Publisher: DC Comics
Print Collection Release Date: July 19, 2022
Other Formats: Also available as six single comic issues
Description: Fly into director Richard Donner’s Superman once more in Superman ’78! Written by Robert Venditti (Superman: Man of Tomorrow) and drawn by Wilfredo Torres (Batman ’66), Superman ’78 tells a brand-new adventure in the world of the beloved film.
A bright, shining day in Metropolis is interrupted by a mysterious drone that crash-lands in the city and starts wreaking havoc. This looks like a job for Superman! But where did the metallic menace come from, what is its purpose, and who is Brainiac? As Metropolis is invaded by this being and its mechanical drones, Superman must make a life-changing sacrifice and leave Earth once and for all. But once aboard Brainiac’s ship, the Man of Steel finds he might not be the last son of Krypton as he believed.
By James Harvey
After reading Superman ’78, you will believe there’s still a wealth of great adventures to be had in the lush world created in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie! Effortlessly landing the tone, charm and humor of the groundbreaking super hero classic (and it’s spectacular sequel), Superman ’78 pays respect to those beloved films while opening up the universe in some pretty bold and big ways. Introducing a new threat while reminding readers what makes this iteration of the Man of Steel soar so high, Superman ’78 makes the legend come to life again in bold, surprising ways.
Superman ’78 opens on a bright, shining day in Metropolis that’s disturbed by a mysterious drone which crash-lands in the city and starts wreaking havoc. Superman steps in to put a stop to the metallic menace and soon discovers the drone was sent by the android Brainiac, and this is only the beginning! Soon, Superman finds he may need to make the ultimate sacrifice, and work with one of Metropolis’ worst, to protect his friends and loved ones from a threat unlike any he’s ever faced before.
Written by Robert Venditti with art provided by the exceptionally skilled Wilfredo Torres, Superman ’78 makes for an inviting read right from the first page. It’s immediately clear Venditti and Torres have a strong grasp of what made Donner’s original Superman work so well. The perfectly-realized characters, the crisp, smart dialogue, and the pacing and humor, all of it feels absolutely on-point. You can almost hear John Williams’ iconic score in each panel. He hits all the right points and gets right to the core of what makes this take on Superman fly, making sure to give just as much attention to the smaller character moments as he does the story’s bigger set pieces.
Acting as a kind-of bridge between Superman II and Superman III, Superman ’78 brings a heaping helping of comic lore into Donner’s created universe and adds some new elements to the mix. Superman ’78 also touches on a couple surprising themes, including dealing with loss and mental trauma, which adds some needed weight to this book’s fun and upbeat escapade. While having seen the Donner movies before reading Superman ’78 is expected, it’s not actually required. Even fans somehow unfamiliar with Donner’s classic films will find this book to be a well-done and fun, self-contained adventure starring the Man of Steel. This story works just as good on its own merits.
Venditti wastes little time taking readers to new territory, using Superman ’78 to introduce comic characters that fans have longed to see Donner’s iteration of the Caped Wonder meet, most notably Brainiac. Serving as the book’s main antagonist, he looks exactly what you’d expect. Here he’s dressed in a tidier version of his classic Silver Age look and resembling actor Yul Brynner with an emerald complexion (his drones also look like the 80s take on Brainiac). Lex Luthor plays a significant role here, and even dons/teases a couple costumes that old-school fans will appreciate.
Brainiac doesn’t come alone, either. Given he’s known as the Collector of Worlds, it’s not really much of a surprise that his vast collection also makes an appearance in Superman ’78, including the bottle city of Kandor. However, what is a massive surprise is the identity of some of the Kryptonian denizens he has in his possession. Venditti makes a pretty big departure from the established movie and comic mythos here and does something really special with it. It all works within the rules and confines established in this world and opens up some neat possibilities for the future.
Perfectly partnered with Venditti for this return to Donner’s Metropolis is Torres, whose clean and clear art-style fits perfectly with this beloved rendition of Superman. Likenesses and mannerisms are spot-on, though with the occasional added flourish inspired by Superman’s comic book history. Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder all “reprise” their respective roles here, among others, and look splendid. Everything just looks right from top to bottom, and that applies to really everything about this world. It’s a skilled recreation of Donner’s world, down to the smallest detail.
Torres also has a really great eye for action and creating a sense of pace and flow from panel to panel. Everything just slides along, and there’s never a lull. Torres’ staging is fantastic as well, with choices feeling reminiscent or respectful to what Donner did or would’ve done. Here he’s partnered with colorist Jordie Bellaire, whose smart mix of bright and vivid colors help mimic the soft-focus look of Donner’s films, further adding to Superman ’78‘s successful adaptation of the movie’s visual language.
Superman ’78 is also loaded with Easter Eggs for readers to discover, including background gags and cameos that’ll elicit chuckles from Superman fans (including the return of a certain cellophane ‘S’). Readers will find nods here to classic Superman comics and media appearances, including the Donner films and other Super-movies, plus even some appearances by other WB-owned (and Donner-created) characters. It’s also worth noting there’s an absolutely awesome Easter Egg hidden under the hardcover collection’s dust-jacket that’s easily one of the coolest things DC Comics’ ever done (images below). This especially cool treat can also be found in the Batman ’89 hardcover collection.
Inside and out, Superman ’78 is a loving tribute to the classic movie series that builds on its mythos in exciting and logical ways. Venditti aptly recreates that sense of fun and wonder from Donner’s original films, making it effortless for readers to believe that a man can fly again. There’s even something a little refreshing and comforting about revisiting this particular iteration of Superman after so long, almost coming across an old security blanket.
The creators’ love for the original movies shine through with every page of Superman ’78, re-establishing the strengths of these characters before dropping a few major surprises on their respective laps. Vendetti understands the Donner films not only believed in Superman and what he represents, but gave him challenges that he couldn’t solve with a few well-placed haymakers. Superman’s compassion has always been his greatest strength, and that’s not forgotten here. All of this is supported by Torres’ incredible pencils, layout choices and some career-best work. For anyone aching to return to the world of Donner’s Superman, or just wanting a top-notch adventure starring the Man of Tomorrow, then look no further. Superman ’78 is a Must Own!
Superman ’78 is available now for purchase in both print and digital formats, available as six single issues or as a collected edition, all from DC Comics. Discuss this review here!
Images #7-10, 12, 13 – Credit: Wilfredo Torres
Bonus Video Gallery
Check out more related reviews and coverage:
Batman ’89 Comic Review – Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1978-2006 Blu-ray Review – Superman: The Ultimate Collection DVD Review – Supergirl DVD Review
Dark Crisis: Big Bang #1, released in December 2022 by DC Comics, confirmed that worlds established in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) not only exist in the DC Multiverse, but also inhabit the same Earth – Earth 789! To put it simply: Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) exist on the same Earth and share the same timeline! Click the excerpt images below to check it out!