What a reporter can do…

Clark Kent may have been Superman, but most of his early radio adventures opened with him hard at work as a newspaperman — in this case driving dangerously rain-soaked mountain roads in fog and hail to interview a scientist, on orders from his editor.

His assignment, and the radioplay title:
“Horace Morton’s Weather Predictions”

Kent may motor up the mountain, but in a later episode Superman comes flying down — to tell the police about a murder that he and Lois Lane have discovered, part of a complex tale that also involves kidnapping, a bank robbery, a radium plot, and an ecological disaster.

Lane, a tough veteran reporter critical of her colleague’s sudden stardom in the first weeks of the radio series, seems much friendlier to “Mr. Kent” in this June 1940 story — as the Adventures of Superman began its sixth month of broadcasting.

As they drive, she pleasantly forgives his very corny joke about hoping the rain “keeps up.” (If you don’t remember it from grade school, you will, five minutes into the broadcast.)

There is no conflict between the two, even before he saves her from drowning in a submerged car (in episode four of the six-part adventure). At that dramatic moment the two reporters — possibly a first — call each other by their first names, then quickly return to their more businesslike Mister and Miss.

At least Lois thinks it was Clark who pulled her, unconscious, from the wreck. At this point in the first year of the radio series, Superman is still keeping most of his super-deeds a secret.

Perhaps Lane is a more sympathetic character in this story because she has been placed in a situation that challenges her journalistic ethics: Editor Perry White has ordered Kent and Lane to investigate a relative of hers — her scientist uncle, a meteorologist whose weather predictions appear to be remarkably accurate.

And investigate they do. Early on, Kent even suspects him of that murder! After that, the plot thickens.

Another possibility is that the character of “Miss Lane,” as Kent still calls her, was simply sweetened a bit by the writers to coincide with a change in cast. In the preceding few months, two other actresses voiced the part of Lois Lane. Starting with this story, Jane Alexander took the role — and who would continue in it for a decade.

As a mountainside begins to give way torrential rains, Lois shows that reporters can be compassionate human beings when ordinary folks are in trouble… in this case, as a mountainside slowly collapses, threatening to inundate a village:

Lois: Oh those poor people in the settlement. What will happen to them?

Official: Nothing, if they keep moving…
If they stay where they are, well…

Lois:  Oh, it’s dreadful, Mr. Kent.  Isn’t there anything we can do?

Clark: Well Miss Lane, we are  newspaper people; all we can do is write it up.

Lois: Well I’m going to help them. I don’t care. If you think I’m just going to sit back and write about it, you’re…

She goes off to help people pack and move out of harm’s way, while the script writers put Kent to work in a different way: As Superman, he employs an ethically questionable skill that has tempted some 21st century journalists–a super-hearing ability to eavesdrop on telephone conversations.

Before the end of the six 150-minute episodes, Superman’s greater powers are needed to save the day, literally battling a collapsing mountain. However, he does let slip an admiring comment about his Daily Planet colleague, when she’s not listening. (And in 1940, she probably wouldn’t have taken it as condescending or sexist.)

“Good girl. Plenty of grit.”

Journalistically, however, Kent and Lane head back to Metropolis without their originally assigned story — for reasons explained in the final episode. Dr. Morton decides the world is not ready for the secrets of his weather machine, and his niece and her colleague apparently agree.

Unfortunately, we have no closing scene of their explanation to the editor.

However, one would hope Perry White was satisfied with a few other headlines they brought back — about the foiled bank-robbers and a final banner something like “School Bus Escapes Collapsing Mountain.”

The six episodes are at the Internet Archive’s first page of Superman broadcasts. Here are the remaining five:

This story eventually will be part of JHeroes main Superman page.

Note: Apologies if the first draft of this page had link or layout problems. It was posted from the small screen of a smartphone using Android WordPress and web browser apps.

Additional sources:

http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Superman_(radio)

http://www.supermanhomepage.com/radio/radio.php?topic=radio-episode-list

Jerry Haendiges log of Superman radio episodes

As noted in the above, there is some uncertainty and inconsistency in the dating and numbering of episodes.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.
This entry was posted in 1940s, Clark Kent, ethics, Lois Lane, Superman. Bookmark the permalink.

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