Released by Warner Books in 1979 to celebrate the success of Superman The Movie this portfolio featured reproductions of 12 full-colour paintings by artist Jim Dietz, inspired by scenes from the film.
Clearly swayed by the success of 20th Century Fox’s Star Wars Portfolio from 1977, which featured 21 paintings by concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, Warner Books commissioned commercial illustrator Dietz to paint scenes from the hugely popular Superman The Movie.
The reproduction quality of the plates is high with each plate measuring a generous 14 x 11 inches and printed on thick white card stock (‘suitable for framing’ according to the blurb on the cover). The portfolio shipped in a sturdy cardboard envelope with a slot on the back to keep the top flap in place, and once opened the envelope folded out on all four sides.
The first sheet in the set is a contents/titles page listing all 12 paintings featured in the portfolio, while the reverse featured a short biography of artist Dietz.
Overall Dietz does a good job capturing the excitement and spectacle of the film, particularly with plates #8 (Superman Saves Airforce One), #9 (Superman Deflecting Guided Missile) and #11 (Superman Catching Bus). Plate #7 (Lois Lane and Superman over Metropolis) also stands out – Dietz does a great job capturing the likeness of both Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. Not all the plates work though, especially plate #6 (Fortress of Solitude) where Superman looks far too old and Plate #10 (Saving Jimmy Olsen) where both Superman and Jimmy look very stiff. Inexplicably the most memorable scene from the film – where Superman catches both Lois and the helicopter – isn’t represented.
Although clearly a talented artist Jim Dietz was an curious choice as artist for a collection based on Superman The Movie as he had no involvement in the film itself. Ralph McQuarrie actually worked on Star Wars so he was a natural choice but Dietz – who up until that time was better known as a military and aviation illustrator –appears to have been commissioned solely on his artistic merit. Don’t get me wrong he’s a good choice but I’ve always wondered by this portfolio didn’t copy the Star Wars model and feature actual concept art from the film.
Anyway, here are the 12 plates so you can make up your own mind…
Plate #7: Lois Lane and Superman over Metropolis
When released in 1978 Superman The Movie was a hugely popular film that struck a chord with cinema-goers. I was taken to see it three times in quick succession by various family members and everyone (and I do mean everyone) I knew had been to see it. But back before the days of home video and the internet it wasn’t particularly easy for fans like myself to relive our favourite scenes and once the film left the cinema all we could do was wait the 5-6 years before it would eventually be shown on TV. Thankfully this portfolio collection helped bridge the gap a little and 35 years later it still hold-up remarkably well, very much like the film itself.