Ever since Superman was created in the late 1930s, he has grown to be one of Earth's most loved characters and superheroes. The one thinq that has remained constant over the years in the Superman story is change itself. The storyline of Superman has been altered and updated many times since the world got a glimpse at its most treasured superhero. He has been constantly reinvented so that every generation has a different version of Superman, making him relevant in any decade.
The History of Superman
Originally, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the villainous Superman character who terrorized criminals with his superpowers. However, he was soon changed into a hero instead. The original story was rejected by over 17 publishers before Siegel and Shuster had any success publishing it.
The first Superman story was published in 1938 by DC Comics in the popular comic book series "Action Comics." It was in that comic where the original story of Superman was laid out. He takes on a job as a news reporter so that he can be the first to know when and where crimes are taking place.
The original powers of Superman included him being super-fast, super-strong, and super-jump — he could jump an eight of a mile into the air. However, he powers didn't include flying at that time. At this stage, Superman's character was based on what is right, as opposed to what's legal.
The Superman character was introduced as the sole survivor of the planet Krypton. His father Jor-El sent him to Earth where he was found and fostered by Jonathan and Martha Kent; he was given the name Clark Kent by his parents. However, unbeknownst to them, he was an alien with amazing superpowers. They brought him up on their farm in Smallville, Kansas where Clark began to develop superhuman abilities. Clark and his foster parents decided to create a secret identity to allow him to use his powers in public, and thus Superman was born.
Every superhero has an arch nemesis, and for Superman it was Lex Luthor. Introduced in the early 1940s, Lex Luthor (originally just "Luthor") was a criminal mastermind and a master strategist who finds people's weaknesses and exploits them to further his own agenda.
By now, the character of Superman had grown to be hugely popular. Superman had many powers added to his arsenal too: flying, X-ray vision, heat vision, microscopic vision and telescopic vision. His body was now virtually indestructible and he also had the ability to time travel.
"The Adventures of Superman" radio series starring Bud Collyer was aired during this time, and audience could hear the two distinct voices of Clark Kent and Superman for the first time. In 1941, Fleischer Studios produced the first Superman cartoons in a series of eight animated shorts, which were followed by eight more produced by Famous Studios.
The year 1945 saw the introduction of Superboy, an adolescent version of Superman during his high school days. Superboy introduced the audiences to Clark's love interests and his relationship with his foster parents. Superboy also introduced Clark's dog Krypto, his sidekick for fighting crime.
In 1952, the first Superman TV series named "The Adventures of Superman" aired starring George Reeves. 1958 saw the introduction of one of Superman's most iconic supervillains: Braniac. He was a green alien robot originally from the planer Colu, and used advanced alien technology, weaponry and spacecraft in his battles against Superman.
Alongside Braniac, another villain who goes by the name Bizarro was created. Bizarro is Superman's doppelganger foe, who is a gray skinned man capable of embodying the complete opposite character of his enemies.
A year later, Supergirl was introduced to the world. She is Superman's cousin, and goes by the name Kara Zor-El on Krypton. On Earth, she has powers similar to that of Superman, and goes by the secret identity of Linda Lee Danvers.
The 1960s saw Superman battle many of his old foes, and some new ones. However, his character didn't change much during this time. It was revealed that Superman's source of power is the Earth's yellow Sun, which provided a surprising weakness to the hero — without the Sun Superman is powerless.
It was also during this time that we learned about the rivalry between Superman and Lex Luthor, which dates back to when the two were still teenagers.
Many changes were introduced to Superman's characters during this time. Danny O'Neil started writing Superman comic series and changed Superman's job to a television news reporter from a newspaper
reporter. This also served as the perfect opportunity to introduce Lana Lang, Clark's co-anchor; this created a love triangle between the two and Lois Lane, Superman's original love interest.
In the year 1973, the TV series "Super Friends" was aired, much to the delight of comic fans. The series ran for 109 episodes, and Superman saw himself teaming up with many other superheroes and superwomen such as Batman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman.
Perhaps one of the most defining moments in Superman's history happened in the year 1978: the release of the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve. It was the first in a series of four movies and was directed by Richard Donner. The film follows the story of Superman arriving on Earth as a kid and using his new-found powers in adulthood for good against arch-enemy Lex Luthor.
The sequel to Superman was released in 1980, much to the delight of many fans. Directed by Richard Lester, the film follows the story of Superman torn between choosing his love (Lois Lane) and going after the villains (Lex Luthor and other Kryptons). Three years later, another sequel was released; however, the psychological struggle of Superman depicted in the movie wasn't liked by many.
In 1985, DC Comics published a 12 issue series called "Crisis on Infinite Earths." This was used as a way to alter many of their characters, which also included Superman. Supergirl was killed at the end of Crisis to stop her storyline from overwhelming Superman's own adventures.
The year 1986 saw the both the end and resurrection of Superman. Alan Moore ended the Superman comic book series in "What ever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?". Soon after, John Bryne brought back Superman in "The Man of Steel."
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was released in 1987, ending the four movie series starring Christopher Reeve, who was etched in everyone's memory as Superman.
DC Comics killed Superman at the hands of Doomsday in the year 1992. A major event in Superman's life, the comic saw Superman succumbing to his injuries and dying in the arms of Lois Lane. A number of new characters appeared claiming to be the new Superman, which included Steel and the new Superboy; however, Superman was finally resurrected at the end.
A new TV show called "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" aired in 1993, and it focused heavily on the relationship between the couple. Finally, in the year 1996, Superman married Lois Lane after he revealed his secret identity to her.
"Smallville," the Superman TV series starring Tom Welling premiered in 2001. It focused on Clark Kent's early years before he became Superman. In this series, it was also revealed that the famous "S" symbol on Superman's chest stood for more than being just a family shield; it represented hope back on his home planet Kryton.
Superman's arch nemesis Lex Luthor also saw major changes in his storyline. He went from being a mad scientist to a businessman, and then even went on to become the President of the United States of America.
The year 2006 featured the return of Superman with the movie titled "Superman Returns." However, it didn't give birth to any sequels.
Superman was rebooted entirely in the year 2013 with the movie "Man of Steel," which starred Henry Cavil', Amy Adams and Russel Crowe. Directed by Zack Snyder, the film tells the Superman story from his time on the planet Krypton as an infant to him realizing his role as a superhero on Earth.
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