01 March 2010

The First Time Superman Saw Robin

Yesterday I laid out the mystery of when Superman and Robin appeared in the same story for the first time—on the Superman radio show in 1945. Although the two characters and Batman were on all the covers of World’s Finest Comics and its forerunners, there was no story of Superman meeting the Dynamic Duo until years later.

But when exactly did it air? Some sources say 3 March, others 5 September. This weekly Robin extra offers an answer—and I think both those dates are wrong. Radio drama expert Jim Harmon’s detailed description of the show (quoted yesterday) ends with Batman having been turned into a wax figure, which points to the story “The Mystery of the Waxmen,” broadcast from 28 Feb to 15 Mar 1945, according to this episode guide. (Other websites suggest that story started on Monday, 26 Feb 1945, but cite no source.) Those episodes bracket the 3 March date Harmon gives, though that was a Saturday, when the show didn’t air.

Googling “The Mystery of the Waxmen,” I lucked out and found episodes dated 1 and 2 Mar 1945, the second and third installments, available for downloading from Old Radio World.

The 1 March episode starts with a description of a strangely dressed boy found unconscious in a drifting rowboat—in the previous episode. That’s the “our story so far” summary.

So the first appearance of Robin and Superman in the same story actually occurred on 28 February 1945. Their first conversation was on 1 March, and the first time Superman spots Batman (in a highly waxed state) was 2 March.

Alas, I haven’t found a source for the subsequent episodes, when Superman and Batman first converse. Those recordings appear not to have survived.

Listening to those episodes shows that the descriptions of the story that I quoted yesterday from E. Nelson Bridwell and Jim Harmon aren’t exact. Robin does make his entrance unconscious in a drifting rowboat. But the characters who go out to rescue him are Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson. Then the bad guys crash into them with a speedboat, and Superman rescues all three.

I rather liked the first episode, in which Superman recognizes the unconscious costumed boy as Robin before resuming his role as Clark Kent to summon medical help. He hides Robin’s costume to preserve his secret identity, but then Dick Grayson wakes up and insists on speaking only to Superman. Lois and Jimmy won’t leave Clark alone with the boy so he can explain, and… Well, trust me—as radio adventure shows go, it’s actually amusing.

Superman was played by Bud Collyer, Robin by Ronald Liss. And Batman…well, Batman makes no sound in these episodes, so no one played him.

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