Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Big Audio Wednesday - Superman vs. Atom Man, the Final Chapter

So here they are, the final six episodes of the Atom Man storyline from 1945.

One thing that struck me when listening to the story the first time was how bloodthirsty the story was for what was ostensibly a children's show. Multiple characters die off in gruesome ways and the death trap Sidney sets up for Superman is one of the most sadistic I've ever heard of. But kid's entertainment was different back then, nine years before Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent.

The other thing that strikes me, which I've already remarked on a few times, but which bears repeating, is how sophisticated the storytelling is. Although most children's entertainment was based around kids' short attention spans, this long form story includes twists and turns to rival any mother's soap opera or modern serial drama. All in brisk fifteen-minute chunks that have no problem holding a kid's attention.

But radio serials weren't unique in that regard. Many comic strips employed the same tricks, telling longer stories over the course of weeks and months in tiny chunks. Dick Tracy's epic battle against Flattop lasted over a year, I think.

The story so far:

Nazi scientist Der Teufel injected young Henry Miller with a solution of dissolved Kryptonite to transform him into an Atom Man, with the ability to shoot rays of radioactive death from his hands. Miller, having killed both his first mentor Der Teufel and his second mentor, the criminal genius known only as Sidney, has set off on a destructive rampage to destroy Metropolis in retaliation for the defeat of Germany.

Meanwhile, a powerless Superman lies buried alive in a bunker underneath the murdered Sidney's garage. Even if he can get himself free, he is powerless in the Atom Man's presence and has already been defeated by him twice. How can he possibly prevail?

Click the widget to listen. Files will autoplay in order.

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