CLAYTON “BUD” COLLYER
While it may seem out of place to include Bud Collyer (1908-1969) in a venue dedicated to comic creators, one cannot deny his immense contribution to the mythos of the world’s greatest Super Hero.
On February 12, 1940 The Adventures of Superman began thrilling children of all ages nationwide. Voiced by Collyer, already a veteran radio voice actor, the series became the most popular children’s program during the entirety of Radio’s Golden Age.
Superman made his debut just two years previously in Action Comics, which enjoyed a circulation of over half a million copies per month when the radio program first aired. The Superman title itself enjoyed a circulation of over a million copies a month. But it was Bud Collyer that truly brought Superman into the homes (and imaginations) of literally millions of Americans. The radio program also significantly contributed to the Superman mythos with the introduction of Jimmy Olsen, Kryptonite, and expressions that forever remain some of the most recognized pop culture catchphrases of all time- “Up, up, and away!” and “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound- look, up in the sky – it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!” All of which went on to be incorporated into the comics themselves and the later television shows and feature films.
Collyer also voiced Superman/Clark Kent for the popular series of theatrical cartoons produced and directed by Max and Dave Fleischer and released by Paramount Pictures. Nominated for an Academy Award, these animated shorts achieved new heights of realistic animation and are still regarded as some of the finest the medium has ever produced. Collyer left the Superman radio program on June 5, 1950 and soon entered the new medium of Television. He became one of the most popular game show hosts of all time in such classics as To Tell The Truth and Beat the Clock.
But Collyer would return to voice the Man of Steel during the 1960’s on record albums and Filmation’s animated The New Adventures of Superman (1966-1967), Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure (1967-1968), and Batman-Superman Hour of Adventure (1968-1969). Just before Collyer was to return to work for season two of the Batman-Superman Hour of Adventure, he suffered a severe heart attack from an ongoing circulatory ailment. He passed away two days later on September 8th, 1969 in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was laid to rest shortly thereafter in his hometown of Manhattan. He was 61 years old.
It is easy to think of Christopher Reeve as the current generations Superman, or of George Reeves as the prior generations, or even to fondly remember the Kirk Alyn’s Saturday serials. Fans have their own preferences, obviously, but it is nevertheless unquestionably true that Bud Collyer helped lay the foundation for Superman’s first major interpretation outside the Man of Steel’s original source material of comics. Having voiced the character and his mild alter-ego for an entire decade (for at least three but usually five episodes nearly every week for that entire period) Collyer portrayed the Last Son of Krypton more than any other actor with well over 1,500 performances in all.
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