Deck Log Entry # 191 What's on TV in the DC Universe?

How many of these DCU shows do you remember?

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I was always a little surprised that the Silver Age Teen Titans never formed a band like the Archies did--it wouldn't have been out of place in their stories at the time.  That version of the TT also lined up pretty well with the standard "boy band" formula: Robin was the smart one, Kid Flash was the boy next door, Speedy was the "bad boy", and Aqualad was the cute one (at least, that seemed to be the consensus in the letter columns).  Wonder Girl, of course, was just "the girl".

...Perry Como and Pat Boone made Superman appearances (maybe before the SA Big Blue started) , they both did have TV series in our world ~ ???

...And , Orson Welles , of course...........

Sorry I took so long to get back to you on the "Easter eggs" I planted in this "TV guide" page.  I discovered that I had misplaced my notes detailing all the sources of the material.  So, I had to go back and relocate all of it.  But I knew that some of you were quite interested in the subtle references I included in the piece. Some of you guys, like Philip Portelli, have probably already run down all the references, but for those of you without that sort of dedication, or the available comics, here's where it all came from:

I REMEMBER SUPERBOY

This show, hosted by Lana Lang, was mentioned occasionally in Lois Lane stories in the mid-1960's. Two tales in which I Remember Superboy was mentioned were "Superman's Secret Wife", from Lois Lane # 55 (Feb., 1965) and "Get Lost, Superman", from Lois Lane # 60 (Oct., 1965).  There were others, but I stopped after finding the first two stories I could cite.

And Smallville police chief Parker was a mainstay in the Superboy stories throughout the '60's.

PEOPLE ARE WHACKY

This was DC's version of the phenomenonly popular real-life radio and television programme People Are Funny, hosted by Art Linkletter.  People Are Whacky was presented in "The Perfect Husband", from Lois Lane # 24 (Apr., 1961), and provided the set-up for the story.  Similar to what People Are Funny did in its 1956-7 season, host Bart Linkwater, of DC's version, used an Univac computer to match couples (i.e., sort of a prototype "on line" dating service).  The Univac on People Are Whacky matched Lois Lane with wealthy sportsman Roger Warner, a look-alike of Clark Kent.  Hilarity ensues.

THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW

Fortunately, the story "The Superman-Lois Hit Record", from Lois Lane # 45 (Nov., 1963), established that a Steve Allen and The Steve Allen Show also existed on Earth-One.  That same story also provided me with one of Steve's guests for that episode---Don Weeder, who was the Earth-One version of Vaughn Meader, who rocketed to a brief stardom with his impersonation of President John F. Kennedy.  

The other guests I culled thusly:

Bo Baney, actor who played the lead in a film about Blackhawk in "Blackhawk Goes Hollywood", from Blackhawk # 213 (Oct., 1965)

Chip O'Doole, early rock-and-roll singer, in the mould of Elvis Presley, in "Alias Chip O'Doole", from Jimmy Olsen # 49 (Dec., 1960)

"Dream Girl" Priscilla Varner, television personality who was one of the targets of super-villain Captain Cold's many infatuations, in "The Heat is On for Captain Cold", from The Flash # 140 (Nov., 1963)

IMPOSSIBLE, BUT TRUE

This was the original name of a long-running series in Detective Comics, running from issue # 153 (Nov., 1949) to # 292 (Jun., 1961).  Midway through, it was renamed "Roy Raymond, TV Detective", after its star.  For those of you who came in late, Impossible, But True was a television series in the "Ripley's Believe it or Not" mould, in which host Roy Raymond would present rare and remarkable oddities of life and nature. Commonly, the plots showed Raymond exposing confidence schemes of various natures, some perpetrated by persons who were simply trying to get on the show. Most often, however, the duplicity was of a more criminal nature, the perpetrators believing that if they could fool Roy Raymond, then their hoaxes would be accepted as the real thing.

The blurb for the show mentions the magic tablecloth of Johann Hinkle.  That comes from the story "The Magic Tablecloth", which appeared in Detective Comics # 236 (Oct., 1956).  Per the story, Hinkle and his tablecloth was the last feature on that particular episode of Impossible, But True.  Unfortunately, the story did not elabourate on any of the segments before Hinkle's.  But I got lucky.  A panel in which Raymond's assistant, Karen, reminds Roy that the Magic Tablecloth segment is up next also displays part of the spot currently running---a lion-tamer's act of some sort, though all that is shown is the back, arm, and whip of the tamer and the animals.

I remembered a story I read a long, long time ago---"Mask of Fear", from House of Secrets # 2 (Jan.-Feb., 1957)---about a lion-tamer named Major Malouf, whose mastery of the big cats is so fearsome that he never speaks. The Big Reveal at the end is the secret of the silent lion-tamer, and it would have fit the format of Impossible, But True perfectly.  So I absconded it for my blurb.

THE DAZZLER

That was the name of the crime-drama show that figured prominently in the Green Lantern's last case in Coast City, before wienie-ing out over Carol Ferris' engagement to another man.  This occurred in "The Spectacular Robberies of TV's Master Villain", from Green Lantern # 49 (Dec., 1966).  Per the story, actor Ken Baldwin portrays the costumed villain-star, the Dazzler;  Tom Jennings plays the district attorney; and Al Surrin has a recurring rôle as one of the policemen.  As for the guest cast, once again, I dipped into DC's rich and varied history of stories.

Ed Babson was Earth-One's version of Edward G. Robinson, until he began to suffer mental delusions in which he confused his old gangster rôles for his real life.  At the conclusion of "The 'Untouchable' Clark Kent", from Superman # 173 (Nov., 1964), Superman uses Kandorian science to cure Babson of his delusions.

Barry Clark was an actor and impressionist who was helped out of a tight spot by the Martian Manhunter in "The Man Who Impersonated J'onn J'onzz", from Detective Comics # 298 (Dec., 1961).

Marylene Haworth was an actress who got dragged into a con game in "The Art Gallery of Rogues", from Batman # 177 (Dec., 1965)

Otto Sands was a famous actor referenced in "The Greatest Villain of All Time", from Showcase # 5 (Nov., 1956).

Myra Holt was a leading lady in cinema, appearing in "Secret Identities for Sale", from Batman # 173 (Aug., 1965).  I kind of messed up on this one.  Based upon the backgrounds presented in their respective stories, Myra Holt was more prominent an actress than Marylene Haworth.  Logically, I should have put Miss Holt in the "Diamond Lil" part and moved Miss Haworth down in the credits.  

THE EYE OF METROPOLIS

The fairly well-known Superman tale of the same title concerns Clark Kent appearing on The Eye of Metropolis, a Joe Pyne/Morton Downey type of interview programme in which the guests are subjected to blunt interrogation.  In "The Eye of Metropolis", from Action Comics # 250 (Mar., 1959), host John Bates grills Kent in an attempt to expose him as Superman, culminating in the mild-mannered reporter being hooked up to a polygraph and asked the Big Question by Bates.

Albert Desmond, in the blurb, began his criminal career as Mister Element, confronting the Flash in "Master of the Elements", from Showcase # 13 (Mar.-Apr., 1958).  One issue later, he adopted a new super-villain identity of Doctor Alchemy and had a number of run-ins with the Flash and the Justice League, until he reformed in "Our Enemy, the Flash", from The Flash # 147 (Sep., 1964).  A rarity in the comics world, Desmond remained honest and upright, although he was sometimes subjected to mind-control by villains who couldn't stand the fact that Al had gone over to the good side.

THE LOCAL NEWS

I had to do a bit of a reach here.  The story "The Reptile Girl of Metropolis", from Lois Lane # 61 (Nov., 1965) includes a television reporter named Gil Grady.  I needed an on-air newsman who wasn't Lana Lang to use as the anchorman for the local news.  I found no other candidates, so Grady got the job.

MYSTERY SCARE THEATER

This was the local version of the Friday night "creature feature" common in that era. The show appeared in "The MC of Mystery Scare Theater", from Jimmy Olsen # 38 (Jul., 1959), when the host, Phanto (the counterpart of such real-life "horror hosts" such as Ghoulardi and Zacherly), is injured in an accident and Jimmy Olsen fills in for him.

For the film in the blurb, I went to "Jimmy Olsen's Monster Movie", from Jimmy Olsen # 84 (Apr., 1965). In this tale, Olsen makes a bet that he can make a better horror film that his movie-producer friend.  The Jimster decides to make a monster movie and play the lead himself.  Once cameras and crew are set up on an island in the south Pacific, Jimmy uses one of Professor Potter's inventions---a space-time transporter---to teleport dinosaurs and other huge creatures to the island.  Whenever you put "Professor Potter" and "invention" in the same sentence, you can imagine how it turns out.  Nevertheless, Jimbo does manage to get a movie on film---a gem he titles "Isle of the Monsters"

Nicely done as always. 

So what was the secret of the Magic Tablecloth? I know the lion-tamer story, but not this one.

Fraser Sherman said:

So what was the secret of the Magic Tablecloth?

No problem, Mr. Sherman, but in fairness to those who've never read the story, but don't want it spoilt in case they ever do some day . . . . 

Elderly shoemaker Johann Hinkle and his wife are devout fans of Roy Raymond.  They never miss an episode of Impossible---But True, and Papa Hinkle harbours a desire to be on the show himself some day.

One evening Mr. Hinkle comes up with an idea that he believes will get him on Raymond's show.  He busies himself in his workshop for several days---which is fine with Mrs. Hinkle, because at least it gives her husband something to work on besides a tablecloth that he's been embroidering for the last ten years. When the old man emerges from his shop, his wife is puzzled to see that all he has produced is an ordinary dinner table.

"That's what you think, mama," Hinkle says, as he reaches for his ornately embroidered tablecloth.  "But I surprise you---as soon as I put on my magic tablecloth!"

Hinkle drapes the cloth over the table, then goes to the kitchen and cooks.  In due time, he brings out a hearty bowl of pasta and a pitcher of wine.  A dozen plates of spaghetti later, the bowl is still full of pasta!  Same thing with the wine; no matter how many glasses Papa Hinkle pours, the pitcher remains full to the brim.

Now, Mama Hunkle is nobody's grey-haired fool.  "You must have a big container hidden under the table!  Yes?"

But, there's a big container hidden under the table---no.  Hinkle lifts the edge of the tablecloth, showing no container of any sort under the table.  The actual secret is two hollow legs in the chair---one filled with pasta and the other with wine.  Tiny pumps at the bottom of the legs force the contents through tubes and into the bowl and pitcher through false bottoms.

Mrs. Hinkle is sceptical---"Mr. Raymond will see through that easy!"---but the old man is sure his gimmick will fool Roy.  A week later, it's try-out day for Impossible---But True, and Papa Hinkle presents his finely decorated "magic tablecloth" to Raymond and his assistant, Karen.  Hinkle spreads it over his gimmicked table and presents Roy and Karen with seemingly endless plates of spaghetti and glasses of wine.

Karen suspects a big drum of food and wine hidden under the table, but Raymond doesn't think that Hinkle would be that naïve.  Karen looks, and of course, there is no container under the table.  Still, she doesn't believe in any "magic tablecloth" nonsense.  She's certain Hinkle is pulling a trick of some sort. That's why she's stunned when Roy books Hinkle and his magic tablecloth for next Friday's show.

Privately, Karen voices her suspicions.  "Roy, you didn't even investigate his magic table!  Why, even would presume that the table was rigged up somehow!"

"In that case, Karen," replies Roy, "I guess I'll have to teach you a lesson not to overlook good features for the show!"

Friday night, and the live broadcast of Impossible---But True.  Karen is still questioning her boss's judgement about Papa Hinkle and his "magic tablecloth", but Roy is adamant about putting him on. When they come back from commercial, Raymond introduces Mr. Hinkle, telling the audience that he has brought "one of the most unusual features to be presented" on the show.

The old shoemaker pushes out his gimmicked table, already covered with the embroidered cloth.  But before he can begin his spiel, Roy yanks the cloth off the table, spilling the bowl and pitcher and plates.

"This is it, folks," says Raymond, holding the tablecloth up to the camera.  "A remarkable example of modern embroidery---this tablecloth containing over 100,000 stitches to make the signs of the Zodiac on it!"

You see, Roy had figured out the hollow-legs-and-pumps gimmick in Hinkle's table from the beginning. The magic of the tablecloth was in its value as a work of art---intricate, detailed, colourful stitching that represented the work of a decade.

"Is it so remarkable?" asks Mr. Hinkle.

"I'll say it is," reflects Karen, lesson learnt.

Thanks, Commander. While I've enjoyed the Impossible But True reprints I've seen over the years, I know I'd never make an effort to find that one.

My pleasure, sir.  Impossible---But True, later Roy Raymond, TV Detective, was one of my favourite series.  It capitalised on the freshness of commercial television, which was just beginning to sweep through the public's homes when the series began.  And Raymond himself perfectly fit the mould of the genially authoritative emcees whom we invited into our living rooms every week.

Like all new media at first, television had the cachet of authority, and that's what made Roy Raymond stand out as a keen arbiter of the truth, both to the readers and within the fictional conceit of the series.  Not only did Raymond routinely expose tricksters trying to con their way onto his show, but he was often a deliberate target of hoaxsters pulling grand schemes.  These swindlers figured if their scheme was sharp enough for Roy Raymond to believe it, then everyone else would fall for it, too.

That's what gave the series its versatility, and also allowed plots to stretch outside the studio.  There were also times when the authorities, when presented with a fantastic situation, would call on Raymond's expertise for help.  And there were a few occasions when Raymond would use that same expertise to conduct his own hoaxes---for a noble reason and with the co-operation of the authorities---which always came off successfully.

The part I liked was the fact that, no matter how outrageous or fantastic the situation seemed to be, it always proved to be a clever (but not clever enough) charade that Roy's powers of observation and polymathic storehouse of knowledge would overturn.  That was the other thing about Roy Raymond that made him appealing.  He wasn't a scientist or a master of some specific discipline; he was just a smart guy who kept his eyes open and applied critical thinking.

There were a few times when the series stepped outside its convention of everything ultimately having an ordinary, down-to-Earth explanation.  One January, 1956 tale and three stories that ran almost in sequence in late 1960 (presumably in accordance with the then-DC mandate of inserting science fiction into all of its titles) actually involved aliens and genuine magic. 

That kind of stuff didn't belong in the series, and apparently editor Jack Schiff was more successful at removing it from Roy Raymond than he was at getting it out of the Batman tales in Detective Comics, because Roy never again drifted into Science Fiction Theatre.  (No doubt Truman Bradley was just as happy not to have Roy Raymond working his side of the street.  Heh.)

I've read one of the alien ones in reprint, I think. Nicely done but yes, not quite right for the series.

The opening story of "My Greatest Adventure" 37 also has a reality TV show exposing a hoax. I wouldn't be surprised if more examples are lying around in the anthology books of the day.

Commander, in your mention of Roy Raymond, I hope you purchased Detective Comics #500. In addition to being a treasure trove of great stories and art, it has "The 'Too Many Cooks' Caper" - technically a Slam Bradley story, but in reality, a nice story by Len Wein and Jim Aparo teaming up a number of DC's Silver Age detectives - Pow Wow Smith, Captain Compass, the Human Target, Jason Bard, and of course, Roy Raymond.

It's a great tale told in a compact manner, and spotlighted with Jim Aparo art. And of course, the punchline to this detective story is delivered by Roy - "Impossible, but true." It's a gem, and I hope you own it, or that you've read it. Shucks, if you don't have it, I'd get one and send it to you - the book is THAT good.

Seconding that recommendation. It's an all-around great issue.

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