Superman was a favorite of Allied troops during World War II, and they showed their gratitude by naming after him their jeeps, tanks, landing craft, and, pictured here, a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.
While he was a favorite of parents and even grandparents, Superman’s success in the early years resulted from his capturing the imagination of youths like this boy, seen reading a comic book in New York in 1946. Another favorite reading spot: under the bedcovers, at night, where a flashlight illuminated the pages. Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
It was the ultimate measure of celebrity in 1956: a guest slot on America’s most-watched TV show, I Love Lucy. It is tough to tell here who was having more fun: George Reeves as he flexed his biceps, or Lucille Ball as she felt his super-strong muscle. Getty Images.
To sleep-deprived parents in the 1970s, a cartoon like Super Friends was a twofer: Kids were mesmerized by the animation, orchestrated by Hanna-Barbera, and the collaboration between Superman and such heroic friends as Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Robin, and Batman, while mom and dad delighted in the extra hours they got in bed. ABC via Getty Images
The Superman TV show launched in 1993 was called Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. As the title suggested, the show was more interested in the relationship between the two journalists than in the adventures of the superhero, and at least as interested in Lois as in Clark. ABC via Getty Images.
Many fans of the 1978 movie Superman, the first in a series starring Christopher Reeve, wondered what the sequel would have been like if Richard Donner had been kept on as director. They found out twenty-five years later, when, thanks to their lobbying, Warner Bros. released on DVD a re-edit called Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Donner is shown here with producer Michael Thau and a cutout of Reeve. Getty Images
The 1950s TV series Adventures of Superman welcomed back old fans of the comics and radio productions and introduced new ones to the Man of Steel narrative. For millions of children who grew up glued to that show, and for others who have watched it in reruns, when they envision Superman they see George Reeves, who is shown here nabbing two thugs. ABC via Getty Images.
Superman became a regular at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York as early as 1940, when the biggest balloon was an eighty-foot-high replica of the Man of Tomorrow. This shot is from the 1966 parade. New York Daily News via Getty Images
Tom Welling played a youthful Clark Kent in Smallville.Warner Bros./Getty Images
Smallville debuted on the WB network just a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The long-running series let young viewers see why their grandparents and parents were so smitten with Superman, and it gave them a version of the superhero who was theirs alone. Michael Rosenbaum portrayed what may have been the most riveting Lex Luthor ever