September 01, 2014

Superman Long Weekend: We come from the land of ice and snow

Happy Labour Day! There's nothing like a long weekend for relaxing, resting, and taking in the simple pleasure of a pulp radio serial. So we return to the adventures of Superman and "Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer."

Clark Kent has been dispatched to Ellesmere Island in the Arctic to determine the whereabouts of vanished Arctic explorer Alonzo Craig, or of fellow Daily Planet reporter Ray Martin and Professor Peters, who also disappeared after going in search of Craig. Captain Walters, Craig's crusty navigator, thinks the explorer might have discovered the Luck of the North, a vast treasure hoard possessed by a tribe of white-skinned Indians who live in the Arctic and are ruled by a witch doctor who is rumoured to never die.

In spite of a seemingly supernatural warning to stay away, Clark and Walters travel by dogsled and find an igloo that is the last known location of Martin and Peters. There, they are ambushed by the Indians, and Walters is injured. Clark changes to Superman and fights their attackers off. Inside the igloo, they find a mysterious clue to the fate of the previous search party . . .

Episode 48: Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer, Part 3 (1940/05/31)

Listen!

It is now several hours later, and Clark and Captain Walters are in the igloo discussing the mysterious object that they found in the—Ah, screw it. It's Ray Martin's diary. Mystery solved.

Clark reads the last entry: The Indians attacked Professor Peters and Martin just as they did Clark and Walters the night before. Ray Martin is "convinced Craig is still alive." Then, he hid the diary in the ice just before the indians came for them. Going outside into the morning light, Clark and Walters now realize they've made it to the coast. They spot an object in the water: a kayak, coming quickly. Assuming the kayaker is a scout for the Indians, they decide to catch him and question him, but Walters thinks last night's fight with the Indians has done him in, and he faints. This conveniently makes capturing the scout into a job for Superman.

Lying in wait for the kayak, Superman sees a big bull walrus lunge toward it and upset it. Realizing he has some competition now, Superman fights off the walrus, grabs the man and flies him to shore. He is surprised to discover that he's not an Indian after all: it's Professor Peters.

Later, when both Walters and Peters have come to, they question the professor. He was being pursued by the Indians who, we now discover, are called the Kunalaka. Their medicine man was preparing a human sacrifice, and Peters and Martin were to have been the guests of honour! Martin was too ill to escape, so Peters left him behind to seek help.

The sacrifice ceremony is to take place at noon that day. Unfortunately, it is now half past 11, and the Kunalaka camp is 20 miles up the coast. It's too late to rescue Martin—or is it? In spite of Walters' and Peters' protests, Clark resolves to try anyway. He drives the dogsled just out of sight, where he can change to Superman unseen. He finds the camp, where the Indians have already bound Martin on the altar. You can tell there's a tribal dance going on by the tom-tom sound effects and "Ha-ya-ya-ya" chants. Fighting them off, Superman rescues Martin and flies away.

Back at the dogsled, Superman changes back into Clark Kent and revives Martin. He gives Clark a map that reveals a secret gallery in the ice containing the vast treasure, the Luck of the North. However, he also warns him: "careful . . . Craig . . . Alonzo Craig . . . look out." Then, before he explains any further, he dies.

What did Ray Martin discover?

What does the map reveal?

What feat of badassery will Clark concoct this time to explain his singlehanded rescue of Martin from the Kunalaka Indians?

Episode 48: Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer, Part 3 (1940/05/31)

Listen!

Kent returns to the igloo, and the trio hold a brief but meaningful ceremony over the body of Clark's deceased colleague, Ray Martin. No, I'm lying. In fact, they're only interested in his treasure map, which they soon realize is only half there. Serves 'em right, the greedy, unfeeling bastards.

There's some writing on the map, but it doesn't make any sense: "Entrance is here to sunken temple of ice. White terror." But as Clark reaches for the map, Paula Craig's signet ring (which for some reason he was still carrying around) falls out of his pocket. A hidden compartment pops open. Inside is a tiny wad of paper: the other half of the map. How fortuitous.

The three of them piece together what must have happened. The Kunalakas stole everything from Peters and Martin, including the ring. One of the Indians brought it to Port Ormond, where Captain Walters just happened to be there to buy it. He mailed it to Metropolis, because he just happened to know the supposed owner and his sister, because she just happened to know the men sent up to the Arctic to find her brother. Fortuitous indeed.

Now that they possess the full map, they have the location of the Cliffs of Ice 50 miles away, where they will find the Luck of the North: "Look in the Sunken Temple. The witch doctor guards it constantly. Beware the White Terror," the map now reads, more clearly. However, when they arrive at the valley of the cliffs where the temple is supposed to be, they can't find the entrance, and fear that the map was useless after all.

Suddenly the dogs start fighting, and as the three try and separate them, Chico breaks away from the pack. Captain Walters whistles him back, but the whistling shakes the cliff face loose, nearly flattening them. Fortunately, it has also exposed the entrance to the ice caves! Grabbing flashlights, they go inside. They find the central chamber of the Sunken Temple, but they hear the maniacal laughter of the Kunalaka witch doctor echoing through the caverns.

Clark tells them to turn off the lights. He is determined to catch the witch doctor under cover of darkness, as Superman. While the Indian ruler is very strong, he's no match for a super-bouncing off the walls of the cave. Superman inspects the unconscious form, and sees—"That can't be!" he exclaims.

Clark Kent: Unintentional Badass

So far, Clark has claimed to:

However, at that moment, Walters and Peters raise the alarm. They're being attacked by something that sounds like an animal. Superman quickly flies back and confronts a huge polar bear: the White Terror that Ray Martin warned them about. Then, back in his Clark Kent guise, he tells them that he just "hit him on the snout, drove him off." Now the folks at the Daily Planet have something else about Clark to discuss around the water cooler.

Clark shows them what he found on the witch doctor. Walters thinks it's Paula Craig's signet ring, but he's wrong. He's barking mad, but the Kunalaka witch doctor who never dies is . . . Alonzo Craig himself! In the background, insane cackling echoes through the cavern . . .

What has driven Alonzo Craig mad?

Will our heroes escape the ice caverns?

Now that his mission is accomplished, why the heck is Clark sticking around Ellesmere for another two episodes?

At this stage, I will grant this: the writing has improved since the previous two episodes. The discovery of a diary, of all things, is hardly cliffhanger material, but at least the writers didn't just write past it (like they did Superman's iceberg rescue between episodes 1 and 2). These two episodes keep the story moving nicely, and to the credit of the authors, I didn't anticipate the last twist.

Now, however, I want to know what will warrant a further two episodes in this serial. Clark was sent to ascertain the whereabouts of Alonso Craig, Ray Martin, and Professor Peters, and all three of them are now accounted for. What's stopping him from Supermanning his way out of the ice caves and going home? Surely, he's not going to embark on an unauthorized treasure hunt? Find out, next Saturday!