Superman

Superman“It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s Superman!”

As the greatest comic book superhero of all time, Superman has definitely carved a place in American pop culture. Ever since his first comic book appearance in 1933, this superhero has become a great icon and served as the blueprint of many subsequent superheroes. Get more in-depth information about the greatest superhero of all time by reading the rest of this article.

Original Superman Cartoons

Action Comics

Action Comics

Before Superman was first turned into a comic book icon, creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel envisioned him to be a villain. This villain was nothing compared to the superhero that we know now, since he was portrayed as a bald man with telepathic abilities and with a goal of dominating the world.

After publishing this version in the fanzine The Reign of the Superman in 1933, the creators revamped his personality and fashioned a hero modeled after American actor Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. His alter ego, Clark Kent, was named after Clark Gable and Kent Taylor, with features resembling those of Harold Lloyd and Shuster himself. As for the characteristics of this new superhero, they were patterned after mythic heroes Hercules and Samson, with the goal of fighting against tyranny and social injustice.

After many revisions to the character’s appearance and personality, Superman finally appeared in Action Comics #1, with the cover dated June 1938.

Superman Real Name

Clark Kent

Clark Kent

Just like most comic book superheroes, the superhero’s personality and characteristics change as the story progresses. The most prominent version of his story was the one in which he was born as Kal-El in a planet known as Krypton. Since the planet was nearing destruction, his parents, Jor-El and Lara, sent the baby Kal-El to Earth using an experimental rocket just before the planet exploded.

An elderly farm couple by the name of Jonathan and Martha Kent found Kal-El just after he landed outside the town of Smallville. The couple adopted him as their own and named him Clark Kent. It was not long before the couple realized that Clark possessed superhuman powers. Clark learned to master his superpowers and at age eight, he launched his superhero career as Superboy.

Both his foster parents died during high school, prompting him to move from Smallville to Metropolis to take up Journalism. It was during his college years that he changed his superhero name from Superboy to Superman. After graduating from college, the mild-mannered Clark got a job as a reporter for The Daily Planet, with Lois Lane as one of his colleagues. Lois also happened to be Clark’s main love interest.

Superman S Shield

S Shield

S Shield

The S shield, also known as the Superman logo, serves as the emblem of the great superhero. He was actually one of the first superheroes to have such an emblem worn across his chest. It has become so widely popular that it can be easily recognized by anyone as the hero’s trademark.

The S shield is depicted as a red capital “S” enclosed inside a diamond with a red outline and yellow background. The whole diamond containing the letter “S” is set against a blue background.

Obviously, “S” stands for Superman. However, in other versions of his story, this “S” has taken on various meanings, such as the coat of arms of the House of El in Krypton, a Native American symbol designed by Jonathan Kent, and a Kryptonian symbol for the word “hope”.

Superman Powers

Flying Superman

Flying Superman

Since he is the archetype of a superhero, Clark Kent’s alter ego possesses extraordinary powers that superheroes normally have. His powers include:

  • superhuman strength
  • super speed
  • invulnerability to non-magical attacks
  • flying
  • vision powers, such as microscopic, x-ray, infrared, telescopic, and heat-emitting vision
  • super intelligence
  • super hearing
  • super breath to blow out large amounts of air at freezing temperatures
  • longevity
  • stamina
  • healing factor

Superman Weakness

Kryptonite

Kryptonite

Even though Kal-El possesses an impressive range of superpowers, he has one weakness—Kryptonite. This is a fictional radioactive element coming from the planet Krypton. According to the DC Universe, Kryptonite is not just the superhero’s weakness, but also the weakness of other Kryptonians. This word has become so popular that it has become synonymous to the term, “Achilles’ heel”.

There are many varieties of Kryptonite, although it is most popular in its green form. Here are the other popular variants of Kryptonite:

  • Green Kryptonite – As the most common form of Kryptonite, this has the ability to weaken a Kryptonian. However, the great superhero has already become immune to its effects that it only affects him when he is exposed to it for a long time. Humans can also be affected by prolonged exposure to Green Kryptonite. Its effects can range from poisoning to mutation.
  • Red Kryptonite – This type of Kryptonite has acquired many abilities through the years. At one point, it could depower Clark Kent for two hours. As Superboy, the superhero also encountered the Red Kryptonite, which was said to be ten times more powerful than the Green Kryptonite. Other effects associated with it include hallucinations, paralysis, apathy, and personality changes. Before, a single piece of Red Kryptonite can affect the superhero multiple times. But in later versions, a piece of Red Kryptonite can affect Clark only once. It is safe to say that Red Kryptonite affects Clark Kent in many different ways.
  • Gold Kryptonite – This kind of Kryptonite can permanently remove a Kryptonian’s superpower by destroying their cells’ ability to metabolize solar energy. Since its effects are permanent, it is rarely used in the stories.
  • Blue Kryptonite – This is the type of Kryptonite that weakens Bizarro, one of the hero’s enemies. It also has beneficial effects on other Kryptonians.

Gay Superman

Gay Superman

Gay Superman

One particular type of Kryptonite can reportedly give the muscled superhero gay tendencies, and that is the Pink Kryptonite. This was found in one issue of Supergirl, in which the superhero complimented photojournalist Jimmy Olsen several times about his choice of clothes. Confused, Lois Lane just stood wondering what has gotten into him.

Fabulous Superman

Dance

Dance

The Periwinkle Kryptonite was introduced in Superman Family Adventures as a type of Kryptonite that can make Clark feel fabulous. It causes him to imagine pink walls and disco balls, and at one point he even danced with Lois when he encountered the said Kryptonite.

Persuasive Superman

In an episode of the TV series Smallville, Clark was bestowed with the ability to be able to persuade anyone to do his bidding because of the Gemstone Kryptonite. The infected person can counter the effects of the Gemstone Kryptonite by using a Green Kryptonite.

Superman Villains and Enemies

Most great superheroes have a long list of enemies, and Clark Kent is no exception. Here is a list of his most notable enemies:

  • Lex Luthor – As one of his best known nemesis, Lex Luthor is a mad scientist and evil genius who was once friends with Clark. However, a lab accident caused by Superboy got in the way of their friendship. This accident caused Lex’s hair to fall off, hence leading him to become a dangerous villain whose main goal in life is to destroy the celebrated superhero. In a more modern version of the tale, Lex is a wealthy philanthropist who is well loved by the people of Metropolis, although deep inside he is really a psychopath. He even becomes the president of the United States, but Kal-El and the rest of Justice League ousts him from his position.
  • Brainiac – Another popular Kal-El enemy, Brainiac is an alien android coming from the planet Colu. He is green-skinned and bald, and is actually one of the most dangerous villains in the whole DC universe. Some of his powers include manipulating other people and computer systems and controlling time and space.
  • Bizarro Superman – There are many various depictions of Bizarro in the DC universe. The most common one is the one that shows Bizarro as being a creation of Lex Luthor, made by exposing Kal-El to a duplicating ray. He is like an inverted version of the famous superhero, and he lives in his own Bizarro World known as Htrae, where doing good deeds is a crime. Note that Htrae is Earth spelled backwards.
  • Doomsday – He came from a genetic experiment on Krypton, and is largely credited as the villain who killed Kal-El in an epic battle in issue number 17 of The Man of Steel. Doomsday also died in the battle, although he is said to come back to life in a more powerful state every time he dies.
  • Metallo – Originally a human named John Corben, he was transformed into Metallo, a cyborg with a heart of Kryptonite. This serves as his main weapon in defeating Clark Kent, since Kryptonite is his weakness.
  • General Zod – Again another of Clark Kent’s most prominent enemies, General Zod is a Kryptonian who once served as the Military Director of the Kryptonian Space Center. He personally knew Kal-El’s father, Jor-El, and even attempted to dominate Krypton. Because of his misdeeds, he was sentenced to Phantom Zone for 40 years, only released by Kal-El when he had already served his sentence. This started General Zod’s attempts to dominate Earth, which has been featured in the Superman movies.

Alternate Versions

It is common for DC superheroes to exist in alternate universes and follow various storylines. Two of the most compelling depictions of the famous superhero are found in the story arc titled, “The Death and Return of Superman” and the Evil Superman as shown in the film Superman III and the TV series Smallville.

Death of Superman

Doomsday

Doomsday

In “The Death and Return of Superman,” the celebrated superhero dies during an epic battle along the streets of Metropolis against Doomsday. Both warriors die from their wounds. This whole fight happens in the Doomsday! issue, continuing to Funeral for a Friend, in which the great hero is mourned by the public, his friends, and fellow heroes, including the members of Justice League of America.

Finally, in Reign of the Supermen!, the final issue of the said story arc, four new heroes emerge, all claiming to be the late hero. These heroes are The Man of Steel, The Man of Tomorrow, The Metropolis Kid, and The Last Son of Krypton. Later on in the story, the real Superman emerges, weak but still alive.

All three issues have been repackaged into trade paperbacks.

Evil Superman

Evil Superman

Evil Superman

The evil persona of the famous superhero came out in the movie Superman III when he was exposed to synthetic Kryptonite. This caused him to temporarily separate into two beings, creating an evil twin who got most of Clark’s negative characteristics, as well as his powers. When they separated, the evil persona and the powerless Clark Kent engaged into a battle, with Clark prevailing.

The Evil Superman also showed up in a season four episode of Smallville. In that episode, Jor-El reprogrammed Clark to act as a Kryptonian, so Martha Kent used Black Kryptonite to separate Clark from Kal-el. Kal-el then became the evil version of Clark, engaging in a battle against Clark. The latter won.

Superman in Other Media

As one of the most famous superheroes in the face of the Earth, Superman has not only changed the face of comic books, but has also extended his influence to other media such as film, television, radio, music, literature, and video games.

Films

This handsome superhero is definitely a favorite character when it comes to superhero films. He has been featured in various flicks from the 1940s up to the present.

The very first appearance of the superhero in the cinemas happened in the early 1940s with the 10-minute cartoon shorts produced by Paramount Pictures, Fleischer Studios, and Famous Studios. He had his own live action film in 1948 with Columbia Pictures’ Superman, followed by Atom Man vs. Superman in 1950. Kirk Alyn played the title character, while Noel Neill gave life to Lois Lane.

In 1951, the low-budget film Superman and the Mole Men was produced, which served as a trial run for a television series based on the famous superhero. In this movie, George Reeves played Clark Kent.

Superman Cast

Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve

It was in 1978 when Christopher Reeve was cast as the celebrated superhero in the critically and commercially successful Superman film franchise lasting from 1978 to 1987. The four films are as follows:
1. Superman
2. Superman II
3. Superman III
4. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
While the first two films became successful, the last two did not, prompting Warner Bros. to take a break from this franchise.

The next successful Clark Kent movie was produced in 2006 and cast Brandon Routh as the title character. Titled Superman Returns, the story picks up from where Superman II left off, ignoring the last two less successful movies from the previous franchise. In this film, the superhero returns to Earth after searching for Kryptonian survivors for five years. In his absence, Lois has already bore their son and has become engaged to someone else.

Although there were plans to create a sequel to it, these plans did not push through and instead led to another series reboot in 2013 with the production of Man of Steel. Henry Cavill played the famous superhero, while Amy Adams played Lois Lane.

Other prominent actors who were associated with the superhero include Tom Welling, Dean Cain, and Nicolas Cage.

Superman Lives

A lot of Kal-El films have been conceptualized and scrapped through the years. One of the most highly-anticipated films that did not come into fruition was Superman Lives, supposedly starring Nicolas Cage as Clark Kent. Before that, the film Superman Reborn was scrapped due to script issues. A Batman vs. Superman storyline was also in the works during the early 2000s, but it never materialized. Just before Superman Returns was conceptualized, another would-be film was scrapped, known as Superman: Flyby.

Superman Curse

The Superman Curse is a superstition or conspiracy theory that started with George Reeves’ death in 1959. According to the superstition, bad luck plagues people who are associated with adaptations of the DC Comics superhero in various media. It is said that actors playing the superhero are the ones who were usually affected by the curse.

Aside from George Reeves, actors who had allegedly been cursed include Kirk Alyn, Lee Quigley, Bud Collyer, and Christopher Reeve. Collyer voiced a cartoon and radio series in the past, while Quigley played the baby version of Clark Kent and died of solvent abuse at the age of 14.

The problem with most actors who played the popular superhero was the fact that they had difficulty looking for other movie roles because they had been so closely associated with Kal-El. Christopher Reeve, in particular, not only suffered from that stigma, but also got into a horse-riding accident in 1995 and was paralyzed from the neck down.

Aside from actors, the curse was also said to affect the superhero’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. After selling their creation to DC Comics for a relatively small price, they engaged in a lifelong battle in order to recover legal ownership of the superhero. Shuster, in particular, developed eyesight problems, prompting him to stop drawing and to work as a delivery man instead. In the end, they were granted a byline and a lifetime pension of $20,000 per year with health benefits.

Superman Quotes

Here are some of the famous quotes from the previous movies of the celebrated Kryptonian:

  • “Can you read my mind? Do you know what it is that you do to me? I don’t know who you are. Just a friend from another star. Here I am, like a kid out of school. Holding hands with a god. I’m a fool. Will you look at me? Quivering. Like a little girl, shivering. You can see right through me. Can you read my mind? Can you picture the things I’m thinking of? Wondering why you are… all the wonderful things you are. You can fly. You belong in the sky. You and I… could belong to each other. If you need a friend… I’m the one to fly to. If you need to be loved… here I am. Read my mind.” – Lois Lane from Superman (1978)
  • “Come to me, son of Jor-El. Kneel before Zod!” – General Zod from Superman II (1980)
  • “You’re not just anyone. One day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it’s going to change the world.” – Jonathan Kent from Man of Steel (2013)
  • “You will be different. Sometimes, you will feel like an outcast, but you will never be alone. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son.” – Superman from Superman Returns (2006)
  • “Every person can be a force for good, free to forge his own destiny.” – Jor-El from Man of Steel (2013)

Television

Smallville

Smallville

Superman also starred in various animated and non-animated television shows starting from the 1940s, with the Superman theatrical cartoon voiced by Bud Collyer. Here is a list of the most notable television shows, together with the actors who played the eponymous superhero and the years that the series were aired:

  • Adventures of Superman – starring George Reeves from 1952 to 1958
  • Superman – animated TV series voiced by Beau Weaver in 1988
  • Superboy – starring John Haymes Newton from 1988 to 1989 and Gerard Christopher from 1989 to 1992
  • Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – starring Dean Cain from 1993 to 1997
  • Superman: The Animated Series – voiced by Tim Daly from 1996 to 2000
  • Smallville – starring Tom Welling from 2001 to 2011
  • Justice League – voiced by George Newbern from 2001 to 2006
Superman is arguably the greatest superhero not just of this generation but also of the past and future ones. Judging from how much he was able to influence popular culture, it is without a doubt that his legacy will continue to grow for decades to come.

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