The Adventures of Superman


The Adventures of Superman radio series first aired on WOR 710 in New York City on February 12, 1940. The transcription discs were played that week on stations in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles. DC Comics owner Harry Donenfeld paid $230 to hear the premiere in Cuba. The radio series aired in different formats until March 1, 1951, after a total of 2,088 episodes.

The Adventures of Superman - WOR 710 - 1940

The show was developed by publicist Allen "Duke" Ducovny and Robert Joffe Maxwell. Maxwell was a former pulp writer hired by Harry Donenfeld to oversee licensing for Superman Inc. Audition discs for two stories were produced in late 1939. Ducovny and Maxwell co-wrote the original opening phrase for the first episode: “Faster than an airplane, more powerful than a locomotive, impervious to bullets. ‘Up in the sky – look!’ ‘It’s a bird.’ ‘It’s a plane.’ ‘It’s Superman!’ ”

Ducovny and Maxwell were initially rejected by CBS, NBC Red, NBC Blue, and Mutual. Transcription discs were sold to regional stations and then shared with affiliates. To promote the program and attract sponsors, the producers organized "Superman Day" at the New York World's Fair on July 3, 1940. According to the New York Times, an estimated 3,000 people attended the festivities. Part 5 of "Hans Holbein’s Doll Factory" was played twice for "Superman Day" guests.

George F. Lowther was brought on the staff in October 1940. Lowther was an experienced radio writer known for work on Dick Tracy and The ShadowOn August 31, 1942, the program began broadcasting live for five days a week on the Mutual network with Lowther as a director. During downtime between seasons, Lowther authored the The Adventures of Superman novel published on November 2, 1942.

The series aired in various timeslots on ABC Radio from February 7, 1949, until the last episode on March 1, 1951. Robert Maxwell and Whitney Ellsworth reworked the show into a screenplay for Superman and the Mole Men, a full-length feature film starring George Reeves that was released on November 23, 1951. The film served as a pilot for The Adventures of Superman television series. The show premiered in syndication on September 19, 1952. Maxwell left the production staff after the first season.

Jackson Beck, Joan Alexander, Bud Collyer

Bud Collyer, born Clayton Johnson Heermance, Jr., starred as the first actor to voice Clark Kent and Superman on the radio and cartoons. Bud Collyer originally pursued a career in law before becoming a prominent voice in broadcasting on all four major networks. Collyer famously switched from a mild-mannered tenor as Clark to a rich baritone for Superman. The roles were originally written for two different actors. Collyer also voiced both characters for the Fleischer and Famous Studios animated shorts from 1941-1943. The January 21, 1950, episode, "Dead Men Tell No Tales," was the final radio appearance of Collyer as Clark and Superman.

Bud Collyer later reprised both roles in the The New Adventures of Superman animated series from 1966-1968. Collyer's final performance as Superman was on the April 22, 1969, broadcast of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. The program reenacted part one of "Lois and Jimmy Disappear," originally aired on January 5, 1944. Johnny Carson played Jimmy Olsen.

Bud Collyer - 1946

Actor Michael Fitzmaurice provided the voices of Clark Kent and Superman for 78 episodes from June 5, 1950, until the series finale on March 1, 1951. Michael Fitzmaurice worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times before becoming a newsman on KNX radio known as Mike Kelly. Fitzmaurice was the primary announcer for the MGM News of the Day newsreels and he regularly appeared in ABC dramas as an announcer and actor. 
Michael Fitzmaurice - The Radio Annual and Television Year Book, 1949

Lois Lane first appeared on radio in the February 26, 1940, episode "The Atomic Beam Machine". The first actress to voice Lois Lane was 22-year-old Rosalind "Rolly" Bester. Rolly Bester began her career as a Broadway performer before appearing on radio, television, and film. Rolly was married to science fiction author Alfred Bester, creator of Solomon Grundy and the Green Lantern oath. She later became vice president of the Ted Bates & Co. advertising agency in New York.
Rolly Bester - With These Hands, 1950

Bester was replaced after only three episodes by actress Helen Louise Choat, sometimes credited as Choate. Helen Choat voiced Lois Lane for three months before departing the series. Choat began broadcasting at WNAC-Boston in 1928 and later starred in the major soap operas of the era. After the decline of radio, Helen Choat briefly worked in television and co-authored books about metaphysics.
Helen Choat - Radio Digest, October 1931

Joan Alexander, born Louise Abrass, voiced Lois Lane for over 1,600 episodes from June 1940 until the end of the series in 1951. Alexander was fired by Robert Maxwell after about three months, but she regained the role in a blind audition. Alexander studied acting in Europe touring with the Yiddish theater and took her stage name from actress Joan Crawford. Joan Alexander also provided the voice of Lois Lane for the Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoons from 1941-1943. She would reprise the role in 1966 for one season of The New Adventures of Superman animated series.
Joan Alexander - 1946

The radio show established elements of Superman mythology that remain in current continuity. The ability for Superman to hover in the air was introduced in the second audition story produced in 1939 titled "The Shark". In the comic books, Superman first flew in Superman #10 (May-June 1941) due to a misunderstanding by artist Leo Nowak. Superman has the ability to fly in the Fleischer Studios animated short Superman, released on September 26, 1941. The power of flight officially debuted in Action Comics #65 (October 1943).

The Daily Star was renamed Daily Flash for the pilot, but later changed to the Daily Planet by February 1940. Daily Planet editor Perry White was created for the radio series, originally voiced by actor Julian Noa and later by Jackson Beck. The character was named Paris White in the second audition story. In the comic books, the original editor was George Taylor. The name was officially changed to Perry White in Superman #7 (November 1940).

On April 15, 1940, the Daily Planet copy boy is introduced as Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy Olsen was first played by Jackie Kelk and later by Jack Grimes. The character first appeared as an unnamed "office-boy" in Action Comics #6 (November 1938). Jimmy Olsen officially made his comic book debut in Superman #13 (November-December 1941).

The first appearance of the word "kryptonite" was an advertisement for the Krypto-Raygun from Daisy in Action Comics #8 (January 1939). Kryptonite later appeared in "The Meteor from Krypton," first broadcast on June 7, 1943. In the radio series, Krypton once co-orbited the Earth on the opposite side of the Sun. A prototype for the mineral appeared in an unpublished 1940 story by Jerry Siegel titled "The K-Metal from Krypton". In the 1933 short story "The Reign of Superman" by Siegel and Shuster, the title character is granted powers by ingesting fragments of a meteor from a "Dark Planet."

Tune In - September 1946

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Promotional materials for The Adventures of Superman were distributed by WOR 710, ABC, and Mutual. Early advertisements from WOR 710 were given out during "Superman Day" at the New York World's Fair on July 3, 1940. Various radio stations and bread bakeries stamped branding on Superman Junior Defense League of America cards in 1941. Early regional sponsors included Hecker's Oat Cereal, Force Wheat Flakes, Proctor & Gamble, Skippy Peanut Butter, and Stroehmann's Bread. The show was sponsored in Canada by Ogilvie Flour Mills Company.

Beginning January 4, 1943, Kellogg's Pep cereal became the sponsor on Mutual. Superman appeared in all five series of "Comic Buttons" included with boxes of PEP from 1945 to 1947. Superman also appeared on twelve different PEP box-panel comics dated 1945. A "Superman Crusader" premium ring was available by mail order for one boxtop and 10 cents during the fall of 1946. The "Superman Crusader" ring was featured in the 14-part "Counterfeit Money" storyline that ran from October 17 to November 5, 1946. A commercial advertising the premium ring was included on transcription discs of Part 8 that first aired on October 28. The "Superman Crusader" ring was marketed as a "symbol of Superman's fight for tolerance and good sportsmanship."

The Exhibit Supply Company (ESCO) of Chicago issued collector cards for Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander in the TV and Radio Stars series. The American Card Catalog reference is W409. Each card measures approximately 3.375 x 5.375 inches, smaller than a standard postcard. The TV and Radio Stars sets are cataloged by variations in the "Made in U.S.A." font. The black-and-white cards were dispensed from penny arcade vending machines during the 1940s and 1950s. A cropped variant of the Bud Collyer card includes "Superman" under the facsimile autograph.

Exhibit Supply Co - TV and Radio Stars Exhibit Cards (W409) A - Bud Collyer Exhibit Supply Co - TV and Radio Stars Exhibit Cards (W409) B - Bud Collyer Exhibit Supply Co - TV and Radio Stars Exhibit Cards (W409) - Joan Alexander

Bud Collyer appears with actor and singer Bert Parks on an Exhibit card for Break The Bank, a quiz show on ABC Radio. The show moved to the NBC Radio Network on October 5, 1949. Bert Parks is best known for hosting the annual Miss America pageant from 1955 to 1979. Parks served as the main host of Break The Bank from 1948 to 1957. Collyer made appearances as co-host and emcee on Break The Bank from 1948 to 1953. Bert is misspelled as "Burt" and both actors are mislabeled on the card.

Exhibit Supply Co - TV and Radio Stars (W409) - Bud Collyer & Bert Parks, Break The Bank

Bud Collyer appears on card No. 31 in the 1953 Television and Radio Stars of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) series from Bowman Gum. The American Card Catalog reference is R701-15. The undated 96-card set is copyrighted B.G., H.L. for Bowman Gum and Haelan Labratories Inc. The series was sold in penny wax packs that contain one card and a stick of bubble gum, or five-cent packs of five cards with gum. Collyer appeared on Break the Bank from 1948 to 1953, but the biography information on the card back incorrectly states "since 1945."

1953 Bowman - Television and Radio Stars of the NBC - 31 - Bud Collyer



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Becker, Milton. "'Superman' Day is Held." The New York Times. 4 Jul. 1940, p. 13.

Brown, Tweed. "He Makes Like Superman." Tune In, Sept. 1946, pp. 27-29.

Daniels, Les. Superman: The Complete History: The Life and Times of the Man of Steel. Chronicle, 2004.

Hayde, Michael J. Flights of Fantasy: The Unauthorized but True Story of Radio & TV's Adventures of Superman. BearManor Media, 2009.

 Kobler, John. "Up, Up and Awa-a-y! The Rise of Superman, Inc." The Saturday Evening Post, 21 Jun. 1941, pp. 14-15, 73-76.

Pasko, Martin. The DC Vault: A Museum-in-a-Book Featuring Rare Collectibles from the DC Universe. Running Press, 2008.

Ricca, Brad. Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster--the Creators of Superman. St. Martin's Griffin, 2014.

"Radio Superman." Look, 3 Sep. 1946, p. 76.

Scivally, Bruce. Superman on Film, Television, Radio, and Broadway. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2008. 

Singh, Vinti. "Once a radio star, her roles in life never stopped coming." Connecticut Post, 26 Dec. 2010.



Radio Superman - Look - September 3, 1946



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