You might have read the comics or seen Man of Steel on the big screen but what you might not have known is that Superman had his own radio serial. The Adventures of Superman ran from 1940 to 1951, first on WOR before being syndicated through Mutual and later ABC. Throughout the eleven year run there were over 2000 episodes.
Throughout the life of the program Kellogg’s sponsored the program with their Pep Cereal, a cereal now discontinued. Kelloggs’ sponsorship of the program continued even after the Klu Klux Klan denounced the brand due to an episode that showed the racist organisation in a bad light (more below).
The Adventures of Superman radio serial was built up many elements of Superman lore that were then later incorporated into the comic book. Characters like Jimmy Olsen and Perry White were first introduced on radio before their debut in comics. Kryptonite, Superman’s most famous weakness, was also introduced in the radio serial years before it was ever in the comics. Even the famous “Faster than an airplane, more powerful than a locomotive, impervious to bullets! Up in the sky—look! It’s a giant bird! It’s a plane! It’s SUPERMAN!” was written for radio. If it were not for Adventures of Superman many of these aspects of Superman that we take for granted may never have existed.
The style of story is very much of its time and mostly included Superman fighting criminals, super powered beings and supernatural being although throughout the life of the series there were episodes that tackled discrimination and racism. If you are a fan or curious of old time radio then The Adventures of Superman will be right up your alley.
Some notable stories include…
The Baby from Krypton
The debut episode of Adventures of Superman, this episode tells the story of the destruction of Krypton.
Clan of the Fiery Cross
Superman takes on the Klu Klux Klan. This episode was inspired by Stetson Kennedy who had infiltrated the racist organisation in order to find their secrets. Stetson after find out many of their passwords and secrets pitched a story about Superman taking on the KKK. The producers who were always looking for new villains accepted and were provided with all the secrets. The episode had the intended negative effect on the KKK and it is said that recruitment to the organisation slowed significantly.
The Mystery of the Waxmen
The first in a handful of episodes guest starring Batman and Robin.
The Atom Man
Superman faces off with a many that has liquefied Kryptonite in his veins. The story is large in scale and it sets up plot threads for the next year of stories.
Superman takes on religious intolerance. Superman is quoted in saying “Remember this as long as you live: Whenever you meet up with anyone who is trying to cause trouble between people—anyone who tries to tell you that a man can’t be a good citizen because of his religious beliefs—you can be sure that troublemaker is a rotten citizen himself and an inhuman being. Don’t ever forget that!” It was revolutionary at the time as most family entertainment at the time did not have a social consciousness.
If The Adventures of Superman sounds like something you might be interested in then below are playlists containing the majority of the episodes. Special thanks to the Internet Archive for hosting the audio.
Skip the first few tracks as they are auditions for the show that were aired in the late 30’s. I highly suggest starting with “The Baby from Krypton.”