Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [Blu-ray]
THE JOKER, LEX LUTHOR, CATWOMAN, DOOMSDAY, BANE. What makes them so thrillingly watchable? So terribly wonderful? So extremely vital to our super heroes and their worlds? This new feature-length documentary explores these questions across seven decades of DC Comics' hallowed Rogues' Gallery of infamous evildoers.
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Original Broadcast Dates: March 10, 1948-April 01, 1948
"The Mystery of the Stolen Costume"
Superman has just returned to Metropolis from his adventure in the Kingdom Under the Sea. He receives a shock when he enters the apartment he occupies as reporter Clark Kent. Something so great has happened that the Man of Steel requires the help of Bruce Wayne, alias Batman. The secret panel in which Superman keeps his spare costume has been opened. Worse yet, the red and blue suit is missing. Someone has possibly learned that Clark Kent is Superman. Kent suspects retired Scotland Yard detective Herbert Kawkins and Lois Lane when he suddenly remembers that Jimmy Olsen has a way to enter Kent's home. Returning to the offices of the Daily Planet as Clark Kent, our hero asks Jimmy about the key. Jimmy reveals that he gave it to Lois before leaving for England. Clark then enters the star reporter's office to find that she has written a very big story. Has Lois Lane discovered Superman's greatest secret?
After being in a panic, Clark Kent breathes a sigh of relief. Lois' story is about Mayor Perry White being drafted for the presidential nomination, and the star reporter has given Kent his apartment key. However, one question still remains. Who has taken Superman's costume? The only way that can be answered is for Batman and Robin to search for clues in Clark's home. They find three sets of fingerprints - Batman's, Superman's and a pair belonging to an ex-convict named Willy Snyder. Accord to the Metropolis Police Department, Snyder was seen with a bundle near Clark's building sometime around noon. An officer had shot Snyder at least two times, but the thief has not been found. It is now 6:00 PM. There still has been no sign of Snyder. Superman's double identity is at risk more than ever at this moment.
Superman, Batman, Robin and the Metropolis Police Force are involved in a citywide manhunt for Willy Snyder, who is going to two gangsters named Chopin and Biggie Conroy. He is bleeding heavily and carrying the red and blue costume of Superman. Snyder's weakened words tell Biggie that he knows who the Man of Tomorrow really is. However, the wounded thief needs a doctor before he can reveal this knowledge to the racketeers that are reluctantly offering him sanctuary. Clark Kent's worst fear may yet come true.
As Superman, Batman and Robin follow leads that could help them find Willy Snyder, the thief in question is being taken care of by Doc Crandle, Biggie Conroy's medical physician. Doc needs help from a Doctor Ace Bushmill to remove a bullet near Snyder's heart. Bushmill is then forced at gunpoint to go with some of Biggie's henchmen. The racketeer may be one step closer to learning the Man of Steel's greatest secret.
Doctor Bushmill has been forced to operate on Willy Snyder in Biggie's headquarters. Meanwhile, Lois Lane is worried about Clark Kent, whose behavior has been strange lately. She has called Mayor Perry White to discuss this. White suggests that Kent take a vacation, but the mild mannered reporter is too intent on finding leads to Snyder's whereabouts. He has just learned of Doctor Bushmill's abduction. At the same time, Willy Snyder may not live through the night, but he could regain consciousness before dying. Will he tell Biggie Conroy what he's learned about Superman?
A witness to the abduction of Doctor Bushmill's kidnapping has given Clark and Police Inspector Bill Henderson a license plate number. Unfortunately, it belongs to Bushmill's own car. At that moment, the dying Willy Snyder is struggling to tell Biggie Conroy who Superman really is by giving him the address of Clark Kent's home at Maple Crest Arms. However, Conroy must learn the number of the apartment where Superman lives. He can only do this by going to the building, and thus, have in his possession the key to controlling the Man of Steel.
As Biggie plans to go to Maple Crest Arms Apartments in order to learn who Superman really is, Clark Kent has identified the dead body of Willy Snyder. Snyder was found in Metropolis Park, but Superman's costume is not among the belongings found with the thief. Meanwhile, Slick Bailey, a man who works for Biggie, has gotten permission to paint all of the homes in the Maple Crest Building. This could be the key to racketeer's learning the Man of Tomorrow's secret identity.
Slick Bailey has been looking around the Maple Crest Arms Building for nearly two days until he finally reaches Clark Kent's apartment despite many protests from the mild mannered reporter against having his home painted. Kent panics as he and Bruce Wayne see him approach Kent's bedroom. Bailey is mere steps away from knowing who Superman really is.
Clark is now pretending to be a raving maniac that wants to kill Bailey. His ploy succeeds in temporarily getting rid of the painter. This also buys Superman and Batman time to brick up the secret panel in Kent's closet. Unfortunately, they have placed the wallpaper in a way that the compartment's area does not match the rest of the room. Bailey may still find out what his boss needs to know.
Placing himself in front of the upside down wallpaper, Clark blocks Bailey's view of the wall in the bedroom when the painter returns. Bailey tells Biggie that he has found nothing, but the racketeer is still convinced that Superman lives in the Maple Crest Arms. He wants a list of all the tenants in the building. Biggie then narrows down his suspects to three people - George Abner Dean, Philip Marshall and Clark Kent. Biggie Conroy has every intention to learn which of these men is the Man of Steel. Can Superman save his secret identity before it's too late?
Slick Bailey and Biggie Conroy have proven that two of their three suspects are not Superman. This leaves only Clark Kent, who is in his apartment discussing the disappearance of Doctor Bushmill with Jimmy Olsen. Suddenly, the doorbell rings. Bailey and Conroy are waiting to learn the truth about Kent. Jimmy calls out leaving the mild mannered reporter trapped by a foe who may well know that he is the Man of Steel.
Clark has been able to avoid Bailey and Conroy thanks to Jimmy making them believe that he is gone. Kent is relieved, but this doesn't last long. Biggie Conroy is in the Daily Planet's city room. Desperate, Superman streaks to the home of Batman and Robin. He needs their help with a plan that requires them to be in Clifftown Village as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson at 1:30 PM. The Man of Steel then warns the Dark Knight to be prepared for anything. What Superman has in mind could be dangerous to all involved, including himself.
Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are driving to Clifftown Village as Clark Kent's car crashes resulting in the injury of the mild mannered reporter. News of the accident reaches the Daily Planet. However, Biggie Conroy is not convinced that Kent was actually hurt. Slick Bailey is to take some men to Clifftown Village to bring Clark to Biggie Conroy tonight. The racketeer intends to prove that Clark Kent is Superman no matter what it costs our hero.
Clark is bandaged from head to foot in the home of Doctor Macintosh, someone in Clifftown Village that our hero had helped in the past. Bruce Wayne is trying keep Lois Lane, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen from seeing the mild mannered reporter. Later that night, Bailey and six other men arrive to take Clark. They meet up with Batman and Robin, who try to subdue them. Unfortunately, the Dynamic Duo is knocked out by the crew of criminals. They awaken to find Clark Kent missing. Biggie Conroy's thug’s capture of Kent could mean the end of Superman.
As Batman and Robin head back to Metropolis, a nervous Biggie Conroy is waiting for Slick and the others return with Clark Kent. The thugs then arrive with their large, bandaged burden. Now, Biggie is determined to prove that Clark Kent is Superman, and Batman and Robin are still searching for him. Is there any way in which our hero to save his double life?
Try as he might, Biggie cannot prove that Clark Kent is Superman. The police have given him a speeding ticket, and Batman and Robin have arrived. Now, the Dynamic Duo has been cornered by three gunmen and are about to be tied up. Meanwhile, Biggie is going to use a knife on Kent's bandages to see if the reporter is really injured. Our heroes are now in serious trouble from which they may not escape.
Batman and Robin have managed to escape their bonds and are now fighting Biggie's gang. Using the cover of darkness, Superman assists his friends. Robin is knocked out in the battle, but Biggie Conroy and his men are bound for prison after our hero replaces his bandages to pretend to be an injured Clark Kent. Superman's secret identity is now truly safe thanks to the aid of Batman and Robin.
We now turn our attention to an office in a soda bottling factory in Metropolis. Two men named George and John with a fellow named Henry questioning Ralphie, John's son. Ralphie was forced to leave an activity by Jimmy Olsen because the lad had made prejudiced remarks about two other boys. John now has a plan to rid himself of young Olsen and the boys that are the objects of his son's hatred. "The Skin Game" will reveal what happens next in The Adventures of Superman. Be sure to tune in, gang to find out in roughly seven days.
This story was later turned into a 30 minute episode of the ABC Superman radio show. The half hour version was aired on January 11, 1951. It was also adapted into an episode for the first season of The Adventures of Superman television series starring George Reeves.
Admittedly, I've been rather disappointed in the overall quality of story arcs that I've reviewed recently. "The Mystery of the Stolen Costume" breaks the monotony of the previous serials, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed listening to it a bunch. It was a basically fun tale I feel had been missing from much of The Adventures of Superman after "The Secret Rocket."
When one listens to a radio serial of Superman that had later been turned into an episode of the 1950s television show, there will be obvious comparisons of each version of the story. Is "The Mystery of the Stolen Costume" better than its counterpart starring George Reeves? No. Is it worse? No. Both tales work very well for the medium in which they were broadcast. I probably would have added Clark Kent's car accident to the TV show, but otherwise it is perfect the way it is.
While I still have problems with Robin's not knowing Superman's secret identity in the radio serials' continuity, I do like the fact that the Dynamic Duo try to assist both Clark Kent and the Man of Steel. "The Mystery of the Stolen Costume" would have been the perfect serial for Robin to learn that the mild mannered reporter was in fact in the red and blue clad hero. Unfortunately, the writers did not take advantage of that opportunity, but I won't look a gift horse in the mouth seeing as this arc was perhaps the best one I've heard in quite few weeks.
A lot of things happen in "The Mystery of the Stolen Costume," and we can thank Biggie Conroy for most of the action. Once he learned where the late Willy Snyder had gotten the Man of Tomorrow's suit, the racketeer stopped at nothing to learn our hero's secret. This made the serial more interesting and fun for me. I feel that this serial is what the audience should come to expect from any type Superman story. If you have fun with the situations and characters, the tale is easier to enjoy. Otherwise, you feel cheated. Fortunately, "The Stolen Costume" delivers the goods to the listeners.
As much as I tried when I picked "The Mystery of the Stolen Costume" apart for this review, I honestly could not find anything wrong with it. This is the perfect serial to listen to on a rainy day or on a long road trip. Let's hope "The Skin Game" will be like this one when Superman takes on more bigots in seven days or so. We'll find out next week, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky. Now go check all the other great articles on the Superman Homepage. You'll be glad you did.