Secret Origins II: The Evolution Of Screen’s Depiction Of The Superhero Part 2

This article is Part 2 of a 5-part series. You can read the rest of the series here.

Faster Than A Speeding…?

The depictions of the superheroes on the big and small screens have managed to parallel and imitate the mood of the era on a sociological level.  The main superhero incarnation on screen in the 1950’s was that of George Reeves’ Superman.  In the Saturday morning serial Superman and the Mole Men (1951) Reeves’ proved so successful that a television show was planned.  The Adventures Of Superman ran on the television from 1952 until 1958 and was immensely popular.  Superman unfortunately lay dormant for quite a while after Reeves’ untimely death in 1959, which was ruled as suicide, although some contend this. The 50’s representation of the character was exceptionally optimistic and innocent which mirrors the attitude of the period.  George Reeves portrayed a Superman that was more analogous to that of a kindly uncle or father figure, one that children could look up to and feel they could be protected by. At some point every child wishes their Dad was a superhero!

(check out KryptonSite for more Superman movie and television info)

The next superhero show to be brought successfully to the screen was Batman which ran from 1966 until 1968.  Batman’s popularity was actually fading in print until the show aired.  This was largely due to the Comics Code Authority being formed in 1948 to limit what was seen as excessive violence and lewd behaviour in comics.  The C.C.A. enforced what was seen as decent for youngsters to view and what wasn’t.  Due to this, Batman had been largely removed from his street-level origins by fighting space creatures and having fantastic adventures that had largely alienated his fans.  When the 60’s Batman show debuted it gained a massive following, with a big screen adventure released in 1966 entitled Batman: The Movie.  The show, starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, was an extremely playful, camp and colourful telling of the Dark Knight Detective.  The Batman television show managed to perfectly reflect the 1960’s by being upbeat and positive while using a seizure-inducing day glo colour palate.  Although only being on for a few years on U.S. network television, due to syndication it ran for many years after (people obviously love a dancing Batman!).

Wonder Woman was brought to American networks during the 70’s, starring Lynda Carter as the Amazonian.  It ran to 1979 from 1975 with the shows early seasons set ambitiously during the Second World War.  The later seasons were brought to the present day to save on costs, but the shows ratings dwindled leading to its cancellation despite an endearing take on the character by Carter.  The show, like the 70’s themselves, was kitsch and loud, but more importantly featured a female lead. Women were beginning to become far more powerful in society and thus more prevalent front and centre on screen at the time.  This was also the case with shows such as Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels.

Tune In Tomorrow For More! Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel!


About the author

Chris Spence

You can read more of Chris' work on his blog http://filmandmoviehotspot.blogspot.co.uk/ and follow him on Twitter @TheRetroSamurai