I know I say this all the time, but it is an incredible honor to be able to work in Superman’s world. Being part of that small handful of artists that populate Metropolis, Smallville and Krypton is something I will cherish for the rest of my days. How will we stack up against the following roll call of the world’s biggest Boy Scout? Join us at The Blog of Steel and watch the journey unfold. Until then… this looks like a job for, well, for me.
1930s and 1940s
|Ray Middleon in 1940|
|Clayton 'Bud' Collyer|
|Kirk Alyn in 1948|
The 1940s saw Superman make his first stage appearance as well. July 3, 1940 was “Superman Day” at the New York World’s Fair and the Man of Tomorrow thrilled audiences as he rode into the fair. Decked out in the laced boots and uniform popularized in the comics, Ray Middleton’s shock of black hair and impressive physique was the start of the quintessential Superman ‘look.’
This, of course, led into one of the greatest serials of the golden age: Superman from 1948. The fifteen chapter serial saw Kirk Alyn don the tights and save his gal pal Lois Lane (Noel Neill) and photographer buddy Jimmy Olsen (Tommy Bond).
1950s and 1960s
The success of Superman (1948) led into a serial sequel that introduced the evil Lex Luthor to the movie-going audience. Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill and Tommy Bond all reprised their roles in Atom Man vs. Superman (1950). Lex Luthor was played by a sneering Lyle Talbot. The serials proved so popular that a television show was devised to take advantage of that new medium and, thus, The Adventures of Superman was born!
|George Reeves from 1956|
|Billy Curtis as Superpup|
Using the set and production team from the TV show a talking dog version of Superman shot a pilot. Called The Adventures of Superpup the show never made it past the pilot stage. Billy Curtis woofed it up as the Canine of Steel.
|Johnny Rockwell from 1961|
|Bob Holiday in 1966|
1970s and 1980s
|David Wilson in 1975|
The 1966 musical was poorly adapted and filmed in three days as a late night, one hour ABC special in 1975. David Wilson donned the tights in a lackluster song and dance revue with Leslie Anne Warren playing the role of Lois Lane. Warren would actually get the chance to screen test for the Richard Donner film but that role eventually went to Margot Kidder. After cleansing the palette of the poorly-singing Crooner of Steel, the world was ready for a big budget and a larger than life Kryptonian.
1978 saw Christopher Reeve soar across the silver screen in Superman the Movie. The entire mythos played out including the Fortress of Solitude, a modern incarnation of Lois Lane in Margot Kidder and the entire cast of Superman regulars. Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Glenn Ford as Jonathan Kent (not Eben Kent like other incarnations) fathered the boy. Phantom Zone villain General Zod (Terence Stamp) makes a cameo and sets up the sequel. Gene Hackman plays Lex Luthor, Jackie Coogan is Perry White and Marc McClure is intrepid photographer, Jimmy Olsen. Now there are a couple of unsung Supermen in this particular film. Aaron Smolinksi plays the baby Kal-El (and appeared in Man of Steel) and Jeff East played a young Clark Kent discovering his powers. The film was a huge success and spawned multiple sequels.
|Christopher Reeve in 1978|
1983 gave us Superman III. An intentionally comedic film, Reeve teamed up with Richard Pryor. Lois Lane figures into a small part, but the romantic foil is now Lana Lang, former Smallville resident, played by Annette O’Toole. Notable for very little, Superman III actually gives us a look at an ‘evil’ Superman. Maybe a little Bizzaro-esque?
|Helen Slater in 1984|
The final film in the Reeve series would make Superman III look like Casablanca. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace saw the return of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in 1987, but slashed budgets and a poor story combined to throttle this one from the start. As always, though, Reeve was stellar and many people consider him to be the iconic film Superman.
|John Newton in 1988|
|Gerard Christopher in 1991|
The subsequent flops at the box office meant that the Salkinds, the licensors of the Superman properties, needed a new outlet. The small screen had been Superman-free for many years and the Superboy concept was brought back. The show ran for four seasons featuring John Newton as the Boy of Steel in season one and Gerard Christopher in seasons two through four. The production values of the show were, admittedly, quite low but the simplistic charm harkened back to the days of George Reeves. Clark Kent attended college with Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk), a young Lex Luthor (Scott Wells) and T.J. White, the nephew of Perry White, who was adopted into the comic series (Jim Calvert). For completists, in season three, Robert Ely played a retired Superman from another dimension that encountered Superboy.
1990s and 2000s
|Dean Cain in 1992|
1992 saw one of the first revivals of Superman on stage. The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT ran the show from June 1992 through July 1992 with Gary Jackson playing Superman.
|Nicholas Cage & Tim Burton in 1998|
|Tom Welling in 2012|
|Scott Cranford in 2002|
|Seinfeld and Patrick Warburton|
|Brandon Routh in 2006|
Superman Returns hit screens in 2006 featuring Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel. This was a direct sequel to Superman II (ignoring Superman III and IV) with Kevin Spacey taking over the mantle of Lex Luthor. The film itself was a bit slow and fans rejected the idea of replacing Christopher Reeve (since the franchise did not opt for a reboot like the Nolan Batman films did).
Now, a future Batman cheated a little in 2006, too. The film Hollywoodland recounted the details behind George Reeves infamous suicide and potential cover up. George, played by current Dark Knight Ben Affleck, donned the suit briefly in the film.
|Ben Affleck in 2007|
|Cheyenne Jackson in 2007|
|Christopher Dennis in 2007|
Throughout the 2000s, Superman appeared in multiple animated feature films and television shows including:
• 2001 in Justice League for four seasons featuring George Newbern as the Voice of Steel
• 2005 in Krypto the Super Dog for two seasons featuring Michael Dangefield as Supes
• 2006 in Legion of Superheroes for two seasons with Yuri Lowenthal as Young Superman
• 2008 in Justice League: New Frontier featuring Kyle McLachlan as Big Blue
• 2009 in Superman: Doomsday featuring Alec Baldwin as Superman
• 2010 in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths with Mark Harmon from NCIS
• 2010 in Superman/Shazam! The Return of Black Adam with George Newbern reprising
• 2010 in Young Justice for two seasons with Nolan North as both Superboy and Superman
• 2011 in All-Star Superman with James Denton from Desperate Housewives
• 2012 in Superman vs. The Elite with George Newbern taking another shot at the cape
• 2013 in Superman: Unbound with Matt Bomer taking his first stab at the Man of Steel
• 2014 in Justice League: War featuring Alan Tudyk in the New 52 version of Superman
|Matt Cavanaugh in 2010|
|Edward Watts in 2013|
Still taking flight after nearly 50 years, 2013 saw New York’s Encore’s Series staged the show from March 20 through March 24 with Edward Watts as Superman and Jenny Powers as Lois Lane.
|Lucas Coleman in 2013|
This, of course, leads to the newest incarnation of our cinematic super pal. Henry Cavill played Superman in Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder, in 2013. This film signaled a reboot to the entire DC Universe where integrated storylines and heroes will be the norm (like the current Marvel model). Man of Steel was a darker take on the classic story and, by all accounts, a massive box office success. Looking more and more like a new generation’s Superman, Cavill will be reprising the role in 2016’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
|Henry Cavill in 2013|
|Melissa Benoist in 2015|