Superman Turns 75

Today is the 75th anniversary of Superman.


Today is the 75th anniversary of Superman.

NYT (“Superman Still Going (Very) Strong at 75“):

Action Comics No. 1 — in which Superman made his first appearance — was released on April 18, 1938, which makes the Man of Steel 75 years old on Thursday. In Cleveland, where Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel (the writer) and Joe Shuster (the artist) grew up, plans to celebrate the hero’s birth include a lighting ceremony at City Hall and a mayoral proclamation of Superman Day. There will also be birthday cake at the airport near a Superman display. A new trailer is also out for “Man of Steel,” starring Henry Cavill, which opens on June 14. (In comics lore June 18 is the day the Kents found the spacecraft from Krypton that contained baby Kal-El, whom they would adopt and raise as Clark Kent.)

Superman’s life in comics has been filled with change. His abilities have gone up and down: at the start, he could leap one-eighth of a mile; at his most powerful, he could move planets. The original version of the hero eventually became known as the “Earth-2” Superman, who would age, marry Lois Lane and retire.

The more modern Superman would continue to torment Lois Lane until he was revamped by John Byrne in the 1986 mini-series “Man of Steel,” which reset Superman’s continuity. This hero would more seriously romance Lois Lane, reveal his secret identity to her and they would eventually marry. This is the version of the hero that “died” in 1992 at the hands of Doomsday. He got better, but only until 2011, when DC reset the clock on all its heroes.

While I’ve known about them since I was a kid, apparently a large number of people think Siegel and Shuster have somehow been overlooked.

AP (“Superman’s 75th puts spotlight on Cleveland roots“):

Superman’s 75th anniversary is giving his creators’ blue-collar hometown a renewed chance to claim the superhero as its own.

Fans hope Thursday’s anniversary, including lighting city hall with Superman’s colors, will raise the profile of co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

The city is making a start with a Superman day proclaimed by the mayor and giving out birthday cake at the airport’s Superman display.

The June release of Hollywood’s latest Superman tale, “Man of Steel,” also should renew fan interest. The film offers a fresh start for the kid from Krypton, with Henry Cavill as the boy who falls to Earth and becomes its protector.

Siegel and Shuster labored on their creation for years in the throttling grip of the Great Depression before finally selling Superman to a publisher.

The Man of Steel became a Depression-era bootstrap strategy for the Siegel/Shuster team, according to

Brad Ricca, a professor at nearby Case Western Reserve University who uses Superman in his classes.
“They really just saw it as a way out,” he said.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer provides a hopeful preview (“Superman @ 75: New ‘Man of Steel’ movie trailer looks just right“) of the forthcoming Superman movie :

It looks good. Can’t wait until the June 14 release.

That’s saying a lot, considering how poor the last few Superman movies were.

This one looks like it’s taking cues from the recent Batman flicks, television’s “Smallville” and even Marvel’s billion-dollar blockbuster, “The Avengers.”

All Warner Brothers ever had to do to create a great Superman movie was read the comics. Sounds simple, but watching the previous films it often appeared that no one ever consulted the source material.

One of the reasons “The Avengers” was so good, besides the stellar acting, was that it generally followed the tone of the comic it was based on. What a concept.

That’s a bit unfair. Outside of the Batman franchise, pretty much every superhero movie ever made until Marvel finally figured it out with “X-Men” thirteen years ago was dreadful. The first of the Chris Reeve Superman flicks was okay but it’s really hard to do a man in blue tights in a non-cheesy way absent amazing CGI, which was only recently available. Additionally, Marvel finally figured out that it helps to have really good actors play the characters. (Reeve was something of a pioneer in that regard, although he didn’t have a lot to work with scriptwise.)

Parade (“75 Years of Superman: See His Evolution “) provides an interesting timeline of the character’s milestones in the comics, radio, television, stage, and movies.

FILED UNDER: Comic Books, Popular Culture, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Moosebreath says:

    Are we sure Krypton rotates around its sun every 365.24 Earth days? If not, then this is not correct.

  2. matt bernius says:

    *geek on*
    But he’s an adopted son of Earth, so he’s measured by the rules/norms of his adopted culture.
    *geek off*

    The trailer for the new film looks great. But, considering the director is Zack Snyder, I still am not particularly hopeful.

    BWT, if you want to read the two *best* Superman collections, track down:

    Grant Morrison’s “All Star Superman” run (12 issues) — which is one of the most accessible and human stories that Morrison has ever written. It also manages to honor all aspects of the character.

    Mark Waid’s “Secret Identity” (4 special releases) — Which uses the idea of Superman as a metaphor and a framework for a really personal piece on progressing through all the stages of life.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @matt bernius: Amazon has these and more. “Secret Identity” is by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen. Mark Waid did “Birthright” and several collaborations.