Thursday, August 31, 2023


These are the types of books that win awards. Larry Zdeb, a private collector of all things CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT has finished a two-volume set documenting the history of the radio program, comic books, 1942 cliffhanger serial, and television program. Both volumes are aptly listed as "The Definitive Guides" and I can say while there are other books about CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, these are the definitive volumes. 

The title character, originally Captain Jim "Red" Albright, was a World War I U.S. Army pilot. His Captain Midnight code name was given by a general who sent him on a high-risk mission from which he returned at the stroke of twelve. When the radio program began in 1938, Albright was a private aviator who helped people, but his situation changed in 1940 when the program was taken over by a new sponsor, Ovaltine, and the origin story explained how Albright was recruited to head the Secret Squadron, an aviation-oriented paramilitary organization fighting sabotage and espionage during the period prior to the United States' entry into World War II. The Secret Squadron acted both within and outside the United States, combatting spies, saboteurs, mad scientists and repeated combats with the stock villain, Ivan Shark.


Radio premiums offered by the series (usually marked with Midnight’s personal symbol of a winged clock with the hands pointing to midnight) included decoders. These Code-O-Graphs were used by listeners to decipher encrypted messages previewing the next day’s episode, usually broadcast five-days-a-week. Other premiums included rings, telescopes, and World War II items. 


The program aired for a decade until 1949. But that did not restrict the franchise potential just to the radio speakers. The popularity of the Captain Midnight character expanded in 1942 with a cliffhanger serial film, a syndicated newspaper strip, and a series of comic books. In 1954, a short-lived television program starring Richard Webb was produced by Screen Gems. For that rendition, Captain Midnight (now a veteran of the Korean War) heads the Secret Squadron as a private organization.


The show was known for the imaginative use of exciting technological advancements to create narrative thrills, inspiring young audiences to dream of future advances. 

What makes these two volumes amazing is the fact that Larry has what is the largest collection of CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT radio scripts so he provided an episode guide with plot summaries for the radio broadcasts. It was fun reading some of the adventures as they unfolded in serial format, breath-taking cliffhangers, and the types of foes he went up against. As a kid I listened to a few episodes of radio's CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT but found them to be dull. Thanks to these two volumes, I went back and listened to a few. 

If you love the radio, cliffhanger serial, comic books or TV version of CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, these two volumes are worth grabbing.