Friday, April 5, 2019

Who Made the Best Superman

Best SUperman Actor

I can’t stop thinking about him. He’s tall, dark, and handsome. He’s from a foreign land. He has muscles that go on for days. He has a respectable job by day (one after my own little writer heart) and, with the fastest quick-change in history, saves the world whenever it needs saving. There are books and shows and movies everywhere telling his story. He is also the only one I know who can pull off a cape and spandex. And he’s just plain SUPER.
Yep. I am smitten with this character. He’s my own personal kryptonite. Ever since LitJoy announced that they would be working with the DC Icons series of novels that represent my favorite superheroes, I have been on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t wait to hear who they would be. Last year, Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo came out. It was followed by Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu and then Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas. Guess what is coming out this next month?!? Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Pena is one of the most anticipated reads of 2019 (and the latest book to be included in a LitJoy Crate)! I mean, come on. Superman as a teenager just sounds perfect and gives me flashbacks to binge-watching Smallville (raise your hand if you’ve seen every episode).

But here’s the really important question. Who has made the best Superman? I’m not just talking the best-looking (though, there are some better than others). I’m talking about which actor has portrayed him the best? (I’m not including comics and novels featuring Superman, just because interpretations are too different).
Here are the men I think we need to talk about:
Kirk Alyn – Superman (1948), Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)
Ok. So maybe Superman’s first appearance by an actor isn’t exactly the highlight of the Man of Steel’s stardom, but it wasn’t really Kirk Alyn’s fault. Alyn was muscular, athletic and a bit graceful too (he used to dance). He made for an energetic Superman, and he played Clark Kent as we all could imagine: mild-mannered and earnest. All the flying scenes in the shows were accomplished via animation. Everything else was all Alyn, including his sprinting around at top speed, tossing bad guys, and leaping into and out of the frame.
Oddly enough, Alyn was the first actor who played Superman to realize it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He wasn’t even given credit in the serials. They just listed his role as . . . Clark Kent. Poor Alyn. But after several small roles on TV and in westerns, Ayn returned to Superman in cameo form. He played Lois Lane’s father in Superman: The Movie in 1978. 
George Reeves – Superman & The Mole Men (1951), Adventures of Superman (1952-1958)
George Reeves had several roles before he became Superman, including playing one of Scarlett’s suitors on Gone with the Wind. His stardom really surfaced as he came to be known as the reporter and superhero in 104 episodes on TV. Reeves acting was more seen in his portrayal of Clark Kent, who really won the show over. He wore a padded costume (not unlike the molded Halloween costumes we see nowadays) to make his muscles more pronounced. 
Christopher Reeve – Superman: The Movie (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
No one can deny that Christopher Reeve made Superman one of the greatest heroes in movie legend. His ability to hide his 6′ 4″ and 225 pounds of muscle, in a nerdy Clark Kent facade, was brilliant too. There was something about the way he played Superman too. Even with the late 1970s technology, Reeve managed to somehow make you believe that he really could fly. Even after four Superman movies, he still managed to have some big roles, including Somewhere in Time. The world was heartbroken when an accident horseback riding made him quadriplegic and even more so when he passed away in 2004 at age 52 of an infection. (Sidenote: He appeared in two episodes of Smallville as Dr. Virgil Swann in 2003.)
John Haymes Newton – Superboy (1988)
Superboy focused on Superman’s adventures while he was in college.  While the show ran for four seasons, John Haymes Newton only played the hero in the first one. The SuperboyTV show wasn’t for everyone, probably because of sometimes low production values, bizarre scripts (especially in the first season), and some questionable performances. Newton did his best to make the role new, but the first season of Superboy is mostly for the completists out there.
Gerard Christopher – The Adventures of Superboy (1989-1991)
Gerard Christopher is often overlooked by audiences, but he put in more hours as our favorite superhero than most of the other actors. He was the Man of Steel (Boy of Steel might be a more accurate term) for 73 half-hour episodes over the course of three years. Mr. Christopher (much like Mr. Reeve) looked like a Superman comic come to life, and wore the most comic book accurate version of the Superman costume ever seen on screen. When the show reached its third and fourth seasons, it really was less about the boy and more about the man, right down to Clark and Lana (remember Smallville?) working in a newspaper-like setting. Christopher fought many comic book accurate supervillains during the show. He even played the clumsy Clark Kent that we all know and love. He was even considered as Christopher Reeve’s replacement for a rebooted Superman film franchise in the early ’90s, and he auditioned for and was chosen for the role for the Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman TV show before the showrunners learned he had already worn the cape and gave the role to Dean Cain.
Dean Cain – Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997)
People might make fun of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, but when it worked, it worked. The first year of this show’s run showed an accurate representation for what one finds in the Superman comics of the early ’90s as you’re ever likely to see. Also, the genuine chemistry between Dean Cain’s Clark Kent and Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane made for some real on-screen fun. While Cain’s muscular frame (he played football at Princeton and a short time with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills) wasn’t done any favors by a weird-looking costume, his charming, everyman Clark Kent (who wanted Lois to love him, not his superhero alter ego) was a fresh take on the normal representation of the Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle. If nothing else, Superman fans would enjoy the first season of this show and might even laugh out loud from time to time!
Tom Welling – Smallville (2001-2011)
I’m not going to lie. Tom Welling is my personal favorite representation of Superman. Even though the show pretended not to be Superman, anyone who watched the first episode could see the chiseled jawline of Tom Welling, reminiscent of Christopher Reeves. Ten seasons and 218 hour-long episodes make this television show go down in history as one of the longest and most memorable. The unique part about this show was that Welling didn’t put on the well-known red and blue costume and shield until the very last episode, making this version more of a backstory for our well-loved hero.
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, 2006)
Superman Returns might not have been the film that Superman fans were hoping for, but most can agree that Brandon Routh’s portrayal of the Man of Steel was thoughtful and sincere. Routh made Clark Kent just as memorable as Christopher Reeve’s version. He also gave us a more quiet hero in Superman, and it worked for this film. Though Routh hasn’t been back on screen as Superman, he became Ray Palmer in DC’s Arrow television show and then later in the same network’s Legends of Tomorrow
Henry Cavill – Man of Steel (2013)
Anyone who’s anyone has to agree that Henry Cavill looks the part of Superman. His physique, his facial expressions, and his ability to make Superman the altruistic hero he was meant to be, really give all the others that have played Superman a run for their money. Cavill made Superman tough and yet still sincere. He returned to the screen after Man of Steel in Batman vs. Superman and Justice League. Though nothing has been officially announced, there is some buzz that Cavill will play Superman again in another film. 

Tyler Hoechlin – Supergirl (2016-2018)
Tyler Hoechlin was once a Teen Wolf superstar, but now he periodically plays a superhero on the CW’s Supergirl television series. He is not the main character, but has appearances every once and a while and fans hope to see more. Hoechlin shows us that Clark Kent doesn’t have to be a complete klutz. He can still be the mild-mannered Clark we all love, and confident too. Seeing his interactions with Supergirl (aka Melissa Benoist) brings about some family fun that we haven’t really seen in the Superman storyline.
If you read this far, you must either be a HUGE Superman fan (which means you really need to read the newest LitJoy edition Superman: Dawnbreaker book here) or you just think Tyler Hoechlin is super hot. Either way, I love your way of thinking. If you are just a fan of all things superhero, check out the DC Icons Shop for some fun items.

About the Author: Robin M. King is the author of three young adult novels (Remembrandt Series), devourer of books, and lover of brownie batter and cheesy superhero shows.

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