BY BRIAN MCKERNANMuch has been written about the so-called "Superman Curse," especially after Christopher Reeve's 1995 tragic accident and his unfortunate death. Once again, tabloid writers drew comparisons with 1950s TV Superman George Reeves' suicide, with the hardships suffered by Superman co-creators Siegel and Shuster after they sold their billion-dollar creation to DC Comics for a mere 130, and with actor Kirk Alyn's lackluster career after playing Superman in two 1940s movie serials.
A closer examination, however, makes talk of a "Superman Curse" absurd. There's as much circumstantial evidence to suggest there isn't a curse as there is to suggest there is.
Siegel and Shuster were just two of the many young 1930s comic book pioneers who created characters as a "work for hire" and did not share in the profits. As for Kirk Alyn, he too was just one of many serial stars who faded into obscurity and went on to do other things with their lives. Who today remembers serial stars Ralph Byrd (Dick Tracy), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel) or Gordon Jones (The Green Hornet)?
As for the often-repeated claim that actor George Reeves was despondent because "The Adventures of Superman" TV series had been cancelled, the truth is that the show was a giant success. At the time of Reeves' death, another season of scripts had been commissioned and production was due to begin later that year. Kellogg's, the principal sponsor, had increased the show's budget and a theatrical motion picture, "Superman and the Secret Planet", was also being planned (the script, which was written by veteran television writer Jackson Gillis, is posted at George Reeves is Superman). Reeves had also signed to direct a movie in Spain.
One also hears that Reeves "went crazy" and jumped out a window, convinced he could fly. In truth, he died from a gunshot wound to the head on June 16, 1959. It was officially ruled a suicide, but a huge amount of evidence indicates he was murdered. (There is a wealth of information and even more opinion to be found on Google or the other search engines.) As for ghostly sightings of Reeves, that too has allegedly been reported. This would indicate his death was unexpected (not a suicide) and his spirit isn't at rest.
Bud Collyer portrayed Superman for 11 years when "The Adventures of Superman" was one of radio's most popular programs. The Mutual Network show ran from 1940 to 1951. Collyer and the rest of the cast of the long-running Superman radio series cast also provided the voices for all 17 of the Technicolor Max Fleischer theatrical cartoons produced during the early 1940s. After Superman, Collyer enjoyed a very successful career as a game show host of "To Tell the Truth." He died in 1969 of heart failure at the age of 61.
Bob Holiday, who played Superman on Broadway in the acclaimed 1966 Hal Prince musical "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman," today builds Holiday Homes in the Pocono resort town of Hawley, Pennsylvania. He is a very successful businessman.
Dean Cain, Superman from "Lois & Clark," is in a new TV series, "Clubhouse," and two upcoming movies. Terri Hatcher (Lois Lane) is on "Desperate Housewives." Clearly, there is no "curse" on their careers.
Young Superman Tom Welling, on "Smallville," is the star of one of the most successful series on TV and he's also thriving. Several cast members from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies have roles in the series. Annette O'Toole from "Superman III" plays Clark Kent's mother, Margot Kidder appears on the show as the assistant to a character the late Christopher Reeve had been playing, and Terrence Stamp (General Zod in "Superman II") is the voice of Clark/Kal El's biological father Jor El.
And Warner Bros. cast Brandon Routh as the next Superman in "Superman Lives". Having a major studio commit 100 million to make the latest movie about the most famous fictional character in history is hardly a "curse."
Truly, if there is a Superman Curse, it should befall those closest to the character. But the reality is that DC Comics, which owns Superman, has been publishing his comic book adventures since 1938 and has been making a good living at it to this very day. If anything is demonstrated by some of the unfortunate history surrounding Superman's media career during the past 66 years, it's an amazing and mathematically proven phenomenon observed time and again in the physical universe. That phenomenon is called coincidence. - "Brian McKernan, 12/04"