June 12 has been declared “Superman Day” – celebrating this super hero first created in 1933 by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel (writer and illustrator, respectively). According to DaysOfTheYear.com, “Superman as we know and love him today didn’t appear unction Action Comics #1, published on April 18, 1938. Such was his success that he got his own comic in 1939, and the world has never looked back since.”
Over the past eight decades, the “Man of Steel” has been the subject of video games and books, his face and/or logo appearing on stickers, t-shirts, flags, pajamas, Underoos, trading cards, cereal boxes, temporary tattoos (and real ones), Halloween costumes, action figures, birthday cakes, greeting cards and so much more.
He has also jumped off the pages of comic books into a series of television shows (the first being Adventures of Superman which aired in the 1950s) and movies (starting in 1978 with Christopher Reeve in the lead role as Clark Kent / Superman).
Here in Michigan, we have two notable actors who have portrayed this legendary character on the small screen.
DEAN CAIN was born July 31, 1966 in Mount Clemens, Michigan although soon after his birth, his mother (Sharon) moved him and his older brother (Roger) to L.A. to pursue her own acting career. Dean graduated from Santa Monica High School in 1964 (Charlie Sheen, Rob Lowe and his brother, Chad, were among classmates at that time). He went on to attend Princeton University (where he dated actress Brooke Shields) and graduated in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts in history.
His acting career began with commercials and appearances on popular TV shows like A Different World and Beverly Hills, 90210. In 1993, he landed the role that would catapult his career – as Clark Kent / Super Man (with Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane) in the series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, which aired on ABC from September 12 that year through June 14, 1997. During its four-year run, this show brought in about 15 million viewers per episode.
Did you know…Dean Cain was an impressive football player, starting in high school? He also played in college, setting a record with 12 interceptions (in just 10 games) during the 1987 season and racking up a collegiate career record of 22 interceptions in 30 games. He was even awarded the John. P. Poe – Richard W. Kazmaier, Jr. Football Trophy his senior year. He was signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills, but a knee injury during training camp ended his sports career before it even got off the ground.
TOM WELLING was born in on April 26, 1977 in Putnam Valley, New York but his family moved frequently along the east coast and the Midwest. He graduated from Okemos High School in 1995 and was active in many team sports there including basketball, baseball and soccer (where he excelled as a goalkeeper). It was also in high school that he started in acting in plays.
After graduation, he worked in construction and a few years later was discovered at a party in Nantucket by casting director Jennifer Starr. Welling then began a modeling career, appearing in ads for Tommy Hilfiger, Abercrombie & Fitch and Calvin Klein, while working on his acting skills. His first major acting role was on the CBS legal drama Judging Amy – with his 3-episode contract doubled after receiving positive fan response. He also appeared in the UPS science fiction sitcom Special Unit 2 and appeared in the pilot episode of Undeclared on FOX before taking on the role of Clark Kent in the series Smallville which aired on The WB/The CW from 2001-2011.
The pilot episode of Smallville set ratings records for a WB debut, with 8.4 million viewers. The series averaged about 4.34 million viewers per episode over its 10-year run (season #2 had the highest ratings, averaging 6.3 million). Smallville was recognized as the longest-running North American science fiction series by episode count. Welling himself also racked up some recognitions – being named one of People magazine’s “Breakthrough Stars of 2001” and winning the Teen Choice Awards “Choice Breakout Star (Male)” in 2002.
Did you know…Tom Welling had the chance to meet two previous actors who played the “Man of Steel” during special appearances on Smallville? Christopher Reeve appeared in “Rosetta” (S2/E17) and Dean Cain appeared in “Cure” (S7/E4). In 2013, a five-CD box set (with 100 sons from the 10-year series) called Ultimate Smallville Soundtrack was released by Vicious Records with all profits benefitting the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
And while I have your attention…we might as well talk about Superman Ice Cream (especially with National Ice Cream Month coming up in July). But don’t look for this colorful flavor in Hollywood however (well, unless that’s Hollywood, MICHIGAN) as it is available primarily in the Midwest states.
It is widely believed that Stroh’s ice Cream first came up with this three-color treat (made with blue moon (also a Midwest favorite), red pop and lemon flavors today known as Super Rainbow) during the Prohibition era when they transitioned away from beer to ice cream to keep the business in operation (one of many flavors they produced). The company closed its Detroit ice cream plant in 2007 and they are now owned and distributed by Dean Foods out of Dallas, TX.
Many other ice cream producers and local shops have their own spin in the Superman flavor – and while the colors are consistent, the flavor profile may change from location to location. Interestingly enough, CD Comics (under which the Superman brand is housed) has never licensed any of these ice cream brands.