The fictional character Superman, an American comic book superhero in DC Comics publications, has appeared in various films almost since his inception. He debuted in cinemas in a series of animated shorts beginning in 1941, and then starred in two movie serials in 1948 and 1950. An independent studio, Lippert Pictures, released the first Superman feature film, Superman and the Mole Men, starring George Reeves, in 1951. Ilya and Alexander Salkind and Pierre Spengler purchased the Superman film rights in 1974. After numerous scripts, Richard Donner was hired to direct the film, filming Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) simultaneously. Donner had already shot eighty percent of Superman II with Christopher Reeve before it was decided to finish shooting the first film. The Salkinds fired Donner after Superman's release and commissioned Richard Lester as the director to finish Superman II. Lester also returned for Superman III (1983), and the Salkinds further produced the 1984 spin-off Supergirl before selling the rights to Cannon Films, resulting in the poorly reviewed Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). Ilya Salkind commissioned a fifth Superman script before Warner Bros. acquired the rights entirely in 1993.