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The Many Faces of Superman
Superman, the Man of Steel
Superman, the Man of Steel is a comic book and cultural icon.
Everyone knows the most popular alien in fiction.
You can see pictures from villages in Africa and there will be a kid wearing a Superman T-Shirt.
And Superman is very popular in media of all types.
There is a long list of people who have embodied the "Strange Visitor from another World", starting all the way back in 1940, just two years after he debuted in Action Comics #1, 1938.
1. Ray Middleton
At the 1939 New York World's Fair (which actually took place in 1940), Ray Middleton became the first actor to play Superman in public, during "Superman Day".
Yeah they had a "Superman Day" that fast. A testimony to how quickly the character took off.
2. Kirk Alyn
The first actor to play Superman on screen, Kirk Alyn.
He was Superman twice, first in the 1948 Superman serial and again in Atom Man Vs. Superman (1950).
Allegedly he was offered the part of Superman in the 1951 TV show but turned it down.
3. George Reeves
The Superman I grew up with, although since the series ended before I was even born, it was in reruns.
Reeves was the first Superman to appear in an actual film (Superman and the Mole Men) since Kirk Alyn's appearances were in serials.
And he was Superman in Adventures of Superman from 1952 to 1958.
Adventures of Superman Season One Opening Credits
4. Johnny Rockwell
A lot of people don’t know that in 1961, there was a proposed Superboy TV series.
A pilot was shot and Johnny Rockwell was the Boy of Steel.
The TV series was considered too expensive to shoot and was scrapped.
But if you look hard enough, you can find the pilot online.
5. Bob Holiday
Yes there was a Broadway musical called "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman!"
Bob Holiday played Superman in it and though it had a hard time (it only had 129 performances) it still was pretty much liked by critics and got three Tony Award nominations.
And it's still alive today with revivals in 1967, 1992, 2007, 2010 and 2013.
Take that Spider-Man!
6. David Wilson
On February 1, 1975, ABC broadcast a revamped version of "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman!" as a TV special late at night.
David Wilson played Superman and I stayed up and watched it...sadly.
The only thing really worth noting about it is that it appeared three years before...
7. Christopher Reeve
I might have grown up with George Reeves, but Christopher Reeve will always be my Superman.
His portrayal of the Man Of Steel was everything I though the Big Blue Boy Scout should be.
He was humble, concerned about his fellow man, powerful, but with a gentleness that overcame his strength.
This was Superman as a hero.
Years later in a comic book Batman would say something that sums up how I feel about Reeve's Superman....
"In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then...he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him."
8. John Haymes Newton and Gerard Christopher
John Haymes Newton and Gerard Christopher both played Superboy in a (for back then) pretty decent syndicated TV series.
Maybe I'm kinda biased because the stunning Stacy Haiduk played Lana Lang.
The show ran from 1988 to 1992 and like I said, really was not that bad.
Part of the reason it wasn't that bad was because it was backed by the producers of the first three Superman movies Ilya and Alexander Salkind.
9. Dean Cain
Dean Cain's Superman on "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" was a little different than his predecessors.
For one thing, Dean was Clark more that Superman.
And for another, there was a little controversy because Dean was French Canadian, Irish, Welsh, and Japanese and this was the first time Superman wasn’t portrayed as straight up Caucasian.
But Dean and the heat he generated with his Lois (Terri Hatcher) soon put all that to rest.
10. Tom Welling
Tom Welling coming in at number ten is appropriate because that's how many years we waited to see him put on the suit!
Smallville ran from 2001 to 2011 and took a LOT of liberties with the Man of Steel's origin.
I never had a problem with that because I looked at it as an alternate Universe Superman...not OUR Superman.
And there was a lot of talk that Tom might step into the boots of the movie Superman at one point or that a "Metropolis" TV show might pick up where Smallville ended.
11. Brandon Routh
In 2006, Brandon Routh became the Last Son of Krypton in "Superman Returns".
I can fault the movie to no end, but I cannot fault Brandon Routh who seemed to be channeling Christopher Reeve the whole time.
I was so excited for this film until the Space Shuttle rescue, and then it all seemed to fall apart after that.
I think that maybe Routh deserved another shot with a better script...but that was not to be.
12. Matt Bomer
Before launching into the latest movie, let me point out that MY pick for Superman, Matt Bomer, actually got to play him for a few seconds in a Japanese Toyota Prius Commercial.
"Matt Bomer Toyota Prius Commercial"...the Superman that might have been....
Matt Bomer - Superman!
13. Henry Cavill
At "Unlucky 13" we have Henry Cavill.
Like Brandon Routh I cannot fault his portrayal of the Man of Steel at all.
Just because the movie jumped up and down on my idea of Superman and crushed it into little pieces is no reason to take it out on an actor that I think did an excellent job.
I was hoping that maybe in Man of Steel 2 we would have a Superman more like what I envision...you know...a hero...but with director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer (aka Debbie Downer and the Buzzkills) doing "Batman V Superman", I imagine we will have a dark and gritty Superman meet a dark and gritty Batman and darkness and grittiness will abound.
Update: Yep. Still emo.
14. Tyler Hoechlin
Ever since Supergirl debuted on CBS, we have been wondering when the Man of Steel would finally show up.
Well he did in cameos of sorts.
But now in Season 2, we are getting Tyler Hoechlin as a real, tangible Superman on the small screen.
I just hope that this Superman will be the noble hero and not the brooding, mopey "hero" that we have in the movies.
Tyler has already said that he want's to,"try to carry on the tradition of that and play that part".
So I am hopeful about this.
Honorable Mention - Bud Collyer
Although Bud Collyer never played the Man of Steel in live action productions, he was the voice of Superman for many generations.
He started out in The Adventures of Superman (1940) on the Mutual Broadcasting System, (along with Joan Alexander as Lois Lane).
Bud came up with the idea of shifting his voice an octave to differentiate between Clark Kent and Superman.
He was not only Superman on the radio show, but also in the famous Fleischer Brothers cartoons.
In 1966, Bud became the voice of Superman again in the 1966 animated television series The New Adventures of Superman.
And Lois was once again played by Joan Alexander.
He remained the voice of Superman until the "The Batman/Superman Hour" in 1968.