superman 3Old Glory. Apple Pie. A New York Yankees baseball cap. These might be the only American icons more instantly recognizable than Superman. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster in the 1930’s and bought by DC Comics, Supes has always been at the top of the “A” list when it comes to Super Heroes. Of course a character this famous is destined for appearances on both the silver and small screens. Let’s check out the Actors who have donned the mighty S over the years.

MOVIES

The Challengers

Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, 2006)
Brandon-Routh-SupermanHampered by a lackluster script and a director who seemed as if he still had his mind on the Marvel Universe where he brought the X-Men to brilliant life on the screen, Brandon Routh never really had a chance. If Kevin Smith had been allowed to pen this movie, perhaps it would have been better, but that really isn’t the point. Brandon did a fine job as Superman, although his performance seemed more of a Christopher Reeve impersonation (albeit a good one) than anything else.
 

Henry Cavill (The Man of Steel, 2013)
Henry-Cavill-SupermanUp in the air (HA!) until the movie’s release, he definitely looks the part, and from the previews, seems to have shades of Smallville in there somewhere. Knowing the current trend towards “dark” comic book movies, I’m sure there will be plenty of chances to show Krypton’s last son as a soul conflicted with the immense responsibility that ultimate power inevitably brings.
 

The Champion

Christopher Reeve (Superman I – IV, 1978-1987)
Christopher-Reeve-SupermanThe end all say all of Supermen. Yes, I was a kid in the 80’s and yes, I am being a tad nostalgic, but that is the beauty of it. Christopher Reeve made us believe that an invincible alien capable of changing the rotation of the earth, also did so because he had a heart. Never cheeky, always sincere, Reeve’s Superman was the perfect portrayal of the character. Granted, Superman III should probably not be watched more than once (and ONLY out of macabre curiosity), but the first two films (and even most of the fourth) are absolute gems, and most of that is thanks to Reeve himself.
 

TELEVISION

The Challengers

George Reeves (Adventures of Superman, 1952 – 1958)
George-Reeves-SupermanTelevision, more so than the movies, tends to be dated rather quickly. The Adventures of Superman is no exception. But when George Reeves puffs his chest out, or dives from a window to actually fly (the first Superman to do so), we were transfixed. Spot on as both Clark Kent and Superman as they would have been in the rather conservative 1950’s.
 

Dean Cain (Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, 1993 – 1997)
Dean-Cain-Lois-&-ClarkAnother dated look for our hero, Dean Cain managed to be both handsome, heroic and still human around his love, Lois Lane. Almost as if Jerry Seinfeld (who is one of the biggest Superman fans in the entertainment industry) got a hold of the writers, and pointed them in the direction of 90’s irony and fun. Not half bad.
 

The Champion

Tom Welling (Smallville, 2001-2011)
Tom-Welling-Smallville-SupermanYou don’t stay on the air for ten seasons without having something going for you. And Smallville had Tom Welling. Good looking, without being a perfect pretty boy, the potential super-soap opera ended up being a great new look at Superman in his formative years. No one could have pulled it off quite like Tom Welling.
 

ANIMATED

The Challengers

Tim Daly (Superman the Animated Series, 1996 – 2000)

George Newbern (Various Superman Animated Movies, 2000 – 2004)

superman 4I lump these two together because they dominated the Emmy-nominated series as the voices of Superman to me (indeed, they have a similar cadence and pattern to their take on the character). Since 2004, the straight to DVD (but well produced) various Superman Animated features have had a myriad of voices, but these two are the two who stick out as awesome.
 

The Champion

Danny Dark (Superfriends, 1973 – 1985)
superfriendsYeah. TWELVE YEARS! Boisterous bravado and a commanding voice that is almost impossible not to put your hands on your hips and stare down evil doers when impersonating him, Danny Dark WAS Superman for and entire generation who worshipped the Superfriends, and would do so for years after it’s cancellation in 1985.

Sure, there are a few I’ve missed, but for the most part, these are the heavies when it comes to Superman, a heavy himself in both the DC Universe and American Pop Culture. And with any luck, will continue to do for years to come.