Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1948: The Skin GameReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: April 02, 1948-April 14, 1948
"The Skin Game"
Daily Planet cub reporter Jimmy Olsen has not been himself lately. His work is not up to its usual standards, and he seems worried and distracted. Copy boy Beany Martin and star reporter Lois Lane ask Clark Kent to speak with the lad. Jimmy is the manager and assistant head coach of the Unity House Track Team. Howard Jones and Bobby Lee, two of the squad's members, have been bothered by someone named Ralphie. Ralphie has even threatened Jimmy for defending the boys. However, before young Olsen can tell Clark what's going on, he is shot at a track competition. The danger to Jimmy's life is now even more serious.
The police believe that the bullet that wounded Jimmy came from the starter's pistol. Live ammunition might have been mixed with the blanks. Clark thinks that ballistics experts will find that the projectile didn't come from the gun. Confused about some details, Clark asks Howard Jones what happened. The terrified boy will not talk because he was the intended victim instead of Jimmy. Later, Ralphie Mason is frightened by what has been happening. His uncle George had fired his rifle at Jimmy, and now, he plans an assassination attempt on Howard, who is now on a bus home. Why have Howard Jones and Bobby Lee caused such hatred in George Mason?
Unity House Track Coach Claude Thorn has told Clark that Ralphie Mason, a member of the Grove Street Playground Track Team, wanted Thorn to remove Howard Jones and Bobby Lee from the Unity House squad because they are African Americans. Thorn refused and received a threatening telephone call from Ralph. Thorn had also heard an adult male voice telling Ralph what to say. Ralph had also confronted Jimmy earlier. Thorn had warned the cub reporter that he might be in danger. Clark, figuring that another attempt would be made on Howard's life, races to the boy's address. However, Howard may not even get there. George Mason's car is traveling hat high speeds, and its owner has murderous intent in his eyes.
Superman has saved Howard in the nick of time and confronted George Mason, who has called himself George Brown. The next day, Clark Kent and the police question John and Ralph about the shooting of Jimmy Olsen. Kent was correct in assuming that the bullet that wounded the cub reporter did not from the starter's pistol at the track meet. Mason and son pretend to know nothing, but John has further plans to deal with Howard Jones and Bobby Lee. Superman will surely have his hands full with this new threat.
It is now the day before the City Playground Track and Field Championship at the Metropolis Stadium. Jimmy is up and about after being shot. Both Clark and Jimmy believe that Ralph Mason knows more about the assassination attempt, and they may be right. Ralph's father has given him two packages - one for Howard and another for Bobby - to place in the lockers of the boys. Both lads find the envelopes. Not long afterwards, Clark receives a call from Jimmy. Something terrible has happened, and our hero is needed.
Howard and Bobby have written a note saying that they will not be racing in the championship, and both boys have gone missing. Clark examines the packages sent to Bobby and Howard. Small pairs of crutches are in the envelopes along with an anonymous threat. Now, everyone is worried, and an intense search goes on for teenage track stars. The lads have hitched a ride on a train to Howard's uncle's farm upstate. They are hanging on a ladder on the side of the boxcar in order to hide from the break man. Howard and Bobby hold on tightly as the locomotive turns sharply. Should they lose their grip, the youths will fall into the river below.
Bobby and Howard have fallen into the river. The former's ankle is broken, and the water's current is very strong. The boys suddenly hear the sound of an approaching Superman. He has taken the Howard and Bobby to a hospital. There is a small chance that Howard will compete in the race, but Bobby will need to stay off his leg. Later, at the Metropolis Police Department, Clark Kent notices that the crutches sent to the track stars were carved from a packing case. Seeing the letters "ZO" impressed into the sanded wood, Clark Kent learns from Jimmy Olsen that it's from a Fizzo soda pop bottling factory, the same owned by John Mason. However, before Clark and Jimmy can bring the police to Mason, they learn that Howard and Bobby have gone missing again. What has happened to them?
Howard and Bobby have been found in a closet. They were hiding from Ralph Mason and another man. Later, Clark and Jimmy go to the Fizzo factory, where Clark uses a typewriter and notes some important things, including a message matching that written and placed with the crutches sent to Howard and Bobby. George and John are in big trouble now, and the former intends to kill Jimmy Olsen. Superman will have to use all of his tremendous speed to help his young friend.
With evidence against the Mason brothers and George intent on murdering Jimmy, Ralph Mason realizes that things have gone too far. He warns Clark and the police of his uncle's plan. Now, Superman is racing to the hospital, where Jimmy is picking up Howard Jones before the track meet. However, as the boys meet up, the maniacal George Mason is firing a rifle at them. Suddenly, Superman stops the bullets before they can hit the lads. The Man of Steel then takes care of Mason. Another racist plot has been stopped by Superman.
Unity House has won City Playground Track and Field Championship, and no charges have been filed against Ralph Mason despite his father and uncle going in prison. Jimmy is overjoyed, but Lois Lane is not listening to him. She is preparing to leave and only says to look at the crossword puzzle in the Daily Planet from the day before yesterday if she's not heard from within twenty-four hours. Confused. Jimmy prepares himself for "The Crossword Puzzle Mystery." Be here next week for another serial in The Adventures of Superman to find out what happens, gang.
When a serial in The Adventures of Superman radio show tries has a moral lesson within its contents, it can either be overblown and preachy, or it can be a well done and entertaining story. "The Skin Game" falls into the latter category. It's more along the lines of "The Clan of the Fiery Cross" and less like "Al Vincent's Corrupt Political Machine." I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this arc.
"The Skin Game" does borrow heavily from "The Clan Of The Fiery Cross," but it is not a cheesy rehashing of that serial by a long shot. In a time when racial segregation was common in certain parts of the United States, The Adventures of Superman went where few, if any, radio shows geared toward children dared to go in their story lines. Much like the crew of the starship Enterprise, Superman was showing the audience that no matter what color our skin was or what way we worshipped any particular deity, we are all people. This made the series ahead of its time, and "The Skin Game," like "Clan," is shining proof of that.
"The Skin Game" tends to use the word "colored" to describe the African American characters of Howard and Bobby. That term is considered outdated and politically incorrect in this day and age because if one thinks about it, everybody is colored. Still, one must maintain an open mind and consider the time period in which this serial aired. Some listeners might get offended by the usage of that word, and I'm sorry if it does rub you the wrong way. However I ask you to think about this when playing this serial. Superman is an alien from another world and is prone all the horrid bigotry that is within the human race. He may be able to stop bullets, but someone calling him a dirty alien can still hurt. Think about that if you ever hear someone call the Man of Steel racist.
George and John Mason are two extreme sides of the same coin. John is more subtle, and his brother George is more proactive. On the opposite side of the spectrum, one could say that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were the same way. Doctor King wanted racial equality between the races, yet Malcolm X used more violent methods to send his message to white people. In the case of the Masons, they helped the story become more interesting. The conflict between them helps add more layers to the characters. This is one of the things that makes "The Skin Game" one of the better anti-racism serials in The Adventures of Superman.
Overall. "The Skin Game" happens to be an entertaining story that delivers its message without pushing down the audience’s throats. Next week, Superman must solve "The Crossword Puzzle Mystery." We'll see how Lois Lane is involved in it in seven days or so, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky. Now, go read some of the other articles and reviews on the Superman Homepage. You'll be glad you did.
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