Tag Archives: Max Fleischer

The Men Who Were Superman (Part I)

In honor of Superman’s 75th anniversary and the June 14th premiere of Zac Snyder’s Man of Steel, Fante’s Inferno honors the iconic character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster with a spotlight on The Men Who Were Superman.

Part I: 1940-1958

When I first sat down to write this post, I didn’t expect to find more than five or six actors over the last 75 years that have played Superman.  But upon further review the list ended up much longer when you include radio, animation, TV specials, etc.  IMDB lists 175 appearances of Superman (live action and voice over) on film, TV and radio, and that number increases to 219 when you include video games and archive footage.  So I’ve decided to concentrate primarily on the actors that have played Superman/Clark Kent in the feature films and serials, with a couple of notable exceptions.

Ray Middleton

Ray Middleton Superman (2)

This name may not stand out among the more famous actors we’ve known to play Superman, but Ray Middleton is technically the first actor to play Superman on film even if it was in a home movie.  Middleton had a long career as an actor in film, TV and theater, but it was his public appearance in the classic Golden Age Superman costume for “Superman Day” on July 3, 1940 at the World’s Fair in New York that places him on this list.  An attendee at the event took the 16mm footage below.

Bud Collyer
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial (1940-1951), Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons (1941-1942), The New Adventures of Superman (1966)

Bud Collyer Superman

When I began my research for this post, I instinctively began with Kirk Alyn, the first actor to portray Superman in the live action serials.  But I was quickly reminded that Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons from 1941 preceded the serials on the big screen by seven years.  Actor Bud Collyer was the voice of Clark Kent/Superman in those animated classics as well as The Adventures of Superman radio serial from 1940-1951 (Collyer’s first broadcast as Superman/Clark Kent in the radio serial preceded Middleton’s World’s Fair appearance by several months).  While his dialogue was sparse in the Fleischer cartoons, Collyer’s voice brought charm to Clark Kent and strength to Superman.  He would later voice the role again in the animated The New Adventures of Superman (1966-1970) and several other DC superhero cartoons.

Kirk Alyn
Superman (1948), Atom-Man vs. Superman (1950)

Kirk Alyn Superman

Kirk Alyn was the first actor to play Superman in a live action film production with 1948’s Superman serials and 1950’s Atom-Man vs. Superman.  He declined the role in The Adventures of Superman TV series, but in 1978 Alyn had a special cameo appearance in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie as Lois Lane’s father General Sam Lane opposite Noell Neil (Lois Lane from The Adventures of Superman) as young Lois’ mother.

George Reeves
Superman and the Mole Men (1951), The Adventures of Superman (1952-1958)

George Reeves Superman 2

For many, George Reeves will always be Superman, and Superman will always be George Reeves.  He wore the costume for six years during The Adventures of Superman’s run on TV in the 50’s until his untimely death in 1959.  Other notable roles in his career include Stuart Tartleton in Gone With The Wind (1939) and Sgt. Maylon Stark in From Here to Eternity (1953).  Even though I was born in the early 70’s, George Reeves was actually the first actor I had seen in the role of Superman.  I had been introduced to The Adventures of Superman in reruns prior to Christopher Reeves’ turn as Superman in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978).

Coming up in Part II of The Men Who Were Superman: Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill.

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75 Years of Superman

Action Comics 1

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1.  The comic book that introduced us to writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster’s Man of Steel and gave birth to the comic book industry as we know it today hit the stands on April 18, 1938.

In honor of his 75th birthday today, here’s a list of my all time favorite representations of Superman:

Favorite Superman Artist: Curt Swan

Superman 300

I was introduced to Curt Swan’s work on Superman back in the 70’s.  His artistic representation of Superman/Clark Kent is the first one that comes to my mind when I think of the character.  Every time I see another artist’s drawing of Superman my initial reaction is to compare it to Swan’s.  His style is classic, and the faces he drew on each of his characters were never generic.  Close behind Swan is Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, whose cover for Action Comics #484 (June 1978 – the 40th anniversary issue featuring the marriage of Superman and Lois Lane) is one of the first Superman comics I’ve ever owned.

Favorite Issue: Superman #400 (October 1984)

Superman_400

This issue stands out because it allowed the comic art junkie in me to see Superman drawn by just about every major artist at that time.  In between several short stories were some amazing pin-up drawings from Steve Ditko, Will Eisner, Jerry Robinson, Walt Simonson and Bill Sienkiewicz just to name a few.

Favorite Run: Man of Steel #1-6 (October 1986 – December 1986)

Man of Steel_1

John Byrne is one of my favorite comic creators of all time, and it’s safe to say that most of the comics I bought in the 80’s were drawn by him.  Having been a fan of his Marvel work, particularly X-Men, Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight, I was eagerly anticipating his Man of Steel mini-series in the months leading up to the first issue in October 1986.

Favorite Superman Film: Superman: The Movie (1978)

Superman The Movie - Poster

I’ve mentioned more than a few times that Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve is the comic book movie that I measure all others up against.  Each time I watch it on DVD, a scene will come up that reminds me of the experience I had watching it for the first time in the theater back in 1978.

Favorite Superman Cartoons: Max Fleischer’s Superman

Max Fleischer’s animated Superman short films of the 40’s are incredible to watch seventy years later.  They’re the reason I’m holding out hope for a 1940’s themed Superman movie one day.  The complete series can be seen here.

This blog is a testament to the influence that comic books have had in my life, and considering the course of the industry since Action Comics #1, that wouldn’t have been possible without that first appearance of Superman.

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