Book Review: Superman vs. Hollywood by Jake Rossen

This article was published on the original Sorry I’m on 23/03/10.

Luke Miksa's: The Negative Space Bar

Deviating from the normal machinations of my regular writing topics, today I bring to you a look at a book that I found so engrossing that I just could not put it down. It certainly took up more of my free time lately then expected – I’m not saying that it’s the sole reason behind my recent tardiness in updating the website, but it is in fact the sole reason behind my recent tardiness in updating the website. That book is titled Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon by Jake Rossen.

I love Superman – this is no lie. From the toys and action figures, statues, comics, posters (cast signed, snoogans) and even the ‘S’ Shield ink that adorns my body – saying that I may have a man-crush on the fictional quasi-deity may be an understatement. So it was with great surprise and enthusiasm that upon reading Jake Rossen’s near 300 page ode to the Man of Tomorrow, I was surprised to see so much detail and – more importantly – so much information and stories that I didn’t know on a topic where I thought I knew it all (all with iron-clad references and quotations, as well as a surprising amount of first-hand interviews from some important players).

Superman vs. Hollywood follows the trials and tribulations of the Man of Steel throughout his illustrious (and not so illustrious: Superman on Broadway) career. Without spoiling too much, the book begins with the successful Superman radio serials and Fleischer Studios cartoons all the way to TV’s Smallville and the big screen’sSuperman Returns – along the way visiting the TV incarnations of George Reeves and Dean Cain; the cartoon adventures of the Super Friends and Bruce Timm’s revisionist cartoons of the 90’s; and most importantly, the big screen outings of the Last Son of Krypton.

Unlike other Superman retrospectives – such as the admittedly rad Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman – this book explores, in fascinating detail, the sordid behind the scenes tales and underhanded tactics which have become the stuff of legend just as much as the finished products themselves. I found myself disgusted with the mistreatment and neglect of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster by DC, despite the millions upon millions of dollars in profits their character has made for the company. The off-kilter antics of Marlon Brando will surprise you, as will the continuous efforts of an assortment of film-makers intent on reimagining Superman in their own twisted (i.e. lame) visions.

I also appreciated the author’s unbiased take on the subject matter. No doubt he roasts widely regarded Kryptonite to the Superman legacy such as The Salkind’s and Jon ‘Big Metal Spider’ Peters, but he also shines a not-so-friendly light on revered icons of Superman lore such as Richard Donner. Even gentleman Christopher Reeve has his fair share of diva antics exposed, believe it or not (Dean Cain reference FTW).

Mark Millar’s (Wanted) foreword praises the book as a treasure trove of insights that even he, a self-proclaimed Superman snob (he owns Frisky the cat from Superman: the Movie, stuffed and mounted – wow) was blown away by the facts contained on the ensuing pages. It’s true. I never knew Richard Pryor and Margot Kidder was an item at one point. That’s a drug-fucked, bat shit crazy pairing right there! Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher had an on-set rivalry? ‘Nuclear Man’ Mark Pillow had never acted before, nor since the ill-fated Superman IV? (Ok, I knew that one. Mark Pillow dominates, and his name is Mark Pillow!)

I will guarantee that the thought of Nicolas Cage – with that hairline – as a black suited Superman in Tim Burton’s ‘vision’ of the character will bring up just a little bit of puke. In fact, albeit all the stupid mistakes made in Superman pictures like:



Good grief…

Just imagine if Jon Peters got his way and we had a movie in which Superman did not fly; or a film which includes a gay robot; or even something positive, like how about a movie in which Warner’s actually allowed the use of cool villains such as Brainiac or Darkseid? All of these scenarios could have potentially happened.

Much like the blurbs on the back cover (even one by Patton Oswalt – Yes!), I will tell you that this is essential for any Superman fan, comic fan or film fan. It’s truly a compelling read, one that is absolutely impossible to put down and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Look for Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon at your local bookstores. If that fails, then the friendly folk at can have that bad boy delivered directly to your doorstep.*

*Yes, selling out is amazing. Deal.

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