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June 20, 2008


Pat Curley

Yeah, that second part of the origin always seemed a little silly to me. On the bright side, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen both got their start on the radio show, as did Kryptonite and Superman/Batman teamups.

A few years later, the radio show redid the origin, this time correctly having Clark brought up by the Kents. Unfortunately, it was Eben (short for Ebeneezer I assume) and Martha Kent. I seem to recall that the TV show kept that name for Pa Kent as well.

Unfortunately, the radio show never paid any attention to the comics after the show started, so there are no Luthor stories, no Mr Mxyztplk, no Prankster or Toyman or Wolfingham tales. In fact, no character who was first introduced in the comics after the radio show started was ever included in a Superman radio show, with one notable exception. Care to guess?

Mark Engblom

The Galactic Golem?

Just kidding. I have no idea...so don't leave us in suspense!

That's astonishing to me that Luthor was never included in a radio story. So many of the evil genius/masterminds Superman went up against on the radio show fit Luthor's M.O. perfectly....so go figure.

Good to hear they got the origin right a few years later. Having never heard the episode featuring the Kents, I'm guessing they probably used the standard "cornpone dialect" so many creators attach to the Kents (even today). Exclamations like "Jumpin' Jehosephat" or "Land 'O Goshen" might sound right to "city slickers", but most midwesterners haven't spoken like that since the late 1800's.


Same goes for the TV show as well--not a comic book supervillain to be found. I think one of the movie serials may have featured Luthor, but I'm not certain, as I've never seen them.

Mark Engblom

"Same goes for the TV show as well--not a comic book supervillain to be found. I think one of the movie serials may have featured Luthor, but I'm not certain, as I've never seen them."

See, that's another thing that boggles my mind. All those Superman TV episodes and not a SINGLE comic book supervillain. I mean, at the time, they were all essentially guys wearing regular suits (Luthor, Prankster, Toyman)...so it's not like outfitting them would have busted their $1.50 special effects budget. Even stranger was the apparent involvement of several DC Comics officials, who you'd think would have had a keen interest in featuring few of their villains on the TV show.

It's stuff like this that you realize the vast gulf between today and fifty-five years ago when it comes to marketing and promotion.

Yes, you're correct...the "Superman vs. Atom Man" movie serial featured Luthor as the villain...a guy who really looked the part of that era's older and somewhat chubby Luthor.

Pat Curley

Probably the closest they came to "Luthor" was the "Yellow Mask" who appeared in several Superman stories and was even mentioned in advertising for the radio show that appeared in the comics.

I don't know if the Kents were portrayed as rubes in the revised origin tale; that episode is known of but I don't think a recording exists (a lot of the shows broadcast during World War II are missing, unfortunately).

The only character who appeared first in the comics after the beginning of the radio show who made it on the air? Alfred, Bruce Wayne's loyal butler. (Robin was close). Batman and Robin subbed for Superman to give Bud Collyer an occasional vacation in the postwar episodes and Alfred often appeared in those stories.

BTW, if you get a chance look around for the episodes from the immediate postwar era. Superman started taking on hatred and prejudice in stories like "Clan of the Fiery Cross" that were way ahead of their time. This is also where Superman began fighting his neverending battle for "Truth, justice and the American Way." Originally he fought for "Truth and justice". Many people assume that the American Way bit was a bit of anti-communist jingoism (Michael Chabon said it in so many words on a history channel special on superheroes), but actually it's a quite noble sentiment that Supes explained meant that all of us, white, black, yellow or red, we are all Americans. Which may explain why Norman Lear, not exactly known for his jingoism, chose People for the American Way as the name of his political group.

It was a terrific and influential series of radio broadcasts, although not surprisingly, they overdid it by repetition, with Superman also facing the "Knights of the White Carnation" and the "Hate-Mongers Organization". But it was definitely a moment in time when Superman was far ahead of the rest of pop culture in tackling a major social illness.

ShadowWing Tronix

Except for the movies, no live action version of Superman ever used the classic rouges gallery (except for Smallville, and that show's wasted potential) except for Luthor, Metallo, and a poor imitation of Mxyzpytlik. And Metallo costumes were always terrible, much like the character itself. Now Animated Metallo brought the pain. He's become my standard when it comes to comic to live/toon transition. (Granted I know little about comic Metallo.)

And except for Superboy and Smallville, Supes seldom fought anyone worth sicking Superman on. Wedding Destroyer, anyone? Two-bit gangsters? Phah. I caught some of the radio show online once, and it lost me in about two minutes. Maybe I just found the wrong ep or something.

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