Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1941: The Howling CoyoteReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: December 13, 1940-January 13, 1941
"The Howling Coyote"
As you remember last time, some stones were placed on Perry White's desk. The stones are in the formation of an Indian death symbol. When Perry sees this, he asks Jimmy to get him some water to relax him from a pitcher. When Jimmy grabs the pitcher, it shatters into many pieces. An arrow had broken the pitcher as it seemed to come out of nowhere, and it's now on the floor of Perry's office. The person that fired the arrow is Perry's old friend Camanche Joe. Joe only was pulling a prank on Perry. Joe has come to Metropolis to hire a private detective.
There is an old Camanche Indian legend about a coyote. An Indian brave committed a crime against his tribe, and he was turned into a coyote as punishment. Whenever this coyote howls, something terrible happens. Camanche Joe is one of the richest oil men in the nation, but recently his oil fields in Texas have been plagued with accidents. Before each accident, there is the sound of a coyote howling, and Camanche Joe wants the detective to find out the reasons for the accidents and coyote. Seeing a big story in this, Perry sends Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent with Camanche Joe to cover the oil field accidents.
On a wagon trip to Camanche Joe's mountain ranch, Joe, Jimmy and Clark hear a coyote howling when they get to Misery Trail. Shortly afterwards, an avalanche of rock occurs. Camanche Joe and the others narrowly escape, but another rockslide happens right in front of their wagon. With rock in front and behind them, there is nowhere for the trio to go. A rock hits Jimmy's head, and Clark knocks out Camanche Joe. This gives Clark a chance to become Superman. Superman carries the wagon, horses, Camanche Joe and Jimmy over the canyon. After smashing the wagon a little and making sure everyone is safe, Superman resumes his guise of Clark Kent. Clark, Jimmy and Joe then take the horses to Camanche's ranch. There, they meet Tumbleweed Jones, a man who is an expert marksman in archery and makes delicious fudge.
Meanwhile, Lawson, Camanche Joe's ranch foreman, and Dusty are meeting on the mountains to avoid being seen by the people on Camanche Joe's ranch. They were the ones that created the avalanche and want to make Camanche Joe sell his ranch and oil fields for next to nothing. To do that, they'll have to convince him that the legend of the howling coyote is real. To make him believe, they'll have to go through Camanche Joe's family. Chief Running Fox, the leader of the Camanche reservation, is Joe's father. If they convince the chief, maybe Camanche Joe will think the legend is true.
Jimmy and Clark are to be made honorary members of the Camanche tribe tonight. When Jimmy does a tribal dance on the mountain top, the coyote will howl. After that, Dusty is to shoot the young copy boy.
The Camanche Initiation Ceremony will begin soon. Jimmy's Camanche name will be Little Laughing Squirrel, and Clark's will be The Man With Two Pairs of Eyes. While Jimmy is in the middle of the tribal dance, the coyote howls, and Dusty fires his rifle as planned. However, the bullet never hits its target. Its path is blocked by Superman.
Just then, Camanche Joe, Chief Running Fox and other tribe members see Superman fly in the night. Believing that Jimmy is protected by the magic of an eagle spirit that takes the form of a man, Chief Running Fox decides to make Little Laughing Squirrel the next chief of the Camanche tribe should anything happen to him.
Later, Lawson and Dusty are plotting against Jimmy Olsen after their first attempt on his life had failed. Dusty is to take Jimmy riding on a horse named Gentle Lamb and present the young copy boy with a pair of spurs. Gentle Lamb is a very tame horse, but when he feels spurs on his skin, he gets agitated. Once the spurs make contact, Gentle Lamb will throw Jimmy off and kill him. Lawson will make it so the coyote howls before the Camanches find Jimmy dead. In this way, they'll convince Chief Running Fox and Camanche Joe that the howling coyote legend is true.
Not knowing the danger that lies ahead, Jimmy goes on his ride with Dusty. As of now, he doesn't have the spurs. While Jimmy and Dusty are riding Gentle Lamb, Clark and Camanche Joe are going to inspect the oil fields while Tumbleweed Jones makes a bow and arrow for Jimmy. Tumbleweed then gives Clark and Joe some fudge that he made and warns them that a blizzard is coming. However, it probably won't arrive until nightfall.
While on the trip to the oil fields, Clark and Joe discuss Superman, whom Clark dismisses as a legend, and the howling coyote. Chief Running Fox has advised Camanche Joe to sell the oil fields and ranch. The chief believes that Joe and his friends will be haunted forever if they aren't sold.
Meanwhile, it looks like that blizzard Tumbleweed mentioned might be on the way while Jimmy is riding Gentle Lamb. The young man sees clouds approaching before Dusty gives him the spurs. Jimmy digs the spurs into the horse. The horse throws Jimmy and kicks him in the head. Dusty then sees an arrow strike the horse. The arrow was fired by Tumbleweed Jones, who rushes to get Jimmy to the ranch to call a doctor while Dusty runs away. The only problem is the blizzard has arrived. The doctor will not be able to come to the ranch in such adverse weather conditions. Jimmy's only hope is if Tumbleweed rides through the mountains to the doctor.
After Tumbleweed leaves, Camanche Joe and Clark return to the ranch. The situation with Tumbleweed and Jimmy is explained to them. With the excuse of changing his clothes, Clark changes into Superman. Our hero begins his search for Tumbleweed and Jimmy, who are stranded in the blizzard. He finds Tumbleweed's horse Lightning frozen in the snow. Tumbleweed shot the horse to prevent him from suffering from the cold.
Speaking of Tumbleweed and Jimmy, they are still attempting to get to a doctor. They've been walking a long time only to discover they are back where they'd left Lightning. Tumbleweed and Jimmy have been going in a circle. Unable to see in the snowstorm, Tumbleweed tries everything to keep Jimmy awake so the boy doesn't freeze to death. However, Tumbleweed himself has lost his strength and falls asleep. All hope seems lost for Jimmy and Tumbleweed.
At that moment, Superman arrives. He rushes Tumbleweed and Jimmy to the doctor. The doctor examines both Jimmy and his new friend. Tumbleweed will be fine with some rest, but Jimmy is in pretty bad shape. His head injury combined with exposure to the cold have made it risky for the doctor to perform surgery. The pressure on Jimmy's brain must be removed, but his weakened condition makes his chances of surviving the operation very slim. Both Superman and Tumbleweed insist that the doctor operate on Jimmy. The doctor does so, but after some time, it doesn't look like Jimmy will make it. Even the powers of Superman cannot save him now, or can they?
Superman has an idea. The Doctor must give Jimmy a transfusion of the Man of Steel's blood. However, Superman must put the needle for the transfusion in himself in order to penetrate his invulnerable skin. The transfusion works. Jimmy is regaining his strength. Swearing the doctor and nurse to keep his presence a secret, Superman leaves as fast as he had arrived. When he returns to the ranch as Clark Kent, Camanche Joe has received the news from the doctor that Jimmy and Tumbleweed will be okay.
After Joe tells Clark the news, there is the sound of Joe's Camanche tribesmen screaming. The Camanche have been searching for Dusty after he attacked Little Laughing Squirrel/Jimmy. They've found him, and Camanche Joe asks Dusty where Jimmy got spurs if he didn't wear any when he left the ranch to go riding with Lawson's henchman. Joe knows Dusty gave Jimmy the spurs, but he wants to know who ordered him to kill Jimmy. Before Dusty can even finish his answer, the coyote howls. Dusty is found dead shortly afterwards, and one of Camanche Joe's oil men approaches him. Camanche Joe's oil fields are on fire.
While the rest of his crew prepares to put out the oil fires, Camanche Joe is starting to believe the legends of the howling coyote. It takes a little time, but Clark convinces Joe that someone is using the legend to get Joe to sell the ranch and oil field. Camanche Joe then goes with Clark to help put out the fires.
Meanwhile, Lawson is meeting with a man named Tex. He promises to give Tex a quarter of the profits from the sale of Camanche Joe's oil fields and ranch if he obeys Lawson's orders and keeps quiet. If Tex talks or disobeys Lawson, he'll suffer the same fate as Dusty. Tex is to help Camanche Joe set up nitroglycerine charges. The force from the explosives could possibly help fight the oil fires. However, Tex is to set off the charges before Camanche Joe gets out of range of the nitro. Despite thinking it's risky, Tex agress to do what Lawson wants.
Then, Camanche Joe prepares to set the charges despite Clark's protesting to let him go in Joe's place. Joe orders Tex not to start the explosives until he gives the signal to do so. Tex then says under his breath, "Good Luck, Camanche. You're going to need it."
With the fires still blazing, Tex pushes down the plunger of the detonator and tries to convince the others that he thought Camanche Joe was clear of the nitro. However, the explosives don't go off. This looks like a job for Superman. Our hero manages to get Camanche Joe to safety and make the nitroglycerine charges explode to save the oil wells.
A few days later, Lawson and Tex are discussing his next plan to try to kill Camanche Joe. They will send a message to Chief Running Fox. The message will basically say that once the coyote howls three times after the moon is over the mountain, Camanche Joe will die. With Joe out of the picture, Chief Running Fox can sell the ranch and oil fields, and Lawson will be the first to make a bid for them.
That night, hundreds of Camanche braves guard Camanche Joe. They are willing to defend him from any harm that may befall him. Clark Kent is trying to convince Joe that the legend of the howling coyote is a mere superstition. Just then, the moon has risen over the mountain, and the coyote howls three times. Suddenly, the scream of Tex comes from window of Camanche Joe. He's dressed like a Camanche warrior, and something has scared him. It grabbed him by the neck after crashing through Camanche Joe's window. The Camanche Braves then say that they called on the Eagle Spirit in the Shape of a Man. This is their name for Superman.
Scared after being grabbed by the steel grip of Superman, Tex tells Camanche Joe that Lawson gave him a blowgun to use on Joe, but he claims to not know if the gun was intended to kill the oil man. Clark then theorizes Dusty was killed with a poison dart from the same weapon. The same poison could have killed Camanche Joe had something not prevented it. Camanche Joe then orders some braves to guard Tex while he takes other braves to go find Lawson.
The search party looking for Lawson finds that the ranch foreman is missing. He's in the woods and has at least a fifteen minute head start on the Camanche braves. However, despite his good wilderness skills, the Camanches promise to find Lawson.
Later, Clark and Camanche Joe return to the ranch house. They are greeted by Tumbleweed Jones, who was just released from the doctor's care. He tells Joe and Clark that Jimmy Olsen will be able to come back to the ranch tomorrow morning. Tumbleweed returned so he could finish working on the archery set he's making for Jimmy. Impatient to see Jimmy, Clark leaves the ranch to go to the doctor's office.
Meanwhile, a desperate Lawson is riding into the night. He is surrounded by Camanches and takes refuge in the caves. Camanche Joe and Tumbleweed are with the braves outside of the cave. Tumbleweed has a score to settle with Lawson after what he did to Jimmy. After much debating between Camanche Joe and Tumbleweed, a coin is tossed. Tumbleweed wins the toss and goes into the cave to confront Lawson. Lawson fires his rifle on several occasions, but he narrowly misses Tumbleweed as Jimmy's new friend slowly travels to the cave. Tumbleweed fires an arrow that hits Lawson's hand. Lawson pulls the arrow out and fires his rifle. A bullet hits Tumbleweed's shoulder. Persistant, Tumbleweed goes into the cave. Lawson now aims for Tumbleweed's heart, and a bullet is fired.
Not knowing what is transpiring with the Camanche, Lawson and Tumbleweed, Clark is at the doctor's office picking up young Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy's head is bandaged, but he is recovering nicely from his surgery. The doctor is trying to convince Clark and Jimmy to stay longer. He has enjoyed Clark's company, and he feels Jimmy should rest a little more before taking the long drive back to Camanche Joe's ranch. However, Clark wants to find out if Lawson has been captured, while Jimmy is impatient to find out about the surprise Tumbleweed Jones has for him. They honestly feel that they must return to the ranch. Upon getting to Camanche Joe's car, which Clark used to pick up Jimmy, they notice it has two flat tires, and it will take some time for someone from a service station to come and fix them. Clark and Jimmy will have to stay with the doctor a little while longer.
As for the bullet mentioned earlier, it was fired by Camanche Joe, who learned that Tumbleweed used a two headed coin and could not have lost the coin toss in every case. Joe's bullet wounds Lawson, but Lawson shoots Camanche Joe. All three men inside the cave are injured now.
Suddenly, there is a rumbling sound. Tons of rock come tumbling down and block the cave entrance. The three wounded men are trapped, and it could take the Camanche hours to get them out.
At the same time, Clark and Jimmy are speaking with the doctor. The doctor almost lets it slip about Superman bringing Jimmy and Tumbleweed to him. He then orders Jimmy to get some rest. Before going to bed, Jimmy tells Clark that he has a bad feeling about what's going on at Camanche Joe's ranch. Seeing Jimmy genuinely worried, Clark promises to call the ranch if they don't call him before he goes to bed.
After Jimmy goes to bed, the doctor and Clark continue to talk. Clark tells him that he believes that Lawson trained a coyote to howl when he tells it to do so. Clark rolls up his shirt sleeves after some time. The doctor notices a mark on Clark's forearm in the same spot where Superman had placed the needle for the blood transfusion that saved Jimmy's life. Clark claims to have gotten the mark when a knife slipped while he was carving some wood, but the doctor seems to suspect that Clark Kent is Superman, but he cannot say too much because he made a promise to the Man of Steel.
Meanwhile, three hours have passed since the rock barricaded the cave entrance. All hope seems lost for Camanche Joe, Tumbleweed and Lawson. Chief Running Fox and the rest of the Camanches believe that there is only one way to save them. They must call on the Eagle Spirit in the Shape of a Man. They need the help of Superman, who - while in his guise of Clark Kent - is still speaking with the doctor.
While speaking with the doctor, Clark tries to call the ranch, but nobody answers. He also hears the drums of the Camanche tribe. He can't understand why, but he feels like those drums are a message for him. Jimmy runs downstairs and confirms that something is wrong with Tumbleweed and Camanche Joe. Chief Running Fox had taught Jimmy some of the Camanche drum language. Clark takes the doctor's car, takes it down the road a bit and flies to the rescue as Superman.
Inside the cave, Lawson begins to panic. He tries to move some of the rocks with the aid of Camanche Joe and Tumbleweed, but all three men lose consciousness shortly before Superman arrives. Our hero knocks the rocks away and frees two of the three men in the nick of time. Lawson died before the cave entrance had been opened.
Later, the doctor and Jimmy receive a phonecall saying Superman saved Tumbleweed and Camanche Joe. At that moment, Clark returns to pick up Jimmy. The doctor then says that he wishes Clark and Jimmy could stay a little longer. Things were a lot more exciting since their arrival. However, Clark and Jimmy must return to Metropolis.
At Camanche Joe's ranch, Clark and Jimmy say their goodbyes to Camanche Joe. Tumbleweed couldn't bring himself to say goodbye, but he asked Joe to give Jimmy the archery set. Jimmy is happy with the gift Tumbleweed had given him, but suddenly he remembers to ask how Lawson got the coyote to howl when he wanted. Lawson had trained a coyote as a pet and used a dog whistle to signal him to howl. Joe has decided to keep the same coyote as a pet.
With the mystery of the howling coyote solved, Clark and Jimmy are on a train back to Metropolis. Jimmy, however, is depressed because he misses his friend Tumbleweed Jones, who then surprises Jimmy on the train. Tumbleweed is going to Metropolis. What adventures await him, Jimmy and Clark? Will Superman be needed to save the day? Tune into next week's serial in The Adventures of Superman, and find out, boys and girls.
By the time this review is posted, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will have already passed for those of you that live in America. I hope you all had a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not much of a fan of westerns and war stories in general. I tend to prefer stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. Perhaps this is why I really didn't care for "The Howling Coyote" when I first listened to it. I felt Superman seemed out of place in a western tale. However, I did eventually warm up to this serial after listening to it a couple of times more. This is pretty much like when one buys a CD of their favorite band, but they are not sure if they like the music when they first listen to all the tracks. However, they start liking the songs after hearing the CD a few more times. This is pretty much how I felt with "The Howling Coyote."
I had problems with some aspects of the story - particularly Superman's giving Jimmy a blood transfusion - when I first listened to it for this review. Then around the second or third time, I got to thinking, "Okay, it could work." Granted, Superman's blood is alien in nature, but there are some things one must consider. First, much of the things about Superman's Kryptonian biology had not been established at the time "The Howling Coyote" first aired. Secondly, the scientific knowledge of blood and DNA in the 1940s was not like it is in 2007. The blood transfusion scene would not have worked in this day and age without Jimmy having some strange side effects. Had this been done in the comics, Jimmy would probably have super powers or become a giant or something.
One thing I did like was that there wasn't the blatant stereotype of the Native American in this serial. Here we have one of the richest oil men in Texas, and he's a Camanche. Considering the time period, that's pretty groundbreaking. Normally, business tycoons in radio shows tended to be whiter than Wilfred Brimley. Could The Adventures of Superman have been trying to teach a lesson to its listeners? Did it pave the way for writers like Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry to make statements of racial equality in their work? I honestly don't know, but I'd like to think the answer is "yes."
I'm kind of on the fence about the character of Tumbleweed Jones. On one hand, it's good to see Jimmy have a friend and hero in Tumbleweed, but on the other hand, there are moments when I found myself wondering if he was really necessary for the story. Why did he go to Metropolis with Clark and Jimmy? Is he really essential to future serials in The Adventures of Superman? All I can say is we'll have to wait and see.
Next week, "The Black Pearl of Osiris" comes to Metropolis. We'll see what it brings to Superman and company then, Superfans. So until we meet again, remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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