Seventy-five years after he sprang from the imaginations of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman is making another visit to movie screens, in “Man of Steel,” with Henry Cavill playing the superhero.
Coupled with the anniversary of the character’s first comic-book appearance in 1938, the movie at once aims to generate new interest in the last son of Krypton and to demonstrate the enduring power of a major cultural figure.
One, of course, who has been reinterpreted and reinvented over the years. Cavill’s movie and TV predecessors include George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Tom Welling, Dean Cain and Brandon Routh. But that barely hints at the longevity of the character.
Think of these stats, from Larry Tye’s book “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero”:
Before he was killed in a 1992 comic book (and later resurrected), Superman had been the subject of death scenarios in comics in 1950, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1984 and “twice in 1987 — with each story proving to be his inventive artifice or his writer’s imagination,” Tye wrote.
Similarly, the 1996 print marriage of Superman and Lois Lane followed wedding (or, more precisely, near-wedding) stories so frequent that they put the runaway bride to shame: Tye says tales appeared in 1949, 1955 and 1959, another 16 times in the ’60s, and six more in the ’70s, including one involving a parallel-world Superman that actually stuck. There was also a wedding on TV’s “Lois & Clark” in 1996 (which may have hastened the end of the series) and in 1981’s “Superman II,” in which Superman gave up his powers to marry Lois — only to have to reclaim them, and end the marriage, in order to save Earth.
Part of the menace to Earth, by the way, was General Zod, played by Terence Stamp, who more than 20 years later gave voice to Superman’s father Jor-El on TV’s “Smallville.” (Superman sagas, on and off screen, circle around; “Man of Steel” was directed by Zack Snyder, who also helmed the superhero revisionism of “Watchmen,” and co-written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer of the “Dark Knight” trilogy; but without Superman, there might not have been “Watchmen” or “Batman.”)