The 1950’s were a bad time for superheroes and comics in generally. Sales of super heroes had dropped significantly and most comic companies had disbanded them in favour for more horror, crime, romance, western and humour themed comics. Horror and crime comics became so predominate that publisher William Gaines’ company EC Comics was the biggest publisher moving National (which became DC Comics) to the side.
In 1954 Fredric Wertham wrote a book called The Seduction of the Innocent about the evils of comic books and how they were corrupting the day’s youth. National (DC) and Archie decided to create the Comic Code Authority in 1954 in response to the complaints created by Wertham’s book and to police comics. DC also used the code to run EC Comics out of business. In 1956 DC started rebooting their superhero line with a new version of the Flash. Superman and Batman had been published continuously but the rest of the line from the 1940’s had been stopped. In terms of comic books in film, the 1950’s were also pretty sparse for everyone except the man of steel.
The ’50s started off with another Superman serial, a sequel titled Atom Man vs. Superman. Kirk Alyn returned as Superman as did Noel Neill as Lois Lane. Lyle Talbot was cast as Lex Luthor and his performance helped shape Luthor in the comics at the time. The serial was a huge hit but it would be the last of superhero serials. TV had arrived.
In 1951 Superman and the Mole Men hit screens as a precursor to the 1952 TV series. Kirk Alyn wanted too much money to reprise Superman so George Reeves was cast as the man of steel. Phyllis Coates was cast as Lois Lane. The movie had Clark Kent and Lois Lane checking out an oil well that’s supposed to be the deepest well ever drilled. Naturally evil underground beings were released from the drilling and it’s up to Superman to save the day.
Adventures of Superman ran from 1952 to 1958. Superman and the Mole Men was cut and turned into the two final episodes to the first season. Noel Neill, the Lois Lane from the two movie serials returned as Lois from season two on after Phyllis Coates left after the first season.
The only other major comic book adaptation to happen in the ’50s was a big screen adaptation of Hal Foster’s newspaper comic strip Prince Valiant. Robert Wagner is the young Prince Valiant who tries to stop a plot against King Arthur. It’s pretty good and the CinemaScope is impressive. Not much else would happen for comic book movies until the 1960s.