Superman - Man of Steel - On Screen History
Superman, the greatest and most recognisable superhero of them all was created by writer Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) and artist Joe Shuster (1914-1992). The first incarnation of Superman was as a bald-headed telepathic villain appearing in a fanzine in 1933. It was not successful and by the late 30's Siegel and Shuster re-invented Superman as a superhero from the doomed planet Krypton, his first appearance was in 1938 in Action Comics #1.
Superman received his own comic book series "Superman" in 1939, it celebrated it's 700th issue in 2010, and the Man of Steel also continued to appear in Action Comics and various other comics.
Superman hit the headlines in 1992 when the "The Death of Superman" was announced in Superman vol.2 #75. Seemingly killed by the mindless killing machine Doomsday. Superman was resurrected a few years later.
Superman has also been very popular in movies and on TV. A new movie "Man of Steel" will be out on release in June 2013.
Superman (1941-1942) Fleischer Studios. (1942-1943) Famous Studios. Starring the voices of Bud Collyer as Clark Kent / Superman, Joan Alexander as Lois Lane and Jackson Beck as Perry White.
17 Cartoon Shorts released theatrically. Max Fleischer produced the first 9 shorts. His son Dave directed them.
When Fleischer studios shut down in 1942 it was reformed as Famous studios and the Fleischers were not involved with the final 8 cartoons. The first cartoon short cost $50,000 and the rest about $30,000 each, equivalent to about $900,000 per cartoon in today's money. It was easily the most expensive cartoon series ever made.
IMDB rating 7.2
Superman (1948) directed by Spencer Gordon Bennett and Thomas Carr, starring Kirk Alyn as Clark Kent / Superman, Noel Neill as Lois Lane, Tommy Bond as Jimmy Olsen, Carol Forman and George Meeker. 244mins.
A serial in 15 Chapters.
Kirk Alyn (1910-1999) became the first actor to play Superman on screen. Noel Neill (1920-) the first actress to play Lois Lane.
The effect of Superman in flight was achieved with an animated superman figure.
IMDB rating 7.0
Atom Man vs Superman (1950) directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet, starring Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill, Tommy Bond, Lyle Talbot as Lex Luthor and Pierre Watkin as Perry White. 252mins.
A serial in 15 Chapters.
Lyle Talbot (1902-1996) wearing a bald cap, became the first actor to play Superman's arch nemesis Lex Luthor. Pierre Watkin (1887-1960) has appeared in over 300 films and is the first actor to play The Daily Planet editor Perry White.
IMDB rating 7.2
Superman and the Mole Men (1951) directed by Lee Sholem, starring George Reeves as Clark Kent / Superman, Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane, Jeff Corey, Walter Reed, Stanley Andrews. 58mins.
Though less than an hour long this was the first Superman movie.
George Reeves (1914-1959) would be the actor most identified as the Man of Steel until Christopher Reeve donned the cape in Superman the Movie (1978).
On June 16,1959 Reeves was found dead in his home in Los Angeles, laying on his bed a gunshot wound to his head. Apparently a suicide. The actor had been suffering from depression and was frustrated at being typecast as Superman and not being able to get other work. There has been much controversy over his death, the gun was found on the floor with no fingerprints on it.
IMDB rating 5.8
The Adventures of Superman (1952-1958) TV series starring George Reeves as Clark Kent / Superman, Noel Neill as Lois Lane, John Hamilton as Perry White, Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen and Robert Shayne.
104 episodes, 30mins each. 6 seasons, the first two seasons in B/W.
Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane in season one.
IMDB rating 8.1
Superman the Movie (1978) directed by Richard Donner, starring Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent / Superman, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, Ned Beatty as Otis, Jackie Cooper as Perry White, Glenn Ford as Pa Kent, Phyllis Thaxter as Ma Kent, Valerie Perrine as Eve Teschmacher. Susannah York as Lara. Trevor Howard as 1st Elder. Harry Andrews as 2nd Elder. Jeff East as Young Clark Kent, Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen, Jack O'Halloran as Non, Sarah Douglas as Ursa and Terence Stamp as Zod. 143mins (151mins).
Jor-El: So, my son. Speak.
Young Clark Kent: Who am I?
Jor-El: Your name is Kal-El. You are the only survivor of the planet Krypton. Even though you've been raised as a human, you are not one of them. You have great powers, only some of which you have as yet discovered.
Superman the Movie was originally planned as one huge 3 hour movie beginning with the three supervillains being banished to the Phantom Zone, escaping after Superman knocks a nuclear missile into outer space the explosion somehow freeing them, and the film ending with Superman battling Zod, Ursa and Non in Metropolis.
The producers than decided it would be more profitable if the film was split in two, the first would end with Lex Luthors plan to destroy California by rerouting a nuclear missile into the San Andreas fault. The second movie would be released two years later and have Superman confronting the Kryptonian supervillains.
Marlon Brando was paid $3.7m and a percentage of the box office for his 10 minutes of screen time.
Lex Luthor: We all have our little faults. Mine's in California.
Superman: Is that how a warped brain like yours gets its kicks? By planning the death of innocent people?
Lex Luthor: No, by causing the death of innocent people.
Gene Hackman would reprise the role of Lex Luthor in Superman II (1980) and Superman IV (1987).
Christopher Reeve (1952-2004) was a success as Clark Kent / Superman receiving a thumbs up from critics and moviegoers, he would reprise the role in three more movies. In May 1995 Reeve was thrown off his horse whilst riding, he fell head first shattering his spinal cord, the injury paralyzed him from the neck down and he was confined to a wheelchair. In October 2004 he went into cardiac arrest after being given an antibiotic for an infection, Reeve fell into a coma and died, he was 52.
Superman the Movie was a gargantuan production costing a then staggering $55m to produce, the most expensive movie of the 1970s. It went on to gross $300m worldwide.
IMDB rating 7.3
Superman II (1980) directed by Richard Lester, starring Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Clifton James, E.G. Marshall, Valerie Perrine, Susannah York, Sarah Douglas, Jack O' Halloran and Terence Stamp. 127mins (116mins Donner Cut)
Superman: General, would you care to step outside?
General Zod: Come to me, son of Jor-El, KNEEL before Zod!
Richard Donner had started directing the sequel but was booted off after a dispute with the producers. Richard Lester was called in to reshoot some early scenes and complete the film. Fans of the film were curious to see what Richard Donners version would have looked like, their wish was granted when in 2006 the Richard Donner Cut was released to DVD.
Though roughly edited the Donner Cut was greeted with enthusiasm, incorporating screen tests and containing the same ending (time reversed) as the first movie. An interesting item, worth watching for Marlon Brando reprising his role of Jor-El.
Superman II cost $54m and has grossed $104m in the USA, worldwide box office data unavailable.
IMDB rating 6.7
Superman III (1983) directed by Richard Lester, starring Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Robert Vaughn, Annette O'Toole as Lana Lang, Annie Ross, Pamela Stephenson, Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper and Marc McClure. 125mins.
Ross Webster: I asked you to kill Superman, and you're telling me you couldn't do that one, simple thing?
When Margot Kidder bad-mouthed the producers for firing Richard Donner on the previous Superman movie she was punished by bringing in another love interest for Superman, his childhood sweetheart Lana Lang, and reducing Lois Lane to just a guest-starring role.
Robert Vaughn as the villain Ross Webster is a variation on Lex Luthor and there was a lot more comedy, especially with unemployed dishwasher Richard Pryor discovering that he's a computer genius! The best bits involve Superman turning bad after being presented with a chunk of home-made Kryptonite by Pryor.
Superman III cost $32m to make and has grossed $60m in the U.S.
IMDB rating 4.8.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) directed by Sidney J. Furie, starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Jon Cryer, Mark Pillow as Nuclear Man, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Sam Wanamaker, Mariel Hemingway and Margot Kidder. 90mins.
Cannon Films, headed by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, took over the Superman franchise. The budget was slashed to $17m, which was less than some comedies released at the time. The film was an almost total disaster, with terrible visual effects and dreadful dialogue. Chopped by more than half an hour to 90mins the plot makes little sense.
The films saving grace was seeing Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent / Superman one last time and Gene Hackman hamming it up as Lex Luthor.
It would be 19 years before another Superman movie was released to cinemas.
Superman IV grossed $15.6m in the U.S.
IMDB rating 3.5
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997) TV series starring Dean Cain as Clark Kent / Superman, Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane, Lane Smith as Perry White, Justin Whalin as Jimmy Olsen and John Shea as Lex Luthor.
4 Seasons, 87 episodes, 45mins each.
The series focused more on the relationship between Clark and Lois rather than superheroics.
Nominated for 5 Emmy Awards.
IMDB rating 6.8
Smallville (2001-2011) TV series starring Tom Welling as Clark Kent, Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang, Allison Mack as Chloe Sullivan, Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor, John Glover as Lionel Luthor, Annette O'Toole as Martha Kent, John Schneider as Jonathan Kent, Erica Durance as Lois Lane and Justin Hartley as Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow).
10 Seasons, 218 episodes, 42mins each.
Hugely popular series featuring a young Clark Kent, Lana Lang, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor.
Unusually the series never shows Clark Kent in full Superman costume though it does tease the fans with Clark sometimes wearing red or blue t-shirts. At the start of the series Clark and Lex are the best of friends, before inevitably becoming the worst of enemies.
Smallville has many guest stars who have appeared in other superhero movies and TV shows including Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Terence Stamp, Teri Hatcher, Dean Cain, Marc McClure, Annette O' Toole, Helen Slater (Supergirl) and Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman).
The series began with Clark Kent madly in love with Lana Lang and it ended 10 years later with Clark marrying Lois Lane.
Nominated for 7 Emmy Awards, winning 3.
IMDB rating 7.4
Superman Returns (2006) directed by Bryan Singer, starring Brandon Routh as Clark Kent / Superman, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella as Perry White, Sam Huntingdon as Jimmy Olsen, Eva Marie-Saint as Martha Kent and Marlon Brando as Jor-El (archive footage). 154mins.
Bryan Singer had directed two successful X-Men movies before taking on the first Superman movie in almost 20 years.
Fans of Smallville were furious when the star of their hit show was not picked to play Superman, director Singer wanted to cast someone more mature to play Superman as a man. Ironically Brandon Routh (1979-) is 2 years younger than Tom Welling (1977-).
Superman Returns is an expensive re-imagining (or re-hash) of Superman the Movie with basically the same plot and lines of dialogue. John Williams majestic main theme is reprised and outtakes of Marlon Brando as Jor-El talking to his son Kal-El from Superman I and II are used in some scenes.
Brandon Routh does a good job as Clark Kent and Superman but unfortunately Kevin Spacey plays Lex Luthor as a shouting bully, the low point of the movie for this writer was when Lex stabs Superman with a shard of green kryptonite and than kicks him in the face. Not good.
The film does get dark and gloomy and with an unnecessary subplot of Lois Lane's son exhibiting super powers. I wonder who the father is?
Superman Returns cost $209m to make and has grossed $391m worldwide.
IMDB rating 6.4
Superman: Doomsday (2007) directed by Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery and Brandon Vietti, starring the voices of Adam Baldwin as Clark Kent / Superman, Anne Heche as Lois Lane, James Marsters as Lex Luthor, Swoosie Kurtz as Martha Kent, Ray Wise as Perry White, Adam Wylie as Jimmy Olsen and John Di Maggio as Toyman. 75mins.
Direct-to-video animated movie.
Based on the DC comics storyline "The Death of Superman". Director, writer, actor Kevin Smith has an animated cameo in the film.
A generous amount of violence resulted in a PG-13 rating.
IMDB rating 6.9
Man of Steel (2013) Directed by Zack Snyder. 143mins.
Henry Cavill - Clark Kent / Kal-El
Amy Adams - Lois Lane
Michael Shannon - General Zod
Russell Crowe - Jor-El
Kevin Costner - Jonathan Kent
Diane Lane - Martha Kent
Ayelet Zurer - Lara Lor-Van
Laurence Fishburne - Perry White
Henry Cavill (1983-) is the first British actor to play Superman, his previous films include Stardust (2007), Red Riding Hood (2007), Blood Creek (2009), Immortals (2011) and The Cold Light of Day (2012). Cavill had auditioned for the role of Batman in Batman Begins (2005).
Other actors considered for the role of Superman include - Armie Hammer, Zac Efron, Sam Worthington, Matthew Goode, Tom Welling and Brandon Routh.
Christopher Nolan was approached to direct the film but he wanted to finish his Batman trilogy, Nolan is one of the producers of Man of Steel.
Other directors considered include - Ben Affleck, Tony Scott, Duncan Jones and Darren Aronofsky.
Budgeted at $175m Man of Steel opened with an impressive $125m gross in 3 days at the US box office and $197m worldwide total.
"A humorless tone and relentlessly noisy aesthetics drag down this heavily hyped, brilliantly marketed tentpole attraction." (Variety)
"Zack Snyder’s huge, backstory-heavy extravaganza is a rehab job that perhaps didn’t cry out to be done but proves so overwhelmingly insistent in its size and strength that it’s hard not to give in." (The Hollywood Reporter)
"It aches for more depth and warmth and humour, but this is spectacular sci-fi, huge, operatic, melodramatic, impressive. It feels the right Superman origin story for our era, and teases what would be a welcome new superfranchise." (Empire)