Time really does fly.

For three-quarters of a century, Superman has been fighting the good fight, keeping Earth and its inhabitants safe from all manner of villainy and disaster. As the DC Comics character turns 75, he’s also getting a major big-screen relaunch in director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, opening Friday.

So for this week’s cover, Entertainment Weekly is taking a look back at all the critical moments in Superman’s evolution from dimestore hero to American pop-culture icon. We start with his first appearance in 1938’s Action Comics #1, and track him along every major step (and occasional misstep) up through his reemergence in the form of Man of Steel‘s angry, passionate, lost Superman, as played by Henry Cavill.

Here’s what you can find in EW’s obsessive history of the man in the red cape:

• Origin Story: We dive into the long, hard making of a hero with a look back at how Superman’s mythology evolved over the years. Find out how animation gave him the ability to fly, where his chrome-domed nemesis Lex Luthor first appeared, and how radio made Kryptonite his one and only weakness.

Superman Returns director Bryan Singer on the “whimsical” tone of his attempted reboot of the hero — why “not everyone responded.”

Man of Steel producer Christopher Nolan on the “science fiction-based” approach to retelling Superman’s origin as an alien invader saga.

• Cavill on how a lonely life as a boarding school student fueled his performance as Superman, the ultimate outsider.

Perhaps Superman’s greatest strength is his ability to adapt to any time. He began life during the Great Depression as the champion of the oppressed, muscling slumlords and racketeers, became a metaphor for the experience of American immigrants, and evolved into a Cold War figurehead — a superhero who stands for a super-power nation.

Now — who is Superman? Man of Steel hopes to redefine him once again.

For more on Superman’s history and his most recent reincarnation — Plus, Stephen King’s report from the set of his new CBS series, Under the Dome — check out this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, June 14.

Man of Steel
  • Movie
  • 144 minutes