Tuesday, September 15, 2009

OTR Review: The Avenger "Death in Mid-Air"

Series Name: The Avenger
Episode Title: Death In Mid-Air
Original Air Date: 9/28/45
Available On: ComicWeb Old Time Radio Programs, Sept. 12 2009
Sound Quality: Good

Those of you choosing to listen to The Avenger expecting it to be a version of the Street & Smith Avenger pulp are in for a shock. This is the Avenger in name only, Dick Benson and his agents are nowhere to be seen rather this series features Jim Brandon, a famous biochemist who fights crime using his most remarkable invention, the fusion capsule, to "cloak him in the black light of invisibility". He is aiding in his crime-fighting by his beautiful young assistant Fern Collier. If you've read this far and have even a passing knowledge of OTR it is obvious that this is a straight-up knock-off of the Shadow radio show. Even the tagline "The road to crime ends in a trap that justice sets, crime does not pay" and the slightly tinny, malevolent voice of the Avenger sets this up as a bargain basement Shadow clone.

I wasn't expecting much from this story but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a great little story as good or better than many of the Shadow shows. This, I have since discovered, probably has much to do with the fact that Walter Gibson was responsible for the plots! From the extra material included in the Sanctum Books Avenger reprint I've discovered that this series was offered as a olive branch offered by Street & Smith to the group who used to have syndication rights to the Shadow.

This particular episode involves murder at the bigtop. A trapeze artist falls to his death and he is the third to do so at this small circus. Jim Brandon is sure this isn't just an accident, it's an intentional crime! Most interesting to modern listeners is an appearance by a Liger, Napoleon Dynamite's "pretty much favorite animal".

The story clips by at a regular pace and features solid acting. I'm going to have to remove one "Golden Mask" simply for the derivative nature of the radio "Avenger" so we'll go with 3/5 Golden Masks

Nope, this isn't the Avenger that appears here, but it is a cool Jack Kirby picture of Dick Benson the "real" Avenger.


  1. Nice blog - good to see some reviews of OTR.

    Will you be doing things like the Rathbone radio Sherlock Holmes and Tales of Fatima and the many sf OTR shows, or primarily pulp detective related stuff?

  2. Thanks Stuart!

    I'll be reviewing a wide range of OTR shows and new Audio, probably about 6-10 a month. I have a review for "A Case for Doctor Morelle" a great British show on the first page. I'm sure I'll be getting to some Science Fiction sooner rather than later as Dimension X is a favorite of mine.

    Also, I'm currently composing my review of the new Doctor Who "Hornet's Nest" story.

  3. PS: Stuart, I'm a big fan of Paul Magrs and have been fully intending to pick up a copy of the Omnibus, great work on keeping the Iris torch burning!

  4. Thanks David. We're busy working on Iris Book 2 just now.

    Look forward to your reviews of Dimension X - a favourite of mine too!

  5. Years back, the Radio Spirits catalogue simply described The Avenger as "Copy of The Shadow." No respect whatsoever.