D.C. Comics History: “The Adventures of Superman” First Episode Aired 78 Years Ago Today

Superman made his debut on radio on February 12, 1940.

Today in DC Comics history, The Adventures of Superman radio program premiered back in 1940.

The Adventures of Superman is a long-running radio serial that originally aired from 1940 to 1951 starring the DC Comics character Superman. The parts of Superman and Clark Kent were both played by Bud Collyer, though his identity wasn’t revealed until he’d been doing it for a few years. It wasn’t until 1946 that  Collyer stepped out of the shadows.

By then the show had really taken on a positive message of unity and community. There was a story line called “The Unity House” series about a playground area and community house that openly accepted children of all races and creeds, but had come under fire from Metropolis-based hate groups. The  show received a lot of mail both in support of, and in objection to, the Unity House eries. That’s when, in 1946, that Collyer stepped out of anonymity and revealed himself in an article in Time magazine.

Collyer voiced Superman in all 17 of the Max Fleischer Superman animated shorts produced during the 1940’s as well.

During Collyer’s long run as Superman, he sometimes would take a few days vacation. So that was the excuse to create the element “Kryptonite” which would put Superman in a weakened state. This would give Collyer a few days to rest and relax from the daily grind of putting together a show before transcription was allowed.

The serial came to radio as a syndicated show on New York City’s WOR on February 12, 1940. On Mutual, it was broadcast from August 31, 1942, to February 4, 1949, as a 15-minute serial, running three or, usually, five times a week. From February 7 to June 24, 1949 it ran as a thrice-weekly half-hour show.

The series shifted to ABC Saturday evenings on October 29, 1949, and then returned to afternoons, twice-a-week on June 5, 1950, continuing on ABC until March 1, 1951. In all, 2088 original episodes of The Adventures of Superman were aired on American radio.

Many of the features of the Superman mythos in the comics we know today actually originated in the radio drama. The characters Perry White and Jimmy Olson both originated in the radio drama, not the comic book. The Daily Planet also came from the radio serial, as did the notion of Kryptonite – a narrative device created to allow Bud Collyer a few days off for a badly needed vacation.

Of these, 936 were not recorded or are lost to providence. The remaining 1,152 were recorded on what were called “transcription records”, which were nothing more than 78 RPM records. These were duplicated and shipped by mail around the country to affiliate radio stations all over the country. That’s why the show identifies itself as a “transcription feature” in the episodes, and it’s the reason Krypton Radio was able to acquire its complete collection of surviving recordings.

You can hear original episodes of The Adventures of Superman, presented in their original broadcast order, right here on Krypton Radio every single day at 5 am EST / 2 am PST / 10 am GMT and 9 pm EST / 6 pm EST / 2 am GMT.

Tune in and thrill to the immortal words: Up, up – and away!

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