Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thrilling Tales of Yesteryear!

As anyone who knew me before 1980 will tell you, as a kid, I was completely hooked on superheroes. I lived and breathed four colour adventure, filled with Meanwhile captions and sound effects. I'm fairly certain that at least 1/3 of my waking hours were spent with a towel safety-pinned to my shoulders, making whooshing noises as I ran with arms outstretched. I was one heavy-duty industrial-grade geek in the making.

That being said, source material was sometimes limited. As a child of the '70s, the TV could only take me so far. I could catch Adam West every day after school, and as mentioned before, I had Saturday morning covered, but I'd be waiting a while before I could pick up a DVD box set. Instead, I had LP's.

As a kid, I had a lot of records, and most of them didn't feature music. I remember listening to the tales of Sinbad and this amazing double album of Danny Kaye telling Hans Christian Anderson stories (which may come up in a future entry), but the records I kept coming back to were Batman and Superman.

The Batman record came in a thick, heavy box, perfect for the fanboy in your life. There was a Batsignal pin, a "signed" poster from Batman, and a reprint collection of comic book stories. The record was a full cast reading of these stories from the '40s and '50s. This was where I first learned about Bruce Wayne's parents, and about Dick Grayson's parents as well. (Yep, lots of orphans in tights out there.) I loved this record and played it over and over while I sprawled across my bed following along in the comic.

It had nothing on Superman.

Back in 1974, Kellogs ran a promotion, offering a collection of original Superman radio broadcast for boxtops. My grandmother surprised me with the stack of albums, and I commandeered the hi-fi for weeks. I listened to Superman every chance I got, starting with the very first episode where Krypton is destroyed (seriously, what is it with all the orphans?!). Somehow the commercial spots for Rice Crispies and Pep (whatever that was) added to the experience.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the collection on Ebay. It listed a pretty generous price for the 4 record set, although I seem to remember a set of 5. Either way, my records were for listening, and maybe scribbling across the cover, but definitely not for collecting. They didn't hold up very well. The scratches added up and they eventually became unusable, but by that time, I'd nearly memorized every episode line for line.

From these albums, and later listening to my Grandad's cassettes of the Shadow (which may also be worthy of a future entry) and even some NPR broadcasts of Hitchhiker's Guide and Star Wars, I've got a soft spot for radio adventure. When I discovered podcasts, I managed to find some real gems, including my beloved Superman program:
Superman Radio Program

I also found a new generation of audio drama.

Okay, pay attention. This is not going to happen often. I don't want to make a habit of promoting products or websites. I'm not about to start doing anyone's selling for them.

That being said, I adore Decoder Ring Theater. This is new old time radio, a fantastic homage to classic radio. They have two ongoing shows: The Red Panda and Black Jack Justice, and I'd be hard pressed to recommend one over another. Both take advantage of some great scripting, dialog that, if I'm being honest, makes me truly jealous, and wonderful acting. These folks put on a great show.

For that matter, the Summer Showcase, which does one-off and short runs, has some fantastic stories as well. A two-part western (the name escapes me, sorry) stands out in particular.

Believe me. This is worth checking out. You can get the podcast on iTunes or you can find them here:
Decoder Ring Theatre