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Before Man of Steel: Looking back at the many faces of Superman In Focus – By Richard Crouse Metro Canada June 12, 2013

superman32Superman is one of the most famous characters in all of pop culture, and yet very few actors have played the Metropolis Marvel.

This weekend in Man of Steel the square-jawed Henry Cavill becomes the latest to bring the Last Son of Krypton to life on the big screen, joining a list that dates back to 1941 when Mel Blanc voiced the superhero in a cartoon called Goofy Groceries.

Bud Collyer next voiced Superman in a series of animated Oscar-nominated short films. The actor played the character three separate times: on the radio, in this series and the late 1960s cartoon show The New Adventures of Superman.

The Collyer years brought with them some innovations to the character.

In June 1943, when the actor took some time off, the radio show’s writers came up with the idea of kryptonite to explain his absence. While Bud sunned himself, the Big S was held prisoner under a sheet of the radioactive element.

Six years later the comic books adopted the toxic ore and it has been part of Superman’s story ever since.

Animators on the original series felt that Superman’s ability to leap buildings in a single bound looked strange on screen, so with Detective Comics Inc.’s permission, they had him fly instead.

The first live-action Supermen were Kirk Alyn and George Reeves. Alyn was a Broadway actor who played the Man of Tomorrow in Atom Man vs. Superman, reportedly the highest grossing American movie serial ever, but couldn’t sustain a career in film after he retired the cape. In 1981 he starred in a spoof called Superbman: The Other Movie, partially set on Planet Krapton.

George Reeves became a mega star playing Superman in 102 episodes of Adventures of Superman, but later felt his popularity as the character inhibited his ability to earn more serious roles. The Reeves biopic Hollywoodland, starring Ben Affleck, examines the actor’s life and mysterious death.

Others played Superman — John Newton, Gerard Christopher, Dean Cain, Tom Welling, and Brandon Routh — with varying degrees of success, but the best-known has to be Christopher Reeve, who starred in four Big Blue movies between 1978 to 1987.

Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed after a horse riding accident, and passed away in 2004, once asked Sean Connery how to avoid being typecast.

Connery said. “First you have to be good enough that they ask you to play it again and again.”

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