Superman (serials)

Superman (serials)

Synopsis of Movie

Right from the beginning, Superman was destined for superstardom. First seen in the pages of Action Comics #1 in June of 1938, the Man of Steel soon became the most popular superhero on the planet. Bud Collyer was the first mortal to take on the role of Superman, portraying the superhero in a radio series that began its 11-year run in 1940. A series of cartoon shorts from Dave and Max Fleischer followed, and in 1948, the hero finally got his own live-action, big screen adventure.

B-movie hero Kirk Alyn was the man tapped to take on the dual role of Clark Kent/Superman in the 15-episode Superman serial. Like most versions of the Superman story, this one begins with the hero’s Kryptonian origins. Scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara know that their home planet, Krypton, is doomed. Unable to save themselves, the concerned parents place their child, Kal-El, in a rocket ship bound for the planet Earth.

Kal-El crash lands in rural Smallville and is adopted by the kindly Ethan and Martha Kent, who raise the boy as their son Clark. As Clark grows to maturity, he realizes he has powers unlike those of ordinary men: super strength, flight, X-ray vision, nigh-invulnerability and more. Trying to keep some semblance of a normal life, Clark keeps his powers hidden, eventually moving to big-city Metropolis to take a job as a reporter for the Daily Planet. There, Clark (disguised by glasses and shy behavior) meets and takes a liking to sassy reporter Lois Lane, part of a staff that includes editor Perry White and cub reporter Jimmy Olsen. When danger lurks, however, the glasses are shed, the familiar red-and-blue suit comes out, and Clark flies to the rescue as Superman.

In this serial, most of the lurking danger takes the form of the Spider Lady, a sultry villainess who shoots webs from her hands. In a bid to take over the globe, the Spider Lady tries to get her hands on a powerful “reducer ray,” threatening to shrink the planet into oblivion unless her devilish demands are met. With the fate of the entire Earth in peril, this looks like a job for Superman.

Sporting dynamic action and noble virtues, Superman was a tremendous success, one of the most well-received serials of all time. Budget constraints forced the film to switch to animation any time Superman needed to fly, but audiences didn’t seem to mind. All the kids cared about was that their hero was back in action, flying in to ensure that truth, justice and tolerance would be assured for all human beings.

The Man of Steel returned to action in 1950, with Alyn reprising the role for another 15-episode serial, Atom Man Vs. Superman. This time, Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor shows up to spoil the hero’s day. Masquerading as “Atom Man,” Luthor threatens Metropolis with one mad invention after another: a disintegration machine, a sonic vibrator and more. The evil genius also discovers Superman’s lone weakness—Kryptonite, broken fragments of the hero’s home planet—bringing Supes nigh unto the brink of defeat.

Atom Man Vs. Superman was another hit, but the serial format was on the way out. A feature film, Superman and the Mole Men, flew into theaters in 1951, giving the hero a chance to help out a misunderstood race of underground creatures whose homes were disturbed by oil drilling. The film introduced the world to a new Superman, George Reeves, who would take over the role for the enormously popular The Adventures of Superman TV series.

As for Superman himself, the man with the ‘S’ on his chest went on to a long and storied career in film, television, cartoons, comics and more. A new feature series began with 1978’s Superman, and the Man of Steel continues to fight for the cause of right today.

See also: Superman, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (movies), The Adventures of Superman, The New Adventures of Superman, The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, The Batman/Superman Hour of Adventure, Super Friends, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, Superman, The New Superman Adventures, The New Batman/Superman Adventures (Saturday morning)

Movie Release History

1948 - Superman
1950 - Atom Man Vs. Superman
1951 - Superman and the Mole Men

Movie Sub Categories


Movie Studio



Clark Kent/Superman  Kirk Alyn
Lois Lane  Noel Neill
'Spider Lady'  Carol Forman
Jimmy Olsen   Tommy Bond
Perry White  Pierre Watkin
Lex Luthor/Atom Man Lyle Talbot
Anton   Jack Ingram
Brock  Terry Frost
Dr. Hackett  Charles Quigley
Conrad   Charles King
Driller  George Meeker
Dr. Arnold Graham  Herbert Rawlinson
Elton   Rusty Wescoatt
Prof. Arnold Leeds   Forrest Taylor
Morgan  Stephen Carr
Hawkins, the Stoolie  Frank Lackteen
Secretary of National Security  Emmett Vogan
Jor-El  Nelson Leigh
Lara  Luana Walters
Ro-Zon, Leader of Krypton   Robert Barron
Ethan Kent   Ed Cassidy
Martha Kent  Virginia Carroll
Taxi Driver   Phil Arnold
Wave Tracer   Jimmy Aubrey
Auto Mechanic   Edmund Cobb
Young Clark   Alan Dinehart III
Mine Security Guard  Frank Ellis
Phoney News-Hawker   William Fawcett
Teen Clark  Ralph Hodges
Jackson   Reed Howes
Sheriff   I. Stanford Jolley
Old-Timer at Mine  Tom London
Frederick Larkin  Wheeler Oakman
Crandall, a Thug   Stanley Price
Carson, the Conductor  Gene Roth
Thug Holding Lois  Charles Schaeffer
Irwin  Paul Stader
Thug Holding Lois   Al Wyatt Sr.
Gloria, Switchboard Receptionist  Peggy Wynne

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