Most of today’s teens only know the DC Multiverse Superman championed by one of DC’s best writers, Geoff Johns, but Sup’s had been around since before World War II. While much has remained constant, much has also changed across the decades of The Man of Steel.
The Golden Age Superman
The Man of Steel came to Earth not as a demigod, but as an ordinary man named Clark Kent, who was employed by the Daily Planet as a photographer. Clark was trained in secret by a criminal, General Zod, and abandoned him on the planet Krypton after destroying his home planet in a desperate attempt to prevent a war between its sun and the young Earth’s sun.
Krypton’s infant son, Kal-El, was carried to Earth on a rocket by his infant mother, Lara. Before his sixteenth birthday, Kal-El came into his own and his parents hid him, fearing that his powers would be discovered and he would be destroyed.
But all of that didn’t quite matter because he didn’t quite feel like a normal human being. “I am a god!” he famously shouted in Action Comics #1, heralding his arrival to an already crowded universe of superheroes.
The Silver Age Superman
When Superman was first created in 1934, his only power was flight and a very limited scope of human-like intelligence. He was a man who could fly around the city and yet be entirely unable to comprehend the details of his crime-ridden neighborhood. He could do that. He could save the world.
The comic book series introduced several series’ most iconic heroes, including Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Perry White. It would influence how Superman has been portrayed in film ever since. Then, in 1941, Superman’s real identity was revealed to the world, but he didn’t actually become a superhero until the publication of Action Comics #175 in June 1941.
The Modern Age Superman
As Henry Cavill became the face of Superman, he pushed the character further and further towards a more traditional Superman. In the original Man of Steel, Christopher Reeve’s Superman is an underdog figure with undeniable charisma and the tenacity to overcome all adversity. In Man of Steel, Superman fights for a country that believes that he’s an alien who looks like a human.
By the time that Warner Bros. produced Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, this Superman was no longer the mythic, super-being who occasionally went off the reservation to defend humanity. No, this Superman was a hyper-masculine, almost oppressively perfect being that regularly quelled unrest with the power of his fists.
Superman: The Movie is an essential piece of American cinema. Regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on, if you love cinema, if you have an interest in film history, if you enjoy a good story, you have to check it out. It’s every bit as good as you remember, it’s full of all the little details and tidbits that made the movie what it was, and it’s a heartwarming time capsule of an iconic superhero from another time.
Geoff Johns and his cohorts allowed Superman to become more flawed, much response to Marvel’s success. But though he’s evolved, Clark Kent is still–Superman. Superman’s newest incarnation is a far cry from the original, so it seems that his immigrant status would change. In fact, however, he’s come full circle since the 1950s.