you love these shorts (except for the racist ones)? Then yeah you should get these. At least in iTunes. These shorts have probably never looked better and definitely haven’t looked this good in my life time.
May 22, 2023
(The) Daily Planet Globe
Good Miracle Monday, dear reader! With the 4K box set in my hands I thought about doing another follow up, but I’ve decided to keep things positive on our most sacred of holidays. Let’s talk about depictions of the Daily Planet globe in other media!
I just finished re-watching Smallville season eight along with the excellent Always Hold onto Smallville podcast. Being part of the Metropolis years we see lots of shots of the Daily Planet globe. One thing that stands out in the Smallville universe (Earth 167) version of this globe: the definite article “The”. Smallville’s globe says “The Daily Planet”. This got me wondering what other adaptations globes say. Here is a not-definitive list:
- Smallville - The Daily Planet
- Titans - Looks like Daily Planet, but it’s hard to tell 100%; picture below
- Arrowverse COIE Crossover (Earth 96) - The Daily Planet
- Superman Returns - Daily Planet
- Lois & Clark - I don’t think we ever see the top of the building, but the globe above the door has Daily Planet
- Superman the Movie - has a helicopter pad on the roof, but the intro has the globe with Daily Planet
- The Adventures of Superman - no globe!
- Superboy - no Daily Planet!
- Supergirl series- kiosk in the season two episode “Adventures of Supergirl” says Daily Planet
- Superman & Lois - Daily Planet (“The” on logo underneath)
- Man of Steel - no globe!
A Couple of Animated Versions I’ve Noted
- Scooby Do and Krypto Too movie - Daily Planet
- All Star Superman movie - Daily Planet
- Legion of Super Heroes movie - Daily Planet
- League of Super-Pets movie - The Daily Planet
- Ruby Spears series - Daily Planet
- The Animated Series - Daily Planet
- Fleischer shorts - Daily Planet
This wiki has some great screenshots of different globes across the ages.
I personally prefer the globe saying just “Daily Planet”. This is a shot of the Metropolis skyline in the Titans show. Despite only ever seeing Superman’s boots on the show I think this skyline looked good.
May 15, 2023
Follow up on the New Superman Home Video Releases
This week the Superman 1978-1987 5-Film Collection Box Set ships in the US. Its release was delayed here in the United States but not the rest of the world so we have some answers that we didn’t have the last time I wrote about this box set. But that’s not the only release this month that WB let down Superman fans with.
Let’s start at the beginning with Superman the Movie. The Digital Bits was right. The rumored updated scan did not come to pass. We are stuck with the problematic transfer from 2018 that has actual errors. Warners isn’t content with just letting us down in one area though. The best part of the 2018 release, the 5.1 mix of the original 4 channel theatrical audio, is dropped. This box which fans hoped to be the ultimate collection is already inferior to the previous release. I was convinced to continue buying physical releases by the inclusion of this audio track in 2018. Before that I had planned on getting my 4K releases digitally. This movie convinced me to buy a 4K player. Guess I’ll be hanging on to that disc.
Fast forward to Superman II and the problems worsen. The Digital Bits was correct, we aren’t getting Dolby Vision on anything but the first movie (which we already had in Dolby Vision). Except, these movies on digital services like iTunes do have Dolby Vision! Dolby Vision is superior to HDR 10 in ways regular people can see. The only explanation I can guess for this is cost. They didn’t want to pay Dolby the licensing fees for the discs. Disney does the same thing with their 4K discs. Once again we are far from the definitive release for these movies. But in true Warners fashion; that isn’t the only problem. There are distinct audio issues with the score at the beginning of the film. The pitch waivers several times during the recap of the first installment. This can clearly be observed when Superman is saving the train. It’s a noticeable problem and frankly one I think they should issue replacement discs for. The problem also exists in the iTunes version so they should fix
Superman II The Richard Donner Cut and Superman III don’t introduce any additional problems just the baffling omission of Dolby Vision. The reviews I’ve read about Superman III say it has an even better transfer than the original two films. Word is a veteran colorist worked on III and IV so they look great. I haven’t seen anyone compare back to back the disc (HDR 10) and the digital (Dolby Vision) versions, but once mine arrives I will attempt to. The brilliant Vincent Teoh does a great comparison with Disney films in the same manner and he has the equipment to do it right. I’ve only got one television in my living room unfortunately.
Finally, Superman IV The Quest for Peace. This might be the biggest disappointment of the whole set. This new release, that is the canonical version of the film moving forward, has the incorrect score. This is an egregious error. There is lots of speculation on why the score is wrong. Could it be a problem with the mix? Could it be an earlier recording from Germany that was redone because of its low quality? We may never know. But if you’re a new fan watching this movie for the first time you are going to see it wrong. This might be the only benefit of them just dumping the old Blu-Rays into this box set. At least that old Blu-Ray includes the correct score. I think Warners should issue replacement discs for this too. Much smaller companies have replaced discs for smaller errors. But those companies seem to care about the movies they release and the people buying them.
The included Blu-Ray discs being nothing but the old discs from 2011 feels lazy. I’m not demanding any new bonus material, the movies are older and the bonus material that exists is pretty good. I get the impression these blu-rays were included to check the “bonus materials” box, but zero additional thought or effort was put into it beyond that. Recycling 12 year old releases with zero effort is exactly the money making move you’d expect from WBD these days. These Blu-Rays should include the latest transfers of the films just in 1080p rather than 4K HDR. Like I said though it’s a small saving grace that they don’t because of the errors on II and IV. Not looking forward to a time when the only versions of these movies that are in print have major errors.
I mentioned last time that it felt insulting to include the Fleischer cartoons on a Blu-Ray in standard definition less than a week before they are released on a new Blu-Ray in HD. But now I’m hearing that Warners has dropped the ball on that release too! Poor quality transfers plagued with issues? Real insult to injury situation here.
If it weren’t for the great Steelbooks in the set I think I’d probably recommend most fans go with the 12 year old Blu-Ray box set. It’s less than $50 right now on Amazon compared to $95 for the non-steel 4K set (which I don’t think anyone should buy). What does this new double the price version get you? A darker Superman The Movie with video glitches, Superman II with audio glitches, and Superman IV with a messed up score! The home video market isn’t the same as it was in 2011. The folks that are still purchasing physical media care about the presentation more than ever. Most consumers are fine with what’s available streaming. It’s that special fan that wants the physical object and pays a premium for a premium product. This release ain’t that.
Why is Warners doing our boy Superman so dirty like this on home video? These legendary and frankly historic films don’t get the treatment they deserve. It’s us fans that pay the price. Hey at least the packaging looks awesome. Well except for the terrible non-Steelbook versions. And the Fleischer Blu-Ray’s lazy reuse of the DVD artwork with the wrong logo and a new background.
May 8, 2023