Published at: Oct. 11, 2004, 2:44 a.m. CST by staff
At the age of seven years old, I wrote three heroes of mine for their autograph. The only one that responded was Christopher Reeve. 8 months after I mailed it, in an envelope one day came a small 3x5 photograph of Superman autographed “To Harry, Christopher Reeve”.
As an Eagle Scout that believes in Truth, Justice and the American Way… that believed when that man flew, that a man could fly… every issue of Action, Adventure, World’s Finest, Superboy, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Superman… in every word bubble that came out of a Curt Swan's Supes' head, I heard Christopher Reeve. I don’t believe any actor will ever completely own a role so perfectly as Chris owns SUPERMAN.
Around 6 months after his accident that left Christopher paralyzed, I was hit and paralyzed. As I laid in my bed, before this website was created, vainly searching the internet for something to take my mind off those damn unmoving toes, it was the articles about Christopher Reeve and his Spinal Injury that gave me hope. I read all of them, read the hope in his quotes and when my feet came back to life and as I taught myself to walk again, I prayed that Chris would too.
Being a geek, having that hero that wrote that simple autograph all those years ago fighting and holding on to hope meant something to me. Something, I’d never be able to make anyone understand that hasn’t been through that type of helplessness. I hate that he never walked again, I despise the fact he’s dead. There are too few heroes from my youth that remained heroic in my eyes. We find reasons to knock them down, chip at the mythology we build around them. There’s usually a scandal or two or three… Gossip and failures… To me, Chris was a pillar of strength.
How many people would have the strength to be SUPERMAN in the world’s eyes, then take center stage, struck in a wheelchair on respiratory equipment and barely able to speak and yet COMMAND the world’s attention. Who could put the thoughts of what all those eyes were thinking behind them? Christopher Reeve not only could, he did.
Reeve never had the career I would’ve hoped for from him. The role of SUPERMAN was nigh impossible to shake in many’s eyes, and the fear of that baggage I feel kept him from a great many parts that he could have been great in. However, watch SOMEWHERE IN TIME and tell me that isn’t one of the best damn character performances you’ve seen. Reeve is heartbreaking in the film. The character work he did in DEATHTRAP was also outstanding, as was the tiny part he played in REMAINS OF THE DAY. But there’s no shaking that it is as SUPERMAN that he’ll be immortalized.
The scene in Lois’ apartment – after he’s just taken her on an aerial date as Superman, and he’s taking her out for burgers, and she’s changing – and he takes off those glasses, and without an edit – he becomes Kal-El… His body posture, the look in his eyes, the voice… it’s as if a completely different person is suddenly before us. That scene, for me, is one of the great actor moments in any film. Simply tremendous. The Kent glasses had always been a joke – like, how could everyone not see through it, but Reeve, for the very first time made that impractical bit of zaniness and made it not only believable, but perfectly understandable. Sure, John Williams’ stunning music played its part, but Reeve owned every scene he played.
Nobody has ever owned Batman, like Reeve did Superman.
Heroes, real and imagined are few and far between. For the middle second & third of my life, he embodied my favorite imaginary hero. And in the last quarter of my life, when I needed a hero to give me that extra bit of strength for enduring an impossible situation, the same man of steel was there. I’ve never flown in a plane and not looked out a window at the wing hoping to see him holding it up, and I never will. He made us all soar and he always will.