One of the most popular superheroes, Superman was created by DC comics, and first appeared in 1938. Superman began as part of an anthology series on the comic Action Comics, and became such a popular addition that eventually he was given his own self-titled comic. This was momentous, as, until this point, no other superhero had been given their own comic. The standalone Superman comic premiered in the summer of 1939, with the same name as the hero himself. It wasn’t until 1986 that the series was retitled, and essentially revamped, The Adventures of Superman, though after 2006 the comic returned to the original title and the same numbering for each episode. In 2011, the series saw a cancellation at number 711. Since then there have been two re-launches.
Since its creation, Superman has seen four distinct series in play. The first series set up the scene for the character, and in the following years added a number of popular and long-lasting characters to the tale. These included the character Perry White, who had also featured in the Superman radio program a few years before. During the 40s, the character of Jimmy Olsen was introduced, and it was during this time that Wayne Boring took over as the main artist on the series. Over the next few years, a number of prestigious writers, including Don Cameron and Jerry Siegel, wrote stories for the comic. Later, in this first decade, the infamous kryptonite finally made the transition from radio story to comic book, thus cementing itself in the Superman mythology.
Over the following years, Superman continued to grow and develop, with ever-more complex stories and new designs being added to the comics. It wasn’t until the early 1960s, however, that the artist Curt Swan came onto the scene. Hailed by many as the definitive Superman artist, Swan introduced a new look to the character, replacing Boring’s previous incarnation. By the early 70s, Julius Schwartz had become the editor of the comic and, along with Swan and Denny O’Neil, the character was streamlined and refined, and soon it became much more the character we know and love today.
A Superhero World
The story continued to grow, and, during the 80s, the comics and their storylines began to be interlinked in an effort to create a superhero world in which the readers could become immersed. Stories were synced with each other, particularly as this was the era of the revamp, and the Adventure of Superman stories needed to align with those from the Action Comics and also Superman. By the early 90s, both artist and main storyteller had been replaced once again, this time with Jerry Ordway coming back as the writer alongside Tom Grummett. These two men were the creators of the popular Death of Superman storyline, a controversial yet exciting take on the legend. Crossover series began to occur, including Zero Hour, though later on in the noughties these became less popular and there was a reversion to more self-contained offerings.
The story of Superman has continued to grow and fluctuate over the years, and though the main themes remain the same, the writers and artists have managed to adapt with the times, making the themes always pertinent to the now.