The Adventures of Superman (radio)

The Adventures of Superman (radio)
The Adventures of Superman

National (DC) Comics Publisher Harry Donenfeld (left) with Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander
Other names "Superman"
Genre Serial, Drama
Running time 15 min, 30 min
Country USA
Languages English
Home station WOR
Syndicates MBS, ABC
Starring Bud Collyer,
Joan Alexander
Announcer Jackson Beck
Recording studio New York
Air dates February 12, 1940 to March 1, 1951
Sponsor(s) Kellogg's Pep Cereal
Podcast Stream from

The Adventures of Superman was a long running radio serial that originally aired from 1940 to 1951, adapted from the DC Comics character. (See Superman).

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.



Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Man of Tomorrow first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938. The following year, the newspaper comic strip began and four audition radio programs were prepared to sell Superman as a radio series. When Superman was first heard on radio less than two years after the comic book appearance, the character took on an added dimension with Bud Collyer in the title role. During World War II and the post-war years, the juvenile adventure radio serial, sponsored by Kellogg's Pep, was a huge success, with many listeners following the quest for "truth and justice" in the daily radio broadcasts, the comic book stories and the newspaper comic strip. Airing in the late afternoon (variously at 5:15pm, 5:30pm and 5:45pm), the radio serial engaged its young after-school audience with its exciting and distinctive opening, which changed slightly as the series progressed. Most familiar is the television opening, but the most oft heard radio opening through the mid-1940s was:

"Presenting the transcription feature, Superman." (followed by Superman's "flying" audio effect). Then,

Up in the sky! Look!
It's a bird!
It's a plane!
It's Superman!

"Yes, it's Superman--strange visitor from the planet Krypton who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, race a speeding bullet to its target, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice."

By September 5, 1945, the opening, (repeated at the close), had morphed into: "Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.'
Look! Up in the sky!
It's a bird!
It's a plane!
It's Superman!"

Jackson Beck

Announcer Jackson Beck

That well known signature opening, one of the most famous in radio history, was delivered by Jackson Beck, the announcer-narrator for the program from 1943 to 1950. He also had recurring roles, voicing an occasional tough guy and also portraying Beany Martin, the Daily Planet's teenage copy boy. On Superman episodes featuring Batman, he played Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Decades later, Beck portrayed Perry White, Clark Kent's boss, in Filmation's The New Adventures of Superman animated series (1966–70) in addition to serving as the show's narrator.[1]

Bud Collyer

Just as Superman's true identity remained a secret, the identity of radio actor Collyer also remained a secret from 1940 until 1946, when the character of Superman was used in a promotional campaign for racial and religious tolerance and Collyer did a Time magazine interview about that campaign.

Since there were no reruns at that time, the series often used plot devices and plot twists to allow Collyer to have vacation time. Kryptonite allowed Superman to be incapacitated and incoherent with pain while the secondary characters took the focus instead. At other times, Batman (Stacy Harris) and Robin (Ronald Liss) appeared on the program in Superman's absence.

The scripts by B.P. Freeman and Jack Johnstone were directed by Robert and Jessica Maxwell, George Lowther, Allen Ducovny and Mitchell Grayson. Sound effects were created by Jack Keane, Al Binnie, Keene Crockett and John Glennon.

Many aspects associated with Superman, such as kryptonite, originated on radio, as did certain characters, including Daily Planet editor Perry White, copy boy Jimmy Olsen and police inspector Bill Henderson.[2] On March 2, 1945, Superman met Batman and Robin for the first time.

Paramount's animated Superman short films used voices by the radio actors, and Columbia's Superman movie serials (1948, 1950) were "adapted from the Superman radio program broadcast on the Mutual Network".[3]

In Australia, Superman was portrayed on radio by Leonard Teale (1922–1994).

“Clan of the Fiery Cross”

The series delivered a powerful blow against the Ku Klux Klan's prospects in the northern USA. The human rights activist Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the KKK and other racist/terrorist groups. Concerned that the organization had links to the government and police forces, Kennedy decided to use his findings to strike at the Klan in a different way. He contacted the Superman producers and proposed a story where the superhero battles the Klan. Looking for new villains, the producers eagerly agreed. To that end, he provided information—including secret codewords and details of Klan rituals—to the writers. The result was a series of episodes, “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” in which Superman took on the Klan. Kennedy intended to strip away the Klan's mystique. The trivialization of the Klan's rituals and codewords was perceived to have had a negative impact on Klan recruiting and membership.[4]

Reportedly, Klan leaders denounced the show and called for a boycott of Kellogg's products. However, the story arc earned spectacular ratings, and the food company stood by its support of the show.

The amount of inside information about the KKK that was revealed on the show appears exaggerated. A review[who?] of all 16 episodes of the "Clan of the Fiery Cross" storyline reveals that no passwords were revealed on the air and only one ritual was portrayed.


The syndicated series, titled simply Superman, first aired via pre-recorded transcription disks over 11 stations beginning on February 12, 1940, with an origin story, "The Baby from Krypton". The series aired in 15-minute episodes three times a week until May 9, 1941, with the conclusion of the "Nitrate Shipment" storyline. By that time, it had expanded to 63 stations.[5]

The first 19 episodes had individual titles that told one overall story:

  • "The Baby from Krypton" (Feb 12, 1940)
  • "Clark Kent, Reporter" (Feb 14, 1940)
  • "Keno's Landslide" (Feb 16, 1940)
  • "Kent Captured by the Wolfe" (Feb 19, 1940)
  • "Locomotive Crew Freed" (Feb 21, 1940)
  • "The Silver Clipper" (Feb 23, 1940)
  • "The Atomic Beam Machine" (Feb 26, 1940)
  • "Fuel" (Feb 28, 1940)
  • "Threat to the Planet Building" (March 1, 1940)
  • "Fire in the Sterling Building" (March 4, 1940)
  • "The Stabbing of June Anderson" (March 6, 1940)
  • "North Star Mining Company" (March 8, 1940)
  • "The Steamship Madison" (March 11, 1940)
  • "Plane to Canyon City" (March 13, 1940)
  • "Left to be Killed" (March 15, 1940)
  • "The Prison Riot" (March 18, 1940)
  • "The Steam Plant" (March 20, 1940)
  • "The Wolf vs the Yellow Mask" (March 22, 1940)
  • "The Yellow Mask Escapes" (March 25, 1940)

The series then moved to multi-part cliffhanger stories, beginning with "The Mystery of Dyerville". Some stories spanned just a few episodes; others, like "The Last of the Clipper Ships", went on for up to 20 parts.

  • "The Mystery of Dyerville" (March 1940)
  • "The Emerald of the Incas" (April 1940)
  • "Donelli's Protection Racket" (April 1940)
  • "Airplane Disasters at Bridger Field" (April - May 1940)
  • "Buffalo Heights" (May 1940)
  • "Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer" (May - June 1940)
  • "Horace Morton's Weather Machine" (June 1940)
  • "Hans Holbein's Doll Factory" (June - July 1940)
  • "Happyland Amusement Park" (July 1940)
  • "Lighthouse Point Smugglers" (July - August 1940)
  • "Pillar of Fire at Graves' End" (August 1940)
  • "The Mayan Treasure" (August 1940)
  • "Professor Thorpe's Bathysphere" (August - September 1940)
  • "The Curse of Dead Man's Island (September - October 1940)
  • "The Yellow Mask and the 5 Million Dollar Jewel Robbery" (October - November 1940)
  • "The Invisible Man" (November 1940)
  • "The 5 Million Dollar Gold Heist" (November - December 1940)
  • "The Howling Coyote" (December 1940 - January 1941)
  • "The Black Pearl of Osiris" (January - February 1941)
  • "The Dragon's Teeth" (February - March 1941)
  • "Last of the Clipper Ships" (March - April 1941)
  • "The Nitrate Shipment" (April - May 1941)

Beginning August 25, 1941, a second series of transcriptions designed to air five days per week (although many stations continued the previous three-per-week schedule) aired. These concluded after 26 weeks with the final installment of "A Mystery for Superman" airing on February 20, 1942:

  • "The Grayson Submarine" (August 1941)
  • "Dr. Deutsch and the Radium Mine" (September 1941)
  • "The White Plague" (September 1941)
  • "Fur Smuggling" (September - October 1941)
  • "Dr. Roebling and the Voice Machine" (October 1941)
  • "Metropolis Football Team Poisoned" (October - November 1941)
  • "Crooked Oil Association" (November - December 1941)
  • "The Silver Arrow" (December 1941)
  • "The Pan-Am Highway" (December 1941 - January 1942)
  • "The Mechanical Man" (January 1942)
  • "Lita the Leopard Woman" (January - February 1942)
  • "The Ghost Car" (February 1942)
  • "A Mystery for Superman" (February 1942)

By the time the syndicated series ceased production, it was airing in 85 North American markets. In June, the Mutual Network discovered it would be losing its #1 juvenile show, "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy" to NBC's Blue Network at the end of August. To counter, MBS decided to revive the show, now officially titled The Adventures of Superman, on August 31, 1942.[6] The new series aired live, five days a week. The revival began with two individual episodes, and then returned to the cliffhanger serial format.

The stories were of varying lengths—some stories were only five parts, while others could go into the dozens. Some of the longer stories include "Looking for Kryptonite" (25 episodes), "The Hate Mongers' Organization" (25 episodes) and "Superman vs Kryptonite" (33 episodes).

  • "Superman Comes to Earth" (August 31, 1942)
  • "Eben Kent Dies in Fire, Clark Goes to Metropolis" (September 1, 1942)
  • "The Wolfe" (September 1942)
  • "The Tiny Men" (September 1942)
  • "Mystery in Arabia" (September - October 1942)
  • "The Black Narcissus" (October 1942)
  • "The Headless Indian" (October - November 1942)
  • "The Midnight Intruder" (November - December 1942)
  • "The Lost Continent of Atlantis" (December 1942)
  • "The Mystery Ship" (December 1942)
  • "The Tin Men" (January 1943)
  • "Trouble in Athabascus" (January - February 1943)
  • "The Island of Ghost Ships" (February 1943)
  • "The Model Plane Mystery" (February - March 1943)
  • "Dr. Cameron's Helicopter" (March 1943)
  • "The Vulture and the Thunderbolt Express" (March - April 1943)
  • "The Bainbridge Disaster" (April 1943)
  • "Master of the Dream World" (April - May 1943)
  • "The Ghost Squadron" (May - June 1943)
  • "The Meteor from Krypton" (June 1943)
  • "Society of the Flamingo" (June - July 1943)
  • "Mr. Prim and the Dragonfly Adventure" (July 1943)
  • "The Genie in the Bottle" (July - August 1943)
  • "The World of the Future" (August 1943)
  • "The Civil Air Patrol" (August - September 1943)
  • "Penrose Salvage Company" (September 1943)
  • "The Mystery of the Death Plane" (September 1943)
  • "Adventures in the Capitol City" (September - October 1943)
  • "The Nazi Spy Ring" (October 1943)
  • "The Mystery of Prince Philip" (October - November 1943)
  • "Military Espionage" (November - December 1943)
  • "Stolen War Information" (December 1943 - January 1944)
  • "Lois and Jimmy Disappear" (January 1944)
  • "The Green Death" (January 1944)
  • "The Mystery of the $100,000 Stamp" (January - February 1944)
  • "The Mystery of the Transport Plane" (February 1944)
  • "Lighthouse Point" (February - March 1944)
  • "The Rocket Plane" (March 1944)
  • "The Mystery of Clifftown" (March 1944)
  • "The Golden Homing Pigeon" (March - April 1944)
  • "The Mystery of Desert Springs and the Birdmen" (April - May 1944)
  • "The Hurdy-Gurdy Man" (May - June 1944)
  • "The North Woods Story" (June 1944)
  • "The Seagull, North Pacific Adventure" (July 1944)
  • "The Mystery of the Aviation Freight Lines" (July 1944)
  • "The Society of the Crimson Robe" (July - August 1944)
  • "Ghosts of the Air" (August 1944)
  • "The Scorpion" (August - September 1944)
  • "Der Teufel's Atomic Pistol" (September 1944)
  • "The Mystery of the Mummy Case" (September - October 1944)
  • "Dr. Roebling and the Voice Machine" (October - November 1944)
  • "Planet Utopia" (November - December 1944)
  • "Lois' Phony Uncle John" (December 1944)
  • "The Missing Santa Claus" (December 1944)
  • "The Man in the Velvet Shoes" (December 1944 - January 1945)
  • "The Mystery of the Sleeping Beauty" (January - February 1945)
  • "The Space Shell" (February 1945)
  • "The Mystery of the Waxmen" (March 1945)
  • "The Mystery of the Golden Nail" (March 1945)
  • "The Ghost Car" (April 1945)
  • "The Boy King of Moravia" (April 1945)
  • "Lair of the Dragon" (May 1945)
  • "The Mystery of the Counterfeit Money" (May 1945)
  • "Valley of the Giants" (May - June 1945)
  • "The Desert Adventure" (June - July 1945)
  • "The Underseas Kingdom" (July - August 1945)
  • "The Flood" (August 1945)
  • "The Black Market" (August - September 1945)
  • "Dr. Blythe's Confidence Gang" (September 1945)
  • "The Meteor of Kryptonite" (September 1945)
  • "The Scarlet Window" (September - October 1945)
  • "The Atom Man" (October - November 1945)
  • "Atom Man in Metropolis" (November - December 1945)
  • "Looking for Kryptonite" (December 1945 - January 1946)
  • "The Talking Cat" (January 1946)
  • "Is There Another Superman?" (January - February 1946)
  • "The Radar Rocket" (February - March 1946)
  • "The Mystery of the Dragon's Teeth" (March 1946)
  • "The Story of the Century" (April 1946)
  • "The Hate Mongers' Organization" (April - May 1946)
  • "Al Vincent's Corrupt Political Machine" (May - June 1946)
  • "Clan of the Fiery Cross" (June - July 1946)
  • "Horatio F. Horn, Detective" (July 1946)
  • "The Secret Menace Strikes" (August 1946)
  • "Candy Meyer's Big Story" (August - September 1946)
  • "George Latimer, Crooked Political Boss" (September 1946)
  • "The Dead Voice" (September - October 1946)
  • "Counterfeit Money" (October - November 1946)
  • "The Disappearance of Clark Kent" (November 1946)
  • "The Secret Letter" (November - December 1946)
  • "The Phony Song Publishing Company" (December 1946)
  • "The Phony Housing Racket" (December 1946)
  • "The Phony Restaurant Racket" (December 1946 - January 1947)
  • "The Phony Inheritance Racket" (January 1947)
  • "Drought in Freeville" (January - February 1947)
  • "The Monkey Burglar" (February 1947)
  • "Knights of the White Carnation" (February - March 1947)
  • "The Man Without a Face" (March - April 1947)
  • "Mystery of the Lost Planet" (April 1947)
  • "The Phantom of the Sea" (April - May 1947)
  • "Superman vs.Kryptonite" (May - June 1947)
  • "The Secret Rocket" (September - October 1947)
  • "The Ruler of Darkness" (October - November 1947)
  • "Pennies for Plunder" (November - December 1947)
  • "Hunger Inc." (December 1947 - January 1948)
  • "Dead Man's Secret" (January - February 1948)
  • "Batman's Great Mystery" (February 1948)
  • "The Kingdom Under the Sea" (February - March 1948)
  • "The Mystery of the Stolen Costume" (March - April 1948)
  • "The Skin Game" (April 1948)
  • "The Crossword Puzzle Mystery" (April - May 1948)
  • "The Ghost Brigade" (May 1948)
  • "The Mystery of the Sleeping Beauty" (May - June 1948)
  • "The Secret of Meteor Island" (June - July 1948)
  • "The Voice of Doom" (July 1948)
  • "The Secret of the Genie" (August 1948)
  • "The Mystery of the Letter" (August 1948)
  • "The Mystery of the Silver Buffalo" (August - September 1948)
  • "The Secret of Stone Ridge" (September - October 1948)
  • "The Mystery of the Unknown" (October - November 1948)
  • "Murder Scores a Touchdown" (November 1948)
  • "The Riddle of the Mystery Message" (November - December 1948)
  • "The Vanishing Killers" (December 1948)
  • "Superman's Secret" (December 1948)
  • "The Return of the Octopus" (December 1948 - January 1949)
  • "The Mystery of the Spellbound Ships" (January - February 1949)

Beginning February 7, 1949, The Adventures of Superman episodes expanded to 30 minutes each. All were transcribed. Each episode had an individual story title, including:

  • "Mystery of the $10,000 Ghost" (March 4, 1949)
  • "Mystery of the Flying Monster" (March 7, 1949)
  • "Case of Double Trouble" (March 9, 1949)
  • "Mystery of the Walking Dead" (Oct 29, 1949)
  • "One Minute to Death" (Nov 19, 1949)
  • "Puzzle of the Poison Pomegranate" (Nov 26, 1949)
  • "Death Rides the Roller Coaster" (Dec 3, 1949)
  • "Diamond of Death" (Dec 17, 1949)

The series left MBS with the 60th half-hour show, "The Mystery of the Frozen Monster," on June 24, 1949. It returned as a mystery program targeted toward adults[7] on Saturday, October 29, 1949 at 8:30pm over the ABC network. ABC aired this adult-themed version for 13 weeks, concluding with "Dead Men Tell No Tales" on January 21, 1950. This broadcast marked the final radio appearance of Bud Collyer as Clark Kent/Superman.

On June 5, 1950, ABC revived The Adventures of Superman as a twice-weekly afternoon half-hour series. This version reused the scripts for the 60 MBS half-hour episodes and the 13 "adult" ABC episodes but with new cast members. Michael Fitzmaurice replaced Collyer as Kent/Superman, Jack Grimes replaced Jackie Kelk as Jimmy Olsen, and Ross Martin replaced Jackson Beck as narrator. A total of 78 episodes were produced, with the final broadcast, "The Mystery of the Prehistoric Monster," on March 1, 1951. By then, producer Robert Maxwell was actively preparing Adventures of Superman for television.


In the 1950s, an Australian version of the series had a different cast with Superman played by Leonard Teale.


  1. ^ Mclellan, Dennis. "Jackson Beck, 92; Radio, TV Voice Performer for 70 Years," Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2004.
  2. ^ DeForest, Tim. "Superman". Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics, and Radio: How Technology Changed Popular Fiction in America. McFarland. p. 169. ISBN 0786419024. 
  3. ^ Sooner Shadows OTR: Superman
  4. ^ "Up, Up and Awa-a-y!" by Thomas Whiteside, New Republic, issue of March 3, 1947, pp.15-17
  5. ^ "Up, Up and Awa-a-y! The Rise of Superman, Inc." by John Kobler, The Saturday Evening Post, June 21, 1941.
  6. ^ "Hi-Yo, Silver, Plated," Time, June 8, 1942
  7. ^ "Superman Program For Adult Audience," Winona (MN) Republican-Herald, October 28, 1949

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