Friday, October 29, 2021

Halloween, Hollywood Style

Once again, it's time for our annual Halloween photo shoot!

Nancy Carroll

Lynn Bari

Bessie Love

Muriel Evans

Audrey Young  1946

Clara Bow

Madge Evans

I have no idea who they are, but I love the photo.

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Adventures of Superman (The 1942 Novel)

Amongst the mythos of Superman are a number of trademarks which, to those who never read the comic books, originated from radio. Perry White, Jimmy Olson and Kryptonite was introduced to The Adventures of Superman radio program long before they made their first appearance in the comic book rendition, and the unsung hero was not Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster – it was George Ludlam, Robert Maxwell, Edward Langley and George Lowther. The latter of whom was responsible for scripting such radio programs as Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates and Renfrew of the Mounted, and to whom we are taking a quick moment to revisit.

Born in 1913, Lowther proclaimed to being the first page boy (at the age of 14) hired by NBC Studios in New York City, and his flair for words meant his scripts were sharper than those of his colleagues. Lowther would eventually maintain continuity and portray the man in tights as a heroic American who combatted the enemies who attempted to commit acts of sabotage during World War II. As Edward Langley once remarked, “Lowther basically was Superman Incorporated.”


Lowther reportedly wrote the majority of the radio scripts for the first Superman radio program, which was syndicated beginning in February of 1940 and ran a total of 325 episodes. Among the regional sponsors were Hecker’s Oat Cereal and Force Wheat Flakes. Because the series was recorded, transcribed and syndicated, the program aired on various days and time slots. In one area of the country the program was heard three times a week at 7 p.m., while in other areas the program was heard five nights a week at the 5 o’clock hour. (Today, all 325 episodes and the four audition recordings are known to exist in recorded form.) Many of the story arcs were adapted for Radio Mirror magazine for short stories. I was lucky enough to acquire a zerox of most of those stories and you can enjoy reading them here:


In 1942, The Adventures of Superman made a return to the airwaves, this time as a network program, five nights a week, over the Mutual Broadcasting System. A total of 1,612 broadcasts aired from 1942 to 1949, with the earliest episodes rehashed and recycled from the syndicated run, and by episode thirteen entirely new stories were created for the program. By this time George Lowther was not only involved with the script writing, but also the directing (and for more than a year, announcing chores as well). Lowther was eventually provided an assistant to handle the script writing, Edward Langley, to ease his position of wearing many hats. 


In 1942, Random House published a hardcover (with dust jacket) for Superman, a prose novel with illustrations by Joe Schuster. George Lowther wrote the novel during the downtime between the two radio programs. Lowther recycled the origin of Superman, how he comes to Earth and getting a job working for the Daily Planet, providing considerable detail when Clark Kent first discovered he had abilities beyond mortal men. Among the noticeable trademarks of the origin story (segments of which are also depicted on the radio program) was Eben and Sarah Kent, his adopted parents. Today, through studio and corporate branding, the names of Jonathan and Martha Kent are more familiar to television and movie goers. 


To eliminate confusion, and to provide clarity: Eben and Martha Kent were the names used in the 1948 cliffhanger serial produced by Columbia Pictures, while Eben and Sarah were used for the 1952 television rendition. In the comic book’s first extensive retelling of Superman’s origin (Issue #53, July-August 1948), the names were John and Mary Kent. Later stories, after the early 1960s introduction to the DC Multiverse, declared that the early renditions of the Kents were indeed John and Mary Kent (eliminating any reference to Sarah from the radio program and the 1942 novel) and live in the “Earth-Two” universe while Jonathan and Martha live in the “Earth-One” universe. 


The 1942 Lowther novel also reveals how Superman will have the power to fly on Earth, “but must walk a snail’s pace on the Earth’s surface” to avoid disclosing his ability of speed. Superman could also breathe under water.


The second half of the book contains an original story about a skeleton ship reported along a Maine shipyard. The rumored ghostly specter included a crew from Davy Jones’ locker, haunting men away from their jobs at the nearby Lowell Shipyard, constructing vessels for the war effort. Clark Kent, sent on his first routine job as a reporter for the Daily Planet, was sent up north to investigate. There, he shrewdly combines his efforts with reporter Lois Lane, while investigating solo to avoid revealing his super-human capabilities.


The underwater menace was a number of enemy submarine stationed offshore, ready to attack, and the ghost-like figures were merely meant to frighten workers away from the docks to cripple war production. 


“The skeleton ship with its crew leering down from the rail was a sight to set the strongest nerves quivering. A brief glimpse of it might be enough to send this girl into hysterics. Also there was Captain Joshua Murdock – a skeleton clothed in the tattered and moldy remains of clothes more than a century old – who prowled the pier at night and who no doubt would make his appearance before dawn…”


Elements from this story was dramatized on the radio program in the story arc known as “Last of the Clipper Ships,” syndicated in March and April of 1941. In that story, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen were sailing on the Clara M (not the Nancy M), last of the clipper ships. Mr. Barnaby, a one-legged sailor, and the mysterious “Whistler” make trouble for Captain Hawkins. Other elements from the same novel were used in “The Mystery Ship” (December 1942, MBS), involving “the Old Man of the Seaweed.” Regardless of elements borrowed, the story in the novel is an original and not one heard over the radio program.


Gavel price for George Lowther’s Superman varies based on marketplace. The dust jacket is worth more than the book but the demand for the hardcover is strong enough to ensure even the book has strong value. A facsimile edition was published in 1995 by Applewood Books, with a new introduction by Roger Stern, also available in hardcover. (You can tell the difference between the original and the facsimile by the front cover which discloses that the original was published in 1942 and with the new Introduction.) The reprint sells between $10 and $50, depending on who is selling it but never spend more than $20 with postage. As for the original, the red hardcover (without dust jacket) usually sells for about $75. The price goes up considerably based on the condition of the dust jacket.


If you are looking for further information about Superman on radio and television, look no further than Michael Hayde’s fantastic book, Flights of Fantasy. Link provided below.




Friday, October 8, 2021


You can thank Bold Venture Press for this new entry into the Zorro fold... whether you were captivated by the Disney ZORRO series on television or the Johnston McCulley printed prose, the masked avenger with athletic prowess and sharp blade is making a return with a new paperback containing 16 all-new stories. While many would consider this "fan fiction," some of these authors are experienced in their field and provide fantastic adventures. 

In the early 1800s, California was still under Spanish rule. Some military commanders plundered and won riches at the expense of the peace-loving settlers. Against these agents of injustice the settlers were powerless, until one man arose whose courage stirred the hearts of Californians. He alone gave them the spirit to resist tyranny. That man was Zorro!

These new exciting stories include such adventures wherein the “Curse of Capistrano” joins forces with Sgt. Garcia to halt an insurrectionist, teams with The Scarlet Pimpernel’s descendant, rescues damsels, gypsies and even a hog, and clashes with the Devil himself. Danger, swashbuckling adventure and romance await in Reina de Los Angeles, and Zorro always answers the challenge with a smile and his flashing sword! 

The authors include John L. French, Richard A. Lupoff, Will Murray, Francisco Silva (who contributed two stories), Joseph A. Lovece, William Patrick Maynard, Linda Bindner, Susan Kite, Diana Barkley, Bret Bouriseau, Daryl McCullough, Mari K. Ross, Robert Scott Cranford, Eugene Craig, and Pamela Elbert Poland. Introduction by Michael Uslan, executive producer of the Batman film franchise. There is also a brief essay about Johnston McCulley, creator of Zorro.

To order your copy, click here:

Friday, October 1, 2021


Looking for something spooky to enjoy this Halloween? Well, I might have just the thing.

The radio program, Inner Sanctum Mystery, famous for the signature opening and closing of a creaking door, offered a weekly dose of banshees who wailed while bats would gibber and thump in their belfries. The intended overtone of the stories was almost always one of supernatural dread. Fans of the horror radio program know that Boris Karloff routinely played a man tormented by demons. He read every line as though he was actually the living, breathing counterpart of the villain in the script. He built up a “hate” atmosphere, regardless of the worry and concern portrayed on the printed page. 

By comparison with the ghouls and mad scientists he played on the silver screen, Karloff loved performing on radio. The kill-by-kill account over a ghost-to-ghost network quickly became popular and Boris Karloff made a total number of ten guest appearances in 1941 (the program's first year). This book (published earlier this week) reprints nine of those radio scripts... chilling stories that are not known to exist in recorded form. 

In one episode, Karloff played the weather-beaten waterfront character who murdered a fellow seaman for revenge in “Fog,” the dread scourge of men who go down to the sea in ships and served as the eloquent title for a tale of violent death and retribution in the mists off San Francisco. Another episode, “The Green-Eyed Bat,” is a terrifying tale of a man buried alive because of a doctor’s error, a man doomed to horrifying entombment. A victim of a catatonic trance, his condition of suspended animation is mistaken for death. As the buried man returns to consciousness and discovers his predicament, a friend races to his rescue. But this provides us with a few pages of suspense: even if he is rescued, will the mental torture undergone in those awful hours have been too much for the victim? In “The Man Who Hated Death,” Karloff plays the sympathetic role of a friendless mortician who had to live on the fringe of society merely because he wanted to put death in its place. Things begin to clear when the richest man in town dies and his body is turned over to the humble undertaker. But when the dead man comes to life while the mortician is preparing the body for burial, he has a macabre choice to make.

With full disclosure, included with the nine radio scripts is an essay that I wrote, documenting the historical and cultural significance of the first year of Inner Sanctum Mystery, and how Boris Karloff's scheduled appearances changed the format of the program... for the better... from old dark house mystery to supernatural chillers. If you can envision the voice of Boris Karloff as you read these radio scripts, you will enjoy the "lost" episodes that do not exist in recorded form. Certainly a must-have for fans of Boris Karloff and classic horror.

You can order your copy here: