Superman is a 15-part black-and-white Columbia film serial based on Superman. It stars an uncredited Kirk Alyn (billed only by his character name, Superman; but credited on the promotional posters) and Noel Neill as Lois Lane. It is notable as the first live-action appearance of Superman on film. It was originally screened at movie matinées and after the first three scene-setting chapters, every episode ends in a cliffhanger. The Superman-in-flight scenes are animations, in part due to the small production budget. It was followed in 1950 with Atom Man vs. Superman.
Superman is sent to Earth by his parents just as the planet Krypton blows up and is later raised as Clark Kent by a farm couple. After his foster parents die, the Man of Steel heads to Metropolis under the bespectacled guise of Kent and joins the staff of the Daily Planet in order to be close to the news. Whenever emergencies happen, he responds in his true identity as Superman. This first serial revolves around the nefarious plot of a villain who calls herself the Spider Lady.
Superman Comes to Earth
Jor-El discovers that the planet Krypton is being drawn closer to its star, which is creating gravitational pressure that will soon tear the planet apart. He tries to convince the council that the planet is doomed, but they vote against his proposal to create a fleet of ships to escape the planet.
Jor-El and his wife Lara send their son, Kal-El to Earth on the prototype space ship Jor-El had been building.
When the baby arrives on Earth, he is adopted by Mary and Eben Kent. As he gets older, it becomes apparent young Clark is not an ordinary child, displaying incredible feats.
When Clark reaches adulthood, his parents have a talk with him, telling him to leave the farm and go to Metropolis, where his powers will be the most beneficial. Mary gives him the Superman costume she made from his impervious Kryptonian fabrics.
Clark heads for Metropolis, just as Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane take the train to cover a mine accident. Clark spots their train, and notices that the rail is broken. He changes to Superman and prepares to go into action.
Depths of the Earth
Superman fixes the rail and then goes clear underneath the train. Before anyone can find him, he changes to Clark and resumes his trip to Metropolis.
He asks for a job, and White interrupts to take a phone call. The call is from Lois, who's trying to get into a collapsed mine. Clark claims he can get into the mine, and Perry agrees to give him a job if he can.
Clark arrives at the scene, where he meets Jimmy Olsen. Lois, meanwhile, has followed a local man who's showed her a way into the tunnel, and now she's trapped as well. Clark changes to Superman to intervene.
The Reducer Ray
Superman manages to save Lois and the others trapped in the mine, carrying them to safety one at a time. As Clark, he then scoops Lois on the story.
Time goes by, with Superman becoming a more established hero. He defeats many crooks and other villains.
The government gives Superman the assignment of protecting the Relativity Reducer Ray, which is a new weapon being tested in the desert. Superman agrees, and interferes with some criminals' attempt to steal it using a magnetic ray.
The criminals work for The Spider Lady, who is apparently the queen of the Metropolis underworld. She plans to find a way to defeat Superman.
Man of Steel
Clark Kent, having been ditched by Lois, meets with Dr. Leeds who shows him the meteor. The meteor is a glowing rock which immediately causes Kent to collapse. Leeds sees that he is not breathing and thinks him dead, but when the cover is replaced he revives.
Clark reveals that he is Superman and asks the Leeds' help by destroying the rock. Leeds agrees to discard it after two days of scientific study.
Leeds' assistant overhears this, and reports to The Spider Lady, expecting to be paid for the information. Lois Lane sees him getting into a car with the criminals and interferes, thinking he's being kidnapped. She, too, is kidnapped, and taken to the Spider Lady.
After the Spider Lady gets the information, she pays him one dollar. The man is insulted, so she has him killed, electrocuted on her spider's web. She then orders Lois killed in the same manner.
A Job for Superman!
At the last second, Spider Lady spares Lois' life. Lois meets the Spider Lady's henchmen, who are impersonating the Reducer Ray's inventor and his assistant. Lois sees them photographing the machine and tries make a to call, but is seized by one of the crooks before she can finish. They tie her to a chair and gag her, planning to destroy the machine with a short-circuit so they can have the only one. Lois is left in the room as the pressure on the machine increases, which will soon cause an explosion.
Between Two Fires
Lois, tied up and gagged, is saved from the Reducer Ray's explosion by Superman who also prevents the explosion from happening, saving the machine. The Spider Lady's henchmen did get pictures of the machine, though.
The Spider Lady's people, meanwhile, have the scientist and order him to build a new Reducer Ray for them. Instead of complying, he makes a simple Morse Code radio and uses it to send a message, asking for help.
Clark and Lois, meanwhile, are sent to investigate fluctuations in the city's power grid. There, they hear a strange static coming from the lines that turns out to be the call for help in code. Clark recognizes it and the two prepare to track the source of the signal.
Lois & Clark each have radios to communicate with, and Lois takes the machine to track the signal. She goes in by herself. By the time she gets there, the criminals as well as the scientist and Jimmy are gone, and she is locked in. Two fires emerge on either side of her.
Clark, not hearing Lois' response over the radio, changes to Superman and rushes to the rescue. He finds her passed out, and carries her out of the fire.
The scientist, meanwhile, is brought into the Spider Lady's headquarters so that no further escape attempts can be made. She explains that not even Superman can find the place, as the walls are lined with lead, blocking his X-Ray Vision. He is ordered to begin work on the machine again. He requests a material which is rare.
When two of the Spider Lady's henchmen go to a chemical engineer to procure the substance, the engineer sees the note on the substance which says to contact the authorities if anyone tries to purchase it without credentials. He tells the men that it will take two hours to prepare. They leave, and he calls Perry White, who sends Clark to investigate.
Lois interferes, meanwhile, sabotaging Clark by hiding his hat, making him look for it while she and Jimmy take the Planet's company car. Meanwhile she has the secretary phone in her car as stolen, and then gives Kent the keys to her car.
On the road, Clark is stopped by a police officer for driving a stolen vehicle. He is arrested and taken to jail. Meanwhile, Lois and Jimmy arrive at the engineer's office. They tell the engineer not to contact the authorities so they can trace these men back to the Spider Lady's lair.
To this end, Jimmy hides in a crate marked as the substance the crooks want. Lois hides in a closet. When the men arrive, the engineer tries to make them sign a form. They knock him out and take the crate. They also discover Lois' hiding place and lock her in the safe.
Meanwhile, Superman breaks out of jail and saves an unconscious Lois. When she comes to, she tells Superman the story. He rushes out to save Jimmy.
Jimmy, meanwhile, is revealed when the truck hits a bump in the road and his crate is knocked open. One of the men sees Jimmy closing the door to the crate and both men fire their guns into it.