While he’s not necessarily the world’s singularly favorite (or only) superhero any more, Superman still maintains a strong pull on the audience’s loyalty. Many brave actors have tried on the tights and cape over the years.
Please vote for the man who was the superest of the Supermen in our poll. We’ve set it up so you can vote several times if you want to vote for more than one. After you do, consider leaving a comment and telling us who you picked and why. It’s none of our business, of course, but we’re just nosy that way…
Silver Screen Supermans
In films, if you start with Kirk Alyn as the original celluloid Superman in 1948’s film serial “Superman,” that makes Christopher Reeve’s first fully realized Superman in 1978’s “Superman: The Movie” the first reboot — which makes Brandon Routh’s 2006 “Superman Returns” the reboot of the reboot — which makes 2013’s Henry Cavill “Man of Steel” the reboot of the reboot of the reboot.
And yet we never get tired of this character, do we?
All of these cinematic interpretations have their fans with the likely exception of the first one that was insanely low-budget and produced so far back in the last century that Roswell was breaking news and Truman was president.
The arc of the character — on film anyway — has been relentless in its march from light to dark — from Richard Donner’s comedically directed “Superman: The Movie” and its sequels to the half-and-half blend of Bryan Singer’s homage-ific “Superman Returns” to the dark power of Zack Syder’s “Man of Steel.”
Small Screen Men and Boys of Steel
We’re not done, and we can’t forget the TV Supermans. For an earlier generation of fans it was George Reeves in the 1952 series “Adventures of Superman” who was so fondly remembered. Sure the flying was cheesy and pretty much left to the imagination and the actor looked a little soft in his suit, but there was something square and wonderful about seeing him even badly done and suited up for only a short time per episode. People back then were blown away.
Later, in the 1980s, actors John Haymes Newton and Gerard Christopher would give it a try in “Superboy”, something that seems like a blip and an asterisk to the legend today (and not included inner poll).
The next great TV challenger was the winning personality of Dean Cain in the rom-com feminist expression of the legend in 1993’s “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” This made Clark Kent the dominant force in the double-identity and turned Lois into an equal character. That entire re-imagining barely had time to be missed before hearthrob Tom Welling took on the role in “Smallville,” even though he never suited up in the red and blue until the very, very end.
How Can You Even Pick?
That dilemma, we think, is perfectly solved by this poll. There is no objective criteria for the best Superman. It’s entirely subjective. How do these Men of Steel make you feel?
They’re all different, that’s for sure. Earnest Kirk Alyn? Sweet and innocent Christopher Reeve? Slightly gay Brandon Routh? Hard-ass Henry Cavill?
Those big screen Supes might be the odds-on favorites but the TV guys can’t be counted out. All of them strongly connected with their audiences. From the ill-fated George Reeves (he committed suicide) to the hunks from Smallville, Dean Cain and Tom Welling.
It’s not just a fight. It’s a super-fight!
Tell Your Friends
Okay, okay. We know that statistically the university professor crowd will accuse us of a skewed sample but, frankly, skew them. We think the most important trendsetters and opinion leaders out there are Movie Smackdown© readers.
So vote, more than once if you feel strongly or want to spread the love, and tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter to do the same. We can’t promise that the New York Times will pick this up, but maybe the Daily Planet will.
If you need a memory refresher or a super Moment of Zen, we recommend watching the video at the bottom of this post, “Men of Steel.” It incorporates most of the Supermen discussed here into a Smashup of epic proportions. Produced by Smackdown founder (and “Lois & Clark” writer/producer) Bryce Zabel, edited by Robert Anglim and, totally cool, starring Edd Hall (“The Tonight Show”) as the voice of Jor-el. Pass this around YouTube if you don’t mind.
And, if you watch the video and still want to mull this some more before you commit? We’re down with that, too. In fact, these URLs below will take you to some of our writing on the subject.
The question we leave you with is this: What does each of these Supermen tell us about the times we were living in when they ruled the skies?