As most of us know, this year marked Superman’s 70th anniversary. And as if that weren’t enough to engender conversation about the Man of Steel, Brad Meltzer’s new novel Book of Lies has prompted quite a bit of discussion concerning Martin Siegel, who died during an armed robbery and whose son Jerome "Jerry" Siegel subsequently wrote the story of a bullet-proof alien who was invulnerable to all frailties.
So with all this talk going around about Superman’s beginnings, we here at ComicMix thought it was time to put together a small Superman time line. Please note, this time line is focused solely on Supermans’ adventures in the comics and not with his stories in other media.
1933 – Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster publish their story “Reign of the Super-Man." In the story, the title character is a bald homeless man named Bill Dunn who gains telepathic powers from a mad scientist’s experiment and intends to take over Earth . After this, Siegel writes up a new version of Superman who is secreatly named Clark Kent and is, in fact, an alien named Kal-L, son of Jor-L and last survivor of the dead planet Krypton. Shuster does artwork for the comic strip and they begin to submit it. The story is rejected by 17 different publishers over the next five years.
. After this, Siegel writes up a new version of Superman who is secreatly named Clark Kent and is, in fact, an alien named Kal-L, son of Jor-L and last survivor of the dead planet Krypton. Shuster does artwork for the comic strip and they begin to submit it. The story is rejected by 17 different publishers over the next five years.
1938 – Superman/Clark Kent is finally introduced in Action Comics #1. Although Siegel has plotted out the name of Superman’s parents and planet, none of these are actually named in this issue’s origin story. Superman is said to have great strength, resistance to conventional injury, and is able to leap 1/8th of a mile.
1939 – In Superman #1, the planet Krypton is finally named in the comics. It is also mentioned that Clark Kent was raised by a kindly, elderly couple. His adopted mother is named “Mary Kent” and it’s said that she and her husband died soon before Clark moved to Metropolis.
1940 – In Action Comics #23,
1941 – Superman #10 features our hero actually defying gravity for the first time by hovering in the air. Previous to this, it was always stated in the comics that he could only leap over great distances. Superman #11 confirms that Superman can now fly, just like in the cartoons and radio shows.
1942 – Superman #17 reveals that the Man of Tomorrow has a hidden base known as the Secret Citadel, located inside a mountain range nearby Metropolis.
1945 – The character of Superboy (an adolescent version of Superman) and his hometown of Smallville are introduced in More Fun Comics #101. Initially, this is treated as a separate continuity from the mainstream Superman stories.
1948 – Superman #53 names
1949 – Kryptonite makes its first comic book appearance in comics in Superman #61 (originally, it was only used in the radio plays). In this story, Kryponite is colored red but in all subsequent stories it is colored green (other forms of Kryptonite with different colors will appear later on). In this same story, Superman finally learns the name and history of his home planet Krypton, even though readers have known such facts for years already.
1950 – Superman’s father is renamed “Jonathan Kent” in Adventure Comics #149. Young Clark’s high school love Lana Lang is introduced in Superboy #10.
Young Clark’s high school love Lana Lang is introduced in Superboy #10.
1951 – Action Comics #158 establishes that the Superboy stories are now canon and that Superman did indeed initially start his heroic career as the adolescent hero before later moving to Metropolis and changing his name. Superboy #12 renames
1952 – Superman and Batman learn each other’s identities and have their first comic book team-up story in Superman #76.
1953 – Superman meets Halk Kar, who he mistakenly believes to be Kryptonian. Halk Kar will serve as inspiration for the later character Mon-El.
1955 – Krypto the Superdog debuts in Adventure Comics #210.
1957 – Superman’s birth-name “Kal-El” makes its first mention in comic books in Superman #113.
1958 – Superboy #68 introduces Bizarro,
1959 – Action Comics #252 has Superman meet his cousin Kara Zor-El, who will operate under the name Supergirl for many years to come. In Superman #129, we find out that Clark Kent’s college girlfriend was a mermaid named Lori Lemaris. Hot.
1960 – Superman’s enemy Luthor is finally given the first name of “Lex” in Adventure Comics #271. This issue also reveals that he and Superboy knew each other as teenagers in Smallville and were originally friends. Blue Kryptonite, which only affects Bizarros, debuts in Superboy #140. White Kryptonite, which affects plant life, appears in Action Comics #279.
1961 – The Kryptonian villain General Zod and the Phantom Zone are introduced in Adventure Comics #283.
1962 – Action Comics #299 introduces Gold Kryptonite, said to permanently rob Kryptonians of super-powers (though its range is only two-feet). Action Comics #310 introduces Jewely Kryptonite, made from irradiated remains of Krypton’s jeweled mountains, which can amplify the mental powers of Phantom Zone prisoners.
1963 – Jimmy Olsen #70 introduces Silver Kryptonite, which turns out to be a fake created by Jimmy Olsen as a way of celebrating Superman’s silver 25th anniversary. Superman and Jimmy Olsen go to Kandor and become the original crime-fighting duo Nightwing and Flamebird in Superman #158. Years later, Dick Grayson gives up his Robin identity and is inspired by Superman to take the name Nightwing for himself.
1969 – The modern day Superman (Kal-El) meets his Earth-2 counterpart (Kal-L) in Justice League of America #73.
1971 – Superman #233 features all Kryptonite samples on Earth being transformed so that they no longer affect Superman. In the same story,
1972 – Superman #257, in the story “The Greatest Green Lantern of All”, reveals that Superman’s birth name "Kal-El" is actually old Kryptonese for “star-child.”
1976 – Superman finally meets Marvel’s flagship character in the special crossover story Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.
1985 – Supergirl dies while protecting Superman in Crisis On Infinite Earths #7. Because of the nature of The Crisis, her death and entire existence are erased from history. Superboy-Prime, a version of Superman from a parallel universe, makes his first appearance when he discovers his powers in DC Comics Presents #87. His universe is destroyed almost immediately afterward and he joins the battle against the Anti-Monitor in Crisis On Infinite Earths.
1986 – After the Anti-Monitor is defeated in Crisis On Infinite Earths #12, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3, Superboy-Prime, and Superman and
Superman’s history and continuity are re-introduced in The Man of Steel mini-series by John Byrne. Under Byrne’s direction, significant changes include the removal of the Fortress of Solitude, Ma and Pa Kent surviving into the modern day rather than both dying before Clark moves to Metropolis, Lex Luthor and Clark Kent not meeting until they are both adults, Clark having no connection to Mon-El, and the Legion of Super-Heroes never visiting Clark when he was a teenager. Superman is also noticeably less powerful now.
1988 – In John Byrne’s last story as regular writer, a new Supergirl (named Matrix) is introduced and Superman deliberately executes three Kryptonian criminals from a parallel dimension.
1989 – Superman encounters the Eradicator, a Kryptonian artificial intelligence, in Action Comics Annual #2. The Post-Crisis Fortress of Solitude is finally created in Adventures of Superman #461. Action Comics #642 reveals to readers that when the Green Lantern named Abin Sur was dying, his ring’s first choice for a replacement was Clark Kent, but Abin dismissed him on the basis of not being native to Earth and then selected Hal Jordan instead.
1990 – In case he ever goes bad or loses control, Superman entrusts Batman with Lex Luthor’s kryptonite ring in Action Comics #654. Superman #50 has
1992 – November 18th sees the release of Superman #75 where the hero is seemingly killed by the new villain Doomsday.
1993 – The new hero Steel II (John Henry Irons), a new Superboy (a clone who later takes on the name Kon-El/Connor Kent), and the villanous Cyborg Superman (Hank Henshaw) are introduced in the wake of Superman’s “death.” Superman himself later returns, now with longer hair.
1997 – Superman is changed into an energy being and given a new cape-less electric look. He later divides into two separate beings (Superman Red and Superman Blue).
1998 – To celebrate Superman’s 60th anniversary, he is re-merged into a single being and his original powers and appearance are restored in the one-shot Superman Forever. In DC 1 Million #1, Superman learns that in one possible future, he will father a dynasty of super-heroes over the generations and that he will survive into the 853rd century, by which time he will have evolved into a god-like being.
2000 – Lex Luthor becomes President of the United States in Superman: Lex 2000.
2003 – A new version of Superman’s origin, Birthright, is written by Mark Waid, incorporating elements from various previous versions and adaptations and making it once again canon that Luthor and Clark Kent knew each other when they were young. This story also marks the first time it’s said that Superman’s shield is not only the crest of the House of El but is also a Kryptonian symbol meaning “hope.”
2004 – Kara Zor-El of Krypton is reintroduced into modern continuity and becomes the new Supergirl in Superman/Batman #8.
2005 – Supergirl (vol.5) #2 features Lex Luthor in possession of a new “Black Kryptonite” rock given to him by Darkseid, who may have created it himself.
2006 – Alexander Luthor and Superboy-Prime return to remake all reality in Infinite Crisis. Superboy (Connor Kent) dies in Infinite Crisis #6. In the same issue, reality is altered slightly so that more Pre-Crisis elements return into Superman’s continuity. Superman of Earth-2 dies fighting Superboy-Prime in Infinite Crisis #7 and Superman loses his power for a year. 52: Week Two reveals that inverting the S-shield makes the Kryptonian symbol mean "resurrection."
In "Up, Up and Away!" (Action Comics #837-840, Superman #650-653), one year after the events of Infinite Crisis, Superman’s powers return and their levels are noticeably increased. He also creates a new Fortress of Solitude that looks just like the one in the Christopher Reeve films. General Zod’s son Lor-Zod is sent to Earth Action Comics #844 and Clark and Lois decide to raise him as their foster son, naming him “Christopher Kent.”
2007 – Action Comics Annual #10 re-establishes Mon-El as having met
2008 – Brave and the Bold #10 reveals that the medieval hero Brian Kent AKA the Silent Knight is an ancestor of the Kent family of Kansas. Action Comics Annual #11 has Christopher Kent/Lor-Zod sent back into the Phantom Zone. Superman/Batman #46 introduces genuine Silver Kryptonite into the comics. Seemingly magical, one piece of Silver-K gets Superman high whereas a secondary piece restores his mind. Superman/Batman #50 establishes that Thomas Wayne and Jor-El actually met via hologram transmission months before the births of Bruce Wayne and Kal-El.
Alan Kistler is frightened that he was able to put this time line together in a day and asks that you not judge him. He has been recognized by mainstream media outlets such as the New York Daily News as a comic book historian, and can be seen in the "Special Features" sections of the Adventures of Aquaman and Justice League: New Frontier DVDs. His personal website can be found at: KistlerUniverse.com. He has written several essays concerning the history, influence and physical weaknesses of Superman, which can be found in his Superman Files. One of these days he’d love to write for DC, Marvel or Doctor Who.