Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Believe a Man Can Fly

I was going to wait until December to write this, but the muse is upon me.

I'm in a semi-darkened theater in Battle Creek, Michigan on Christmas Eve, 1978. I'm with my brother, my sister, my mother, my stepfather, and his three kids. We've ridden in the bed of a pickup truck with a cap on it, huddled together in blankets to get us all to the movies. We have popcorn and drinks, and in my hands I have a movie program, the first I've ever seen. I've been reading about the new actor Warner Brothers has found to play Superman, and I've seen him in previews for the past two weeks. He looks like the real deal in the program. As I peruse the actors' biographies, I'm up to Glen Ford, when the lights go down. I get goosebumps. After the bit with the kid reading a copy of Action Comics I hear the low rolling bass. Dum de da dum dum. Da da da da dum de da dum dum...then a burst of blue light fires the credits right at my eyes!

Two hours later, I walk out of the theater in a daze, past the ten-foot wide crystalline Superman The Movie logo sign. I have just seen the greatest movie in all of my fourteen years. Over the next several months, I see the movie four times. I see it with my dad, and with one of my best friends, Ken. We travel to Traverse City on a night when he has keyboard lessons, and after we see the movie, we spend the whole trip home in his mom's Lincoln Continental, with our hands outstretched in front of us, imagining the flight along the road in pursuit of an XK 101 nuclear missile.

I had been on the road to weeding out my comic book collection by trading them in two for one at the local flea market, but all of that's over with. I am buying everything I see with Superman in it. I find a new Superman series called DC Comics Presents, with art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, featuring Superman and the Flash in its first two issues. I'm reading Starlog Magazine at a basketball game with Superman on the cover. This obsession lasts through spring and into summer. I have Superman The Movie bubblegum cards. I have the Superman soundtrack by John Williams on vinyl. While I listen to it, I sort out the cards in story-sequential order and match the music to the scene. I painstakingly record the soundtrack on my cassette recorder so that I can play it while I'm riding my bike on my paper route. I carry the cassette recorder in my paper bag, hands outstretched in front of me as I ride. It's an endless summer before high school begins and I have to put away childish things...

Yesterday, I plugged my iPod into an external speaker I bought for canoeing and blasted the Superman soundtrack while I rode my bike around the neighborhood. It was all I could do not to stretch my hands out in front of me. It's been 30 years and now I know I will never lose that part of myself. I can feel it again, a youthful exuberance, a hopefulness for the future. Maybe it's starting to get back in shape by riding my bike, maybe it's having a wonderful wife and daughter, and maybe it's having students who actually seem to care this year. It might be a combination of all these things, but right now I feel like I can fly!
So go ahead, Warner Brothers, make your darker Superman movie. Earn your money as you have every right to do. But know that you won't be inspiring any fourteen-year olds to help other people, to overcome adversity, or to do the right thing even when they don't have to. At least I had my Superman movie. I'll have to try to inspire kids for you.

3 comments:

Wendy said...

I still remember you dressing up as Superman for Halloween, in your blue thermals, and a pinned on "S" on your chest. Oh yeah, and a red cape. Can't forget the cape. I think it was a red towel, if I remember correctly. Ahhh, the good ol' days of creativity.

Martin said...

Jim, see my blog entry - the classic Reeves' Superman flicks are near the top of my all-time favorite super-hero films ever!

KC Ryan said...

Can't get much better then Superman.

Oh, all right, there's Captain Marvel :) but Superman's movies were tops!