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When Did Superman Get His Most Famous Nicknames?

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
When Did Superman Get His Most Famous Nicknames?

In “When We First Met”, we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Reader Mike M. wrote in to ask for:

A 3-parter.

When was Superman first referred to as “The Man of Steel”?
When was Superman first referred to as “The Man of Tomorrow”?
When was Superman first referred to as “The Last Son of Krypton”?

Mike guessed that perhaps Elliot S! Maggin coined the last two, as both terms appeared in his novel, Miracle Monday.

You were basically on the right path with one of them, Mike!

“Man of Steel,” Superman’s most famous nickname, debuted very early on, in Action Comics #7 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), so early that it was still in that first year, 1938, of Superman’s existence…

Less than a year later, DC released New York World’s Fair Comics #1, to tie in with the World’s Fair in New York at the time (how shocking, I know). As an aside, my grandfather hitch-hiked his way from Boston to New York for the World’s Fair. Pretty cool, no? Anyhow, the slogan of the World’s Fair that year was “The World of Tomorrow,” so, at the end of the Superman story in the comic, they make sure to plus Superman as, of course, the MAN of Tomorrow…

A nice little bit of tie-in advertising there.

For the next forty years, Superman was almost exclusively referred to as the Man of Steel. Mark Waid gave me some help on pin-pointing “Last Son of Krypton” by noting that it definitely was not used before 1966. That narrowed it down a lot.

Then I asked Elliot S! Maggin, who wrote the novel, The Last Son of Krypton…

And he explained that he kept trying to get editor Julius Schwartz to let him use the term “Last Son of Krypton” in the comics, but Schwartz kept telling him no. So Maggin would try out similar names, like…

The Colossus from Krypton…

The Crusader from Krypton…

and the Last Survivor of Krypton (that was the closest he came to “Last Son of Krypton”…

And when he got the chance to do his novel, Schwartz couldn’t tell him no, so he went with it, and a famous nickname was born!

Thanks to Mark Waid and Elliot S! Maggin for the help in figuring out where the nickname debuted!

Thanks to Mike for the question! If anyone else has a question regarding when something in comic book history first showed up, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com and I’ll try to figure it out for you!

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