George Reeves and Phyllis Coates starred in the TV show...

George Reeves and Phyllis Coates starred in the TV show "Superman." Credit: Handout

What Man of Steel would be almost 100 years old if he hadn't been killed by a speeding bullet and is still widely considered the most super Superman of them all?

Look, up on the screen: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... George Reeves!

Yes, it's George Reeves, mild-mannered actor who earned fame, eternal typecasting and a loyal following among baby boomers for starring in the classic 1950s TV series "Adventures of Superman."

Henry Cavill, the latest actor to don the cape and tights, stars in "Man of Steel," the big-screen movie that premieres June 14.

But it's Reeves, the first actor to play the role in a feature film, 1951's "Superman and the Mole-Men," who is the yardstick by which all others are measured.

Here are five super facts about him and his iconic series.

1. "Superman and the Mole-Men" was released in November 1951, and the series was set to air around the holidays, but Kellogg's, the show's sponsor, didn't sign on until 1952. The series debuted on WENR in Chicago on Sept. 19, 1952. New York was the last market to air the show, which premiered on WABC on April 1, 1953.

2. Phyllis Coates, who played Lois Lane in "Superman and the Mole-Men" and the first season of the series, dropped out and was replaced by Noel Neill, who had played the part in the "Superman" movie serials starring Kirk Alyn in 1948 and 1950.

3. "Superman and the Mole-Men" was re-edited into the series' only two-part episode, "The Unknown People."

4. In 1954, "Adventures of Superman" became one of the first TV series to film in color.

5. The last first-run episode aired in April 1958.

Reeves, born Jan. 5, 1914, was a respected actor with an impish sense of humor and a genuine affection for his young fans. He died of a gunshot to the head on June 16, 1959. The official cause was suicide, but many people believe it was murder.

Regardless, Reeves' legion of fans think he was the epitome of truth, justice and the American way.

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