The TOP 13 ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN Episodes – RANKED

A George Reeves birthday celebration…

I’ve written before that I only fell in love with TV’s Adventures of Superman within the last year and a half or so. You can click here for the whys but upon embracing the show, I decided that this year on the late George Reeves’ birthday — he was born 107 years ago on Jan. 5, 1914 — I’d post the TOP 13 ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN EPISODES — RANKED.

But then 13th Dimension buddy Anthony Desiato of the Digging for Kryptonite podcast offered to do the very same list and I so I yielded to his love of all things Man of Steel.

So here’s Anthony and his pal Rich Roney with the TOP 13 ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN EPISODES — RANKED:

Images from various internet sources

By ANTHONY DESIATO with RICH RONEY

For years, I’ve longed for the Superman equivalent of Gotham Central: an ongoing detective story set squarely within the world of the Daily Planet, where Lois and Clark’s investigative reporting drives the action, the threats are more rooted in reality, and Superman appears sparingly but effectively.

Turns out, my wish had already been granted — almost 70 years ago — with the classic television series Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves.

Like any dutiful Superman fan, I knew about the show, of course. However, I had not explored it in a meaningful way until I decided to cover it over two episodes of my podcast Digging for Kryptonite (Part 1 is out now; Part 2 hits on Jan. 20).

Like 13th Dimension’s very own Dan Greenfield, I caught a few episodes in reruns as a kid, but they didn’t move me to seek out more. Then, after my recent viewing project — during which I devoured all 52 black-and-white episodes and many of the color installments — I, too, got it. From the punchy, noirish crime drama of the first season, to the lighter, more heartfelt second season, the show made up for its limited budget and the technological constraints of the day by telling clever, grounded stories. Even the color years, long divorced from the show’s initial grittiness and aimed squarely at children, retained its charm.

And through it all, there was George Reeves, delivering a dual performance that inspired generations of new Superman fans and has stood the test of time. His Clark was authoritative, decisive and only marginally meek. His Superman was tough but fair, commanding yet reassuring.

For Superman fans put off by the more introspective and conflicted character seen on the big screen in recent years (for the record, I am not one of those), this is a Clark/Superman as clear of purpose as I’ve ever seen.

To help me discuss the 1950s series on the podcast and to select the TOP 13 episodes, I enlisted my dear friend Rich Roney, who grew up watching reruns in the ’60s. As Rich puts it, “Reeves’ Clark is no timid milquetoast. To me, his Clark is the real deal, and Superman is an extension of Clark.”

Here are our TOP 13 ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN Episodes — RANKED:

13. The Deadly Rock (Season 4). Gary Allen, an old friend of Clark’s, is mysteriously affected by Kryptonite: exposure causes him pain and unconsciousness, then makes him invulnerable. An uneven episode with some plot holes, but an interesting idea and character. Unfortunately, this is Gary’s sole appearance. (NOTE from Dan: Gary is played by Robert Lowery, who was Batman in the 1949 serial. In other words, this is as close as we’d get to a World’s Finest TV team-up at the time.)

12. The Wedding of Superman (S4). Lois (Noel Neill) and Superman are to marry, with Clark as the best man! All right, so (spoiler alert) it all turns out to be a dream. Still, it was exceedingly rare for the show to even touch on a potential romance between its leads, making it fascinating to see those two characters and actors occupy that space for an episode.

11. The Perils of Superman (S6). One of only three episodes directed by Reeves, who seems to have had fun behind the camera. This installment leans into the tropes of earlier cliffhanger serials: Perry (John Hamilton) faces a buzzsaw; Jimmy (Jack Larson) hangs from a cliff; Lois (Neill) is tied to railroad tracks; and Clark dangles over a vat of acid.

10. The Mystery of the Broken Statues (S1). In a prime example of our “mild-mannered reporter” being anything but, Clark — yes, Clark — takes no guff and pushes around two gangsters who give him a hard time.

9. The Mind Machine (S1). A mind-control machine is one of the more fantastical plot devices in an otherwise pretty grounded first season. Highlights include Superman stopping a runaway school bus, Superman (very blatantly a stuntman) infamously ducking from a gun thrown at him, and Clark coldcocking a poor airplane pilot mid-flight so that he could change into Superman while preserving his secret.

8. No Holds Barred (S1). An exciting fight sequence showcases Reeves’ athleticism and boxing skills as Superman takes apart a gang of corrupt wrestlers. Bonus points for the rare, brief moment where Perry has a man-to-man talk with Clark about the latter’s feelings for Lois (Phyllis Coates).

7. The Human Bomb (S1). A clever premise finds a deranged gambler betting he can control Superman for 30 minutes by strapping dynamite to his chest and handcuffing himself to Lois (Coates) on the ledge of the Daily Planet building. It’s a tense half-hour that culminates in a very well meaning, but woefully misguided, Jimmy Olsen needlessly escalating the situation and requiring a mid-air catch (unusual for the series) by Superman.

6. Around the World with Superman (S2). In a heartwarming scene that demonstrates the character’s humanity, empathy and kindness, Superman — in his Clark Kent garb — tries to convince a doubting blind girl that the Man of Steel does, in fact, exist.

5. Five Minutes to Doom (S2). In a race against the clock to save an innocent man scheduled for execution, it’s the Daily Planet gang’s investigative work that saves the day, with a last-minute assist from Superman to get word to the governor.

4. The Defeat of Superman (S2). It’s the series debut of kryptonite and a very satisfying reversal where Lois (Neill) and Jimmy are the ones rescuing Superman for a change.

3. The Stolen Costume (S1). Even those with only a vague memory of this series likely recall the episode where Superman (arguably) sets up a pair of criminals to die by stranding them atop a mountain after they uncover his identity. Though he provides a cabin to call home, promises to return with provisions, and warns them against trying to escape, they try to climb down moments after he flies away and fall to their deaths in short order. While the ending is certainly memorable, this episode earns its spot on this list for putting Clark through his paces in a new way in his quest to recover his stolen costume and protect his secret identity.

2. The Face and the Voice (S2). When a broken-down thug named Boulder (Reeves in a dual role) undergoes plastic surgery and voice lessons to impersonate Superman, Clark fears that he may be committing crimes in his sleep. Reeves displays his acting prowess portraying Boulder, an anxious/troubled Clark, and — ultimately — a confident Superman thwarting the imposter.

1. Panic in the Sky (S2). This episode is considered the best of the entire series by many fans. Superman experiences amnesia after colliding with an asteroid. Superb acting by Reeves as he portrays not only Clark/Superman’s turmoil and frustration in trying to discern his identity, but also Superman’s heroic nature, undertaking action in a situation that could kill him.

Anthony Desiato is a documentarian, podcaster, and lifelong Superman fan. He hosts the podcasts Digging for Kryptonite, My Comic Shop History, and My Comic Shop Book Club, available on most major podcast platforms and in video form on YouTube. His most recent documentary film, My Comic Shop Country, is out now on Amazon and Apple TV. Visit Flat Squirrel Productions for more.

MORE

— Here’s the SUPERMAN ’55 Comic That DC Needs to Publish. Click here.

— GEORGE REEVES’ SUPERMAN: It Took Decades But I Finally Get What Made Him Great. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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7 Comments

  1. Sure makes ya wanna go back and watch those.

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  2. Great Top13. Now Perry has a new assignment for you:

    I’ve been munching on the radio serials, which fit in with Anthony’s first line about a detective series. Please do a top 13 list by story arc. The evolution of the Superman intro is interesting to, from Mild Clark to Mild Mannered Clark, etc. really good Social Justice stories, like the early comics, when Kal El was not as Super yet.

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  3. Good choices . I might add an addendum of the evil three and two parter on mole people.

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  4. Great list! These are all stand outs for me. My personal favorites are “Panic in the Sky” and “The Perils of Superman”. I also really enjoy the first aired episode “Superman on Earth” and “Great Cesar’s Ghost”.

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  5. Panic in the Sky is an absolute classic. It affected me deeply when I first saw it in the mid 60s when I was around seven years old.

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  6. I watched the show as a kid growing up in the 1960s. It has been decades since I’ve seen it, but I recently started watching the reruns on H&I and I am enjoying them immensely. Even on the hokiest episodes, the warmth of the characters shine through.

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