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Old August 7 2014, 08:21 PM   #1
Christopher
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The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

This thread is spinning off of a discussion that began in the Flash TV series thread but took on a life of its own. It's inspired by my ongoing project to listen all the way through the surviving Adventures of Superman radio episodes available on the Internet Archive (beginning here, with further pages available on this index). Unfortunately I'm already up to the penultimate page and should be done soon, but I wanted to spin off this thread before it was over. Below, I've quoted the relevant portions of the posts from the original thread:


The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
To pick a nit, I've read that the Daily Planet came from the newspaper strip, not the radio series. It was feared that some papers might not carry the strip if they had a rival with a name like the Daily Star...so they changed it to a less common-sounding name.

Also, that's twice I've seen you mention the inept radio Batman...not being familiar, I'm curious.
Christopher wrote: View Post
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
To pick a nit, I've read that the Daily Planet came from the newspaper strip, not the radio series. It was feared that some papers might not carry the strip if they had a rival with a name like the Daily Star...so they changed it to a less common-sounding name.
Ah, yes, you're right. The name Daily Planet apparently debuted in November 1939, three months before the radio series hit the air. But the editor in the comic strip remained George Taylor until mid-1941, long after the comic book had adopted Perry White from radio.


Also, that's twice I've seen you mention the inept radio Batman...not being familiar, I'm curious.
Radio Batman was simply a terrible, terrible crimefighter. He never figured out a single clue or deception until Clark/Superman explained it to him, except in those occasional episodes where he and Robin pursued a case without Superman because Bud Collyer had the day off. Since neither he nor Robin seemed to carry any equipment other than rope, their go-to moves when put into deathtraps were either to yell for help or to resign themselves to death until Superman showed up to save them. And whenever Robin was abducted or disappeared, Batman's typical response was to mope around in despair until Superman convinced him it was worth making some effort to do something about it. Then there was the time when Batman and Robin hid under a villain's bed to steal his kryptonite and were given away when Robin sneezed.

Indeed, the radio show barely seemed to treat Batman as anything other than a conventional detective/man of action. They treated his and Robin's whole secret-identity thing very haphazardly. Once, Robin was accused of being a catburglar and arrested, and even though they fingerprinted him, they didn't take his mask off and somehow failed to attempt to determine his real identity. Then there was the time that Clark's private-eye friend Candy Myers sought out Batman's help on a case and came to see him at his and Robin's house -- presumably Bruce Wayne's house, which in this reality is in Metropolis -- even though he's not supposed to know Batman's secret identity. And Batman and Robin are routinely written as though they don't wear gloves. Sometimes the writers just seem to forget they're supposed to be costumed heroes. Although they usually remember the capes, as you'd expect of Superman writers.

Also, interestingly, they interpret Batman's cowl as two pieces, a bat-styled hood worn over a half-mask. Which actually is an understandable mistake given how Batman's cowl was drawn back then, blue on the top and sides with black shading around the eyes. If you didn't look closely, you could mistake it for a blue hood over a black face mask. But what's harder to understand is why they once described Robin as also wearing a bat-styled hood over his mask. Or what exactly it means when they say the Batmobile is a "bat-shaped car."

The actor who played radio Batman in most of his surviving appearances, Matt Crowley, doesn't sound anything like we expect Batman to sound today, more of a light, upbeat baritone, higher than Bud Collyer's Superman voice. But their Robin, Ronald Liss, did a terrific job; he's just how you'd imagine the clever, wisecracking Robin of the '40s comics would sound.

By the way, they did an interesting alternate version of Robin's origin story on radio. Turns out his mother was a French immigrant who had family in the French resistance, and a blackmailer was threatening to expose her family members' identity to the Nazis if they didn't pay him. They ultimately decided to expose his blackmail, so he killed them -- with Dick being merely a spectator to their last performance rather than a participant.

...
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Radio Batman was simply a terrible, terrible crimefighter.[...]
Now that got some good chuckles out of me, especially...

Then there was the time when Batman and Robin hid under a villain's bed to steal his kryptonite and were given away when Robin sneezed.
Holy Lucy and Ethyl, Batman!

Makes you appreciate how ingrained key elements of the Batman's mythos are in our popular culture today, that back then when the character was so young, the makers of the radio show would do such bizarrely off-key version of the character. Adam West's campy portrayal gets a lot of flak, but it was true to how Batman had been depicted for most of his going-on-three-decades of existence at the time.
...
Christopher wrote: View Post
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
Makes you appreciate how ingrained key elements of the Batman's mythos are in our popular culture today, that back then when the character was so young, the makers of the radio show would do such bizarrely off-key version of the character. Adam West's campy portrayal gets a lot of flak, but it was true to how Batman had been depicted for most of his going-on-three-decades of existence at the time.
Well, we're talking post-WWII, so Batman was pretty well-established by then. At the very least, he'd been clearly defined by then as a hero who had a ton of gadgets and equipment, but radio Batman didn't use any. I mean, right after the sneeze incident, they fled the bad guy's mansion and then tried to sneak back in through the pitch-dark cellar, and Batman struck a match so they could see. He didn't even have a lousy flashlight. Jimmy Olsen had a flashlight, a "fountain pen flashlight" that he used in several storylines, but Batman just had a freaking box of matches. Oh, and then the match burned Batman's fingers because he didn't wear gloves.

In the story I'm up to today, Batman and Robin were trying to rescue Perry White from a Peter Lorre-esque racketeer's yacht, and after they got their hands on Perry, they retreated -- into the same cabin where he'd been imprisoned. Which accomplished nothing beyond trapping them until Superman could show up to save them, which was pretty much the Dynamic Duo's go-to move. I guess it's understandable that the writers wanted Superman to be the main hero, but still...

Well, maybe I'm being too hard on radio Batman. Really, all the characters on that show were pretty bad at what they did. I've never known another Clark Kent who was so terrible at keeping his secret identity. He's constantly talking about doing things only Superman could do, or telling people what he sees through a door with his x-ray vision, or flying somewhere to meet someone mere moments after they called him from another city, and then stammering uselessly when they question how he could possibly do these things. And the only reason Lois and Jimmy and Perry never catch on that he's Superman is because they're even dumber than he is. Batman only knows because Superman told him.

Granted, the show was made for kids and written on an appropriate level. But it is kind of hilarious how Clark has been concealing his double identity for so many years but still hasn't learned anything about how to do it effectively. Whenever they do a storyline where someone threatens to expose Superman's identity and narrator Jackson Beck intones about the risk to "Superman's most closely guarded secret," I have to laugh, because constantly blurting out your secret and then trying to backtrack or stammer out an excuse isn't my idea of close guarding.
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
Batman had been around a few years, but he hadn't been around long enough for, say, the people making the show to have read him when they were kids. And his exposure outside of comics was pretty limited at that point (I know there were some movie serials). It's very plausible that they went into it with very little knowledge/understanding of the character, and shoehorned him into an inauthentic role.

I'll give them a pass for the secret identity schtick on the basis that they were playing it broadly for comedic entertainment value. The kids could giggle with glee that they knew the secret, but the adults on the show didn't.
Christopher wrote: View Post
^Well, I don't think it was meant to be as comical as it was. It's just that it had to be played broadly given the youth of the target audience. And audiences back then, of all ages, were less genre-savvy, so a lot of things were more unsubtle.
Mr. Adventure wrote: View Post
^ There's this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUIMP3k6y90

The fairly obvious idea, it seem obvious now, was to make it so square, and so serious, and so cliche-ridden, and so overdone, and yet do it with such an elegence and style that it would be funny. That it would be so corny, and so bad, that it would be funny.
Corran Horn wrote: View Post
I don't think I've ever heard William Dozier talk beyond the narration in the series. Interesting!
Christopher wrote: View Post
To clarify, in my last post I was talking about the '40s Superman radio series, not Batman '66. Batman was unambiguously intended to be a sitcom and a spoof, albeit one that small children would be able to enjoy unironically as an adventure show. The Adventures of Superman, on the other hand, was played straight, but it had qualities that seem quaint and awkward and amusingly strange to modern ears.

(For instance, the complete lack of continuity. The show was a serial, with storylines continuing from one 15-minute episode to the next, and each episode would usually begin with a recap of the closing scene from the last episode -- but the dialogue was almost always entirely different the second time. There was one instance where a henchman suggested an idea to the villain at the end of one episode, and the next episode opened with the villain explaining the same idea to the totally clueless henchman. Then there was the case of the Laugher, an archvillain who was quite ignominiously killed off at the end of one storyline -- his gun randomly blew up in his face while he was trying to kill Lois, with Superman totally uninvolved -- and yet a few years later he reappeared and wanted revenge for Superman sending him to prison.)
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
And they rebooted Superman's origin from an unconventional version at the start of the series that involved him coming to Earth as an adult who grew up in his spacecraft, to a more conventional version when they retold it years later. I haven't listened to the entire series, but I know that much.

Christopher wrote: View Post
^Well, I don't think it was meant to be as comical as it was. It's just that it had to be played broadly given the youth of the target audience. And audiences back then, of all ages, were less genre-savvy, so a lot of things were more unsubtle.
Also, whatever their virtues, radio programs were a pretty unsubtle medium. They had to telegraph things via dialogue that would have been blatantly obvious in a visual medium. The OTT secret identity business could be seen as part of that approach. They wouldn't have been relying solely on Collyer's voice to get across the idea that Clark Kent and Superman were the same guy, but believed to be two people by the other characters on the series. They may have seen the need to constantly remind the audience through such comical incidents...their audio-only version of Clark winking at the camera.
Christopher wrote: View Post
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
And they rebooted Superman's origin from an unconventional version at the start of the series that involved him coming to Earth as an adult who grew up in his spacecraft, to a more conventional version when they retold it years later. I haven't listened to the entire series, but I know that much.
Right. The first two episodes were whiplash-inducing. The first episode is the familiar origin story ending with Kal-L (as it was spelled at the time) getting launched from the exploding Krypton. Then episode 2 opens abruptly with Superman arriving at Earth as an adult, already in costume, and somehow fully versed in American English and Earth culture. And he saves some random professor and his son who are never heard from again, and they suggest that he join a newspaper as the best place to learn about trouble, and the kid randomly suggests he call himself Clark Kent.

It was when they relaunched the series early in WWII, after a hiatus, that they retold the origin with the more familiar story of Clark being adopted and raised on Earth (although after that they picked up the continuity, such as it was, from the previous series, rather than doing a complete reboot). Unfortunately, there are no known surviving copies of the episode that tells that story. In the time I've been listening (up to the start of 1948 as of today), I've heard the Krypton origin story told three times, not counting the unaired audition version of the first episode (and not counting the missing relaunch episode), but I've never heard the story of Clark's childhood retold -- although there was a late 1947 story that involved Clark going home to his late father's farm after a bad guy found the rocket that had brought him to Earth.



Also, whatever their virtues, radio programs were a pretty unsubtle medium. They had to telegraph things via dialogue that would have been blatantly obvious in a visual medium. The OTT secret identity business could be seen as part of that approach. They wouldn't have been relying solely on Collyer's voice to get across the idea that Clark Kent and Superman were the same guy, but believed to be two people by the other characters on the series. They may have seen the need to constantly remind the audience through such comical incidents...their audio-only version of Clark winking at the camera.
Hmm, maybe. I have noticed that a lot of things get explained or described twice within a single episode, and it's occurred to me to wonder if that was because radio reception was often iffy and staticky and a listener might not hear every line. (Which helps with those episodes that are really badly preserved, although there are some I can't make out at all. I wish someone would digitally restore them.)

Speaking of describing everything in dialogue, it's funny the way Superman in flight has to constantly give himself commands as if he were riding a horse -- not just "Up, up, and away!" but "Down, down!" and "Faster!" and so on. There was even an episode where Superman had kryptonite-induced amnesia and didn't remember he could fly, and Batman told him to say "Up, up, and away" to activate his flying powers, as though saying it automatically caused him to fly -- which it actually did!

Although my favorite bit is when it goes like this: (whispers) "They're in the next room. I have to open the window quietly so they won't hear me fly away -- as Superman. Now, gently... softly... Okay, now out the window..." (yells) "UP, UP, AND AWAYYYYYYY!!!!!"
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
Well, if I had to rationalize it in-story, I'd say that the flying phrases were psychosomatic triggers or somesuch.

Maybe if Superman had told Batman to say "I'm Batman!", radio Batman would have actually become more like Batman.
Christopher wrote: View Post
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
Maybe if Superman had told Batman to say "I'm Batman!", radio Batman would have actually become more like Batman.
I doubt it, because that was Michael Keaton's catchphrase, and he was very, very unlike Batman.
The Old Mixer wrote: View Post
Sounds like Keaton could have been a role model to that guy on the radio. And the phrase has caught on elsewhere. For example:

Christopher wrote: View Post
The latest radio Batman insanity, from "Batman's Great Mystery" in February 1948:

Clark Kent is trying to convince Inspector Henderson that Batman has been replaced with an impostor, imprisoned or killed by a man who lured him into a trap by threatening to expose his greatest secret -- though Clark won't tell Henderson what that secret is, because of course Batman's true identity as Bruce Wayne must be protected at all costs.

But Kent has a plan to expose the impostor, and asks Henderson: "Do you have Batman's fingerprints on file?"

"Why, sure, but we'd need someone close to him to file a formal complaint before we could check them."

"Robin could do that! Let's go out to their house now!"



What is... I don't even...

...
(I hope this first post isn't too long.)
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Old August 7 2014, 08:25 PM   #2
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Anyway, the reason I wanted to spin this off now is because I just heard something interesting in a May 1948 episode that I wanted to comment on. Throughout the series, they've been having Superman change out of his Clark Kent clothes, fly to somewhere across town or across the country or across the ocean in his blue costume and red cape, and then change back to his Clark Kent clothes when he arrived. I kept wondering how that was possible and wondered if maybe he had some kind of a fanny pack hidden under his cape, but never expected them to address it. But in an early episode of "The Mystery of the Sleeping Beauty," narrator Jackson Beck states that Superman changes back into the business suit and horn-rimmed glasses that were hidden under "his billowing cape." Which is really neat, because it provides an actual functional purpose for the cape -- i.e. hiding the bundle of clothes he has on his back. Although later in that same storyline, he picks up an elderly expert he needs to consult with and wraps the guy in his cape in order to take him flying, so I had to wonder why the guy didn't notice the bundle of clothes under the cape and wonder about them. I particularly wonder what happens when he does that with Lois, who's been suspicious before that he's really Clark.
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Old August 7 2014, 09:30 PM   #3
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Yeah even for a character as fantastical as Superman, I've always had a hard time buying the idea that he could somehow compress his normal clothes (and shoes apparently!) into some tiny little packet that he could hide in his cape.

Because no matter how strong you are, there's probably only so much you can fold and compress a fabric before you just end up destroying it.

I would almost rather they don't try to explain it than use that explanation.
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Old August 7 2014, 09:36 PM   #4
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

^But you see, they didn't say he hid the clothes within his cape -- rather, that they were bundled up underneath his cape, like in the fanny-pack example I suggested. That's why I directly quoted the narration that specifically referenced "his billowing cape" -- to show that the intent was that the flowing, billowing cape concealed the bulge of his clothing bundle on his back or waist or wherever it was. No compression involved, just loose fabric providing concealment. Which is really very clever, and provides a valid reason for having a cape at all.
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Old August 7 2014, 10:15 PM   #5
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

True. I was just referring to the explanation we've usually been given for how he hides his clothes.

This alternate one does sound a lot more plausible.
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Old August 8 2014, 02:16 AM   #6
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Christopher wrote: View Post
urbandefault wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
The latest radio Batman insanity, from "Batman's Great Mystery" in February 1948:
...
That's hilarious. They must have let anybody off the street write for those shows.

Just goes to show, just because you write some dialog and make it fit a time slot it don't mean you're a writer.
If you want to respond to the radio Superman/Batman discussion, I've spun off a new thread for it now:

http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=251359

I should've posted that link before, sorry.
Geesh.

This a complicated damn place to just talk about stuff. I wonder what would happen if I brought up the "Burford" episode of ...

Never mind.
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Old August 8 2014, 05:04 AM   #7
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Welcome to our new thread! Make yourself at home.

Anyway, to respond to your point, I kind of wondered if maybe that script had been written for another show and then hastily rewritten to be about Batman. It doesn't seem likely, though, because that storyline fit very much into the general pattern of the show's postwar tales, with the villains being bigots and fearmongers who don't want Americans to help starving children in Europe because they're foreigners. As messy as the writing got, I'm really impressed with their devotion to the cause of racial and religious tolerance and the effort to create world peace.

Although in the 1947-8 series, they apparently lost Kellogg's as their sponsor and the constant cereal ads were replaced by a series of sermonettes that were usually about tolerance and inclusion, or sometimes about safety or charity drives. The sentiments are nice enough, but they get so preachy that sometimes I miss the Kellogg's Pep commercials.

As for the quality of the writing, though, keep in mind that these stories were aired five days a week year-round, so they had to write new material in an awful hurry and didn't have time to refine it a lot. There's quite a sense of making it up as they went in a lot of it. Indeed, sometimes they even redid old stories, which can be handy, since there are two or three storylines where the original versions are mostly lost but the remade versions from a few years later are still intact.
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Old August 8 2014, 08:25 AM   #8
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Something I'm not clear about - this show is called Adventures of Superman right? How do Batman and Robin figure in it? Are they always in it? They just show up one day? Do they all live in Metropolis or is some set in Gotham (or maybe actual New York?).
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Old August 8 2014, 02:58 PM   #9
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
Something I'm not clear about - this show is called Adventures of Superman right? How do Batman and Robin figure in it? Are they always in it? They just show up one day? Do they all live in Metropolis or is some set in Gotham (or maybe actual New York?).
Batman and Robin were recurring guests in the series from sometime in the early '40s. I think they were introduced as a backdoor pilot for a spinoff series, but that never took off, so they just kept showing up as recurring characters, part of the series' large ensemble. They played a similar role to characters like Clark's private detective friend Candy Myers or Lois's friend Horatio F. (for French) Horn, a rural Daily Planet correspondent and amateur detective (who I'd swear is played by Daws Butler from at least his second storyline, though there's no documentation to confirm it). That is, they show up for the occasional storyline and drive the story or assist in it, and then they're absent for the next few storylines, until the next time they show up.

It's often said that the reason the show often featured Batman and Robin was so that Bud Collyer could have a vacation -- e.g. Superman would be incapacitated by Kryptonite for a week or two and the story would follow Batman and Robin while he was gone. But I'm finding that isn't really the case, or if it is, it's only for a day or two at a time. Usually B&R are in the story alongside Superman rather than taking his place, although there may be a couple of episodes within a 2- to 4-week storyline that focus on them going on a mission while Superman's away or incapacitated.

I don't know how Batman and Robin made their debut in the show, since that storyline is missing. Their earliest surviving appearance is in one extant episode of an otherwise lost storyline, where Clark discovers Dick Grayson nearly drowned in the water and finds that he has Robin's costume on underneath his clothes, and then is told by Robin that Batman is missing and needs his help. But the first surviving episode with Batman actually in it doesn't come along until some time later. That's the one mentioned above where Batman and Robin get trapped in a pool of water beneath a trapdoor in a hall of mirrors, and their only plan for escaping is to yell for help.

And Bruce/Batman and Dick/Robin, along with Alfred, live in a house in an upscale neighborhood of Metropolis -- not a stately manor, just a house, though with a garage for the Batmobile and, IIRC, a hangar for the Batplane and a dock for the Batboat, so I guess it's next to the water. As I said, it's treated interchangeably by other characters as Bruce's house and Batman's house as the story requires, yet somehow only Clark knows that Bruce and Batman are the same person. Instead of Commissioner Gordon, the Dynamic Duo's police liaison is Inspector Henderson. (Who, like Perry and Jimmy, was created for the radio series.)
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Old August 8 2014, 11:51 PM   #10
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

It's just a house...with an airplane hangar.

Maybe we should call it the Bat-Shack!

Bat-Sha-a-ack,
That's where it's at...!
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Old August 9 2014, 12:37 AM   #11
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

One interesting thing about listening to the radio show is discovering that a number of things that I thought were of recent origin were actually around in the 1940s, e.g.:

1) Ending a sentence with "Not!" as a way of being sarcastic, e.g. "What a great guy he is... not." (Okay, not exactly the same, but almost.)
2) Using "literally" to mean "figuratively," as in "Editor White's eyes are literally popping out of his head in shock."
3) Opening an episode with a flashforward. The story I'm listening to now is opening each episode with a brief teaser of the action toward the end of the episode, then jumping back after the first break. (Although, of course, The Outer Limits did this every week in the '60s.)

Conversely, there are plenty of neat bits of '40s slang that are completely forgotten today. For instance, around '46 or so, "bad actor" was used to mean, not someone bad at acting, but someone who commits bad acts, an immoral and dangerous person, such as a gangster. E.g. "Jimmy, stay away from that man, he's a bad actor." And there's a really weird one, "from hunger," which means bad or deplorable. Apparently it originally meant something like a low-quality musical performance done strictly to earn food money, but the characters in the show use it in the context of something like "You'll be strictly from hunger in the chief's eyes if you come back without that story," or that sort of thing.

A different sort of surprising thing: In November 1947, there was a storyline where Perry White organized a reform party to stand against the corrupt political machine of Metropolis (which was a really corrupt city in the radio series), was convinced to stand for mayor, and won! He actually continued as mayor from then on, with Clark effectively running the Daily Planet in his absence. Although apparently he continued to be nominally both the paper's editor and the mayor, often recruiting Clark to serve him as both a reporter and a mayoral aide, which strikes me as an enormous conflict of interest.
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Old August 11 2014, 09:36 PM   #12
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

It's a surprise that "Not!" dates back so far. I'm less surprised by "literally". It's just misuse of English and I guess I expect that from any period.
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Old August 11 2014, 10:25 PM   #13
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

Speaking of things dating back farther than expected, I'm pleasantly surprised by how emphatic the radio show was about the equality of races and religions as early as 1946. Looking back, it seems like the civil rights movement didn't really kick in until the '60s, but here, sometime in '48, they had a story about bigots targeting a couple of black teenagers on a track team, and both of the black characters were portrayed as entirely normal people without any stereotyped accents or anything. Although there were some awful stereotyped black porters in pre-war episodes; I think the revelations of what Hitler did were really a wake-up call for a lot of Americans about the evils of racism, and the writers of the Superman radio show really took that lesson to heart.

In that storyline, and in an earlier storyline in which the target of racism was a Chinese-American youth, the show did something clever to take advantage of the radio format: For the first couple of episodes, the characters' race wasn't mentioned and they were just treated as ordinary kids the same as everyone else, so that the audience had already gotten a chance to identify with them and like them as good kids being harrassed for no good reason, and only then did it come out that they were nonwhite.

Although, as I mentioned before, all the constant sermonizing about tolerance that took the place of commercials around late '48 gets a bit tiresome after a while, even though I agree with the message. I'm concerned that it might've oversold the message until kids were tired of hearing it or resented being told what to think. It worked better when they just incorporated the message into the stories, even though it was still pretty heavyhanded there.
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Old August 12 2014, 03:57 PM   #14
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

From what I'm reading, I'm guessing there's no Lex Luthor in the series?
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Old August 12 2014, 04:16 PM   #15
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Re: The 1940s Superman radio serial, and why Radio Batman is terrible

AgentCoop wrote: View Post
From what I'm reading, I'm guessing there's no Lex Luthor in the series?
Nope. In fact, I commented on this just yesterday in another thread:

Christopher wrote: View Post
Luthor never appeared in the radio series either, or in the Fleischer cartoons. And none of the radio villains ever made the jump to the comics or the screen. The name of the Atom Man was used in the 1950 film serial Atom Man vs. Superman, but it was just an alias used by Luthor. There just wasn't a lot of crossover in the villains.

The radio series had several criminal-genius villains, but had a tendency to kill them off or lose sight of their characterizations when they were brought back. There was one with great potential, the Laugher, a really obese but debonair criminal mastermind adorned in diamonds, who laughed constantly at others' misfortune and who considered Superman the only worthy foe he'd faced in many years and relished the challenge of outwitting him. This guy was essentially Luthor, the Joker, and the Kingpin in one package, which could've been amazing, aside from the silly name. But he was ignominiously killed off by his own gun blowing up in his face when the writers, I guess, couldn't think of a way out of the cliffhanger they'd set up, and yet years later he was retconned back to life with little of his personality intact and used only as a supporting player in stories focusing on other villains.

Probably the other big evil genius from the radio show was Der Teufel ("The Devil"), a Nazi scientist whose debut storyline is missing, but who was the mastermind behind the creation of the Atom Man. But he, too, was killed off and a more ordinary criminal mastermind (who I think was named Jones) took his place for the second half of the Atom Man saga. I don't really understand why the radio series had trouble committing to recurring villains. Maybe it's just that the format of the pulp-influenced adventure stories at the time relied so much on the villains getting their lethal comeuppance at the end.

Anyway, more radio Batman shenanigans: Superman has discovered that a hoard of radioactive diamonds, which for some reason cause a circular orange burn-like mark to appear on the foreheads of exposed victims, were brought to the US from Shanghai. He needs to stay in Metropolis to hunt for one of the smugglers, so he flies Batman and Robin to Shanghai to use their underworld connections to track down the source of the diamonds. They meet the main smuggler, presenting themselves as criminal associates of one of the smugglers -- but use their real names. Somehow it never occurs to them that the bad guy could wire his people in Metropolis and have them investigate the names Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson and discover they're frequent allies of the police. So they're captured and marked for death.

They manage to fight their way out and, changing into Batman and Robin, climb onto the pontoons of the villain's seaplane just as it's taking off. They ditch into the sea just before it lands on the island the diamonds are from (for some reason this seaplane doesn't land in the sea), then swim ashore, but are weakened by the radiation (which affects humans much like kryptonite affects Superman, by weakening them or knocking them out). When captured, they spin a story about their plane crashing at sea, counting on the fact that they won't be recognizable as Bruce and Dick in their costumes. Great plan, right? Except that one of the bad guys was sent up by Batman and Robin before, so of course he knows who they are. Somehow that possibility never occurred to the Dynamic Duo.

Oh, and remember those orange circles on the forehead? When they're exposed to radiation, Batman and Robin both see those circles on each other's foreheads. Even though, as previous storylines have established, they both wear hoods and masks.

Meanwhile, Superman's strategy for finding the smuggler in Metropolis is one he's used at least once before: Using his x-ray vision to systematically search every single dwelling in Metropolis. Good grief, how many bathing women and couples having sex did he see? And when he finds a promising suspect, he barges into his dwelling and opens the leaded box he's carrying to confirm it has the diamonds, without bothering to get a search warrant. Apparently Inspector Henderson and the Metropolis PD have no problem with his methods.
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