Born in the weary depths of the Great Depression, turned down by all but one comics publisher in the country, Superman hit newspaper strips and comics in 1938, becoming the first superhero with his own comic book by 1939. In the 1940's, animated shorts by Fleischer Studios ruled the Sunday matinee, American GI's read ten times more Superman comics than any other material during the war, and radio airwaves overflowed with The Adventures of Superman radio series. During the 1950's black and white television sets adjusted their rabbit ears to watch The Adventures of Superman, featuring George Reeves, and by the 1960's Superman made it to Broadway. In the 1970's, Christopher Reeve starred in Superman: The Movie, catapulting the Man of Steel to international fame. Throughout the 1970's, as well as the 1980's, Superman steamrolled the Saturday morning cartoon circuit with Super Friends. And finally, by the 1990's Superman returned to the small screen with Lois and Clark, and in the new millennium can be seen in the series Smallville.
Although it is often taken for granted, Superman is as much a part of American culture as Elvis and apple pie. From rappers like 50 Cent referring to "an 'S' on [his] chest," to Jerry Seinfeld's fascination with The Man of Steel throughout his hit series, to Shaquille O'Neal's Superman tattooed bicep Superman is a basic ingredient in the melting pot of American pop culture. Perhaps this is why Superman's return to the big screen, soaring into theaters June 30, is predicted to be this summer's golden goose. With all eyes focused on a fresh face from Iowa as Clark Kent, and Kevin Spacey as Superman's archenemy Lex Luthor, fans seem pleased.
Of course, the late Marlin Brando playing the role of Superman's Kryptonian father is the ultimate double take. Unused footage of Brando filmed in 1977 for Superman II, will surface for the first time in Superman Returns. Apparently when a new director took over for Superman II, a wealth of Brando footage was consigned to a filing cabinet for decades. Superman Returns will be treating the older films starring Christopher Reeve-especially Superman: The Movie and Superman II-as a springboard for Superman's return to Earth. After a mysterious five year absence, the Man of Steel returns to Metropolis to find that Lois has moved on with her life, the world has learned to get by without him, and the planet has become a far more violent place. With crime running rampant, national disaster on the rise, and Lois' heart elsewhere, the pressure is on.
Copyright 2006© Stephanie Sullivan Lytle
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