This is a little history of Superman and some Superman toys that came into existence over the past decades. It was 1939 when the first Superman paraphernalia appeared in a button proclaiming membership in the Supermen of America club. The Supermen of America fan club was introduced by DC and licensed the character’s likeness to manufacturers of toys, puzzles, novels, coloring books, and bubble gum. Superman’s radio debut was on in 1940, in the long-running The Adventures of Superman program. In October 1946 Superman, Inc. merged with DC Comics. Ideal Novelty and Toy Company produced the first Superman toy which was a wooden doll created in 1939. By 2018 it was estimated by The Licensing Letter (a U.S. market research firm) that Superman licensed merchandise had global sales of USD 634 million.

The Golden Age for The Man of Steel

Superman Toys The Man of Steel
The Man Of Steel

Possibly one of the best-known stories in comic book history is the story of Superman. Writer Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly as the artist, did an amazing job covering the story in All-Star Superman no. 1 (2005). Jor-El and Lara put their male child, Kal-El on a spaceship to Earth after their own planet Krypton was about to cease to exist. He lands in a U.S. town called Smallville and is located by Jonathan and Martha Kent. Kent’s decision to raise the boy as their own and name him Clark. Growing up, Clark demonstrates several superhuman powers, super speed, jump great distances, superhuman strength, and invulnerability. Those unique characteristics become the basis for naming Clark, Superman, the “Man of Steele”.

There is an ongoing situation for Clark as a result of his dual identity. When Clark becomes an adult he moves to the big city of Metropolis and starts working as a reporter for the Daily Planet Newspaper. Another reporter, Louis Lane, at his new employer and he falls into a romantic relationship. Louis has no idea of Clark’s dual identity and does not feel the same way.

Action Comics no. 1 was such a great success that the success of Action Comics no. 1 pushed the creation of a new superhero industry, in which several comic book publishers emerged on to the scene. The creators of Superman, Siegal, and Shuster, received a lousy $130 from DC Comics for their rights. Those two in search of clawing back a portion of the royalties their work created spent a year.

In January 1939 Siegal and Shuster were hired to produce a Superman newspaper strip by DC publisher Jack Liebowitz. During the 1940s strip was successfully Distributed by the McClure Syndicate. In the summer of 1939, The Man of Steel was awarded his own comic title with Superman no. 1. and also began appearing in World’s Best Comics. The character’s likeness was licensed to manufacture, bubble gum, Superman toys, coloring books, puzzles, and novels. In 1940 Superman was heard on the radio for the first time in The Adventures of Superman program.  In 1941 Superman made his feature movie.

Due to the success of Captain Marvel Superman’s powers grew. Captain Marvel could fly, and he soon was challenging the popularity of Superman. Eventually, DC Comics filed a lawsuit against the creators of Captain Marvel for copyright infringement. Even though DC was successful in its lawsuit, the Captain Marvel stories would outsell Superman titles during the 1940s. First appearing on the Superman radio show, Kryptonite, the radioactive substance from Superman’s homeworld, soon making its way into everyday conversation as a synonym equivalent for Achilles’ heel. Several villains were also developed that included Lex Luthor, the Ultra-Humanite, and the Prankster.

During that period Superman’s allies mostly consisted of coworkers at the Daily Planet. The lovely Lois Lane, managing editor Perry and Jimmy Olsen, a copy boy who became famous as Superman’s pal.

After World War II sales of superhero titles dropped as readers tastes changed to things like true crime, horror, and romance comics. While the Man of Steel experienced success in other media he was not immune from the trend. In 1948 Superman and Atom Man vs Superman in 1950, Superman was brought to the silver screen. Superman and the Mole Men in 1951 was a live-action theatrical release, and there was the movie’s syndicated television spin-off Adventures of Superman in1952–58.

With the publication of The Seduction of the Innocent in1954, a since proven wrong theory against the comic industry which accused it of negatively affecting young readers, the “Golden Age” of comics came to a close. The Comics Code was instituted by the industry, a self-policing commitment ensuring only the softest of stories were published. The cover of Actions Comics no. 1, did not carry criminals is used to carry on the cover and Superman became a helpful adult leader.

The Silver Age of Superman

1960's Superman Toy
1960’s Superman Toys

During the 1960s Superman mostly ignored the social scene. Occasionally current events crept into the comic. For instance, the assassination of John F. Kennedy was too big a story for Superman writers to avoid. Superman comics commonly provided a departure from, political issues of the day. The translations of Superman went global as he reached dizzying heights of notoriety.

Superman’s success by the mid1960s began to dim. . His superpowers Superman’s adventures became increasingly outrageous, and his superpowers built up to an absurd level. Possibly the best example of his use of super ventriloquism. As Superman’s capabilities increased, his enemies simply could not pose a credible threat, and his stories lost dramatic depth. Superman’s readership declined and his stories became musty towards the end of the decade. The Superman newspaper strip was canceled in 1967.

Modern Superman

2017 Superman Toy
2017 Superman Toys

DC appointed a new art director in 1967 and publisher in 1971. He was charged with renovating the company’s line, and that included fixing the Man of Steel. In January 1971 in Superman no. 233, Clark Kent was a television news reporter, kryptonite was eliminated, and Superman’s powers were weakened. Some new young writers began to such as Denny O’Neil, Elliot S. Maggin, and Cary Bates energize the stories with reality and new villains, while new artists left an enduring mark on Superman’s look which spawned some Superman toys with a new look.

In the mid1970s, two major events occurred: DC joined forces with competitor Marvel Comics to co-publish the best-selling crossover Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, and a deal to produce a live-action Superman film was inked. In 1977, as part of a promotional campaign for the upcoming motion picture, the Superman newspaper strip was revived.

The movie did well at the theaters earning more than $300 million worldwide. Christopher Reeve’s star-turning role as the Man of Steel made the actor a household name. Margot Kidder (as Lois Lane), Gene Hackman (as Lex Luthor), and Marlon Brando (as Jor-El) were in the cast, and the film’s score earned the composer Academy Award nomination. In 1980 Superman II was released, in 1983 Superman III was released, and  in1987 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was released.

In the mid-1980s DC Comics changed. In 1986 the writer and artist reinvented Superman in The Man of Steel miniseries. Lex Luthor was still an evil genius, but he was made less a super scientist and a more ruthless businessman. Superman’s personal life also changed—Jonathan and Martha Kent were now still alive, lending compassionate support to their adult super son.

In the 1960s the comics business went through some major growth as gamblers invested in multiple copies of issues they believed would become valuable collectibles. There came along a trend with the publication of Superman no. 75 in January 1993, which depicted the death of Superman at the hands of the villain Doomsday. Over four million copies of Superman no. 75 were printed, and the abundance of the comic almost guaranteed it would not appreciate significantly in value. In the mid-1990s the industry collapsed, events such as the death of Superman were seen by many as a contributing cause. . In Hitman no. 34 in February 1999, offered a polite take on the Man of Steel that proposed that it was Superman’s values and not his godlike powers that were the true essence of the character. In 1993-97 brought the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Lois and Clark’s on-screen wedding was reflected in the comics with Superman: The Wedding Album no. 1 in December 1996.

Since 2000 Superman’s origin and early career have been retold and alternative versions of his origin and early have been told.  2005-08 All-Star Superman story of that period was an award-winning 12-issue series that took place within the context of Superman’s last adventure. In September 2011 DC rebooted its entire line of comics as the “New 52,” with both Action Comics and Superman resetting to issue no. 1.

There has been in the 21st century a breathtaking increase in the presence of Superman in other media. There was the live-action young adult drama Smallville 2001–11 which traced the life of Clark Kent during his formative years in Smallville, Kansas. The animated Superman starred in the Cartoon Network’s Justice League from 2001–04 and Justice League Unlimited from 2004–06 as well as in numerous direct-to-video features. In 2006 Superman Returns debuted and the film was a box-office disappointment, and plans for a sequel were canceled. The studio turned to new directors to reconceive and reboot the Superman story in the film. In 2013 Man of Steel was released. The film grossed over $600 million worldwide. In 2016 came the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which earned more than $800 million globally. Even though his apparent death at the end of that film, Superman returned in 2017 in Justice League

Throughout the history of Superman, there have always been timely releases of Superman toys. If you or your child has an interest in Superman toys there are plenty of them to go around.

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4 Replies to “Superman Toys – The History Of DC Comics The Man Of Steel”

  1. I loved comic books growing up and still have a lot of them. I never did get into collecting the action figures but sometimes i wish i had. They’re very valuable now and getting harder and harder to find. This makes me want to dig out my old DC comics and reread them. Though i wish I had copies so I don’t have to handle my originals.

    1. We all wish we had original Superman action figures in top condition along with some of those earliest comics!

  2. Wow! I enjoyed reading Superman Toys-The History of DC Comics The Man Of Steel.

    As if I am brought back to my young age and I am seeing scenarios from the Daily Planet.

    I was born on 1971, perhaps I have known him on the late 70’s, and reading or watching years later.

    But I did not know about the history of DC Comics you have just documented. I gained more information and I appreciate it even though I am no longer a young one. I love to reminisce my young age and the heroes at my young age. I think lots of readers will have the same feeling of joy.

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