History of Superman

09/24/2012 22:00

“Look up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! No! It’s Superman!” These words were first heard as a spoken phrase when they were uttered by Jackson Beck. He was the radio announcer for the Superman Radio Show that debuted on February 12th, 1940. A radio show is one of just the many mediums that Superman has been a part of. Generations have been reading him in comics, watching his movies, and even the occasional Saturday morning cartoon. Superman started as an idea in 1933. That idea was shared by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They were best friends in high school. Jerry was the writer for the stories while Joe did the illustrations. The idea of Superman started out as him being an evil genius that was bald. They wrote a story called “Reign of the Superman.” They thought it was the best idea at the time. Then Hitler began gaining power in Europe so they changed Superman to the side of good shortly after. Then, in the summer of 1934, Jerry Siegel had a “vision”, and as a result, the Superman we all know and love today, was born. That night, Siegel had written weeks worth of comic strip stories. The dream of the two boys was to get their creation published in a newspaper comic section. They tried to find a newspaper that would carry their idea but all refused. Luckily, a publisher by the name of M.C. Gaines saw enough promise in it to recommend it to a friend that was the publisher of D.C. Comics. The publisher that worked for D.C. Comics was named Harry Donenfeld. He didn’t like the strips at first, but suggested that the two boys turn their comic strip into a full blown comic book. In June of 1938, Action Comics #1 came out. It sold for 10 cents and was the first official appearance of Superman in a comic book. The following year, in 1939, he began appearing in his own comic book as well as continuing to appear in Action Comics. The name of the new comic to feature the Man of Steel was simply entitled, “Superman.” He also did what Shuster and Siegel originally set out to do, he began appearing in a newspaper comic strip. His “super acts” were limited to simply saving people from fires, saving a man from being lynched, and even bringing down robbers. It wasn’t until April of 1940, in Action Comics #23, that Superman first met his most formidable foe that we all know as Lex Luthor. It was also in 1940 that the Man of Steel made his radio show debut. It was a smash hit. The show was a 15 minute show that was on three nights a week. It was on this radio show that we were first introduced to Jimmy Olsen and the substance known as kryptonite. Jimmy Olsen is a photographer for the Daily Planet where Clark Kent, Superman’s alter ego, works. Kryptonite is fragments of the planet Krypton that have made their way to Earth after the destruction of Krypton. Krypton is the planet that Superman is originally from. They were so popular on the radio show that they began crossing over into the comic books. In 1941, Superman made his animated debut when he was drawn into 17 Fleischer cartoons. Then, in 1948, he switched from animation to live action in a serial that was called “Superman”. This was followed by a film called Atom Man vs. Superman in 1950.  This movie was quickly forgotten. He wouldn’t appear on the silver screen again until Christopher Reeve donned the blue tights in 1978’s film “Superman.” This film was followed by three sequels that didn’t quite make the hype that the first one did. In the 1950’s, Superman got his biggest boost. In this decade, many more components were added to the Superman universe. A few notable examples would be: November of 1958 we saw the appearance of Bizarro, June of 1958 we were shown the Fortress of Solitude, and in May 1959 we met Superman’s cousin, Supergirl, or Kara. The 50’s also saw the Superman television show and many attempts to add animals into the story. These attempts included a dog named Krypto, a cat named Streaky, and a horse named Comet. Krypto, the dog, was the only one that became popular with the comic book readers. Superman fell into a slump in the 1960’s. There were many attempts at keeping the name alive. They even tried a Broadway musical about Superman. The show opened and closed, in 1966. Superman pretty much stayed in the low point until the end of the 70’s when, in a one-shot comic, he was matched up against Muhammad Ali in “Superman vs. Muhammad Ali.” The comics got a complete makeover in 1986 when artist John Byrne attempted to make the comics more exciting. The excitement built up until, in January of 1993, the artist killed off Superman in “The Death of Superman” in an issue of his limited title “The Man of Steel.” The Man of Steel was resurrected in October of 1993. This change gave the franchise the kind of boost it was looking for. As a result, many new ideas were given to the franchise such as video games, cartoons, even television series. All of these ideas helped further cement the Man of Steel into the hearts of Americans and the people of the world for at least one more generation. Throughout the 60+ years that Superman has been in existence, there have been many new forms of the Man of Steel. They have changed his costume, given him different powers, and even changed his name. In the mid 1990's, Superman’s power began to grow exponentially. It grew so fast that he had to have a special suit made for him just to control his powers. His speed go to the point where it would appear that he was moving at the speed of lightning. However, his new powers and suit did not affect his mortal version known as Clark Kent. Shortly after gaining these new powers he gets into a fight with Cyborg Superman and Toyman. They cause the new white Superman to split into Red Superman and Blue Superman. Red Superman is the aggressive side of Superman, while Blue is the more reasonable side. They eventually are joined back together. When this happens, Superman is returned to his normal version. Superman is only thought of as the man in the red cape, but what people don’t think of when they think of him is father. He is the father of two children. They go by the names Superboy and Superbaby. Superboy was given a Kryptonian name, Kon-El. Superman gave it to him in the Fortress of Solitude during a time when Superman was very troubled. It was mainly because he was under the control of Dominus. He inevitably broke the spell over him by defeating Dominus.Superman also has a very close connection with his cousin, Kara, who goes by the name Supergirl. She first appeared in Action Comics #252 in 1959. When she first showed up, Superman didn’t know who she was so he was very nervous. When he realized that he was her cousin from Krypton, he was ecstatic and decided to tell the world about Supergirl. They accepted her just as well as they accepted Superman. In the Superman comics, Clark Kent has a strong love for Lois Lane. It originated in issue #1 of Action Comics, when Clark took Lois out on a date, but she found him to be a wimp for not standing up for her. They continued to be co-workers at the Daily Planet. It continued on like this until the mid 90's when Lois and Clark finally got married. They then began their family which includes the new version of Superboy, the one that was named Kon-El. The Man of Steel is a superhero that could take on anything all by himself, but from time to time, he teams up with a number of other costumed heroes to fight evil across the galaxy. It is usually in the form of the Justice League of America, many times abbreviated JLA. It is a group of seven of DC Comics’ many superheroes that work together and they report to the Watchtower, which is a space station that is the main observatory of the JLA. Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, and Hawkman are the other six heroes that fight along side Superman. In the Silver Age of Superman comics, the writers decided to create a second Superman in an alternate universe that was eventually referred to as Superman II. They created it this way so that they could explain all of the many inconsistencies that seemed to be appearing in the Superman comic series. At first it seemed like a great idea to do, but then when they started changing the Superman history in Superman II, it made many people angry. This caused the writers to finally bring the two together so that the fans and loyal readers weren’t upset any longer. The weaknesses of Superman are limited to just a few things. They include magic, many different types of kryptonite, and his greatest weakness is that he cares too much about the inhabitants of Earth. The many kinds of kryptonite that effect him negatively are green kryptonite which drains his powers and kills him after long exposure, red kryptonite which has different effects every time, gold kryptonite which permanently removes any Kryptonian’s powers, silver kryptonite which, in certain stories, causes paranoia and delusions in Superman, and purple kryptonite which is an ultra rare form of green kryptonite. There is only one good form of kryptonite that can help or even enhance Superman’s abilities. It is known as red/green kryptonite which is a mutation of the two that gives Superman a third eye which is a great way to utilize his heat vision. It was created by Brainiac in an attempt to kill Superman but it had great effects. Superman’s powers have seen many changes in the last half century as well. He started out with no ability to fly at all. Over time they slowly turned his ability to jump long distances into the ability of flight. His super strength has seen many changes as well. At first it was completely limitless but in the 60's they put a limit on it only to have that changed again in the 1980's. his heat vision has only gotten hotter and hotter over time. He doesn’t use his super breath very often anymore. In conclusion, Superman has been a staple in American pop culture ever since 1938. The world’s love for him will only increase into the future generations. With shows like Smallville and the many comics that are out there that feature the Man of Steel. Superman is so popular in some parts of the world that when his death happened in the comics it sometimes made the evening news. Superman is in my opinion the best of all the costumed superheroes to be thought of in the last 80 years. My life would be completely different if it were not for the many incarnations of Clark Kent and his super “friend.”