Yeah, thanks, that's what I was thinking, although, additionally, my emphasis was on how comic books were perceived and regarded from the mainstream perspective. There's no question that, in the 1970's, comic books were regarded as anything but a literary medium by the public at large. Even while the eyes of comic book readers were opened in the following years, mainstream public appreciation for the serious potential of the medium still lagged behind.
Yeah, but what I'm saying is, at the time the movie was made in 1977, the perception of comics as a largely fanciful and lighthearted medium was still not far from the truth. They'd gained some more intelligence, character depth, and sincerity thanks to folks like Stan Lee and Dennis O'Neill, but a lot of the really wild, fanciful, cartoony, silly stuff was still very much a part of them, especially of DC comics at the time. So what Donner created was actually pretty authentic to the Superman comics of the period: a movie that treated its protagonist characters with a fair degree of sincerity but immersed them in a fantasy world.
(And I've heard it argued
, that Superman III
is actually the purest screen depiction of the Silver Age Superman we've ever gotten.)
Today we look back on things like the Adam West Batman and the Richard Lester Superman and see them as a consequence of the "mainstream" not understanding what comics were really like and making fun of them instead. But if you actually look at the comics of the era leading up to those productions, the comics that would've been their referents, they actually were a lot like what we saw onscreen. Our modern perception of superhero comics as this ultra-serious medium is mainly an aftereffect of The Dark Knight Returns
and the lasting influence they had on comics -- but what we forget is that what was so distinctive about those two works is that their dark, serious tone was profoundly different
from what superhero comics had been like until then. They were specifically meant to be radical departures and deconstructions.
So the tone of the '66 Batman and the '70s Superman wasn't a result of the "mainstream" misunderstanding or trivializing comics. It was a sincere and at least somewhat authentic depiction of the actual tone and flavor of the comics that these film and TV producers had available as referents. Maybe something based on Marvel, had it been treated authentically, would've been closer to a modern vision, but we didn't get any authentic Marvel adaptations in live action in the '70s, just radical departures like the Bill Bixby Hulk
, the Nicholas Hammond Spider-Man
, and the Reb Brown Captain America
. The DC-based shows and films we got in that era (add Wonder Woman
to those mentioned above) were actually a lot closer to the mark.