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I am Superman: A look back at Superman’s alter-egos

by Matthew Price Modified: April 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm •  Published: June 11, 2009

In honor of the Superman Celebration going on in Metropolis, Ill., today’s Retro Thursday is an adaptation of a June 30, 2006 article from The Oklahoman by myself and George Lang that outlines the men who have portrayed Superman in film, radio and motion pictures.  (This doesn’t include all the voices of animated Supermen, but that would be worth a future article!)  With the sequel to “Superman Returns” up in the air, there could soon be another actor joining the list of Supermen.


Many mere mortals have donned the ” Superman” costume since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the character in 1938. While some went on to enjoy solid careers after being “more powerful than a locomotive,” most will be remembered for being Kal-El, son of Jor-El. Here are some of them:

Kirk Alyn

Kirk Alyn was chosen by Columbia to be the first on-screen Man of Steel. Alyn was 37 when selected for the role in the 1948 serial, which he reprised in a second serial, “Atom Man vs. Superman,” in 1950. Alyn also appeared as the DC Comics character “Blackhawk” in the last serial released by a major studio. In ” Superman: The Movie,” he had a cameo as Lois Lane’s father. He died in 1999 at age 88.

Bud Collyer

The voice of Superman on the Mutual network’s radio serial and the Max Fleischer cartoons that followed, Bud Collyer became just as familiar as a host of early television game shows such as “Beat the Clock” and “To Tell the Truth.” Collyer died in 1969 at age 61.

George Reeves
George Reeves was born in Iowa and raised in Pasadena, Calif. He was an amateur boxer and musician and appeared in “Gone With the Wind” in 1939. He later enlisted in the

United States Army Air Corps during World War II and appeared in war training films before going on to star on television in “The Adventures of Superman” from 1952-58. On June 16, 1959, at age 45, he was found shot to death at his home in Hollywood, Calif. While it was reported as a suicide, some believe it was an accident or foul play. Reeves’ death is the subject of the film “Hollywoodland,” starring Ben Affleck.

Christopher Reeve
Christopher Reeve studied at Cornell University and the Juilliard School of Performing Arts. He starred

as Superman in 1978′s ” Superman: The Movie” and three sequels. On May 27, 1995, Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident. He went on to found the Christopher Reeve Foundation, and with his wife Dana, founded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center. Reeve guest-starred on “Smallville” as Dr. Swann. Christopher Reeve died Oct. 10, 2004, at age 52.

Dean Cain

Dean Cain was a college football star who set an NCAA record for interceptions in a season while at

Princeton. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, but a knee injury ended his football career.
Cain was cast as Clark Kent in the 1993-97 ABC series, “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”  His co-star was Teri Hatcher, who has gone on to play Susan in “Desperate Housewives.” Since “Lois and Clark” ended, Cain has made a career in television movies, including playing convicted murderer Scott Peterson in “The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story.”

Tom Welling
Tom Welling was a fashion model who landed a recurring role as karate instructor Rob Meltzer on “Judging Amy.” He followed that up with his role as farmboy Clark Kent on the

WB’s “Smallville.”  Welling was named one of People Magazine’s breakthrough stars for 2001. Welling has appeared in the films “The Fog” and “Cheaper by the Dozen 2.”  He directed episodes of “Smallville,” including the eighth season’s “Injustice.”  “Smallville” is set to return for a ninth season in the fall, making Welling the most-filmed Superman of all-time, albeit one who has never donned the familiar cape and costume — or, for that matter, gone by the name “Superman.”

Brandon Routh

Iowa-born Brandon Routh appeared in Christina Aguilera’s “What a Girl Wants” video, along with guest spots on “Gilmore Girls” and “Undressed” before originating the role of Seth Anderson on “One Life to Live.” He was being considered for the role of ” Superman” in a proposed film written by “Alias” and “Lost” executive producer J.J. Abrams and helmed by “Charlie’s Angels” director McG before being tapped for Bryan Singer’s ” Superman Returns.”

Sources:,,, and

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by Matthew Price
Features Editor
Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s...
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