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The following article was published in our article directory on November 4, 2009.
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Up in the Sky! The Adventures of Superman on Radio

Article Category: Humor

In these days of special effects generated with computers, it's hard to imagine superheroes being done as a radio drama without the spectacular visuals that have recently defined the genre. And yet, Superman, one of the most popular superheroes, had his own radio show that ran for over a decade in the forties and fifties.

Superman first appearance took place in Action Comics in 1938, with the character being featured prominently on the cover. The hero immediately captured the imaginations of millions of Americans, children and adults, who were still reeling from the effects of the great depression of the 30s. So it was inevitable that Superman would be featured on a radio drama, radio being the dominant form of home entertainment before television became prevalent in the late-1950s and early-1960s.

As was typical of radio drama of the forties, The Adventures of Superman was a series of fifteen minute episodes that first aired three times a week, then expanded to five days a week as the show became increasingly popular. After beginning with a series of stand-alone stories, the episodes eventually started telling longer multi-part stories in a serial format, with each episode ending in a cliffhanger.

The radio show helped to define the character of Superman as much as than the comics did. For example, it was the radio show that introduced the element kryptonite, the only substance that could weaken or even kill Superman, with the comics following only years later. Perry White, editor of the newspaper The Daily Planet, where Superman's alter ego Clark Kent worked as a reporter, also first appeared on the radio show, as did the paper's copyboy Jimmy Olsen, who would eventually become Superman's best friend.

One of the most important things about the program was how it helped mold the social consciousness of its primarily school-age audience with a series of shows teaching about religious tolerance, teaching kids to be tolerant to other religions. In this storyline, Superman helped defeat a group of vigilantes who menaced a Catholic priest and a rabbi who were running an interfaith community house together. The Adventures of Superman also helped weaken the racist Ku Klux Klan by leaking the organization's secret code words on its shows.

As radio gave way to television in the 1950s, so did the The Adventures of Superman end in 1951, giving way to a television show with the same title the following year. But the legacy of the radio show continues to endure: even today, people still associate Superman with the words from the show's classic and hopeful opening: Look! Up in the Sky! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's ... Superman!

About the Author: George Brown is an expert when it comes to old time radio. To take a trip down the memory lane, visit his website and find out more about old time American radio.

Keywords: old time radio, radio shows, american radio

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