Superman was first thought up in 1933 by a pair of nineteen year-old kids named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Their Superman couldn't fly, but he did a lot of leaping over buildings in a single bound. After five years of being rejected, Jerry and Joe got their character published for the first time in issue number one of Action Comics. It was 1938.

After wowing kids in print, Superman first took to the screen in 1941, when animator Max Fleischer created the first Superman cartoons. In 1953 Superman became live action, when he was played by a somewhat doughy actor named George Reeves on television. In 1978 he starred in what was then one of the most watched movies ever made, Superman: The Movie. Superman was played by Christopher Reeve, who would go on to forever embody the character in the minds of millions.

In his nearly seventy year career Superman has leaped to unheard of popularity, becoming the most famous comic book character in the world. Since his inception he's conquered nearly every form of media. Comics, radio plays, television series, feature films. Superman is more than just a character now, he's an American icon, a symbol for truth, justice, and the American way… whatever that means.

Now, after a twenty year absence from movie theaters, Superman returns. While he's been away, there've been other pretenders to the king of all superheroes throne. Spider-Man is now the biggest movie of all time. Batman is back and brings with him gritty realism. Marvel's X-Men have made cinema waves. But this is Superman. Super's in his name. Whether you like him or not, he'll always be top dog.

Below is our guide to everything you need to know to fight for truth, justice, and all that stuff. Get ready for Superman's return.

A retrospective by Rafe Telsch

The world has changed dramatically since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman in 1938. It has even changed pretty sizably since Superman last flew into theaters. I remember, several years ago, diving through an old collection of comic books and finding a commentary page from the late '70s that was excited about the casting of Marlon Brando as Superman's father Jor-El. That made me start thinking what a different time we live in now, and how the online buzz would have been surrounding the previous Superman movies.

Much of the advance buzz for the movie would be exactly what has followed Superman Returns for the 1978 original Richard Donner film. Fans would have been excited about the casting of the legendary Marlon Brando, even though it was only in a bit part. That actor from The French Connection and The Poseidon Adventure (Gene Hackman) would have been considered a strange bit of casting for Lex Luthor, but fans undoubtedly would have given Donner the benefit of the doubt... or would they? At the time Donner was mostly a television director, only having really stepped to the big screen in the past few years for The Omen. How would fans have reacted to such a rookie taking on their beloved Man of Steel, especially when he made the most important decision of the movie: casting a relative newbie in the title role?

I suspect casting the then unknown Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman would have drawn the same suspicion and concern that newcomer Brandon Routh is receiving today. Could Reeve pull off the duality of Clark and Superman? Could he hold his own against the better known Hackman and Margot Kidder (another bizarre casting decision). Donner and Reeve would have had added pressure on them because Superman was not a solo picture. Both the original and the sequel, Superman II were being filmed at the same time.

Finally the film would be released and the online community would agree they really did believe a man could fly. The effects were incredible. Reeve captured both Clark Kent and Superman perfectly, portraying them as two separate characters still yet connected in some way. Brando's appearance was brief, but powerful. That's not to say Donner's film would be widely accepted. Many would offer disdain for the comedic portrayal of Lex Luthor and accuse his even more comedic sidekick Otis (Ned Beatty) of being the descendant of Lucas's Jar Jar Binks. And that ridiculous just-shy-of deus ex machina ending? "WTF?" would be response uttered by many movie forums across the internet. All in all though, the reaction would be positive, setting the stage for the fast following sequel.

Superman II is the perfect example of a movie that would have benefited greatly from the internet. For one, Richard Donner might have never been fired. The power of the internet sometimes helps studios realize when they have to hold onto directors even when problems may pop up. Secondly, after the negative reaction to the first film, the comedic Luthor and bumbling sidekick Otis might have vanished completely. Hackman attempted part of that, leaving when Donner did, forcing replacement director Richard Lester to use a look alike and voice-overs by an impersonator; something today's audiences aren't exactly tolerant of.

Following the release of the movie, the internet would go ga-ga over the real stars of the film. Sure, Superman is as great as ever even though he wusses out over Lois and gives up his powers. Nobody recalls that part of the movie when Superman II is mentioned. What does come to mind is the catchphrase that would have been everywhere online; three words that have forever changed the face of malevolence forever: "Kneel before Zod." Terrence Stamp had already had a successful start to his career, but nobody can deny his role as General Zod earned him his place in the cult figure hall of fame forever. Watching Supes take on three super villains almost took away the sting of Luthor and Otis... almost. Most likely fans would have hated the bumbling villain aspect even more once they started realizing how cool the movie could have been if Luthor had actually brought something significant to his team-up with Zod, Ursa, and Non. Despite Donner getting booted from the project, Superman II would be considered one of those rare sequels that surpassed the original, especially since it made up for the weaknesses of the original with some serious villainy this time and no silly time travel fixes.

As information began to leak about the third movie fans would really be drooling. Most of the cast would be returning with the added romantic conflict of Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole). If you've read any of the information for Spider-Man 3 you've seen the same kind of reaction this news would have received. The added good news: Lex Luthor and Otis were finally out of the picture, and legendary comedian Richard Pryor was taking his place. Actually, that second part would probably be just as worrisome news as Luthor's comedic treatment. If they were replacing the main villain with a comedian, what would that mean for the seriousness of Superman's opposition this time? Naysayers would officially begin declaring the death of the franchise when it was announced that John Williams was leaving scoring duties for the movie to someone else.

The third chapter in the franchise would probably be as well received as the recent X-film. Word about Reeve would continue to shine as he battles himself in the film, but the timely cause for that battle (anti-smoking message anyone?) wouldn't go over well at all. Pryor's part would be a tolerable follow up to his nefarious performances in The Toy and The Wiz, which is to say not at all. As a result, Superman III would actually make people wish Hackman's Luthor was back, a wish that would be granted with the fourth film of the franchise.

But wait, you say the internet would cause a fourth film to not even be made? I disagree. Although the response to III would be poor to say the least, studios still crank out chapters in successful franchises despite what we internet denizens say. By this point studio executives would probably stop listening to internet chatter all together. After all, we were the ones who wanted Luthor gone and then complained about Richard Pryor - what could we possibly know about the movie. For the fourth chapter, the studio would go all out, putting back in all the things we complained about in the first place. Luthor is back in, as is a timely message - hey, fighting the soviets worked in Rocky IV and the Superman vs. Superman aspect of Superman III went over well, so here comes an evil cold war version of Superman to do battle with.

Obviously the existence of the internet wouldn't change the response to the fourth film either, except for possibly giving it an even lower box office return. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was a horrific conclusion to the franchise; so bad that super villain actor Mark Pillow was never seen or heard from again. The movie was preachy and lacking everything that made the first movies work with the exception of Christopher Reeve. Even Reeve's performance seemed uninspired by this point, and Reeve had already announced he wouldn't be returning in front of the camera for a fifth film, although he had acquiesced that he might be writing and/or directing in the future. Only Batman & Robin, which came twelve years later would remove the taint from the fourth Superman film as the worst super sequel of all time.

Over two decades have passed since Superman opposed Nuclear Man and box office receipts tanked. Is the world ready for another chapter in the expanding Superman story? If television is any indication, the word is 'yes.' Both the teen-angst "Smallville" and the animated adventures of the man of steel in "Superman" and "Justice League" cartoons have proven successful. Some would argue the original Siegel and Shuster cartoons lend themselves more to televisions serialized possibilities. After all, we've already been made to believe a man can fly on the movie screen. Perhaps that's why new director Bryan Singer is throwing out the bad history of the Superman movies and continuing the work started by Richard Donner. Singer has already declared his movies more akin to "chick flick" versions of Superman, focusing more on relationships than special effects. Maybe in a world full of visual effects that's what we need for the Man of Steel - a character who thinks and has emotions. If anything, it'll save us from another spin around the world to turn back time. Isn't that worth something?

Superman Returns Reviewed
"Others have tried, but Bryan Singer has truly captured exactly what a Superman movie is supposed to be. Gone is even the smallest vestige of camp or tongue-in-cheek, in its place is a smart story about thinking, feeling people. One of those people just happens to be a god. Godlike is exactly what Superman is in this film, in a way he's never been before. He's Atlas, carrying the world on his shoulders. He's almighty Zeus, hurling thunderbolts at antlike mortal men. Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor compares his fight with Superman to the ancient story of Prometheus, and when he does so it's not just a parable, he means it. So does Superman Returns ..." read more

Interviews with the Cast of Superman Returns
" Superman isn’t the only thing that returns in the new movie Superman Returns. The entire tone and style of the franchise born in Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman: The Movie is back thanks to director Bryan Singer’s love of all things Superman. Singer and his super cast showed up for interviews at a recent press junket for Superman Returns"... read more

Advertising Superman
"There's no better feeling than walking down the hallway of a movie theater and encountering a Superman movie poster. The advertising campaign used on the original and the "You'll believe a man can fly" tagline is now legendary. So with Superman Returns it seems like a good time to take a look at the posters for the new movie, and see how they measure up to the original, first two which it claims to be a direct sequel to..." read more

Editorial: Why America Hates Superman We’re no longer interested in achievers. Our idols are flawed, and in many cases failures. Our baseball players take drugs, our basketball stars rape women. William Hung has made a fortune out of humiliating himself so others can laugh at him. We choose a president who cheats on his wife with unattractive women, and then another with an IQ of 89 and a problem with word pronunciation. Superman stands above any of that. He’s not Batman battling dark demons. He’s not Spider-Man struggling to manage a hectic lifestyle. Superman has no flaws, and that makes us uncomfortable... read more

Editorial: Why We Need Superman Seriously, if super-heroes really existed, which would you rather have? A teenager who fights villains in between classes? A man who dresses up as a giant bat but doesn’t actually have any powers? Or would you rather have the hero who has no fine print. He’s there to save the day; that’s what he does. He’s all-powerful, indestructible, with powers just shy of God. Even with my Spidey love I can see that’s what we want in a hero – the guy who has time to fly in and save the guy who fell out of a building on his way to stop the giant earthquake in the first place. Cause and effect, he catches it all. He doesn’t expect payment. He never has to sleep. All he wants is to help make the world a better place, not because he thinks we deserve it, but because we do... read more

Images From Superman Returns - See Singer's new Superman in all his glory! Nearly 100 images to drool over.

Superman Returns - POST WHEN YOU SEE IT - (Spoiler Alert) See the movie and discuss your thoughts about it here!

Superman Returns - pre-release talk - Here's the place to post your thoughts before you see the movie.

Superman Returns - Bowling For Box Office - Play our box office prediction game and guess how much money Superman Returns will make in its first weekend!

Batman Begins
"Batman Begins is a solid re-entry into the comic book hero's crime riddled world. Missing is some of the exhilaration and fun of its predecessors, in its place is a closer examination into the nature of the character. If there's fault to be laid, put it at the feet of Nolan who seems to understand the character, but not his karate chops. You won't see a lot of good "Pow!", "Bang!", "Boom!", or "Zowie!" in this version of Batman, Nolan appears incapable of making that sort of movie. Luckily, the film otherwise captures the Batman so well that any missing excitement can be forgiven. "

Batman (1989)
"Holy Great Peformances, Batman, the actors are great. Michael Keaton does a great job being a badass protector of the night and his Bruce Wayne, although a little off-putting on occasion, has some great underplayed comic moments. Early in the film, I wondered if Jack Nicholson was the right choice to play the Joker, but he quickly grew on me... This guy was madcap while still retaining a homicidal edge (while Jim Carrey was great as the Riddler in Forever, I never believed he'd be able to kill somebody). The supporting cast (Basinger, Wuhl, Michael Gough as faithful butler) all do equally capable work. Even Billy Dee Williams is good. "

"Most of the movie's problems are caused by a script so bad that it must have been intentionally written to stink. I mean come on, the plot revolves around naughty beauty products; give me a break. The rest are caused by laziness on the part of Pitof, who can't even bother to have Patience's office co-workers wear different outfits from one day to the next. Weirdly enough, he has no problem changing the wardrobe of Patience's best friend while she crosses the street. Black undershirts don't normally appear to cover a woman's bosoms just because the traffic light turns red. "

X-MenX-Men: The Last Stand
"Perhaps what's most galling about X-Men: The Last Stand is that it's so full of flat melodrama that it's hard to work up much passion for it one way or another. They've completely squandered the amazing potential for a third film set up by Bryan Singer at the end of X2. They've utterly wasted one of the best storylines ever in the history of comic books in the form of Dark Phoenix. The film completely throws away the other best storyline in the history of comics by throwing us ten seconds of Sentinel hidden behind a dense fog on in the middle of a computer generated war re-enactment. This is a movie that tosses out everything the previous two movies have been building, and most of the character's previous personalities too. But none of that will make you angry. It's a movie without emotion. It can't connect with the audience emotionally, positively or negatively. Beloved characters are killed with little consideration, as if to make room for someone who costs less money..."

X2: X-Men United
"Second time X-director Bryan Singer has created an absolute masterpiece. A consummate blending of deep delving character exploration, team oriented action, amazing set pieces, and PERFECTLY done mind blowing, super-powered, special effects that rip the roof off of any previous effects efforts in the genre. What makes this effects magic so wonderful is that it isn't noticeable as Hollywood trickery. Everything blends together seamlessly. Nowhere does anything in the film look any less than completely and utterly real. At no point does bad cgi creep in, nor overambitious action directing, resulting in such unrealistic karate moves that the audience can no longer buy in. It's an absolutely slick and positively beautiful presentation. From Nightcrawler's trademark BAMF! as he teleports into battle, to the insane weather effects of Storm finally and fully unleashed, each moment of movie misdirection works to fullest efficiency."

" Look back at the Superhero movies of the past couple of decades, the biggest being Superman and Batman. Both were entertaining, but one of the biggest complaints about the early Batman movies is that while they're riveting, they are almost too dark. Superman on the other hand, while enjoyable, lacked some of the edge that Batman had. X-Men has managed to successfully walk the fine line between these two. Not as disturbingly dark as Batman, but yet it still has the hard gritty edge that keeps the audience riveted to the screen. "

The Incredibles
"The Incredibles has everything you could possibly hope for not just in a superhero movie, but in great filmmaking. Pixar was already home to some of the brightest group of filmmakers working today, but Brad Bird has shaken things up and managed to take them to an even higher level. Like his previous film, The Iron Giant, The Incredibles has a kind of magic delicacy that's unique amongst its competitors. He's made a modern classic that'll be hanging around for generations, a film that you won't be finished with until you've seen it more than once. The Incredibles is one of the best movies of the year; take your kids or if you have none take yourself."

V For Vendetta
" V for Vendetta is rebellious and risky, subversive and dangerous. But it's not cynical. V's naïve take on the world is one that believes in the basic strength and goodness of people as strongly as it believes in the intrinsic corruptness of big government. It's a viewpoint that almost certainly has no basis in reality, but that's alright What makes the film great is that you're not asked to subscribe to its philosophy, only think about it and take note. It's not a call to rise up against your rulers, but a warning about the way fear can be used to give a person or organization too much power. It's an old lesson, but one that bears frequent repeating. It'll stick with you after you leave the theater. You won't want to think about it, the ideas in this film are too dangerous, but you'll have to. V is that kind of powerful. Once you see it, there's no escaping it. "

"The film hits its stride in all the moments where del Toro forgets about his silly hocus-pocus Apocalypse and lets his heroes interact and grow. Hellboy's longing for affection, his friendship with Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman's struggle to become normal, the Professor's love of his demon-like son, that's the real point of this film. The things you'll remember most are little details like Hellboy's love of kittens, not the way he fought a tentacle. Del Toro's save the world plot is just filler that should have been cleaned up and straightened out. It wasn't, probably in the name of staying faithful. The result is an extremely enjoyable experience that could have been even better had Big Red been given a more involving adventure."

Spider-Man 2
"Spider-Man 2 is like stepping right back in to a familiar friend. It's not so much a new movie as just a continuation of the original, a visit back into a world which really hasn't changed so much, for which we're all the better. Peter's (Tobey Maguire) still desperately and secretly in love with Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) while facing the consequences of accepting the great responsibility that comes with his great power. Responsibility also means he can't pay his bills and so he lives in a crappy, run-down apartment hounded by a landlord whom he can never afford to pay."

"Surprisingly, even though the Goblin's costume resembles that of a Power Ranger reject, Dafoe's body language projects a threatening and deadly presence in battle with Maguire's Spidey. Each and every scene is a piece of crime fighting JOY as Spider-Man fights two-bit thug and super-villain alike with uncanny wit and an assorted variety of web slinging, fist slamming action. Nothing happens without reason though, as even these scenes serve to further develop the characters within them. Spider-Man fights for a city that has been told to hate him. Saves lives even when the cops are trying to arrest him. He battles the uber-techno Green Goblin high above the city in aerial combat the likes of which I've never seen, all while protecting the innocent and his one true love."

The Punisher
"The Punisher will make you laugh. Unintentionally of course. Who will like this movie? Nerds. Huge flaming nerds who live in their parents basements and collect bad comic books written about superheroes that most of the world has never heard of or for that matter will ever care about. They'll buy into this thing because it turns all the right pages and hits all the right tickle spots that they'll no doubt sit and dissect as irony or subtle filmmaking, when in fact it is simply contrived stupidity. There are obscure comic-books out there that might be worth adaptation. With this, the second attempt at making a Punisher movie work, I think we've adequately proven that this isn't one of them. It would be a shame to see a fine actor like Thomas Jane shunned into Dolph Lundgren obscurity, simply for picking up the wrong script. Here's hoping no one sees this so we can all just forget. "

Blade: Trinity
"Blade: Trinity is not a disastrous entry into the vampire hunter franchise, but it fails to live up to the slick excitement of its predecessors. With great performances from Snipes, Posey, Reynolds, and Biel, all the blame for that has to be laid squarely on the shoulders of the man of many hats, David Goyer. Goyer was in large part responsible for making Blade what it is, but that clearly didn't qualify him to direct. With Snipes becoming such a problem to work with on set, it's likely that this will be the last outing for Blade, unless New Line goes ahead with their proposed Bladeless spin-off featuring the Hannibal King and Whistler Jr. characters. Goyer tries his best with Blade: Trinity but ends up with an entry that is far too often flat and uninspired. It's a shame Blade's ride had to end in mediocrity."

Blade II
"Blade II is so far beyond the original, which was in its own right a good action film, that I fear the original may be quickly forgotten in this stellar sequel's shadow. The action is tougher, the shooting is sharper, the plot is tighter, the characters better. Director Guillermo Del Toro took Blade and made him twice the hero he was before. No, his personality hasn't changed, the tone of the series hasn't changed, nor has anything really tangible about the character or his surroundings been altered in some radical "make this my own" way. It's just better. Blade is everything he ever was in the first film or in the comics, just to the nth degree. As a result, the character, though he says little, comes off stronger, and more heroic than he ever did in the first film. Wesley needs this character. He IS this character."

"After a brilliant opening credit sequence, perhaps the first I've ever seen to actually incorporate Brail, Daredevil settles in to the business of telling a story firmly from the perspective of a superhero who just happens to be very much blind. Cursed with sadly clich origins, pre-teen Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is splashed with Toxic Waste. No, he doesn't become a pizza lovin Ninja Turtle, but rather loses his sight. To compensate, the conveniently available sludge also enhances all his other senses, touch, smell, hearing (and I assume taste) pushed beyond the limits of normal human use. This gives him a sort of radar sense, a super-hearing that lets him see with his ears, rather than his eyes. With superpowers like that, you have to wonder if he'd have called himself Batman had the name not already been so selfishly taken."

Fantastic Four (2005)
"The one thing the movie does get right is the relationships between the characters, along with the public life their team lives. The result is a kind of dynamic of interaction that you can't get with a solo hero like Spidey, and the movie hits on that really well. Ben and Johnny are constantly at each other's throats in a playful way, with Johnny usually the aggravator. You can tell Reed loves Sue, whether he communicates it well or not, and vice versa. Surprisingly, Jessica Alba is actually quite good in this, possibly the best, most realistic role she's played in her career, despite being a comic book character. The true standout is Michael Chiklis who, despite being covered in uncooperative makeup, really manages to convey the sorrow of his character, a monster with a heart of gold."

The Fantastic Four (1994)
"Back in the early nineties, low budget schlock horror supremo Roger Corman had somehow acquired the movie rights to The Fantastic Four movie license. It's entirely possible he bought them cheaply when there was no market for superhero movies in the mid-eighties and Marvel were in need of a quick buck. However, in 1994 he ran into a problem; if he didn't do something with his Fantastic Four rights they would lapse and be open to cheap repossession by another studio with Corman seeing none of the profit. So to counter this he stumped up whopping $1.5Million (!) and put one in to production. Then canned it and never released it. From that day on it was destined never to see the light of a commercial release."

"Elektra is a massively boring disaster punctuated by bad dialogue and bad directing. The script is a mess and only seems to make sense when nothing interesting is happening. Luckily for them, that's a good portion of the film. Just once I'd like to see a movie where characters part and give each other a forwarding address. Alas, as if to add insult to my already mountainous injuries, Elektra ends the film by declaring "don't worry, we'll find each other" or something like that. It's not like I wrote it down. I was too busy running out of the theater."

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