The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.
One of the biggest genres of movies for the past few years and continuing into the foreseeable future is the superhero movie. The genre is obviously completely big-screen ready now that computer generated effects have finally gotten to the point that creators can actually put believable larger-than-life epics such as these characters call for on the screen.
Of course, that’s where radio had a very early advantage. Because it used listeners’ own imaginations and because it only required sound effects rather than convincing visual ones to bring these characters to life, radio shows could, early on, give us the adventures of these characters in a way that movies and television really couldn’t, and in a way that only the comic book page, with the only limit there being the imagination of the writers and artists, could rival.
So it really should be no surprise that one of the longest running radio shows was The Adventures of Superman, which aired in varying formats and on various networks for over eleven years and more than 2000 episodes, with its first broadcast taking place on February 12, 1940 when it debuted on New York’s WOR radio station as a syndicated series of 15 minute episodes designed to run each afternoon through the week as part of a block of “children’s programming”.
Like the character’s initial debut in Action Comics, the radio show presented Superman’s origin very quickly, getting it out of the way and getting to his -and alter ego Clark Kent’s – status quo in the first couple of episodes, and then bringing on the… umm… action.
So what did those initial episodes sound like? How did those comic page adventures translate to the radio? Well, let’s take a listen, shall we? Here, thanks to a YouTuber going by the handle Devsguy, are the first ten episodes of (as taken from the introduction to the first episode) this
Faster than an Airplane!
More powerful than a locomotive!
Impervious to bullets!
Up in the sky! Look!
It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
Next time: More on the radio Adventures of Superman, including some facts about the show and the innovations that it brought to the character that may surprise you!
- Top 10 Portrayals of Superman (toptenz.net)