The 50 greatest Superman moments

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Justice League is almost upon us, and with it, the recently beleaguered poster-boy for all superheroes gets another chance. Again. It's been a rough old time on-screen for the big blue boyscout of late, what with mixed responses to Man of Steel, and the outright bile aimed squarely at Batman v Superman. But let's not forget why Superman is still important, 80 years after he first appeared on page. Let's not forget why we still care. 

Because in Superman, we have the most iconic, steadfast, and decent superheroes of the lot. We have the original. We have not far off a century of adventures, on Earth, in space, and in all manner of places beyond, in every medium from comics, to movies, to TV, to cartoons. So it's time for a round-up. A tribute. A curation of the character's quality, via a 50-stop tour of his greatest hits. There's a lot to get through, so let's get started, shall we? 

Planet Of Steel

The Moment: Superman voluntarily turns himself over to the authorities in Man of Steel.

Why it's great: It's the moment where Superman puts his trust in humanity despite concealing himself for his entire life so far. He symbolically lets the military cuff him to make them feel better - even though he can break out of them easily. It just goes to prove the type of honourable man he is.

Bullet In The Eye

The Moment: In Superman Returns, Superman plays walking shield to protect police from a criminal's machine gun... and then the bad guy shoots him point blank in the eye.

Why It's Great: A triumph of CGI enables Bryan Singer to show us exactly what happens next, as the bullet simply crumples under the superior strength of Supes' impervious pupil.

Smoked Out

The Moment: Superman turns health watchdog as he takes on cigarette pusher Nick O'Teen, in a series of strips commissioned by America's Health Education Council and a familiar sight in schools during the 1980s.

Why It's Great: A rare instance of Superman having a real-world impact, the anti-smoking campaign saw 800,000 children in America requesting information on how to quit the habit.

Opening Credits

The Moment: The beginning of Superman: The Movie, as a retro introduction - cinema curtains, Academy ratio screen, black-and-white - gives way to whooshing credits and John Williams' rousing fanfare.

Why It's Great: Thirty-five years on, arguably no comic-book movie credits have bettered this for the sheer rush of adrenalin that comes when that score kicks in.

Plane Sailing

The Moment: Superman Returns in style, as he marks his public comeback by saving a stricken airliner that counts Lois Lane amongst its would-be fatalities.

Why It's Great: The Superman movies' most visceral setpiece: you can feel the strain as Superman applies the brakes and the shockwaves ripple back up the plane's fuselage.

Superman's New Power

The Moment: This 1958 comic strip saw Superman infected with alien tech that gave him the ability to fire a tiny version of himself out of his hand.

Why It's Great: Over 75 years, a superhero is bound to become subject to some very strange plot developments...

Hitting Hitler Where It Hurts

The Moment: In 1940s animated short Jungle Drums, Adolf Hitler switches off a radio bulletin in disgust after learning how Superman helped the Allies to defeat Nazi U-boats.

Why It's Great: It didn't take long for Superman to become a propaganda tool, cementing the character's appeal as an all-American hero.

The Green, Green Glow Of Home

The Moment: Kryptonite makes its first appearance in The New Adventures Of Superman, as Lois and Clark are sent back to Smallville to investigate its discovery.

Why It's Great: A Superman-lite episode of the series that puts the focus firmly on the title characters' developing relationship - a hint at the series' future priorities.

Babe In Arms

The Moment: The discovery of the child Kal-El by Jonathan and Martha Kent in Superman: The Movie - the answer to all their prayers, and handy when fixing a flat tyre, too.

Why It's Great: Donner's film cuts to the chase, by letting Supes announce his powers straight away by lifting the Kents' car.