Friday, February 19, 2010

Episode 4: "Clark Kent captured by the Wolfe!"

Listen to Episode 4: "Clark Kent captured by the Wolfe!" 
Summary: Keno the Wolfe make it their hideout overlooking the railroad yards, and Keno tries to convince the Wolfe that the landslide covered the tracks with 100 feet of rock. The Wolfe mocks him, comparing his story to that of the conductor who reported seeing a man in blue tights clear the tracks. But no matter, there's work to do, by Godfrey!.
   The Wolfe has a keen interest in Kent, who seems to have come from the east suspiciously fast. There's word that Kent's at the district supervisor of the railroad's office, so he sends Keno there with a telegram, complete with a messenger's uniform, yet.
   Meanwhile, at the superintendent's office, we meet the Professor the Superintendent. He's not only granting Kent an interview, but permitting him pretty much total access to the case. Kent suggests the sensible thing - to keep the Silver Clipper from leaving Denver tonight - but that tidbit of common sense is rejected by the Superintendent. The Silver Clipper must leave on time. As an alternative tactic, Kent has baited the terrorists with the idea that Kent knows more than what he printed, he'll expose himself to capture. The Superintendent, naturally, blown away by the sheer force of Kent's giant brass balls. He pleads with Kent not to put himself at the mercy of people who have shown that they're not above killing an entire train full of people should the opportunity arise. Kent starts telling him not to worry, but is cut off from explaining further when the Superintendent notices "messenger boy" Keno in the doorway.
   Keno delivers the (fake) telegram and bluffs his way out of the office before suspicions rise. The fake telegram is a taunting riddle from the Wolfe, mentioning that an engine has gone missing. A call informs the Superintendent that an engine has indeed gone missing - completely without a trace - and induces a minor nervous breakdown in the old man. Kent excuses himself out of the room and briefly changes into Superman, flies around until he spots Keno heading into the Wolfe's hideout, and switches back as Kent to wander around conspicuously.
   Works every time. The Wolfe and Keno notice the reporter snooping around and knock him out. They drag him down into a sound-proof basement, not even beginning to realize the size of the angry hornet nest with which they are now playing.

  • Superman/Kent
  • Keno and the Wolfe
  • The Professor The Superintendent of the Railroad
  • The narrator does a particularly nice job recapping here.
  • The Wolfe is the only one who seems it odd that Clark Kent went from Metropolis to a west-bound train just outside of Denver peculiarly fast.
  • The Wolfe's voice actor seems to have improvised some lines when talking about the conductor.One has to wonder just how much Keno gets paid to blow stuff up AND go undercover. I don't want to know where the hell he got the messenger uniform, either.
  • This episode marks the first time (of many) Clark Kent has scoffed at the idea that Superman exists.
  • Oh hey there, Professor. Didn't know you moonlighted for the railroads in Denver. That must be a hell of a commute from Indiana.
Wolfe: [Kent] was assigned to cover the story back east. He seems to have arrived out here incredibly soon.
Keno: He musta flown.
No comment.

Superintendent: Look here, Kent, I've checked with your paper back east, and they tell me that it's all right, that you're here what to do what you can. Now, what do you want to know?
Yes, back then journalism was considered a respectable, helpful profession.

Kent: Do? I'm going out to hunt wolves!
Hell. Yes.

In the next episode, Clark Kent is given a once over by Keno and the Wolfe, then left to die. Golly, I WONDER IF HE GETS OUT OKA- oh, right. Well, tune in anyway, as Superman saves some railroad men, in "Locomotive Crew Freed"! Sunday night!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Man who invented Kryptonite: Bud Collyer

   Radio's Superman got his voice from a talented man by the name of Bud Collyer. He almost did not!

   Mr. Collyer had already some experience with voicing characters with roles such as Terry and the Pirates (Pat Ryan), Renfrew of the Mounted (a radio series based on an RMCP adventure series written for boys, as the title role), and Abie's Irish Rose (about a jewish man courting an irish catholic girl; he was Abie), on top of plenty of narrator gigs. He did not want to get tapped for another series that would get him typecast as a hero, and may have very well been tricked back into the studio after doing the part of a random, unnamed Kryptonian senator in the first episode of Superman. Eventually, it was settled that he'd do the role in secret, a move that satisfied Collyer and delighted publisher Detective Comics (later DC, of course) who had no problems promoting the idea that it was Superman himself playing himself on the radio.
He was uncredited for his role on the show until 1946, when he finally realized the positive impact Superman was having and gave an interview for Time Magazine for a piece about the show's campaign to promote racial and religious tolerance. Thereafter, he was credited to his role as the Man of Steel.

Collyer not only voiced Superman for 10 years of the 11 year run of the radio show (Michael Fitzmaurice took over for the last year), but would reprise his now famous Superman/Clark Kent voice for all 17 of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of 1941-1942, as you can listen to up above. During the show's run, he also hosted game shows, and in 1950 he left the show to do Beat the Clock full time. Later, he'd reprise his voice again in the 1966 animated New Adventures of Superman, although arguably it was a very, very different Superman to portray (Double Trouble here).

Collyer had a extensive background in singing, and his voice had a range he could manipulate on a dime. It was this talent that for a large part made Superman's transformation from Clark Kent easily identifible to the listeners. When he was Clark Kent he spoke in a quiet, unassuming voice; as Superman, his voice deepened an octave and took on a commanding tone of a man who could make you bounce like bullets would bounce off of his chest.

And, yes, he invented Kryptonite, or at least caused it to be created. You'd think it came about to knock Superman down a peg, keep him humbled, present the man of steel with a rusty silver bullet, to completely mangle a simile or two. Actually, the show introduced Kryptonite... so Bud Collyer could take a freaking break once in a while. See, while the shows were pre-recorded, they weren't re-run. In a gleaming example of something that was done absolutely, completely awesome, they wouldn't resort to such shenanigans as today's television industry. Recording was constantly scheduled, and Collyer, as I mentioned, had other jobs going on all the time. Introducing an object that could put the Man of Steel out of action in as plausible as a show abouta a man who could put his fist through a locomotive could muster. Kryptonite could reduce Superman into a groaning mess, a role easily filled by a stand in!

Incidentally, giving Collyer his much deserved vacation time was the reason Batman and Robin were later on introduced to the show. Please re-read that last sentence. If you felt a lump of pure joy rise up from your blackened lump of a soul, then you've decided to follow the right blog and become a fan of the right old time radio show.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Episode 3 - "Keno's Landslide"

Listen to Episode 3 - "Keno's Landslide"
Summary: Superman has defenestrated the Daily Planet for his very first time, giving the building its first Clark Kent-related water-cooler story. Cashless and carrying only the clothes on his back (and his secret identity's clothes God knows where else), he's en route to the American West, to investigate the threats against the Silver Clipper, great American 'crack train' from Denver to Salt Lake City. He declares the Wolfe better watch out, because the other side has Superman. Hell. Yes.
   Meanwhile, we meet the Wolfe and his henchmen, Keno Carter ('gunman, gambler, bad man of the Southwest) who are hiding out in a small cabin somewhere in Colorado. It's hinted the two of them get their orders from a higher power, and those orders are 'paralyze the American railroads'. The Wolfe plans on showing the railroads he's dead serious about destroying the Silver Clipper, by sending a landslide onto of another train, the Western Limited. Keno blanches at the idea of murder, but agrees with the plan. He seems aware that defying orders is a terrible career move at Wolfe, Inc. They hear the Limited in the distance.
  Superman happens to notice the Limited as he flies over. He debates getting on the train, a slower mode of transport for a super-man, but decides to get on anyway and look things over as Clark Kent (hey, everything is shiny and new to him, remember?). Just before he flies down and boards, he notices Keno up ahead heading up to set off the explosives that will trigger the landslide. He boards and thinks up a way to stop the train and decides to pretend, as Clark Kent, that he's lost his ticket, so they will stop the train and throw him off. Retrieving his suit from his codpiece, he enacts this plan flawlessly, to the point where the conductor will give him the benefit of the doubt... until they reach town. Whoops!
   Clark then finds a better way to stop the train, by committing his first (possibly second) crime ever - pulling the emergency cord on the train. The train screeches to a stop, and Kent vindicates himself to a furious conductor when a landslide thunders down in front of the train moments later. Close call. Kent then makes a dash for it, changes into Superman, and sets to work clearing the tracks.
   The Wolfe, meanwhile, is back in the cabin overlooking the tracks, and lighting up his 'mission accomplished' cigar. Keno busts in and tells him the bad news - the plan failed. He then explains how he pulled off the most balliest manuever ever attempted in the field of professional henching - he snuck down into the crowd that emerged from the train and found out that it was a reporter named Kent responsible for averting the disaster. The Wolfe is incredulous, more so when the train suddenly started heading west, the tracks now clear. Clark Kent just made a powerful enemy, swears the Wolfe. They make for Denver by plane.


  • Superman/Kent 
  • The Wolfe 
  • Keno Carter (Karter?) 
  • The Conductor 

  • Keno and the Wolfe are Radio Superman's first villains, and are worthy, competent ones at that. The Wolfe has set up an elaborate plan that has baffled railroad investigators and potentially cripple the nation's transportation network. Keno is effective at carrying out orders, skilled at the art of the bluff, and doesn't scare easy. Keno has a conscious; the Wolfe, less so. You should see the heartlessness of the guy they get their orders from (and you will). 
  • As before, it is stated fog and sleet grounded the as of yet unnamed city of Metropolis. It's mid-Februrary in the show, too. 
  • Notice that Superman is raring to check things out on the train as Kent, despite being on a time budget. 
  • Yes, pulling the emergency stop on a train under false pretenses is a crime. Sure, Clark had a good reason, but how was he going to explain it to an angry conductor? 
  • This is the last we hear from the conductor, but not the last we hear of him. Poor guy was just doing his job. 

Powers Introduced:Super-Speed - Superman manages to effortlessly fly hundreds of miles over the span of a few hours. Fittingly, he himself states that he's faster than a locomotive.

Conductor: "Oh, is it? What makes you think so?"
Kent: "Goodbye, Conductor! I'll see you later!"

I know he's new at this whole interacting with people thing, but damn, that seems creepy - especially how he abruptly breaks off the conversation. I get the image of Kent never breaking eye contact and fading backwards into the shadows.

On the next episode, Clark Kent proves himself a brave man, baiting the terrorists to capture him and reveal their secrets. Will his plan work? Listen to the next spoiling-titled episode, "Clark Kent captured by the Wolfe!" Friday 7 PM! And check back before then for a bonus article about Bud Collyer, the talented actor who gave Superman his voice!

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!"