STILL FLY­ING HIGH

THE MAN OF STEEL IS 80 YEARS OLD AND CAN STILL LEAP TALL BUILD­INGS IN A SIN­GLE BOUND. MAR­ION McMULLEN LOOKS AT THE EN­DUR­ING AP­PEAL OF SU­PER­MAN

Midweek Visiter - - Past Times -

IS IT a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Su­per­man. The ac­tion hero ap­peared 80 years ago, ef­fort­lessly lifting a car above his head on the front cover of the first Ac­tion Comic dated June, 1938 – how­ever, the comics were post dated to get newsagents to keep them on their shelves longer... so you could have had this is­sue on April 18.

He was al­ready wear­ing his trade­mark cape and blue and red su­per­hero out­fit em­bla­zoned with the distinc­tive let­ter ‘S’.

The Man of Steel had ar­rived and was ready to help mankind bat­tle all man­ner of vil­lains in­tent on rul­ing the world.

Amer­i­can ac­tor Kirk Alyn was the first to bring the comic book char­ac­ter – cre­ated by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shus­ter – to life in the 1940s serial which boasted episode ti­tles like The Re­ducer Ray and Into The Elec­tric Furnace!

Kirk was cred­ited only as Clark Kent though, with the stu­dio spread­ing the story that Su­per­man was por­tray­ing him­self.

Bud Col­lyer voiced the first Su­per­man car­toon in the early 40s and re­turned to put words in his mouth again in 1966 in The New Ad­ven­tures Of Su­per­man.

Amer­i­can am­a­teur boxer Ge­orge Reeves never made it big in the movies, but be­came fa­mous to a gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren in the 1950s in Ad­ven­tures Of Su­per­man.

He first played the comic book favourite in the 1951 film Su­per­man And The Mole-Men and went on to ap­pear in the TV se­ries in 1952. It ran for six years and was orig­i­nally filmed in black and white with Su­per­man’s cos­tume be­ing brown, grey and white to pro­vide con­trast.

It switched to the more tra­di­tional red and blue suit when the TV show be­gan film­ing in colour in 1954.

The Su­per­man cos­tume was padded al­though Ge­orge was ex­tremely ath­letic and per­formed many of his own stunts in the 104 episodes.

He was 38 when he took on the role and took care never to dis­il­lu­sion his young fans. He gave up smok­ing and never at­tended ap­pear­ances with girl­friends, but had to be care­ful of young­sters keen to test his su­per­hero pow­ers.

There is a fa­mous story of one young boy turn­ing up with his fa­ther’s Sec­ond World Luger pis­tol and point­ing it at Ge­orge to see if Su­per­man really was in­vin­ci­ble and could dodge a bul­let.

Ge­orge even­tu­ally con­vinced the young fan to hand over the gun by say­ing some­one could get hurt by the bul­lets bounc­ing off Su­per­man. Christo­pher Reeve took on the heroic role in 1978 and gained 30lbs for the part. His weight trainer for the first film in the movie fran­chise was David Prowse, best known for play­ing Darth Vader in the orig­i­nal Star Wars movies.

Christo­pher was only 24 when he first ap­peared as Su­per­man and was the first ac­tor to play the fa­mous hero to have been born af­ter the char­ac­ter was cre­ated in 1938.

A group of chil­dren once recog­nised Christo­pher in a park and de­lib­er­ately threw their Fris­bee over a fence and asked him to fly af­ter it.

He quickly ex­plained he could not fly be­cause his cape was in the wash, but still saved the day by sim­ply reach­ing over the fence and re­triev­ing the Fris­bee for them.

The en­dur­ing ap­peal of Su­per­man con­tin­ued with Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher ap­pear­ing as Clark Kent and Lois Lane in 87 episodes of the Amer­i­can TV se­ries The New Ad­ven­tures Of Su­per­man in the 1990s. Tom Welling went on to play the young Su­per­man for 10 years in the se­ries Smal­lville, but turned down the role twice be­fore ac­cept­ing it. He once ex­plained: “I find it much more in­ter­est­ing to con­cen­trate on the devel­op­ment of Clark and show what hap­pened in his life to make him the Su­per­man that we all know him to be.” Smal­lville marked the death of Christo­pher Reeve by ded­i­cat­ing a 2001 episode to him with the cred­its read­ing: “He made us be­lieve a man could fly.” Bran­don Routh and Bri­tish ac­tor Henry Cav­ill have both put on the fa­mous cape in the more re­cent movie ver­sions and Henry even au­di­tioned wear­ing Christo­pher Reeve’s orig­i­nal film cos­tume. He once joked: “I get to wake up ev­ery morn­ing and say, ‘I’m Su­per­man.’” Christo­pher Reeve him­self said Su­per­man cre­ators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shus­ter cre­ated a piece of Amer­i­can mythol­ogy when they in­tro­duced their hero from Kryp­ton. “It was my priv­i­lege to be the on-screen cus­to­dian of the char­ac­ter in the 70s and 80s,” he said. “There will be many in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Su­per­man, but the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter cre­ated by two teenagers in the 30s will last for­ever.”

Su­per­man made his first ap­pear­ance in a 1938 comic – and be­came an in­stant leg­end. Christo­pher Reeve, right, took on the per­sona in the late 1970s and made us ‘be­lieve a man can fly’

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