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The Superman Franchise is a multimedia science fiction franchise, consisting of comic books, novels, movies, television series, video games, theme park rides, and merchandise such as action figures, toys, clothes, accessories, foods (such as promotional cereals), and more. The franchise was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the 1930s, and is currently owned by DC Comics.
The franchise primarily follows the adventures of an alien superhero called Superman, who also lives a secret life as a "mild-mannered" newspaper reporter named Clark Kent. Since its creation, the Superman series spawned a number of spinoffs, including adventures following his cousin Supergirl, and more.
Most-- if not all-- Superman media is set in the DC Universe, in a number of different Continuities within that universe. What this means, in short, is that most of DC's superhero characters exist within the same fictional story and may interact with each other; for example, Superman frequently teams up with Batman. However, most of these characters are not spinoffs of the Superman media, having originated separately. Examples include Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and more. These characters may appear in Superman media, and Superman may appear in media related to these other characters. In fact, the Justice League of America comic books and cartoons star all of the superheroes as a team. For these reasons, it is hard to determine what is and what isn't part of the Superman Franchise.
This wiki is concerned mainly with the Superman Franchise, and references to other DC characters should be in the context of their relationship with the Superman universe.
Most Superman-related stories are set in one of Superman's primary residences: The planet Krypton, where he was born; Smallville, Kansas, the small town where he was raised by his adoptive parents, the Kents; and Metropolis, where he lives, works, and mainly operates as Superman as an adult.
Stories may also take place anywhere else on Earth, in deep space, on other planets, or in the past or future. Superman also has a base on the North Pole, known as the Fortress of Solitude. This is a massive palace where Superman may access the databanks of the dead planet Krypton and speak to an artificial version of his dead father, Jor-El.
Also in the Fortress is Superman's vast collection of trophies from his adventures, as well as tributes to his friends and allies. The fortress is also a resource for others who have joined his fight for Truth and Justice, such as Supergirl, Superboy, Nightwing and Flamebird, and more.
Series and Spin-Offs
Superman has generated a number of spin-off series, which have their own comic book lines and even adaptations into other media in some cases.
Originally, Superboy was "The Adventures of Superman, when he was a boy!" Early Superboy comics dealt with adventures of a young Clark Kent who still lives in Smallville with his foster parents. The series introduces Superman's childhood friends Lana Lang and Pete Ross, as well as his dog, Krypto. It also explains the nature of the animosity between Lex Luthor and Superman.
Later series of Superboy comics dealt with a cloned teenage boy who came to call himself Superboy. He would eventually take the Kryptonian name of Kon-El and the human name of Connor Kent.
The television series Smallville is based on the original Superboy comics as well, though it does not use the identity of Superboy.
After Supergirl's first appearance, she got her own backup feature in issues of Action Comics. With the success of these stories, she finally received her own comic book, Supergirl, which has seen many iterations.
Supergirl stories originally followed Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin from Krypton, in her life at Midvale Orphanage. As the years went on, her character was developed and she was adopted by the Danvers family.
Following the reboot seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths, different versions of Supergirl were introduced. Matrix/Linda Danvers was the subject of the Supergirl comics in the late nineties. Finally, Kara Zor-El was reintroduced to continuity and took over the comic again.
There was a live-action feature film, Supergirl, starring Helen Slater.
Following the character's introduction to the TV series Smallville, a short series of web cartoons were made, entitled Smallville Legends: Kara and the Chronicles of Krypton, which followed Kara's back story on Krypton.
CBS and Warner Bros will create a live action Supergirl TV series.
Legion of Superheroes
The Legion of Superheroes began in a recurring guest role in the Superboy comics. They were the 31st-century superhero team inspired by Superman's legend, who had come back in time to incorporate their idol into their team. Other team members included Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Brainiac 5.
They proved so popular that their appearances in the Superboy comics became more and more frequent, until the comic book was retitled "Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes" and featured the 31st century adventures of that team, with Superboy as a member.
Superboy himself was finally dropped from the title, and the series was renamed simply Legion of Superheroes. This series grew as more characters were added to the Legion.
This series follows the adventures of John Henry Irons, a steel worker who was inspired by Superman to build himself a steel armored suit to join the battle for truth and justice. For a time, Natasha Irons, John Henry's niece, also took on the role of Steel.
Following the relaunch of the DC Universe in the New 52, Steel was not given a comic book. However, there was a Steel back-up feature in Action Comics #4.
Additionally, there was a live-action Steel movie starring Shaquille O'Neal as Steel.
Superman originated as a comic book series. The first Superman series was Action Comics, which Superman shared with other characters, followed by his own series, Superman. Superman also starred in a number of newspaper comic strips, which explored his story in greater detail.
Over the years, many comic book series have been added which follow the adventures of Superman. Some of these regular series include: Superman: The Man of Steel, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow, Superman: World of New Krypton, and many more.
Additionally, Superman has spawned a number of spin-off comic book series, based on characters in his supporting cast. The Supergirl series follows Superman's Kryptonian cousin, Supergirl, and could be considered a franchise in its own right. Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane followed the adventures of Superman's friends, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, respectively. The Legion of Super-Heroes series is based on a futuristic superhero team inspired directly by Superman's legend, and who have time-traveled to the past to recruit a young Superman into their ranks. There was also a series based on Superman's adventures as a child and adolescent, called Superboy. Many years later, another character, a clone of Superman, took the name Superboy and went on to feature in his own Superboy comic series. There was also a short-lived series called Steel, featuring an armored vigilante called Steel who, inspired by Superman, wears the S-shield and a red cape, joining Superman's fight for truth, justice, and the American way.
There are also a number of titles which feature Superman or characters from the Superman Franchise working alongside characters from other DC series. For example, the series World's Finest and Superman/Batman both focus equally on Superman and Batman, working together. The weekly series, Trinity, follows Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Finally, the various Justice League of America comic books follow a number of superheroes besides Superman, working together in a team. There are also other similar superhero team books, including Superman characters, such as Teen Titans, a teenage superhero team, and the Justice Society of America, the previous generation of heroes.
There are a number of theatrical films based on the Superman Franchise, some of which even based on the spinoff series.
The first Superman movies were black-and-white film serials, of which there were two: Superman and Atom Man vs. Superman, which featured Kirk Alyn as Superman, Lyle Talbot as Lex Luthor, Noel Niell as Lois Lane, and Tommy Bond as Jimmy Olsen.
The first full-length theatrical Superman movie was Superman and the Mole Men, which launched the TV series Adventures of Superman. It featured George Reeves as Superman, and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane.
In 1978, a series of Superman films was produced, including Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Superman III, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. There was also an expanded director's cut of Superman II made from 70% different footage than the original. This was called Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. These films starred Christopher Reeve as Superman, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.
A spin-off from the Superman films was also produced, entitled Supergirl, based upon the Supergirl comic books. This starred Helen Slater as Supergirl. Additionally, in the 1990s, another spin-off film was produced, entitled Steel, based on the comics character Steel, and starring Shaquille O'Neal in the title role. Unlike the Supergirl film, this movie was not tied into the Superman films despite being a related character in the comic books.
Additionally, a new Superman film was produced in 2006, following from the events in Superman: The Movie and Superman II. This was Superman Returns, a new take on Superman's world, starring Brandon Routh as Superman, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, and Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane.
Another Superman film is being worked on, but is likely to be a reboot of the series rather than follow after Superman Returns. The film is tentatively titled Superman: The Man of Steel and is currently in the hands of Christopher Nolan, who successfully rebooted the Batman film franchise. Henry Cavill was cast to play the role of Superman/Clark Kent. Cavill is the first British actor to play the role.
The Superman Franchise also includes a number of TV series.
The first was Adventures of Superman, a black-and-white children's adventure series. The concept was similar to the comic book. Clark Kent and Lois Lane would investigate a crime or some such, and Clark would discreetly become Superman. George Reeves played returned as Superman from the film Superman and the Mole Men, and Phyllis Coates (and later Noel Niell) played Lois Lane.
After Reeves' death, the show was cancelled. Looking for a replacement, the studio produced two pilots for spin-off Superman series, entitled The Adventures of Superpup and The Adventures of Superboy respectively. The first was a much cartoonier version of the normal Superman series, with all the characters replaced with dogs. The second was based on Superman's adventures as a young man in college. Instead of Lois Lane, the main love interest was Lana Lang.
Many years later, the Salkind brothers brought their Superman film franchise to the small screen with another series based on Superman's college years, simply titled Superboy. The series lasted four seasons, before cancellation. Over the course of the series, two different actors portrayed Superboy, and two different actors also portrayed Lex Luthor.
The next series, a re-imagining of the Superman story, was called Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. This series focused more on the Clark Kent side of the character. The series was partially a romance series, focusing on the relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane. This was also the first TV series to use many elements of the Modern Age comics. The series lasted for four seasons. Lois & Clark starred Dean Cain as Superman, and Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane.
The next series had some elements of both previous series. Entitled Smallville, the series featured a teenage Clark Kent before he became Superman. Additionally, like Lois & Clark, this series focused more on romance. Smallville was a teen drama and was wildly successful, essentially starting its own franchise. The show has lasted for ten seasons, 2001-2011, and has spawned webisodes, novels, a comic series, a young adult novel series, and even its own magazine. Smallville stars Tom Welling as Clark Kent, Kristen Kreuk as Lana Lang, Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor, and more.
Warner Bros. and CBS are working on a live action Supergirl TV series with Greg Berlanti and Ali Alder working on the script for the series. The series will focus on Kara Zor El embracing her powers after trying to hide them from others.
Superman is also famous for his animated adventures. Among the earliest and most famous was a series of cartoons in the 1940s produced by Fleischer Studios. This was a beautifully-animated, action packed, series of shorts. The episodes didn't contain much story, but instead had beautiful animation and exciting action. Bud Collyer returned to the role of Superman from the The Adventures of Superman radio show.
Much later, Filmation produced their own cartoon series. Bud Collyer once again returned as the Man of Steel, but the animation and sound quality were far lower. The series didn't last terribly long.
In the 1960s, a cartoon franchise began entitled Super Friends. This series focused on the adventures of all the superheroes in the Justice League of America, including Superman. The series was very successful and went through a number of revisions and re-imaginings.
In the late 1980s, a new Superman cartoon series was created. It used the theme song from Superman: The Movie, along with elements of the Modern Age and Bronze Age comics. It also featured shorts which revealed the life of young Clark Kent. The series, while acclaimed, didn't last long.
In the mid-1990s, after the success of Batman: The Animated Series, that show's creators tried their hand at a spin-off series about Superman. Entitled Superman: The Animated Series, the show tried to update the look of the Fleischer Studios cartoons. It also made use of the Modern Age version of Clark's childhood and of Lex Luthor, while its version of Krypton was a brilliant mix of various versions that had come before. The series lasted for three seasons.
Once "The Animated Series" had ended, Superman had a guest spot on Batman Beyond, another Batman cartoon set in the future. This Superman was a continuation of the one from Superman: The Animated Series, but many years into his future.
Another series created by the same creators was called Justice League, which featured the Justice League of America. The show picked up continuity from both the Batman and Superman animated series. The show later retooled itself as Justice League Unlimited, and expanded to include many heroes from the DC Universe. Among those featured was now Supergirl and Steel, both of whom had been introduced in The Animated Series.
In the early 2000s, Superman had a number of guest appearances on the new animated series entitled The Batman. This series abandoned the continuity from so-called DC Animated Universe or DCAU which appeared in the last few Animated Series mentioned. However, the voice actors of Superman and Lois Lane from Superman: The Animated Series returned in their respective roles.
Another, unrelated cartoon series was started: Krypto the Superdog, a new series which featured Krypto, and only occasionally had guest appearances from Superman and other main characters. This series was directed mainly at children.
Simultaneously with Krypto, a new series was created entitled Legion of Super-Heroes, a team superhero series in the same vein as Teen Titans. This series had a young Superman as the main character, who was later replaced in Season 2 by Superman X. The series also features other members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, such as Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, and more.
DC also began a series of direct-to-DVD animated films based on their superheroes. The first of these based on Superman was Superman: Brainiac Attacks, followed by Superman: Doomsday and later by Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. These films were all unrelated to each other and to any other animated series by continuity. However, they maintained voice actors and animation designs from the DCAU versions of the characters. There were also some Justice League animated films in this series, including Justice League: The New Frontier and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.