He had those supermanly characteristics in him, you know, such as a strong jawline, a pair of intense bold blue eyes, towering height (he was 1,93 metres for God's sake), athletic physique, and killer smile--oh that gorgeous smile. He embodied the character perfectly than any other actors who have played the role (yeah I don't think that the Man of Steel version of Superman--Henry Cavill--does represent the warm and amiable Superman).
He was in his prolific screen and stage career when he had an accident during an equestrian competition in May '95. He fell off his horse and landed on his head, shattering his top two vertebrae. The accident damaged his spinal cord that paralysed him from the neck down. He couldn't walk and would never be able to walk; he was unable to move any part of his body. Even he needed respirator in order to breathe because he couldn't breathe on his own.
The Superman had lost all of his power. How could he help people if he was the one who needed help?
He did contemplate suicide. He said that to his devoted wife, Dana, and her reply was amazing:
"I am only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do, because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I'll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You're still you. And I love you."
Shortly after the accident, his close friend Robin Williams visited him in the hospital, wearing a blue hat and a yellow gown, talking in Russian accent. Robin had successfully made him laugh for the first time--he knew that his "life was going to be okay", he said.
After hearing his wife's reply and watching his best-friend acting like a crazy Russian doctor, the idea of committing suicide has never came up to his mind again.
About eight month after his accident, he made a surprise appearance in 68th Annual Academy Awards (1996), which brought tears to my eyes only by watching this video:
He might lost his power, but once a Superman, always a Superman. He found another ways to help people. He travelled across the country to give motivational speeches. He always appeared in public with his warm and gorgeous smile on his face, even though if you're looking at his eyes--his bold blue eyes, you'll see that he was probably struggling inside. He also created the Christopher Reeve Foundation which is dedicated to find treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders.
He truly believed that there would be a cure for his injuries and someday he would be able to walk again. It was his dream, but it wasn't just for himself; it was for all the people in the world who is suffering from similar injuries. He never stopped campaigning for the research and funding it through his foundation. Never to give up hope, that's what he taught us.
He might never got a role as Superman again, but he ended up being a real-life Superman, truly a hero figure.
Tragically, he died suddenly of cardiac arrest on 10 October 2004, only one day after he attended his son Will's hockey game (yes, Will, the kid in sesame street video up there). Two years after his death, Superman Returns was released. The film was dedicated to him and his wife who died of lung cancer in the same year.
Man, you don't need a cape and that super tight costume to be a hero. That man in wheelchair is the real Superman.