Superman is a fictional superhero created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. He first appeared in Action Comics #1, a comic book published on April 18, 1938. He appears regularly in American comic books published by DC Comics, and has been adapted to radio shows, newspaper strips, television shows, movies, and video games.

Superman was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton, and was sent to Earth in a small spaceship by his scientist father Jor-El, moments before Krypton was destroyed in a natural cataclysm. His ship landed in the American countryside, where he was discovered and adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, a farming couple. They named him Clark. Clark displayed various superhuman abilities such as incredible strength and impervious skin, and his foster parents advised him to use his gifts for the benefit of humanity. In the fictional American city of Metropolis, Clark Kent works as a journalist for the Daily Planet. To protect his privacy, he changes into a colourful costume and uses the alias “Superman” when fighting crime. Superman’s love interest is his fellow journalist Lois Lane, and his classic archenemy is the genius inventor Lex Luthor. He is a friend of many other superheroes in the DC Universe, such as Batman and Wonder Woman.

Early Adaptations

The first adaptation of Superman beyond comic books was a radio show, The Adventures of Superman, which ran from 1940 to 1951, mostly aimed at children. Paramount Pictures released a series of Superman theatrical animated shorts between 1941 and 1943. 

The first live-action adaptation of Superman was a movie serial released in 1948, targeted at children. Kirk Alyn became the first actor to portray the hero onscreen. It was the most profitable movie serial in movie history. A sequel serial, Atom Man vs. Superman, was released in 1950. For flying scenes, Superman was hand-drawn in animated form, composited onto live-action footage.

The first feature film was Superman and the Mole Men, a 58-minute B-movie released in 1951, and starring George Reeves, intended to promote the subsequent television series.


Adventures of Superman, which aired from 1952 to 1958, was the first television series based on a superhero. It starred George Reeves. Whereas the radio serial was aimed at children, this television show was aimed at a general audience.  It first aired in the UK on February 23, 1956.

The first animated television series was The New Adventures of Superman, which aired from 1966 to 1970 and was targeted at children.

Superboy aired from 1988 to 1992. It was produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, the same men who had produced the Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman aired from 1993 to 1997. This show was aimed at adults and focused on the relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane as much as Superman’s heroics. Dean Cain played Superman, and Teri Hatcher played Lois. The show first aired in the UK on BBC 1 on January 8, 1994.

Superman: The Animated Series (with the voice of Tim Daly on main character) aired from 1996 to 2000.


The first big-budget movie was Superman in 1978, starring Christopher Reeve. The soundtrack was composed by John Williams and was nominated for an Academy Award; the title theme has become iconic. Superman (1978) was the first big-budget superhero movie, and its success arguably paved the way for later superhero movies like Batman (1989) and Spider-Man (2002). The 1978 movie spawned four sequels: Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) and Superman Returns (2006); the last of which replaced Reeve with Brandon Routh.

Superman (1978)

You’ll believe a man can fly.

Superman superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name directed by Richard Donner. It depicts Superman’s origin, including his infancy as Kal-El of Krypton and his youthful years in the rural town of Smallville. Disguised as reporter Clark Kent, he adopts a mild-mannered disposition in Metropolis and develops a romance with Lois Lane, while battling the villainous Lex Luthor.

It was decided to film both Superman and its sequel Superman II (1980) simultaneously but tensions arose between Donner and the producers, and a decision was made to stop filming the sequel, of which 75 percent had already been completed, and finish the first film.

The most expensive film made up to that point with a budget of $55 million, Superman was released in December 1978 to critical and financial success. It received praise for Reeve’s performance, and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Film Editing, Best Music (Original Score), and Best Sound, and received a Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects.

Superman (1978) was released in UK cinemas on December 14, 1978.

Notable cast

  • Marlon Brando, “Jor-El”
  • Gene Hackman, “Lex Luthor”
  • Christopher Reeve, “Superman”/”Clark Kent”
  • Ned Beatty, “Otis”
  • Jackie Cooper, “Perry White”
  • Glenn Ford, “Jonathan Kent”
  • Trevor Howard, “First Elder”
  • Margot Kidder, “Lois Lane”
  • Jack O’Halloran, “Non”
  • Valerie Perrine, “Eve Teschmacher”
  • Terence Stamp, “General Zod”
  • Susanna York, “Lara”
  • Marc McClure, “Jimmy Olsen”
  • Sarah Douglas, “Ursa”
  • Harry Andrews, “Second Elder”

Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill have cameo appearances as Lois Lane’s father and mother. Alyn and Neill portrayed Superman and Lois Lane in the film serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950).

Superman II (1980)

Superman III (1983)

Supergirl (1984)

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)