No one knew that writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster—who were high-school students at the time—created an icon when in 1933 they drafted the first Superman comic strip. Since that day, Superman has grown into one of the most recognizable fictional characters of all time. The man of steel has appeared in comic books, TV shows, movies and radio serials. But despite his fame, Superman still has plenty of secrets.
5 The Real Lois Lane
Have a soft spot for Superman’s long-time girlfriend, reporter Lois Lane? Then you owe a debt to Glenda Farrell. Farrell was a movie star who played the character Torchy Blane, a headline-hunting reporter in a series of movies. Siegel liked the character and based Lois Lane on her. Siegel clarified this in a 1988 letter to the editor of “Time” magazine that contradicted a long-running story that Lois was inspired by a real-life high school classmate of Siegel’s and Shuster’s.
4 He Was Once a Bully
Today’s Superman is as kind as he is powerful. But it wasn’t always this way. Superman originally was a bit of a bully. The character was shown in his original adventures ruthlessly beating lynch mobs, gangsters and wife beaters. He’d often throw them through the air without any regard to their safety. Superman mellowed in 1940 when editor Whitney Ellsworth created a new code of conduct for his comic characters.
3 He Wasn’t the First Superhero
Many believe that Superman was the first superhero. This isn’t true. In fact, Siegel and Shuster got their idea for the character from the novel “Gladiator” written by Philip Wylie. In the novel, an inventor creates a formula that can turn ordinary people into superhumans. He injects his son with the serum and turns him into a being with bulletproof skin, super strength and the ability to jump over buildings.
2 He Started Out Bad
Siegel and Shuster first conceived of Superman as a villain in their 1933 story “The Reign of the Superman.” This version of Superman wanted one thing: to take over the world. The original story appeared in a comic that Siegel and Shuster published on their own. It didn’t take off, though, so the two creators eventually reconsidered and turned Supes into the good guy we know and love today.
1 He Once Couldn’t Fly
When Siegel and Shuster first wrote Superman’s adventures, the man of steel couldn’t fly. He could jump awfully high—that’s where the “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” comes from. But flying to the moon? That wasn’t part of his repertoire. Superman didn’t fly until he appeared in cartoons and his own radio serial. In the comics, he didn’t gain his ability to fly until 1941, more than two years after he debuted in DC’s Action Comics.