Monday, 28 January 2013

Superman's Radio Times.

In 1988 the Great British Empire TV and Radio conglomerate that is the BBC pulled out a few stops for Superman's 50th birthday. For a company who at the time were very much of the opinion that comics were 'low brow' it was a little bit of a surprise.  Comics were in the midst of changing and perhaps they felt that there was something in the air.

Back then in the pre-Internet age this was actually pretty fun.

We got a radio special (which I think you can now find on CD and download) that was a mash up of cheesy dramatics and interviews with known comics connected people like Adam West, Jenette Khan and Dave Gibbons.

The drama centered around a trial. Superman was put on trial accused by Lex Luthor of corrupting the minds of the World's children and interfering in it's affairs. Lois Lane the annoying chatterbox works as the defence lawyer in this ever so slightly forced scenario. The Judge as if by magic was a Guardian of the Galaxy (Ganthet in fact) - which even to me back then seemed a little strange.

Each witness whether real like Dave Gibbons or imaginary (the Great Bob Sessions hamming it up for all his worth as Batman for example) were called to the stand to give evidence that was in both cases mostly scripted.

It was pretty goofy fun. But in the days before podcasts and easily accessible radio plays my tape of the show got played quite a few times.

A point of interest.  The writer Dirk Maggs also worked on both The Magic Roundabout and the Hitchhikers and Dirk Gently books as radio plays after Douglas Adams passed away. (That first name smells a bit suspicious though don't you think?) Sadly he also worked on the Mr Bean cartoon but we can't all be perfect. On the radio he continued to write and direct and produced further Superman, Batman and Spider-Man serials that were of a really high quality.  Most of which you can still buy or download from iTunes. 

Also as a side note Stuart Milligan who played Superman also played Nixon on Doctor Who in a couple of episodes in 2011! Gotta love those geek credentials.

To accompany it we got a Radio Times Special Superman issue. (Dated 4-10 June 1988) It featured a cracking Dave Gibbons cover and inside a short two page Superman comic strip written and drawn by Gibbons again. Also worthy of note is that the colour is by Watchmen's John Higgins. This story is the lead into the radio play and looks gorgeous.

I urge you to find this play. It suffers (as always it seems) from the 'BIFF' 'SMASH' style superhero cliches but this has always worked a little less cringingly with DC characters.

Adam West is his usual self and some of the accents are a little off but enjoyable nonetheless.


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