Listen, on the radio — it’s Superman!

A little-publicized Thursday morning panel at the recent Comic-Con International: San Diego addressed the 75th anniversary of the debut of The Adventures of Superman radio serial. Despite being overlooked today, this radio show, which ran for more than 10 years and 2000 episodes, added important elements to the Superman mythos. Although he made his debut only two years earlier in Action Comics No. 1 (June 1938), Superman was already an established pop culture figure when the show began. According to How to Love Comics, the show ran from February 1940 to 1951, first on WOR and in syndication before being broadcast through the Mutual and later ABC radio networks. The television version of The Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves, started in 1952, a year after the radio show ended.

The 1930s and 1940s were prime years for radio programming. Radio audiences were familiar with daring heroes such as The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, and The Green Hornet. But there was no one on radio quite like Superman. The producers of the radio show had to meet the challenges of a character who resided in the public’s imagination as a visual character. As a result, the radio show featured plenty of sound effects — whooshing noises for the flying sequences, as well as explosions, fighting, and other action scenes. Echo effects mimicked large caverns, empty rooms and long-distance telephone calls.

The Superman radio show also introduced many of the now-familiar tropes of the character. Listeners of this show were the first to hear the famous phrases “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” “Up, up and away!” and “Faster than a speeding bullet…!” This show also gave us the long-running supporting characters of Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and Inspector Henderson. In 1945 came two firsts: Superman’s exposure to Kryptonite and his first official team-up with Batman.

People more familiar with recent portrayals of “mild mannered” Clark Kent may be a bit surprised by Clayton “Bud” Collyer’s portrayal of Superman’s alter ego. As in the early Superman comics (later mimicked by Peter Parker’s exploitation of his Spiderman identity), Superman’s feats were a way for Clark Kent to get a big news scoop for the Daily Planet. Although Collyer raised his voice an octave to distinguish Clark’s voice from Superman’s, his version of Clark Kent was as much an active participant in the story (at times aggressively so) as Superman. An interesting fact about Collyer’s portrayal of Superman was that for the first six years of the show, his identity as the voice of Superman was a secret.

The radio show had its share of controversy. Lily Kaufman, writing earlier this year for Time magazine’s blog, noted that the February 26, 1940 issue of Time stated that “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. “  Despite these concerns, The Adventures of Superman had an effect beyond radio and the comics that inspired the show. According to Durnmoosemovies, the most famous episode arc of the radio show, ”Clan of the Fiery Cross”, was suggested by activist Stetson Kennedy, known for his investigation of the Ku Klux Klan. In “Clan of the Fiery Cross”, Superman takes on the Klan, revealing many of the real-life organization’s rituals and code words. It is believed that this episode arc made a negative impact on the Klan’s recruitment and membership.

Episodes of The Adventures of Superman are available through the Internet Archive. Listening to these shows will take you back to the time of your grandparents or great-grandparents, when the whole superhero genre, as well as electronic media, were in their early days. Frankly, they’re just fun to listen to!

Photo: Husband, wife and two children, seated in a living room, listening to a radio, 1957. Warren K. Leffler. Courtesy, Library of Congress.

Favorite Dads in Pop Culture

Dumbledore is one of our favorite "dads"!

Dumbledore is one of our favorite “dads”!

Since Father’s Day is coming up, Blue Striker and I were discussing our favorite dads in pop culture. Now, mind you, these aren’t necessarily good dads, but here they are (in no particular order):

Marlin in Finding Nemo: As Blue Striker says, how can anyone who crosses the entire ocean to find his son not be a good dad? Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) is a great dad, Finding Nemo is a great film and one of Pixar’s best.

Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show: Purveyor of homespun homilies? Check. Good guy who isn’t uptight? Check. Able to successfully police the crazy inhabitants of his town, starting with his wacky deputy, Barney Fife? Check. Great sense of humor? Check. Opie Taylor’s dad manages to do all this while raising his son as a single dad (with the help of Aunt Bea, of course).

Mung Daal in Chowder: Mung (voiced by Dwight Schultz, better known as “Mad Dog Murdock” of The A-Team) is more of a father figure than a father (Chowder’s his apprentice). Although at times Mung is impatient with his much less than perfect apprentice, he possesses the daffiness of a Cartoon Network character (which he is) as well as the best cartoon mustache since Snidely Whiplash.

Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series (books and movies): Harry lucked out when he fell under the tutelage of the wise and powerful Headmaster of Hogwarts (played by Richard Harris and Michael Gambon in the movies), especially when you consider the alternative.

Fred G. Sanford in Sanford and Son: The “G” stands for “great googly moogly, how can you leave him out?” Redd Foxx (born John Elroy Sanford, whose brother was Fred Sanford) was hilarious as the cranky junkman with a heart of gold, particularly when it came to his son Lamont, who could be unappreciative and self-centered at times.

Jonathan “Pa” Kent in practically every iteration of Superman: The guiding force behind the Man of Steel. The fact that actors known for playing “good guys”, such as  Glenn Ford, John Schneider and Kevin Costner, have portrayed Pa Kent tells us much about his character.

Lynda Carter Addresses “Wonder Woman ’77” and Her Music Career on The Today Show

Sorry that I haven’t posted for a while.  Just wanted to share of this interview of Lynda Carter by those two tipsy chicks Hoda and Kathie Lee on the 34th, er, 4th hour of NBC’s The Today Show.  She talks about “Wonder Woman ’77” and her music career.  She also demonstrates the fact that she hasn’t lassoed anyone in decades!

http://www.today.com/video/lynda-carter-still-has-her-wonder-woman-costume-429106755517

Opinion: What We Want to See More of and Less of in 2015

We at Pop Rocking Culture have come up with a short list of what we want to see more of and less of in pop culture in the next year.  Some are very obvious, while some less so.  Here we go:

Up Arrow

WHAT WE WANT TO SEE MORE OF IN 2015:

1. Adventure shows like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Agents of SHIELD 4

As regular readers of this blog probably guessed, we are big fans of MAOS at Pop Rocking Culture.  Sure, you have Arrow and The Flash, but we want more!

2. Truly funny social media memes.  When it came to new memes, we wondered if anything would rise to the level of the famous Batman slapping Robin meme.  Some new memes were a bit confusing — what does Kermit the Frog drinking tea have to do with anything?  But Michael Jackson eating popcorn as he eagerly awaits comments?  Pres. Obama anticipating blame?  Those are funny!  Keep it coming, you people with nothing better to do!

3.  The Simpsons.  This created a bit of controversy here at Pop Rocking Culture — aren’t there 25 years worth of episodes to watch?  But Blue Striker wants this show to go on forever!  Hope you’re reading this, Fox and Matt Groening!

4. Wonder Woman.  Earlier this year, Pop Rocking Culture posted a couple of articles about the casting and directing of upcoming movies featuring Wonder Woman.  Add to that the bestselling book, Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, and you have a regular Amazing Amazon renaissance going on.  Coming in 2015:  Wonder Woman ’77, a digital comic book featuring the world of Wonder Woman as it was portrayed in the iconic 1970s TV show starring Lynda Carter, and another Wonder Woman book, Noah Berlatsky’s explicitly titled Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948.

Stop arrow

WHAT WE WANT TO SEE LESS OF IN 2015:

Unfortunately, this list is much more obvious, because A LOT OF PEOPLE want to see less of:

1. Justin Bieber.

Fun meme of Justin Bieber mugshot

Fun meme of Justin Bieber mugshot

Good Justin, Bad Justin.  How about No Justin?

2. Kim Kardashian.  This includes her body parts, as well as her entire extended family.

3. Will and Kate.  Another controversial selection by Blue Striker, because I love Will, Kate and the children (those here and yet to come).  But I can see where Blue is coming from — he’s an American boy who has absolutely no use for royalty.

4. Family Guy.  Okay, you had your revival.  The door is to your right.

What do you think?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  We want to hear from you!

Comic Book Gift Guide Pt. 3

Part three of Wayne Xiao Long’s Comic Book Gift Guide (2014).

Wayne Xiao Long (小龙)

comicgiftguide4

While the first installment of the gift guide served as a starting point for fans of The Flash, Man of Steel, GothamSmallville, and the Batman:Arkhamverse/Injustice crowd and the second installment aimed to help readers looking for strong female characters and fans of the creepy comic book shows Constantine and The Walking Dead, the third installment deals (mostly) solely with (mostly) independent (mostly) non-superhero comics.

ALL-AGES ALTERNATIVE HISTORY: Buying something for a new reader? I’m a huge fans of using comics to both teach language and provoke the reader’s historical imagination. One book that I’ll giving this year is Van Jensen and Jose Pimienta’s The Leg: The Remarkable Reappearance of Santa Anna’s Disembodied Limb, which tells the story of the remarkable reappearance of Santa Anna’s disembodied limb. The book wanders around 20th century Mexican history with a few surprise guest appearances. The language…

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REDESIGNED LOBO CAUSING SOME HACK AND SLASH BACKLASH

From Bill:

Like most people out there, lots of negative harsh words are being said about the newest redesign of DC’s 80’s classic cult favorite comic book character LOBO, which made its debut in September during the publisher’s “Villains Month” campaign. The creative team behind it, consisting of Marguerite Bennett, Ben Oliver, Cliff Richards and Daniel Brown, have been getting lots of angry emails about taking the machismo out of the Main Man. Here’s DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harrass on the change:

“The Lobo you’ve seen so far in the New 52 is not who you think he is. In this one-shot, you’ll be introduced to the real Lobo. A ruthless killer, Lobo is on a quest to kill the man who has taken his name. In this design, Ken updated Lobo’s facial tattoos and weaponry by adding laser edges to his blades and gloves that’ll give him extra strength with their mechanical usage. In the end, Ken transformed Lobo into a lean, mean killing machine.”

But in the end, it’s up to you to decide which one’s the better of the two. As for me, there’s only one obvious choice.