Superman is dead.

I'd be hard-pressed to choose any one favorite movie moment, let alone put them in any sort of order, but the scene in Superman II in which Superman, kneeling seemingly in defeat before General Zod, suddenly crushes the villain's hand and stands triumphant, as the John Williams theme fanfares in the background, definitely makes such a list. I would also include the scene in which the Phantom Zone villains have taken control of the Daily Planet and only Lois knows that Superman has sacrificed his powers to be with her, and won't be there to save anyone. Meanwhile, in the streets of Metropolis, a breeze picks up and blows away a stack of newspapers, all with the same headline questioning the whereabouts of the Man of Steel. Sure enough he's back, and hovering outside the window, asking the General if he'd "care to step outside." I think these scenes might even rank higher on my list than the scene in Transformers: The Movie when Hot Rod finally opens the Matrix, and that's saying a lot considering the Transformers Geek I was(OK, am).

“Don’t worry miss, I’ve got you!”
“You’ve got me?? Who’s got YOU?!”

That moment doesn’t rank as high as the others, but certainly was memorable and a strong part of my childhood. Margot Kidder was Lois Lane as far as I knew. Certainly she’d be surpassed when I was in college by the lovely Teri Hatcher, and I’ve been enjoying Erica Durance’s work on Smallville so far, but back then Kidder was Lois.

And Christopher Reeve was Superman.

When you’re a kid, there’s no concept of actors or special effects. Luke Skywalker is Luke Skywalker, Batman is Batman, and Steve Austin is the Six Million Dollar Man(not some wrestler). There’s no concept of names like Mark Hamill, Adam West, or Lee Majors. I knew who Clark Kent was, but I don’t think I knew who Reeve was, at least when I first saw the movies. Over the years I’d see them again and again, the sequel always a strong favorite. I’d find redeeming features in the third movie with the junkyard battle between Clark and Superman, and find little more than fodder for jokes in the fourth film. It’s unfortunate that the last film did turn out so bad, as it was Reeve's project and he was trying to say something important with it.

Monday October 11th was Columbus Day. My office was open, but I had taken a vacation day. I slept a little later, logged on to the internet that morning and began my rounds. The very first site I visited contained a post from an online friend stating the unthinkable; Christopher Reeve was dead at 52.

With age comes knowledge, and the acceptance that the modern mythology of superheroes is nothing more than a fiction. You can become jaded and decide there are no heroes, or you can recognize the actions of police or firefighters or soldiers in the darkest of times. In my life, the closest thing to a real Superman has been my dad, who never slows down, never lets anything stop him. I've seen him work on automobiles and get burned, or be bleeding, and continue working as though wholly undamaged. He once told me a story about my grandmother, a tough Italian woman I'd never met, who raised four daughters and a son. When my dad was a boy their cast iron stove caught fire, and he watched this woman lift it up and carry it out of the house. That's where he comes from, and explains a lot of his endurance and work ethic. These days he's in his 70s and has had clogged arteries for several years now, but it's a struggle to get him to slow down, even when he really should.

We're all human, in our moments of heroism and our moments of defeat. We're capable of great things and some people may seem indestructible. I enjoyed Reeve's version of Rear Window and enjoyed seeing his appearances on Smallville. I still remember the day I was in my car and heard of his accident on the radio. It seemed as though I was driving the same road the same time of day when I'd heard about Kurt Cobain. And yet, as the years went by, I expected he would return from his fate. I was waiting for that scene from Superman II. I was waiting for him to fly again.

Once more I find myself rambling, so I'll conclude with the same pair of apropos quotes Kryptonsite ended their report of the news with:

"When John Kennedy promised that by the end of the 1960s we would put a man on the moon. Everybody, including the scientists, shook their heads in dismay. But we did it. We can cure spinal cord injuries too, if there's a will. What was possible in outer space is possible in inner space." - Christopher Reeve

"But most will remember this sad day as the day the proudest, most noble man they ever knew finally fell. For those who loved him -- one who would call him husband, one who would be his pal, or those who would call him son -- this is the darkest day they could ever imagine. They raised him to be a hero: to know the value of sacrifice, to know the value of life. And for those who served with Superman in the protection of all life comes the shock of a failure: the weight of being too late to help. For a city to live, a man had given his all and more. But it's too late. For this is the day that a Superman died." - Superman #75, 1992 (written by Dan Jurgens)


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