14 June 2013
Last updated at 09:09
Superman, created in Cleveland, Ohio, by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Schuster, made his debut in 1938 in the first issue of Action Comics. About 100 copies of the original edition are thought to be in existence. In 2011 one fetched $2.16m (£1.4m) at auction.d
The modern American superhero emerged amid the grey austerity of the Great Depression and the looming threat of World War II.
US popular culture has plenty of mythic heroes to help shore up public morale, and Superman is the archetypal costumed adventurer. Kal-El, a miraculous child from the dying planet Krypton, was sent to Earth to become Clark Kent, an ordinary Kansas schoolboy except for superpowers of strength, who grows up to fight crime.
Following the initial idea, Shuster and Siegel set on three specific design details for the costume - the letter "S" should appear on the chest, the outfit had to be skin tight to show up the physique, and a cape so that when the character zoomed through the air it would give a sense of action and movement.
Many of the physical characteristics, poses and action of the caped crusader were based on the Hollywood star of Zorro and Robin Hood - Douglas Fairbanks. “I tried to use his stance, such as the way he looked in the Black Pirate, with his hands on his hips,” said Shuster.
Clark Kent was inspired by the silent film star Harold Lloyd. The wearing of glasses was to give the impression of meekness and mildness and was also very different from superhero portrayals in other adventure comics.
In 1981 Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to Superman to Detective Comics, later known as DC Comics for $130 (£82). The publisher would later become a subsidiary of DC Entertainment, a Warner Bros company.
The company went on to develop a very lucrative franchise, appealing to a wider audience.
In 1992 Superman was killed by the villain Doomsday, although the character was resurrected the following year.
In a 2012 story-line, alter ego Clark Kent resigned from the post of star reporter at the Daily Planet, the Metropolis newspaper where he had worked since the first Superman comics were published.
The move was prompted by the Daily Planet's takeover by a conglomerate.
Superman has generated more than $500m (£310m) for Warner Bros with five films at the US box office, and billions of dollars more from television, toys, games and comic books spanning 75 years.
Britain's Henry Cavill has become the latest actor to don Superman's red cape, in Man of Steel. Director Zach Snyder told fans at Comic-Con earlier this year that his film would make the superhero easier to relate to than previous depictions, which had portrayed him as "a big blue Boy Scout up on the throne and you can't really touch him".