Oct 11, 2004

In Memory of Christopher Reeve

Another Superman from my youth passed away yesterday. Earlier in the year, Danny Dark, voice of the Superfriends' Man of Steel, died, and this morning, I learned that the quintessential Superman, Christopher Reeve, died yesterday afternoon. He was 52.

I've seen and heard many individuals portray the first iconic superhero over the years, from Bud Culdyer and George Reeves to Tim Daly and Dean Cain to George Newbern and (at least in the Clark Kent identity) Tom Welling, but it was Christopher Reeve who put a human face on the comic book character. Twenty-six years ago, he graced the silver screen in a way that, at the time and, to some, still has, changed the way the American public looked at comic book-driven films and television shows.

Think about that for one moment.

Until the Superman movie came out, Americans still considered the 60s Batman series as a template for all comic book-based productions. Campy, over the top, full of overdramatics, hamtastic acting, just plain silly. Superfriends, as good as it was, also had similar attributes. Even less silly comic book-based projects like Wonder Woman (which could have been a disasterous comedy series if the Batman producers' earlier pilot had been successful) were more or less cut from the same cloth. When Christopher Reeve first donned the familiar Superman costume, attitudes about comic book properties changed. The film personified the current attitudes of the comics of the era, long trying to get from under the Batman camp image in the mainstream. Mr. Reeve's performance as the Man of Steel paved the way for Bill Bixby's David Banner/Hulk, John Wesley Shipp's Barry Allen/Flash, Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne/Batman, Wesley Snipes's Blade, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, and Tobey McGuire's Peter Parker/Spider-Man, among others.

Christopher Reeve made people believe that a man can fly. He has made such an impact on the mythos of the Superman legacy in many wayes. Kingdom Come, a miniseries created by Mark Waid and ALex Ross, was largely a Superman story that was dedicated to Mr. Reeve. Recently, he made one last mark on the current incarnation of the Superman mythos Smallville as Dr. Swan, who enlightened Clark Kent about where he came from and what his destiny will be.

In recent years, after an equestrian accident left him paralyzed, he became an advocate for many causes. Though he wasn't as mobile as he once was, Mr. Reeve continued to champion many paraylsis studies and programs, some more controversial than most. To some, these real-life heroics made him more like Superman than ever, but to me, slightly reverting back to the days when I wore my Superman pajamas with the velcro cape, Christopher Reeve will always be Superman, and he will be missed.

1 comment:

Ariake Shikima said...

I heard about Christopher Reeve's passing on my way home from work early this morning. My jaw dropped when the radio first said that "more on the passing of Superman was on the way." Connecting the dots, I realized that my lifelong hero had died, and a tear came to my eye. With "Superman: The Movie" released the same year I was born, I grew up seeing Christopher Reeve as Superman. And every other role I ever saw him play, including his recent appearances on "Smaillville," his very presence, even in his wheelchair and on a respirator, still cried out that this was Superman.

I remember the shock and horror I felt when I heard about his accident in 1995. And when I learned that instead of giving up -- granted, he came close to doing so, but in the end did the right thing -- he faced this new challenge head on, knowing that he may ever walk or move a muscle below his neck again, I was moved more than I have ever been before or since. His grace, style, compassion, and humanity after the accident cemented him in my mind as Superman more than anything ever could have. He became more than an actor, he became someone that everyone should aspire to be more like.

"Christopher was a hero to many people, yet he always said it was the ordinary people living with disability who were truly extraordinary," -Kathy Lewis, chief executive of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

It was this attitude that made him a hero. Putting other people who were injured first, regardless of his own situation, that made him a superhero.

Just this last Saturday, October 9th, I bought his audiobook "Still Me" as a gift for my blind grandmother in the hope that it would be an inspiration to her. Christopher Reeve has made an impact in so many people's lives, both before and after the accident, that this loss is one shared by the entire world.

My heart goes out to his family and friends. Those who were there with him and for him everyday, the heroes behind the Superman. His vibrance heroism will always be a gift that was given to us by Christopher Reeve and his family. As we mourn the death of Superman, please remember the people who gave life, energy, and vitality to the man we cherished: his family. My heart goes out to them, and hope that they know, that regardless of whether a cure is ever found for paralysis, he has made a difference.