Superman Show Summary

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Superman Show Summary Empty Superman Show Summary

Post by Seamus on 3/9/2019, 12:16 pm

Written by StrobeSML

The Adventures of Superman', 'The most famous superhero of them all is a household name throughout the world, but when this show appeared, the legend was still being formed and this radio show helped form it. In 1933 or 1934 (the dates are difficult to pinpoint and are quoted differently by different sources) Jerry Siegel went to his friend, cartoonist Joe Shuster, with the idea of a super-strongman character by the name of Superman. While it is easy to see now, with so many superhero characters filling the newstands and comic shops that this was a saleable idea, it was very difficult to sell in the 30s, so the idea sat in a desk drawer, with Siegel and Shuster creating characters like Slam Bradley and Dr. Occult before their most well-known character became accepted by a fledgling comic company, DC Comics. In the first issue of Action Comics (published in June, 1938), the character was finally shown and was an instant hit, selling out a half-million copies per issue by its seventh issue. Superman was given his own magazine and sold well over a million issues per month.

Of course, this Superman was far different than the modern version we are used to. He was extremely strong, could leap for 1/8th of a mile (or over a tall building in a single bound), and "nothing less than a bursting shell could pierce his skin. He was able to see through objects and had highly acute hearing, but that was the limits of his powers at that time.

This suddenly popular character that was focused in two comic books and a syndicated newspaper strip was now ripe for radio. After getting George Ludlam on board to write most of the series, DC Comics did auditions and worked on getting sponsors. While many characters played throughout the series, the most notable pick was Clayton "Bud" Collyer, a former attorney who turned toward acting on the radio, most notably in Terry and the Pirates. His ability to create and switch between two separate voices (the tenor of Clark Kent and the bass of Superman), meant that he was the best man for the job. Collyer was uneasy about taking the role, fearing that it would hurt his reputation as an actor, but he needn't have worried. He eventually came to cherish this role which is, perhaps, the one he is best known for.

The show itself was groundbreaking in many ways, developing all sorts of sound effects (such as a mix of sounds that included a Spanish War bomb dropping, a 50-mile gale, and a wind machine to make Superman's distinctive flying sound) and important parts of the Superman legend such as the characters of Perry White and Jimmy Olsen, kryptonite, and the first team-ups of Superman and Batman. His workplace became "The Daily Planet" which was a change of the comics "Daily Star" and Metropolis became populated with characters like Inspector Henderson, Beanie Martin, Candy Meyers, and Mary Hennig. Villains like the Scarlet Widow and the Atom Man went beyond the radio show to appear on-screen in two Kirk Allyn movie serials. That's right, the radio show (and not the comic) became the source material for these films.

Perhaps the biggest addition that the radio shows writer's made was the ability of flight. As stated, Superman (in the comics) could only make leaps from place to place, but the radio show gave him the ability to sustain himself in midair. (This adaptation was quickly adopted by the comic book.) However, aside from flight, the character remained much the same as the original concept in the first comic books. There was no heat vision, no super-cold breath, no "super-hypnotism" (which actually appeared in a few comic books when one of Superman's friends was about to discover his secret identity), or other odd powers. The radio version of Superman was strong, could fly, was completely invulnerable, and had highly acute vision and hearing (including x-ray vision and the ability to see in the dark).

Still, the biggest hero of most of the stories was Clark Kent. He would be the one ferreting out clues in each story and using his Superman abilities only to get around quickly or to make a climactic save at the end. Most of the time, it was Clark that solved the case and Superman that got all of the credit.

The show was ground-breaking in other ways. In 1946, Superman tackled hate-mongering organizations, most notably in the "Klan of the Fiery Cross" where he fought an organization that was very similar to the Ku Klux Klan in its style and tactics. There were a lot of worries over these shows, especially in the South where it could hurt business for Kelloggs (the sponsor of the show) and the Mutual Network which aired the show. Again, there was no need to worry. Superman was the first juvenile-based radio show that dealt with such relevant issues and it was well received and recognized for its efforts.

Credits (for most of the series) for the regular characters:

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Clark Kent/Superman: Clayton "Bud" Collyer

Lois Lane: Joan Alexander

Perry White: Julian Noa

Jimmy Olsen: Jackie Kelk

Inspector Henderson: Earl George

Bruce Wayne/Batman: Matt Crowley

Dick Grayson/Robin: Ronald Liss

Announcer/Beany Martin: Jackson Beck
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