Most people know of the old Superman Radio show from the 40s. Back then Radio was the only way to get media performed by Actors into your homes.
What isn't so well known is that while they're not always on the Radio, audio dramas still exist, and some famous DC Comics story-lines have become Audio Dramas. I myself learned this in the last 24 hours pretty much.
One reason they are missed is that they are often labeled Audiobooks on Amazon, which they are technically. But they are not just a narrator reading a prose story to you, like the Silmarilion audio book (which I bet is the most frequently used Audio book for Youtube source material).
These are stories made like Radio plays, with voice actors playing roles. And also sound effects.
I'm unsure how many if any are actually licensed by DC Comics. Few have Wikipedia pages (none are on IMDB but neither is the classic Radio show). Only 3 that all had the same director are on a website called AudioDramaWiki. At least one on it's official website seems to define itself as not affiliated with DC Comics in anyway. Yet it seems that one (unless there there is more then one of No Man's Land) is sold on Amazon, Amazon doesn't sell things not officially licensed.
I have listened to only one thus far, it's the Death and Return of Superman storlyine, but some of They Saved Luthor's Brain and other earlier storlyines are covered in the first half hour to set things up. That first half hour takes the most liberties, once the proper storlyine is in play, it cuts stuff out of course but what it covers is a word for word dramatization.
Of the stuff cut out some scenes I miss more then others, mainly a couple key Lex scenes.
The first half hour is the kind of material I have more patience for then most, (it's 2 hours and 37 minutes total) lots of exposition explaining how the (then) current Superman mythos work to non comic readers, including key Chekovs guns. There are also cool moments there however, introducing the form of Lex Luthor least well known to non Comic Readers, the Lex Luthor Jr version.
But once the actual Doomsday battle starts it becomes a very fast paced intense and emotional story, and very suspenseful. A story being told in sound only can stimulate the brain in unique ways, making you use your imagination like reading does, but still giving you the emotional investment that only a performance can make possible. It's something I think more people should try out.
The Sound effects are phenomenal.
The actors I think were great, they're in no way confusable with the kind of acting the DC animated projects go for, but I think just as rewarding to listen to. No one is Orson Wells, but they all I think could have carried a Mercury Radio play with him.
Lois Lane is the most perfect, so often Lois and other female leads get labaled the weakest link in various CB projects. I don't tend to join that bandwagon nearly as often as is popular, but sometimes I do feel male writers and casting directors don't know how to handle iconic female characters. This Lois voice was to me the perfect voice for who Lois was at this time, (this was made when the story-line was very recent history, in the early 90s). And I may even be willing to say the best Lois performance of all, but there are others I like.
Clark Kent/Superman's voice can't compete with Tim Dally or Geroge Newborne. And would probably ultimately lose to Bud Collyer also. And even though he's done Superman only once I'll say the same of the lead in Superman Unbound. But he works well, and follows the tradition of changing his voice between Clark and Superman. The same actor does the Visored Superman, with a very different tone, and is really good at that role.
Jimmy, Perry, Turpin, Sawyer, Westfield, XX, Guardian, Cat, Tana Moon and Hamilton and other small roles were all good.
The character this indisputably dramatizes better then anything else is Doomsday himself. It seems the beast infamous for being the one thing that could Kill Superman always disappoints when brought to life visually, animation or live action. But here, only hearing his roars and the damage he causes, it really sells that this is an unstoppable force of destruction.
The Supergirl voice is distinct from what you might be used to for Supergirl but well done. Thing is without the grander context of her character's arc (this is the Matrix not Kara), the problomaticness of her seemingly blind devotion to Lex is harder to handwave away.
Only voice I really dislike is Superboy's, I do not buy that as a real 15 year old at all. Cyborg Superman however was played by the same Actor and that voice was really really cool.
For Steel, at first I doubted that was an actual African American actor playing him, and my doubts remain, but in time I came to believe he was that character. I'm no expert at discerning ethnicity from voices however.
I shall finish on Lex, who was awesome. Since only one actor for Lex Luthor was in the credits, I shall assume both Lex Luthor voices heard are the same actor, and it certainly sounds plausible. But the accent isn't the only way his voice changes, as the original Lex he also sounds older.
I'm glad they indeed used an Australian Accent, at first I was unsure this was the kind of Australian accent I wanted, but it grew on me pretty quickly. The voice for the original Lex doesn't disappear entirely after transformation, unlike in the comics it returns when he fully drops his figurative mask.
The two Lex scenes missing that I really miss are when he snaps and starts beating up Doomsday's body, the onlookers think he's mourning Superman, but he's really angry he didn't get to Kill him. The other I can't begrudge them as much for since it's after where they closed their narrative, is when he is convinced the real Superman is real.
What remains is the scene of him Alone in Superman's Tomb after reclaiming the body from Cadmus. In the Comic he also plays this as his victory over Superman, but it's clearly really just a consolation prize, getting to bury him since he couldn't kill him. My only gripe with Lex in this Audio Drama is that it seems like Superman's Death by Doomsday was something Lex was totally okay with, the usage of the Only One Allowed to Defeat You trope is gone.
Some people have expressed concern that the Audio Drama doesn't address how Clark Kent's presumed death is resolved. I feel the answer to that dilemma was sufficiently set up in advance, in one scene at the Daily Planet.
The Credits at the ends are spoken to the audience, I think by the same Actor who is Lois. What I like is how enthusiastic she was about it, she did not seem to view it as a chore.
Soon I intend to listen to the one for Knightfall which had the same director but a different story structure being 3 minute episodes. Unlike above, this is a storlyine for which, I may kill a lot of my Nerd Cred here, I haven't read the Comics. Only glimpse I've had into that Batman era is in Robin Flying Solo.
There are plenty that still have no Audio Dramas, but I would love to see made. Bruce Wayne Murder/Fugative, Robin Unmasked, Batman War Drumes, War Games and War Crimes. And Robin and Batgirl's adventures in Bludhaven after War Games (for Under the Red Hood the animated movie is adequate, my only gripe is not mention any of that prior history, but that's because those storlyine are more interesting to me anyway). It'd be cool if they could do those Batman stroylines with Bruce Greenwood. And the Shipper in me really wants the StephCass moments not to be cut.
Outside of Batman, I want Identity Crisis, OMAC Project, and Villains United. The Wolfman Perez Teen Titans storlyines, and the Geof Johns era Teen Titans as well.
Update: I've listened to Knightfall
It has Michael Gough, as Alfred, the same Alfred as the Burton-Shumacker movies. That's really surreal, hearing the definitive Alfred of the 90s in something actually based on the comics. This was made before Forever so he interacted with Tim Drake before he did Dick Grayson, and most people have no idea.
Upon further research the Actor playing Steel was Black, but he wasn't African American, these were produced in England, I think his voice has that awkward vibe as first possibly because he had more trouble doing an American accent then the others.
I expected that an only 3 hours long Knightfall adaptation wouldn't include Robin Flaying Solo, but it did have one scene from it. That's a novel I got mainly for Stephanie Brown, who I observed early on wasn't in the cast for this.
About the character of Jeon-Paul Valley, as a famous Billionaire Playboy once said, a guy who dresses up as a Bat clearly has issues. I loved that they named this French catholic Order after Alexandre Dumas.
I see they borrowed that whole psychologist condemning Batman and defending the Akrham inmates routine from DKR.
It was pretty awesome, the Bane Voice it not like any you've heard before and it's great. Both Batmans were done well. Renee Montoya and a number of female character are the same actress as Lois Lane from the Death of Superman, and she did very well. However her Lady Shiva accent was kind of offensive.
I'm gonna make perhaps the most controversial claim in this post right now. For a voice only performance of The Joker, I like this guy better then Mark Hamil. Hamil is great, he got better over the years, but this guy was truly psychotic. He's not better then Ledger but miles ahead of Nicholson.
I commented on the Credits sequence for the Superman one. This one is done differently, and I don't want to spoil it.