Superman on Radio & Audio

Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1940: Hans Holbin's Doll Factory

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: June 24, 1940-July 05, 1940

"Hans Holbin's Doll Factory"

Perry White has sent Lois Lane and Clark Kent to Mellville to investigate the destruction of a doll factory belonging to Hans Holbin. Thirteen employees of the factory were killed in the explosion. While Lois and Clark are driving to Mellville, a man named Joe gives Holbin a telegram from Perry White. The telegram is letting Holbin know of Lois and Clark's arrival in Mellville. However, Holbin wants Joe to stop the reporters from coming to Mellville no matter what it takes.

When Lois and Clark are almost to Mellville, Joe, disguised as a road worker, tells them the road is closed because of flooding. Clark, however, doesn't believe him. Leaving Lois in the car, he scouts on ahead as Superman. He discovers that there is no flood. The Man of Steel then asks Joe why he doesn't want Clark Kent and Lois Lane to go to Mellville. Joe's only response is gunfire. Bullets bounce off Superman's chest before he knocks out Joe. Suddenly, Lois is running to the area where the shots were fired. Supermn quickly changes back to Clark Kent and convinces her that Joe missed him.

Later, the Daily Planet reporters arrive in Mellville. Clark examines the ruins of the doll factory while Lois goes to Hans Holbin's home to interview him. Clark believes that he has found something, but Joe sees him and tells him to leave. He does leave, but later goes to investigate as Superman.

Meanwhile, Lois is talking to Hans Holbin. Holbin tells Lois that a defective boiler had caused the explosion, and everything is calm until she reveals that Clark is examining the debris of the doll factory to determine the explosion's cause. Holbin then says that if Clark finds anything in the rubble, Lois will not leave the house alive. He then ties Lois up and puts her in the closet before going to the doll factory, where Superman is examining the piles of bricks.

Holbin and Joe later see Superman searching the debris. Believing he's Clark Kent, the pair of men plan to bring the remaining wall down on him. Meanwhile the Man of Steel finds the boiler that both Holbin and Joe claimed was the cause of the doll factory's explosion. However the boiler is in perfect condition. Superman then finds a box full of dolls and discovers that each doll has mysterious metal cylanders inside them. He takes the dolls to the chief of police as Clark Kent, and both the chief and Kent discover that the cylanders are full of super explosives.

While Kent and the police chief go to talk to Holbin, Joe has put dynamite on the doll factory's remaining wall to make it fall on Lois. Clark then finds one of Lois' shoes when he and the police chief arrive at the factory ruins. Clark goes into the shadows to change into Superman and saves Lois just before the wall falls on her. When he resumes his guise of Clark Kent, the police chief promises to put Hans Holbin in prison for attempted murder.

Lois explains that Holbin tied her up before she fainted. He wouldn't let Lois leave his house after she told the dollmaker that Clark was searching the factory debris. Clark and the police chief both tell Lois about the explosives inside Holbin's dolls. The police chief suddenly remembers that Holbin has a two-seater monoplane at the Sudbury Airport. Clark decides to go to the airport to find the plane while Lois and the police chief drive to Holbin's house.

At his house, Holbin is planning to escape to an island at dawn, however the arrival of the police chief and Lois Lane changes his plans. The chief tries to arrest Holbin, but Joe comes out of a closet and knocks him out. Holbin grabs Lois and tells Joe that they'll have to go to the island sooner than he had expected.

Meanwhile, Superman finds that Holbin's plane is still in the airport hangar, but Holbin isn't with the plane. He then searches unsuccessfully for the toymaker at the remains of the doll factory. He doesn't find Holbin at his house either. However, he does find the chief of police and a message from Lois written on the table in her lipstick. The message says that she's on the island.

Sometime later, Perry White has arrived in Mellville. Worried for Lois' safety, he and Clark discuss what happened to Lois while they wait to see the police chief in the hospital. Perry tells Clark that there isn't an island within a thousand miles of Mellville. Clark then says that a man at the Sudbury Airport had told him that Holbin's plane only has a cruising range of five hundred miles.

Perry and Clark are now seeing the chief of police. The chief explains what happened when he and Lois arrived at Holbin's house. He then says that Holbin has been using an old, rebuilt eighty foot fishing boat called the Agnus Kay to ship his dolls into the city. The last place the chief saw the boat was at the Water Street Dock. Clark then says that he believes that the boat actually takes the dolls to the island in Lois' message. He also thinks that the island is too small to be shown on a map. Clark then theorizes that the navigational charts to the island are on the boat. When Clark and Perry say they'll have a look at the boat, the chief says that he'll put out a five state alarm for Lois Lane.

That night, Perry and Clark are at the docks. While Perry hides in the darkness, Clark changes to Superman and searches Holbin's boat. He confronts a dark-skinned Spaniard, rips open a safe and finds a map. When Superman shows the map to Perry as Clark Kent, they discover that the map shows a neck of land that is at least fifty miles long. It's located off the coast and has a man-made channel going across the center of the land. A pencil line was drawn on the land to indicate the channel. Clark belives that this island is on one side of the channel. After much discussion, Clark and Perry leave the docks to rent a seaplane to go to the island.

Meanwhile, Hans Holbin and Joe are on the island. They hear a police report about Lois' capture on a shortwave radio. Both men are nervous. As a storm approaches, Holbin and Joe put Lois in an empty rowboat without oars and push the boat into the choppy, churning waters.

Meanwhile Clark and Perry's plane is having trouble in the stormy skies. Clark eventually finds a window in the storm. Perry then sees the rowboat with someone inside it. However, neither he nor Clark see that it's Lois inside the boat. Despite Perry White's objections, Clark leaves the plane to see if he can save the person in the boat. Using the storm's limited visibility to his advantage, Clark becomes Superman. He eventually sees that Lois is in the boat.

Grabbing Lois, Superman swims in the direction of the area where the seaplane had landed. He hears Perry call for help. A wave has hit the plane, and Superman only sees a slick of oil in the water when he arrives. He could have dived down to search for Perry, but that would have meant leaving Lois to drown. Superman then decides to fly Lois to the mainland for medical attention.

Meanwhile, on Hans Holbin's island, Joe tells the nefarious dollmaker that he heard an airplane's engine. He then is scared that whoever was in the plane will find the shack full of explosive dolls. Holbin, in an insane rage, blames an employee's match for blowing up the doll factory. Joe then asks about what Holbin plans to do with the super explosives.

The mad toymaker claims that the explosives will help him rule the universe. He has a plan to make sure no police or other authorites will get a hold of the super explosive. Holbin shows Joe a cabinet built into a wall of the shack. There is a master switch with a clock attached to it inside this secret area. The switch is connected to nearly a ton of the super explosives that are buried in various places on the island. Once the timer on the clock is set, the explosives will go off and blow up the entire island.

Suddenly, both Holbin and Joe hear a cry for help from Perry White. White washed ashore onto the island just before losing consciousness. Holbin then orders Joe to tie up Perry. The dollmaker suddenly snaps and believes Joe cannot be trusted. He ties Joe up and sets his explosive timer for ten minutes before making his escape.

One minute has passed. Joe is trying get untied and awaken Perry White. When White regains consciousness, Joe explains what Hans Holbin has done to the island. The two men try to escape, and Joe tries unsuccessfully to loosen the ropes that are tied to Perry. He then tells White that Holbin put Lois in the rowboat and sent her out into the storm.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent has left Lois Lane in the hospital. He later sheds the mild mannered guise and becomes Superman. The Man of Steel promises revenge on Hans Holbin while starting his search for the dollmaker and Perry White. He flies in the direction of Holbin's island and sees the madman's plane leaving from there. Superman follows the plane to the airport. He then waits on the road for Holbin's car to arrive. After Holbin tells Superman to go away, the Man of Steel pulls Holbin out of the speeding automobile. Superman forces the dollmaker to tell him where the dolls are. Holbin says that the dolls are on the island, but Superman only has two minutes to save Perry White before the toys explode.

Leaving Holbin and Joe on the island, Superman manages to save Perry just mere seconds before the explosions begin. The next day, Clark is in Perry's office. He tells Perry that he rented a boat and saved the editor just one minute before the island exploded and took Holbin and Joe with it. Perry says Clark deserves a vacation, but he refuses to take it. Instead, he prefers to go to the hospital to see Lois. Perry indirectly says that he understands Clark has feelings for Lois. In the meantime, a new danger is waiting for Clark Kent and Superman in the next episodes of The Adventures of Superman.


While this story isn't what I originally expected, I did enjoy it. The action in the story starts right way, and it is does move quickly. However, there are some problems with the story.

Much like last week's serial, there are more questions than answers. In this case, Holbin's reasons for putting the super explosives in the dolls made me ask "Why?". Holbin's madness in the final chapter seems forced into the story. Perry White did ask if Holbin was an enemy agent when he spoke with Clark before they talked to the police chief. I feel that Holbin being an agent of the Yellow Mask or another villain would have been more believable than the forced insanity. It felt like Holbin's dementia was written into "Hans Holbin's Doll Factory" at the last minute to give the listener a reason for the explosives in the dolls

Another problem occurs when Superman is trying to save Lois in the stormy waters. He swims to the seaplane and doesn't get to it in time to save Perry. Wouldn't it be easier for Superman to fly fast instead of swim? He could have easily flown with Lois, resumed his guise of Clark Kent just before approaching the plane and get Lois to the plane before flying Perry and her to safety. Then again, maybe I'm expecting too much from this version of the Last Son of Krypton. Granted the plane might have been a two seater like Holbin's, but this fact is not mentioned in the episodes. I honestly feel many elements of this story arc could have been avoided if the writers had thought more about how Superman could have saved Lois and Perry.

These are really the only two major problems with the story of "Hans Holbin's Doll Factory," and even if it's too late to fix the latter problem, hopefully the questions that come from the former will be answered in the future.

I did like the scene in the end where the listener gets a latent idea of Clark Kent's feelings for Lois Lane. They've been a part of Superman lore for nearly seven decades, and we all know how it turns out. We even see a modernized beginning to these emotions in some sixth season episodes of Smallville. Look at the scene when Clark visits Lois in the hospital after his battle with Zod, and you'll see them. Clark's love for Lois gives Superman a closer, more grounded look at humanity as a whole and the humanity within himself. If I remember correctly, it's Lois that convinces Superman that he needs Clark Kent in "The Death of Clark Kent" story from the comic books. Without Lois, Superman would, quite possibly, not be the same character we all know and love.

Clark's love for Lois also shows us that his exterior is nearly invincible. However, within himself, he's just like you and me. He feels love, and he feels the need for it. These emotions not only make Superman more human, they make it easier for the reader/listener/viewer to identify with the character.

While I was expecting a Toyman type of villain in "Hans Holbin's Doll Factory," I did like Holbin as a nemesis for Superman in spite of the things I didn't like in the writing. This doesn't mean that the character of Hans Holbin was badly written. It only means certain aspects in "Hans Holbin's Doll Factory" seemed to be forgotten when the character was created. His motives for putting the super explosives in the dolls are unclear and forced. Some backstory on the explosives would have helped immensely to make Holbin more believable and interesting.

Despite that, Holbin does help make the story exciting by becoming a thorn in Superman's side, and I did like the fact that there was something sinister in the dolls. But, then again, I've always been a sucker for killer doll stories in every way, shape or form. In any case, "Hans Holbin's Doll Factory" is a fun story despite the flaws I mentioned earlier. Let's hope "Happyland Amusement Park" is as exciting.

See you next time, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.

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