Here are a few of my pet peeves about the mistaken perceptions involving the Superman mythos (in no particular order of importance).
1) The last name makes the man
The often misspelling of the last names of two actors well known for their portrayals of Superman is understandable, yet quite frustrating. They are George REEVES and Christopher REEVE and, no, they were not related.
2) What came first?
There are so many blogs and internet comments saying that Superman: The Movie from 1978 was the first live-action Superman motion picture. Not so. This comes with a bit of a technicality. The first feature length theatrical motion picture was Superman and the Mole Men from 1951 starring George Reeves. Saying “the first live-action Superman film” could be considered the first chapter in the movie serial titled Superman starring Kirk Alyn in 1948. If you leave out the “live-action” part and just say “the first Superman film”, then that would refer to the first Fleischer Superman cartoon from 1941. It really all depends upon how you phrase it.
3) Passing the torch
Often, I’ll see references to Christopher Reeve either handing the proverbial live-action Superman torch to Brandon Routh or, later, to Henry Cavill. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a diehard fanatic of the Christopher Reeve portrayals of both Superman and Clark Kent. This, however, does not pay true homage to the line of actors who actually officially portrayed “Superman” in live-action. My list, technically, goes like this: Kirk Alyn to George Reeves to Bob Holiday to David Wilson to Christopher Reeve to Dean Cain to Brandon Routh to Henry Cavill and Tyler Hoechlin. This is the first time in history that two actors will simultaneously portray the Man of Tomorrow in live action so, therefore, Tyler Hoechlin will now assist Henry Cavill in carrying the torch. If you were to increase the spectrum of actors to include the numerous voice work done for radio and animated versions of Superman, then that would be a highly acceptable and very long list. Also, both John Haymes Newton and Gerard Christopher get my heartfelt and undying respect for being part of the legacy, but they specifically played Superboy.
“Why isn’t Tom Welling on this list”, you ask? See peeve number four.
4) Superman or not Superman?
I know there are going to be many diehard Smallville television series fans who will disagree with me, but I believe that, assumed implication or not, Tom Welling never actually portrayed a live-action “Superman”.
The WB/CW series Smallville was a great success for its network(s) and its creators… and I give the series its due credit where it deserves. However, aside from the series finale where there was a shirt rip revealing the ’S’ symbol and extremely tight shots of him wearing a very loose fitting blue top with what seemed to be a red cape (and some tiny CGI), Welling never truly wore the Superman suit. Furthermore, the character was never, ever referred to as “Superman”, not even at the very end when showing the comic art.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Brian Peterson, one of the executive producers of the Smallville series, said that showing Tom Welling in the full Superman suit was “just not super relevant and not what we were trying to do.” He went on to talk about the series finale and said, “We all wanted it to be the end of Clark Kent’s journey because it’s a show about Clark Kent.”
So, did Tom Welling portray Kal-El? Yes! Did Tom Welling portray Clark Kent? Yes! Did Tom Welling portray the Blur? Yes! Did Tom Welling portray the Red/Blue Blur? Yes! Did Tom Welling portray Superman? No, sorry, he did not. Does the Smallville Season 11 comic book series count? No, it’s not live-action.
5) The “underwear” fallacy
For years, comic book writers and filmmakers have tried to delete a certain part of Superman’s iconic costume. So many people, jokingly or otherwise, refer to it as “underwear” or “underpants”, as in, “why does Superman wear his underwear outside of his costume?” (Cue my sigh and eye-roll here.)
The “underwear” that people refer to is nothing of the kind. The correct description for it is “trunks”. Back in the 1930s, when Superman was revealed to the public, athletes would regularly wear these trunks while exercising or posing for photographs. By adding the trunks to Superman’s costume, it invoked a feeling that this was indeed a strongman.
Aesthetically speaking, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, were nothing short of geniuses for many reasons, and one of which was making the trunks red. This added an eye catching and aesthetically pleasing break up of the color scheme on the costume. Something that is sadly lacking without it and something that a tiny red belt won’t solve alone.
During the pre-production phases of never produced films like Superman Lives, Superman Flyby and Justice League: Mortal, there were versions of the costume without the red trunks. In recent years, starting with the New 52 universe and continuing into Henry Cavill’s costume, the Rebirth universe and Tyler Hoechlin‘s costume, the powers that be were successful in taking the trunks away. This is something that is, in my opinion, a sad mistake. Once you start deconstructing Superman’s iconic costume, he begins to look and feel less and less like Superman.
5) Doing Superman an injustice
In recent years, too many times have comicbook and movie writers tried to push the character of Superman into the dark, foreboding world of evil and destruction. One example is that of the Injustice storyline. It started as a video game and found its way into the comics. In this world, Superman basically becomes a dictator and is so caught up in his personal quest that he ceases to know right from wrong. Granted, this has become the equivalent of a 1990s Elseworlds storyline, but that isn’t how it began. Even when the film Man of Steel came out, and its even darker sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I couldn’t help but facepalm at the total lack of understanding of the character and his motivations. He does the right thing because it is the right thing to do… simple as that. No angst driven vendetta, no desire to take over the world because he is more powerful than all of us, and certainly no horribly dysfunctional step-parenting by telling him that it’s “maybe” alright to let people on a bus die to protect his secrecy or that he “doesn’t owe this world anything.” That kind of writing takes everything away from the heart of the character. Superman needs to be… Superman. That is what makes him special, and that is what will give his character longevity throughout the coming decades.