Someone recently asked about The Superman Movie Contest that DC ran back in 1978 and I have unearthed and lightly edited the online columns from 2000 that told of my involvement with it...
Q: Women with the initials “L.L.” have always played a part in Superman’s life. He met one such woman, Lori Lemaris, the mermaid from Atlantis…a) as Clark Kent while on assignment at sea for the Daily Planet
b) when he saved the underwater city from destruction
c) when she telepathically contacted him for help
d) while Clark was a student at Metropolis University
That was the first of twenty-five contest questions for the “Superman The Movie Contest” DC Comics ran in late 1978. Readers had to search through two months of DC titles for all 25, list the answers on a postcard, and send them in. (The correct answer to that one, by the way, is "d.")
Sound tough to win? Well, some folks at DC thought so. That’s why an extra tier of prizes was added. Every entrant who answered 15 to 24 of the questions correctly would receive a one-year subscription to his or her favorite book.
So the contest begins and before long, post cards start arriving at the DC offices. First a few a day. Then a few dozen a day. Then we were swamped. And the problems began.
Guess who did it? That’s right, the vast majority of those cards were “graded” by yours truly. It didn’t take me long to memorize the correct answers and I could rattle them off for myself or for a group of my fellow staffers sitting around a table.
When all the entries were checked, we had only 21 people who’d gotten 100%. That made it fairly easy to do a drawing to determine who would get to tug on Superman’s cape and who would get Curt Swan artwork. What was going to be an expensive proposition was the one-year subscriptions. There were about 1400 winners! DC President Sol Harrison never anticipated that he’d be giving away quite so many comics and he wasn’t too pleased about it.
Along came the Answer Man with a suggestion: We were going to have to contact every one of the winners and ask which comic they wanted their subscription to. (Another job -- and expense -- no one had figured on.) The DC library at the time was overflowing with extra copies of books, I pointed out to Sol. Suppose, as an alternative to a subscription, we offered the winners a “DC Prize Pack” of twenty books that would include “classics from DC’s library,” some foreign editions (of which we had plenty) and at least one autographed comic.
Of course, no good idea goes unpunished, so guess who ended up preparing all those bundles of books? Right again! Each day, I’d take the pile of prize responses, make up mailing labels, go off to the library to gather up bundles of books, and supplement them with foreign language versions from our international department.
Freelancers were roped in, too. An artist or writer would drop off some work and I’d grab them to sign a dozen books. I remember one day accosting writer Bob Haney when he’d come in to see editor Murray Boltinoff. He agreed to sign “a few” and I presented him with a pile of fifty copies of Brave & Bold he’d written.
In the end, it cost DC a lot less than 1400 subscriptions would have (which made Sol happy) and cleaned out a lot of books that had been taking up space in the overcrowded library (which also made Sol happy). And I’d like to think we made a lot of winners happy too.
As I mentioned, of the thousands of entries, only twenty-one fans scored 100% on the quiz. It was time to pick the winners.
My memory is fuzzy about exactly why Christopher Reeve came to visit the DC offices. What I do remember is that once it was learned he’d be coming, Sol decided it would be Reeve who picked the winning postcards.
So, the morning he came in, he was escorted down the hall to Sol’s office and with all pomp and circumstance, Chris reached into the box and pulled out the winner. He was quite surprised that the box was not overflowing with cards, but when we explained about the 25 questions, he smiled and said, “I never would have gotten them all and I am Superman.”
|Christopher Reeve picks the winning postcards with yours truly and DC President Sol Harrison. |
(Photo courtesy of Jack C. Harris)
Word spread quickly that Christopher Reeve was there and signing books. Suddenly, people who worked in the other division were showing up in Sol’s doorway to get autographs. Then people from the floor above started to arrive.
After about two hours, Chris announced that he really had to go. Even Superman could get writer’s cramp. Fellow staffer Jack C. Harris and I were entrusted with the duty of escorting him out.
We walked Chris up the hall, but when I opened the door to the lobby, I was startled to find it packed with people. Word had spread throughout the building and fans from everywhere were showing up, hoping for a signature or three. Far more quickly than I had opened the door, I shut it.
“Now what do we do?” Jack asked.
“More than one way to get out of here,” I replied and led them to the freight elevator. Moments later, it arrived. We stepped in and I told the operator to take us to the building lobby.
“Can’t do that,” he replied. “You have to take the regular elevator for that.”
“We can’t take the regular elevator. We’re sneaking him out of the building.”
The operator looked at Chris for the first time. His eyes widened in recognition. “Say, aren’t you--?”
Chris smiled and nodded.
“Wow…” whispered the operator.
“Down, down and away!” I said.
Moments later, Chris walked out of the building and Jack and I went back upstairs in the regular elevator. The lobby was stilled mobbed. One woman grabbed my arm and said, “Say, I see you on the subway platform every morning. Can you get me in to see Mr. Reeve?”
“I’m sorry, he’s left the building.”
“No, he hasn’t. I’ve been right here for an hour.”
“Well, ma’am, he is Superman.”