Superman on Radio & Audio

Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1942: Lita The Leopard Woman

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: January 12, 1942-February 06, 1942

"Lita The Leopard Woman"

When we last left Superman, he was in his guise of reporter Clark Kent. He had just recovered the blueprints for the giant robot called the Mechanical Man and returned them to its inventor Wallace Thornton. Thornton now has given the schematics for his automaton to the United States War Department. According to Major Campbell, head of the Secret Service Espionage Division, Max Heller, the foreign spy behind the theft of the plans, died of a heart attack on the way to the state prison. However, Kent receives a phone call that surprises him. Max Heller himself has vowed to turn the tables on the mild mannered reporter when they meet again.

Kent is now telling Major Campbell of the unusual call from Heller. Campbell calls the city morgue about Heller's body in an effort to convince Clark that the espionage agent is really dead. The major learns that a cousin named Gurta Stein claimed the corpse and took it out of the morgue. Gurta Stein was a named used by Lois Lane in an effort to trap Max Heller and his partner the Yellow Mask. Now more than an ever, Clark is convinced that Heller is alive, and he's going to prove this to Major Campbell.

Elsewhere in Metropolis, the twelve Oriental members of the sinister Society of the Leopard is holding a meeting in an old brownstone hidden in the shadows. Their leader Lita the Leopard Woman is finishing with the gathering. It is she that took the body of Max Heller under the name Gurta Stein. Heller wanted Clark to understand that he was really alive by providing the false name as a clue. Heller had used a pill that puts the body in a catatonic state that simulates death. Heller and his organization know of Lita and her secret society because they are to contact the Leopard Woman in times of trouble.

With the society's business finished for now, Lita discusses her plans with Heller. Heller is to recover the airplane with wings that can fold into the fuselage while Lita has a more devious plot brewing in her mind. She will send Lois Lane a box of chocolates. The candies will contain a poison for which there is no cure even though they won't taste differently. The deadly Leopard Woman will make it seem like the box of sweets was sent by Clark Kent. Once Kent and Lane are out of the way, Lita and Heller can continue to fight against the Allies unhindered.

Jimmy Olsen has just signed for a gift package for Lois and brings it to her desk at the Daily Planet. She opens it to discover that it's a box of candy, and she goes to Perry White's office to tell her the surprising news of who sent the chocolates. There is a card with the candy that reads, "Sweets For The Sweet - Clark." A surprised Clark arrives in Perry's office when Jimmy tries a piece of candy.

Suddenly, the young copy boy feels a tightness in his throat. Clark and Lois rush Jimmy to the hospital. Doctor Kingsley tells the two reporters that the entire box of candy contained an Oriental poison form the Kiasha plant. The Japanese have been known to use this plant to suicide. Only a Doctor Humphrey Richards, who was the head of the Tokyo American Hospital before the war had started, knows of how to deal with the poison. Doctor Richards is currently on a boat called The Queen of the Sea that had left Singapore for San Francisco. Finding him is truly a job for Superman.

Getting the idea to find The Queen of the Sea on the Pacific Ocean, Clark removes his mild mannered reporter's garb to become Superman. However, unknown to our hero, an enemy submarine is emerging to attack the passenger ship. The timely intervention of Superman prevents two torpedoes from hitting The Queen of the Sea. The Man of Steel sends the pair of projectiles back to the attacking U boat. The results are quite explosive for the enemy ship, and The Queen of the Sea is safe.

After all is calm, Superman introduces himself to Doctor Humphrey Richards. He convinces the doctor to go to Metropolis with him to help Jimmy, but Richards must never reveal how he got to Metropolis.

Two hours have passed since Doctor Richards arrived in Metropolis thanks to Superman. He comes out to the waiting room to tell Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Perry White that Jimmy Olsen will be okay. He will need to recover for about a month, but the Oriental poison is no longer in his system. Clark and the others are overjoyed over the news.

The next morning, Lita the Leopard Woman is meeting with Max Heller. Both off them read in the Daily Planet that Lois, Clark and five others were killed by the poisoned chocolates. They now believe that their plans can go unhindered. The airship with the folding wings, which Heller has in an underground hangar not far away, must be destroyed by Heller and some of Lita's henchmen after dark tonight in order for the plane to not fall into enemy hands.

Lita goes further to explain the vastness of the Society of the Leopard. While the submarines of the country she serves attack openly, Lita's covert organization will attack from within the shadows. Should she be caught by American agents, she has machines that require only the push of a button in order to cause chaos and destruction. If Lita is unable to active the devices, she wants Heller to make sure that her devious plans are carried out fully.

Later that afternoon, at the Daily Planet, Clark and Perry discuss the tainted candy when Major Campbell calls. He tells Clark that the candy was made in Japan. Whoever sent the chocolates had a supply of the sweets on hand. Campbell and his men have not found any Oriental agents, but they have been investigating rumors of the Society of the Leopard and its female leader. Clark believes that the Leopard Society's leader is the same woman who took Max Heller's body out of the morgue. Because the outside world believes that Kent is dead, the mild mannered reporter will go in the darkness of the night to investigate the factory where Heller and his men were captured. By coincidence, the factory is where the underground hangar with the folding wing airplane is located.

While Clark and Perry are driving to the factory, Lita and Heller are in the hangar exploring the folding wing plane. Heller believes that he can convince the Leopard Woman not to destroy the experimental ship. He explains how the machine works when both he and Lita hear the muffled voices of Perry White and Clark Kent. Believing that Max Heller is a coward because he is trembling in fear, Lita shoots the espionage agent and steals the folding wing plane. Clark runs down to the hangar to question the injured Heller. The spy only says the words "Leopard Woman" before losing consciousness. Perry goes to get the car while Clark, as Superman, races to take Heller to a hospital. Heller is the only chance Kent has of learning more about Lita the Leopard Woman and her secret society.

Perry and Clark are now in the offices of the Daily Planet. They are waiting to hear news about Max Heller's condition. Clark is attempting to explain how he got Heller to the hospital so fast. Perry believes that Clark took the car that brought Lita the Leopard Woman and Heller to the factory hideout because it was faster.

At that moment, Clark receives phone calls from Major Campbell and the hospital. Campbell says that the flaming remains of the folding wing plane were found in an open field, and someone saw a shadowy figure leave the crash site. Doctor Kingsley tells the reporter that Heller has come out of his coma. However, Clark and Perry will have to wait until tomorrow morning to question the espionage agent as he is now resting.

We now go to the brownstone headquarters of the Society of the Leopard. Lita the Leopard Woman has read of Max Heller's hospitalization in the Daily Planet. She must take measures to make sure that Heller doesn't talk to anyone about her or her clandestine organization. To do that, Lita must kill the spy. She arrives at the hospital covered in a dark veil and cape and asks to see Heller. However, Heller has been placed on a "Danger List" and is not permitted any visitors. Lita then takes her pearl-handled revolver forces the desk nurse to take her to Heller's room. The nurse suddenly faints, and this brings others from the hospital staff from various nearby areas. The confusion of the crowd provides the perfect distraction as Lita makes her escape from the window of an empty hospital room.

Later, Major Campbell and Clark Kent are in the hospital questioning the nurse Lita has taken at gunpoint. The nurse doesn't tell them much, but Clark theorizes that the darkly veiled lady was in fact the Leopard Woman. Seeing that nothing more can be done for now, Campbell goes home to get some much needed sleep while Clark decides to stay behind.

Back at the brownstone, Lita is planning another attempt on Heller's life. Her henchman wants to walk into the hospital with a bomb attached to his body, but Lita wants something more cunning and subtle. She will pose as a patient in a private room of the hospital. Lita's plan is brought into motion, and she later strips, bounds and gags her nurse.

Now disguised as a nurse, Lita passes the security guard in front of Max Heller's darkened room, and she's about to close in on her prey like the leopard that her society uses as a symbol. Much to Lita's surprise, Max Heller is not in the hospital bed. Clark Kent has taken the foreign espionage agent's place. The Leopard Woman has just been arrested.

Major Campbell and Clark are now questioning Lita, but the Leopard Woman only replies with "I have nothing to say." A phone call from Doctor Kingsley interrupts the interrogation. Max Heller is dead. The maniacal laughter of Lita forces Campbell to have some men take her back to her prison cell after the news of the spy's death reaches the Leopard Woman.

With the interrogation of Lita a failure, Clark gets an idea. Major Campbell, with the aid of one of his Japanese American agents as the woman's cell mate, will arrange for Lita to escape. Once Lita is free, she can be followed to the headquarters of the Society of the Leopard. The plan is a success, and Clark and Major Campbell, with several Secret Servicemen, are about to enter the brownstone hideout of the secret organization. They find the building empty, but the smell of incense is still strong. Clark also finds warm ashes in the fireplace. The Leopard Woman did enter the brownstone. However, she possibly didn't know it would be empty.

After Campbell phones the police about Lita's being free, one of his men finds a medallion of the Society of the Leopard. This proves that Lita's organization was in the brownstone.

Clark suddenly comes up with a theory. Lita figured that if her attempt on Max Heller's life failed, she'd be held for questioning. Rather than risk Americans knowing the location of the Society of the Leopard, she told her men to find a new hideout of their choosing if she is caught.

Major Campbell doesn't take much stock into Clark's theory and fires him from his Secret Service work. The disappointed reporter then decides to return to the Daily Planet. He finds Lois read the classified advertisements in rival newspapers in an effort to increase the ads in The Planet. She reads about a leopard skin for sale in The Sentinel. This leads Clark to believe that the Society of the Leopard is trying to let Lita know of their whereabouts.

Posing as husband and wife, Lois and Clark go to the waterfront address where the leopard skin is being sold. A strange man named Brower leads them to an area where the skin is located. Lita the Leopard Woman suddenly appears from a door behind the two reporters. She and Brower escort Lois and Clark to the basement dungeon, which was put there by the former owner of the house. The last occupant was a sea captain in the slave trade.

In the dark, damp cell, Clark makes use of Superman's fantastic hearing and sight. He hears Lita order her men to finish the work on the shortwave radio equipment needed to contact the Axis submarines that have been attacking American ships. A man then comes down to the basement to open the fuse box that will give the radio power. Once that's done, Brower tells Lita of an American oil tanker called The Marimar that is seventy miles due east of Metropolis. Brower is to radio the enemy submarine fleet to attack the ship.

Removing two of the bars from the prison by pretending that they're loose, Clark helps Lois escape. He then sends her in a taxi on the way to Major Campbell's office before removing his mild mannered guise. Superman is needed to save The Marimar from the enemy submarines' torpedoes. He resumes his Clark Kent identity and pretends to be a stowaway on the vessel. He warns Captain Hanson about the submarine attack, but his words go unheeded until a shell from a German U boat nearly hits The Marimar. Changing back into Superman, our hero goes underwater, rips off the sub's propellers and pushes the ship to the nearest United States Navy yard. The dazed captain of the German ship is later questioned by the authorities.

While phoning the story of The Marimar into the Daily Planet, Clark Kent learns that Lois was thrown out of Major Campbell's office. Clark goes to talk to Campbell and eventually convinces him to take ten men with him to the waterfront house where Lois and Clark were held prisoner.

Clark, Major Campbell and the ten armed Secret Service men are now surrounding the new headquarters of the Society of the Leopard. However, they do not know that Lita the Leopard Woman has placed a fuse on a heavy black box. She plans to eliminate her enemies with a bomb, even if it means taking herself and her operatives with them. Brower, who is a German agent, assures Lita that there is a way to escape by diving into the river from the roof. Lita's Oriental spies then decide to be suicide bombers to hide her getaway.

Major Campbell and his men are about to shoot the waterfront house's door opened when Clark hears the fuse sputtering. He moves the agents out of the way, moves into the shadows and witnesses the suicide of the Oriental members of Lita's Society of the Leopard as Superman.

After Clark Kent comes out of the fire unharmed and calls the story of the spy ring to the Daily Planet, Major Campbell says to the reporter that Brower and Lita have stolen a car. However, unknown to both Campbell and Kent, the German spy and the Leopard Woman will soon make their escape in a seaplane and try to contact one the submarines in their fleet. The eight state manhunt for them is forcing them to take these drastic measures.

At 5:30 AM, Lita and Brower arrive at the Midtown Harbor Seaplane Base. They knock out the security guard and steal a seaplane just before some soldiers can catch them. Major Campbell and Clark Kent get word of the aircraft's theft not long after The Leopard Woman and Brower begin to make their getaway.

While Campbell prepares to leave with some Secret Service agents, Clark removes his reporter's guise to reveal the red and blue costume of Superman. The Man of Steel grabs the wings of the stolen seaplane and flies it back to land before turning Lita the Leopard Woman and Brower over to Major Campbell.

The Leopard Woman is now in custody, but the mysteries are just beginning for Clark Kent. While at his desk at the Daily Planet, he receives a phone call from Jimmy Olsen, who is vacationing at a dude ranch after recovering from being poisoned by the candy Lita had sent to Lois Lane. The long distance phone line has a bad connection, but Jimmy mentions something about an accident and a ghost car. What has happened to Jimmy, and how is "The Ghost Car" involved? Only next week's serial in The Adventures of Superman can answer that question. Be sure to tune in then, boys and girls.

Trivia:

The Sentinel newspaper is no stranger to radio or television. Britt Reid was editor of The Daily Sentinel when he wasn't masked as the title character in The Green Hornet.

Review:

From start to finish, "Lita The Leopard Woman" is an extremely exciting serial. Much like "The Mechanical Man," this story arc has so many elements of any great Superman story. In fact, "Lita" has all the qualities of "Mechanical."

Now, some of the words used to describe the Japanese in "Lita The Leopard Woman" may not seem politically correct in this day and age, but one must consider that there was a war going on at the time this serial had originally aired. There were names used by both sides of the conflict for the enemy. I do not condone any name-calling or racial slurs. However, I understand that times were different more tense for those living during World War II. Archie Bunker is a bigot, but at the same time, the character lets us know about the issues of the time through his eyes. Does that make All In The Family less enjoyable? No, and the same is true for The Adventures of Superman and "Lita The Leopard Woman." It entertains and informs despite the political incorrectness of the time.

Speaking of time, people seemed more trustworthy in the 1940s. "Lita The Leopard Woman" shows another instance where Superman swears a doctor to secrecy after saving Jimmy Olsen's life. The first time this happened was in "The Howling Coyote." Superman could not run the risk of keeping his presence a secret for in an age when a video of him flying to help someone would appear on YouTube mere minutes after Kal-El had arrived on the scene. I guess people and Superman wanted to believe that there was honestly in their fellow man back then. Like the different terms and words though, this fact does not make the story of "Lita The Leopard Woman" any less fun. I'm merely making an observation on how times change.

The supporting cast of characters really are done well in "Lita The Leopard Woman." We have Perry, who, despite his gruffness, shows a genuine, fatherly concern for the poisoned Jimmy Olsen. This an aspect we rarely see come to the surface, but it's there. Perry often wants to bellow "Great Caesar's Ghost!" and fire his staff in the radio show and George Reeves series versions of the character. However, deep down inside, he sees Clark, Lois and Jimmy as his family. We really don't see this shown outside of the comics until Lane Smith's portrayal of the chief in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Speaking of Lois and Clark, there's more of the romantic tension between them in "Lita The Leopard Woman." You can hear the joy in the surprised tone of he voice when she reads the card in the candy that she thought came from Clark. There are also some tender moments between them when Clark is trying to console Lois in Lita's prison. The love that Lois and Clark have for each other even before the aforementioned Lois & Clark and the current comics was, is and always will be an important factor in making both Clark Kent and Superman more like us mere mortals. Let's hope DC Comics, unlike their competition, keeps their flagship couple together for many years to come.

Something I haven't mentioned much in my reviews of the Superman radio series is the fact of Clark Kent's secret identity. Many times throughout the show, Clark slips up and almost reveals to Lois, Perry, Jimmy or someone else that he's Superman. He does this several times with Major Campbell in "Lita The Leopard Woman" and the previous serial. I find this to be a fun way of making the listener laugh and say, "Careful, Clark. You almost let the cape slip out." Much like George Reeves' wink, it was an amazing way of saying that we're in on the secret, but nobody in the story is. I love when this happens, especially when Bud Collyer says, "Who said I was Superman?" when Campbell jokes about him being the Man of Steel. Clark seems really scared even though he's playing along with Campbell.

The writers really cut loose on using Superman amazing abilities of the time in "Lita The Leopard Woman." From catching torpedoes and sending them back to a submarine and turning a seaplane back to land, to using his hearing to listen to the spies plans and breaking Lois out of their prison, the listeners get to use their imaginations to their full potential. That's stupendous, and I honestly hope there's more exercise for our minds' eyes next week when Superman must deal with "The Ghost Car." Hopefully, the theater of the mind won't disappoint us then, Superfans. Until we meet again in seven days or so, don't touch that dial. and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.



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