Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1946: The Dead Voice

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: September 26, 1946-October 16, 1946

"The Dead Voice"

Recently, Dick Grayson, who is in reality Robin the Boy Wonder, young partner of Batman, has received threatening letters and phone calls from former circus ringmaster Eric Larson, the man who killed the lad's acrobat parents. The only problem is Larson died in prison two weeks ago. Bruce Wayne, alias Batman, has asked for Superman's aid in solving this strange mystery. The Man of Steel, in his guise of reporter Clark Kent, has been discussing the situation with Bruce while Dick and Bruce's butler Alfred Pennyworth are spending time with Jimmy Olsen.

Bruce has had handwriting experts compare the letters sent to Dick with extortion notes Larson wrote to the Boy Wonder's parents five years ago. He also had circus people listen to a recording of one the calls. All evidence points to Larson. These only can mean one of two things. Either Larson wrote the notes and recorded his voice before his death, or Larson is still alive.

Clark and Bruce are at the state prison talking to Warden Hobbes. He's convinced that Larson is dead, but both Superman's X-ray vision and Hobbes confirm something shocking. The bronze casket in Larson's grave is empty. Not only that, Warden Hobbes and Bruce Wayne are having trouble breathing. They suddenly lose consciousness after opening the coffin.

Superman has flown Hobbes and Bruce in the air in order to get the gas that hit them out of their systems. Earlier, he had smelled a bittersweet odor come from Larson's coffin. After resuming his guise of Clark Kent, he, Bruce and Warden Hobbes go to speak with the prison doctor. Both he and Hobbes insist that Larson is dead. However, Kent's superhuman ears indicate otherwise when he and Bruce go to the latter's home to listen to the recording Bruce had made of his conversation with Larson. There is no sound of a record player needle or a pause so a disc can get to the proper groove. Eric Larson is very much alive.

Clark now believes that Larson had used an oriental drug to put himself in suspended animation. He and Bruce are about to go back to the state prison to tell Warden Hobbes of this when there is a scratching at the door. It is Alfred, and he has a head injury. Have Jimmy Olsen and Dick Grayson run into danger?

Alfred tells Clark and Bruce that he had taken Jimmy and Dick to the cinema. On the way back to Jimmy's home, the cub reporter sees a car at the nearby Philips' house, but the family, who doesn't own an automobile, is away in Boston. As Alfred, Jimmy and Dick get closer, a group of men attack them. They then took Jimmy and Dick and knocked out Alfred. After Bruce and Clark take care of Alfred's injury, the butler calls Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson about the men assaulting him and capturing the boys. At the same, Bruce and Clark change into their Batman and Superman costumes to search for clues to Jimmy and Dick's whereabouts. Unfortunately a violent rainstorm is washing away every trail that can lead them to the lads. There seems to be no way to find Dick and Jimmy.

Dick Grayson has just found himself with his hands tied, and he is worried about Jimmy Olsen, who is not in the room with him. Dick is also face-to-face with Eric Larson. The former circus ringmaster wants to kill Dick. Jimmy, according to Larson, has been taken care of. All Larson has to do is wait for a mysterious man named Mister Marsh to arrive. Soon, Dick Grayson will get what Larson believes that he deserves.

Clark Kent is currently speaking with Warden Hobbes. He learns that Wilfred Ellis of the Great American and International Circus had visited Eric Larson before his "death." Seeing this as a clue, Superman searches for where Ellis and the circus will be. What he doesn't know is that Jimmy Olsen is about to go over Horseshoe Falls. Inspector Henderson and Bruce Wayne are trying to aid the cub reporter. Bruce ties a rope to himself in order safely get to Jimmy, but as he grabs the boy, the current becomes stronger and more difficult to navigate. Jimmy and Bruce are about to go over the raging waterfall, and Superman is elsewhere at this moment.

Clark has returned to the Daily Planet to find the whereabouts of the Great American and International Circus. Lois Lane tells him of Jimmy's peril. He rockets to Horseshoe Falls as Superman and grabs Jimmy and Bruce in the nick of time. As soon as Jimmy is able to speak, Bruce and Clark ask about Dick. Unfortunately, all the cub reporter can remember is that he was taken to the river while Dick was driven elsewhere. The search for Robin seems to have reached a dead end for now.

Clark has just told Bruce that Wilfred Ellis visited Eric Larson in prison. Ellis is the clown for the Great American and International Circus, which is where the Flying Graysons performed. Changing into their superhero costumes, Superman and Batman head for Buffalo, where the traveling show is performing. Unfortunately, according to the owner, Ellis left when the circus was in Metropolis. How can Superman and Batman find Robin now?

Eric Larson is now happy. Mister Marsh has just arrived. In a matter of minutes, Larson will have his revenge on Dick Grayson.

Larson and Marsh are interrogating Dick, and the Boy Wonder learns that his paternal grandfather is dying. Grandpa Grayson had not spoken to Dick's parents because of their joining the circus. However, the old man wants to see his grandson before his death. After Grayson passes, his millions of dollars will go to Dick, but Marsh, who is Grandpa's assistant, will inherit the money should something happen to Robin. Marsh knew of Larson's grudge against Dick and had used him to assassinate the youngster.

The police know that Larson faked his death and abducted Dick. He is starting to panic. Marsh shoots Larson while Dick escapes his bounds and ties up Larson's henchman. Robin is about to make a run for it when Marsh blocks his path. His smoking gun is now pointed at the boy. The lad avoids being shot by Marsh and is then chased by the nefarious assistant of his grandfather. Dick is trying to escape, but he cannot. The top floor of the house where Larson had taken him is an attic without any windows.

Circus animal trainer Joe Ginesco has just told Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent that Wilfred Ellis has a sister who is a retired bareback rider. She now runs a boarding house in Chicago called the White Horse Inn. Bruce and Clark learn from her that Ellis has a chicken ranch in California. Ellis himself later reveals that he didn't know what was in the drug he gave Eric Larson. However, he will tell Clark and Bruce everything else.

Marsh is now in the attic as police sirens near the house. He suddenly shoots Dick. Has Robin been killed, or is the evil Mister Marsh in for a surprise?

Wilfred Ellis is in his ranch home telling of all he knows of Eric Larson's "death" to Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. A man named Marshall paid Ellis two thousand dollars to give Larson a cigarette containing the oriental suspended animation drug. Half of the money was paid in advance. The other part was to be given to Ellis in Marshall's room at the Metropolis Hotel after the job was finished. Bruce and Clark later learn from the hotel and telephone company that Marshall had called a residence on 4695 Greenvale Avenue that was in the name of one William Rouche. Superman and Batman go to that address, where they find Eric Larson dead. However, Robin is nowhere to be seen in the house - even in the attic.

Superman and Batman have found Willy, the henchman that Robin had tied up, in a pile of coal in the basement. After a flight with Superman, he tells our heroes what Marsh, alias Marshall, had done to Eric Larson and the Boy Wonder. However, Willy doesn't know what happened after he heard the gunshot in the attic. This information leads Batman on a an even more relentless search for his young partner.

Bruce Wayne has returned home. He is about to go into his laboratory to work when Alfred lets a man deliver a message that reads as follows:

"Batman,
Get the Batboat, and come to Cole Harbor as quickly as you can. Look for a sea-going yacht painted black with two orange smoke stacks. I'll be on it. Come prepared for trouble, plenty of trouble. Hurry!
Robin."

Dick Grayson is alive, but he may be in grave danger.

Batman and Alfred are in the Batboat searching for the yacht that Robin had described. The Caped Crusader calls Clark Kent on the radio phone for assistance, but the poor reception makes it difficult for the heroes to hear one another. Suddenly, there is a speck on the horizon. It is the ship that Batman is looking for. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson has learned that Marsh/Marshall has told the Boy Wonder's grandfather, who owns the vessel, that the boy is missing. Bruce Wayne has spent millions to find the lad. Suddenly the wind rocks the boat to the point that the door where Dick is eavesdropping opens. Marsh has seen him. Now, Robin must hide inside a chest in a state room. Otherwise, he will most certainly perish.

Marsh is now in the state room speaking with Captain Skinner. He swears that he saw Dick Grayson, but Skinner thinks Marsh is imagining things. Robin, still hidden in the chest, overhears more information that shocks him. Skinner and Marsh have been poisoning the Boy Wonder's grandfather, and they intend to kill him while the yacht is out at sea.

Dick has successfully found Mister Grayson, who came to America to search for the lad. He tells him that he pretended to be shot and stowed away in Marsh's launch that headed for the yacht. Dick later convinces Grandpa Grayson that Marsh and Skinner are poisoning him. However, it might be too late to do anything about this as Skinner and Marsh have captured both grandfather and grandson. Robin is about to be thrown overboard when the Batboat arrives. Guns are being fired at it. Batman dives into the water to aid his partner as Alfred takes the vessel to Metropolis to seek assistance from Clark Kent. Can Superman help the Dynamic Duo before it's too late?

Batman, Dick and Mister Grayson have fought their way to the state room. Dick explains the events involving Paul Marsh, Captain Skinner, Eric Larson and the Boy Wonder's grandfather to the Dark Knight. Suddenly, Marsh issues ultimatum from the other side of the locked state room door. Batman, Robin and Mister Grayson have two choices: surrender and be shot, or die in the inferno of a burning yacht in ten minutes.

Daily Planet copy boy Beany Martin and Clark Kent have just arrived at Bruce Wayne's house. Seeing nobody home, they go into the basement area where the Batboat had been parked. Clark finds the message Dick had sent earlier. Most of the writing is smudged because the paper is wet, but Clark can make out the name of Cole Harbor. Now, Superman must use his tremendous speed to get there if he is to save his friends.

Mister Grayson's yacht has been set on fire. The blaze is rapidly spreading. Dick, his grandfather and Batman have no way to leave or any means to call for help. Marsh and his men smashed the radio and took all the lifeboats. There seems to be no hope for either Mister Grayson or the Dynamic Duo.

Superman has talked with a lighthouse keeper that Batman had spoken with earlier. He tells him that the Batboat was there, but the Man of Steel leaves before he can say that the Dark Knight was following Grayson's yacht. Superman continues his search and finds Alfred and the Batboat. Superman then takes the butler, who had been shot in the shoulder by Marsh's men, to Metropolis for immediate medical attention, but has he doomed his costumed friends to a fiery death?

While Clark Kent is waiting for Alfred to recover from having the bullet removed, Batman, Robin and Grandpa Grayson have been forced to land in the cold seawater. They try to swim to Metropolis. Despite extreme fatigue, the trio moves through the two hundred miles of ocean. They can't give up. All their strength must be used in order to keep them alive.

Alfred has told Clark of the Grayson yacht. Now in his true identity of Superman, our hero rockets through the skies in a desperate search for his friends. He finds Mister Grayson and Batman, but Robin is nowhere near them. A tidal wave swept the Boy Wonder away. While the Caped Crusader supports Mister Grayson, the Man of Steel finds Dick one hundred yards away. After taking Batman, Robin and Mister Grayson to the same Coast Guard hospital where he had brought Alfred, the Man of Tomorrow takes Paul Marsh and his men to the proper authorities. Superman and his friends Batman and Robin have saved the day once again.

Clark has written the Marsh story for the noon edition of the Daily Planet. Mary Hinick and Beany are tidying up Kent's office while he steps out for a bit. A phone call from Perry White then arrives, but the agitated editor doesn't tell Beany where he is. Clark later learns that Perry is at police headquarters. Jimmy Olsen is in trouble and could get up to five years in prison. What has happened, and how is the "Counterfeit Money" connected to Jimmy's situation? Tune in next week, boys and girls, to The Adventures of Superman, and find out.

Trivia:

At the end of "George Latimer, Crooked Political Boss," Bruce calls the killer of Robin's parents George Larson. However, the opening narration in chapter one of this serial names him Eric Larson.

In comic book continuity and Batman: The Animated Series, Robin's parents were killed by mob boss Anthony Zucco.

Review:

I'm kind of on the fence about the character of Grandfather Grayson. I can't help but wonder if his surviving the end of "The Dead Voice" was really necessary. One aspect about Batman and Robin that always seemed constant in the comic books is the fact that the only family they had besides Alfred was each other. Grandfather Grayson really messes with that dynamic in my opinion.

I can't help but ask myself why the killer of Robin's parents was changed from George Larson to Eric Larson. This isn't the first time a name was different from one episode to another, but it shows a lack of attention to detail on the part of the writers in the case of this serial. There was only a day's difference between the airing of the last chapter of "George Latimer, Crooked Political Boss" and "The Dead Voice." Didn't anybody look to make sure things were more consistent? Where were the script editors? I'm guessing they were on a lunch break.

The absence of Bud Collyer certain chapters seems to be more evident in "The Dead Voice" than any other serial for reasons I cannot quite put my finger on. Sometimes, The Dynamic Duo and/or Kryptonite would be placed in a story arc to give Collyer time off, and normally, the fact that Clark or Superman isn't in an episode isn't noted that much by me because of the pacing of the overall saga. However, there are some episodes here that feel like Collyer had to leave suddenly for health or family purposes

All those things aside, "The Dead Voice" is an exciting and entertaining serial that gives us an alternative version of the origin of Robin that is at its heart, not too different from the other versions. I believe Michael Bailey once said that you can put characters like Superman, Batman and Robin in various settings and periods with new elements and they can work well. These words are extremely true in the case of this story arc.

Despite having to get some things off my chest about "The Dead Voice," I really liked the story. It was full of action and adventure worthy of any issue of any DC comic book. Let's hope the same can be said for the next serial when "Counterfeit Money" is found in Metropolis. I don't know about you folks reading this, but I'm curious to find out what happens to Jimmy. We'll find out next week together, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.



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