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Radio / The Adventures of Superman

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

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!"

Yes, it's Superman, strange visitor from the planet Krypton who came to Earth with amazing physical powers far beyond those of mortal men. And who disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, wages a never-ending battle for truth and justice!
Opening Narration provided by Jackson Beck

The Adventures of Superman was composed 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. In fact, when Collyer wanted a vacation during the series' run, Batman and Robin would occasionally be featured in some episodes.

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

The series' most famous story, "Clan of the Fiery Cross," is loosely adapted for the Superman comic, Superman Smashes the Klan.

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.
  • Bad Liar: It's something of a Running Gag that Clark can't lie to save his life.
    Clark: If [Villain of the Week] gets the kryptonite, then I...I mean Superman will be powerless to stop him!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In "The Story of Marina Baum", a bully tells Jimmy's new girlfriend Marina (who escaped from a Nazi-occupied Poland) that America doesn't want her. Jimmy fights the guy, ending with Jimmy getting a black eye and the bully ending up in the hospital.
  • 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:
    • Superman's ability to fly. While the Fleischer brothers may have brought the visual image of Superman flying to life with their cartoons, the power originated here, accompanied by "whoosing" sound effects.
    • Jimmy Olsen... sort of. A prototypical Jimmy had appeared in the comics as a background character before, but the radio show established his name and most of his actual character traits, thus leading him to his eventual prominence in future incarnations.
    • 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.
  • Catchphrase
    • "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.
  • Cracks in the Icy Façade: Perry White, is the boss of Superman's alter ago Clark Kent. He is shown to be uptight towards his employees, complaining about how he has to keep them in line all the time, is very snappy and short with his entire staff and is especially rude to Jimmy, his least favorite employee. However, he is seen telling Jimmy a million times to not call him chief, even though he seemingly fine when everyone else does it and even helped to comfort him when he calls him over a nightmare.
  • Crossover: Batman and Robin appear in many episodes.note 
  • 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.
  • The Dragon: Will Jennings to Matt Riggs in the Clan of the Fiery Cross arc. He's essentially Riggs' lieutenant and was set to be given a job as Metropolis' official city bacteriologist by the previous mayor despite being unqualified for it, which is why it went to Dr. Lee under the current mayor.
  • Early Adaptation Weirdness:
    • 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/Silver Age status quo of being a quivering coward so people don't suspect him of being Superman.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Chuck Riggs in the Clan of the Fiery Cross arc feuds with Tommy Lee because Tommy ended up taking his position as pitcher on their baseball team and antagonizes Tommy to the point that Jimmy Olson cuts him from the team entirely. This later comes up in conversation with his uncle Matt, who turns out to be the leader of the Metropolis chapter of the Clan and uses this as pretense to rile up the Clan into attacking the Lee family. Chuck is almost instantly horrified by what he unintentionally brought on the Lees and tries to do right by them for the rest of the arc, becoming a key factor in the eventual arrest of the Clan.
    • By the end of the arc, when their Action Committee has been captured by Superman and then arrested, all but one of the other Clan members refuse to help Matt any further in favor of cutting town to evade the law, some of them outright stating that they were fine with Cold-Blooded Torture but draw the line at murder.
  • Expanded Universe: One of the first examples in comics.
  • 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 unforeseen 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.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: "Clan of the Fiery Cross" sees a boy named Chuck Riggs manipulated by his uncle Matthew into claiming a boy named Tommy Lee intentionally assaulted him at a meeting of the titular clan. To his horror this leads to the Clan trying to frighten Tommy's family out of Metropolis, and later attempts to tar and feather him, something Chuck knows could be fatal.
  • 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.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: As the Big Bad of the Clan of the Fiery Cross arc discovers, most of the Clansmen aren't interested in hurting innocents when there's actually a danger of getting caught. Once a list of Clan members ends up in police hands, the racists quickly cut off all ties with the organization, leaving Matt Riggs to his Villainous Breakdown.
  • 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) can be read on the top of this page.
  • 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 Imperial Mogul 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." He just saw running the Clan as a business that dealt in "one of the oldest and most profitable commodities on Earth, hate" and the members of the Clan were nothing more than suckers to wring money out of.
  • Stupid Evil: "The Clan of the Fiery Cross." The Grand Scorpion Matt Riggs finds the Clan getting bad press from Perry White and threatens him, then tries to kill him and Jimmy when they see his face. After Superman apprehends a number of Clan members, Riggs flees to meet with his boss, the Imperial Grand Mogul, to enlist his aid. The Mogul tells him that going after someone important like Perry White was a mistake because all the attention will hurt the Clan's profits. After killing his boss, Matt tries to gather help to kill his nephew Chuck, Jimmy and Perry to keep them from testifying against the Clan, even though going after them is what got Superman involved. Since he's already gotten members of the Clan arrested and testifying against its other members, none of his associates want anything to do with him. Despite that, he still swears to kill Jimmy and Perry. When he finds he can't break into Jimmy's house with the police guarding it, he initially plans to shoot him when he walks out, even with the police watching, only dropping the plan because he decides to target them at a baseball game instead, even though the police are still guarding his targets.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Comanche Joe ends up dead before the sequel to his original story runs.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Several examples from "The Clan of the Fiery Cross":
    • Matt Riggs tries to kill Jimmy Olsen and Perry White for speaking out against the Clan. After Superman rescues them and apprehends all the Clan members present besides Matt, none of them want anything to do with Matt since he's made himself and the Clan targets for the police. When he does manage to find a member who will help, he almost runs away when Matt proposes a plan to shoot Jimmy right in front of the police.
    • The titular villains like to subject their victims to Tar and Feathers. This is noted to be very dangerous, as the tar is stated to be extremely hot, and one of the intended victims is only a boy and might die from it.
    • Matt Rigs tries to snipe three targets at a baseball game. He has to get all three targets in quick succession since people will be alerted to his presence if he tries to pick them off individually, and quickly finds that getting three quick, clear shots at a baseball game is anything but easy. By the time he gets the first shot off, Superman realizes what is going on and thwarts his attempt.
  • Take Care of the Kids: In this version of The DCUnote , Robin's father asked Bruce Wayne to take care of his son.
  • Take That!: The Clan of the Fiery Cross is one long jab at the Ku Klux Klan, using a thinly veiled pastiche to mock the KKK for its illegal activities, while deriding them as cowards and repeatedly comparing them to the Nazis.
  • Tar and Feathers: In "The Clan of the Fiery Cross", the Clan attempts to tar and feather a child. The series does not present this as harmless and notes that the hot tar could kill the victim. Truth in Television as tarring and feathering someone is not harmless.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Much like in contemporary comic book and cartoon appearances, both Fifth Columnists and Nazi stormtroops were fair and common game for Superman during World War II.
  • 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.