Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1940: Buffalo HillsReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: May 13, 1940-May 24, 1940
Buffalo Hills is an area in Boulder City where artwork representing the history of the American pioneers was carved into the granite of the mountains. Governor Al J. Carson will be at the ceremony unveiling the sculptures. Unfortunately, the governor has been the target of various criminals because of his attempts to clean his state of crime. Before Clark Kent leaves to go Boulder City, Mr. Asa Hatch, an elderly and eccentric historian, tracker, detective and volunteer photographer for the Daily Planet, enters Perry White's office. Hatch believes someone is trying to kill him and prevent him from going to Boulder City. After a sniper's bullet tries to hit Asa Hatch from somewhere across the street from Perry's office, Clark leaves to search for the assassin as Superman.
Superman finds the shooter and stops another bullet from going through Perry's office window. The gunman fights with Superman and accidentally shoots himself. Before he dies, the killer says the names Carson and Flores, who according to Mr. Hatch, is gangster Pete Flores. Clark returns to Perry's office to tell Perry and Hatch about the gunman when a news item arrives. Governor Carson's car was in an accident. The governor wasn't injured, but Asa Hatch advises Clark to be prepared for anything when they get to Boulder City.
Later, Flores and Dutchy Gan are at the Little Forks Train Station waiting for Clark and Asa's train to make its scheduled stop before going to Boulder City. Flores has ordered Dutchy to attach a bomb to the train. The bomb is set to go off before the train reaches a town called Island Falls. Clark hears Dutchy attach the bomb to the train while he and Asa Hatch are talking.
With the excuse of having a cigarette in the smoking car of the train, Clark changes into Superman. The Man of Steel finds Dutchy and forces him to reveal Pete Flores' plans to use the bomb to kill Hatch and Kent before the train reaches Island Falls. Superman grabs the bomb just in the nick of time and hurls the explosive into the river. After Clark Kent returns, he asks Asa Hatch why Pete Flores would want to harm him or Governor Carson. Kent also suggests that he and Hatch contact the governor when they get to Boulder City.
Speaking of Governer Carson, he has just denied a pardon for Rico Frain, one of Pete Flores' right hand men. As a result, Flores will try something at midnight after Clark Kent and Asa Hatch arrive. Meanwhile, Hatch and Kent are attempting to get onto the grounds of the governor's mansion. While Asa is searching for a way inside the mansion, Clark overhears a conversation between Flores and Keegan, the governor's assistant, about an attack on Carson. Clark becomes Superman while Hatch is on the other side of the grounds. Someone attacks Superman with a blackjack. The Man of Steel throws the man against the gate and smashes the locks. He hides the unconscious man behind a bush before resuming his guise of Clark Kent.
Asa Hatch and Clark approach the front door of the governor's mansion and try to see the governor. Keegan however refuses to let them enter the house. He pretends not to remember Hatch despite the fact that the eccentric photographer says that Keegan knows he's an old friend of Governor Carson. Hatch suspects something is afoot and helps Clark attempt to sneak back into the mansion. However, the police try to arrest Clark and Hatch before Hatch can warn the governor. Clark then escapes from the police before they can put the handcuffs on him.
Clark eventually turns himself in and discovers Asa Hatch is in solitary confinement. Kent is placed in a cell with a man named Monty, who works for Pete Flores. Monty thinks Clark is working for Flores and tells the reporter Pete Flores' plan to break him out of jail so they can help the gangster get revenge on Governor Carson. A car driven by Dutchy Gan will be waiting for Monty while some prisoners riot. Monty sets fire to his matress. The blaze creates a distraction while Monty steals a guard's keys. Monty makes his getaway with Dutchy Gan while Clark changes into Superman. Superman flies at great speeds to make sure he gets to the governor's mansion before Dutchy and Monty.
Superman resumes his guise of Clark Kent when he gets inside the mansion. He tries to convince Governor Carson to let him replace the governor before Flores and his gang can do anything to the political figure. When Clark is unsuccessful in convincing Carson, he knocks the governor out and throws him into the closet. Returning to his true identity of Superman, the Man of Steel pretends to be the sleeping governor when Monty and Dutchy arrive. The two gangsters tie Superman up and put a sack over his head. They then drive away and throw Superman into the river.
On the way to the river, Superman overhears that Pete Flores is in the governor's mansion. Superman manages to escape after the thugs drive away from the river. The Man of Tomorrow then races back to the governor's mansion, but neither Pete Flores nor Governor Carson are anywhere to be found. Superman hears voices while he continues his search. The voices belong to Asa Hatch and Governor Al J. Carson. The governor said that a guard helped him get out of the closet. When Carson tried to phone the police, he saw that the phone line had been cut. He then drove to police headquarters and saw his friend Asa Hatch in prison. Seeing that his friend needed help, Carson bailed Hatch out of jail.
Suddenly, a man named Lt. Maxim arrives with a message for Governor Carson from Col. Boles, the man in charge of the construction of the Buffalo Hills Monument. He needs to see the governor about something important. Clark and Asa Hatch decide to go with the governor and Lt. Maxim. Meanwhile, Keegan, the governor's assistant that actually works for Flores, has secretly placed something under the seat cushions in Lt. Maxim's car before making his escape.
While driving to Col. Boles' office, Maxim, Hatch and Governor Carson fall asleep, and the car is about to go over a cliff. Fortunately, Superman saves the sleeping trio just in time. The quartet finally manages to get to Boles' office after the Man of Steel resumes his guise of Clark Kent. When they enter, they believe Boles is asleep at his desk. However, Asa Hatch discovers that Boles is actually dead.
Two days later, Hatch and Clark unsuccessfully try to convince Governor Carson not to go to the dedication of the Buffalo Hills carvings. Meanwhile, Pete Flores and Dutchy Gan are setting up explosives in a tunnel in a cliff beyond Buffalo Hills. The explosive charges will create a rockslide at noon after the starter's gun fires the shot to open the Buffalo Hills Ceremony.
Meanwhile, Clark looks at a picture that Asa Hatch had taken on the way to the ceremony. He notices that Dutchy Gan's car is in the photo of an area near the cliff. As Superman, he forces Dutchy to confess the plans of Pete Flores. He then finds Flores in the tunnel. Flores starts the rockslide, but Superman deflects the masses of rock. Some of the rock hits Dutchy's car after Flores and Dutchy get inside. The gangster and his henchman are buried under tons of boulders. Governor Carson is safe, Asa Hatch has some great pictures of the rockslide, and Clark Kent has a story prepare for the Daily Planet before he gets another assignment in the next episode of The Adventures of Superman.
After the last story, I was hoping for a villain with better characterization, and I got that with Pete Flores. While he's not on par with Chip Donelli or the Yellow Mask, Flores is well defined and his motives are pretty clear. He wants revenge. Vendettas have been, are and always will be a part of literature and mythology, and Superman stories are no exception to that. Whether it's Lex Luthor wanting revenge against Superboy for losing his hair in the Superboy TV show and Silver Age comics, or three Kryptonite mutated freaks wanting to kill Clark Kent for putting them in Belle Reve Sanitarium in Smallville, vengeance is what motivates the characters much like it does Pete Flores.
The only major problem I really had with "Buffalo Hills" is the character of Asa Hatch. I honestly feel that he could have easily been replaced with Perry White or Lois Lane. It would have been more interesting to see one of those characters in the same situations as Hatch. The story would have had more suspense if Perry or Lois would have been arrested when Clark escaped. It would have also created some extra conflict between Clark and Lois or Clark and Perry. I also wish a little more would have been done about Pete Flores in the governor's mansion and Col. Boles' murder. However, I'm willing to overlook those things for now.
While the story of "Buffalo Hills" is not as fast paced as the previous arc, it is evenly paced. It doesn't go too slow, and it keeps the listener interested in the events in the story. I know I found myself wondering if Flores and Dutchy were actually killed by the rockslide, but I've seen so many characters come back from the dead in comics over the years that I often ask, "Are they really dead?" Maybe I've become jaded. Who knows?
Anyway, despite my feeling like Hatch could have been replaced in the story, "Buffalo Hills" is a fun action story that feels like a Golden Age comic book. Let's hope the next story arc gives us that same nostalgic feeling. See you next time, and remember to look up in the sky.
Back to the "Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews" Contents page.