Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Up, Up And Away!


Yesterday I had a pretty long drive ahead of me at a rather ungodly hour so I was looking for something to help me pass the time on the road and I stumbled across something I've had for many years in my collection, a two-CD set of the earliest Superman radio adventures. As it turned out they were ideal for the circumstance and I enjoyed them mightily.

Clayton "Bud" Collier - the man who voiced Superman
I was both entertained and surprised at the story which was altered in some significant ways from the original comics stories. We have Krypton of course and the first episode of twelve minutes or so was dedicated to the the origin of Kal-El and how he, already part of a race of "supermen" was sent to Earth to escape the destruction of his home world. Not much news there, but in the second episode we meet an adult Kal-El who matured in the rocket who pops out all ready for action and who quickly seeks to begin a career of helping people. Guided by a wise Judge and his grandson, the alien picks the name of "Clark Kent" pretty much at random and then goes and tries to get a job on the Daily Planet. From there things progress pretty much as we've come to know them. But frankly these changes in the classic story caught me off guard.


In his first adventure Superman faces off against "The Wolf", a criminal who is sabotaging trains for profit. Then we meet the mastermind behind The Wolf, a cackling villain called "The Yellow Mask" who steals an atomic gun. After that Superman faces off against some more basic swindlers and such. Solid crime-oriented adventures in which we meet Perry White and Lois Lane. What's really different to me was the personality of Superman. Given life by Clayton Collier, he really comes across as arrogant, ordering around police chiefs and fire chiefs and such. He seems to get a kick out of using his powers to mystify folks. Without the fundamental humility I've come to assume about the character, he's a very different kind of person and hero.

I was reminded of what Jules Feiffer wrote about the character, about how he must be gloating in secret knowing how much superior he was to the mere humans around him. Here's what Feiffer says: "The truth may be that Kent existed not for the purposes of the story but for the reader. He is Superman’s opinion of the rest of us, a pointed caricature of what we, the noncriminal element, were really like. His fake identity was our real one. That’s why we loved him so. For if that wasn’t really us, if there were no Clark Kents, only lots of glasses and cheap suits which, when removed, revealed all of us in our true identities —what a hell of an improved world it would have been!" I definitely get it from these radio shows. Superman is a bit of a smarmy dick in these early adventures. 

These were a great deal of fun. Glad I found them.

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2 comments:

  1. If you're not already familiar with it, I remember the original "I Love a Mystery" radio show as being pulpy fun, and it was serialized so it'd be great for extended trips. Lots of strange, horrific tales featuring a very quirky group of adventurers, Jack, Doc and Reggie, who Feiffer name-checked in a short play he wrote about Superman.

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