Adventures of Superman
First things first: I’ve got a small announcement. The blog will be going on a hiatus while I write weekly reviews for Multiversity Comics for the new animated series My Adventures with Superman! I’ve written for the website before and I’m excited to be covering this highly anticipated series.
In celebration I thought I would take a look back at the “Adventures of Superman” title and how it’s been used over the years.
Back in February 1940 radio listeners were treated to the first episodes of “The Adventures of Superman”. 15-minute serialized episodes airing several times a week. Long time Superman fans will know the importance of the radio show in Superman’s history; it’s responsible for introducing many of the elements we’ve come to associate with the Man of Steel.
Later that same year the cover to Superman #7 described our hero as the “world’s greatest adventure-strip character”. This text remained on the cover through issue 20 and with issue 24 it was briefly changed to “America’s favorite”; World War II nationalism and all that.
This was also the title used for George Lowther’s 1942 novel; showing “The Adventures of” was catching on and had staying power.
A decade later and in the new medium of television we would get a continuation of sorts of the radio show. Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves remains a favorite of mine and many fans. It’s hard to overstate how influential this show was to a generation of viewers. To this day this might be the most well known Adventures of Superman.
Fast forward to the mid 60s when Filmation introduces us to The New Adventures of Superman. This emphasis let viewers know this was a new thing and not the show that had been in reruns for years. Beau Weaver who voiced Superman in the 1988 Ruby Spears cartoons mentioned this being an issue for his cartoon. Since it was only called Superman it didn’t let anyone know it was new!
And the naming of the show was unfortunate. It was called simply Superman. Better branding might have resulted from naming it Superman: The New Adventures or The All-New Superman. A listing in TV Guide or the newspaper TV listings that read simply “Superman” did not spotlight it as a new series, did not distinguish it [enough] from reruns of the old George Reeves show or even from Super Friends.
Jump ahead another decade to the comics of the 70s. DC wanted it’s new direction of the Superman books to really stand out. They started with a big number 1 despite it being issue 233. Number 1 issues are often big sellers and it let readers know this is a good jumping on point. More to the point though this Neal Adam’s cover read “The Amazing NEW Adventures of Superman”. This stuck around through issue 241 and from 242 to 247 it read “The Amazing Adventures” dropping the new.
In 1987 DC gave John Byrne a new Superman #1 after his Man of Steel miniseries to mark the new era of the Man of Tomorrow. DC didn’t want to lose the legacy numbers from Superman volume 1 though. So we got the first comic officially titled “The Adventures of Superman”. The first logo had Superman inverted from how we were used to it reminiscent of the Fleischer cartoons. The comic creators of the time were heavily influenced by the television show and this was only one small nod they included. This logo lasted until issue 456 with all but one cover by Jerry Ordway.
After this the logo took the standard Superman wordmark from 1983 and added a flat “The Adventures of” on top of it with a drop shadow. This stayed consistent until we got the electric Superman in issue #546. It returned again for issues 558-575. We then got one issue with the electric Superman logo mixed with a preview of the new “The Adventures of” text. Stylized like the Superman logo but included the little extender on the A from the first logo. This version stuck around until 598. Issue 600 brought us what I affectionately call the SUPERMANS logo due to the S after the word. This lasted until 626.
Then we drop “The” and it’s just Adventures of Superman. Similar to the 577-598 look, but with the extender on the D instead of the A (since the A starts the title and not THE) and a more stylized S. It lasted this way until The Last Adventures of Superman #649. This was the end of The Adventures of Superman for a bit as the title became just Superman again. Check out the cover gallery at the DC database to see them all.
The next time we’d see Adventures of Superman on a comic is for the short lived digital first series of out-of-continuity stories. So many of these are great and I wish they sold enough to warrant an ongoing non-canonical Superman anthology book.
Most recently, Jon Kent’s current series takes on the storied Adventures of Superman title, but with a Jon Kent subtitle. This is just a miniseries and is a follow up to Superman: Son of Kal-El.
Finally, we have our honorable mention Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. They took Beau Weaver’s advice to heart with this mid 90s show and emphasized this wasn’t your dad’s Superman show.
Superboy and Supergirl had adventures too over the years. The Superboy television show changed it’s name to The Adventures of Superboy for it’s final seasons–along with the tie-in comic. We had a Supergirl book titled the “Daring New Adventures of Supergirl” and had an “Adventures of Supergirl” book that tied in with the recent CW television show.
I love the idea that Superman’s “exploits” are so commonly known as adventures. We always say he fights a never-ending battle, but calling them adventures sounds so much more positive, exciting, and forward thinking to me. Let’s hope “My Adventures With Superman” continues in the tradition of the Superman we love in more than just name.