Bob Holiday, Broadway's First Superman
Bob Holiday's Publicity Portfolio

The 50th Anniversary
~Part 2~

Brian McKernan Takes Us Back to the Beginning
Part 2

When we left off last week, Bob Holiday had just won the role of Superman in the 1966 Broadway production of "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman." Besides working out at the gym, Bob had a lot to work on for his new dual role as both Superman and Clark Kent.

Bob Holiday as Clark Kent

Holiday also had to strike a delicate balance as the “strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men” who is also so honest and good that he’s free of the guile of normal humans. Acknowledging this quality in his portrayal, New York World-Telegram critic Norman Nadel wrote: “From the boyish curl hanging down over his forehead to the red-booted feet set solidly on the floor, the man is all sincerity. Holiday has this directness, this acceptance of perfection, down pat, and it becomes the funniest single element in the whole production.”

Critic Richard Watts, Jr., of The New York Post echoed this observation with: “Bob Holiday, who has the physique and stalwart good looks just right for the title role, acts with likable and appropriate modesty.” And John McClain, writing in the Journal American, added, “I congratulate Bob Holiday ... on trusting himself to the small wire that flies him on and off stage with such dexterity.”

Bob Holiday as Superman

A victim of “capelash,” the brief run of “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman” did nothing to lessen the popularity of the character. In addition to his Broadway debut, the mid-1960’s saw Superman score several other superhero character “firsts”: an animated Saturday morning TV series, a paperback reprint of comic book stories, and even a plastic model kit. 1966 also saw a new Superman balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the release of 52 color episodes of the 1950’s Adventures of Superman to TV stations nationwide. The series earned higher ratings at the time than the nightly news on each of the three major network stations in New York City and other markets.

The popularity of the Batman TV series further boosted the fortunes of Superman owner National (DC) Comics, which also profited from an in-house division named the Licensing Corp. of America that authorized merchandise based on Superman, Batman, and many other characters. So valuable was National (DC) Comics at the time that its surviving founder Jack Liebowitz took the opportunity to cash-in and sell it to Kinney National in 1967, a company that would eventually evolve into Time Warner. Eleven years later, that conglomerate would release Superman: The Movie, a blockbuster hit co-written by Superman’s Broadway scribes David Newman and Robert Benton.

Bob Holiday as Clark Kent

Bob Holiday continued in theatre for several years, eventually transitioning into becoming a major homebuilder in the Pocono Mountain resort area of Pennsylvania. In 2003, he journeyed to Metropolis, IL as the featured celebrity in the annual Superman Celebration, wowing audiences with a sold-out performance of songs and recollections of Superman’s days on Broadway.

A half-century since Superman first flew onto the Great White Way, other superheroes have had their own Broadway debut and the superhero genre is now a major Hollywood moneymaker, with Superman and Batman even appearing in their first feature together. We invite you to view the specially prepared tribute of images and text here on this website and witness for yourself the exceptional chapter in pop-culture history when visitors to the heart of the American theatre were being thrilled by the words, “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!”

Click HERE for Part 1

Bob Holiday as Superman Bob Holiday as Clark Kent