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Old August 12 2014, 09:15 PM   #16
AgentCoop
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

It seems so bizarre, because nowadays we think of Batman as sort of the God Of Strategy, always three steps ahead of everyone else, including the other members of the Justice League. And Superman has to fly them to Shanghai? What happened to the Bat Plane?
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Old August 12 2014, 09:27 PM   #17
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

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And Superman has to fly them to Shanghai? What happened to the Bat Plane?
Actually Batman was going to use the Batplane, but time was of the essence, so Superman insisted on taking them there faster. It was Superman's show, after all, so they wanted excuses to portray him using his powers.

Although, yes, the fact that Batman was a guest on Superman's show meant that he tended to be rather lacking. Like I said, Clark was usually the one who came up with the plans and solved the mysteries, and Batman and Robin always got themselves caught and doomed to death until Superman saved them at the last moment, since that's what supporting characters in The Adventures of Superman did.


Something interesting's happened in the storyline I'm up to now, "The Voice of Doom." Radio Superman, like his TV counterpart later, rarely encountered superpowered foes, instead usually going up against racketeers and spies and hate groups and the like. The one big physical threat he faced was the kryptonite-powered Atom Man in 1946. But the radio writers found out how to give Superman another weakness, and it's quite clever. An escaped murderer named Butcher Stark gets struck by lightning after breaking into a sonic laboratory and is imbued with a lethally loud voice -- and since Superman has super-hearing, he's more vulnerable to it than anyone else! I think that's been done occasionally in other media, but it's nice to come across a story that gives Superman a vulnerability other than kryptonite and magic. (Although radio Superman will pass out from lack of oxygen -- yet he's somehow able to breathe and talk perfectly well in outer space. And he was once weakened by a prototype atomic ray the US military was testing when he accidentally flew into its path.) Also it's such a classic comic-book villain origin of a sort that's unusual in the radio show.
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Old August 12 2014, 11:26 PM   #18
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Funny you bring up the oxygen thing, because I've always wondered why no one ever exploited that as a weakness. Granted, "my" Superman is a bit different. I'm mostly familiar with the Byrne era and after. During Byrne's run there was a storyline where Supes exiled himself to space, and as he went to other planets I'm pretty sure he held his breath. Superman can hold his breath a REALLY long time, but I'm pretty sure he could eventually suffocate.
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Old August 13 2014, 12:13 AM   #19
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Oh, for... I just heard an episode where all Bruce Wayne had to do was provide an alibi for Clark with Perry White while Clark was off being Superman, and Bruce even fumbled that assignment. You'd think someone who's been a successful masked crimefighter for years would have some practice with alibis!
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Old August 13 2014, 12:16 AM   #20
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

It sounds like Lex Luthor might be an unsee...er, unheard presence on the show...paying Batman behind the scenes to be Superman's ally.
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Old August 15 2014, 01:28 AM   #21
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Idle thought on radio Superman:

I never thought I'd hear a children's show whose hero so routinely said "Off with these clothes!" before going into action.
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Old August 15 2014, 01:28 AM   #22
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

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Old August 15 2014, 01:29 AM   #23
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Can you imagine if it were Batman saying it to Robin?
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Old August 15 2014, 02:44 AM   #24
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Turtletrekker wrote: View Post
Can you imagine if it were Batman saying it to Robin?
You're not far off. Sometimes you do hear "All right, Dick, let's strip down to our costumes."


Joking aside, though, I really am impressed with Bud Collyer's acting. Allowing for the broad, fast-paced style of live radio performance, I think he showed a lot of skill and nuance as an actor, and did a great job differentiating Clark and Superman by voice, something nobody else has ever really managed to do quite as well. The one actor I can think of at the moment who's differentiated his Clark and Superman voices to a similar degree was Beau Weaver in the 1988 Ruby-Spears animated series, but his Clark voice sounded like a deep-voiced man affecting a higher pitch, while Collyer's sounded far more natural (even though I gather his regular voice was closer to Superman's pitch).
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Old August 15 2014, 10:10 AM   #25
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Didn't Collyer also voice Clark/Superman in the Fleischer cartoons?
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Old August 15 2014, 02:58 PM   #26
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

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Didn't Collyer also voice Clark/Superman in the Fleischer cartoons?
Yes, along with fellow radio cast members Joan Alexander (Lois) and Jackson Beck (narrator/various), with Beck playing many guest characters including Perry White (played on radio by Julian Noa) and Inspector Henderson (played on radio by Matt Crowley and others). Not only that, but Collyer, Alexander, and Beck again reprised their roles for the 1966-8 Filmation animated series (in which Beck played the narrator, Perry, and Lex Luthor, and probably most of the other male guest characters). So Collyer and Alexander were the near-exclusive voice-only portrayers of Superman and Lois for three decades, from 1940 to 1969. (Although Lois was briefly played by Rollie Bester and Helen Choate in early 1940 before Alexander was cast, and Superman was played by Michael Fitzmaurice in the final 9 months of the radio series.)

On radio, Jackson Beck also played Alfred the butler as well as radio-exclusive characters Sgt. Healy of the police and Daily Planet copyboy Beany Martin, as well as countless guest characters. He was also the voice of Bluto in Popeye cartoons from 1944 to 1961, and was the G.I. Joe cartoon's narrator in the '80s.
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Old August 16 2014, 01:18 AM   #27
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Now I'm up to the last complete surviving serial of the series -- after that there's an incomplete one and a single surviving episode of another, and then a smattering of half-hour episodes from the last couple of years of the series -- and it features Lois's sister, who in this version is a dancer named Diana, rather than a flight attendant named Lucy (although, coincidentally, there's a maid named Lucy in one chapter of the story). And I'm positive that Diana is played by June Foray! Unfortunately there seem to be no surviving cast lists from this late in the series, since I can't confirm that it was Foray (nor can I confirm my belief that Daws Butler was a member of the ensemble in the later years). But she does have a pretty unmistakeable voice.

What's interesting is that Diana is the more intrepid and daring of the two sisters when they end up in a hostage situation together. We're used to thinking of Lois as the bold, adventurous one, but radio Lois was fairly timid and easily frightened -- probably a pretty typical leading lady for a '40s radio serial.
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Old August 19 2014, 06:59 PM   #28
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

I'm up to the last batch of surviving episodes, when the series switched from the Mutual network to ABC and moved to a half-hour format in 1949-51. Actually there were a few different phases of that, first a thrice-a-week version of which there are only a couple of surviving episodes, and then a Saturday morning version that mostly survives intact. But in both, they gave up the serial format and made each episode a complete story in itself. In some ways that's refreshing, since the stories aren't as padded and there's not as much repetition. (Generally in the 15-minute serial phase, they'd end each episode with a cliffhanger, then repeat the same scene as the teaser of the next episode, then repeat it again a couple of minutes later after the commercial -- but with somewhat different dialogue each time!) But it also makes the stories rather more brief and superficial, without as much room for character interplay. And sometimes the superheroics suffer badly too. There was one episode where Superman only showed up for like 20 seconds and said "Hello, here's Jimmy, whom I just pulled out of a dangerous situation across town. Now if you'll all go to the office, Clark Kent will meet you there and explain everything." And there's one where Superman doesn't appear at all -- the bad guy throws a woman out a window, then goes about his evil business, then is stunned when Clark shows up with the woman in tow, and later Clark explains to Inspector Henderson that Superman caught her "offscreen." (Off mike?) It's like they knew the show would be moving to television soon and were practicing how to write Superman stories on a tiny effects budget. Although I doubt there was ever a George Reeves episode where Reeves never donned the costume at all.

Also notable is that in the Saturday morning series, they finally give credits at the end for Bud Collyer, Joan Alexander, Jackson Beck, and the composer/organist, who I think was called John Garth (I can't quite make out the name). But no credit for Sammy Timberg, who composed the Superman cartoon theme which the radio series adopted from 1946 onward. Or for the stock bit of orchestral music that the Saturday series began using as its main title theme.
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Old August 22 2014, 12:09 AM   #29
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

I've now reached the end of the surviving Superman episodes. I'm afraid the half-hour version of the series was kind of disappointing. As I mentioned, there's generally rather little of Superman in them, and the emphasis is more on mysteries and crime stories than action -- which is true of most of the series, but before, the stories were long enough to have room for a fair amount of action and heroics rather than just one or two brief bits. Also, several of the stories are truncated remakes of stories I've already heard. The half-hour series also trimmed down the supporting cast somewhat; Batman evidently ceased to be part of the show, and at least in the surviving season, Jimmy Olsen seems to be missing; there are a couple of stories in which the role I'd expect to go to Jimmy instead goes to Jackson Beck's squeaky-voiced character Beany Martin, Jimmy's replacement as the Daily Planet's head copyboy.

One interesting example of a remade story is the finale of the penultimate season, "Dead Men Tell No Tales." It's adapted from the 1948 serial "The Mystery of the Stolen Costume," in which a burglar in Clark's apartment discovered his spare Superman costume and Clark turned to Batman to help him retrieve it and preserve his secret. In that version, the burglar, intending to sell the secret to a gangster, was shot by the police and could only tell the gangster the location of the apartment building before he died, and the rest of the story was about the gangster using various strategies to determine which of the building's tenants was Superman and Clark and Batman using various ploys to counter them. In the half-hour version, Batman is replaced by Clark's detective friend Candy Myers, who doesn't know he's Superman, making their cooperation rather more awkward. The gangster gets the full address and he and his moll know Clark is Superman, and to protect his secret, Superman flies them to a remote mountain where he intends to hole them up until he can find a solution, whereupon they promptly try to escape and fall off a cliff. If that sounds familiar, it's because it was remade again as "The Stolen Costume" in the first season of the George Reeves TV series.

In fact, looking over an episode guide for the TV series, I see that several of its episodes were remakes of radio stories. I hadn't realized that. That's another reason to check out the show, either on DVD or when MeTV starts airing it next month (I gather).

Anyway, there's just one surviving episode of the final 1950-51 season, and it doesn't have a single familiar voice in it. In that season, Michael Fitzmaurice replaced Bud Collyer as Clark/Superman, Jack Grimes replaced Jackie Kelk as Jimmy Olsen, and Ross Martin replaced Jackson Beck as the narrator. Lois and Perry aren't in the surviving episode. I was interested to hear how Fitzmaurice did as Superman -- I've been aware of him as a footnote for decades, and wanted to find out once and for all -- and he really didn't amount to much. He had a generic, announcery voice, very different from Collyer's -- with the sort of mellow quality that Bing Crosby's voice had, but blander, and he sounded more like an announcer reciting lines than Collyer ever did (even though Collyer was also an announcer). And he didn't distinguish his Clark and Superman voices much at all. He's a footnote who deserves to be a footnote, and I don't regret that I won't be hearing any more of his episodes (particularly since so many episodes of this series were live reruns/remakes of earlier episodes; they even did "The Stolen Costume" again, according to the episode list on Wikipedia!). As for Grimes, he was decent, but sounded less like a teenager than Kelk, more like a grown man vaguely trying to sound youthful.

So that's the end of that, I guess. Now I'm not sure what I'll do now that I've gotten into the habit of listening to old radio episodes while I eat or wash dishes. Although there are a lot of other old radio shows out there on the Internet. Maybe I'll try The Green Hornet next, or Dimension X.
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Old August 22 2014, 12:17 AM   #30
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Christopher wrote: View Post
That's another reason to check out the show, either on DVD or when MeTV starts airing it next month (I gather).
Saturdays at 6 P.M. EST, starting on September 6:

http://metvnetwork.com/videos/metv-p...es-of-superman
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