This article is Part 3 of a 5-part series. You can read the rest of the series here.
You’ll Believe A Man (And Girl) Can Fly
The late 1970’s showed a desire to return to something more wholesome and pure with the release of Richard Donner’s sublime Superman in 1978. This was the character’s live-action return to screen after George Reeves’ unfortunate passing. The movie is so joyous, gentle and exuberant that it reminded a lot of people (who had perhaps forgotten) how much they loved Supes.
The other big break out hit at this time was T.V.’s Incredible Hulk. The first Marvel show to make a real impact, the show was brought to life by Bill Bixby playing Bruce Banner and the body builder Lou Ferrigno playing his alter ego The Hulk. Airing on the U.S. network CBS it ran from 1978 to 1982 with the pilot being broadcast in 1977. It was purchased by CBS’s rival network NBC which then ran three well-received T.V. movies in 1988, 89 and 90 to tie up the storyline that had ended on a cliffhanger in 1982. The Incredible Hulk was Marvel’s first real taste of success at bringing one of their characters to life off the page and out of the comic book. The show reflected the more serious nature of the day with its melancholic and somber mood. The closing credits of The Incredible Hulk famously featured downbeat music that was aped by the animated sit-com Family Guy, with the character Stewie recreating “the sad walking away song” to comic effect.
Brash and big budget, but not wholly successful are the characteristics of the following decade (but, hey, doesn’t that just sum up the 80’s!). Movies such as Howard The Duck, Swamp Thing, and Supergirl were expensive outings, but financial and critical disasters. Even Superman couldn’t save the superhero movies of the decade, with Superman III (1983) seeming to focus more on its joint star Richard Pryor than that Superman himself and faring far worse for it. Superman III wasn’t as mush of a tragedy, however, as that of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. The fourth installment suffered from having a miniscule budget and featured a heavy-handed environmental message. The movie was a complete dud (yes, I’m sure that’s the technical term!) and kept Superman from returning cinemas for almost 20 years.