It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s one of the Superman actors. Superman made his first appearance in comics in 1933 and as a radio series in 1940 before finally making his first appearance on film in 1948. Since 1948, Superman appeared in television series, movies and animated features.
- George Reeves. George Reeves got his big break when he was cast in the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind.” He took a break from acting when he enlisted in the army. After the end of World War II, the actor returned to acting and accepted the role in the television show “The Adventures of Superman.” Reeves became a star thanks to the show but ended up typecast. After five seasons, the show ended and two years later Reeves died from a gunshot wound to the head. His death remains one of Hollywood’s greatest mysteries.
- Christopher Reeve. Christopher Reeve was an unknown actor in 1978 when Richard Donner cast him as the Man of Steel. Reeve faced the same problems as George Reeves, remaining typecast as Superman for the remainder of his career. Despite being a Juilliard trained actor, only his role of Superman stuck in people’s minds despite appearing in seventeen movies. He suffered a paralyzing injury in 1995 when he fell from a horse. He appeared one last time in the Superman universe in episodes of the television series “Smallville.” Reeves passed away in 2004 from cardiac arrest at the age of 52.
- Dean Cain. In 1993, ABC premiered the television series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and the man they cast was former college football star Dean Cain. The series ran for four years and ended with a cliffhanger where Lois and Clark find a baby left for them and a note explaining the baby now belongs to them. Cain has appeared in a number of small movies over the years since the show's cancellation.
- Tom Welling. Tom Welling began his career a model before moving on to television commercials and an actor in small roles on television shows like “Judging Amy” and “Undeclared.” In 2001, he finally broke out when “Smallville” cast him to play the role of Clark Kent. As of 2010, no one ever called him Superman on the show but with ten seasons under his belt as of 2010, Tom Welling has played a live action version of the hero more than anyone has.
- Brandon Routh. In much the same way that Richard Donner picked out a fresh faced unknown actor for the 1979 “Superman” movie, Bryan Singer took the same route for his reboot, “Superman Returns.” Brandon Routh came to the project with only minor credits including a Christina Aguilera video and a stint on “One Life to Live.” However, with the movie not inspiring a direct sequel, Routh found himself an actor without a franchise.