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Noteworthy Superman dates to remember...
July 1: Marlon Brando, Jor-El in Superman: The Movie, dies of lung failure aged 80 in 2004.
July 4: Eva Marie Saint, Martha Kent in Superman Returns, born in Newark, New Jersey in 1924.
July 6: Writer and Artist John Byrne (Man of Steel, Superman, Action Comics) born in 1950.
July 10: Superman artist and co-creator Joe Shuster born in 1914.
July 11: Michael Rosenbaum, Lex Luthor in Smallville, born in Oceanside, N.Y in 1972.
July 17: Traditionally recognized as the birthday of Lana Lang, Clark Kent's boyhood friend.
July 22: Terence Stamp, General Zod in Superman and Superman II, born in 1938.
July 25: Traditionally recognized as the birthday of Lucy Lane, Lois Lane's sister.
July 26: Kevin Spacey, Lex Luthor in Superman Returns, born in South Orange, New Jersey in 1959.
July 26: Ilya Salkind, Superman movie producer, born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1947.
July 27: Jackson Beck, voice of Superman Radio Introduction, dies in 2004, aged 92.
July 29: Allison Mack, Chloe Sullivan in Smallville, born in Preez, Germany in 1982.
July 29: Writer Gail Simone (Action Comics) celebrates her birthday today.
July 30: Laurence Fishburne, Perry White in the 2013 Man of Steel movie, born in Augusta, Georgia in 1961.
July 31: Dean Cain, star of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, born in Mt. Clemens, Michigan in 1966.
We're probably all familiar with the scene in "Superman: The Movie" where Lois asks Clark how he felt about his first day working at the Daily Planet.
Lois: "How'd you like your first day on the job?"
Clark: "Frankly the hours were sort of longer than I expected, but on the whole, I mean meeting you and Jimmy and Mr. White - Gosh on the whole I'd say it's been swell."
Lois: "Swell?" (pause) "You know, Clark, there are very few people left in the world who feel comfortable saying that word."
Clark: "What word?"
Clark: "Really? It always sounded kind of natural."
It was a scene intended to show Lois just how corny and mild mannered Clark was, because by the late 1970s the word "swell" was an outdated slang word that equates to "cool" or "great".
I did some research on the word, and discovered that "swell" was the happenin' slang term of the Roaring Twenties. Having lingered lazily in the English language for over a century, it suddenly burst on the scene around 1920 with attitude written all over it. It defined the rebellious youth culture of that era, a culture fueled by women's rights and anti-Victorian passions that had young people dancing exuberantly.
And "swell" had staying power. Like "cool", it hung on for decades as the number one slang term of approval. But in the mid 1960s "swell" was changed from the rebellious to the cornball. This was because the sixties, like the twenties, witnessed the rise of a rambunctious youth culture that broke with parental traditions bringing with it a new, all-purpose slang term: "cool".
While listening to episodes of the 1940s Superman radio series, I discovered an interesting conversation between Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen, in which Jimmy over uses the word "swell" and Clark Kent admonishes him for it.
The episode aired on March 10, 1941 and was part 3 of the story "Last of the Clipper Ships", an adventure which sees Clark and Jimmy aboard a ship that's supposedly haunted by a ghost known as "The Whistler". Making sure Jimmy is keeping up his school studies, Clark listens as Jimmy reads a character study he's written on the ship's first mate, a man by the name of Teak Barnaby. You can hear the excerpt from this episode below...