"Up In The Sky! Look!"

By | Saturday, January 12, 2008 3 comments
I've been listening to some of the old Superman radio shows the past few days. (That's the voice of Superman, Bud Collyer, at the right.) At the beginning and ending of each show, they run through the well-known refrain...

"Up in the sky! Look!"

"It's a bird!"

"It's a plane!"

"It's Superman!"

Each line is yelled in astonishment, as most people are probably accustomed to hearing it. After hearing this passage several dozen times over the past couple of days, though, it occurred to me that it's absolutely absurd.

Okay, if you see something strange whizzing through the air, "Up in the sky! Look!" makes sense. "It's Superman!" makes sense since you're not likely to see him flying past with any great regularity. And, in 1941, "It's a plane!" can make sense since many Americans were concerned that Nazi Germany might launch an air attack against the U.S. But why would you exclaim, "It's a bird!" with that level of excitement?

"Great heavens! A bird! With feathers! Look out! He might poop on a statue!"

Seriously, what the heck kind of bird would warrant that kind of outcry? Maybe a Roc or a burning Phoenix or something along those lines, but if that were the case, wouldn't your exclamation be more like, "It's a giant bird" or "It's a monster bird"? Some kind adjective that would distinguish what you're seeing from the nearby pigeons, so no one around you would think you're nuts?

"It's a bird! We don't have those in Kansas, but I read about them! They have a snout like a dog, but with no fur on it! And they can float in the air!"

Shouldn't the passage be more like...

"Up in the sky! Look!"

"You dolt! It's just a bird."

"It might be a Nazi FW-190!"

"Great Caesar's ghost! No, it's Superman!"
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Richard said...

Yeah, but...they're looking at something travelling through the sky at a velocity faster than a speeding bullet (it says here) but considerably larger. When that passerby shouts "It's a bird!" that's shorthand for saying "Improbable as this sounds, that must be a huge bird travelling faster than any bird with which we are familiar!" And when the next bystander shouts "It's a plane!" he's actually saying "Ridiculous, it clearly can't be a bird, it must be a jet airplane to travel at such speed, albeit one much smaller than any aircraft in our experience and flying at much too low an altitude! Perhaps it's a Gloster Whittle or Heinkel 178?" At which point it all gets a little wordy, so you understand why they went for the catchier short version.

Superman is a great vintage show, but I think one of my favorites still remains THE BLUE BEETLE, which you can listen to here:

Also, the Batman Mystery Club isn't like any other Batman I've ever heard:

Anonymous said...

Good fodder for Superman parody stories, here. "Dear God, it's a bird! Funny; haven't seen that one before.