Saturday, December 29, 2012

Face-Off: The Iconic DC Actors

Doug:  Since we're in between our 2-part look at Alex Ross's and Paul Dini's Superman: Peace on Earth, I thought we'd pause for a bit and ponder a question.  The inspiration for said question was an article in the recent treasury-sized issue of Back Issue! magazine.  One of my favorite "big books" of the 1970's was the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez-illustrated Superman vs. Wonder Woman.  At the beginning of the article was a photo of television's Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, with co-star Lyle Waggoner.  And here's what immediately leapt to mind:

DC has struggled (sometimes mightily) in getting any traction under Superman and/or Wonder Woman projects on the big or small screens since the late 1970's; Superman has obviously been involved in a few long-running series like Lois and Clark and Smallville, but do Bronze Agers think of Dean Cain and Tom Welling first when they think of Supes?  And part of that may be due in no small part to the performances and general looks of actors Christopher Reeve as Superman and the aforementioned Carter.  Any actors who venture into those iconic costumes are forever measured against what for many Bronze Age Babies remain the definitive performances of those two characters.  So, finally, here's the question:  Between Christopher Reeve and Lynda Carter, who will "own" their trademark role the longest?


vancouver mark said...

My head says Christopher Reeve.
The rest of me says Lynda Carter.

Matt Celis said...

Lynda Carter will always be WW. George Reeves was aleady Superman. Adam West remains Batman.

Matt Celis said...

And Kirk Alyn ties with Chris Reave as my favorite Superman.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Vancouver Mark pretty much summed it up for me!

Mike W.

Doug said...

Matt --

I know this will make most of our readers cringe, but can you imagine a 1966 movie featuring West and Ward in character against a litany of aliens? Sort of an "Abbot and Costello" version of Batman and Robin, running off the plots of some of those thoroughly silly early Silver Age stories?

For pure camp value, that would have been priceless.

But I don't know who my favorite Batman is. Everything lately is so skewed by Miller's version of the character. Too bad DC couldn't have gotten their act together in the late '70's. Kevin Conroy will get my vote.

As to the question of the day, I guess because there have been many iterations of Superman and Superboy over the past 20 years, it's safe to say that Wonder Woman belongs solely to Lynda Carter. And she's a tough act to follow!


Edo Bosnar said...

You guys are all forgetting by far the most important one: Julie Newmar is and always will be Catwoman.

Matt Celis said...

It's the Frank Miller "realism" I find silly when it comes to a guy who dresses up in bat tights to "fight crime."

Doug said...

Edo --

Good call.

For a "total fail", John Wesley Shippp never sold the Flash in the post-Batman Flash TV show, but I really think that was due in large part to the costume. Waaaaayy too bulky.

How cool of a movie would "Dial 'H' for Hero" make?

The post-Miller Batman notwithstanding, Heath Ledger will now always be the Joker. Man, still get the willies when I think of his performance.

Christopher Reeve had it all -- the height, the muscles, the spot-on personalities of both Clark Kent and Superman... what a great portrayal. I don't remember enough to know if Lynda Carter made a great portrayal, but she looked the part perfectly.


MattComix said...

I love them both. I think they not only had the actual looks needed for the characters but they both
played their roles with a level of class that always shined through even when given less than stellar material.

She was Wonder Woman and he was Superman even when the script and effects were crap.

So often these days Wonder Woman gets written as if she were the love child of Xena and Red Sonja. Carter's WW had a elegance and grace that made her look awesome, even "badass" without needing to be hefting a bloodied axe above her head.

Reeve's Superman had the right combination of gentleness and charm while having a steel in his eyes that made him sell his disgust at Luthor killing innocent people or his determination to save lives from the quake.

Dougie said...

Lee Merriwether was the first Catwoman I ever saw and remains my favourite. Happily, Batman has been in reruns here on weekdays around 7am and I've been charmed by Yvonne Craig's Batgirl.

Without Smallville, we never would have seen Dr. Fate, Hawkman, Zatanna and the founding Legionnaires Three on tv! I think that's amazing.

Rip Jagger said...

Great question.

I have a hard time choosing between them, but if push came to shove I'd have to give the nod to Carter. She's had almost no competition for the role, and Reeve has weathered nearly a half dozen guys in the suit. He still remains my pick for that iconic role (sorry George) but I can see that changing, especially if a new series catches on. This new guy does look good.

Rip Off

Inkstained Wretch said...

I kind of agree with Rip in that it is an apples to oranges comparison.

Reeve remains the iconic Superman despite the fact that lots of guys have worn the red & blue tights (I hope they get a regular cleaning! -- ba-dum-bump!).

Lynda Carter, on the other hand, has had virtually no competition for the part of Wonder Woman (in live action anyway) so the role kind of belongs to her by default. So I don't think we can properly compare the two. Carter has not had the competition that Reeve has had.

I should add though that, for me anyway, the definitive Wonder Woman is Susan Eisenberg ( and the definitive Superman is Danny Dark (

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm just Mr. Agreeable today. Susan Eisenberg, Danny Dark and Kevin Conroy are the voices I hear in my head when I'm reading. Add Norman Alden as Aquaman to the list.

That being said, Christopher Reeve and Lynda Carter are iconic. Lynda does have an edge since we have yet to see a live action Wonder Woman since the '70s. That seems insane. No wonder Marvel's kicking WB's complacent butt at the box office.

I was impressed by Anne Hathaway's take on Catwoman, but Julie Newmar IS the Catwoman. Actually, I've been catching up on reruns, and forgot how good Cesar Romero was as the Joker. He really did embody the silver age version, with a touch of Romero class.

I tried giving them chances, but Dean Cain and Tom Welling both sucked in my opinion. They were barely Superboys, let alone Supermen. I've been afraid to try the new Green Arrow show. Anyone seen it yet?

And Doug: Batman vs the Aliens? Brilliant! When's it coming out? I'm ready.

James Chatterton

Garett said...

Well spoken, Matt Comix.

I think Reeve owns Superman, although I liked Dean Cain in the series. I think there could be a Wonder Woman to top Linda Carter, as good as she was.

Catwoman--Lee Merriwether and Julie Newmar. Didn't like Eartha Kitt or Michelle Pfieffer, although Pfieffer with a better costume may have worked.

Joker--Heath Ledger was fantastic, but I recently saw Cesar Romero again and he was fun to watch.

A Batman movie in the '70s would've been cool, if some visionary could've given it an Adams/Aparo spin. And very doable without extravagant special effects. Maybe it was made in some alternate universe.

As a side note, I'm impressed that Garcia Lopez is tied for the lead in best Superman artist! Well deserved.

Anonymous said...

No doubt in my mind guys - Christopher Reeve and Lynda Carter OWN their respective roles. I think one of the reasons why Supes & WW have not been successful in cinema/TV recently is the close association the viewing public has with Chris and Lynda.

When I saw Superman Returns with Brandon Routh, I thought 'he really tried but he's no Chris Reeve!'; similarly, I can't even begin to picture any actress (Megan Fox? Argghhh!)occupying Lynda Carter's starry boots. They really brought the right touch and characterization to their respective characters. While one might argue that these roles don't require much acting prowess, the presence and class they brought to these roles made them all their own.

The same can be said of 2 actors in two other 70s series - Lee Majors in the Six Million Dollar Man and of course Telly Savalas in Kojak. I know Ving Rhames starred in a proposed Kojak TV reboot in 2005 and now I hear they are making a big screen reboot with Vin Diesel. He's already bald but can you picture Mr Diesel with a lollipop in his mouth? If they ever come around to making a SMDM reboot, whoever portrays Colonel Austin next will have some pretty big bionic shoes to fill.

I sincerely hope the new Man of Steel movie is a hit, but I also think DC has their work cut out if they want to catch merry Marvel at the box office, especially in light of the mammoth success of the Avengers. While I think Christopher Nolan is a genius director, his Batman trilogy was a little too dark for my taste. Watching the last one made me feel depressed somehow.

- Mike 'loved Burgess Meredith as the Penguin in the 60s' from Trinidad & Tobago.

david_b said...

Vancouver Mark summed it for me. Both Reeves and Carter filled the roles humbly and honorably.

As for other characters, I thought Keaton did a distinquished turn as Bruce Wayne, but I'm still an Adam West diehard. No one ever brought up 'Robin', but yes, I'm going with Ward as well.

Joker..? Easily Romero or better yet, Hamill from TAS.

Ledger..? He'll never be more than a thug to me, regardless of gritty makeup. No sense of style, no panache, any more than the rest of the current franchise.

STH said...

Must say, I don’t remember even liking any live action Supermen besides C. Reeves. The ’78 Superman movie was the first really, really good/great superhero movie. It opened the door to taking the comic book characters seriously in big, expensive movies. Reeves portrayal wasn’t the only reason that movie was so good, but it was the main one. Perfect as Kent, perfect as Supes.

Also, as David-b said: Mark Hamill as the Joker. For me, that was the quintessential take on the character. He managed to bridge the 60’s goofiness with the 80’s darkness, and make it all work.

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