The Howling CoyoteThe Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - December 1940
Clark and Jimmy are sent off by Perry White to investigate strange – and seemingly supernatural – happenings at the oil fields of Perry’s good friend Comanche Joe (who’s not SO good a friend that he doesn’t prank Perry with a death threat and a water pitcher-centric take on the old William Tell routine).
Comanche Joe’s properties are under secret assault from a pair of crooks trying to scare him into selling his land cheap, rigging avalanches and disasters and utilizing an old myth about a banshee-like coyote spirit who howls in advance of certain death. What follows is a mash-up of Native American practices so generalized as to effectively be made of whole cloth, including Jimmy and Clark being ceremonially inducted into the local tribe (Jimmy’s “Comanche name” is appealingly “Little Laughing Squirrel”, and Clark’s is essentially “Ol’ Coke Bottles”).
Excepting the cultural portmanteau, the portrayal of native culture in this serial stands head-and-shoulders above the previous portrayals of Incas, Mayans and Inuits, owing in no small part to the fact that the Comanche are the good guys this time around (Joe himself is one of the nation’s richest men, for that matter). Still, it’s far from complete redress of the ethnic excesses of the serial to date.
Prior to that, Jimmy suffers a serious injury and becomes the second cast member (after Lois, in the comics) to receive an emergency blood transfusion from Superman himself. Nothing except sudden health and vitality results from the transfusion – Jimmy isn’t leaping over tall buildings or anything – but still Superman’s blood appears to harbor some pretty spectacular curative properties.

The Howling Coyote
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - December 1940

Clark and Jimmy are sent off by Perry White to investigate strange – and seemingly supernatural – happenings at the oil fields of Perry’s good friend Comanche Joe (who’s not SO good a friend that he doesn’t prank Perry with a death threat and a water pitcher-centric take on the old William Tell routine).

Comanche Joe’s properties are under secret assault from a pair of crooks trying to scare him into selling his land cheap, rigging avalanches and disasters and utilizing an old myth about a banshee-like coyote spirit who howls in advance of certain death. What follows is a mash-up of Native American practices so generalized as to effectively be made of whole cloth, including Jimmy and Clark being ceremonially inducted into the local tribe (Jimmy’s “Comanche name” is appealingly “Little Laughing Squirrel”, and Clark’s is essentially “Ol’ Coke Bottles”).

Excepting the cultural portmanteau, the portrayal of native culture in this serial stands head-and-shoulders above the previous portrayals of Incas, Mayans and Inuits, owing in no small part to the fact that the Comanche are the good guys this time around (Joe himself is one of the nation’s richest men, for that matter). Still, it’s far from complete redress of the ethnic excesses of the serial to date.

Prior to that, Jimmy suffers a serious injury and becomes the second cast member (after Lois, in the comics) to receive an emergency blood transfusion from Superman himself. Nothing except sudden health and vitality results from the transfusion – Jimmy isn’t leaping over tall buildings or anything – but still Superman’s blood appears to harbor some pretty spectacular curative properties.

22 notes

Luthor, Master of EvilSunday Newspaper Strips - December 22, 1940 to March 2, 1941
Terrible storms assault the city of Metropolis, masking a crimewave of epic proportions. Behind the flooding, robbery and ruin, Superman finds the malevolent LUTHOR - making his second exfoliated appearance as a gaunt, leering figure of abject menace. 
With two shorn and shaved appearances under his belt, we don’t see the shaggy red-headed version of Lex Luthor again until he returns as an “alternate Earth” Luthor another thirty-plus years down the road…

Luthor, Master of Evil
Sunday Newspaper Strips - December 22, 1940 to March 2, 1941

Terrible storms assault the city of Metropolis, masking a crimewave of epic proportions. Behind the flooding, robbery and ruin, Superman finds the malevolent LUTHOR - making his second exfoliated appearance as a gaunt, leering figure of abject menace. 

With two shorn and shaved appearances under his belt, we don’t see the shaggy red-headed version of Lex Luthor again until he returns as an “alternate Earth” Luthor another thirty-plus years down the road…

The Meekest Man in the WorldSuperman Daily Newspaper Strip - December 2, 1940 to March 8
Spurred to action by a letter sent to the Planet’s reluctant agony aunt – a temporarily demoted Lois Lane - Clark Kent finds himself drawn to the plight of lovelorn Eustace Watson. More man than mouse, Eustace’s meek personality makes Superman’s faint-hearted alter-ego look like Sir Galahad on a rager; abused in equal measure by his landlady, his bus driver and fellow bus patrons, his local newsagent, his boss, his coworkers and – insult to injury – even the guy who runs the elevators, Eustace seems like a lost cause.
When Superman steps in to take Eustace’s place, it must seem like a vacation for the Clark Kent side of his personality. Decked out in Eustace’s duds and using his every-now-and-again superpower of tensing his facial muscles with such expert skill that he takes on another person’s likeness, Superman puts himself in a brand-new scenario – dressed up like a gutless dandy but behaving like a lion.
In short order, Superman sets Eustace’s many tormentors to rights – he barks the landlady into submission, physically threatens the bullying commuter into terrified submission, stuffs cheap cigars down the newsagent’s throat and bowls over his coworker. The guy who runs the elevators, though? Superman lets that guy get away with it. Maybe Superman has a soft spot for elevator operators, who knows?
This story arc ends up running for more than three months, during which time Superman finds plenty of reasons to put “Eustace” in all sorts of daring and dangerous situations. As an artifact of the character, it’s a window into a world where the line between the Man of Steel and his shrinking violet of an alter-ego is blurred to the point of non-existence, and Clark Kent is as lion-hearted as Superman…

The Meekest Man in the World
Superman Daily Newspaper Strip - December 2, 1940 to March 8

Spurred to action by a letter sent to the Planet’s reluctant agony aunt – a temporarily demoted Lois Lane - Clark Kent finds himself drawn to the plight of lovelorn Eustace Watson. More man than mouse, Eustace’s meek personality makes Superman’s faint-hearted alter-ego look like Sir Galahad on a rager; abused in equal measure by his landlady, his bus driver and fellow bus patrons, his local newsagent, his boss, his coworkers and – insult to injury – even the guy who runs the elevators, Eustace seems like a lost cause.

When Superman steps in to take Eustace’s place, it must seem like a vacation for the Clark Kent side of his personality. Decked out in Eustace’s duds and using his every-now-and-again superpower of tensing his facial muscles with such expert skill that he takes on another person’s likeness, Superman puts himself in a brand-new scenario – dressed up like a gutless dandy but behaving like a lion.

In short order, Superman sets Eustace’s many tormentors to rights – he barks the landlady into submission, physically threatens the bullying commuter into terrified submission, stuffs cheap cigars down the newsagent’s throat and bowls over his coworker. The guy who runs the elevators, though? Superman lets that guy get away with it. Maybe Superman has a soft spot for elevator operators, who knows?

This story arc ends up running for more than three months, during which time Superman finds plenty of reasons to put “Eustace” in all sorts of daring and dangerous situations. As an artifact of the character, it’s a window into a world where the line between the Man of Steel and his shrinking violet of an alter-ego is blurred to the point of non-existence, and Clark Kent is as lion-hearted as Superman…

27 notes

Superman vol.1 #7 - Cover date Winter 1940
In this issue, Superman confronts a group of masked highwaymen calling themselves “The Black Gang” and headed by a sensation-seeking journalist. He also helps a crusading lawyer friend of Clark Kent’s surf the troubled waves of a crooked election for City Prosecutor. 
These four original stories begin, however, with Superman playing the unusual role of detective, made even more extraordinary as he works in close collaboration with the police to clear one man’s name and send another to the electric chair. Although routinely advertised as equally powerful in intellect as physical strength, it’s rare to base a story around Superman’s deductive capabilities. 
As for his chummy behavior with the boys in blue, Superman is at this point in his publishing history not only a household name but a bonafide cultural phenomenon. Rather than risking the ire of persnickety parents who might balk at Superman’s cantankerous cat-and-mouse game with Johnny Law, the powers-that-be at National begin to have Superman working side-by-side with legitimate authorities, so as to make sure he remains a positive role model for impressionable minds.
A fourth story in this issue is notable because it involves a science fiction premise - A deadly imperceptible gas which turns people to glass is unleashed in Gay City, rendering Lois effectively immobile inside a bus station for fear of accidentally smashing her suddenly fragile, glass-transformed hand. Superman upends the crooks who released the gas as well as the scientist responsible, and is able to provide Lois an antidote in the nick of time.

Superman vol.1 #7 - Cover date Winter 1940

In this issue, Superman confronts a group of masked highwaymen calling themselves “The Black Gang” and headed by a sensation-seeking journalist. He also helps a crusading lawyer friend of Clark Kent’s surf the troubled waves of a crooked election for City Prosecutor. 

These four original stories begin, however, with Superman playing the unusual role of detective, made even more extraordinary as he works in close collaboration with the police to clear one man’s name and send another to the electric chair. Although routinely advertised as equally powerful in intellect as physical strength, it’s rare to base a story around Superman’s deductive capabilities. 

As for his chummy behavior with the boys in blue, Superman is at this point in his publishing history not only a household name but a bonafide cultural phenomenon. Rather than risking the ire of persnickety parents who might balk at Superman’s cantankerous cat-and-mouse game with Johnny Law, the powers-that-be at National begin to have Superman working side-by-side with legitimate authorities, so as to make sure he remains a positive role model for impressionable minds.

A fourth story in this issue is notable because it involves a science fiction premise - A deadly imperceptible gas which turns people to glass is unleashed in Gay City, rendering Lois effectively immobile inside a bus station for fear of accidentally smashing her suddenly fragile, glass-transformed hand. Superman upends the crooks who released the gas as well as the scientist responsible, and is able to provide Lois an antidote in the nick of time.

47 notes

Action Comics vol.1 #31 - Cover date December 1940
A super-scientific crime wave strikes a town through which Lois and Clark happen to passing. Using an advanced sleeping gas to knock out the whole town, crooks bedecked in gas masks are robbing banks freely.
Luckily Clark finds some spare masks, Superman is immune to the stuff anyway, and Lois is pretty susceptible to Superman’s Kryptonian Nerve Pinch when circumstances require that her gas mask “fail” and she sleep while an important quick-change takes place.
In the end, the scientist responsible for the sleeping formula repents and hands it over to the US Government , which – along with the now-captured crooks - is what constitutes a happy ending for this tale.

Action Comics vol.1 #31 - Cover date December 1940

A super-scientific crime wave strikes a town through which Lois and Clark happen to passing. Using an advanced sleeping gas to knock out the whole town, crooks bedecked in gas masks are robbing banks freely.

Luckily Clark finds some spare masks, Superman is immune to the stuff anyway, and Lois is pretty susceptible to Superman’s Kryptonian Nerve Pinch when circumstances require that her gas mask “fail” and she sleep while an important quick-change takes place.

In the end, the scientist responsible for the sleeping formula repents and hands it over to the US Government , which – along with the now-captured crooks - is what constitutes a happy ending for this tale.

61 notes

9 Plays

The Five Million Dollar Gold Heist
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - November

Clark – this time, with Lois in tow – finds himself back on a train with another 5 million dollar payday in jeopardy.  Facing down a clandestine organization of thieves and murderers led by a mysterious ringleader known only as “The Boss”, Clark’s problems are multiplied when he almost gives his secret identity away to Lois. Pulled out of the path of runaway truck, Lois muses on Clark’s iron-like grip - is there something more to her timid partner than meets the eye?

The Five Million Dollar Gold heist ends with the crooks getting their comeuppance and an ominous lead-in - an Indian “death-symbol” of stones on Perry White’s desk, a deadly arrow shattering a water pitcher - to the next serial.

You can listen to this episode - and many others - via Internet Archive.

12 notes

The Invisible ManThe Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - November 1940
There’s grim goings-on at the Metropolis District Attorney’s office as former assistant DA Renson partners with the Daily Planet to bring down the seemingly-corrupt District Attorney Parker. The nervous Parker anticipates that the Planet’s revelations will ruin his career, but wait – enter The Invisible Man, a disembodied voice who claims he can make the problem Planet disappear … for a price.
From there on out it’s bomb threats and runaway cars, threats which are beginning to resemble thin gruel given how often they’re broken out in the serial. In the end, Clark demonstrates that the Invisible Man was actually very visible but also a ventriloquist – not to mention the scheming former Assistant DA himself- and the Planet manages to nab two crooked public figures for the price of one.

The Invisible Man
The Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - November 1940

There’s grim goings-on at the Metropolis District Attorney’s office as former assistant DA Renson partners with the Daily Planet to bring down the seemingly-corrupt District Attorney Parker. The nervous Parker anticipates that the Planet’s revelations will ruin his career, but wait – enter The Invisible Man, a disembodied voice who claims he can make the problem Planet disappear … for a price.

From there on out it’s bomb threats and runaway cars, threats which are beginning to resemble thin gruel given how often they’re broken out in the serial. In the end, Clark demonstrates that the Invisible Man was actually very visible but also a ventriloquist – not to mention the scheming former Assistant DA himself- and the Planet manages to nab two crooked public figures for the price of one.

14 notes

Action Comics vol.1 #30 - Cover date November 1940
In the middle of Summer, Metropolis finds itself impossibly blanketed in snow. The culprit – commanding a vast horde of Arab mercenaries and occupying an ominous flying ship – is ZOLAR, an orange-skinned mad genius armed with an arsenal of radium-powered weapons and deadly miniature sun-spheres (thus, “S/Zolar”, of course).
Zolar wraps up a month full of bald-headed, gaunt, cackling maniacs in the Superman stories, being – along with the Yellow Mask from the in-house ads running in National books – one of the possible sources for the recently embaldened Luthor in the daily newspaper strip.

Action Comics vol.1 #30 - Cover date November 1940

In the middle of Summer, Metropolis finds itself impossibly blanketed in snow. The culprit – commanding a vast horde of Arab mercenaries and occupying an ominous flying ship – is ZOLAR, an orange-skinned mad genius armed with an arsenal of radium-powered weapons and deadly miniature sun-spheres (thus, “S/Zolar”, of course).

Zolar wraps up a month full of bald-headed, gaunt, cackling maniacs in the Superman stories, being – along with the Yellow Mask from the in-house ads running in National books – one of the possible sources for the recently embaldened Luthor in the daily newspaper strip.

20 notes

The Yellow Mask and the 5 Million Dollar Jewel RobberyAdventures of Superman Radio Serial - October
The Yellow Mask returns in a tremendous 15-part serial, deep in pursuit of a fortune in jewels and eager revenge against Clark Kent.
Also threatening Clark’s life in the first half of this serial is jewel thief and (briefly, anyway) ally of The Yellow Mask, Vicki Lorimar. It’s worth noting that Superman’s rogues gallery is largely bereft of femme fatales, unlike other classic pulp-era heroes, although Vicki is one of the few who come close. Sadly, her role simply evaporates before anything much can come of it.
Worth noting in this episode is that Clark, Lois and Jimmy find themselves trapped together – it’s an opportunity for Clark to use his wiles as much as his powers in order to free himself and his friends from their prison without revealing his identity. (I’d also be remiss not to mention Planet reporter Bill Wentworth who makes his second appearance in this serial, although he doesn’t go on to become a core Planet regular)
The ad for this serial – pictured above – ran in the comics in the same month that Luthor debuted his bald-and-gaunt look in the newspaper strips, making the Yellow Mask another contender for the villain Wayne Boring possibly mistook for Superman’s greatest enemy. 

The Yellow Mask and the 5 Million Dollar Jewel Robbery
Adventures of Superman Radio Serial - October

The Yellow Mask returns in a tremendous 15-part serial, deep in pursuit of a fortune in jewels and eager revenge against Clark Kent.

Also threatening Clark’s life in the first half of this serial is jewel thief and (briefly, anyway) ally of The Yellow Mask, Vicki Lorimar. It’s worth noting that Superman’s rogues gallery is largely bereft of femme fatales, unlike other classic pulp-era heroes, although Vicki is one of the few who come close. Sadly, her role simply evaporates before anything much can come of it.

Worth noting in this episode is that Clark, Lois and Jimmy find themselves trapped together – it’s an opportunity for Clark to use his wiles as much as his powers in order to free himself and his friends from their prison without revealing his identity. (I’d also be remiss not to mention Planet reporter Bill Wentworth who makes his second appearance in this serial, although he doesn’t go on to become a core Planet regular)

The ad for this serial – pictured above – ran in the comics in the same month that Luthor debuted his bald-and-gaunt look in the newspaper strips, making the Yellow Mask another contender for the villain Wayne Boring possibly mistook for Superman’s greatest enemy. 

16 notes

The Bandit Robots of MetropolisSuperman Sunday Newspaper Strip - October 27, 1940 to December 15, 1940
As far as “Iconic Superman Stories” go, you can’t get much better than “The first time Superman fought an army of robots”.
Titanic mechanical men perform destructive raids upon Metropolis and only Superman stands in their way. When Lois is inevitably abducted by the masterless robot menaces, the Man of Steel follows them to their lair to destroy them once and for all.
It’s worth mentioning that the inspiration for this story is usually credited to Norvell W.Page, the author of the lion’s share of pulp hero The Spider’s adventures. In this case, the shadowy hero met robotic giants in a tale with the typically understated title of “Satan’s Murder Machines” (Reprinted in more mellow times as as “Robot Titans of Gotham” and “The Iron Man War”).

The Bandit Robots of Metropolis
Superman Sunday Newspaper Strip - October 27, 1940 to December 15, 1940

As far as “Iconic Superman Stories” go, you can’t get much better than “The first time Superman fought an army of robots”.

Titanic mechanical men perform destructive raids upon Metropolis and only Superman stands in their way. When Lois is inevitably abducted by the masterless robot menaces, the Man of Steel follows them to their lair to destroy them once and for all.

It’s worth mentioning that the inspiration for this story is usually credited to Norvell W.Page, the author of the lion’s share of pulp hero The Spider’s adventures. In this case, the shadowy hero met robotic giants in a tale with the typically understated title of “Satan’s Murder Machines” (Reprinted in more mellow times as as “Robot Titans of Gotham” and “The Iron Man War”).

133 notes