Radio / The Adventures of Superman

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Disguised as Bud Collyer, mild-mannered game show host.

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

The Adventures of Superman was comprised of five different radio series which ran consecutively from 1940-1951, all produced by Robert J. Maxwell. Most of the episodes starred Clayton 'Bud' Collyer as Superman, Joan Alexander as Lois Lane, Julian Noa as Perry White and Jackie Kelk as Jimmy Olsen. Aired for the majority of its run on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

The originator for many longstanding pieces of Superman lore, from the name of the newspaper Clark works for to the members of his cast and even extending as far as his iconic flight and weaknesses. Notable for the first meeting of Superman and Batman.

Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander reprised their respective roles of Superman and Lois for the Superman Theatrical Cartoons and The New Adventures of Superman.

This show provides examples of:

  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: The introductory narrator in the very early installments announced the show as "the transcription feature, Super... MAN", which seemed to somewhat bury the lede when it came to the character. Everybody else on the show pronounced it the standard way, and within a year the error had been fixed.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Guardians of America, the Knights of the White Carnation, 'Uncle' Ed Clayton and his men... After the war, such enemies often sprang up to oppress people on religious or racial grounds.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Superman spoke directly to the audience on occasions in place of the sponsor ads, usually around Christmas or Thanksgiving.
  • Break the Haughty: In a rare case of With Friends Like These..., the Daily Planet crew once decided to take Clark down a few pegs by coming up with a totally unsolvable mystery, leading him to believe he was having a psychotic breakdown. Their reasoning: They thought he was getting a little full of himself after solving every previous mystery they'd run across.
  • Canon Immigrant: A number of characters, and ideas (plus the name of the newspaper where Clark and Lois worked, as well as their boss) were actually invented for this radio show, but later appeared in the comics, including:
    • Jimmy Olsen.
    • Kryptonite. Not created to give Collyer a vacation, despite the myth.
    • Inspector Henderson, who followed in Jimmy's footsteps and became a Canon Immigrant as well.
    • The names "Daily Planet" (for Clark and Lois' newspaper) and "Perry White" (for its editor).
  • The Cape: Superman, naturally. Batman and Robin as well, in contrast to their modern comic counterparts.
  • Catch-Phrase
    • "Up, up and away!" sometimes paired with "Down... Down!" as he lands.
    • "This looks like a job... for Superman!"
    • "Great Caesar's ghost!"
  • The Chessmaster: Many of the overarching villains.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Perry White's wife, Alice, vanishes sometime during the episode gap. When the episodes come back, he's living with a fat rhyming alien.
  • Clark Kenting: Bud Collyer shifted vocal registers to differentiate between Clark and Superman. Justified since, because it was a radio show, it was the only way for the listeners to tell them apart.
  • Costume Copycat: Happens at least twice. Once to Superman and once to Robin. Both times lead to the heroes Confronting Your Imposter, though Superman's imposter was merely being duped while Robin's was being blackmailed.
  • Counter-Earth: Krypton is said to be this.
  • Cowboys and Indians: Legend has it that this trope was ingeniously invoked to discredit the Ku Klux Klan. A journalist who'd infiltrated the KKK gave details of secret meetings, passwords, titles etc. to the show's writers to use in a Supes vs. the KKK storyline. Soon enough, there were kids running around neighborhoods all over America dressed in pillowcases, being beaten up by their friend with the Superman pyjamas. The truth of all this is uncertain but there was such a storyline on the show, which Stetson Kennedy claimed responsibility for in his book I Rode With The Ku Klux Klan.
  • The Cowl: In a bit of Early Installment Weirdness, for the first two years of the show Superman acted as this. Sticking to the shadows, rarely revealing himself, swearing the people he rescues to secrecy, sometimes bullying people into keeping his existence a secret, using fear to keep criminals in line... Eventually he turns into The Cape that we all know and love, but it's an interesting twist at first.
  • Crossover: Batman and Robin appear in many episodes.note 
  • Early Installment Weirdness: For the franchise as a whole.
    • Superman originally arrives on Earth as a fully grown man and is given the name Clark Kent and the idea of being a reporter by a scientist and his son that he rescues. This isn't changed until two years later in the story 'Superman Comes To Earth', where Clark Kent explains that Superman had been found and adopted by a kindly pair of farmers who died when he was young.
    • Superman doesn't just have a secret identity, but he wants the fact that Superman exists at all to be secret! At least for the first few hundred episodes. Jimmy is the only one who knows he exists, and as Clark Kent, Superman goes out of his way to dissuade people from believing in him, even ridiculing Lois Lane for it. It's unknown whether this was quietly phased out or not, as the episodes where he starts appearing are unavailable.
    • As part of the 'Secret Superman' conceit, Clark Kent is free to be as brave as he wants, turning him into a figure of terror for members of organized crime in the early days. However, once the gap in the missing episodes is closed, Kent is back to the Golden/Silverage status quo of being a quivering coward so people don't suspect him of being Superman.
  • Da Editor: Perry White of the Daily Planet. Best known in the radio show for being impossible to intimidate; he would often berate criminals and villains who had him in their power without the slightest regard for his own safety.
  • Expanded Universe: One of the first examples in comics.
  • Five-Man Band: The Daily Planet crew.
    • The Leader: Clark Kent/Superman. Most often comes up with the plan of action.
    • The Lancer: Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen share this most of the time.
    • The Smart Guy: Usually Clark, but any member of the crew can be this.
    • The Big Guy: Perry White. Not in a physical sense, though he tries, but his connections to authority.
    • The Chick: When she's not being the Lancer, Lois is this.
    • The Load: Poco. Or Beany Martin, the Daily Planet copy boy.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: One story revolves around a device that can receive sound from any past event. It isn't destroyed at the end, and the inventor helps Superman in the next story by using it. After that, it is never mentioned again, even when it might have been useful.
  • For Great Justice: As stated in the Opening Narration.
  • Guile Hero: Clark Kent, of all people, proving that Good Is Not Dumb. When faced with the Machiavellian plans of his enemies, Clark relies on psychology and trickery as much as brute force to solve his problems. His plans don't always work, in fact they often fail due to an unforseen circumstance, but he succeeds often enough that Batman, Perry White, and Inspector Henderson often give his plans the benefit of the doubt.
  • Heel–Face Turn: If there is a young character working for the villains, they'll invariably see the error of their ways by the end of the storyline.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Everyone who worked for the Daily Planet.
  • The Klan: Thinly disguised as The Clan of the Fiery Cross.
  • Lost Will And Testament: Features in a few stories.
  • Non-Indicative First Episode: The first episode is entirely about the destruction of Krypton.
  • Opening Narration: It varied over the years, but the most familiar version (since it was heavily borrowed from in subsequent adaptations) starts with the page quote and continues:
    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!
  • Poor Communication Kills: Often used to pad out the plot.
  • Power Makes Your Voice Deep: Collyer's Superman voice was deeper than his voice for Clark.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Tumbleweed Jones is known for making some fantastic fudge.
  • Secret Chaser: In stark contrast to the comics, Lois is NOT this. She's convinced of it in one episode by a detective, but when Superman figures out their scheme and causes it to go horribly wrong, Lois is so horrified by the danger they put Clark in that she instantly turns on the detective and never thinks to connect the Kent with Superman again.
  • Secret Keeper: Jimmy Olsen acts as one for Superman in the early days, hiding his very existence! Once Superman's existence is public, Batman picks up this role as the only man who knows that Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same.
  • Straw Hypocrite: In "The Clan of the Fiery Cross", the Grand Scorpion is shown, near the end of the serial, to be one of these. In his own words, "Don't tell me you actually believe that 'pure American' hogwash! Riggs, I thought you were smarter than that."
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Comanche Joe ends up dead before the sequel to his original story runs.
  • Take Care of the Kids: In this version of The DCUnote , Robin's father asked Bruce Wayne to take care of his son.
  • Tar and Feathers: In "The Clan of the Fiery Cross", the Clan attempts to tar and feather a child.
  • Those Wacky Nazis
  • Trope Codifier: For the Flying Brick. While the animated Fleischer Studios films are often erroneously given credit for Superman's flight, it actually originated in the radio show. Funnily enough, he missed being the Ur-Example by less than five months. Superman was flying in February of 1940, while the Sub-Mariner took flight in October of 1939.
  • The Watson: Jimmy was created so Superman could have someone to discuss the plot with.
  • Weather-Control Machine:
    • One of these was made by Lois Lane's uncle. He decided that The World Is Not Ready after criminals use the device to create storms so they can loot.
    • In a post-war story, criminals cause a drought using a slightly more plausible method of cloud-seeding. Neither Clark nor Lois seems to remember the earlier machine.

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