Superman began evolving in the early 1930s. The character took a little time in the making, and before he was the icon we know today he was actually quite different. In fact, his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster intended Superman to be a villain. The first story with Superman in it was called “The Reign of the Superman” in which he was bald, evil, and desired world domination. A mad scientist picked a random man from a bread line and gave him telepathic abilities, thus turning him into “Superman.” Superman killed the mad scientist and began taking over the planet until his abilities wore off and he was once again ordinary. This idea did not take well, and since Siegel and Shuster couldn’t sell it they began revamp the concept.
After evil Superman the character finally began to take the shape that we all know. He was given an alien heritage, a cape, secret identity, and various other characteristics which have stuck with him over the decades. Siegel and Shuster tried to sell the idea to newspaper syndicates but the idea was still rejected for several years, in part because some people were worried Superman might initiate a lawsuit because Superman had a lot in common with a character from a novel written by Phillip Wylie. DC, of course, eventually decided to give Superman a chance despite the possibility of a lawsuit; if a lawsuit sprung up they could just drop the comic.
In June of 1938 Superman made its first appearance in Action Comics after it had sat in a drawer for some time. The publisher for National Comics was having a challenge deciding what cover to use for Action Comics and after the idea for Superman was unearthed the publisher decided to run with it, despite thinking the idea was “ridiculous.” The picture featured depicted Superman lifting a car with his hands. The publisher contacted Shuster and Siegel and asked for a 13-page story for the comic. The comic book hit the stand that summer and people loved the new character; sales were off the charts.
Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to the company for $130 in addition to a contract with the publisher to supply fresh material. Some years later The Saturday Evening Post gave news that Siegel and Shuster were being paid only a fraction of the earnings DC was making off of Superman. A few years following the news the pair decided to sue DC, which lead to them being fired and a subsequent legal battle. They accepted a large sum of money and signed away any remaining claims to Superman. After this, DC removed Siegel and Shuster’s names from the byline.
The two were not completely neglected, however. They were living in poverty when in 1978 Superman: The Movie came out, and Warner Communications decided to give Siegel and Shuster lifetime pensions of $35,000 a year in addition to health care benefits. Any media production which features Superman must also include “Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.” In 1940, at New York World’s Fair’s “Superman day” actor Ray Middleton was the first person to ever play Superman in public. Superman and the Mole-Men was the first real movie about Superman, released in 1951, but many people consider the film to be a trial-run for the later movies that were to come.
Superman quite literally redefined comics, influencing an explosion in comic book popularity and breathing life into a new genre of superheroes. Some people will debate whether or not Superman was the first superhero, but he certainly became the most popular, making way for the Golden Age of comics. Characters like Wonder Woman, Captain America, The Green Lantern, and The Flash began sprouting up in Superman’s wake by the time the United States entered World War II. Superman outlived the other superheroes in popularity after the war was over and into the late 40s. The Golden Age lasted from the late 1930s to the early 1950s.
During the Silver Age of comic books DC presented new version of their old superheroes, but Superman was not explicitly revised. DC explained that the changed in Superman’s appearance and the adjustments of the other superheroes was due to a parallel dimension called “Earth-Two.” The Silver Age lasted from 1956-1970. This era saw the creation of Superman’s cousin, Cara, or Supergirl, and the formation of the Justice League of America. This was a somewhat difficult time period for Superman, and to give more depth to this fact, George Reeves took his life. He was the actor who had played Superman in a television series called Adventures of Superman.
The Bronze Age of comic books lasted from 1970-1985. Although a lot of the qualities Superman had held unto during the Silver Age remained the same he still went through some polishing. One of the biggest steps for Superman during this time was 1978 film Superman, also called Superman: The Movie. Some famous names appeared in the title, such as Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando, and it also featured groundbreaking special effects. Two years later, in 1980, Superman II the sequel was released. The sequel featured Christopher Reeves as Superman and, like the first movie, was favorably received. The third movie, Superman III, lacked a number of vital characters and many people did not like the film. The final movie in the series which appeared in 1987, Superman IV: the Quest for Peace, was also a disappointment to many as the budget had been significantly cut back.
The Modern Age of comic books goes from the mid 1980s-present day. This age began when the evil being called the Anti-Monitor was destroyed, obliterating most of DC’s alternate dimensions. Many aspects of the Superman’s Silver Age days were reincorporated later on. The turn of the millennium also marks the beginning of more Superman films. Superman Returns was released in 2006, and it got an approval rating of 76% from Rotten Tomatoes. The film was written by Bryan Singer and Brandon Routh played Superman. Man of Steel followed in 2013 which got an approval rating of 56% from Rotten Tomatoes. Sign up for one of the Charter Spectrum TV Packages at s9.com and keep up with all the Super Heroes.