Sunday, February 14, 2010

Episode 2 - "Clark Kent, Reporter"

Listen to Episode 2 - "Clark Kent, Reporter" 

Summary: After years of hurling in space, the escape rocket finally reaches Earth and lands in an America desert. Exiting it is a super-man, fully grown and by some miracle, not possessing any mental or emotional scars from having spent the bulk of his existence in a coffin-sized personal hell. Superman to flies around for an indeterminate period of time, presumable long enough to eavesdrop and learn the English language. He eventually finds himself in Indiana (sorry, Kansas!).
   While Superman curiously hovers over a trolley station, we go inside to meet the Professor and his son Jimmy. We learn that the Professor is taking Jimmy to the fair. They get on the trolley while the conductor disembarks for a quick drink of water when suddenly the trolley doors slam shut, trapping the two hapless passengers and rolling downhill completely out of control. By the time the Professor breaks a window, the trolley is going far too fast to safely exit, and worse, is about to derail and hit a tree. If that didn't make the day exciting enough for Jimmy and his father, the flying man ripping into the trolley's roof and whisking them to safety probably did the trick.
   Superman sets the two down in a nearby field, narrating as he does so because that's just how radio shows roll. He calmly explains that he's an alien from outer-space from a planet that no longer exists (the fact that the assuredly adrenaline-charged Professor didn't have a stroke and takes it in stride is a testament to 1940's men). He doesn't know his name, but that the people of Earth might call him a 'super man'. The Professor, no stranger to the writings of Nietzsche, nods sagely on agreement, and he and Jimmy swear to the nice man (who they just saw peeling back steel like tin foil) not to reveal the truth of their rescue. One can only imagine the statement the Professor had to give to the police later, re: how they survived being thrown out a wrecked trolley for about half a mile's distance. Hey, that's not Superman's problem.
   Superman explains he's not quite ready to unveil himself to the world just yet. He wants to learn more of his new home, and he's not even sure the best way to go about this. The Professor and Jimmy readily suggest he take up as a newspaper reporter, and Jimmy even helpfully pulls an alias directly out of his ass: the name 'Clark Kent'. Superman likes what he hears, and he and his first friends on this planet (or ever, really) part on excellent terms. And we never hear from the Professor or Jimmy ever again.
   Our hero sets sail for the Daily Planet, and the story hand-waves past the details of how a man in red and blue tights managed to obtain a decent suit and a pair of glasses without any money whatsoever. We jump to the stately offices of the newspaper, and meet Perry "could beat up J. Jonah Jameson" White, who is in a bit of a pinch. Someone's been sabotaging trains, a mysterious man known only as 'The Wolfe', and Perry's short on reporters available to cover it (the one who he speaks to is even on the run, and may have been silenced by Wolfe or his men). In walks Clark Kent, young, eager, and lacking any kind of credentials whatsoever. White dismisses Kent almost immediately, Kent promises he has insider information on the train sabotage, repeating some of the info White had just discussed with another reporter discussing it over the phone. White amazed, particularly when the Wolfe himself calls the office and claims that another attack is forthcoming. White gives Clark a chance to make good on his supposed insider track, and even would have given him a cash advance, had Clark waited around to get it. Instead, he decides to slip out the window and fly there as Superman, which avoided having to wait for the planes to stop being delayed by fog. However, he slips out in the most suspicious manner, and gives secretary Ms. Smith quite a fright. What a super-galoot.


  • Superman/Clark Kent 
  • The Professor and his son, Jimmy 
  • John, the Trolley's motor man 
  • Perry White 
  • Some reporter who may or may not have been killed 
  • Ms. Smith, White's Secretary 

  • Radio Superman didn't grow up on Earth. This is the main departure from all other classic Superman continuities, and frankly, is probably the best. This would persist for two years and over 300 episodes before Kent's Kansas upbringing was retconned back. 
  • The most glaring plot-holes of this episode, of course, are 'how did Superman learn english so fast', and 'where did he get his first suit'. It's plausible, however, that an unstated short period of time passes between his leaving the rocket and after rescuing the Professor and Jimmy. 
  • Another nag - the model rocket took a minimum of twenty years or more to reach Earth, yet Jor-L intended to use it as a 'test-fire'. I'll settle for Jor-L using the small rocket's trajectory to check his math, but either way, it's amazing Kal-L made it close to the solar system at all, much less Earth. Then again, Krypton is only 'millions of miles away' (in contrast, the Earth is about 93 million miles from the Sun) so maybe Jor-L made a colossal mistake that took Kal-L on a needless journey that cost him two decades of life trapped in a tiny coffin-like rocket. 
  • The professor must be decked out in full scholarly garb as opposed to casual dress, as Superman addresses him as 'Professor'. That, or he heard the trolley conductor address him minutes before. 
  • It's likely Jimmy here is proto-Jimmy Olsen, but they are not the same character. This is the only appearance of the Professor and Jimmy, although it won't be the last time you hear the Professor's voice. 
  • Pay close attention to Superman's exchange with Jimmy and the Professor, as it establishes Radio Superman's motivations and basic operating procedure. He intends to lend aid when and where he can - but his primary intent is to observe humanity, not to interfere with it. This is a major difference from the very public Superman of today. In fact, it will be seven months worth of boradcast before Superman makes peaceful, extended contact with another human (Jimmy Olsen, no less), preferring to keep his presence as Superman as much as an urban legend as possible. 
  • This is the first appearance of Perry White in any medium. His comic counterpart at the time was a man named George Taylor, and White eventually replaced him in the comic as well. 
  • The simplest reason for Kent knowing about the Wolfe is that he has supernatural hearing, of course. It's unlikely he had the presence of mind to research and investigate the Wolfe ahead of time, particularly when the threats Wolfe made were not common knowledge to begin with. However, the reporter mentions that he 'doesn't know where your dope came from, chief'. Could the information been leaked by Superman? Or is he only bluffing from what he overheard? Remember, this Superman is scarily un-campy here, and there's no way of knowing exactly how much time he's been establishing himself as Kent before going for his interview. 
  • Seriously, where the hell DID he get his first suit? At some point, he assuredly had to obtain it while dressed as Superman, right? 
Powers introduced: True Flight (he hovers over the station)
Super Strength (peels through the top of the trolley like wet tissue)
Super Hearing (He can hear private conversations)

John: Morning, Professor!
Professor: Good Morning!
John: Going into town?
Professor: That's right, John, taking Jimmy to the Fair
John: Aye, tis a great show, alright.
I have to wonder if the fair was kind of a downer to Jimmy after being plucked from a runaway trolley by a flying man.

Superman: Don't be frightened, you're all right. Had to get you out of there in a hurry! pulling that roof off was the only way.
Uh, couldn't you have just gotten in front and stopped it? I don't know if there were any innocent bystanders when you let that trolley wreck itself to pieces. Also, faulty brakes aside, the trolley company is out of a otherwise perfectly repairable trolley.

Superman: I have no name. I come from a planet that no longer exists.
He's too young to remember his name, but apparently knows Krypton blew up? Remember, Jor-L built the rocket ship not intending to use it to save his son, but to test for a bigger model. I don't think he had time to stuff a care package in with Kal-L as the planet fell in around them. Incidentally, it's probably why the magic fortress-growing crystals were introduced in other media, so Superman would know of his true heritage at all.

Jimmy: Well, how about 'Clark Kent'? That sounds alright!
Yes, Radio's Superman's famous alter-ego was entirely the invention of a little boy named Jimmy. I named this blog in his honor.

In the next episode! We meet the villains Keno and the Wolfe, scourge of the rails. How will their intricately laid out plans fair against a super-man? How well would a house of cards? Also watch how Superman gets a poor railway conductor thrown in the nut house! All this at 7 pm Tuesday: "Keno's Landslide!"

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