‘Man Of Steel’ Over The Years: A Look Back At The Men Who Have Played Superman

Henry Cavill may be stepping into the Man Of Steel role, but the character of Superman has been around for a long time. Actors have clamored at the chance to play the popular comic book character both in live action and voice-over cartoon roles.

In celebration of the new Man of Steel film, we take a look back at some of the actors who have had the privilege to take on one of the most beloved comic book characters of all time.

Our list includes both actors of film and TV versions for the Man of Steel.

What might surprise some fans of Superman is the number of times some actors have come back to voice Superman over the years. Forget simply playing a one off role in a Superman movie or a short-lived role in a TV series, some actor literally have Superman voice roles that have spanned more than a decade!

One actor missing from this list is Ben Affleck. While Affleck appeared in the biopic Hollywood land he was actually playing the role of George Reeves, one of Superman’s best known and tragic character.

As you head out this weekend to watch Henry Cavill take on the role of Superman, just remember that his path to the Man of Steel was paved by many who came before him.

Check out the full list and then share your favorite choice for Superman.

Christopher Reeve – Superman, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV (Movies)

Christopher Reeves Superman

Long considered one of the “best” actors to take on the role of Superman, Christopher Reeves looked the part even before he put on the characters famous spandex and cape. Reeves performed in three stupendously successful films including 1978’s Superman, 1980’s Superman II, 1983’s Superman III, and finally 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Look back at the original prints from Superman, and the uncanny resemblance between Christopher Reeves and Superman is amazing.

Reeve’s sadly suffered a horse riding accident that left him paralyzed and then years later claimed his life.

George Reeves – The Adventures of Superman (TV Series)

George Reeves as Superman

In terms of TV roles, George Reeves was one of the most recognized faces from 1952 through 1958. Reeves appeared as Superman in 102 episodes of the popular series The Adventures of Superman.

Reeves nearly didn’t accept the role because, like other actors of his time, he found TV to be unimportant. Under terms of his contract, he wasn’t allowed to take on other roles.

Stuck in the role of Superman, he took his role model title seriously, raising money for various causes while entertaining the fans who looked up to him.

Sadly, George Reeves was reported to have committed suicide between 1:30 and 2:00 am on June 16, 1959. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head was ruled the cause of death.

Reeves’ story was turned into 2006 film Hollywoodland, which started Ben Affleck as Reeves.

Dean Cain – Lois Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (TV Series)

Dean Cain as Superman

When Lois Clark debuted in 1993, I was a 13-year-old boy who couldn’t get enough of my favorite comic book character romancing the beautiful Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher).

The story lines took on a familiar feel, and the series managed to rack up enough ratings to air through the 1997 season.

Unfortunately, thinning story lines and perhaps even the TV series’ all to familiar wholesomeness left the popular series with just 87 episodes before it was cancelled.

Tom Welling – Smallville (TV Series)

Tom Welling as Superman

Who would have thought the Smallville, a story about the early years of Superman would do so well. Yet, the series and its young cast of characters managed to run from 2001 through 2011.

Smallville was a critical hit among its coveted demographic base and that fact would ultimately allow the series to air for 217 awesome episodes.

Fans loved the characters on the show which included actor Michael Rosenbaum as an excellent young version of Lex Luther. Even Lex Luther’s father Lionel Luther (John Glover) appears in the series as a long-standing and enthralling character.

Smallville stayed interesting by allowing various nemesis’ of Superman to appear alongside some popular comic book characters including The Flash.

Mark Harmon – Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (Cartoon Movie – Voice)

Mark Harmon Superman Voice

In 2010 the animated movie Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths debuted and popular TV actor Mark Harmon stepped in to fill the role for Superman’s voice.

Technically Harmon didn’t step into a film role but none-the-less his voice is immortalized as one of the many who have filled the Superman role.

Really I just think its cool that a famous NCIS character has voiced Superman, so, the next time you are watching the popular CBS show, you can remember that Leroy Jethro Gibbs really is Superman.

Brandon Routh – Superman Returns (Movie)

Brandon Routh As Superman

In 2006, Brandon Routh stepped into the role of Superman, and then he watched as critics tore apart the film.

In all fairness to Routh, his performance may have been sub-par, but the movie also lacked the type of depth comic book fans were beginning to expect thanks to the success of other popular franchises.

Routh would go on to voice the Superman character in the video game of the same name.

After Superman Returns, the actor didn’t appear in another major film until 2008 when he held a role in Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make A Porno.

Routh has since worked on various TV series but has failed to land another major Hollywood role.

I have to admit I didn’t enjoy Brandon Routh as the Man Of Steel, but I thought he was good in the NBC series Chuck.

Tim Daly – Superman / Several Superman Animated Moveis (Cartoon TV Series / Movies – Voice)

Tim Daily Superman Voice

Tim Daly is most known for his work on the popular TV series Wings, but, from 1996 through 2000, he voiced Superman for the animated TV series.

Daly voiced 50 episodes for the cartoon but even before that time he had lent his voice to several Superman animated films. After the series ended Daly went on to continue his Superman voice work inSuperman: Shadow of Apokolips in 2002 and Superman: Brainiac Attacks in 2006.

Tim Daly then voiced Superman in 2009’s Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse which was made available in 2010.

Daly’s most recent role as Superman’s voice arrived in 2012’s Justice League: Doom.

Several other Man of Steel voice parts have also been credited to Daly in the years before he helmed the cartoon series.

George Newbern – Static Shock / Justice League / The Batman / DC Showcase / Injustice (Voice Work For Animated Features / Cartoon Series)

George Newbern Superman Voice

Yes, another actor who has managed to stay attached to the world of animated Superman roles over the years.

Newbern first voiced the Man of Steel in the 2003 series Static Shock. While Superman was not the central character in that series he also provided the voice of Superman in the 2001-2006 series Justice League.

Newbern continued his Superman voice work including in The Batman cartoon series which ran from 2007 through 2008.

George keeps receiving requests for more Superman voice work, and he continues to deliver while he took on Superman’s voice in several other roles since 2008 his most recent is in 2013’s Injustice: Gods Among Us.

James Denton – All-Star Superman (Animated Film Voice Work)

James Denton Superman Voice

Denton has only provided voice work for one Superman animated feature (All-Star Superman). When not voicing the character of Superman Denton could be seen on the now cancelled series Desperate Housewives. Talk about a divergence in role types.

Henry Cavill – Man Of Steel (Movie)

Henry Cavill As Superman

What can we say about Henry Cavill that has not already been revealed. The British actor is best known for his role in the popular Showtime series The Tudors for which he played Charles Brandon from 2007 through 2010.

Rather than commenting on a new role that is just about to be revealed in theaters, I will instead leave you with an interview from the newest man to step into the Superman role:

Not sure if you want to see Henry Cavill in Man Of Steel. Check out our very own Niki Cruz’s full review of the film.

Who has been your favorite Superman actor over the last 60+ years?