Sam Strange Remembers: SUPERMAN III

Legendary film producer Sam Strange looks back at the time he put Superman through a masculinity crisis of epic proportions.

Sometimes I think about Superman. I think about how hard it must be for him. I've never spoken to the man himself, but it doesn't take a genius to see how much pressure he's under, not just to save the world, but to set an example as well. When does Superman ever get time to be a man? A real man, I mean. Not that pussy, Clark Kent.

This question was on my mind a lot one day, so as always, I explored it by making a movie. I never saw the first two Superman films, so I'm not sure how Superman 3 stacks up. I'd be surprised if mine's not the funniest, though. It has Bill Cosby in it.

The film begins by introducing the malaise central to Superman's life. You want to imagine him saving the world everyday, but most times he's more like a seeing eye dog for humans, gently nudging them away from their own fatal stupidity. So instead of blocking some super meteor or killing an insane robot, we see Superman blow out flaming toy penguins, block blind people away from open manholes, and rescue idiots who drive over fire hydrants that fill their cars with water. He's less Superman than Supermommy, and it's beginning to wear on him.

Meanwhile, Bill Cosby is an out of work joker desperate to find a paycheck. It's hard because he quits every job he manages to get. While getting some matches for a cigarette, he notices an ad for computer genius school, so he goes for it and discovers he's a computer genius already.

This brings him to a steady data entry job. It's really boring, though. He has a couple friends, but they can't shield him from the annoyingly passive aggressive micromanagement he suffers from four different supervisors. Then there's this really weird guy in a cubicle across from him who's always mumbling about his stapler. To alleviate his boredom and to ease the sting of his first-ever experience with tax deductions, Bill Cosby uses his computer genius to shave penny-fractions from the company payroll, netting him $60,000.

At the Daily Planet, Superman is still pretending to be Clark Kent. He just got in a fight with his girlfriend, Lois Lane, and out of revenge she goes on vacation to Bermuda, stopping by the office long enough to show Clark how little she plans to wear or resist while down there. There's nothing he can do about it because he's a good guy, and good guys can't just tell their wayward girlfriend that she can suck every dick in the southern hemisphere for all he cares.

The best revenge he can muster is to go to his high school reunion and try to pick up some used-to-be-hot tail, a plan so pathetic that it makes one of his balls disappear. Still, it's the best plan he's got, so he flies back to Smallville.

Back at Initech, Bill Cosby is really sticking it to the man. And instead of getting fired, The Man is rewarding him for his ingenuity. Bill Cosby is moved from his cubicle to a ski-slope on the roof where he and The Man and The Man's Lesbian Sister (Anne Ramsey) and the Man's Girlfriend (Valerie Perrine) plot ways to own every coffee bean in the world. They have them all so far except for those grown in Columbia. They think since Bill Cosby is black he can talk Columbia into it. That doesn't work.

So instead, Bill Cosby gets all the Colombians to resent the loss of their masculinity, and they ruin their own infrastructure with large scale pranks against Colombian Yuppies and Assholes.

But then Superman comes along on his way to Smallville and casually thwarts all their biggest practical jokes. This pits Bill Cosby against Superman, while it simultaneously pits Superman further against the self he wants to be.

Things get worse in Smallville. Pretending to be Clark Kent, Superman has to put up with a worse than he remembered level of wedgies, swirlies, and kick-me signs. Even though he knows better, he tries to make some time with Prom Queen Lana Lang, who still looks really hot. He thinks he might have an outside chance because her name sounds so much like his current girlfriend's name. He's wrong. Like all Prom Queens, she's stuck in a loveless marriage with the school's biggest asshole bully, Brad. So the only way he can even talk to her is be entering the Friend Zone.

Because Brad's a worthless alcoholic, Superman has to cook for his family, do the house chores, and rub his feet just to get a couple hours of conversation with Lana. Brad's such a shitty dad that his kid thinks it's normal to fall asleep in the middle of a cornfield. Luckily, Superman is able to push him out of the way before he gets eaten by a combine.

Now that he's been seen as Superman, Lana forgets all about Clark and has Superman do the chores and cooking instead. She even gets him a frilly apron and some rubber gloves.

At this point, Superman is pretty much ready to kill himself, which is a coincidence because Bill Cosby is pretty much ready to kill him, too. Using a computer, Cosby figures out the molecular structure of Kryptonite, a type of rock that gives Superman headaches and makes him tired. All he's missing is 1% of the makeup. Having no better idea, he looks at his cigarettes and decides to fill the remaining 1% with tar. And just for added yucks, he makes sure it comes out shaped like a baby.

In an example of true serendipity, Cosby delivers the Kryptonite just as Superman is experiencing the worst moment of his life: judging a "prettiest pig" contest at the Smallville county fair. The more he concentrates on picking the most beautiful wig-and-makeup pig, the more his self esteem bottoms out.

Cosby hands him the Kryptonite like it's a gift. When Superman fails to get headaches, he's pretty disappointed. What he doesn't realize is that the Tar Kryptonite is even better than regular Kryptonite. Instead of giving Superman a headache, it turns him into a badass. And badasses don't judge pigs at no fucking state fair.

Immediately, Superman grabs a cold one and uses his eyes to turn the pigs into BBQ. People are shocked at first, but not too bad because at least they get some BBQ. But then Superman eats it all, and they get pissed off.

And just like that, everything Superman ever held himself back from is now on the table. Women, booze, punching someone's fucking head off if they mouth off to him, he just doesn't give a shit. And the more people whine and mope about how much they dislike the new Superman, the more he goes into outer space and farts on them. There's one part where Lois Lane gets swept away by a tsunami in Bermuda, and Superman makes the Earth go backwards just so he can watch it again.

At first Bill Cosby thinks he did something awesome, but soon he begins to have second thoughts. Not about Superman, but about his job. He's got a lot of money and power now, but he's still working for The Man. And now The Man wants him to build a super computer to control Metropolis. Cosby starts worrying about all the fancy shit in his house and noticing how much of his life is run by computers. It's as if he's not a man anymore.

The only way he can think of to still stick it to The Man is to bring Superman back from badassville. So he cooks up another bunch of Kryptonite. This time he fills the missing 1% with milk.

Again, when he gives the package to Superman (while he's partying with Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner) nothing happens, and he thinks he's failed. But something is happening. Deep down in Superman's freed soul a rift is beginning to form.

Superman flies to a junk yard and splits into two, good and fun. The two Supermens start fighting each other. Bad Superman keeps killing the good Superman, but he never stays dead. He's sort of like fighting a fat guy. Suddenly, good Superman pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the mouth. This surprises bad Superman so much that he looses control of his inner psyche, allowing good Superman to take over completely.

Good Superman knows three things. One, he has to go undo all the damage bad him did. Two, he needs to personally thank Bill Cosby for saving him from himself. And three, he's really, really glad no one saw him fighting an invisible version of himself for ten minutes because it probably looked really stupid.

When Superman goes to find Bill Cosby the task ultimately becomes much more difficult than he imagined. First he goes to where Bill Cosby went to computer school, but they just look at him weird and won't say anything. Next he visits The Man's Girlfriend, but all she wants is sex. It's weird, too, because she seems to know about all his fetish stuff. Finally he sees The Man and asks after Bill Cosby. After making sure he's not kidding, The Man says he has no idea who Bill Cosby is, but he sure appreciates the super computer Superman built for him.

Just then the whole city of Metropolis becomes a monstrous super computer, and Superman has to gum up its circuit boards with acid that turns into cherry cola slurpee when heated.

With that done, Superman reaches into his crotch pocket and is surprised to find a pack of cigarettes. Then it hits him. There is no Bill Cosby. There never was. It was a splintered part of his personality given agency by Superman's masculine crisis. Thinking further, Superman realizes that there was no Tar Kryptonite either. That was a figment as well.

Luckily the damage Superman's masculine crisis caused wasn't too bad. More importantly, he learned a valuable lesson about himself in the process. To truly be the best Superman he can be, he'll need find a balance between what people need from him and what he needs to make himself happy. He must find away to be both Boy Scout and Iron John at the same time.

And on that note, Superman soon rids the world of nuclear weapons, but not before killing that asshole Brad and having some really amazing sex with Lana Lang.


(three stars)