The world’s most beloved superhero turns 80 this year with Action comics reaching its 1000th issue. Superman is one of the most recognisable mainstays of American pop culture. With the signature S chest symbol and flowing red cape, Superman is more than just a superhero – he is a symbol of hope and an ideal for justice. Not to mention Superman most definitely paved the way for later iconic superheroes like Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America (although that was Marvel) and so on, heroes that we love and worship today. Superman has grown so popular that a life sized Superman statue stands tall in Metropolis, Illinois, the namesake of Superman’s fictional city in the comics.
Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster in Cleveland, Ohio. Debuted in Action comics #1 in 1938, Superman quickly gained popularity among comic readers back then. Superman wasn’t always a hero though. In 1933 in a short story by Jerry Siegel, titled “The reign of Superman”, Superman was portrayed as a villain. However, that changed in 1938 when Superman was introduced as the doomed immigrant infant from the destroying planet Krypton, raised on a firm by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who grows up to be the Daily Planet journalist Clark Kent and in times of need, Superman. Lord and Saviour.
Superman is more than just a superhero. He is a symbol of hope and an ideal for justice.
Since then the story of Superman has seen a lot of ups and downs. Characters like Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor and Lois Lane were introduced. His adversaries grew stronger and more in-depth story arcs exploring the world of Superman were introduced. More superheroes followed. Marvel followed suit. The comics universe has constantly grown since then, thanks to Superman.
Superman entered the golden age of television with George Reeves playing the iconic hero in the 1950s TV series, “The Adventures of Superman”. Later in 1978, Superman the movie came out, starring Christopher Reeve in the lead role. It even made a run for the Oscars.
Besides that, an animated series aired in 1996 and continued till the 2000s. It was the defining series which introduced Superman to most millennials. For many of us, the animated Superman series was our first gateway to the world of comics and comic book shows. Superman holds a special seat in our heart just like that. The opening theme song still gives us goosebumps.
There have been many attempts to revive Superman on the big screen after 1978’s Christopher Reeve performance. Unfortunately, none of them quite took off. The TV series Smallville gained some popularity in the 2000s and basically generated a cult following. And Superman Returns starring Brandon Routh and directed by Bryan Singer showed great potential in 2006, trying to pick up where George Reeves left off.
Movie Superman finally took the flight in 2013, with a completely different approach to the character. Man of Steel introduced Henry Cavill as Superman. Directed by Zack Snyder, Man of Steel completely restructured Superman for a newer generation with notable changes to the costume and a darker overall tone in the movie. It had mixed reviews in the box office but fans loved Henry Cavill as Superman. Man of steel initiated the DC Extended Universe and we last saw Superman in the Movie Justice League, in 2017. Man of steel 2 is in the works and Henry Cavill is set to make appearances in future DCEU movies as well. Looks like we’re not losing our Superman on the big screen anytime soon.
Meanwhile Superman has been making constant appearances in the comics under various titles. Some notable reads are Crisis on Infinite Earths, Flashpoint, Death of Superman, Whatever happened to the Man of tomorrow, Lois and Clark: New Adventures of Superman and most recently the DC rebirth Series which re-imagines Superman, now married to Lois Lane and father to a Jonathan Kent. And of course, most recently, Action Comics #1000, which features an interesting story arc that suggests the end of Krypton was not what we thought it was. But don’t worry, we are not going to spoil it here. If you’re interested, we’re compiling a list of Superman must-reads elsewhere – check back soon.
So, with a number of changes and takes on the character over the years since its inception, what does the future look like for our beloved Superhero donning the symbol of hope? Keep following HiFi for our next article as we explore the future of the DCEU movie universe.