“As a distant planet was destroyed by old age, a scientist placed his infant son within a hastily devised space-ship, launching it toward Earth!
When the vehicle landed on Earth, a passing motorist, discovering the sleeping babe within, turned the child over to an orphanage.
Attendants, unaware the child’s physical structure was millions of years advanced of their own, were astounded at his feats of strength.
When maturity was reached, he discovered he could easily leap one fifth of a mile, hurdle a twenty-story building, raise tremendous weights, run faster than an express train, and that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin!
Early, Clark decided he must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind, and so was created…SUPERMAN!”
And so began the very first adventure of the Man of Steel, published as Action Comics #1 on April 18th, 1938.
For 75 years, Superman has continued to entertain and inspire children as well as the children still living inside a lot of us, be it in comics or books or in film or on television. Though details of his “secret origin” have changed over the decades, the basic premise always has been honored, with young Kal-El rocketing to Earth from the dying planet Krypton. At first delivered to an orphanage, that part would evolve into his “adoption” by the Kents (whose names would change a few times before settling on “Jonathan” and “Martha”), two decent people who instilled in young “Clark” the values he would hold dear well into adulthood as he sought his destiny.
The character has evolved in myriad ways over the decades, at times acting as a symbol for American patriotism (“Truth, Justice, and the American Way”) and others showing him as a citizen and protector of the world. There have been several attempts at reinvention–for better or worse, depending on who you ask–but when all is said and done, Superman remains the same basic character he was when he graced those first comics pages.
Like a lot of young boys, I too was enthralled by Superman. I don’t know if he was the first superhero to which I was exposed, but I figure he and Batman were neck and neck at that point in my early childhood. I read comics, watched cartoons and the reruns of the George Reeves 1950s Adventures of Superman, played with action figures, and…yes…I tied a cape around my neck and pretended to be the Man of Tomorrow. I even took a high dive off the top of the stairs. My mother still loves telling people that story. When the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve came to movie screens in 1978, I was there, and I’ve long since quit counting how many times I’ve seen the film over the years. Now I watch it with my daughters, who also like him (and Wonder Woman, too. Nootch.).
Now well into adulthood, I still enjoy a well-executed Superman tale. I still read the occasional comic, and it’s with growing anticipation that I await the premiere of the latest film, Man of Steel, coming this summer. He’s become a much more complex character than the Superman I watched in cartoons or read in comics as a kid, but that only makes him all the more intriguing. There’s still a lot to enjoy–and learn, if you’re paying attention–from him. Can he still be a hero? A role-model? Someone with ideals to which we can aspire? I’d like to think so, at least so far as a fictional character can have that kind of influence.
I’d even wear the cape, if they’d let me.
(If anybody knows who created this picture, I’d love to know so he/she can be properly credited.)
Happy Anniversary, Superman.