He is strapping, over 6 feet tall, with dark wavy hair, and navy blue eyes. He can outrun a speeding bullet, and always carries his lady to safety, even if it means flying above the clouds. Unrecognizable with his glasses, he is every woman’s, man’s and child's beloved hero. A superhero in fact that came from another planet over three quarters of a century ago, and landed in the fields of Smallville, Kansas; he is no other than the man of steel, Superman.
Considering his alter ego, clumsy reporter Clark Kent couldn't be further than the world’s strongest man, it takes a special talent to play both characters flawlessly, and boy have there been some memorable ones. Counting down 10 actors who have left an imprint on both Clark Kent, and the man of steel himself, Superman!
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10 Bud Collyer: Adventures of Superman radio show (1940-1951), Superman animated cartoons (1941-1943), New Adventures of Superman (1966-1970)
Making the phrase "This is a job for... Superman," famous by his unique octave tone, Bud Collyer became the first man of steel, lending his vocal talents to the classic Superman cartoons and radio shows. Although he never put on the famous blue tights or red cape, Collyer is widely recognized for providing a voice to the first produced cartoons (17 animated adventures), as well as 2,000 radio episodes. Collyer holds an unbreakable record as having portrayed Superman for more hours than any actor ever, a combination of radio, film, and television.
9 Kirk Alyn: Superman (1948)
The actor that wore the infamous red boots and matching cape in the 1948 & 1950 film serial, began his career on broadway in the 1930’s. Alyn also worked as a singer and dancer before getting his big break in the 15 episodic Superman movie serial. The series featured the arrival of Superman/Clark Kent to planet Earth, his start at the Daily Planet, and his encounter with his infamous colleague crush, Lois Lane. His first battle as Superman featured the rivalry with Spider Lady.
8 George Reeves: Superman & The Mole Men (1951), Adventures of Superman (1952-1958)
George Reeves portrayed the man of steel during the run of the 1950’s television program Adventures of Superman. While his first acting performance was a small part in Gone With the Wind, Reeves was offered the starring role of the caped superhero in 1951. Although hesitant to accept the offer, due to his fear that his work wouldn’t be seen (TV was seen as such in the 1950’s), Reeves accepted the role and became a national celebrity and child role model soon after the show began airing. Reeves quit the show after two seasons, at the age of 40, but later returned (he completed seven seasons) at the plea of producers for an increased salary. Reeves was killed just five years later in a strange gun accident, which some believe was murder, others suicide, and others an accidental shooting.
7 Christopher Reeves: Superman: The Movie (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Perhaps the most recognized Superman and even most revered superhero portrayal in history, Christopher Reeves was a symbol of integrity, strength, and courage, even until his last breath. First cast as the man of steel in 1978, Reeves impressed critics and fans with his good looks, bright blue eyes, and quit wit. Reeves transformed himself for the role by adding 14 kg of muscle onto his body, and continued to enhance his build for the film’s second, third, and fourth sequels. In reality, Reeves wanted to quit the franchise after the third installment, but agreed to play the superhero in the fourth, adding his own creativity to the script. The film opened to negative reviews and was not a box office success. Reeves became an activist fighting for people with spinal cord injuries, founding the Christopher Reeves Foundation and co-founding the Reeves-Irvine Research Center after being thrown from a horse, and becoming a quadriplegic in 1995.
6 John Haymes Newton: Superboy (1988)
While the Superboy TV series aired for four seasons in syndication, John Haymes Newton starred as the man of steel for only the first season. The half hour show was based on the ‘DC Comics comic book’ which featured Kal-El’s young years. At the start of the third season the show was renamed The Adventures of Superboy. The series also featured Clark Kent/Superman as a college student completing its four seasons with Newton’s replacement, Gerard Christopher. Newton went on to have recurring roles in Melrose Place, The Untouchables, and Models Inc.
5 Gerard Christopher: The Adventures of Superboy (1989-1991)
A regular guest star on American soaps like Days of Our Lives, Melrose Place, and Sunset Beach, Gerard Christopher was John Haymes Newton's replacement in the Superboy series after the first season. Evidently Christopher wore the most accurate comic book version of the Superman costume, and clocked more hours as the super hero than several other actors who portrayed the man of steel. By the fourth season Christopher depicted Clark Kent as a reporter, his trials with Lana, and his encounters with ‘supervillains’ as seen in the comic book series. Christopher’s impressive performance actually landed him the part as Superman in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, but producers quickly rescinded due to the fact he had portrayed the superhero in The Adventures of Superboy.
4 Dean Cain: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997)
At the very least, the portrayals of Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane produced some indisputable on air chemistry. The series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was an action series starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher and aired from 1993-1997. The show focused more on the relationship between Lois and Clark, as well as the adventures of Superman, rather than the comic book ‘supervillian’ expeditions. The successful series shot in California, was also the basis for the 1996 adult novel entitled, Lois & Clark: A Superman novel. Cain’s portrayal of Clark Kent was viewed as a ‘fresh take’ of the conventional portrayal of the reporter and his alter ego. Amongst several other acting roles, The French Canadian, Irish, Welsh, and Japanese actor also became a presenter, hosting Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
3 Tom Welling: Smallville (2001-2011)
In the 10-year run in which Smallville aired, Tom Welling starred in 218 Smallville hour-long episodes. Although his chiseled features and good looks may have you thinking Welling was born into show bizz, he was far from it, working in construction, until he was ‘discovered’ by a model scout at a concert. While pursuing a career in acting, Welling modeled for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, and Abercrombie & Fitch. After a cross-country search to find the perfect ‘Clark Kent’, Welling was cast, receiving his big break on the TV series Smallville. The pilot was received with enormous success, having 8.4 million viewers in its debut.
2 Brandon Routh: Superman Returns (2006)
A former model from Iowa, Brandon Routh portrayed our favorite caped hero in the 2006 film, Superman Returns. The film suffered several mixed critiques which evidently affected the box office returns as well as prevented it from having a sequel. Although the film was not a commercial success, Routh’s performance was positively revered. After the film, Routh partook in several projects including: a role in the TV series Chuck, roles in the films Zack and Miri make a Porno, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
1 Henry Cavill: Man of Steel (2013)
Henry Cavill gained international fame as Clark Kent/Kal-El in the 2013 film Man of Steel. The feature film became the highest grossing Superman themed film of all time. Cavill’s portrayal of the man of steel evidently pays homage to both Christopher Reeves and George Reeves. While critics also claim that the British actor may be the one to carry the franchise for years to come, Cavill has expressed interest in taking over the role of James Bond once Daniel Craig chooses to surrender his 007 status.
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