Old Time Radio Thursdays – #028: The Adventures of Superman (1940-1951) Part Three: Superman Gets A Superfriend

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.

This is the third part of my look back at the Adventures of Superman radio show. Part one can be found here, and part two here.

WorldsBestSupermanbatmanSo next year we’re supposed to get a new Supermaan/Batman movie. If you’re anything like me, your feelings about this are probably somewhat mixed, because although I completely hated last year’s Man of Steel and the way that the character was portrayed in it, I’m still willing to give the next one a chance. And I’m actually curious about the choice of Ben Affleck as Batman. I’m not that excited about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, as she strikes me as too frail-seeming to convincingly portray the Amazonian warrior, but again, I’ll certainly be happy to be proven wrong about her, since it seems Warners has actually signed her for a three-picture deal.

Of course, one of the things that has comics and superhero fans alike both curious and salivating is the expected fight between the two main heroes that will surely take place. After all, isn’t that how these things always work? The two characters cross paths and for some reason have to have a knock-down brawl before realizing they’re both fighting a common enemy and them they team up to fight the foe that neither one of them could take on alone? Or at least there’s usually some variation on that., and it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of manipulations the movie takes to make what should really be a flick-of-the-finger win for Supes into something that lasts longer than that.

Anyway, long time comics fans will know that the relationship between Superman and Batman has taken a number of turns throughout the history of the two characters, depending on the varied times and the interpretations of the two characters. They have been best buddies, rivals, enemies, partners, just about any combination that two guys could be. (Well, except for lovers, at least in the official canon, though there is, of course, no end of slash fiction out there speculating on that pairing also, and even the comics pages have seen it in analogues of the two.)

burnley_jackBut the question for today is, when did the two first team up to solve a mystery? Well, since the question is being asked here, the answer is kind of obvious, but may also be rather surprising. That’s right, the first time that Superman and Batman came together as a team was on the radio. While the pair had appeared together on a number of symbolic comic book covers and in a brief cameo in a 1941 issue of All Star Comics, it was on the September 10, 1945 broadcast of the Adventures of Superman radio show that the duo actually met each other and had their first true team-up.

The story actually began five days earlier, on September 5th, with Superman coming to the rescue of an unconscious boy adrift in a rowboat. Quickly noting that the boy was wearing a red vest with the letter “R” under his street clothes. “Great Scott! If this boy is who I think it is,” Superman said to himself, “this is serious business!” And sure enough, the boy turned out to be… well, why not give a listen to the episodes as they played out over the next few days? Again, I’ve created a playlist which should allow you to listen to the episodes one after the other.

After this initial meeting, Batman would go on over the years to appear in some thirteen different radio serials, during which they would become fast friends, even substituting at times for one another or helping one another keep or conceal their secret identities, much as the duo would come to be portrayed in the comics. Just for fun, here’s another of the serials featuring the duo, entitled “Batman’s Greatest Mystery”. (I do have to be honest here, though, and admit that the real mystery in this one is why Batman ever thought it was a good idea to trust Clark Kent with his secret identity, since it seems like he is constantly blabbing about it to everyone who will listen. Of course, Alfred is no better than Clark in that department here, so… nonetheless, it’s still a fun listen:

One last, quick note: I find it interesting that although Superman enjoyed a very long run during the golden age of radio, Batman never did have a successful show of his own. There was one pilot program made, though, under the title Batman’s Mystery Club, and actually, if you give it a listen, well, perhaps we should all be thankful that this version at least, was never picked up.

Next time: The final part (for now at least) of our look back at the Adventures of Superman radio show, and at least one more probably surprising first appearance that occurred on the show before it hit comic pages.

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