Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1942: A Mystery For SupermanReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: February 27, 1942-March 09, 1942
"A Mystery For Superman"
Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are returning to Metropolis by train in response to a cryptic and urgent telegram that was sent to them at the Bar-O Ranch by Perry White. The porter gives Clark another message from Mr. White. He and Jimmy are supposed to meet the chief in Walden Junction while Lois is to return to the offices of the Daily Planet.
Jimmy and Clark are now in Walden Junction waiting for Perry. Clark examines the editor's telegram closely and finds that it is fake. Suspecting danger, Clark gives Jimmy money for a train ticket to Metropolis. He removes his normal reporter's clothes to become Superman. The Man of Steel returns as Clark Kent to the train where he and Jimmy had left Lois only to find that Lois is not anywhere on the train, and there were no stops between Walden Junction and Metropolis.
Later, Clark has returned to the Daily Planet to explain what has happened on the Bar-O Ranch and on the train back home. Kent discovers that Perry never even sent a telegram to the ranch. Both messages for Clark were false.
A phone call from Lois interrupts Clark and Perry. She tells the mild mannered reporter not to worry. She will call at 10:00 tomorrow morning. She keeps her word and says to Clark that she has uncovered the biggest story of the century. However, she needs twenty thousand dollars in cash before noon today. She'll give the money back, but Perry is to deliver it to her at 407 South Street. Clark is to stay in the office to write the story when Lois phones it in.
Darwin, the newspaper's cashier, is surprised by Perry's request for the twenty grand, but he goes to the bank to get the money. Clark, on the other hand, is worried about Mr. White carrying so much cash to the address that Lois had given him. When he called the operator about the phone number of a residence located at 407 South Street, he discovered that no phone was ever registered for that address. Despite Clark's misgivings, Perry goes to give the money to Lois.
It is now 12:00 noon. Clark has just received a call from Perry. Lois' story is big, but neither she nor Perry can give it to Clark. The editor needs another twenty thousand dollars in cash. He'll order Darwin to give it to Clark, who is to deliver it to 407 South Street. Sensing something suspicious, Clark goes to this address without the money.
407 South Street is a theatrical boarding house run by a Mrs. Walsh. She escorts Clark to the parlor to wait for Lois and Perry. After Mrs. Walsh has gone into the kitchen, Clark notices a telephone in the room just as it rings. Perry is calling for Clark and seems angry that the reporter didn't bring the other twenty thousand dollars. He orders Clark to go back to the office. Darwin is to bring the cash to the boarding house. If Perry isn't there to receive the money, Darwin is to give it to Mrs. Walsh.
As Darwin leaves to give the money to Perry, Clark is on the telephone with Lois. He doesn't like what's going on, but Lois tells him that everything will be okay once he knows about the story she's uncovered.
Clark has now hung up with Lois. He has also received the shock of his life. Lois has just walked into the newspaper offices. She's come to see Perry. Despite what Clark has said, Lois insists that she got off the train in Metropolis, and she hasn't been near a telephone for at least a day.
Confused, Clark flies back to Mrs. Walsh's boarding house as Superman. Much to his surprise, our hero, in his guise of Clark Kent, discovers that the rooming house is the home of a Doctor Hendricks. The furniture and wallpaper are different from what Clark had seen yesterday. Clark begins to doubt his sanity, but he's later convinced that Lois is playing a trick on him. He returns to the Daily Planet to confront her. However, a man named Bill says that she left shortly after Clark had gone.
Just then, a frantic Lois enters the office. Clark says that he won't let her practical joke go any further. He knows she wasn't on the train to Metropolis despite what she had told him thirty minutes ago. Lois is shocked. She hasn't seen Clark in two days. She was kidnapped from the train and taken to an unknown location. She managed to escape and learn that she was on the waterfront. The first twenty thousand dollars was intended for ransom for Lois, and the second amount of cash is intended as money to get Perry back as the kidnappers apparently have him now.
Clark is going out of his mind. He asks Bill what he said about Lois being gone. Unfortunately, Bill cannot remember what he told Clark.
Clark has now taken Lois to 407 South Street. Neither Mrs. Walsh nor Doctor Hendricks answers the door. It is Perry that greets the mild mannered reporter, and Lois is nowhere near Clark when the door is opened.
With Clark feeling more nervous, Perry goes into another room to get something to calm him. While waiting for his editor, Clark sees both Mrs. Walsh and Doctor Hendricks, who lead Kent into the same room in which Perry had entered.
Clark now finds a surprise party in his honor. It's been two years since Kent had started working for the Daily Planet. The staff wanted to surprise him with a mystery that even he couldn't solve.
With his friends gathered around him to celebrate, Clark is relieved to know that no menace is lurking in the shadow. However, the calm moments won't last long. Tune in next week, boys and girls, for another serial in The Adventures of Superman for more thrills and excitement.
Mutual Broadcasting cancelled The Adventures of Superman after "A Mystery For Superman." However, fans of the series wrote to demand that it return. They got their wish when "Superman Comes To Earth" aired on August 31, 1942. That episode along with "Eben Kent Dies in a Fire, Clark Goes to Metropolis" retell the origin of Superman, and "The Wolfe" revamps the villain from the first serial into a Nazi agent out to destroy the American transportation system during World War II. Unfortunately, much of the serials from the war years of The Adventures of Superman are incomplete or missing as of this writing. It isn't until the first chapter of "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang" from September 04, 1945 that the story arcs become more complete and available.
While the 1940-1942 series of Superman radio shows doesn't really end with a bang, it doesn't quite finish with a poof either. "A Mystery For Superman" is one of those serials that works better if one listens to all five chapters in one sitting instead of playing them individually in separate periods. I got kind of irritated by the fact that everyone was trying to drive Clark - and the audience - mad when I played the story one episode at a time. My head felt like it could explode like in the movie Scanners by the time I got to part three or four. However, I warmed up more to the arc as I heard it from beginning to end.
That doesn't mean that "A Mystery For Superman" is flawless. Clark Kent believing he's mentally disturbed is a great idea for what can be an amazing story. In fact it was done rather well in Smallville. Unfortunately the execution of this serial leaves one let down when this arc comes to a finish. I did like that everything was intended to hide a surprise party for Clark, but it would have been nicer to have a villain like The Yellow Mask or Lita the Leopard Woman behind everything. Doctor Hendricks could have easily been re-written as a Professor Hugo Strange type of character.
Lois seems to be rather motherly toward Jimmy in both "A Mystery For Superman" and the previous serial. She shows concern for his safety in "The Ghost Car" and tells him not to eat too much candy in "Mystery." When one thinks of Lois Lane, maternal instincts probably will not come to mind, but she has them. Look at various episodes of Lois & Clark - particularly "Smart Kids" and the latter part of season four - and the way she is with Chris Kent in the comics, you'll see them come to the surface.
Upon looking at previous reviews I've written, I noticed that I've compared The Adventures of Superman to Star Trek: The Original Series quite a bit. Think about it. Both shows have dealt with social commentary in the guise of a fantasy story, dialogue from Superman can easily be spoken by a crew member of the Enterprise, especially Captain Kirk, and both series were brought back thanks to letters written by the fans. If not for people like that, Superman probably would not have lasted as long as a character, and maybe wonderful communities like the Superman Homepage would not exist. Wherever they may be, I want to say thank you to all the people that wrote Mutual to save the radio serials and help plant the seeds for the Superman fanbase that is still going strong today.
Overall, "A Mystery For Superman" isn't a bad serial, but some elements could have been added to make it more memorable. It doesn't stand out in the mind like some of the other story arcs do.
On another note, there is an abruptness in the announcer's final words in chapter five of "A Mystery For Superman." One can also detect a sense of melancholy as the cast delivers their lines. Two years and 325 episodes together perhaps made everyone feel like they were part of a family. They figured they would never work together or see each other again, and this possibly weighed heavily on their heart. They didn't know that they would have another chance to be Clark, Lois, Jimmy, Perry and, of course, Superman. We'll see how the Superfamily handles things in seven days or so. However, due to the scattershot existence of the 1942-1945 episodes, "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang" will be causing trouble in Metropolis next week. Until then, Superfans, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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