April 08, 2003

Look! Up in the Sky! It's a bird! It's a Plane!

No! It's SuperFred!

What the world needs now is a superhero. At least the fantasy of a superhero. A Supreme Good Guy who can do things like fly around the world at some fraction of the speed of light and reverse the spin of the Earth, turning back time, giving us a chance to start...oh, maybe the late half of the 20th century...over again.

I used to believe that one day, I'd be a superhero. Specifically, Superman. The original, the REAL Superman. George Reeves. The Man of Steel, able (with the help of a handy springboard offscreen) to leap tall buildings in a single bound, fighting a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

The poor schmuck was chosen for the part because his chin looked like the character in the movie cartoon series. (Before he got the part, he appeared as Stuart Tarleton in Gone with the Wind). However, his shoulders sloped (I feel your pain, superguy) and so they had to use rubber and sponge padding to create the apparent hulk of the character, and making him look a little, well, spongy. Speaking of costumes, the episodes were shot very inexpensively and at the rate of four in as little as ten days. Think about it. Ever wonder why Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, in episode after episode, wore the very same clothes? This streamlined the quick-production of each exciting installment. Brought to you by Kelloggs of Battle Creek.

Able to stop a speeding bullet. Yeah, right. Some kid pulled his father's loaded pistol and almost took a shot at Reeves so he could watch the bullets bounce off him. George continued to speak to groups of children, but without the costume... warning them of the dangers of jaywalking, bicycling... and of trying to fly.

It was the flying especially that hooked me... diving into the air, soaring, cape rippling in the wind. I had an official Superman T-shirt emblazoned with the large serif letter "S". With that special shirt and a pink bath towel safety-pinned securely around my neck, there was no limit to my super powers. Every time I would jump off the front porch steps (while shouting the DunhDaDunh musical preamble that came just before leaping tall buildings with a single bound) I was certain that this was going to be the time I'd really become airborne. It gave me belly rushes just thinking about it. My best friend across the street and I would plan to wake each other up on a given night, and go out into the world and save people in trouble. But we slept through our great crusade every time. And frankly, I was sort of relieved to find myself waking up in my own bed the next morning. I wasn't sure I would know the good guys from the bad guys when I was five. Still, it was a dream of ours for a couple of years.

And I still dream. I, Superman, am running faster and faster, just ready for the take off. I plant my feet for the final jump, bending my knees just before launching into the stratosphere. And I am made of lead and cannot move. And I leap and crash, leap and crash. Sometimes, my super spandex red Superman BVDs fall down around my knees. Leap and crash. Futility dreams born in preschool. A single bound. Not even in my dreams.

When George Reeves, the Real Superman, shot himself in the head in 1959, something in me died too. My belief is superheros, in flying, X-ray vision and invincibility were put away in a box in the attic. I still take a peek at them from time to time. And I am convinced that one day, in my dreams, I willl leap, and I will fly away.

Posted by fred1st at April 8, 2003 06:19 AM | TrackBack

The best thing about Superman is that he didn't really have a Dark Side. Oh, he had his frustrations, and a Fortress of Solitude where he could vent about them in private, but by and large, he was as much Clark Kent as he was Man of Steel. And that made him accessible, at least in our half-formed young minds.

Besides, as fictional elements go, Kryptonite far outranks Unobtainium.

Posted by: CGHill at April 8, 2003 04:10 PM

At my age I still collect and read comics and have quite a collection. I've always dreamed one day I'd be able to leap off a tall building and fly. Not that I'm about to try see, today, if it's at all possible! ;-)

Posted by: Alexandra at April 8, 2003 04:53 PM

Superheroes....where would we be without them?

I hate that "Superman" is a cursed role. A great character, great values, and so much tragedy.

My favorite episode of the George Reeves Superman was when he had to locate an evil scientist, presumed dead, but really living in a cement room. Superman learned how to walk through walls.

Posted by: Da Goddess at April 9, 2003 01:03 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?