Superman is a fictional
character regarded as one of the most famous and popular superheroes
of all time. Created by Canadian artist Joe Shuster and American
writer Jerry Siegel in 1932 while both were growing up in Cleveland,
Ohio, and sold to Detective Comics, Inc. in 1938, Superman first
appeared in Action Comics #1 (June 1938) and subsequently appeared in
various radio serials, television programs, films, newspaper strips,
and video games. He has since become one of the world's most
recognized superheroes and pop-culture icons. Today the character's
adventures are published in a number of comic books.
As portrayed in Action
Comics #1, Superman was born on the planet Krypton as Kal-El, and
rocketed to Earth as an infant by his scientist father moments before
the planet's destruction. The rocket landed on Earth where a passing
elderly farm couple found the baby and adopted him. As the child grew
to adulthood he discovered that he possessed powers far beyond those
of mortal men and resolves to use his powers to help others.
keep his identity secret when not fighting the forces of evil as
Superman he lives among humanity as "mild-mannered" Clark
Kent, in the fictional American city of Metropolis, as reporter for
The Daily Star (later changed to The Daily Planet). Clark works
alongside reporter Lois Lane, with whom he is romantically involved
(and married to in current comics continuity) and his archenemy is
supervillain Lex Luthor. He is typically a member of the Justice
League and close ally of Batman and Wonder Woman. Like other
characters in the DC Universe, several alternate versions of Superman
have been depicted over the years.. Some of his nicknames include
"The Man of Steel" (his most famous), "The Man Of
Tomorrow", "The Last Son of Krypton", and
"Metropolis' Favorite Son".
Superman's appearance is
distinctive and iconic; he usually wears a blue costume with a
red-and-yellow emblem on the chest, consisting of the letter S in a
shield shape, and a red cape. This shield is used in many media to
symbolize the character and is widely considered an American cultural
icon. He has fascinated scholars, with cultural theorists,
commentators, and critics alike exploring the character's impact and
role in the United States and worldwide.
The character's ownership
has often been the subject of dispute, with Siegel and Shuster twice
suing for the return of rights. The character has been adapted
extensively and portrayed in other forms of media as well, including
films, television series, and video games.
Joseph Shuster (below
right) was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of Jewish immigrants.
His father, Julius, an immigrant from Rotterdam, and his mother, Ida,
who had come from Kiev, were barely able to make ends meet.
As a youngster, Shuster
worked as a newspaper boy for the Toronto Star and, as a hobby, he
liked to sketch. The sights and sounds of a big city newspaper, the
hustle bustle of its offices, and the fantasy world of the
newspaper's color comics had a powerful impact on him. He was a
cousin of one of Canada's most popular comedians, Frank Shuster (of
Wayne & Shuster fame). At the age of ten, Shuster's family moved
to Cleveland, Ohio.
Jerry Siegle (above left)
was the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, the youngest of six
children. His father Mitchell was a sign painter who opened a
haberdashery and encouraged his son's artistic inclinations.
Tragically, Mitchell Siegel was shot and killed in his store by a
thief when Jerry Siegel was still in junior high school. At Glenville
High School he worked for the weekly student newspaper, The Torch. He
was a shy, not particularly popular student, but he achieved a bit of
fame among his peers for his popular Tarzan parody, "Goober the
Mighty". At Glenville he befriended his later collaborator, Joe Shuster.
In January 1933, while still a Cleveland
high school student Jerry Siegel wrote a short story, illustrated by
his friend and classmate Joe Shuster, titled "The Reign of the
Superman", which Siegel self-published in his fanzine, Science
Fiction. It featured a bald-headed villain bent on
dominating the world. The character starts a as vagrant who
gains vast psychic powers from an experimental drug and uses them
maliciously for profit and amusement, only to lose them and become a
vagrant again, ashamed that he will be remembered only as a villain.
The fanzine did not sell well so Siegel and Shuster shifted to making
comic strips, which they self-published in a book they called Popular
Comics. The pair dreamed of becoming professional authors and
believed that syndicated newspaper strips offered more lucrative and
stable work than pulp magazines. The art quality standards were also
lower, making them more accessible to the inexperienced Shuster.
June 1933, Siegel developed a new character, also named Superman,
but now a heroic character, which Siegel felt would be more
marketable. In the story a journalist named Clark Kent pretended to
be meek and mild-mannered but was secretly the mighty Superman. He
was enamored with Lois Lane, but she scorned Clark Kent and was
attracted to Superman, not knowing that Kent and Superman were the
same person. This early prototype of Superman was merely a strong
human who had no superpowers, nor his familiar costume.
Siegel shared his idea with Shuster and
they decided to turn it into a comic strip. The first publisher they
solicited was Humor Publishing in Chicago, which released three
proto-comic books in 1933. Although Humor Publishing was not a
syndicate, Siegel and Shuster had read one of its books, Detective
Dan, and fel t they could match its quality. A representative of
Humor Publishing was due to visit Cleveland on a business trip and so
Siegel and Shuster hastily put together a comic story titled "The
Superman" and presented it to the publisher. In late August of
1933, Humor Publishing replied with an encouraging letter, but later
ceased publishing comics altogether.
Siegel believed publishers kept rejecting
them because he and Shuster were young and unknown, so he looked for
an established artist to replace Shuster. When Siegel told Shuster
what he was doing, Shuster reacted by burning their rejected Superman
comic, sparing only the cover.
Siegel solicited multiple artists and in
1934 Russell Keaton, who worked on the Buck Rogers comic strip,
responded. In nine sample strips Keaton produced based on Siegel's
treatment, the Superman character further evolves: In the distant
future, when Earth is on the verge of exploding due to "giant
cataclysms", the last surviving man sends his child back in time
to the year 1935, where he is adopted by Sam and Molly Kent. The boy
exhibits superhuman strength and bulletproof skin, and the Kents
teach him to use his powers for good. However, the newspaper
syndicates rejected their work and Keaton abandoned the project.
and Shuster reconciled and resumed developing Superman. The
character became an alien from the planet Krypton with the
now-familiar costume: tight-fitting clothes with an "S" on
the chest, over-shorts, and a cape.
Siegel and Shuster entered the comics
field professionally in 1935, producing detective and adventure
stories for the New York-based comic-book publisher National Allied
Publications. Although National expressed interest in Superman,
Siegel and Shuster wanted to sell Superman as a syndicated comic
strip, but the newspaper syndicates all turned them down. Max Gaines,
who worked at McClure Newspaper Syndicate, suggested they show their
work to Detective Comics (which had recently bought out National
Allied). They submitted 5 strips for consideration in a new title
called Action Comics. Superman was chosen to be the
lead feature in the company's issue in 1938. In March 1938,
Siegel and Shuster sold all rights to the character to Detective
Comics, Inc. for $130. Superman, was an enormous
success that led to what is referred to as the "Golden Age of
Comic Books." When Superman first appeared, its hero, Clark
Kent, worked for the Daily Star newspaper, named by Shuster after his
old employer in Toronto. On this basis, Toronto, rather than New York
City, could be seen as the model for Metropolis. When the comic strip
received international distribution, the company permanently changed
the name to The Daily Planet.
and Shuster were avid readers of pulp science-fiction and adventure
magazines, and many stories featured characters with extraordinary
powers such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and superhuman strength. An
influence was Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars, a human who
was displaced to Mars, where the low gravity makes him stronger than
the natives and allows him to leap great distances. While it is
widely assumed that the 1930 Philip Wylie novel Gladiator, featuring
a protagonist, Hugo Danner, with similar powers, was an inspiration
for Superman, Siegel denied this.
Siegel and Shuster were also avid
moviegoers. Shuster based Superman's stance on that of Douglas
Fairbanks, who starred in adventure films such as The Mark of Zorro
and Robin Hood. The name of Superman's home city, Metropolis, was
taken from the 1927 film of the same name. Popeye cartoons were also
an influence. The persona of Clark Kent was inspired by slapstick
comedian Harold Lloyd, who played timid, bespectacled characters who
got abused by bullies, but then would snap and fight back furiously,
turning the tables on their tormentors. Shuster, who also wore
glasses and described himself as "mild-mannered", found
Lloyd's characters relatable. Siegel thought giving Clark Kent
glasses would be interesting, because at the time no adventure hero
in comics wore glasses.
pair collected comic strips in their youth, with a favorite being
Winsor McCay's fantastical Little Nemo. Shuster remarked on the
artists which played an important part in the development of his own
style: "Alex Raymond and Burne Hogarth were my idols also
Milt Caniff, Hal Foster, and Roy Crane." Shuster taught himself
to draw by tracing over the art in the strips and magazines they collected.
As a boy, Shuster was obsessed with
fitness culture and a fan of strongmen such as Siegmund Breitbart and
Joseph Greenstein. He collected fitness magazines and manuals and
used their photographs as visual references for his art.
The visual design of Superman came from
multiple influences. The tight-fitting suit and shorts were inspired
by the costumes of wrestlers, boxers, and strongmen. Shuster first
gave Superman laced sandals like those of strongmen and classical
heroes. The emblem on his chest may have been inspired by the
uniforms of athletic teams. Many pulp action heroes such as
swashbucklers wore capes. Superman's face was based on Johnny Weissmuller's.
The word "superman" was commonly
used in the 1920s and 1930s to describe men of great ability, most
often athletes and politicians. It occasionally appeared in pulp
fiction stories as well, such as "The Superman of Dr.
Jukes". It is unclear whether Siegel and Shuster were influenced
by Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of the Übermensch; they never
acknowledged as much.
Superman debuted as the cover feature of the anthology Action Comics
#1 (cover-dated June 1938 and published on April 18, 1938). The
series was an immediate success, and reader feedback showed that
Superman was responsible. In June 1939, Detective Comics began a
sister series, Superman, dedicated exclusively to the character.
Action Comics eventually became dedicated to Superman stories too,
and both it and Superman have been published without interruption
since 1938 (ignoring changes to the titles and numbering). A large
number of other series and miniseries have been published as well.
Superman has also appeared as a regular or semi-regular character in
a number of superhero team series, such as Justice League of America
and World's Finest Comics, and in spin-off series such as Supergirl.
Sales of Action Comics and Superman declined steadily from the 1950s,
but rose again starting in 1987. Superman #75 (Nov 1992) sold over 6
million copies, thanks to a media sensation over the possibly
permanent death of the character in that issue. Sales declined from
that point on. In February 2016, Action Comics sold just over 31,000
copies. The comic books are today considered a niche aspect of the
Superman franchise due to low readership.
Beginning in January 1939, a Superman
daily comic strip appeared in newspapers, syndicated through the
McClure Syndicate. A color Sunday version was added that November.
The Sunday strips had a narrative continuity separate from the daily
strips, possibly because Siegel had to delegate the Sunday strips to
ghostwriters. By 1941, the newspaper strips had an estimated
readership of 20 million. Shuster drew the early strips, then passed
the job to Wayne Boring. From 1949 to 1956, the newspaper strips were
drawn by Win Mortimer. The strip ended in May 1966, but was revived
from 1977 to 1983 to coincide with a series of movies released by
Initially, Siegel was allowed to write
Superman more or less as he saw fit, because nobody had anticipated
the success and rapid expansion of the franchise. But soon Siegel and
Shuster's work was put under careful oversight for fear of trouble
with censors. Siegel was forced to tone down the violence and social
crusading that characterized his early stories. Editor Whitney
Ellsworth, hired in 1940, dictated that Superman not kill. Sexuality
was banned, and colorfully outlandish villains such as Ultra-Humanite
and Toyman were thought to be less nightmarish for young readers.
In the earlier decades of Superman comics,
artists were expected to conform to a certain "house style".
Joe Shuster defined the aesthetic style of Superman in the 1940s,
and not just in the comics: he also provided character model sheets
for the Fleischer & Famous animated serial of the 1940s. After
Shuster left National, Wayne Boring succeeded him as the principal
artist on Superman comic books. He redrew Superman taller and more
detailed. Around 1955, Curt Swan in turn succeeded Boring. The 1980s
saw a boom in the diversity of comic book art and now there is no
single "house style" in Superman comics.
Siegel wrote most of the comic-book and
daily newspaper stories until he was conscripted in 1943. While
Siegel was serving in Hawaii, Detective Comics introduced a child
version of Superman called "Superboy", based on a concept
Siegel had submitted several years before. Siegel was furious because
Detective did this without having bought the character. After
Siegel's discharge from the Army, he and Shuster sued Detective
Comics in 1947 for the rights to Superman and Superboy. The judge
ruled that the March 1938 sale of Superman was binding, but that
Superboy was a separate entity that rightfully belonged to Siegel.
Siegel and Shuster settled out-of-court with Detective, which paid
the pair $94,000 in exchange for the full rights to both Superman and
Superboy. Detective then fired Siegel and Shuster.
left the comics business and his and Siegel's byline were dropped by
DC comics. Siegel became comics art director for Ziff-Davis Company
in the early 1950s, and later returned to DC to write uncredited
Superman stories in 1959.
In 1969, Siegel and Shuster attempted to
regain rights to Superman again using the renewal option in the
Copyright Act of 1909, but the court ruled Siegel and Shuster had
transferred the renewal rights to Detective Comics in 1938. Siegel
and Shuster appealed, but the appeals court upheld this decision. After
this second lawsuit Siegel's relationship with
the hero he had co-created was largely severed. Siegel's later work
would appear in Marvel Comics, where under the pseudonym "Joe Carter".
Lawsuits were new to DC Comics. Superman's
success in 1938 had quickly spawned a wave of imitations, and
Detective Comics defended its copyright vigorously. Will Eisner
created a character called Wonder Man in 1939, but a lawsuit from
Detective Comics forced its cancellation after just one issue.
Fawcett Comics introduced Captain Marvel in 1940 and for some years
that character outsold Superman, but after protracted legal battles
Fawcett was forced to cease publishing Captain Marvel in 1953. In
1972, DC licensed the Marvel Family characters from Fawcett, and
returned them to publication. By 1991, DC had acquired all rights to
the characters. DC has since integrated Captain Marvel and the Marvel
Family into their DC Universe and have attempted to revive the
property several times, with mixed success. Due to trademark
conflicts over another character named "Captain Marvel"
owned by Marvel Comics since 1967, DC chose to publish the
character's adventures under the comic book Shazam! for many years,
leading many to assume that this was the character's name. DC later
officially renamed the character "Shazam" when relaunching
its comic book properties in 2011.
Siegel in 1975, on the eve
of the upcoming Superman movie staring Christopher Reeve, launched a
public-relations campaign to protest DC Comics' treatment of him and
Shuster; ultimately Warner Communications, DC's parent company,
awarded Siegel and Shuster $35,000 a year each for the rest of their
lives and guaranteed that all comics, TV episodes, films and (later)
video games starring Superman (including the popular Smallville show)
would be required to credit Superman was "created by Jerry
Siegel and Joe Shuster."
Joe Shuster died on
July 30th, 1992 at his West Los Angeles home of congestive heart
failure and hypertension. He was 78. In 2005 Shuster
was inducted into the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of
Fame for his contributions to comic books. The Joe Shuster Awards,
started in 2005, were named in honour of the Canadian-born Shuster,
and honour achievements in the field of comic book publishing by
Canadian creators, publishers and retailers. Although Shuster
was now supported by a lifetime stipend from DC Comics, he fell into
debt close to $20,000 by the time of his death. After he died,
DC Comics agreed to pay off his unpaid debts in exchange for an
agreement from his heirs to not challenge ownership over Superman.
Shuster willed control of his estate to his sister, Jean Shuster
Peavy. On October 2nd, 1992, Jean Peavy and Frank Shuster (Joe
Shuster's brother) signed an agreement with DC Comics wherein they
re-granted DC all of Joe Shuster's rights in exchange for a $25,000
died in 1996. In 2005, he was posthumously awarded the Bill Finger
Award For Excellence In Comic Book Writing. He was inducted into the
Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993.
When Siegel died his estate
passed to his widow Joanne Siegel, son Michael Siegel, and daughter
Laura Siegel Larson, who held respectively 25%, 12.5%, and 12.5% of
the interest in Superman.
The Copyright Act of 1976
contained a provision which allowed for a creator to terminate their
grant of the copyright to their work 56 years after the date the
copyright was first secured. The creator would then have a five-year
window to do so. Siegel never applied for termination, but his heirs
did after his death. On April 3rd, 1997, Joanne Siegel and Laura
Siegel Larson served DC Comics a termination notice for Superman
which became effective on April 16th, 1999. The Siegel heirs now
owned 50% of Superman, the other half remaining with DC Comics.
Warner Brothers attempted
to negotiate an agreement with Siegel's heirs in order to retain
Siegel's half of the rights to Superman. On October 16th, 2001,
Warner made an offer. Warner offered a payment of $3 million, an
annual stipend of $500,000, a 6% royalty of Superman and a 1% royalty
of his publications, and full medical benefits. Warner also agreed to
insert the line "By Special Arrangement with the Jerry Siegel
Family" in all future Superman productions. The Siegel heirs
accepted this offer in an October 19th letter released by their
lawyer, Kevin Marks.
Copyright lawyer and movie producer Marc
Toberoff then struck a deal with the heirs of both Siegel and Shuster
to help them get the rights to Superman in exchange for signing the
rights over to his production company, Pacific Pictures. Toberoff's
plan was to eventually produce a Superman movie after securing the rights.
Both groups accepted. The Siegel heirs called off their deal with DC
Comics and in 2004 sued DC for the rights to Superman and Superboy.
In 2008, the judge ruled in favor of the Siegels. DC Comics appealed
the decision, and the appeals court ruled in favored of DC, arguing
that the October 2001 letter was binding. In 2003, the Shuster heirs
served a termination notice for Shuster's grant of his half of the
copyright to Superman. DC Comics sued the Shuster heirs in 2010, and
the court ruled in DC's favor on the grounds that the 1992 agreement
with the Shuster heirs barred them from terminating the grant. The
judge also ruled that the transfer of rights to Pacific Pictures was
illegal because it had been made before the effective date of
termination of October 26th, 2013. The Shuster heirs appealed to the
Ninth Circuit, but the appeals court agreed with the judgment.
Superman is due to enter the public domain
in 2033. However, this would only apply to the character as
originally copyrighted in 1938, and trademarks on various aspects of
the character can continue to be, in theory, renewed indefinitely.
Action Comics #1 (April 1938), Superman is born on an alien world to
a technologically advanced species that resembles humans. When his
world is on the verge of destruction, his father, a scientist, places
his infant son alone in a spaceship that takes him to Earth. The
earliest newspaper strips name the planet "Krypton", the
baby "Kal-L", and his biological parents "Jor-L"
and "Lora"; their names become "Jor-el", and
"Lara" in a 1942 spinoff novel by George Lowther. The ship
lands in the American countryside, where the baby is adopted by the
Kents. In the original stories, they adopt him from an orphanage. The
Kents name the boy Clark and raise him in a farming community. A 1947
episode of the radio serial places the then-unnamed community in
Iowa. It is named Smallville in Superboy #2 (June 1949). New
Adventures of Superboy #22 (Oct. 1981) places it in Maryland. The
1978 Superman movie and most stories since place it in Kansas.
The Kents teach Clark he must conceal his
otherworldly origins and use his fantastic powers to do good. Clark
creates the costumed identity of Superman so as to protect his
personal privacy and the safety of his loved ones. As Clark Kent, he
wears eyeglasses to disguise his face and wears his Superman costume
underneath his clothes so that he can change at a moment's notice. To
complete this disguise, Clark avoids violent confrontation,
preferring to slip away and change into Superman when danger arises,
and suffers occasional ridicule for his apparent cowardice.
developed Superman's powers gradually. Since the beginning, he has
had superhuman strength and a nigh-invulnerable body. In the earliest
comics, Superman travels by running and leaping. In the radio serial
that began in 1940, Superman has the ability to fly. Fleischer
Studios also depicted Superman flying in a theatrical animated series
they produced that same decade, because this required fewer frames of
animation, and their animation tests of Superman leaping looked
"silly" anyway. X-ray vision is introduced in Action Comics
#11 (April 1939) and heat vision in Superman #59 (Aug. 1949).
Originally, Superman's powers were common on Krypton, but in later
stories they are activated by the light of Earth's yellow sun, and
can be deactivated by red sunlight similar to that of Krypton's sun.
Siegel understood that Superman's
invulnerability diminished his appeal as an action hero, and so wrote
a story introducing "K-metal", whose radiation harms
Superman. This draft was never published since the story had Superman
reveal his secret identity to Lois, but the writers of the radio
serial took inspiration and introduced the green mineral kryptonite
in a 1943 episode. It first appeared in comics in the story
"Superman Returns To Krypton!", credited to writer Bill
Finger, in Superman #61 (Dec. 1949).
works as a newspaper journalist. In the earliest stories, he is
employed by George Taylor of The Daily Star, but the second episode
of the radio serial changed this to Perry White of The Daily Planet.
Action Comics #1 introduced Clark's colleague Lois Lane. Clark is
romantically attracted to her, but she rejects the mild-mannered
Clark and is infatuated with the bold and mighty Superman. This love
triangle has existed since the character's inception in 1933 and is
present in most Superman stories. Jerry Siegel objected to any
proposal that Lois discover that Clark is Superman because he felt
that, as implausible as Clark's disguise is, the love triangle was
too important to the book's appeal. For decades in comic stories,
Lois suspects Clark is Superman and tries to prove it, but Superman
always outwits her; the first such story was Superman #17 (1942).
In Action Comics #662 (Feb. 1991), in a
story by writer Roger Stern and artist Bob McLeod, Lois definitively
learns of Clark's dual identity, a status quo that would exist for
two decades and was reflected in a 1995 episode of the TV series Lois
& Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Both in that series and
in a 1996 comic-book story, Clark and Lois marry. In some stories,
such as in the movie Superman Returns, they have a son.
The first story in which Superman dies was
published in Superman #188 (April 1966), in which he is killed by
kryptonite radiation, but is revived in the same issue by one of his
android doppelgangers. In Superman #75 (Jan 1993), Superman is beaten
to death by Doomsday, but is revived by the Eradicator. In Superman
#52 (May 2016), Superman is killed by kryptonite poisoning, and this
time he was not resurrected but replaced by a Superman from another
universe, ahead of a continuity reboot titled Rebirth.
In 2011, DC Comics relaunched its entire
line of comic books under the rubric The New 52. In the new
continuity, Clark is not married to Lois and his parents are dead at
the hands of a drunk driver. In Superman vol. 2, #43 (Oct. 2015),
Superman's identity is exposed to the whole world. In May 2015, an
alternate, earlier version of Superman was introduced in the series
Superman: Lois and Clark and for a time Earth had two superheroes
each called Superman. The alternate-universe version remained on
Earth after the other one died in Superman vol. 2, #52 (May 25, 2016).
In the original Siegel and Shuster
stories, Superman's personality is rough and aggressive. The
character often attacks and terrorizes wife beaters, profiteers,
lynch mobs, and gangsters in a rough manner and with a looser moral
code than audiences today might be used to. Although not as ruthless
as the early Batman, Superman in the comics of the 1930s is
unconcerned about the harm his strength may cause. He tosses
villainous characters in such a manner that fatalities would
presumably occur, although these are seldom shown explicitly on the
page. This came to an end in late 1940 when new editor Whitney
Ellsworth instituted a code of conduct for his characters to follow,
banning Superman from ever killing. The character was softened and
given a sense of humanitarianism. Ellsworth's code, however, is not
to be confused with "the Comics Code", which was created in
1954 by the Comics Code Authority and ultimately abandoned by every
major comic book publisher by the early 21st century.
In his first appearances, Superman was
considered a vigilante by the authorities, being fired upon by the
National Guard as he razed a slum so that the government would create
better housing conditions for the poor. By 1942, however, Superman
was working side-by-side with the police. Today, Superman is commonly
seen as a brave and kind-hearted hero with a strong sense of justice,
morality, and righteousness. He adheres to an unwavering moral code
instilled in him by his adoptive parents. His commitment to operating
within the law has been an example to many citizens and other heroes
but has stirred resentment and criticism among others, who refer to
him as the "big blue boy scout." Superman can be rather
rigid in this trait, causing tensions in the superhero community.
This was most notable with Wonder Woman, one of his closest friends,
after she killed Maxwell Lord. Booster Gold had an initial icy
relationship with the Man of Steel but grew to respect him.
lost his home world of Krypton, Superman is very protective of
Earth, and especially of Clark Kent's family and friends. This same
loss, combined with the pressure of using his powers responsibly, has
caused Superman to feel lonely on Earth, despite having his friends
and parents. Previous encounters with people he thought to be fellow
Kryptonians, Power Girl (who is, in fact from the Krypton of the
Earth-Two universe) and Mon-El, have led to disappointment. The
arrival of Supergirl, who has been confirmed to be not only from
Krypton but also his cousin, has relieved this loneliness somewhat.
Superman's Fortress of Solitude acts as a place of solace for him in
times of loneliness and despair.
In Superman/Batman #3 (Dec. 2003), Batman,
under writer Jeph Loeb, observes, "It is a remarkable dichotomy.
In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then ... he shoots
fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a
god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to
'him'." In writer Geoff Johns' Infinite Crisis #1 (Dec. 2005),
part of the 20052006 "Infinite Crisis" crossover
storyline, Batman admonishes him for identifying with humanity too
much and failing to provide the strong leadership that superhumans need.
age has varied through his history in comics. His age was originally
left undefined, with real-time references to specific years sometimes
given to past events in Golden Age and early Silver Age comics.
In comics published between the early
1970s and early 1990s, his age was usually cited as 29 years old.
However, during "The Death of Superman" storyline, Clark's
age was given as 34 years old (in a fictional promotional newspaper
published), while 1994's "Zero Hour" timeline established
his age as 35.
Action Comics #149 (Oct. 1950) gives
October as Superman's birthdate. Comics of the 1960s through 1980s
describe Superman's birthday as February 29th. Clark Kent, meanwhile,
would celebrate his birthday on June 18th, the date the Kents first
found Clark; June 18th is also the birthdate of Superman voice actor
Bud Collyer. Following the 1980s editorial-revamp DC called Crisis on
Infinite Earths, Kent's birthday is given as February 29th. Superman:
Secret Origin #1 (Nov. 2009) depicts Kent celebrating his birthday on
The details Superman's story vary across
his large body of fiction published since 1938. Versions of Superman
depicted on television and in movies are typically not part of the
same narrative continuity presented in the comics, and even in the
comic books there are many different depictions of the character, a
few of which differ radically from the "classic" version
(eg, the graphic novel Superman: Red Son depicts a Communist Superman
who rules the Soviet Union). DC Comics has on some occasions
published crossover stories where different depictions of Superman
interact with each other using the plot device of parallel universes.
For instance, in the 1960s, the Superman of "Earth-One"
would occasionally star in stories alongside the Superman of
"Earth-Two", the latter of whom resembled Superman as he
was portrayed in the 1940s. DC Comics has not developed a consistent
and universal system to classify all versions of the character.
shown in the original Golden Age comics including Action
Comics #1 (1938), Superman (Vol. 1) #1 (1939), and Superman (Vol. 1)
#61 (1949), as well as in later stories such as Secret Origins (Vol.
2) #1 (1986) noted scientist Jor-L discovers his planet of
Krypton is about to explode yet is unable to convince his fellow
Kryptonians to save themselves. However, he manages to construct a
spaceship to save his infant son, Kal-L. The ship launches just as
the planet explodes, with Kal-L landing on Earth in a farm country
town (later known as Smallville) around the time of World War I. The
Kents (at this time named "John" and "Mary"),
passing motorists who witness the landing, take the infant to an
orphanage and soon return to adopt the child, naming him
"Clark". In his 1942 novel George Lowther changes the names "Jor-L",
"Kal-L", and "Lora" (Superman's birth mother) to
the more modern "Jor-El", "Kal-El", and "Lara".
Clark grows up on the Kent
family farm, slowly discovering that he possesses various superpowers
but unaware of his Kryptonian origins. After the deaths of his
parents, Clark decides to use his powers for the benefit of humanity,
constructing a stylized costume and moving to the nearby city of
Metropolis. Clark begins work as a reporter at the newspaper The
Daily Star and soon makes his debut as the world's first superhero, Superman.
By the time the United
States had entered World War II, Superman had inspired a boom in the
comic book industry and had engendered the new genre of the
"superheroes" (although, controversey still exists over
whether Superman can be considered the first superhero) which by then
had included Batman, The Sub Mariner, Captain Marvel, Robin, The
Flash The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Captain America.
this time, the character had also leaped from the comics into other
media. In 1939, Superman's adventures were seen in newspaper strips,
although they were often reprints of what was already appearing in
the comics. Also, The Adventures of Superman radio program was
broadcast to the nation with millions of listeners with Bud Collyer
Collyer was the first actor
to portray Superman in the media, both on the radio and in the
classic Superman cartoons from the Fleischer and Famous studios that
continue to astound viewers today.
The seventeen animated
Superman adventures were the first superhero cartoons ever produced,
and Collyer took on the Clark Kent/Superman role for roughly 2000
radio episodes that aired between 1940 and 1951, a record that will
never be broken. By dropping his voice nearly an octave as he
announced, "This is a job...for Superman," Bud let radio
audiences know in no uncertain terms that Clark Kent had made the
dramatic switch. Collyer returned to the role once again in 1966 for
Filmations The New Adventures of Superman animated series.
While Captain Marvel beat
him to live action cinema in The Adventures of Captain Marvel (in a
serial originally intended for Superman), Superman also became a live
action hit in the 1948 self-titled serial and its sequel Atom Man Vs
Superman. The serials starred Kirk Alyn (October 8, 1910 - March 14,
1999) who is best known for being the first actor to play Superman on screen.
Some critics argue that his
portrayal of the Man of Steel was superior to that of George Reeves,
because (in the tradition of radio's Superman, Bud Collyer) he played
Clark Kent and Superman very differently, adding to the disguise.
Reeves' characterizations of the dual roles were much more alike,
while Christopher Reeve's portrayal was more around maturity and a
sense of inner conflict. However, Alyn lacked the "Greek
god" look that Reeves possessed and which worked so well for him
in the TV series. Many fans were upset that they never really got to
see Alyn fly in the serials; as he jumped up, he turned into an
animated character by way of rotoscoping and flew off. (Arguably, the
same thing was done in Superman Returns, except that modern animation
is somewhat more convincing.) Alyn shared a very short cameo with his
serial co-star, Noel Neill, as the parents of the young Lois Lane in
the 1978 feature film, Superman: The Movie.
the war though, many of Superman's contemporaries found themselves
slowly being forgotten after the boom became a bust. Throughout the
late forties and the duration of the fifties, Superman was by far the
most popular character in comics , by the mid-fifties, there were few
characters to challenge him. Only Batman, Wonder Woman and a few
other Golden-Agers remained.
During this time,
Superman's powers became more and more grandiose. They would expand
to include heat vision (heat rays emitting from his eyes), the
ability to breathe in space, and the power to travel through time.
Superman's adversaries also grew more fantastic and mighty, but more
and more issues of the comics involved "imaginary stories"
which could result in any number of scenarios (either as a cause or
an effect) and did not effect the continuity of future issues.
It was also established
shortly after World War II that Superman had began his career years
earlier in the town of Smallville, under the name of Superboy.
Stories about Superboy tended to be illustrated in an idylic fashion
and has been compared to the Saturday Evening Post.
the 1940s and 1950s, the Superman mythos gradually added familiar
elements, and they became firmly established by the late 1950s. This
includes a greater emphasis on the science fiction elements of
Superman's world, including his Kryptonian origins, as well as an
updated version of his origin story.
In the version that became
extant by the early 1960s (and memorably summarized at the start of
each episode of the 1950s Adventures of Superman television series,
Superman is born on Krypton as Kal-El, the son of Jor-El, a scientist
and leader, and Lara. When Kal-El is two or three years old, Jor-El
learns that Krypton is doomed to explode. He brings this warning to
the Science Council, Krypton's rulers. The Science Council refuse to
warn their fellow Kryptonians and forbid Jor-El to do so. Jor-El
immediately begins work on a rocket that will allow the whole family
to escape the coming disaster; however, events move too quickly, and
only a small model is completed by the time of the final quakes. Lara
stays by her husband's side rather than accompany Kal-El to Earth so
that his ship will have a better chance of surviving the trip.
Knowing that Earth's lower gravity and yellow sun will give the boy
extraordinary powers, Jor-El launches Kal-El's rocketship toward
Earth moments before Krypton explodes.
Kal-El's ship lands in a
field near the town of Smallville and is discovered by Jonathan and
Martha Kent. They name him Clark after Martha's maiden name. After
formally adopting him, the Kents raise him. Clark and the Kents
discover his amazing powers, and, realizing the good he could do with
his powers, the Kents train their adopted son to use his powers
wisely. At the age of eight, Clark adopts the superhero identity
"Superboy" and fights crime, both in the present and in the
far future as a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. After his
graduation from high school and the death of the Kents, Clark moves
to Metropolis to attend Metropolis University. During his junior
year, Clark changes his superhero name to Superman. After graduating
with a degree in journalism, Clark is hired by The Daily Planet
The Adventures of Superman
(above) was the first attempt to bring the character of Superman to
television. The series, which was syndicated rather than being tied
to a network, began filming in 1951, and was first aired on September
19, 1952. The final first-run episode was broadcast on April 28,
1958. George Reeves starred as Superman with Phyllis Coates as the
original Lois Lane. In 1953 Noel Neill replaced Coates. Jack Larson
played Jimmy Olsen and John Hamilton was Perry White. Robert Shayne
played the semi-regular character Inspector Henderson of the
Metropolis Police Department.
The show was syndicated. A
total of 104 half-hour episodes were filmed for television with the
first two seasons (26 episodes each) in black and white. The show was
one of the first weekly television shows to switch to full color.
The 1960s would be a gloomy
decade for Superman. Foreshadowing this, in 1959, George Reeves, the
actor who had embodied the Man of Steel in The Adventures of Superman
allegedly took his own life. Two Superman related pilots, The
Adventures of Superpup (1958) and The Adventures of Superboy (1961),
failed. In 1966, a lavish Broadway play entitled It's a Bird...It's a
Plane...It's Superman premiered with an actor named Bob Holiday in
the title role. Despite its success, plans for a new TV series with
Holiday never materialized. 1966 did see the arrival of a somewhat-successful
animated series entitled The New Adventures of Superman.
The Bronze Age
the establishment of DC Comics' Multiverse in the 1960s, it is
established retroactively that the Golden Age version of Superman
lives on the parallel world of Earth-Two and is named Kal-L, while
his Silver Age counterpart lives on Earth-One and is named Kal-El. On Earth-One,
the Galaxy Broadcasting Station and its president, Morgan Edge,
purchase The Daily Planet, Edge subsequently naming Clark Kent as the
lead anchorman for its Metropolis television station, WGBS-TV. Later
in the 1970s, childhood friend Lana Lang joins Clark in his newscasts
A series of stories in the
1970s establish that the Earth-Two Superman had married his version
of Lois Lane in the 1950s (Action Comics #484, (1978)) and had become
the editor-in-chief of the The Daily Star. In the early 1970s, Kal-L
discovers a Kryptonian rocket that contains his cousin Kara Zor-L.
After acclimating to Earth, Kara becomes the superheroine Power Girl.
Kal-L also continues to serve with the revived Justice Society; he is
revealed as a founding member of the group in the team's origin story
in DC Special #29. In the early 1980s, Kal-L is also shown as a
member of the All-Star Squadron during World War II. Despite a
changing market, Superman's stories remained similar to those which
defined the Silver Age for quite a while. However, by the seventies,
it became apperant that even the Man of Steel needed some polishing.
Superman entered the Bronze
Age in 1970 under famed artist Jack Kirby. Kirby chose to revamp the
spin-off Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, using it as a platform for his
Fourth-World concept. Among the creations first appearing therein was
Darkseid, an alien warlord powerful enough to pose a great threat to
In the same year, editor
Mort Weisinger left and was replaced by Julius Schwartz, while
up-and-coming talents such as Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil, Elliot S!
Maggin and Ross Andru added new dimensions to the character in both
writing and artwork, it was the evolution of veteran Superman artist
Curt Swan which provided a transition from the fantasies of
yesteryear to the more modern illustration style.
Also Superman's Earth-2
counterpart married the Lois Lane of his world, and new rivals such
as Terra-Man and Parasite appeared. In 1978 Superman: The Movie was
released. The film featured groundbreaking special effects under the
direction of Richard Donner, and stars such as Marlon Brando and Gene
Hackman, but it was the performance of newcomer Christopher Reeve
that made the film come alive in the eyes of many critics.
his stunning good looks and tall stature at 6 ft 4 in, Reeve is said
to have drawn eyes when walking into auditions. This paid off when he
beat out thousands of others for the role of Superman in the 1978
film directed by Richard Donner. This film was an enormous success
and inspired three sequels. Coincidentally, Christopher Reeve's good
friend Robin Williams also became a star that same year with the
television show Mork & Mindy. Contrary to myth, Christopher Reeve
is not related to George Reeves, who played Superman on television in
the 1950s. George Reeves' real name was, in fact, George Brewer, and
the similarity in their names is only coincidental.
Although he was certainly
tall enough for the role, Reeve's build was decidedly unmuscular, and
he began a training regimen under former British weightlifting
champion Dave Prowse, who, a short time later, would gain fame as the
man who would give physical form to Darth Vader in George Lucas'
immensely popular Star Wars films.
Superman was the kind of
part Reeve usually disdained. He once said, "I want to challenge
myself in my roles, not run around on screen with a machine gun."
However, Reeve did find that he could play the character with depth
and challenge himself with the role. He said that there had to be
something more to the Clark Kent character, otherwise you just had a
"pair of glasses standing in for a character." He
successfully split the Superman and Clark Kent roles into two
completely different characters. Christopher Reeve essentially
redefined Superman, no small feat, considering what a global icon the
character was and still is.
To this day, Reeve's
portrayal of Superman is still considered the definitive on screen
interpretation by many fans. Reeve made four Superman films, Superman
(1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), though for Superman
IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).
In 1995, Reeve was rendered
a quadriplegic during an equestrian competition and was confined to a
wheelchair for the remainder of his life. Christopher Reeve became a
spokesman for disabled people and a vocal supporter of stem cell
research. He also appeared in television movies after his accident.
In 1998, he appeared in a remake for TV of the famous film Rear
Window and on February 25th, 2003, he appeared in the television
series Smallville as Dr. Swann, who provides young Clark Kent with
insightful clues as to his origins. On October 25th, 2004, two weeks
after Reeve's death, A&E aired Reeve's second directorial
project, The Brooke Ellison Story. The film, starring Lacey Chabert
and based on a true story, is about an 11-year old girl who becomes a
quadriplegic in a car accident and goes on to be the first
quadriplegic to graduate from Harvard University.
Christopher Reeve died on
October 10th, 2004 after suffering cardiac arrest. By the time of his
death, Reeve had regained partial movement in his fingers and toes as
well as feeling throughout his body, claiming he could feel pin
pricks anywhere and could again differentiate between hot and cold temperatures.
before his death, Reeve's efforts to spread awareness for spinal
cord injuries had won him the cultural status of a real life hero,
not unlike his cinematic counterpart, Superman. Reeve humbly insisted
that there was nothing truly heroic about him or what had happened to
him, but that he was merely another human being dealing with an
obstacle that life had placed in his path. Nevertheless, fans and
admirers have taken to calling him "the real Man of Steel"
and "the real Superman." He is survived by his parents,
Barbara Lamb and Franklin Reeve, and his three children, Matthew
(born 1979), Alexandra (born 1982) and Will (born 1992). His wife,
Dana Reeve died of lung cancer on March 6th, 2006. She was a non-smoker.
Superman - The Movie
engendered a series of sequels throughout the eighties. Meanwhile,
the comics continued to sell, yet DC Comics decided that Superman and
all of their properties needed a vast overhaul.
During the 1985 limited
series Crisis on Infinite Earths, the various parallel Earths are
combined into one, retroactively eliminating some of Earth-Two's
heroes from existence. DC Comics retired the Silver Age version of
Superman in 1986, after the publication of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Just before the character's revamp, the Silver Age Superman was given
a sendoff in the two-part story "Whatever Happened to the Man of
Tomorrow?", written by Alan Moore with art by Curt Swan.
Modern Age of Comic Books is an informal name for the period in the
history of mainstream American comic books generally considered to
last from the mid-1980s until present day. During this period, comic
book characters generally became darker and more psychologically
complex, creators became better-known and active in changing the
industry, independent comics flourished, and larger publishing houses
became more commercialized.
In 1986, after the Crisis
on Infinite Earths limited series, DC Comics hired writer/artist John
Byrne to re-create the Superman character, reshaping the previous 48
years of stories by putting new twists on the established mythos.
In Byrne's miniseries The
Man of Steel, Superman, like all post-Crisis Kryptonians, is
conceived through in-vitro fertilization on Krypton. While still a
fetus, he escapes Krypton's destruction in a spacecraft (his
"birthing matrix" with a rocket engine attached), and lands
more than 50 years later on Earth, just outside of Smallville,
Kansas. Superman is effectively born on Earth and is as much a son of
Earth as of Krypton. As in the original version, the Kents find and
adopt him and raise him like a normal human. In Byrne's retelling,
Clark's powers develop gradually, beginning with his invulnerability,
and he doesn't fly until he is a teenager.
After leaving Smallville,
he travels the world before settling in Metropolis, completing his
education, and going to work at The Daily Planet. Although he spends
years helping people and averting disasters in secret during his
travels, Clark does not become Superman until just before starting
work at The Daily Planet, when he prevents an experimental spacecraft
from crashing in Metropolis. The Kents remain alive.
The post-Crisis comics
present Clark Kent as the "real" person, with Superman as
the secret identity that he uses to prevent his enemies from harming
his family and friends. People do not suspect that Superman is hiding
his real identity because he wears no mask. The concept that Clark is
the real man, as well as the greater emphasis on his Earthly
upbringing, is a deliberate reversal of the pre-Crisis version.
Another significant aspect of Superman's reinvention is a reduced
level of abilities, with powers such as time travel removed
completely and other powers notably his invulnerability and
super-strength vastly reduced. The series also introduces the
idea that Superman's invulnerability stems from his body's creating
an "energy field" when exposed to solar radiation from the
Earth's yellow sun.
Man of Steel #3 depicts the
first meeting between Superman and Batman. Superman attempts to take
Batman into custody but realizes that Batman operates outside the
law. Other post-Crisis comics show that the relationship between the
two is a trusting one, despite the unease each feels due to the
differences in their methods: Superman relies on trust and strength
to achieve his goals in cooperation with the law, while Batman relies
on intellect and fear and operates outside the law.
Man of Steel also reduces
the emphasis on Superman's Kryptonian heritage. Previous comic books
depicted a Superman not only aware of his heritage, but also versed
in its language, culture, and other elements. In Man of Steel #6,
Superman first learns of his Kryptonian heritage as an adult when his
birthing matrix generates a memory implant. While such Kryptonian
technology is able to help bolster his knowledge, the revamped
Superman is no longer a completely Kryptonian-educated man.
on television, Superboy became a half-hour live-action television
series. The show ran from 1988-1992 in syndication. The show was
renamed "The Adventures of Superboy" at the start of the
The series was brought to
the screen by executive producers Ilya & Alexander Salkind, the
producers of the first three Superman movies and the 1984 Supergirl movie.
The series, ironically,
came about two years after DC Comics had "erased" the
character of Superboy from their continuity after the 1985 miniseries
Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Nevertheless, the show went
on in October of 1988 with John Haymes Newton playing the lead role
of Superboy/Clark Kent, along with Stacy Haiduk as love interest Lana
Lang, and Jim Calvert as Clark's college roommate T. J. White. Scott
James Wells played Superboy's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor and Clark's
loving parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, were portrayed by Stuart
Whitman and Salome Jens, respectively.
This version of
"Superboy" featured Clark Kent/Superboy in college at
Shuster University in Siegelville, Florida (names which reference
Superman's creators, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel). This was, of
course, due partially to the fact that the show was filmed in
Orlando, Florida, in the Disney and Universal studios. At first, much
of the action centered around stories that Clark and T. J. reported
on for the college newspaper, the Shuster Herald.
Unlike other television
incarnations of the Superman character, "Superboy" was
brought to life by many actual comic book writers. Superman editors
Michael Carlin and Andy Helfer penned several memorable episodes,
such as "The Alien Solution", its sequel "Revenge of
the Alien", and "The Bride of Bizarro". Other comic
book writers that contributed to the series include: Denny O'Neil,
Cary Bates, J.M. DeMatteis, and Mark Evanier.
& Clark: The New Adventures of Superman aired from 1993 to 1997,
and starred Dean Cain as Superman/Clark Kent, Teri Hatcher as Lois
Lane and John Shea as Lex Luthor. The series generally followed comic
book writer John Byrne's 1986 revamping of the Superman mythos, with
Clark Kent as the true personality, and Superman the secret identity.
In fact, the show took this
notion even further, depicting Clark Kent fairly unequivocally as the
"real" personality (apart from necessary precautions to
safeguard his secret identity) and Superman as a somewhat performed
persona. As Clark attempts to explain to Lois, in the Season 2
episode Tempus Fugitive, "Superman is what I can do. Clark is
who I am."
Jonathan and Martha Kent
are very much alive and active in this version of the story. They
remain on their farm in Smallville, but frequently visit Metropolis.
This Lois and Clark version was also notable for having the reverse
of the traditional distinction between Clark Kent and Superman's
hairstyles; here it is Superman who has the slicked-back hair and
Clark whose fringe falls more naturally, perhaps to reinforce the
notion that Kent is the "genuine" personality where as
Superman is the artificial disguise. In neither mode does the
character feature his trademark spitcurl, making it one of the few
depictions of Superman to lack this distinctive feature.
1998, Warner Brothers Television began pre-production of a proposed
television series about a teenaged Batman, tentatively titled Gotham
City. Based on a pilot script, it focused on young Wayne, Vicki Vale,
Selina Kyle, and Jim Gordon. The project, however, never really got
off the ground and into production.
Smalleville creators Gough
and Millar were able to incorporate a lot of material from the Gotham
scripts, such as Lex feeling neglected and unloved by his father
Lionel Luthor (which would have been a Harvey Dent story arc).
Clark's insecurity and life's indecisions were similar to the
scripted teenage Bruce Wayne, the on-off relationship of Clark and
Lana paralleled the intended Bruce and Selina entanglement, and Vicki
Vale's search for the truth and embroiling trouble could be seen as
similar to the predicaments of Smallville's Chloe Sullivan. In 2000,
they purchased the rights to the Superboy character, only to make him
lose the suit and the majority of his powers. They created a "No
Tights, No Flights" rule, vowing that Clark would not, at any
point, fly or don the suit during the run of the show. Michael
Rosenbaum, already considered for Dent, was cast as Lex Luthor due to
his quiet, secretive nature, Kristin Kreuk was cast as Lana, and a
young construction-worker-turned-model named Tom Welling was finally
cast as Clark Kent. Other casting choices featured Allison Mack as
Chloe Sullivan, Sam Jones III as Pete Ross, Annette O'Toole (who
played Lana Lang in 1983's Superman III) as Martha Kent, and John
Schneider (of The Dukes of Hazzard fame) as Jonathan Kent.
In 1992, DC Comics
published the storyline "The Death of Superman", in which
Superman fights a character called Doomsday. Both Superman and
Doomsday are killed, taking each other down with their final blows.
"The Death of Superman" is followed by "Funeral for a
Friend", which chronicles Superman's funeral and examines other
characters' reactions to the death of the hero. Next, DC published
the "Reign of the Supermen" storyline, during which four
different characters a new Superboy, the cyborg "Man of
Tomorrow", the murderous "Last Son of Krypton", and
Steel (who got his own feature film in 1997 starring Shaquille
O'Neal) are introduced as Superman, although none of them are.
A de-powered Kal-El later surfaces in a Kryptonian battle suit near
the end of "Reign of the Supermen". He wears a black
costume with a silver 'S' shield and long hair. The cyborg allies
with Mongul and destroys Coast City. Superman, Superboy, Supergirl,
Steel, Hal Jordan, and the Eradicator attack the "Engine
City" built on top of Coast City, and the united Supermen defeat
the cyborg. As in the original continuity, Lois Lane is Clark Kent/Superman's
"the Reign of the Supermen" story line, Lois and Clark are
reunited. They eventually marry in the mid-'90s special Superman: The
Wedding Album. In 2004, DC published an updated version of Superman's
origin in the 12-issue limited series Birthright. Written by Mark
Waid, the limited series restores some of the pre-Crisis elements
eliminated by John Byrne, including an emphasis on alien heritage.
The series was planned as an origin story meant to reconcile material
published between Man Of Steel and Birthright. It introduces elements
from Superman adaptations such as Superman: The Animated Series and
the Smallville television series and brings several Silver Age and
some Golden Age concepts back into continuity. Unlike the previous
Man of Steel origin, Birthright doesn't eliminate most of the
previous Superman stories told, even making reference to Man of Steel itself.
As the years went by since
the last Christopher Reeve Superman feature film several more
Superman movies were planned and subsequently canceled. Eventually,
X-Men director, Bryan Singer, an avowed fan of the character, came on
board to direct Superman Returns. Singer brings both a fresh eye and
a sense of respect to the world's oldest superhero. He borrows John
Williams's great theme music and Marlon Brando's voice as Jor-El, and
the story (penned by Singer's X-Men collaborators Michael Dougherty
and Dan Harris) is a sort-of-sequel to the first two films in the
franchise (choosing to ignore that the third and fourth movies ever
happened). His Superman is played by Brandon Routh, like Reeve before
him a relatively unknown actor. Kevin Spacey was cast as Luthor, and
Kate Bosworth was the new Lois Lane, winning part over Amy Adams.
Although Superman Returns
received mostly positive reviews and made money at the boxoffice the
studio decided to cancel the planed sequel and reboot the Superman
franchise with the idea of expanding upon the DC universe with a
series of films like Marvel was doing with Iron Man, Captain America
and The Avengers. The result was Man of Steel with Henry Cavill as
Superman (in a new updated suit) and Amy Adams as Lois Lane to be
followed with Batman v Superman with Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal
Gadot as Wonder Woman.
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