Superman has been around for a really, really long time, hasn’t he? Since the first sketches by artist Joe Shuster in 1938, the most iconic of iconic superheroes has been a prominent fixture on not only the shelves of comic book stores, but on TV screens, cinema screens, and lunch boxes and action figures too. In fact, since that very first Ka-pow!, the superhero has fronted six massive feature-length films, dozens of major TV series, and thousands upon thousands of comic books. That’s before we bore you by listing the innumerable spin-offs and crossovers. Don’t worry, we won’t.
While the world has changed around Superman over its 80-year history, and while the super-powered Kryptonian has had many human faces, the on-screen Superman franchise has stuck to a pretty simple formula when casting. They’ve all had black hair and chiseled jaws. They’ve all been slim with a muscular physique. And you know what else? They’ve all looked much better in glasses.
It’s not that we have anything against wearing your underpants on the outside of your clothes; or even that we think red, blue and yellow is a bit of a garish colour combination. And we’re certainly not saying that saving the world in skin-tight lycra is a bad look. We just think that, from Reeves to Routh, the actors that have played Superman have always looked that little bit sharper, better looking, more super-stylish behind a pair of specs as Clark Kent, the supposedly bumbling alter ego, than squeezed into a Super-Suit. Don’t believe us? Well looky here:
The Super Stats
Superman in: Adventures of Superman (Television series)
Year(s) active: 1952-1958
Evil plots foiled (approx): 104
Super-est line: “This is a job for Superman... I mean, I've got to find him!” - George Reeves as Clark Kent
Looked better in glasses: Heck yeah!
The world’s first ever TV Superman, George Reeves’ appearance in the show beamed him into homes all over America and catapulted him from little known movie mortal to the world’s first ever superhero superstar. Eventually tiring of the roll, finding himself typecast and struggling to find anything else, Mr Reeves is perhaps more famous these days for his mysterious death following his exit from the show, but that’s another story for another day...
Since being on screen as Superman’s alter ego journalist, Clark Kent, George’s look has gone on to pretty much define what we think of when we imagine 1950’s journos. From wide-shouldered suits to off-kilter pork pie hats, you won’t spot most of his iconic stylistic choices out on the streets today but there is one element of his outfit that would outrightly kill it in the offices of even the trendiest of trendy style sections; those frames. Dang! Thick-rimmed, tortoiseshell beasts on the slightly-squashed end of the spectrum of circular frames, they’ve got all the punch and weight of an Underwood 150 Typewriter without a doubt.
The Super Stats
Superman in: Superman, Superman II, Superman III, and Superman IV
Year(s) active: 1978-1983
Evil plots foiled (approx): 4
Super-est line: “Come and get it four-eyes!” - Man in diner Naively picking a fight with Clark Kent, Superman II
Better in glasses: For sure...
No relation of the aforementioned cape-donner (Warner Brothers actually chose George Reeves’ stage name because it 'sounded more Superman'), Christopher Reeve is maybe the most well-remembered of this roleplaying clan. Having studied at New York's famous Juilliard School alongside Robin Williams, Christoper was of good acting pedigree and added new dimensions to the character in the first four of the Superman feature films. Following the release of the first movie, though, he did come under some fire for his portrayal of Clark Kent as a more bumbling, almost overly nerdy character but later rebuffed the criticism saying that otherwise, "it's just the same guy in glasses."
Maybe at the time, at the dawn of the 80s, his glasses too would have worked as an extension of his playing of Clark’s geeky character but now, in a world of post-geek chic, in a world post one - or is it two now? - 80s fashion revivals, they’re nothing short of on-point and we love them. We love that they’re oversized, that they’re finished in subtle tortoiseshell, and we love the fact they’d more likely be worn today by the Kendall Jenner-inspired office heartthrob than the office dork. Way to do it, Clarky!
The Super Stats
Superman in: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Year(s) active: 1993–1997
Evil plots foiled (approx): 87
Super-est line: “What do I know? These glasses fooled me for two years. Oh boy, what a dope!” - Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane
Better in glasses: Deffo
Fast forward to the mid-90s and Superman’s back on the small screen in The New Adventures of Superman. In this reboot of the franchise, Superman was given yet more of a facelift and the series moved to focus as much on the tension of the kind-of-but-not love triangle of Clark, Lois and Superman as it did on the whole superpowers thing. If you don’t remember the show, it was in many ways like Sex and the City but with considerably less sexy exploits, a lot more Kyrptonite, and set in Metropolis instead of New York… okay, it wasn’t that much like Sex and the City, but you get the picture.
Cast alongside Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane (who went on to be cast as Desperate Housewife, Susan Mayer), was actor Dean Cain, who played a sexier, 90s hunk of a Superman and Clark. Dodgy 90s ties aside, Clark’s office wear was generally much better fitting, his hair more often skillfully ruffled than side-combed and his glasses on the sleek and sharper side of eyewear. I mean, get a load of those wire rims and acetate tortoise temples.
The Super Stats
Superman in: Superman Returns
Year(s) active: 2006
Evil plots foiled (approx): 1
Super-est line: “I love that he can see through anything. I'd have fun with that.” - James Marsden as Richard White
Better in glasses: Absolutely
The first Superman-fronted feature film since Christoper Reeve’s run in the 1980’s, the aptly titled Superman Returns took more than just a handful of cues from its late-seventies/early-eighties predecessors despite being set in 2006. Casting a little known Brandon Routh as the man in the cape, the actor’s resemblance to Reeve was more than just skin deep. He was hailed for bringing much of the same heart and depth to the role with some even going as far to say he was Christopher Reeve reborn.
With the more bumbling Clark being back in the office chair, so was the waistcoat and so were the bulky suits, but what hadn’t made a reappearance were the oversized specs. This Clark obviously had taste and opted to balance those chunky three pieces with a more modern, dark and rectangular acetate frame that was simple and subtle, gaining yet another win for team Clark and glasses wearers the world over.
So when you look at all the facts laid out before you here today it's hard to deny that Superman always looked that bit more super when wearing glasses. We knew it.
The Super Stats
Superman in: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League
Year(s) active: 2013 - 2017
Evil plots foiled (approx): 3
Super-est line: “YOU THINK YOU CAN THREATEN MY MOTHER” - Henry Cavill as Superman
Better in glasses: Most definitely
The latest in a dynasty of devilishly good looking do-gooders is Henry Cavill, the worlds current Superman (for now anyway). In this, the era of the comic book dominance of Hollywood, Cavill faced a new challenge of being the first Superman that has had to actually share the silver screen. His first appearance in Man of Steel was the classic ‘farm-boy-to-godlike-humanitarian’ origin story but in his two flicks since then he’s had to shoulder barge for screen time against Batman, Wonder Woman and a whole host of other spandex-clad supers. Don’t worry Henry, no one is even bothering to write a feature on them.
Cavill sports all the classic Clark Kent prerequisites, a strong jaw, slick black hair and the well-disguised physique of an Olympic weightlifter. However, Cavill has done away with the stuttering and bashful Clark that Christopher Reeves introduced us to and has instead stretched Clark’s intellectual muscles, reincarnating, as he puts it, the ‘comic book Clark Kent’ and portraying him as a respected reporter with not only intent but also influence. Such a power player in the world of journalism needs some glasses that can back up the brass and in the Cavill-era, Clark’s glasses do just that. Jet black with a slightly softened rectangular shape, these frames are quite large in size and nicely compliment Cavill’s rectangular face shape. A strong look for secretly super-strong correspondent.