Friday, June 14, 2013

Men of Steel

Here is a photo of the actor Kirk Alyn as Superman in the 1948 Columbia serial Superman; Alyn also appeared in its 1950 sequel, Atom Man vs. Superman.

I mention this because, in all of the hullabaloo about Man of Steel, which had its premiere today, one keeps reading references to George Reeves as the “original” screen Superman. Not just in fanboy blogs, either: a Salon article about the “curse” of Superman movies leads off by calling Reeves “the first actor to portray the beloved superhero on the screen”, and my childhood chum and fellow comic-book aficionado tells me that Entertainment Weekly commits the same sin.

If only there was some way to, I dunno, check facts before publishing articles. If only there was some resource to which one might turn to look up such information, perhaps some kind of movie database on the internet. If only the writers of such articles had sense enough to pause for a moment and ask themselves if what they “know” is in fact at all accurate. If only editors would examine articles with jaundiced eye. If only publishers would view fact-checkers as essential to their business, not extravagent frills that fall to the axe during the first round of budget cuts.

If only...

I am very fond of George Reeves; for me and most of my peer group of the so-called Silver Age of Comics, Reeves is Superman, even more than Christopher Reeve, and likely always will be. But to carelessly claim he was the first filmic Superman is just plain wrong, and does a disservice to Kirk Alyn. Reeves did not step into the cape until the 1951 feature film, Superman and the Mole Men, which served as a kind of pilot film to the TV series Adventures of Superman, which aired the following year.

Were one of such a mind (as I shared with my aforementioned childhood chum yesterday), one could in fact make the case that radio actor and announcer Bud Collyer was in fact the screen’s first Superman: Having voiced the character and his alter ego on the radio series The Adventures of Superman, beginning in 1940, Collyer provided the voice of Superman and Clark Kent in a series of cartoons that began in 1941. (Collyer reprised the dual roles in 1960s Saturday morning cartoons.) Although of course never seen in the Superman role, one might claim that Collyer was the first to portray the character.

However, I am content to give the credit to Kirk Alyn. It is, after all, where the credit is due.

Meanwhile, I perceive that I am sounding a little like someone from The Big Bang Theory. Sorry about that. My point here is more about getting facts straight that showing off my comic-book geekiness. But whatever works.

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