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The Phenomenon And The Filmmaker
"There's not a country you can go to where they don't know Superman,” says Superman Returns director Bryan Singer, who first gained widespread attention with the award-winning The Usual Suspects before going on to direct the acclaimed blockbusters X-Men and X2. "You could probably take the ‘S' shield into the jungle and you'll have fifty-fifty recognition. In that way he's a global Super Hero.”

"Everyone has grown up with one version or another of Superman,” says Dan Harris, who wrote the screenplay with Michael Dougherty. "Whether we knew him from the comic books or the small screen or the big screen, we all know the Man of Steel. It's as simple as that.”

"The combination of his virtue, his indestructibility and his ability to fly is what makes him so appealing to me and so many other people,” Singer says. "To do the right thing, to be able to take on anything that comes at you and to be able to soar up into the sky…we all have imagined at some point in our lives what it would be like to be him.”

Since making his comic book debut in 1938, Superman has remained an indelible figure in world culture and a universal symbol of humankind's ideal. "He was the first to come from another planet and embody a lot of things that we, as human beings, dream about being able to do, primary among them being the ability to fly,” says executive producer Chris Lee. "But there's also his super-strength, his ability to see through anything, and his sense of goodness. That lack of ambiguity is very appealing, and it has stayed the course throughout the 70 years of Superman's history.”

The character went on to be featured in a newspaper strip which ran for more than three decades and today continues to entertain millions of fans each month in DC Comics comic books distributed worldwide through 25 languages in over 40 countries. On the big screen, the Man of Steel first appeared in 1941 in 17 groundbreaking animated shorts produced by the famous Fleischer Studios, along with two live action serials. Since then, the character has starred in five feature films, numerous successful series for television and 35 titles on video and DVD. The first-ever feature film was 1951's Superman and the Mole-Men, starring George Reeves, which kicked off the subsequent television series.

The first contemporary feature film, Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie, starring the late actor Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and film legend Marlon Brando as his father, Jor-El, was released in 1978. Director Bryan Singer first saw the film with his mother at a rural New Jersey theater on opening weekend. "I loved it,” he remembers. "It brought the character to such amazing life and yet it had a very nostalgic quality but at the same time was very contemporary. It mixed eras effortlessly.”

In times of rapid change – whether cultural, industrial or technological – Superman has steadfastly stood for truth, justice and all that is good. "The world in 1941 was much different than the world of 1978, which is much different than the world today,” says Singer. "I think the Superman legacy is less about change than it is about evolution. Sure, he has battled different villains and there have been countless permutations of his costume over the years. Certainly in this movie he's dealing with an incredible amount of change after being gone for five years. Yet one thing remains constant…his inherent trait to use his special abilities to lead by example and to do good for the world.”

He has served generations as both a reminder of the potential for greatness within humankind, and a powerful savior everyone could believe in. In Donner's Superman: The Movie, Brando's Jor-El posthumously tells his son whom he has sent to live amongst humans on Earth that human beings are capable of greatness; they only lack the light to show the way.<

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