The Man of Steel
There is arguably no more iconic superhero in the DC Universe than Kal El, better known as Superman. The Big Blue Boy Scout has been saving the world since 1938, and with Knight Models releasing some of the most exciting Superman miniatures to date, we’re going to take a look at the history of this mighty hero.
Superman was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933, originally appearing as a bald, telepathic villain bent on world domination. Siegel and Shuster decided to re-write the character as a hero, re-imagining him from the ground up. Little did they know, they were about to create a legend in comic-book history. They drew inspiration from classical mythology, such as Hercules and Samson, and Shuster came up with a colorful look based on pulp science fiction comic strips and circus strongmen – creating the spandex-clad, caped crusaders that would go on to inspire superhero imagery for decades to come. In June of 1938, Superman made his debut in Action Comics #1 and since then he has become not only one of the most famous and iconic super-heroes of all time but also one of the most popular fictional characters ever.
Rocketed to Earth from the dying planet Krypton, the infant Kal-El was found by farming couple Jonathan and Martha Kent, who named the boy Clark and raised him as their own. They instilled in him strong moral values – and inspired him to become a hero. Under the rays of a yellow sun, Clark’s Kryptonian physiology grant him extraordinary abilities. Superman has super-everything – strength, speed, flight, and invulnerability, as well as his renowned X-ray and heat vision. The most powerful being on the planet, his amazing abilities are also a melancholy reminder of how different he is from the people he’s dedicated to protect.
A universal icon, Superman means different things to the many diverse people he inspires: He’s an alien; an immigrant from a faraway land just looking to help; a country boy fighting the never-ending battle for truth and justice; a moral crusader against evil corporate tycoons and corrupt one-percenters that have overwhelmed the establishment. Superman is an unswervingly devoted to justice and morality – the gold standard of what all mankind must surely aspire to.
The Justice League of America
Even Superman needs a little help from time-to-time, and when he does, it is to the Justice League that he turns. Greater than the sum of their awe-inspiring parts, the JLA handles threats too massive for any single hero. Made up of the world’s greatest super heroes, their membership inflates and contracts around each new threat, but the core line-up is known as the Big Seven: Superman, the most powerful hero in the world; Batman, the apex of physical and mental human achievement; Wonder Woman, the Amazon’s princess and greatest warrior; Green Lantern, an intergalactic cop armed with his own power ring; the super-fast Flash; Aquaman, King of the Seven Seas; and Cyborg, a half-man/half-robot outfitted with the world’s most advanced technology.
Since his first appearance in Action comics No. 1 in 1938, and securing his own title in June 1939, superman has been through many incarnations and seen various changes to his origin story, his powers, and his famous costume. More than that, various continuities have sprung up around the Man of Steel, from the Supermen of alternate universes to reimagined versions by superhero alumni such as Stan Lee and Grant Morrison. Of all these variants, it is the non-canonical Elseworlds series that provided perhaps the most popular alternate Superman stories of all time.
In the not-too-distant future, most of the superheroes we know have retired, following the lead of Superman, and paving the way for a younger generation of heroes to come to the fore as Earth’s defenders. Unfortunately, many of these young metahumans have lost their way, preferring to battle each other rather than protect the weak.
When the Justice Battalion – a team of so-called heroes led by Magog – destroys Kansas during a super-powered battle, Superman realizes that he can no longer ignore what is happening in the wider world. Stepping out of retirement, the ageing Man of Steel calls upon his former contemporaries, including Wonder Woman, Red Robin, and Green Lantern (Alan Scott). The stage is set for an epic battle of old versus new, as these veterans seek to curtail the excesses of a callous generation.
In an alternate timeline Superman’s spaceship lands not in Kansas, but in Soviet Russia. Instead of being raised to fight for ‘Truth, Justice, and the American Way’, Kal-El fights for Stalin and for socialism, the champion of the common folk. During the arms race between USA and the Soviet Union in the 1950’s, Superman is revealed to the world as the Soviet secret weapon. The Americans turn to Lex Luthor to rid the world of Superman, but Luthor fails, becoming the Red Son’s mortal enemy in the process. After Stalin’s death, Superman vows not to become ruler of Russia, but as an agent of peace for the entire world. Unfortunately, in his efforts to bring about world peace, he unwittingly allows Brainiac a measure of control over countless civilians, creating a Global Soviet Union.
When Brainiac’s schemes are revealed, Superman is forced to fight a host of villains, and even former comrades, until he finally defeats Brainiac but seemingly perishing in the attempt. With Superman gone, the Global Soviet Union falls apart, and Luthor steps into the power vacuum to stabilize the world.
Countless years in the future, Earth becomes threatened by the collapse of the Solar System's now red sun. Lex Luthor’s far-future descendant, Jor-L, decides to send his son, Kal-L, back in time just before Earth explodes – back to a Soviet-controlled Ukraine in 1938…