Fasting than a speeding bullet, Geek Dave leaps tall buildings in a single bound to bring you 10 things you might not know about Superman.
1. Although the Superman we all know first famously in Action Comics #1, published April 18th 1938, his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's very first collaboration came about in 1932 on a illustrated story called "The Reign of the Super-Man". This was eventually published in Siegel's own fanzine, Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization #3. It tells th story of a homeless
man called Bill Dunn who offers himself to a mad scientist as a test subject. A secret chemical transforms Dunn into 'Superman'. This Supes was very different to the one from Krypton, he had
the ability to read minds, and also control them. Something he didn't use for truth, justice and the American way! Bill Dunn Superman murdered his creator and set about on a career of stock manipulation, fixing horse races to win, and basically getting himself as much cash as possible so he can take over the world! His plans were foiled when he discovered his powers were only temporary, and he lost all his cash, ending up back homeless on the street. Still, what a story to tell the other poor souls at the shelter, eh?
2. Later in 1933 Jerry Siegel re-envisioned the character of Superman, turning him into a hero, and giving him his famous alter ego, Clark Kent. Siegal chose the name as an amalgamation on two big movie stars, Clark Gable and Kent Taylor. Sticking with the movie star theme, Joe Shuster drew Superman to resemble Douglas Fairbanks Sr, and based Clark Kent on a combination of Harold Lloyd and himself. Lois Lane was also introduced at this time, her characters look was based on Joanne Carter, who later became Siegel's wife.
3. It would be the best part of 6 years before Action Comics #1 appeared on the shelf, between then 'The Superman', as it was titled, went through a couple of different forms, each time becoming closer to the legend we know. One giant leap in development was when Jerry Siegel approached artist Russell Keaton to collaborate on the character. This strip showed Superman sent back in time whilst still a baby, but not from Krypton rather by the last surviving 'human' on a future
Earth that's about to be destroyed. Baby Supes was found and raised by Sam and Molly Kent.
4. In 1937 Siegel, now back with Shuster, re-envisioned the character once more. Here he became much more of a hero in the mythic tradition, with Siegel stating that characters such as Samson and Hercules were their inspiration. This Superman now had a mission to right the wrongs of the world, fighting for social justice and against tyranny.
It was also at this time that Superman was given the iconic costume, and many of his extraordinary 'super' abilities.
5. After unsuccessfully trying to sell their new creation for years Siegel and Shuster eventually sold full rights to Superman to Detective Comics in 1938, for $130 and a contract to continue producing the characters stories.
Adjusted for inflation, that $130 would equal approximately $2,100 today, not a lot is it? To date, DC Comics have made over $1,000,000,000 from Superman.
6. In those early comics Superman was missing one key ability. He couldn't fly! When he first appeared on radio in 1939 Superman was introduced as being "Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound...It's Superman!". His ability to leap so far came from the idea that Krypton was a planet with immense gravity, and so Earth’s weaker
pull left him capable of jumping hundreds of feet, much as astronauts
would be capable of doing when on the Moon. This carried over into the first Superman animated shorts in 1940, but proved very difficult to animate, so Max Fleischer Studios, which produced the cartoon, suggested to DC Comics that they change Superman’s abilities and allow him to fly. So beginning in late 1941 Superman gained the ability to float in midair, and
change direction while traveling. Essentially, the power of flight.
7. Another key element of the Superman mythology came about thanks to the radio show. In it Superman was voiced by actor Bud Collyer, the show became so popular that it was on all year round and so to give Collyer some much needed time off,
they came up with a plot device.
In a story broadcast in June 1943, entitled "The Meteor from Krypton", a flaming meteor crashes to
Earth, and Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent is sent to investigate. To
his dismay, he suddenly finds himself dizzy and weak. This was the very first appearance of "kryptonite", and also the suggestion that it would weaken Superman. In the radio show it totally put Supes out of commission.....for a fortnight. Allowing Collyer
a bit of vacation time while subsequent episodes focused on the other voice characters at the Daily Planet.
It was not until 1949 that kryptonite eventually appeared in the comic books.
8. In 1948 Superman first appeared on the screen, in a 15 part black and white serial simply titled Superman. However it was the 1951 television series Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves which really bought the character into people's homes, running for 6 years and 104 episodes.
Reeves was a good-humored man who loved his young fans, but was also very
unhappy with the role and the resulting typecasting. Before Adventures of Superman he had been a serious actor with over two dozen film credits to his name (including a small part in Gone With the Wind), but as television was still in its infancy, and looked down upon by many, offers of new movies dried up. Reeves eventually relied upon additional earnings from personal appearances to top up his meager salary. He took his role
model status seriously, avoiding cigarettes where children could see him
and eventually quitting smoking altogether to keep up his persona. But as the years went on he was reported to have found it frustrating that many children could not tell the difference between reality and the television show, and he recounted a tale involving a young boy bringing a real
loaded gun to one of his personal appearances and aiming it at his chest to test
Superman’s bulletproof body. Reeves claimed that he talked the boy down,
saying that while he wouldn’t have been hurt, the bullets bouncing off of his body could harm others.It's unknown if this did indeed happen, or if Reeves had concocted the story so as to get out of wearing the costume at further public appearances.
9. You've likely heard of the so called 'Curse of Superman, the superstition that is said to plague those that have portrayed the character, or been creatively involved in his adventures. It all began with George Reeves. He was found dead of a gunshot wound at his home with his Luger
near him. The death was ruled a suicide, but controversy surrounds the
death as Reeves' prints were never found on the gun, and he had been
having an affair with the wife of MGM exec Eddie Mannix. The next Superman was Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed in a horse riding accident and died 9 years later.
The youngest victim of the curse was British-born Lee Quigley, who portrayed the infant Kal-El in the 1978 movie when he was just seven months old. He died in 1991 at age 14 from solvent abuse.
10. In 1992 the comic book series 'The Death of Superman' was released. More comic books were sold that day than any other in recorded history. The series went on to generate a staggering $30million, and at one time looked likely to become Superman's next big screen adventure, which we've covered in more detail here.
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