Superman is one of the most iconic DC characters and has been around since 1938, so as you can imagine, the last son of Krypton has gone through some serious character development over the last 70-80 years.
When Superman first began as DC's leading man he was an all-American Superhero, not unlike Marvel's star-spangled Captain America. In fact, Superman was often used as a means of preaching moralistic American values. It wasn't rare to see the The Metropolis Marvel discussing issues involving race, gender or equality.
Superman has gone though a lot of changes since his origins, but perhaps it's this depiction of the Man of Steel we really need to settle modern cultural issues!
These character developments are perfectly normal. Society constantly changes and if a superhero is to stay relevant they must be a child of their time; unfortunately a moralistic, all-American hero just isn't modern.
These days you're more likely to see Superman punch through a building than rescue a kitten from a tree!
Don't misunderstand -- I prefer the latter, but it's interesting to see how The Big Blue has evolved over the years.
The Man of Tomorrow hasn't just changed from an all-American do-gooder to an alien-killing badass, Superman has gone through a massive change every few years since his conception!
So, how has Superman changed over the years?
1. Superman's Origins.
From his original design in 1936, which looked pretty damned cheerful, to his redesign in 1941, the character went through some pretty serious changes!
2. Classic Superman.
A few changes were made to the design of Kal-El's costume in the 1950s and 1960s, but it's clear a fairly standard Superman design had already been discovered. The classic red and blue could already be seen alongside the symbol of the house of El, which still exists today.
3. Superman: Construction of a brand.
Superman's costume design didn't change much in the 1970s and the character was still rather lighthearted. However it's clear that the artists and designers had discovered the iconic Superman image.
4. Superman in the 1990's.
For a few decades the classic Superman image stayed fairly constant, until a '90s rebrand constructed the tough, slightly darker hero we all know! A few other variations of the character were also offered, but none of them really gained momentum on screen.
5. Superman: Continued evolution.
In the 1990s and early 2000s Superman changed slightly in his animated form. This experimentation led to a much darker Superman; although there are visual similarities to the original hero, this authoritative leader shows massive character evolution.
6. Modern Superman!
These days we have a Superman that matches a modern audience. The kind-hearted, moralistic Superman of the 1930s is replaced by a warrior who leads the Justice League (in some depictions) and battles aliens. Where once the all-American Kryptonian wore a smile there is now a look of stern determination.
This guy can't save a damned kitten! He's far too busy saving the earth from super-villains and killing the Joker!
Check out Henry Cavill's depiction of Superman in the trailer for Batman V Superman!