Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1947: The Secret RocketReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: September 29, 1947-October 23, 1947
"The Secret Rocket"
Our tale begins in the offices of the Daily Planet newspaper. A shocking news item has just come over the teletype. The F.B.I. wants to issue a warrant for the arrest of Superman in connection to violations of national security. Perry White, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent are all surprised by this breaking story. Kent, removing his glasses and reporter's garb, has flown to Washington D.C. as Superman. As we join him now, The Man of Steel is speaking to Special Agent Charles Miller and Colonel Reed of Military Intelligence. The two men question him about a secret ship dubbed "The Superman Rocket." A foreign power that is not a member of the United Nations wants to buy it, and the American government wishes to know how and why they learned of the craft. Reed and Miller have evidence that Superman himself had designed this vessel.
Colonel Reed continues to say that they have a letter from a foreign agent talking about a design based on the Superman Rocket. The Man of Steel says he never created any ship, but it still could be his. He hasn't seen the vessel in thirty-five years. He elaborates by telling of Jor-El's prediction of the destruction of the planet Krypton and of how the alien scientist and his wife Lara placed their infant son Kal-El in a spacecraft bound for Earth mere seconds before the world's demise. The rocket landed in Iowa, where the Kents, whom Superman does not name, raised baby Kal-El. However, it had been burned when it crashed, and Superman's adoptive parents never mentioned their son's origins to anyone. One question still remains. How did a foreign power get their hands on the plans for the craft in which Jor-El had created?
Clark Kent has returned to the farm in Iowa where he had grown up. It has become dilapidated since he had left, and the animals are thin and in poor condition. An old man named Luke Terry has just confronted Kent and is pointing a loaded shotgun at him. Once things calm down, Terry tells Clark that two men, one large with a red beard, bought the burned hull of the rocket that had brought Superman to Earth. The big fellow said to his small partner, "The Bible was right."
Knowing that Eben Kent had kept important events in the family Bible, Clark realizes that the day Kal-El came to Earth was written inside the book. Terry then tells Clark that the Kents' personal belongings were sold in an auction. Clark later goes to see auctioneer Sam Wilkins about it. He reveals that Mary Tomkins bought a lot of books, which included the Bible. Unfortunately, the book has gone missing thanks possibly to Mary's nephew Ralph. How will Clark find out where his spaceship is now?
Ralph Tomkins has driven off in a yellow convertible Aunt Mary, as many in the small Iowa community where Clark had grown up call her, is blaming herself for the disappearance of Eben Kent's Bible, but Clark tells her that she did everything that she could. As Superman, he searches for Ralph's car. The Man of Tomorrow finds the vehicle being pursued by the highway patrol. Suddenly, the automobile smashes a guard rail and is plunging over a cliff into a gully. Superman has taken Ralph and placed him on the ground. Unfortunately, the young man has a broken neck, and his dying words reveal nothing about the location of Eben Kent's Bible. Superman will have to find another method hunting for the book and red bearded man.
Ralph, after some seconds, continues to speak before he dies. He had sold the Bible to a second hand book store in Metropolis on the corner of Eighth and Walnut Streets. The owner tells Clark Kent that Richard Haller, a man with red hair and a beard, bought the Bible. He lives on 16 East Lilac Road. Kent later arrives at Haller's home and receives a surprise. Lois Lane has answered the door.
Lois has just told Clark that she was sent to interview Haller for a story on rare book collectors. However, Haller's Hindu servant says that the red bearded man will not be back in Metropolis for two or three months. Pretending to have a one of a kind volume that might interest Haller, Kent asks the Hindu to contact his employer. He does so via a long distance telephone call. Using Superman's X-ray vision and super hearing, Clark learns where he can find Richard Haller. Unfortunately, he can do nothing to about that right now. A strange hissing sound has been heard in Haller's home, Lois is unable to breathe. She has now suddenly lost consciousness. It looks like there is more peril involved in the quest for the Superman Rocket.
Superman has rushed to the skies to revive Lois. Resuming his guise of Clark Kent, he explains that some gas was sprayed into the room through the mouth of a mounted tiger's head. He later reluctantly lets Lois come with him upstate to look for Haller. They arrive in Evansville at daybreak. Kent searches a telephone book for the address mentioned in the Hindu's conversation with Haller. He finds a place called Green Acres, but the owner of the diner in which Lois and Clark are having breakfast says that it is not healthy to go there. Ignoring the proprietor's warnings, the two reporters go anyway to Green Acres. They find winding, shadowy trails full of trees as Clark's sharp eyes see something. Lois eagerly follows, but she suddenly attacked by spotted creatures. Now, Lois is once again in danger.
Two cheetahs are prepared to pounce and attack Lois. Stunning the star reporter, Clark deals with the cats. Afterwards, he and Lois secretly witness the testing of a model of the Superman Rocket. The experiment is a failure. The German scientist working with Haller must examine the missile further wit X-ray equipment he has in Metropolis. This gives Lois and Clark time to sneak into the barn where Haller has hidden remains the ship that brought Superman to Earth. Going into the underground bunker where the vessel is located, the two reporters intend to give it to the United States War Department. Unfortunately, Haller and his armed men have caught Lois and Clark. Can our hero stop Richard Haller's plans?
Red bearded Richard Haller overheard Clark tell Lois that a mistake had been made with the model of the Superman Rocket. When Kent refuses to say what that is, Haller's men fire their guns into the pit where he and Lois are. Clark wants to confront them as a stray bullet hits a barrel of gasoline. The bunker containing the spacecraft is on fire. Lois has Clark's jacket over her head to protect her, but she loses consciousness. Superman then rushes her to a doctor before returning to Green Acres to confront Haller. However, Haller himself has an ace in the hole as the Man of Steel prepares to take him to the F.B.I. He says something that shocks our hero:
"Not so fast, Mister Kent!"
Richard Haller knows Clark Kent is Superman and intends to reveal this secret if he is taken to the U.S. War Department or the F.B.I. Superman must now make a decision that could literally change his life.
The ship that brought Superman to Earth has been destroyed in the barn fire, and Superman has refused to give in to Richard Haller's blackmail. He still intends to turn Haller over to the Special Agent Miller, but the red bearded traitor convinces him to take him to Metropolis before 3:00 in order to meet with a person that has another model of the Superman Rocket. Haller claims to know when he's been defeated. Seconds tick away as Haller's man Joe finally gives the new version of the craft to Superman. The Man of Steel's keen eyes notice a difference in the second prototype, but he'll figure that out when he perfects it for the American government. The police surround Haller's home as our hero prepares to leave with the Superman Rocket, but neither they nor Superman realize that Richard Haller has set a trap for the Man of Tomorrow. Haller may succeed in ridding himself of his enemy.
Now that Clark Kent has Eben Kent's Bible and the second model of the Superman Rocket, he and Jimmy Olsen are placing a diamond chip, which was provided by Perry White's friend, jewelry store owner, John Carter, into the nose of the ship. They go to Metropolis Park at dawn to test it. All seems well as Jimmy and Clark believed that they succeeded. However, the spacecraft has disappeared from even Superman's tremendous vision. Where has it gone?
Having been unable to find the model of the Superman Rocket, Superman is meeting with Special Agent Miller and Colonel Reed. All three men wish to speak with Richard Haller, but they later discover that Haller and his Hindu servant have escaped police custody. In an abandoned warehouse not far from Metropolis Park, Haller himself is listening to German scientist Doctor Arnold Schweitzer explained how he had made the prototype with a radio control. Once Superman placed the missing element, the diamond chip, Schweitzer called it back to its creators. Now, Superman Rockets can be sold to foreign powers. Thanks to Superman's unintentional aid, another world war may start.
Special Agent Miller has called Clark Kent. He wants to meet with Superman. Mister Peters, a man who lives near the deserted hideout of Haller and Schweitzer, has seen the Superman Rocket and the radio tower that sent signals to it. Fingerprints in the warehouse match Haller's. Meanwhile, Schweitzer and Haller are driving to where they have an airplane waiting. Haller has shaved his beard and dyed his hair to avoid being seen by police. The F.B.I. has had no luck in finding the traitor. However, Superman has a plan to get to his nemesis that may be the only hope of keeping peace worldwide.
With a radio set to contact the United States government, Superman searches for Richard Haller, Doctor Schweitzer and Ramos, a former Nazi aid that is now working for the foreign power that wants the Superman Rocket. The Man of Steel's contacts tell him of an unidentified airplane off the coast of Europe. He hears the engines, but does not see it. The aircraft is camouflaged in the same way the Superman Rocket prototype was when Clark Kent had lost it. Ramos, Haller and Schweitzer see the Last Son of Krypton next to them. At this point, Haller cuts the motors. Superman might have to find another method to get Richard Haller.
Feeling certain that Superman has gone away, Haller orders that the airplane's engines be started once again. Haller learns that he was mistaken about his foe. The Man of Steel is inside the craft. He had overheard the motors reactivate. Haller, tries to bribe Superman with photographs of the pages in Eben Kent's Bible. When that fails, Haller hurls the Superman Rocket into the sea. Smashing the plane's engines, to prevent Haller's escape, The Man of Tomorrow retrieves the missile and later gives it to the U.S. War Department. Haller and his men, however, apparently did not survive when their ship crashed. The secret of the Superman Rocket is safe for now.
Clark Kent has returned to the Daily Planet and has given the story of the Superman Rocket to Perry White. In the meantime, the editor is worried about Lois Lane. Clark hadn't seen her since she was hurt in Green Acres. The doctor caring for her said that she left for Metropolis yesterday. Nobody responds when the telephone rings in Lois' apartment. What has happened to the star reporter?
Clark is in Cross Junction, where he had left Lois, questioning people about her whereabouts. Nobody is able to tell Clark anything. While Superman searches the countryside, young Tommy Harris is playing with a rocket model he had found in the trailer his family is using for their vacation. The boy's father sees something written on it and gives the miniature to Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson, who reads the words on it to Clark Kent. They read, "Great danger. Call police - Lois Lane."
Clark and Inspector Henderson are in a tourist camp investigating Lois' disappearance. Clark even launches the model Tommy Harris had found in an effort to learn where it came from- In the meantime, George Barton, who had helped Richard Haller create models of the Superman Rocket he wanted to sell to a foreign power, and Lou Hanson are in a shack not far from Haller's home. They know that the Superman Rocket is in American hands, and Richard Haller is dead. Now, in order to keep from going to jail for kidnapping, they must kill Lois. Only the great speed of Superman can save her now.
Superman has saved Lois in the nick of time just before a bullet can be fired. Both the Man of Steel and star reporter take Barton and Hanson to Inspector Henderson. The last of Haller's gang has been caught, but Superman cannot have a quiet moment just yet. Back in the offices of the Daily Planet, Clark and Perry are preparing themselves for Lois' shocking new scoop. She knows that Clark Kent is Superman. How did she learn the truth? Will "The Ruler of Darkness" make life more difficult for our hero because of this revelation? Tune in next week, gang, for The Adventures of Superman to find out.
While the radio version of Clark Kent grew up in Iowa, many incarnations of the character would later be brought up in Smallville, Kansas.
While the last three chapters feel like they are trying to kill time and possibly tie up some loose ends in a hurry, the rest of "The Secret Rocket" is a really exciting adventure that puts a little more insight in Clark Kent's past before he moved to Metropolis. We are given episodes that retell Superman's origin and add some other tidbits about our hero along the way. This makes the serial the perfect jump on point for new listeners. The established audience also is treated to something different so they don't have to skip on to the next story arc. It's the best of both worlds in my opinion.
If I were to complain about something besides the last three parts of "The Secret Rocket," it would have to be the fact that the scenes that take place on Krypton are overacted and exaggerated to some degree. There are some points where even Lara seems to have taken acting lessons from William Shatner. However, in her defense, Agnes Moorehead, who portrayed the character of Superman's biological mother in 1942's "The Baby From Krypton," is a tough act to follow. Still, one cannot help but snicker a little when listening to the performances in the parts of this serial that take place on Superman's home world.
Richard Haller is a pretty worthy foe for the Man of Steel. He wasn't just a madman or a mercenary. He was a cold hearted so and so that had the one of the greatest weapons against Superman - his secret identity. Many have tried to use that against him, particularly in the Lois And Clark television series, and eventually failed. However, Haller tried to make a deal with our hero. Yet, Superman refused to give in to the villain. This is what makes Superman so appealing to all of us out there. He always tries to do the right thing.
Despite my problems with the last three episodes, the story of "The Secret Rocket" itself is pretty evenly paced and offers all of the elements a great Superman story should have right down to its cliffhanger conclusion where Lois reveals that Clark Kent is Superman. Has she really learned the truth, or will Clark make her believe she's found a bum steer? We'll have to wait in seven days or so when "The Ruler of Darkness" comes out of the shadows. See you next week, Superfans. Until then don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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