Men of Steel

From comics to movies, the many incarnations of Superman.

Cover illustration of the comic book Action Comics No. 1, featuring the first appearance of Superman in June 1938. The character was created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel in 1932, and they sold the idea to Detective Comics (now known as DC) in 1938. The first issue told the story of how Superman's father sent his son in a rocket to Earth moments before his home planet, Krypton, exploded.

Hulton Archive

Film poster for an episode of a 1948 "Superman" movie serial starring actor Kirk Alyn as Superman battling a "reducer ray." A new chapter of the story showed once a week at movie matinees. The serial proved so popular that another one followed in 1950, "Atom Man vs. Superman."

Columbia Tristar / Hulton Archive

George Reeves as Superman stands behind a group of armed men in the television series, "Adventures of Superman," which ran from 1954 to 1958. Reeves' death is still shrouded in mystery. On the morning of June 16, 1959, just days before his planned wedding to Lenore Lemmon, he was found fatally shot in the head. Though authorities determined his death was a suicide, rumors still abound that foul play could have actually been the cause. Ben Affleck portrayed Reeves in a film about the controversy, "Hollywoodland."

Hulton Archive

Christopher Reeve uses his body to bridge the gap between broken train tracks in Richard Donner's 1978 film "Superman." Reeve played the Man of Steel in four films. In 1995, Reeve was paralyzed from the neck down after being thrown by his horse. He became a crusader for stem-cell research before his death on Oct. 10, 2004.

"Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" aired from 1993 to 1997, and starred Dean Cain and "Desperate Housewives" star Teri Hatcher. The series focused more on the relationship between the characters than the heroics. In the series, the two characters get married.

An artist's sketch of an updated Superman is shown in this 1977 release from DC Comics. The makeover has Superman weaing a white-hot and blue outfit; he lost his traditional powers and became an electromagnetic being who could draw power from electrical sources and phase through solid objects. The suit helped him contain his energy. He still had a human counterpart, Clark Kent, but as Kent, he had no powers.


"Justice League," about a team of superheroes, ran from 2001 to 2004 on Cartoon Network. The series featured Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl. The series was followed by "Justice League Unlimited."

Tom Welling stars as Clark Kent in "Smallville." The series debuted in 2001 on the WB and moved to the CW. Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the series followed the adventures of a young Clark Kent in the town of Smallville, Kansas, before he becomes Superman. In this scene Kent finds himself living in Metropolis and under the influence of red kryptonite.

Michael Courtney

Brandon Routh donned the famous cape in "Superman Returns." In this version, Kevin Spacey co-starred as Lex Luther, while Kate Bosworth played Lois Lane.


In 2011, DC Comics rebooted its entire line of superhero comics and started them all over from No. 1, including its Superman titles. In the new storyline, Superman never married Lois Lane and his alien nature is emphasized. His costume also underwent some tweaks; his red trunks are gone, for example.

Henry Cavill stars as Clark Kent/Superman in 2016's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."