MAN OF STEEL, director Zach Snyder’s new take on the Superman legend, opens today throughout North America. Currently sitting at 60% on Rotten Tomatoes — coincidentally, the same critical rating as Snyder’s 2006 hit 300 — MAN OF STEEL is expected to generate at least $100 million on its opening weekend. The suits at Warner Bros. have high hopes for the film, believing it can launch a new franchise similar to Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy or Disney/Marvel’s IRON MAN series.
Conceived in 1933 by then-high school buddies Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, Superman can be said to have established the modern superhero template that begat Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, the Incredible Hulk and even Neo from The Matrix. While Supe’s popularity waxes and wanes over the decades, there’s no doubting that he’s the most famous superhero of all time, his “S” symbol recognized from Manitoba to Madagascar. A mint-condition Action Comics #1 (June 1938) – in which Superman makes his debut appearance — is also the world’s most valuable comic book; it’s the only comic to have ever sold for more than $2 million for just one copy.
In honor of this latest iteration of the Last Son of Krypton, let’s slip on the old blue tights, polish up our Clark Kent horn-rims and keep a close eye out for green glowing rocks as we take a Friday Fun Facts look at Superman! (Up-Up-and-Away!)
* Henry Cavill is actually the sixth actor to play Superman on screen. The first was Kirk Alyn, who played Superman/Clark Kent in a 15-part black-and-white movie serial produced by Columbia Pictures in 1948. The others were George Reeves (TV’s The Adventuers of Superman 1952-58)), Christopher Reeve (Superman I-IV 1978-1987), Dean Cain (TV’s Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman 1993-1997), Tom Welling (Smallville 2001-2011) and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns 2006.)
* As originally conceived by Siegel and Schuster, “Superman” was a Nietzchian ubermench, a bald telepath bent on world domination. Their short story, “The Reign of the Superman,” appeared in the self-published fanzine Science Fiction in June 1933. They would later transform”Superman” from the ultimate villain to the ultimate hero. As for the bald guy bent on world domination….
* As soon as Superman became a hit character, rival comic book publishers rushed to create knock-offs. DC Comics successfully sued two of them out of existence, Will Eisner’s Wonder Man (1939) and Fawcett Comic’s Captain Marvel (1940-1953).
* In his original incarnation, Superman couldn’t fly — just jump real far. (Hence, “Leap tall buildings in a single bound.”) He first “took off” on his 1940 radio show, and then finally in the comics in 1941.
* Superman originally fought merely for “truth and justice.” “The American Way” was added in the 1940s, then codified in the opening of the original 1952 TV series.
* The meaning of the “S” shield on Superman’s chest has morphed over the decades. Originally it was just that — an “S” — that stood for “Superman.” Before filming Richard Donner’s “Superman” with Christopher Reeve, actor Marlon Brando demanded he get to wear the “S” shield when playing Kal-El’s father, Jor-El. To accommodate the idiosyncratic superstar, Donner re-imagined the symbol as the “El” family emblem. Years later, DC Comics writers again changed canon, explaining the “S” shield was the Kryptonian glyph for “Hope.” Upside down, it means “Resurrection.”
* A Superman reference — be it verbal or visual — appeared in every episode of Seinfeld.
* Nicholas Cage, once slated to play the Man of Steel for director Tim Burton, named his son KalEl (born October 3, 2005), Superman’s birth name.
* The top-selling Superman comic book was 1992′s much-hyped “The Death of Superman.” That one issue generated $30 million in sales, an all-time record.
Happy Friday! And have a great weekend!