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Superman

 


 

 

Faster than a speeding bullet!

Sound of a bullet shot from a rifle and soaring through the air

More powerful than a locomotive!

Sounds of a loud racing train and its low pitched whistle

Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!

Sound of an exaggerated swoooooosh, rising higher and higher and continuing through the following comments.

 Excited first observer shouts
Look! Up in the sky!

 Excited second observer shouts
It's a bird!

Excited first observer answers
It's a plane!

Excited second observer answers
It's SUPERMAN!

A deafening pause follows until
The radio announcer says

And now, Superman

A being no larger than an ordinary man
But possessed of powers and abilities never before realized on Earth: Able to leap into the air an eighth of a mile at a single bound,
Hurtle a 20-story building with ease,
Race a high-powered bullet to its target,
Lift tremendous weights and rend solid steel in his bare hands
As though it were paper.

Superman—a strange visitor from a distant planet:
Champion of the oppressed,
Physical marvel extraordinary
Who has sworn to devote his existence on Earth
To helping those in need!


THIS POWERFUL INTRODUCTION WAS HEARD IN ENDLESS VARIATIONS OVER THE AIRWAVES and has become as much a part of the public's perception of Superman as his blue and red costume. However, the world-famous opening originated not in the four-color pages of the comic books where he was introduced in 1938, but on the long-running adventure radio serial that was one of the hallmarks of the Golden Age of Radio.
 


Click the arrow above to hear the first version of Superman's intro
as it was played in its second episode,
February 14, 1940.

 

Monday, February 12, 1940 marked Superman’s smooth landing onto the radio airwaves. The new series was developed by DC's press agent Allen Ducovny and Robert Joffe Maxwell, a former pulp fiction author who had been assigned the job of licensing the merchandising rights to DC's popular comic book character for toys and commercial products. The duo was quick to realize that the vast radio audience could be used to extend Superman's popularity.

Ten weeks after its debut, Superman achieved the highest rating of any thrice-weekly program on the air. The early episodes of Superman were produced by Frank Chase, scripted by George Ludlum, and featured a repertory of the finest actors in New York radio. However,

DC Comics Publisher Harry Donenfeld, "Bud" Collyer (Superman/Clark Kent), and Joan Alexander (Lois Lane)

the success, or failure, of the series would rest largely on the actor chosen to play  the dual leads

A reluctant Bud Collyer was persuaded to fill the role. He portrayed Clark Kent as a tenor and then dropped an octave in mid-sentence into Superman's deep baritone baritone as he proclained: "This looks like a job - FOR SUPERMAN."

His interpretation of Kent and Superman remain the standard for all who have played the two characters since.Collyer received no billing for the role and kept his super heroic alter-ego a secret from the listening public, - much as Superman concealed his dual identity as Clark Kent. Superman, Inc., the licensing arm of DC Comics, had wanted the true identity of radio's Man of Steel to remain a secret to encourage the belief that the real Superman was starring in the broadcasts. Although the super hero first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938, much of the mythology associated with Superman and many of the members of his supporting cast originated in his radio adventures. The characters of Daily Planet editor Perry White, copy boy Jimmy Olsen, and police inspector Bill Henderson were created for the radio series. The Man of Steel regularly teamed up with Batman and Robin on the airwaves before the trio joined forces in the pages of Superman and World's Finest.

The influence of the radio series extended to the big screen as well. Paramount's 1940s Academy Award-nominated Superman theatrical cartoons featured voices from the radio cast, and the screenplays of Columbia's 1948 and 1950 Superman movie serials were adapted from the Superman radio program rather than from the original comic-book stories.

In the comics the child from Krypton was discovered as an infant, after his interplanetary flight, and raised by an elderly couple. The radio version had the infant grow to manhood during his journey to Earth and emerge from his rocket ship as a full-grown adult. On the advice of the first Earthlings he meets, the strange visitor from another planet assumes the guise of Clark Kent and applies for a job at a metropolitan newspaper to better study the human race.

Like his comic book predecessor, the radio Superman traveled around the world and even into outer space in a never-ending battle against evil and injustice.

Radio listeners learned of kryptonite long before it appeared in Superman's comic books. "Superman for the first time in his life faces an enemy against which he is entirely powerless," proclaimed the series' narrator. "That enemy is a piece of the planet Krypton - kryptonite, it is called - which a few days ago struck the Earth in the form of a meteor. A full understanding of his danger came to Superman when he approached the kryptonite for the first time. As he came within five feet of the mass of metal, which glowed like a green diamond, he suddenly felt weak, as if all his strength had been drained from him."

Bud Collyer's decade-long tenure, more than 2,000 shows, as radio's Superman was the longest run of any star of a radio adventure serial. The syndicated transcription series ran three times a week from February 14, 1940 to March 9, 1942. The 15 minute Mutual serial ran five days a week through January 28, 1949, and then continued until June 17, 1949 as a thrice-weekly half-hour program. It originally was produced by the Network; and once proving its success, was taken over by Hecker H.O. Oats Company for a short time and then by Kellogg’s for the duration of its radio career.

Collyer played Superman and Clark Kent until Michael Fitzmaurice took over on June 5, 1950; Fitzmaurice played the role for 78 broadcasts of the final season.

Superman left the radio airwaves on March 1, 1951 but arrived on television screens the following year. Bob Maxwell, the co-creator of the radio program, produced the first season of the television series. Radio characters Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Inspector Henderson were prominently featured alongside Clark Kent and Lois Lane in the new media.

 

 



RADIO PREMIUMS

1. $25 War Bond, 1944, Kellogg's
Kids were invited to submit an essay telling what type of Superman story they liked best, or they could comment on previous themes in the shows (like imaginative, spy, or gangster stories) and could suggest new themes.


2. Cardboard Walky-Talky, (1945), Kellogg's, 2 PEP box tops and 10¢.
Often the premium was tied directly to a Superman episode as was the case of the walky-talky. One of the show's characters, Beany's brother Joe, had been recently discharged from the service and made a cardboard walky-talky for Jimmy Olson and Beany to play with. He said it looked just like the one he used during the war. The Kellogg's people wanted Superman's loyal listeners to have one, too; and offered a Kellogg's Walky-Talky for 2 PEP box tops and 10
¢.

The toy was almost a foot high, was colored in regular army color - probably olive green - and included a receiver/transmitter, an indicator dial, strap handle, two aerial sticks, and 48 feet of cord. With such a treasure kids could report on enemy activities, play games or even combine the cord and send messages across the street or from one house to the other.

Note: The walky-talky was one of the first premiums to be referred to as a "Kellogg's" rather than a "Superman" item. Kellogg's had to pay extra to use the hero's ID so it didn't always do so.


3. Rocket, (1940), The Hecker H.O. Oats Company. First radio sponsor from 1940-1942


4. Secret Compartment Ring with paper picture inside, (1940)
Guidelines are made to be broken so even though premiums in this feature are supposed to be restricted to those offered on the radio, the next two are not. They are included here to show what our treasures would be worth today if we'd heeded mom's words and took care of our things.

In 1940, Gum Inc. secured the rights to issue Superman Adventure Story cards in a one cent package which also contained the company’s bubble gum. For the promo a beautiful wrapper was designed which had a small coupon printed on the inside. When kids collected five of these wrappers they could send them along with ten cents for either a Superman ring or a Superman Badge.

It was general practice by companies back in the 1940s issuing premiums or promos to not actually order the giveaways until the offer's expiration date had elapsed. Then the company would add up the requests for items and order them. This was a way for a company back then to save money and not overbuy on cheap giveaways. In some cases, it took up to six months for kids to receive the premium they had ordered. The Superman gum program only met with moderate success and was discontinued the same year that it was started.

This ring is considered to be one of the rarest Superman collectibles, and there are only eight known rings in existence. All of them are held in private collections to date. These rings were made of tin with a gold-brass color finish. The inside secret compartment came with a Superman circle paper insert. Recent rankings and auctions have priced this ring from $17,000-$70,000 depending on condition.


5.  Auction Listing: Superman Ring, (1940)
This is the first ever Superman ring from 1940 awarded as a prize in a contest promoted in early issues of Superman and Action Comics. Only 1,600 rings were awarded, but it is possible a few others were used in candy and bread promotions.

The top center image of Superman breaking chains is surrounded by text “Supermen Of America/Member.” One side band has design of a planet with two lightning bolts on the opposite side.

 
 

6. Balsa Wood War Planes, (1942-1944), Free in Kellogg's PEP
Kellogg's was the first company to offer premiums, or gifts, inside their packages of cereal. Model planes, like the one below, were given away in boxes of PEP whole-wheat flakes. A paper envelope contained a small sheet of balsa wood on which the parts of the plane were printed. Directions for constructing them were also printed on the envelope along with a brief description of the plane itself. There were thirty different models.

 

1-16 "B" WARPLANE*

The plane had a speed of over 300 mph, a 1000 hp Wright Cyclone M-63 engine, 4 machine guns or 2 cannons in the wings plus 2 machine guns in the fuselage.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


7. Cardboard Model Planes, (1943-44), Free in Kellogg's Pep
Free colored cardboard model planes were included in every PEP cereal package. It was an effective way to hold kids' interest during WW II when the scarcity of metal and plastics limited premium production. This series featured forty different models.

 


8. Superman Belt and Buckle, (1945), One box top of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and 25¢


9. Comic Character Buttons, (1945 -1947), Free in Kellogg's Pep
Pictures of various comic book personalities on metal pinback buttons were found inside specially marked boxes of PEP cereal; they became known as "PEP Pins." This offer lasted for many months to allow kids to enhance their collections and, of course, buy more cereal.

Below is an example of the box with the front of the box showing an ad and pictures of the PEP pins, including one of Superman. The back features one of at least twelve Superman 8-panel comic strips and mentions the Superman radio program as well.

To the right of the box is picture of the penny-size Superman PEP button. There were at least ninety different character buttons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


10. Military Insignia & War Plane Buttons (1945-1947), Free in Kellogg's Pep

A series of military insignia and war plane metal pinback buttons also were offered over many months. There were at least forty-seven different buttons available, and one was included free with each package of PEP.

The insignia buttons were about 3/4" across and included the logo or drawing of actual military units such as the 232nd Marine Torpedo Bombing Squadron and the 402nd Bomb Squadron.

The war plane buttons were slightly larger at 1 1/4" across and featured drawings of WW II planes in flight.


11. Superman Crusader Ring, (1947), Kellogg's
The ring looked like it was solid silver and bore the embossed portrait of Superman and the words "Superman Crusader Ring." It was directly related to the 1946 "Unity House" episodes, in which Superman battles against racial and religious intolerance. A gang of young hoodlums tried to destroy an interfaith community house run by a rabbi and a Catholic priest; and, of course, they are foiled by Superman. In the final installment, Superman tells the gang members, "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!"

The show's plea for tolerance attracted the highest ratings in the history of the series and quickly rose to radio's Number One spot.  The plot line won endorsements from dozens of organizations including the National Conference on Christians and Jews, the American Newspaper Guild, the American Veteran's Committee, the United Parents Association, the Associated Negro Press, and the Boys Clubs of America.

After years of protecting his dual identity, Bud Collyer finally revealed his super-self and stepped into the media spotlight to proudly promote the "Unity House" values.

The successful plot led to follow-up story lines on juvenile delinquency and school absenteeism and indirectly promoted ownership of the Crusader ring: For those on the series who wore The Crusaders Ring were part of an elite team who worked for racial understanding and harmony.


 

 

 

 

 


 


12. Jet Plane Ring, (1948), Kellogg's Pep box top and 25¢
Kids were able to launch the ring right off their fingers with a simple touch on a secret trigger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


13. Parachute Rocket & Launcher, (1949), Extra Rockets, (1950), Kellogg's Sugar Pops, box top and 50¢
The red plastic Superman Flying Rocket came with a pump "Hydro-Jet" Launcher that propelled the rocket into the air. Also shown below is an additional set of blue and green rockets that were offered at a later date.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


14. Superman Dangle Dandy, (1959), Corn Flakes



 

15. Superman Radio Show Albums, (1975), Kellogg's Corn Flakes
To prove old radio was still alive during the TV age, I'm, once again,  breaking the guidelines by including this offer.

One full hour, or four fifteen minute radio programs, was included on each of four albums. These albums were available for only $1.50 and I'm guessing a box top from Corn Flakes. The four album jackets were the same, showing Superman standing with hands on hips against a white background.