Superman is a fictional superhero. The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster , and first appeared in Action Comics 1 , a comic book published on April 18, Superman was born on the planet Krypton and was given the name Kal-El at birth.
As a baby, his parents sent him to Earth in a small spaceship moments before Krypton was destroyed in a natural cataclysm. His ship landed in the American countryside, near the fictional town of Smallville.
Clark developed various superhuman abilities, such as incredible strength and impervious skin. His foster parents advised him to use his abilities for the benefit of humanity, and he decided to fight crime as a vigilante.
To protect his privacy, he changes into a colorful costume and uses the alias "Superman" when fighting crime. Clark Kent resides in the fictional American city of Metropolis , where he works as a journalist for the Daily Planet.
Superman's supporting characters include his love interest and fellow journalist Lois Lane , Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen and editor-in-chief Perry White.
His most well-known villain is Lex Luthor. Although Superman was not the first superhero character, he popularized the superhero archetype and defined its conventions.
Superheroes are usually judged by how closely they resemble the standard established by Superman. He remains the best selling superhero in comic books of all time  and endured as one of the most lucrative franchises even outside of comic books. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster met in while in high school in Cleveland and bonded over their mutual love of fiction.
Siegel aspired to become a writer and Shuster aspired to become an illustrator. Siegel wrote amateur science fiction stories, which he self-published as a magazine called Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization.
His friend Shuster often provided illustrations for his work. The titular character is a vagrant named Bill Dunn who is tricked by an evil scientist into consuming an experimental drug. The drug gives Dunn the powers of mind-reading, mind-control, and clairvoyance. He uses these powers maliciously for profit and amusement, but then the drug wears off, leaving him a powerless vagrant again. Shuster provided illustrations, depicting Dunn as a bald man.
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Siegel and Shuster shifted to making comic strips , with a focus on adventure and comedy. They wanted to become syndicated newspaper strip authors, so they showed their ideas to various newspaper editors. However, the newspaper editors told them that their ideas weren't sensational enough.
If they wanted to make a successful comic strip, it had to be something more sensational than anything else on the market. This prompted Siegel to revisit Superman as a comic strip character. A delegation from Consolidated visited Cleveland that summer on a business trip and Siegel and Shuster took the opportunity to present their work in person. Siegel believed publishers kept rejecting them because he and Shuster were young and unknown, so he looked for an established artist to replace Shuster.
They continued collaborating on other projects, but for the time being Shuster was through with Superman.
Siegel wrote to numerous artists. Just before the Earth explodes, he escapes in a time-machine to the modern era, whereupon he immediately begins using his superpowers to fight crime. Nothing of Siegel and O'Mealia's collaboration survives, except in Siegel's memoir. In the script that Siegel sent Keaton in June, Superman's origin story further evolved: In the distant future, when Earth is on the verge of exploding due to "giant cataclysms", the last surviving man sends his three-year-old son back in time to the year The time-machine appears on a road where it is discovered by motorists Sam and Molly Kent.
They leave the boy in an orphanage, but the staff struggles to control him because he has superhuman strength and impenetrable skin.
The Kents adopt the boy and name him Clark, and teach him that he must use his fantastic natural gifts for the benefit of humanity. In November, Siegel sent Keaton an extension of his script: an adventure where Superman foils a conspiracy to kidnap a star football player.
The extended script mentions that Clark puts on a special "uniform" when assuming the identity of Superman, but it is not described. In November, Keaton showed his strips to a newspaper syndicate, but they too were rejected, and he abandoned the project. Siegel and Shuster reconciled and resumed developing Superman together. The character became an alien from the planet Krypton. Shuster designed the now-familiar costume: tights with an "S" on the chest, over-shorts, and a cape.
He had been slow to respond to their letters and hadn't paid them for their work in New Fun Comics 6. They chose to keep marketing Superman to newspaper syndicates themselves. Wheeler-Nicholson's financial difficulties continued to mount. Wheeler-Nicholson fell into deep debt to Donenfeld and Liebowitz, and in early January , Donenfeld and Liebowitz petitioned Wheeler-Nicholson's company into bankruptcy and seized it.
In early December , Siegel visited Liebowitz in New York, and Liebowitz asked Siegel to produce some comics for an upcoming comic anthology magazine called Action Comics. Gaines informed Siegel that McClure had rejected Superman, and asked if he could forward their Superman strips to Liebowitz so that Liebowitz could consider them for Action Comics.
Siegel agreed. This was normal practice in the business, and Siegel and Shuster had given away the copyrights to their previous works as well. The duo's revised version of Superman appeared in the first issue of Action Comics , which was published on April 18, Siegel and Shuster read pulp science-fiction and adventure magazines , and many stories featured characters with fantastical abilities such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and superhuman strength.
John Carter is a human who is transported to Mars, where the lower gravity makes him stronger than the natives and allows him to leap great distances.
Superman's stance and devil-may-care attitude was influenced by the characters of Douglas Fairbanks , who starred in adventure films such as The Mark of Zorro and Robin Hood. Siegel thought this would make for interesting dramatic contrast and good humor.
The archetypal Lloyd character was a mild-mannered man who finds himself abused by bullies but later in the story snaps and fights back furiously. Kent is a journalist because Siegel often imagined himself becoming one after leaving school. The love triangle between Lois Lane , Clark, and Superman were inspired by Siegel's own awkwardness with girls.
The pair collected comic strips in their youth, with a favorite being Winsor McCay 's fantastical Little Nemo. As a boy, Shuster was interested in fitness culture  and a fan of strongmen such as Siegmund Breitbart and Joseph Greenstein. He collected fitness magazines and manuals and used their photographs as visual references for his art. The visual design of Superman came from multiple influences.
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The tight-fitting suit and shorts were inspired by the costumes of wrestlers, boxers, and strongmen. In early concept art, Shuster gave Superman laced sandals like those of strongmen and classical heroes, but these were eventually changed to red boots. Many pulp action heroes such as swashbucklers wore capes. Superman's face was based on Johnny Weissmuller with touches derived from the comic-strip character Dick Tracy and from the work of cartoonist Roy Crane.
The word "superman" was commonly used in the s and s to describe men of great ability, most often athletes and politicians. Since , Superman stories have been regularly published in periodical comic books published by DC Comics.
The first and oldest of these is Action Comics , which began in April The second oldest periodical is Superman , which began in June Action Comics and Superman have been published without interruption ignoring changes to the title and numbering scheme.
Superman has sold more comic books over his publication history than any other American superhero character. Superman 75 Nov sold over 23 million copies,  making it the best-selling issue of a comic book of all time, thanks to a media sensation over the supposedly permanent death of the character in that issue.
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In March , Action Comics sold just 51, copies, although such low figures are normal for superhero comic books in general for comparison, Amazing Spider-Man sold only , copies. Comic book stories can be produced quickly and cheaply, and are thus an ideal medium for experimentation. Whereas comic books in the s were read by children, since the s the average reader has been an adult. This made comic books less accessible to children. Beginning in January , a Superman daily comic strip appeared in newspapers, syndicated through the McClure Syndicate.
A color Sunday version was added that November. Jerry Siegel wrote most of the strips until he was conscripted in The Sunday strips had a narrative continuity separate from the daily strips, possibly because Siegel had to delegate the Sunday strips to ghostwriters. Initially, Siegel was allowed to write Superman more or less as he saw fit because nobody had anticipated the success and rapid expansion of the franchise.
Mort Weisinger was the editor on Superman comics from to , his tenure briefly interrupted by military service. Siegel and his fellow writers had developed the character with little thought of building a coherent mythology, but as the number of Superman titles and the pool of writers grew, Weisinger demanded a more disciplined approach.
Elements such as Bizarro , Supergirl , the Phantom Zone , the Fortress of Solitude , alternate varieties of kryptonite , robot doppelgangers , and Krypto were introduced during this era. The complicated universe built under Weisinger was beguiling to devoted readers but alienating to casuals.
Weisinger retired in and Julius Schwartz took over.
By his own admission, Weisinger had grown out of touch with newer readers. These changes would eventually be reversed by later writers. Schwartz allowed stories with serious drama such as " For the Man Who Has Everything " Superman Annual 11 , in which the villain Mongul torments Superman with an illusion of happy family life on a living Krypton. His retirement coincided with DC Comics' decision to streamline the shared continuity called the DC Universe with the companywide-crossover storyline " Crisis on Infinite Earths ".
Writer John Byrne rewrote the Superman mythos, again reducing Superman's powers, which writers had slowly re-strengthened, and revised many supporting characters, such as making Lex Luthor a billionaire industrialist rather than a mad scientist, and making Supergirl an artificial shapeshifting organism because DC wanted Superman to be the sole surviving Kryptonian.
Carlin was promoted to Executive Editor for the DC Universe books in , a position he held until Carlson took his place as editor of the Superman comics.
In the earlier decades of Superman comics, artists were expected to conform to a certain "house style". After Shuster left National, Wayne Boring succeeded him as the principal artist on Superman comic books. The first adaptation of Superman beyond comic books was a radio show, The Adventures of Superman , which ran from to for 2, episodes, most of which were aimed at children.
The episodes were initially 15 minutes long, but after they were lengthened to 30 minutes.