Tuesday, March 9, 2010

OldTime Radio Heroes - Prototype - A 'Slight' History of Golden Age Comic Books: Super Heroes: What is a 'Super Hero'?

A mass cultural phenomenon occurred in 1925 when "Wireless" technology became widely available to the American public.

No, I'm not talking cel phones and blue tooth's and the like. I'm talking about radio.

Radio began regularly scheduled transmissions, home "radio sets" came on the open market and soon, whole "broadcast networks" were linking us, sea to shining sea!

A quarter century before television homogenized us, radio brought us together. News and information were brought to households 3,000 miles apart simultaneously. An incredible thing indeed.

One day I'll take on a project called "A 'Slight' History of the Golden Age of Radio" and tell you more, but for now, back to the subject at hand.

Radio brought us heroes too.

The Shadow:

Street and Smith Publications, publishers of detective and crime pulp novels, wanted to use this bright new medium to sell it's sordid stories. A show premiered on July 31, 1930 called "The Detective Story Hour" in which detective stories were played out in dramatized form, with a mysterious voiced narrator, "The Shadow"!

As time went on, the narrator became so popular, the series turned over to his own adventures.

Lamont Cranston was a wealthy newspaper publisher who had been trained in the far east with nigh mystical powers. He had the power to "cloud men's minds" and appear to become invisible. With his lady love Margot Lane who was privy to his secret identity, he used this power and the scare tactic it brought with it, to trap criminals into confessions and bring justice to the world.

Super hero conventions used by the Shadow:

1. A secret identity unknown to the world at large.

2. A persona of the night, to use criminals fear to trap them.

3. Super-normal powers or abilities, which give him the edge over his adversaries.

The Lone Ranger:

Little old Detroit radio station WXYZ premiered the Lone Ranger radio show on January 30, 1933 and the show was soon picked up by The Mutual Broadcasting Network. As a matter of fact, it was this shows true heroic fete, that it single handedly saved the network and put it on the map. The show was later moved to NBC's Blue Network, which eventually became ABC. All told this masked rider of the old west made it through a remarkable 2,956 episodes on radio.

No one knows the first name of our masked hero of the old west, but his last name was given as Reid. He and his brother Dan Reid served together in the Texas Rangers and together with some other rangers were tracking the villainous Cavendish Gang. The gang, led by Butch Cavendish, ambushed the rangers in a canyon and left them all for dead. They were dead, save one lone ranger...the one known only as Reid.

He was then discovered and nursed back to health by a brave native American named Tonto. They had been childhood friends and Reid had even saved Tonto once when renegade Indians murdered his mother and sister and left Tonto for dead.

Taking a piece of leather from his fallen brothers vest, Reid fashioned a mask for himself to hide his identity from the Cavendish Gang as Tonto and he set out to avenge the other rangers' deaths.

There's lots more to the story and how they grew to be erstwhile companions and fight injustice in the days of yesteryear. Over the course of the series the origin of his horse Silver is given and it's even explained where he gets all that silver to make his bullets from. But that's a story for another blog.

The reason he uses silver for his bullets though is pure super hero! He uses the precious metal for these death dealing little missiles, to remind him always that, human life is far to precious to be spent needlessly.

That's just good shit!

Super Hero conventions used by or begun by the Lone Ranger?

1. A mask to conceal his identity, and ironically to make himself instantly recognizable.

2. A faithful companion who fights alongside him, and whose loyalty is never in doubt.

3. Fighting for justice, just for justice's sake. Defending the helpless and weak against their oppressors. Seeking no reward than knowing that justice has been served. "Who was that masked man?", "All he left was this silver bullet!" and "I never even had a chance to thank him." are testaments to that.

4. A cool catchphrase. "Hi yo Silver, Awaaaaaaaaay!"

5. A calling card - the silver bullet.

The Green Hornet:

This radio series ALSO premiered on WXYZ, this time on January 31, 1936. From there it followed the same path as The Lone Ranger show, moving to Mutual, NBC Blue and finally ABC.

That's not just a coincidence though, The Green Hornet was actually a kind of spin-of of the Ranger show.

Originally called "The Hornet" the adjective "Green" was added for copyright reasons. Green was chosen because green hornets are reputably the most fierce.

The Green Hornet was Britt Reid, wealthy newspaper publisher of the Daily Sentinel. Sound familiar? A newspaper publisher like The Shadow and a "Reid" like...you guessed it...The Lone Ranger. You see, Britt Reid was the grandson of The Lone Ranger's brother Dan Reid, the ranger who had been killed by The Cavendish Gang. That's just good shit to know!

With his faithful valet Kato at his side, Britt Reid battles the underworld in contemporary settings. With his own CSI style crime lab, his ultra-cool and ultra-fast and ultra-sleek car "The Black Beauty" and gizmo's like his humane "Gas Gun", The Green Hornet battles underworld types he learns about through his own newspaper.

He also uses his position as publisher of The Sentinel to write editorial objections to the vigilante nature of the Hornet. Ostensibly to shake suspicion of his true identity, but when the police and public begin to look on the Hornet as someone working outside the law or even a criminal, the Hornet uses this to add an even more ominous tone in his identity to criminals themselves and strike even more fear into them.

Super Hero conventions of or started by the Green Hornet:

1. A masked identity with an animal connotation to strike immediate recognition.

2. A civilian identity posing an opposite to the heroic identity.

3. A faithful sidekick.

4. A signature weapon.

5. A cool mode of transportation.

6. Protecting the downtrodden in society from the evils that prey on them.

OldTime Radio:

OldTime Radio is another huge passion of mine, and readily available in MP3 format all over the web or on discs from collectors on ebay.

This was a wonderful time before TV, there were no visuals and you really have to intently listen to enjoy the shows...no passivity allowed! Comedies, Dramas, Mysteries...they were all there...including, the Super Hero!

Next up - The Pulps Mature!

See ya then!

1 comment:

Akshunt "Action" Frank Franklyn said...

come on already I want to see the Green Hornet movie!!!! I know that no mater how badly the people in Hollywierd fuck it up it will still be better then the last Superman movie....
I'm just say'n

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