Cover of "All Star Superman, Vol. 1"

Cover of All Star Superman, Vol. 1

How about a bit more time with the hero of Metropolis? While I wanted to talk about the book that I reviewed last week, I did pick up a NEW piece of Superman non-comic media.

All-Star Superman was a 12-part mini-series written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quietly. The story involves (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s the plot) Superman dying. I read the first issue and didn’t get into it. That’s not a condemnation; it looks like a good comic. It’s just we haven’t had a proper Superman story in years, even in his own comic book so it just didn’t garner my interest.

Last week I was in BJ’s Wholesale Club when I came upon the animated version of the unfortunately abbreviated story. I already knew about it (DC has been putting a number of comic arcs into animated form…not surprisingly many of them written by current creative officer Geoff Johns) but it came out in a time when my money was too low to consider it. Now finding it at $3 when my funds are a bit larger, I figured why not? So was I right to avoid this, or is this a touching portrayal of Superman’s last days?

All-Star Superman DVD

“I forgot my sun tan lotion.”

All-Star Superman

STUDIO: Warner Animation/DC Universe
DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video
STARRING: James Denton (Superman), Christina Hendricks (Lois Lane), and Anthony LaPaglia (Lex Luthor)
based on a story by Grant MorrisonĀ  and Frank Quietly
WRITER: Dwayne McDuffie
PRODUCERS: Bruce Timm & Alan Burnett
EDITOR: Margaret Hou

Lex Luthor tricks Superman into being overexposed to sunlight. Now the source of Superman’s powers is slowly killing him. The story follows Superman’s last days with a series of vignettes as he gives Lois temporary superpowers, learns why Lex hates him so much, and has a few more battles before the ultimate sacrifice with the artificial sun Solaris.

Let me get the disappointments out of the way because there is much to praise about the film. First comes from the DVD itself, and how weak the presentation is. As soon as you pop it in, three trailers come up and then the rather bland menu. “Special features” is another trailer and some early previews of two more DC Universe productions, the next Batman/Superman production and a Green Lantern sequel (to the animated First Flight, not the live-action film) focused on stories of the Corp members–both adaptations of comic stories. Why they can’t do something original is beyond me, as they made some good ones for Batman. Superman had Braniac Attacks, but just because that was terrible doesn’t mean you can’t MAKE a good original Superman story. None of the special features have anything to do with the movie we just saw. No interview with Morrison and Quietly (not even a commentary track), no chat with the actors or why they decided to make this comic into a movie–nothing connected to All-Star Superman at all.

The character models and animation are good for all of the characters. Nothing spectacular by today’s standards but still pretty good. The exception is Superman, and this was an issue I had with the comic as well. Superman should be lean and muscular, but Quietly’s character model gave him more bulk, almost looking fat. The animators didn’t quite go with his model but they did give him too much upper body mass, making him look too bulky and I didn’t really care for it. At times it was distracting, but not enough to fully disconnect me from the story.

I do wonder, though, and this is probably the comic at work, Lois’s supersuit and Superman’s solar suit don’t have the traditional “S” symbol. I suppose you can make a case for Lois as it gives her a bit of her own identity, even if she will only have powers for 24 hours. That doesn’t explain why his solar suit had the same symbol, a rather boring S on a sun-like design. I know I have trouble drawing the traditional S-shield myself but I’m not a professional artist and my goals are in the writing field.

As for the voice acting the only complaint I have is that Denton doesn’t do a good enough job making “Superman” and “Clark Kent” distinct. Look at Bud Collyer, easily the standard by which all Superman/Clark portrayers should be judged. He was able to make the two identities seem so distinct that you believe the glasses worked because it was also the performance. Denton does do a good job as Superman and the other actors portray their roles as well.

I still don’t miss collecting the comic, but the animated version of All-Star Superman is well done and would be a fine addition to any Superman fan’s video library.