80 Years of the Man of Steel

Books about comics currently on display in the Arts, Literature & Sports Department.

Since making his debut in Action Comics #1, Superman has been an American icon. That 1938 appearance brought the crime-fighting Kryptonian into the imaginations of children and adults, first bringing hope throughout the Great Depression, and later being a moral hero through confusing times. Originally created by two high school students, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933, Superman was soon sold to Detective Comics, now DC Comics, where he first donned his “S” emblazoned costume.

Over the last 80 years, Superman has met sidekicks and enemies including Supergirl (1959) and even Batman (and Robin), beginning in World’s Finest (1941). He joined the Justice League in 1960, fighting alongside a rotating team of heroes including Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern. Although his love interest with Lois Lane started in Action Comics #1, Superboy #10 introduced Lana Lang, Superman’s high school love interest—a relationship that was elaborated upon in the television show Smallville (2001).

Since his inception, the “Man of Steel” has seen numerous incarnations across comic books, television, and movies. He has been the subject of many live action and animated shows, beginning with Adventures of Superman (1952) starring George Reeves, to The Adventures of Lois and Clarke (1993), Superman: The Animated Series (1996), and most recently, with the ten season run of Smallville, which focused on the life of the teenage Superman.

The larger than life hero has been brought to the silver screen nine times since the often-forgotten black and white serials, Superman (1948) and Atom Man versus Superman (1950). George Reeves began his role in the next film, Superman and the Molemen (1951), followed by Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal in Superman: The Movie (1978), and the subsequent Superman II-IV (1980, 1983, 1989). More recently, Superman Returns came out in 1996.

After an almost ten year break, Man of Steel is in theaters now. The film’s villain, Kryptonian General Zod, though less well-known than frequent nemesis Lex Luther, was first introduced in Adventure Comics #283 (1961).

The film’s release promotes DC Comics’ new comic universe reboot known as the “New 52.” Debuting in 2011, the New 52 hopes to bring a new generation of comic book readers to the DC Universe. The publisher ended all of the existing stories and started over, making the plots more accessible and bringing the stories together.

Superman (and other comic books) can be found in the Birmingham Public Library in the Fiction Department, typically with Graphic Novels under FIC SUPER.

To read more about Superman and the DC Universe, see Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye; Superman: The Ultimate Guide to the Man of Steel by Daniel Wallace; Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - The
Creators of Superman by Brad Ricca; and DC Comics: The Ultimate Character Guide by Brandon T. Snider.

Comic book collectors can check out the Comics Buyer’s Guide: Comic Book Checklist and Price Guide and Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide

Superman was created by two high school students; do you want to draw your own comics? Try The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil; So, You Want to Be a Comic Book Artist? by Philip Amara; Superhero Explosion : 60 Easy Lessons for Drawing Comics! by Neal Yamamoto; Stan Lee's How To Draw Comics: From the Legendary Co-Creator of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Iron Man by Stan Lee, and Writing for Comics with Peter David by Peter A. David.

All of these books, as well as many others, can be found at the Birmingham Public Library.

Submitted by Allie Graham
Arts, Literature, & Sports Department
Central Library