A Look Back at Superman III comic book adaptation (1983)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1980s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the year 1983 which saw the theatrical release of Superman III that featured the late Christopher Reeve as the cinematic Man of Steel.

The 1980s was a very different time with regards to Hollywood’s handling of superhero movies. The concept of a shared cinematic universe was decades away from realization. Warner Bros. back then relied on the Salkind family to produce Superman movies and the first flick in 1978 proved to be a major hit for both viewers and critics while also establishing Christopher Reeve as the definitive live-action Superman for countless people. Unsurprisingly, a sequel was released in the early 1980s which continued box office success for the stakeholders and only led to the approval of another sequel.

Along the way, the late Richard Pryor (a major comedian already) appeared on TV and talked about Superman II which eventually led to him getting hired for Superman III. The movie was released in 1983 making a little over $80 million worldwide while also getting a noticeably weaker reception from critics. More notably, Richard Pryor had a huge chunk of the film’s spotlight as Gus Gorman while the overshadowed Christopher Reeve managed to stretch his cinematic art on playing Clark Kent and Superman (note: there is also the memorable Clark versus Superman battle). Superman III very clearly had a lot more comedy in its presentation. As part of the movie’s marketing, an official comic book adaptation by DC Comics was published.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at the Superman III comic book adaptation,  published by DC Comics in 1983 with a story written by Cary Bates and art made by Curt Swan and Sal Amendola.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins inside the unemployment bureau of Metropolis. There, August “Gus” Gorman was told after 36 weeks of chronic unemployment, he is no longer eligible for financial assistance (read: welfare) from the city. As he was about to light his cigarette, he noticed computer job ad on the match. Gorman proceeds to the Archibald Data Processing School where he gets enrolled with several others. In front of others, Gorman does something on a computer which impressed the instructor a lot.

Over at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent/Superman, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen meet with Perry White at his office. Kent will be returning home to Smallville and make a news story out of it. White gives Kent his approval and then tells Lois she deserves a vacation.

Hours later, Kent and Jimmy Olsen ride the bus together going to Smallville but their ride stops as a result of a huge fire damaging a large chemical plant. A police officer reveals to Olsen that the scientists inside are worried about the plant and its stuff getting destroyed by the fire.

Kent carefully leaves the bus and discreetly changes into Superman to help solve the problem. Olsen, meanwhile, sneaks past the authorities to get to the burning chemical plant.

Over at Webcoe Industries, company head Ross Webster and his sister Vera learn that more than $85,000 worth of company funds was stolen by someone within. Just outside the office, Gus Gorman enters his fancy looking sports car which Webster, Vera and Lorelei notice. Webster asked how could one of their computer technicians afford such a vehicle worth $75,000…    

Quality

This is a creative way the comic book team used to dramatize Gus Gorman scene revealing and acting the bad news to his boss Ross Webster whose plans were thwarted by Superman.

While it is understandable that not all scenes and not all character moments from the movie  made it on print media, this comic book still managed to capture the film’s essence for the most part. The creative team pulled off their own interpretations of the events and made something entertaining and engaging even though they had to deal with the major challenge of summarizing the movie’s plot and establishing a workable comic book narrative.

I should state that the comic team creatively avoided making in-depth references about liquor and smoking which were obvious in the movie. You will not see Superman drinking liquor at a bar nor will you see Gus Gorman referring to tar listed on a cigarette pack. I suppose this was done to ensure the comic book would be released widely and be acceptable to very young readers and the parents watching them.

The battle between evil Superman and Clark Kent is best viewed in the movie. This one is a shorter and less detailed version of it.

When it comes to establishing the clear lead among all the characters featured, Superman fans should be delighted to know that the Man of Steel is indeed more prominent than Gus Gorman. Take note that in the movie, Richard Pryor’s Gus Gorman overshadowed Christopher Reeve’s Superman/Clark.

The art done by Curt Swan and Sal Amendola is decent and it seems to me that their time on visualizing Cary Bates’ script was indeed limited. That being said, it was not surprising to me that, with the exception of Ross Webster in one specific image, none of the characters resembled their cinematic counterparts. Clark Kent/Superman never resembled Christopher Reeve, and Gus Gorman looks nothing like Richard Pryor. Clearly, the artists’ focus was visualizing the narrative which they succeeded.  

Conclusion

Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White in the Daily Planet.

Having seen the Christopher Reeve/Richard Pryor movie in the cinema and on cable TV since 1983, I can say that Superman III (1983) is a decent adaptation. It’s not 100% faithful but it is still a worthy read as it will give you the movie’s concept and entertainment values in literary form. If you really want to full essence of film along with the cinematic moments (note: the Superman-Clark battle is the cinematic highlight) all intact, then your obvious choice is to watch the movie. If you are turned off by the movie’s wacky comedy, then the comic book adaptation will deliver to you the more serious approach on telling Superman III’s story. Let me repeat that Superman is more prominent than Gus Gorman in this comic book.

Overall, Superman III (1983) is satisfactory.

+++++

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