The Evolution of Superman on TV: See the Man of Steel From 1952 to 2020

Superman TV Shows
Nino Muñoz/The CW, Warner Bros. Television Distribution, The WB

The last son of Krypton flies back to TV in Superman & Lois, set to premiere on The CW Tuesday, February 23. To whet fans’ appetites, the network recently released two teaser images for the show’s 2021 debut: one of Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch as Clark Kent and Lois Lane at Clark’s family farm in Smallville,; the other showing the superhero in his brand-new suit.

The show, of course, is just the latest iteration of the Man of Steel’s adventures. So what’s come before him? Below, we recap Superman’s TV history, from his black-and-white beginnings to his (many) flights on The CW.

Superman & Lois, Series Premiere, Tuesday, February 23, 9/8c, The CW

Adventures of Superman
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

‘Adventures of Superman’ (1952–1958)

After appearing in comic strips, a radio series, theatrical cartoons, and a feature film, the character made his TV debut in a syndicated series starring George Reeves. “Superman can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!” an announcer boomed at the beginning of each episode.

Animated Superman series
CBS, The WB, Cartoon Network, DC Universe

Animated Superman series (1966–present)

The hero of Metropolis has been the subject of countless animated TV shows and made-for-TV movies. Pictured here, clockwise, are Superman’s appearances in the shows The New Adventures of Superman (1966–1970), Superman: The Animated Series (1996–2000), Justice League Action (2016–2018), and Harley Quinn (2019–present).

It's a Bird… It's a Plane… It's Superman

’It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman’ (1975)

The spoofy 1966 musical It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman flopped on Broadway, but ABC nevertheless adapted the show for a late-night installment of its Wide World of Entertainment programming block. The TV special starred David Wilson as the title character and Lesley Ann Warren as Lois Lane, and it featured songs like “The Strongest Man in the World” and “Pow! Bam! Zonk!”

Warner Bros. Television Distribution

‘Superboy’ (1988–1992)

A syndicated series from the producers of the 1970s Superman movies, this show followed “Boy of Steel” Clark Kent (Gerard Christopher) during his years at Schuster University—a nod to original Superman artist Joe Schuster. Superboy also marked the first live-action TV appearance of Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk), Clark’s high school girlfriend.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’ (1993–1997)

More romantic drama than superhero show, this ABC series starred Dean Cain as Clark Kent and Teri Hatcher as a Lois Lane who only has eyes for his superhero persona… until, that is, she becomes engaged to the dastardly Lex Luthor, played by John Shea.

The WB

‘Smallville’ (2001–2011)

With a “no tights, no flights” rule, the early seasons of this long-running WB-turned-CW drama followed a teenaged Clark Kent (Tom Welling) as he tried to maintain a normal adolescence, get a handle on his nascent superpowers, and keep his Kryptonian origin hidden his group of pals—which even included Lex (Michael Rosenbaum).

Superman & Lois
Nino Muñoz/The CW

‘Superman and Lois’ (2021–)

After first donning the blue suit and red cape for a recurring Supergirl role in 2016, Tyler Hoechlin is getting his own Arrowverse series alongside Elizabeth Tulloch, the Lois Lane to his Clark Kent. The two actors also played Clark and Lois in the Arrowverse’s “Elseworlds” and “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover events, the latter of which even featured the Smallville versions of the characters.