Like many comic book geeks, I've never fully understood why moviemakers have been so completely resistent to using actual comic book stories when adapting the characters to the silver screen.
Ok, I mean, I get why Alexander and Ilya Salkind commissioned Mario Puzo to write an original screenplay for Superman: The Movie. It was risky. No one had ever made a superhero movie with that kind of budget and gravity before.
Frankly, much past that, I don't quite understand. Possibly with the recent Spider-Man movies and Batman Begins both relying on more elements drawn directly from the comics to great commercial and critical success, we can find some reason to hope they will continue moving in that direction.
Even when a very successful storyline is the inspiration, as was the case with producer Jon Peters and his desire to capitalize on the success of the Death of Superman arc, they still avoid actually drawing on the actual comics as a starting point.
You can read a draft, written by Kevin Smith, online (for example, by clicking here), and I'd suggest taking the opportunity to listen to Smith's rant on the subject, found on An Evening With Kevin Smith.
What we ended up with is Superman Returns. My problems with that movie are legion, and documented here (I'd also recommend the appropriate section of Quick Notes on Some Recent Screenings by Tim Lucas), but the point in this context is that with 75 years worth of comic book stories compared to five theatrical features with the character, director Bryan Singer made the core story of his movie a virtual remake of Superman: The Movie.
So, we come to Superman: Doomsday, the new direct-to-DVD adaptation of the original comic storyline by Bruce Timm & Co. over at Warner Brothers Animation.
Right up front, let me note to things. In an attempt to blend the post-John Byrne art style of the early '90s with the simpler look of the animated versions, they've mostly made a mess, especially when it comes to Superman's facial features, although the tribute to the Dan Jurgens mullet is pretty well done.
On top of that, it's half the length of Superman: The Movie or Superman Returns, and it could seriously have used some of that space to really develop the story. At this length, it has to almost completely eliminate the Funeral For a Friend storyline, which really is the heart of the original story. It also renders many of the third act Return of Superman elements choppy.
That said, it shows how well the action sequences between Superman and Doomsday as well as Superman vs. Superman can be when played out. It also reminds, as the story ought to, what makes the Superman character special in a way that too many adaptations have neglected. Not to mention providing an exciting action story, which has also been much neglected in such things.
Parhaps someone somewhere else at Warner Brothers will take note. It's not perfect, but it more than shows that you can create something out of comic book characters by - Surprise, surprise! - telling the stories from their comic books!
The DVD also includes an entertaining documentary on the creation and reaction to the original comic series that includes most of the participants. Not to mention a preview of the upcoming Justice League: The New Frontier, which will adapt The New Frontier. Original series creator Darwyn Cooke insists this epic will work as the short length. It certainly would be more than a little bit awesome if it does.