He might have turned seventy this month, but Superman still rules the collective unconscious as the crime-fighting Man of Steel
Is it a bird, is it a plane? For the uninitiated, Superman is the crime fighting alter ego of Daily Planet journalist Clark Kent. Not of this earth, Superman, was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton.
Just moments before Krypton was to be destroyed due to the growing instability of the planets abundant resource Kryptonite, chief Krypton scientist Jor-El, jettisoned his son Kal-El in an escape pod to outer space leaving the infant to become “The Last Son of Krypton”, as Superman is called by some in the comic fraternity. The pod crash lands into Smallville, a small farming community in Kansas, America, where he is found and adopted by Martha and Jonathan Kent. He adopts his foster father’s middle name and assumes the identity of Clark Kent. At an early age, he realises that he has superhuman abilities. He also learns of his alien origins from his foster parents. Coupled with strict moral upbringing by the Kents, a sense of purpose and unparalleled greatness, Superman vows to use his powers for the good. He soon travels to Metropolis and becomes a journalist with The Daily Planet, where his adventures as Superman finally begin. If you have ever read a Superman comic what you have just read may vary as a number of writers re-image and reinvent the Superman character to keep readers coming back.
Born off the creative machinations of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman was first unleashed upon us as an evil megalomaniacal minion of a mad scientist/ super villain that was bent on world domination, but later recreated as the upholder of justice and saviour of the human race as we know and love him today. Superman first appeared in Action Comics, in June, 1938. However, the Origins of the Last Son of Krypton did not emerge until 1939, simply because the publishers deemed it a tad dull and gave way for more action-packed Superman adventures before finally giving readers a chance to learn about Superman’s origins.
DC comics press agent Allen Ducovny suggested that Superman would make for a great radio programme and on February 12, 1940, “The Adventures of Superman” hit the airways. This time, Kal-El’s story began in Jor-El’s escape pod.Accomplished radio actor Bud Collyer was Superman’s voice from 1940 to 1950. As the first man to ever play Superman, he defined the Man of Steel for a whole generation of radio listeners.
The visual form of Superman was inspired by physique of yesteryear screen legend Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and the striking features of Lester Dent’s character, Doc Savage. The image of Clark Kent bore resemblances of Superman’s creators themselves, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel.
With many writers and artists, envisioning Superman in their own ways, Superman has been transformed into all sorts of alternate egos. From the imperfect clone of Superman, Bizzaro, to the evil, Ultraman, Superman fans and readers have seen the Man of Steel being reincarnated into their most awesome dreams and in some cases, even their worst nightmares.
Superman has also appeared in a majority of DC titles over the years, with several of the titles seeing the Man of Steel teaming up with fellow DC superheroes like Aquaman, the Green Hornet, Wonderwoman and even the Batman to form the Justice League of America.
Superman’s tryst with the silver screen came as early as 1978, when Christopher Reeves donned the red tights to battle his arch nemesis Lex Luthor. Four more movies followed, three with the late Reeves and the latest featuring Brandon Routh.
You can also catch the exploits of a younger Clark Kent on the spin-off show “Smallville” on the tube. Gaming Superman fans can rejoice as the Man of Steel is a playable character in the upcoming multi-system action title, “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe”.
Superman may have grown old enough to call it quits, he will be one of the most celebrated comic book characters for eons and eons, for even time can not erode, The Man of Steel.AKSHAY RAJMOHAN