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The Superman Curse: A Look at All the Death, Destruction and Destitution

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L: Christopher Reeve, M: Marlon Brando R: George Reeves

If you're a Millennial, when you think of Superman, you most likely think of Dean Cain, who played Clark Kent in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman between 1993 and 1997, Tom Welling in Smallville (2001—2011), or Henry Cavill, who first donned the famous red cape in 2013's Man of Steel.  For the generations before, not only did Superman look and sound different, the role came with a -- dun-dun-duuun! -- curse.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

The Superman jinx started with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who created the character for Action Comics #1, which came out in June 1938. Not only were the duo not fairly compensated in royalties for the invention of Clark Kent, but Shuster's career flatlined shortly afterwards. By the 1950s, the artist's deteriorating eyesight had forced him out of comic books entirely, and he eventually became almost completely blind.

Max and Dave Fleischer were the next duo to suffer, producing a series of Superman cartoons for Paramount between 1941 and 1943. Not only did the brothers fall out in such a big way during the process that their partnership was permanently severed, but Max -- despite also inventing Betty Boop and producing Popeye cartoons -- ultimately died in abject poverty. After what had been a prolific career in animation, Max only produced five more projects after working on Superman.

Kirk Alyn

Kirk Alyn, TV's first Superman, found brief success playing the character, but was irreversibly typecast afterwards. He failed to find substantial work ever again, despite having been successful on Broadway before taking the role. In 1988, in an interview with the Associated Press, he said simply: "I couldn't get another job."

Misfortune also befell TV's second Superman, George Reeves. The actor took on the role in 1951 and continued to play the superhero on screen and stage until his suspicious death in 1959. Reeves was found dead from a gunshot wound, days before he was due to get married. His death was ruled a suicide, despite the fact that his fingerprints were never found on the weapon that killed him. His tragic story was immortalized in 2006's Hollywoodland. He was just 45.


The curse of Superman really took hold when the character was revived for movie audiences in 1978. The cast of Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) dealt with an insane amount of bad luck in the years that followed. Most famously, the series' biggest star, Christopher Reeve, was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1995 horse-riding accident. He died in 2004, followed two years later by his wife Dana. The 44-year-old actress, singer and activist died of lung cancer, despite having never even been a smoker.

Margot Kidder

Reeve's co-stars didn't fare much better. Lee Quigley, the actor that played the infant Clark Kent, died at only 14-years-old, from solvent abuse. Three years after last playing Lois Lane, Margot Kidder got into a horrific car crash and was rendered unable to work for several years. After finally physically healing from the accident, she suffered a nervous breakdown in 1996, and was found in a stranger's backyard, beaten, hair hacked off, teeth damaged, and in a deeply distressed state. Convinced that her first husband was trying to kill her, Kidder had attempted to fake her own death to get away and had been living on the streets. She has since made a recovery and claims to have not had another manic episode since 2007.

Marlon Brando, who played Jor-El in the 1978 film, died within three months of Christopher Reeve, after a run of horrendous familial tragedy. Brando's son Christian spent five years of his life in prison for murdering his half-sister Cheyenne's boyfriend. A month after her boyfriend's death, Cheyenne gave birth to their child, only to lose custody of the infant, after increasingly erratic behavior and a schizophrenia diagnosis. Cheyenne committed suicide in 1995, at the age of 25, and Brando subsequently became a recluse.

Despite the fact that comedian Richard Pryor battled drug addiction and was involved in a self-immolation incident well before his role in Superman III, believers still think certain aspects of his life -- including his multiple sclerosis diagnosis -- are related to the curse.

In more recent years, the curse seems to have all but evaporated, though it's worth noting that 64-year-old Man of Steel producer Lloyd Phillips passed away of a heart attack in January 2013, five months before the movie even came out. In addition, Kate Bosworth, who starred as Lois Lane in the flop Superman Returns (2006), attributed her break up with Orlando Bloom to the curse. Three people who worked on the DVD of the film were also horribly injured during that time -- one was mugged and beaten, another fell through a glass window, the third fell down some stairs.

In truth, if there ever was a real Superman curse, the worst of it seems to be over. This hasn't stopped DC and Warner Bros' new Superman-related show from leaving Clark Kent out of the equation entirely though. Coincidence? Fans are in disbelief that Metropolis, a 13-episode series, will center only on Lois Lane and Lex Luther's lives before Superman's arrival in the city. But with this kind of cursed history, who can blame them?

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