Monday, September 10, 2007

Comic Heroes from Radio

The comic heroes that you and your father read in comic books and in the news paper often began their careers on the radio. Long before television , and even before movie serials, kids gathered around their radios for action heros. While much of this was drawn from existing comic books, some characters originated at radio.

I'll define my terms of course. Many non-action shows were also adapted from comic strips, such as Blondie, The Gumps, Li'l Abner, Little Orphan Annie, Popeye, Red Ryder. The character Archie was heard on radio's Archie Andrews between1943 and 1953. These may be comic characters, but aren't action-oriented. But I'll summarize those few "action heroes" who fit my definition below.

The Green Hornet was created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker. The program ran on WXYZ-AM in Detroit, and the Mutual Broadcasting System. In later years it was carried on NBC Blue, which later became the ABC Network into the 1950s. The shows theme was Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." FACT: The hornet sound effect was made on a theremin. More here.

The Lone Ranger was also created by WXYZ's Trendle and Striker. There were over 2,950 episodes of The Lone Ranger in it's total run. the program first aired in 1933 on WXYZ then was picked up by the the Mutual Broadcasting System. It move to NBC's Blue Network out living he network name sticking around thru the change to the ABC Netowrk. The character was first voiced by John L. Barrett but was played by literally a dozen others. Superman: Created by Canadian-born artist Joe Shuster and American writer Jerry Siegel in 1932 and sold to Detective Comics in 1938. came to radio as a syndicated show on New York City's WOR-AM on February 12, 1940. On Mutual, it was broadcast from August 31, 1942, to January 28, 1949, as a 15-minute serial, running three or, usually, five times a week. Then to twice-a-week in June 1950, continuing on ABC until March 1, 1951. More here.

Red Ryder was created by Stephen Slesinger and artist Fred Harman back in 1938. He wallowed in a comic called Bronc Peeler for years slowly gaining popularity. The Red Ryder radio series began in 1942 on the Blue Network, broadcast three times a week at 7:30pm Pacific time. When the Blue also acquired The Lone Ranger from the Mutual Broadcasting System, Mutual decided to compete by airing Red Ryder in the same time period. Thus, Red Ryder aired on the East Coast that year from May 20 to September 9 on Mutual.
Batman: Created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. The character made his first appearance in Detective Comics #27 way back in May pf 1939. Strangely The Batman never had a his own radio series the character did however make occasional guest appearance in The Adventures of Superman starting in 1945.

Dick Tracey: Created by cartoonist Chester Gould in 1931, the strip made its debut appearance in 1931, distributed by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. Dick Tracey had a long run on radio, starting in 1934 on NBC and moving to the ABC network in 1948. Bob Burlen was the first radio voice of Tracy but later on voice actors Barry Thompson, Ned Wever and Matt Crowley played the character.

Buck Rogers First appeared in 1928 as Anthony Rogers, the hero of two novellas by Philip Francis Nowlan. It ran in the magazine Amazing Stories. Producer Carlo De Angelo too Buck to radio first airing the program in 1932. Originating from New York and broadcast four times weekly. More here.

Tarzan In 1931 Edgar Rice Burroughs entered negotiations with the American Radio Features Syndicate. Their plan was to adapt Tarzan of the Apes to a series of 77 fifteen-minute radio serial episodes. It was followed by a set of 39 original storieds and then a whole new series in the 1950s. John Pierce provided the voice of the lord of Greystoke. More here.