The man of steel wearing muted colors without the traditional red outer-briefs is not the Superman we grew up knowing. The son of Krypton, who first took refuge on Earth during the 1930s, has evolved with the audiences. Here is a brief, pun intended, look at how much our first superhero has changed and grown since his inception.
Infant Kal-El, the lone survivor of his dying planet Krypton, was sent by his parents in a capsule that landed in the centre of our country. Superman was created by two Jewish teens from Cleveland, artists Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The first copy was released in 1933. However, the iconic cover art that we all are familiar with—Superman lifting a car over his head—was released in June 1938 by Allied Publications which later went on to be known as DC comics. The earlier version of Superman was believed to scale buildings by jumping high, in contrast with the gravity-defying, high-flying Superman we are now familiar with.
The birth of an American Hero
The publishers used the onset of the Second World War when creating new comics for Superman, and people got to see Superman fight Japanese and German spies and also a bunch of mad scientists and the usual mobsters. This was seen in both comics and movies. Superman had made his first screen appearance in 1944 in a series of animated shorts. The Superman catch phrase that we all just love quoting, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” and “Faster than a speeding bullet and stronger than a locomotive” were all created by Max and Dave Fleischer.
Superman as Clark Kent
It was not before 1950 that Superman was shown to have an alter ego as a news reporter by the name Clark Kent which incidentally sounded like Kal-El. Clark Kent worked for the Daily Planet news channel in Metropolis City with Lois Lane, Clark Kent’s love interest. Kirk Alyn was the first actor to play as Superman in the series Superman – Man of Steel. This was also the first instance when we saw Superman battling with his greatest arch-enemy, Lex Luthor.
Within two decades of its inception, Superman had become nearly childproof as he exhibited a jocular and cheerful demeanor. This made him appear in the Saturday morning cartoon Super Friends (1972–1985). Super Friends starred Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman who fought evil together. Super Friends later came to be known as “The Justice League of America.”
The role model
The year was 1978 when the first modern comic book-based superhero movie was made. It had a certain realism in it as we saw Superman struggling in the physical world to maintain a balance between his romantic life with Lois Lane and his responsibilities to protect the world that had adopted him. This was perfectly exhibited by Christopher Reeve. The first movie of the actor fared very well on the box-office while Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace doomed the franchise for the next 19 years.
The death of Superman
The world had entered in the early 90s, and Reeves’s Superman franchise had witnessed its end. Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns had made Superman obsolete. Superman had become so obsolete that DC decided to kill him off by publishing a comic in the year 1992 titled, “The Death of Superman.” The comic book sees Superman sacrifice himself to save the world from an alien menace—Doomsday. DC had pulled a similar feat with Robin when it experienced a similar slump. However, killing the first American superhero did not go down well with ardent fans. This made DC create a storyline in a way that indicated Superman’s rebirth.
Return of the superhero
After almost two decades of failed attempts and disastrous scripts, the man of steel finally returned in the form of Brandon Routh in Superman Returns in the year 2006. Thanks to Bryan Singer, comic book-based superhero movies were taken to the next level by means of Superman Returns and the X-Men franchise. The film was fairly a reverent and somber affair.
Singer and Routh had planned to make a sequel; however, Warner Bros chose to go with The Dark Knight masterminds, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer who casted Henry Cavill as Superman in their movie Man of Steel in the year 2013.
Whether or not Henry Cavill gets to don the Superman cape in the future installments, one thing is for certain, we will always adore watching our favorite superhero reinvent and evolve with time.