Superman's first radio serial premiered 75 years ago today
It’s a bird, it’s a — well, you know.
By now, Superman’s legendary introduction needs no introduction. But, on this day in 1940, when the Man of Steel made his first foray into the audio serial format, listeners heard them emerge from the radio for the first time.
Though Superman (introduced in print form in 1938) would have several on-air incarnations, he started his radio days in a thrice-weekly show, The Adventures of Superman. At the time, he also appeared in comic form in dozens of U.S. newspaper, in addition to dedicated issues of Action Comics and Superman Quarterly. There were 100,000 members of his fan club, but not everyone loved him equally, as TIME reported in the Feb. 26, 1940, issue:
Superman comes on the air with a shrill, shrieking sound effect (combination of a high wind and a bomb whine, recorded in the Spanish war). Voices hail him with: “Up in the sky—look! It’s a bird. . . . It’s a plane. . . . It’s SUPERMAN!” Superman or no superman, he has to watch his step on the radio. Mothers’ clubs have their eyes on him, the Child Study Association of America feels that his occasional rocket & space ship jaunts are a bit too improbable. By radio’s own war rules, he must remain neutral, may mix in no international intrigues, rub out no Hitlers. So last week Superman cleaned up a local mob bent on wrecking the Silver Clipper, a streamliner train; caught them after a quick repair job near Denver, heaving 20 tons of rock off a trestle and replacing missing rails in a jiffy.
Neither Superman nor Clark Kent appeared in the first episode, however. Instead, it tells of the destruction of Krypton — as you can hear for yourself below, via the Internet Archive:
Read original coverage of the debut of Superman’s radio serial, here in the TIME Vault: H-O Superman