Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Clark Kent never turned into Superman in a phone booth on television.
Something that we’ve discussed a number of times in Legends Revealed is the idea that the public’s collective memory is not always accurate, as they’ll conflate two different things into one, like remembering Mr. T’s famous “I pity the fool” line from Rocky III (and seemingly every other project he’s ever done) and presuming that he used the same line as B.A. Baracus on The A-Team (as it turned out, he did not
) or they will remember lines in a tidier fashion than they actually existed (like Gracie Allen’s famous “Say good night, Gracie!” “Good night, Gracie!”, which she never actually said).
As it turns out, one of these examples of the public’s collective memory failing is Superman and his use of phone booths to transform from Clark Kent into Superman. As we detailed in a Comic Book Legends Revealed a number of years ago, it turns out that it was simply a matter of him doing so in one of the most popular Superman projects of all-time, the early 1940s Fleischer cartoons
that locked that image into our collective memory, so that the idea of Clark Kent transforming into Superman is just taken for granted, despite him rarely actually doing so.
Recently, though, reader Gerald P. wrote in to ask about that old Comic Book Legends Revealed. He noted that I mentioned that Clark never changed into Superman in a phone booth in any of the 104 episodes of The Adventures of Superman, so he wanted to know if it was true that Clark never actually changed into Superman at all on any of his live action television series.
Let’s find out!
That, Gerald, is not correct.
On Smallville, there were a few scenes in a phone booth, but obviously that does not really count since Clark Kent was not yet Superman on that series (until the very end of the series, at which point he did not use a phone booth).
Clark used a phone booth a couple of times to transform into Superboy on the Superboy TV series of the late 1980s/early 1990s, but I suppose you could argue that that doesn’t count since it wasn’t Clark turning into Superman.
However, on at least two occasions on the television series, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Clark used a phone booth to transform into Superman, most notably in the season 3 episode, “When Irish Eyes Are Killing”…
So while Clark rarely changed into Superman in ANY of the various “Superman” films, TV series, comic strips and comic books, it DID happen a few times. Honestly, as we’ve shown in a few legends over the years (like how Radar O’Reilly’s left hand was almost always hidden on M.A.S.H.), “never” is typically a difficult thing prove for anything.
The legend is…
Thanks to Gerald P. for the suggestion! And thanks to Steve Younis for the definitive article on Superman and phone booths.
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is email@example.com