Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1948: Batman's Great MysteryReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: February 03, 1948-February 17, 1948
"Batman's Great Mystery"
When we last left Superman, he was in his guise of Clark Kent talking on the telephone with Dick Grayson, who is really Robin, The Boy Wonder. Batman, the lad's mentor, is missing and may never be seen again. Twelve days ago, the Dark Knight had told his partner, that he most likely would be dead if he has not contacted Robin or Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's butler, in a week's time. Clark and Dick look through papers in Wayne's vault for clues to the Caped Crusader's whereabouts. They find nothing until they notice that something was recorded on the machine in the study. Clark and Dick hear the voice of a man that was with Bruce Wayne on the night when young Grayson last saw him. His name is Mister Jones, and he wanted Bruce to come with him. Otherwise, he'd reveal that the millionaire is really Batman.
Removing the piece of recording wire that reveals Bruce Wayne's double identity, Clark makes the staff of the Daily Planet and the Metropolis police listen to the conversation that Wayne had had with Mister Jones. Kent believes that he has heard Jones' voice, but he is uncertain where. He discusses this with Dick when Police Inspector Bill Henderson gives them shocking news. An organization of bigots against sending food and relief to Europe is meeting at the Metropolis Auditorium. The group's key speaker surprises both Dick and Clark. It is none other than Batman.
Both Clark and Dick are surprised to hear Batman support a group of racists after the cowled hero and Robin had seen how those in Europe needed assistance. Clark and the Dark Knight had even recently gone to Washington D.C. to discuss foreign aid with the United States government. Believing that Mister Jones has threatened Batman into being a bigot, Clark and Dick confront him until the Boy Wonder decides to talk to his partner alone. However, the Caped Crusader does not like what Robin is saying and strikes his young ward. Does this mean the end of the Dynamic Duo?
Having taken Robin to a doctor and seen the lad home, Superman has gone to the Willow Falls Opera House to confront Batman before he is to give another racist speech. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson receives a call from his mentor. He is to meet the Dark Knight at the River Hotel in Room 314. The Boy Wonder only finds two men there. One, bald and unshaven, is pointing a revolver at Dick. It looks like Batman has set a trap for his young ward.
Clark Kent is confronting Batman, who has threatened to punch the mild mannered reporter. Kent tells him that this action is not wise considering who he is. The Dark Knight replies that he isn't scared of reporters. This can mean only one thing. The person in front of our hero is not really Batman, the only person that knows that Clark Kent is Superman. Kent wants Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson to take this Cowled Crusader's fingerprints to see if the impostor's match with those of the genuine costumed hero. In order to do this, Henderson needs Robin to file a complaint. Unfortunately, Alfred Pennyworth, the Dynamic Duo's butler, has told Kent and Henderson that the lad went to the waterfront to find his partner. Superman has no choice but return to Willow Falls to question the one he met before. Unfortunately, Batman has checked out of his hotel, and he doesn't intend to make any speeches for a while. Superman is now even more baffled by this strange mystery.
Robin is missing, and fingerprints in the Willow Falls hotel where the Dark Knight had been staying do not match those of the real Batman. Clark Kent is now in Mayor Perry White's office. He is convinced that the Batman making the "Let Europe Starve" speeches is an impostor. He is also sure that he has heard the voice of Mister Jones. Unaware of Jones' identity, Kent begins a radio contest asking for the man's name. Meanwhile, Batman and Robin are prisoners of the evil Mister Jones. Jones intends to kill the Dynamic Duo, but first he needs them to continue with his nefarious plans. Superman may not help his friends stop Mister Jones.
As the voice of Mister Jones is being broadcast on the Daily Planet's radio station, Jones himself has forced Batman to agree to open his bank safety deposit box by threatening to shoot Robin. The Boy Wonder doesn't want his mentor to give in to Jones' demands. Meanwhile, as Jones continues to be unidentified, Clark knows that someone has been taking Batman's fortune from various banks in the area, and the fake Dark Knight has been seen at Metropolis Trust Company. Can Superman get there in time to stop another withdrawal?
Clark Kent has just missed the false Batman and Mister Jones. He has searched everywhere for them as Superman. Also, nobody has identified Mister Jones' voice. There seems to be no way to find Batman and Robin. The Dynamic Duo is trying to escape from the Revolutionary War prison where Jones is keeping them. They are unsuccessful even when they call for food and water. Mister Jones has returned. Meanwhile, Someone is waiting at the Daily Planet radio station to reveal the identity of Mister Jones. Superman may yet save Batman and Robin.
William Hemple has identified Mister Jones as Mort Beeler, a man who sends Anti-European aid propaganda out to people. Clark had heard Beeler speak when he was in Maine. Hemple has one of Beeler's envelopes in his home. He uses to write notes on. Meanwhile, Beeler is about to kill Batman and Robin until the Dark Knight asks for a cigarette. This gives the Dynamic Duo a chance to escape as a henchman brings what was asked. However, the now unconscious, burly man has no gun with which the chains tying up the pair of heroes can be shot. There seems to be no hope for Batman and Robin.
Batman has fooled Beeler's men into believing he has a gun. However, Beeler himself has set Batman and Robin's prison on fire. Meanwhile, Superman is still searching for clues to Beeler's whereabouts through Hemple's neighbors that have received envelopes from the bigot. At the same time, flames spread in the barracks where Batman and Robin are held. Beeler and Ed, the false Batman, realize that they had left the money that they had taken from the Dark Knight inside. Suddenly, the roof caves in. Mister Jones/Beeler has met his end, but so have, possibly, Batman and Robin.
Superman has arrived just before the burning roof of the prison barracks can collapse on Batman and Robin. With his friends safe, Superman returns to Metropolis. Later, Bruce Wayne has told Dick Grayson that their funds were not destroyed in the fire. One of Beeler's men took them out before the blaze started. Meanwhile, Clark Kent returns to his office at the Daily Planet to write about the events of Batman's great mystery. Afterwards, he receives a call from private detective Candy Meyers, who is currently in London, England. He needs Kent's help because the mystery of "The Kingdom Under The Sea" may be his strangest case yet. Tune in next week, boys and girls, to see what happens in The Adventures of Superman.
I must admit that I was expecting something along the lines of "Knight Time," which is still among my favorite episodes of Superman: The Animated Series to this day. However, "Batman's Great Mystery" is a halfway decent story. It's not perfect, but it is better than some of the serials that I've reviewed recently.
I do have some problems with "Batman's Great Mystery" that I feel must be addressed. The first of which is perhaps the biggest plot hole in the story. Inspector Henderson says that he has Batman's fingerprints on file. Wouldn't they risk revealing that Bruce Wayne is the Dark Knight, something that he wants to keep secret from Mister Jones and the rest of the world? There certainly could have been other ways to show that Jones' Batman was a fake even in 1948. The writers got sloppy with that element. The same can be said about Batman's having money in the bank under the name Batman. Any fool in a bat costume could take the cash. Plus, there is the possibility of the funds being traced back to Bruce Wayne.
I don't think I've ever mentioned this before, but it seems that Batman and Robin live in Metropolis in The Adventures of Superman radio series. Gotham City is never mentioned, which is a pity. It would have been great to hear Superman go to Gotham City to aid the Dynamic Duo, especially considering that in previous serials he's been in other parts of the world. However, I don't want to complain about this without having the proper information. Perhaps DC Comics restricted the use of certain aspects of the characters of Batman and Robin. I just feel that a story that took place in Gotham against the Riddler or the Joker would have been neat and could have shown the full potential of the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder on radio.
For someone who knew Batman's double identity, Mister Jones seemed more interested in stopping world hunger relief in Europe than exploiting Bruce Wayne's biggest secret. Sure, he used an impostor of the Dark Knight for his plans, but beyond that and stealing some of the Caped Crusader's money, Jones/Beeler doesn't take advantage of the knowledge in his possession. Most villains, with the exception of maybe Ra's Al Ghul, would use what they know about their foe to get what they want. The ball was dropped on the overall "Mister Jones/Beeler knows Batman is Bruce Wayne" plot thread in my opinion, and more should have been done with it.
Despite these complaints, "Batman's Great Mystery" is a decent serial. It just needed some improvements before it went on the air. I did like the fact that Clark was able to figure out that the Batman he faced in Willow Falls was not the real one. The interaction between Robin and the impersonator was also well done. The whole mystery of the false Dark Knight's identity was maybe the best thing about this story. Let's hope the good things outweigh the bad next time when Superman helps Candy Meyers solve the mystery of "The Kingdom Under The Sea" in England. See you all in seven days or so, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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