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

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

Seventy-five years ago today, radio listeners first heard the excited, immortal words “Up in the sky! Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s now iconic creation had made his first appearance in 1938 in Action Comics #1. Within months Superman was already a regular in the funny pages of newspapers all over the country.

As his popularity grew, a radio series originally just entitled Superman, the long running serial The Adventures of Superman was created in 1940 with Superman as the starring character. It first aired on New York City’s WOR, and was syndicated on transcription disks to 11 other stations – a number that would increase significantly over the years.

Many of the original 2068 episodes were lost, as they were performed live, with no available technology to record them., however, does have an archive of over 1,150 of the episodes, which we play each day in original broadcast order. It is because of these transcription disks – little more sophisticated than a dictation machine – that we have recordings of these episodes today.

Many of the elements in the Superman mythos we take for granted today actually came from the radio show, not the comic books. Jimmy Olson, Kryptonite, Perry White, and the name of the newspaper he worked for, The Daily Planet, all came from the radio program.

Collyer and Joan Alexander, who played Lois Lane with the character’s introduction in the seventh episode, became so popular that they also lent their voices to the Fleischer animated shorts of the early 1940s, and reprised their roles in Filmation’s 1966-’70 animated series The New Adventures of Superman. The animated series also had as cast members the original announcer from the radio series, in addition to Jackson Beck as Perry White, and Jack Grimes, who voiced Jimmy Olsen in the last years of the radio show.

The Adventures of Superman finally came to an end on March 1, 1951, a little more than a year before George Reeves donned the iconic costume for television. In that time, the radio serial introduced such now-canonical elements as Perry White, the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen and kryptonite, which were later incorporated into the comics. It also featured the first team-up between Superman, Batman and Robin.

Want to relive the excitement of the original? Tune in to every day for a new episode, and you can hear Clayton “Bud” Collyer shift his voice an octave as he transformed from mild-mannered Clark Kent into Superman with the phrase, “This is a job for SUPERMAN!”

Consult our What’s On When page for showtimes in your area!

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