Superman
George Reeves as Superman {image via Wolper Productions}

April 18, 2020 was an important date in American history. Not only was it the 245th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride, but it was the 82nd anniversary of the first appearance of Superman, arguably the most famous superhero in the history of comic books. Since April 18, 1938, the Man of Steel has appeared in comic books, on radio, in the movies, and on television.Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1

In Action Comics #1 Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster not only launched one of the longest running comic book series of all time, they also captured the hearts of America as for the very first time they introduced the Man of Steel, the world’s most iconic superhero!

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! The Man of Steel burst into the comic book world with a bang, kicking off the golden era of superheroes, paving the way for the hundreds if not thousands of super-powered heroes who have come since.

Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1.

The cover read June, but it actually came out April 19, 1938. {image via DC Comics}

According to Comixology, “In Action Comics #1 Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster not only launched one of the longest running comic book series of all time, they also captured the hearts of America as for the very first time they introduced the Man of Steel, the world’s most iconic superhero!

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! The Man of Steel burst into the comic book world with a bang, kicking off the golden era of superheroes, paving the way for the hundreds if not thousands of super-powered heroes who have come since.”

Who has been Superman?

Bud Collyer voiced Superman first in the radio series and then in then in the Max Fleischer cartoons in the 1940s. He reprised the role in The New Adventures of Superman in the Sixties. It was in the radio series that scriptwriters created Superman’s vulnerability to magic and Kryptonite, both of which were adopted by the comic books.

Kirk Alyn portrayed Superman in the 1948 movie serial Superman and again in Atom Man vs. Superman in 1950. in the 1978 Superman movie he was cast as General Sam Lane, father of “plucky girl reporter” Lois Lane.

Kirk Alyn as Superman, 1948 {image via Sam Katzman Productions}

George Reeves was one of the best known actors to bring Superman to life. He first starred in the 1951 movie Superman and the Mole Men and then starred in the live action Adventures of Superman show from 1952-58.

Christopher Reeve played Superman in four movies in the 1970s and ’80s.

First John Haymes Newton and then Gerard Christopher portrayed a young Clark Kent in the syndicated The Adventures of Superboy from 1989 to 1991.

In the 1990s Dean Cain became Superman in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In the first decade of this century, Tom Welling brought a young Clark Kent to life in Smallville, which like Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer used high school as a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of “real life,” adding superpowers into the mix.

In the ’90s, many thought the best Superman at the time was Tim Daly, who voiced the role in Superman: the Animated Series and related shorts and video games,

Brendon Routh played Superman twice, in the 2006 movie Superman Returns and again in Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse in the Crisis on Infinite Earths story arc.

The Arrowverse has had two actors as Superman. Tyler Hoechlin has guest starred on Supergirl as her cousin.

The current theatrical Superman is Henry Cavill of The Witcher. He was played Superman in three movies so far, Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League.

{image via Warner Bros.}

Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s creation has lasted over 80 years and will probably last another 80, if not longer. If the story of a baby destined for greatness set off in a rocket to foster parents on another world reminds readers of Moses in the bulrushes, perhaps it should be remembered that both Siegel (1914 -1996) and Shuster (1914-1992) were the sons of Jewish immigrants. Siegel and Shuster were deservedly inducted into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993.

Superman is perhaps the most recognizable fictional character in the world behind Mickey Mouse. Even in the farthest reaches of the world, the red and yellow shield, and the flowing red cape, are symbols of hope.

We celebrate the birth of the Man of Steel on this day, not as he was born on the Planet Krypton, but as he was born here, on Earth, in the minds of two men from Ontario, Canada.

And the world is changed forever.

-30-