He may not have been the first superhero ever created, but he is by far the greatest and most influential lead character in the history of comics. They call him the Man of Steel, the Last Son of Krypton, and the Big Blue Boy Scout, but to all of us he is Superman, and today he celebrates his 75th birthday.
There is a lot I could say about Superman, but it has pretty much already been written and anyone reading this probably knows it all by now. I will keep this brief and to the point because I sincerely doubt the man would want a long-winded tribute.
Despite a cover date of June 1938, Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1 actually first went on sale on April 18, 1938. The creation of Cleveland natives Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman quickly became the most popular hero at the fledgling National Comics, soon to be known as DC Comics. Over the years he rose from being the star of several best-selling titles at DC to a full fledged national icon at a time when America was battling the Axis Powers all over the world. The success of Action Comics and Superman’s solo title resulted in the creation of other superheros and heroines that would become beloved pop culture fixtures for decades to come, like Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash to name but a few. Superman’s enduring popularity also inspired other comic book publishers to create their own vast universes of super-powered avengers of justice with varying degrees of success.
In the three-quarters of a century since Siegel and Shuster brought him out of the Krypton of their youthful imagination and into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere Superman has headlined comic strips, radio shows, cartoons, serials, television series, video games, and big screen blockbusters. He has been killed and resurrected, fought Spider-Man and Muhammad Ali, shilled for American Express with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and become the standard by which all superhero comics and film adaptations are measured by. With his latest cinematic adventure, the Zack Snyder-directed Man of Steel, earning strong early buzz and poised to be one of the most anticipated movies released this year, Superman is celebrating his golden anniversary in high style.
To call Superman’s ascension to the status of beloved cultural icon a long and difficult journey is a gross underestimation. Like his fellow DC Comics stars, the Man of Tomorrow has had to constantly reinvent his persona in order to compete with the hipper, younger-skewering heroes at companies like Marvel and Image and stay relevant in the face of an ever-changing world. Through it all no matter what costume changes or personality alterations he underwent, Superman never stopped being the paragon of moral and physical strength his creators had endowed him to be from the very beginning. His never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way may suffer the occasional setback, but Superman will always be here fighting the good fight and inspiring future generations to embrace their inner superhero and be the best they can possibly be. All we have to do is look up in the sky.
Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, there is only one Superman. Happy birthday to the greatest superhero there ever was!