Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1946: The Super SleuthReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: July 22, 1946-July 31, 1946
"The Super Sleuth" (A.K.A. "Horatio F. Horn: Detective Chapters 15-22")
A square set, bulldog-faced, thick mustached Englishman in a derby hat is inside Clark Kent's office at the Daily Planet. Before introducing himself, he says to Kent, "I'm glad to make your acquaintance, Superman. I've come long way to meet you."
The man is a former Scotland Yard detective named Herbert Kawkins. He has gained a reputation of being a super sleuth. He has been researching Superman since the war ended. Kawkins has something planned to prove that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same. Should Kent agree to be tested, Kawkins will not publish his findings in a book. If Kent refuses, the world will know his secret identity. The examination is quite simple. Kawkins has a syringe. He plans to draw blood from Clark's finger. If the needle breaks on Kent's skin, it will prove that he's the Man of Steel.
Lois Lane has just entered Clark's office. Perry White wants to see the mild mannered reporter. Seeing this diversion as a chance to fool Kawkins, Kent sterilizes a pin's tip with a match in order to scratch the chief's hand while shaking it. He then helps Perry clean the cut and has traces of the editor's blood. Returning to his office, Clark pretends to plunge the hypodermic needle into his hand. Kawkins places the blood into a bottle. However, he later believes that he was tricked by Kent. Kawkins wants to run further tests to prove that Clark is indeed Superman, and he needs Lois' help to do so.
Lois has agreed to help Kawkins because Superman's secret identity would be the story of the century. She acts strangely with both Clark and Jimmy Olsen. She even comes up with a false story she's on in Willow Falls to prevent Clark from going on vacation to escape Kawkins. It looks like Clark will have his work cut out for him.
Perry has asked Clark to take some important papers to a safe in the Metropolis Safety Vault Company. This provides Kawkins and Lois with the perfect test. A security guard paid by the retired Scotland Yard detective has just locked Clark inside the Daily Planet's assigned safe. Lois is worried about Clark suffocating. However, Kawkins points out two things. Only Superman is strong enough to break open the vault, and only the Man of Tomorrow could last longer than two hours in the airtight area. Should Clark do either of these things, his double identity will be revealed.
Forty-five minutes have passed since Lois and Kawkins locked Clark in the vault. Knowing that the two were conspiring to unmask him, Clark resets the safe's time-clock to open the door. He then sets off the burglar alarm, places the time-clock's hour back to normal and locks himself back into the steel structure. Kawkins and Lois, during dinner at a nearby cafe, see the emergency squad going to the Metropolis Safety Vault Company. Seeing Clark gasping for air, Lois is convinced that he is not Superman. However, Herbert Kawkins still believes that Kent is putting on an act. He thinks the reporter outsmarted him somehow, but he will find another way to learn Superman's secret.
Lois has just brought Clark to his apartment. Feeling bad for being fooled by Kawkins, she promises to cover Superman's appearance at the World Peace Federation Rally at the Metropolis Stadium for him. Having been so worried about Kawkins, our hero had forgotten the speech that he was supposed to make. He is about to enter his home to remove his reporter's garb when Kawkins himself appears in front of him. In order to prove that he is Superman, the sleuth will stand by Kent's side even if it means being with him for the gathering. How can the Man of Steel be at the rally and be near Kawkins as Kent at the same time?
Reluctantly, Clark has been convinced to go with Herbert Kawkins to the World Peace Federation Rally, but first, the reporter must take a shower. Actually, the Man of Steel uses this as a ruse to go to the home of Bruce Wayne, who is really Batman. Giving Wayne a costume and a lifelike rubber mask of his face that was made by a French artist, Superman explains the situation to his friend. Wayne agrees to pretend to be our hero while the real Superman is in his reporter's guise with Kawkins, who has later made sure Clark Kent had really taken a shower. The Man of Tomorrow's plan nearly works when he and Kawkins are at the Metropolis Stadium until the British detective asks from the audience to prove that "Superman" is the real deal by flying.
The crowd at the rally has become rather rowdy. They want to see Superman fly. Standing, Clark pretends to lose his balance and takes a tumble into a group of people. Using the confusion to hide, Clark resumes his true identity to fly while the disguised Batman is in a dressing room. The Dark Knight in the Man of Steel's garb then continues his speech while Clark returns to where he had fallen. Kawkins is now sure that Clark isn't Superman and will return home to England. However, Kent is still not convinced of the sleuth's sincerity. Suspicious, he and Bruce Wayne later find that Kawkins is not on the airplane scheduled to leave for the United Kingdom. Upon approaching his apartment door, Kent tells Wayne that the Englishman is inside, and he has reached for something that will prove that the reporter is Superman - the secret switch to the hidden compartment behind the closet that houses an extra Superman costume and a letter to Perry White in the event of the Man of Tomorrow's death.
Bruce is now trying to distract Kawkins for thirty minutes in order to give Superman time to execute a plan. While Wayne and the retired Scotland Yard detective speak in the living room, the Man of Steel takes his spare costume and the envelope for Perry from the secret bedroom closet and writes something on a piece of paper. Taking the note, Superman leaves to continue with his plot to keep his identity secret.
Herbert Kawkins is doing everything he can to get away from Bruce and search Clark's bedroom for clues to the reporter's Superman persona. During a checker game, the Englishman makes some tea. Bruce drinks it only to find that the hot drink was drugged. Bruce Wayne is now unconscious, and Kawkins is about to enter Kent's bedroom. Has Superman failed to keep his double life hidden?
Not knowing of what has happened to Bruce, Superman is exposing the paper he had written mere moments ago to various elements and weather conditions to give it signs of aging. He moves at superhuman speed and places the document in the bedroom closet's secret area. Seconds afterwards, Kawkins reads it to learn that it is Clark Kent's last will and testament, which is dated 1940. The super sleuth admits defeat and later writes mysteriously in a telegram that his case has been successfully solved. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent see Kawkins off as he leaves on a boat to England. The detective reassures the mild mannered reporter that he is convinced that Kent is not the Man of Steel. Superman's secret identity is once again safe.
Clark has just entered the city room of the Daily Planet. Copy boy Beany Martin is desperate. Perry White's office door is locked, and the newspaper's staff is waiting to get in to talk to the chief. What has happened? How will Superman and his friends react when "The Secret Menace Strikes" next week? All we can do, boys and girls, is tune in then for The Adventures of Superman and find out.
Okay, I want to say that I have no idea why this eight chapter serial is listed as part of "Horatio F. Horn: Detective" in some episode guides. It is clearly a different story. Now, on with the review.
After having two serials that retool older ones and four story arcs that deal some pretty heavy topics, "The Super Sleuth" was a real treat. We have a tale that's absolutely fun and exciting. I honestly can't find anything wrong with it. It's perfect from beginning to end.
The beauty of "The Super Sleuth" is the fact that it can work with any version of the Man of Steel. From George Reeves to the creative team of Johns and Frank, a detective trying to learn Superman's greatest secret can function well in any time period. Granted, everyone from Lois (before Action Comics #661) to the man on the street wants to know the Metropolis Marvel's true identity on radio and TV and in movies and books, but it's fun to see how he proves them wrong. I find this to be an interesting challenge for Superman no matter how many times and ways it is done.
The character of Herbert Kawkins is perhaps one of the most interesting guest stars in The Adventures of Superman radio series. He gives both Batman and Superman a run for their money. Plus, there's just something about his tenacity and his curiosity that makes the audience wonder if he's really given up trying to learn who Superman really is even when he leaves Metropolis for England in the conclusion. Maybe the famed Scotland Yard detective will turn up again. We'll just have to wait and see.
Next week, "The Secret Menace Strikes" in Metropolis. We'll find out how it's connected to Perry White's office being locked 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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