My introduction to Superman was the 1978 feature film starring Christopher Reeve, which I’m sure was the case with a lot of Superman fans today. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first saw it but I remember we had it on VHS. In fact, we had the first three Superman movies all on VHS. Once I found the first one it didn’t take me long to find the others and watch them all in succession. Several times.
I really didn’t get into the comics side of Superman until around the time The Death of Superman issue happened. Someone gave it to me for Christmas sealed in a bloody S artwork bag and I never read it. Never opened it. I was told it was worth more if I didn’t. It wasn’t until many years later that I read the Death of Superman trade paperback that I knew what happened in that story apart from the obvious.
Before that though, I was given a bunch of trade paperbacks for Christmas one year, one of them being World Without a Superman, the nine issues that came out after his death leading up to his resurrection. I also got Cosmic Odyssey, which was the first Superman story I read where he was paired with other heroes, including my absolute favorite of all-time, Batman. To this day it remains one of my favorite stories involving Superman, other members of the Justice League and the New Gods.
I didn’t get into the Superman animated series much, mostly because I was so heavily invested in Batman the Animated Series that I didn’t want to bother with another show. There was a brief time where I embraced that “rivalry,” and I might have told some friends of mine that were Superman fans that all anyone needed was a little green rock to take him out. I’m not proud of it, but it’s what I did. I’ll own up to it.
As the years went on, I read a few more Superman stories, most notably Superman-Doomsday because I wanted backstory on the creature that killed him. I think that’s when I really became of fan of Dan Jurgens, which makes sense considering that almost every Superman story I’ve read comes from him. Granted I haven’t read a lot, but still. I like his style with the Man of Steel. It’s probably also why I enjoyed Action Comics Rebirth as much as I did as well.
I don’t really hate any of the Superman movies. Are Superman III and IV campy, illogical and leave much to be desired? Yes, I’ll agree with that. Yes, I was glad when they said that Superman Returns effectively retcons those movies and takes place after Superman II. It’s one the reasons I do like that movie for what it is. I also really appreciate the impossible task that Brandon Routh was given for that movie, which was to do a Christopher Reeve emulation almost 20 years after the last time Reeve had played the character and the last time a Superman movie had been released, which meant that a movie very much connected to the Reeve films was hitting a generation of people that had likely never seen or didn’t remember the Reeve movies in 2006. I don’t know that I would have gone that route, but since I grew up with those movies I was able to enjoy a lot of what Returns had in it.
Then came THE definitive Superman film of our time, Man of Steel in 2013. I remember liking it but having a lot of cognitive dissonance that first time I saw it. I wasn’t sure what it was at the time, but I later realized that it was because I had grown up with such a different interpretation of the character that I wasn’t ready for how much this one flipped the mythos and made Superman a more human and more relatable character. So, the second time I watched it, it got better. Same with the third time, and the fourth time and the fifth time after that. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched it but somehow it keeps getting better with each watch. It’s crazy how that works.
I loved how Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice finally paired him with Batman on the big screen and delved further into the more humanistic relatable story they had started building for him. They didn’t quite continue it the way many of us were expecting in Justice League, but I still enjoyed seeing him with the League in what was essentially a live action version of a DC Animated Universe story. I haven’t seen a ton of those, but I’ve seen enough to know how that tone and style works and I had fun with it there. Like many others, I eagerly await any word of Henry Cavill’s next appearance as The Man of Steel, especially his true sequel which is hopefully and maybe even likely still in the cards.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch a whole lot of Superman on TV. Thanks to Nick at Nite, I’ve seen more episodes of the George Reeves black and white show than I have Lois and Clark or Smallville. I am fully committed to Krypton though, even if it’s not about him directly and more about his family roots.
So, what’s my ultimate point here? It’s that I’ve seen and read multiple interpretations of Superman in my lifetime alone and that doesn’t even cover half of the 80 years that he’s been around as a character now, and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. Cavill’s version from MoS, BvS and even JL is my favorite screen, but I still enjoy Christopher Reeve’s take and Brandon Routh’s brief follow up in 2006. What I’ve seen of the DCAU Superman is great and until I read more of his comics, I’m a Dan Jurgens Superman fan now, but I look forward to expanding my horizons on that front. Superman has been an institution for generations and has literally been a beacon of hope and goodwill to all his fans. He is arguably the most recognizable and popular superhero in the world and many would not argue it. I certainly wouldn’t.
Everyone has a favorite Superman interpretation, no matter what medium it is in. It is a true testament to the longevity and the strength of the character itself that he has been able to stick around for eight decades and see so many different versions of his story and his persona play out for the fans. It’s something to be celebrated and trumpeted and I hope more fans of comics in general and especially of Superman can realize that and remember to respect every interpretation of an ageless wonder like him, even if you don’t like certain interpretations. There’s more than enough for almost everyone to enjoy. Pick one and be happy, I say.
That’s why I’m glad that even though there’s much more of the Superman mythos and stories for me to absorb, I still have seen the character in so many different incarnations and am able to appreciate them all for what they are. If there is any superhero that everyone should be able to celebrate and appreciate on some level, it’s Superman. Here’s hoping that most Superman fans are open-minded enough to appreciate and understand that without being locked into just one version of the character that they prefer. After all, Superman as an institution is far bigger than any one interpretation, no matter how many people gravitate toward it.
Happy Birthday Kal/Clark/Superman. Here’s to another 80 years of hope in the form of an S that’s “not an S.”