The Five: Superman

1. How to Make Superman Vulnerable (Without Kryptonite)
The hero of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel isn’t the invincible simpleton you remember. This Superman is a flawed, morally complex character in the mold of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. Here’s how they did it, without any of the green stuff (Snyder uses no kryptonite in Man of Steel).

Photo: Courtesy of © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding

Cast a Brit.
For the first time, Superman is portrayed not by an American lug but by a moody, brooding Brit, Henry Cavill.

Give Him a Beard.
Previous Supermans have held to superhuman grooming standards. Not Man of Steel’s disheveled one, who wears facial hair for a third of the movie.

Give Him Helicopter Parents.
Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) has to save his son from a fight because Clark’s too powerful to safely defend himself. Martha Kent (Diane Lane) tells her son to think of her voice when he’s overwhelmed by his superpowers.

Make Him Extra Special.
Adding to Superman’s alienation in Man of Steel is that he’s an anomaly even on Krypton: His was a natural birth, whereas all the other kids were born in labs.

Power Him Up Gradually.
This Superman wasn’t born super. His power accumulates as he absorbs our sun’s rays. Freaked out by a sudden onset of super-hearing and X-ray vision as a schoolboy, he locks himself in a closet.

Give Him Job Problems.
Like most millennials, Superman doesn’t land that status media job right away. He spends most of his twenties as a drifter, working odd jobs before joining the Daily Planet.

2. Superman, Abridged
If you haven’t read the comics these past 75 years, here’s what you’ve missed (mostly).

Superman is born on the planet Krypton shortly before it explodes, escaping on a rocket bound for Earth. He crash-lands in Kansas, where he’s discovered by the Kents, who raise him as Clark. After graduating from Metropolis University with a major in journalism, he takes a reporting job at the Daily Planet. Over decades, he spars with nemesis Lex Luthor, works with the Justice League, and falls in love with Lois Lane eventually marrying her. Superman dies during a fight with bad guy Doomsday. Four pretenders emerge to take his place, including an evil cyborg, whom Superman battles upon his return from the grave. Later, he grows a mullet, and then briefly becomes two beings, Superman-Blue and Superman-Red. Recently, Superman began dating Wonder Woman and quit the Daily Planet to become a blogger.

3. The Red Underpants: An Oral History

Photo: Everett Collection (Reeves, Cain); © Warner Bros/Everett Collection (Reeve, Routh); Courtesy of © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding (Cavill)

Adventures of Superman (1952)
George Reeves (Superman, before quitting the show): “I’m getting a little too old to be running around in my underwear.”

Superman (1978)
Margot Kidder (Lois Lane): “They put poor Christopher [Reeve] in this various assortment of sizes of codpiece under the suit in the red underpants, and some days Christopher would come out and he’d be out to here. Which would make me go ‘ding ding ding ding’ [flicks codpiece], ‘cause they were all made of metal. He’d go, ‘Kidder! Stop it!’ ”

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993)
Dean Cain (Superman): “[When I was asked to do this pose,] I said, ‘Really?’ But I was in my twenties.”

Superman Returns (2006)
Louise Mingenbach (costume designer): “There was more discussion about Superman’s ‘package’ than anything else on the suit. Was it too big? Was it not big enough? Was it too pointy? Too round? It was somebody’s job for about a month just working on codpiece shapes. It was crazy.”

Man of Steel (2013)
Henry Cavill (Superman): “Why wear underpants when you can be far more revealing? There was no fly [on the costume]. There was no zipper. So it’s just one of those things where you got to wait for the right time [to pee].”

4. Superman Sells Out
Man of Steel has more promotional tie-ins than any blockbuster in history—over 100 worldwide. These are but a few:

Warby Parker (a line of Man of Steel eyeglasses)
Gillette (a series of commercials)
Walmart (ticket giveaways for Man of Steel screenings)
Hershey’s Twizzler (a promotion on Facebook)
Chrysler (Superman cars to be given away in a contest)
Sears, Roebuck & Co. (the store appears in the movie)
Army National Guard (recruitment ads starring Superman)
Kellogg Co. (a Superman sweepstakes in boxes of Cheez-Its and Pop-Tarts)
Nokia (a Nokia phone appears in the movie)
Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. (the Super Bacon Cheeseburger)
Toshiba (a Man of Steel laptop)
Lego (Superman sets)
Mattel (action figures)
French Connection (Superman T-shirts)
TW Steel (a Man of Steel watch)

5. Playing Lois Lane

Photo: Everett Collection

Phyllis Coates:
Adventures of Superman (1952–53)

“I saw Teri Hatcher with her boobs pushed up and thought, That’s Lois Lane?! I had a suit up to my collarbone. I felt like a horse with a bit.”

Photo: Everett Collection

Noel Neill:
Adventures of Superman (1953–58)
“We spent most of our time bound, gagged, and waiting for the bomb to go off.”

Photo: Everett Collection

Margot Kidder:
Superman (1978)
“Being typecast as Lois made my vanity and narcissism scream. But now my grandkids watch it, and think I was Superman’s friend, so that’s a thrill.”

Photo: Everett Collection

Teri Hatcher:
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993–97)
After learning that Lane had also dated Spider-Man in the comics: “[Lois] is kind of the slut of superheroes.”

Photo: Mary Evans/Warner Bros/DC Comics/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

Kate Bosworth:
Superman Returns (2006)
“I purposely didn’t watch [the other movies] because I didn’t want to. I can see myself trying to compare myself to other Lois Lanes, and I couldn’t deal with the pressure.”

Photo: Courtesy of © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures Funding

Amy Adams:
Man of Steel (2013)
“I do get thrown around a little bit. I let the really dangerous stuff be taken care of by the stuntwoman, make no mistake. I’m not going to ratchet my face into a wall.”

The Five: Superman