Jim Roeg’s description of “the Metropolis story” genre of Superman tales reminds me of one of my favorite radio dramas called Nightbeat and “starring Frank Lovejoy as Randy Stone,” a reporter for the Chicago Star who strolls the streets of windy city in search of a story for tomorrow morning’s column. Airing from 1950 to ’52, Nightbeat was a superior production thanks in large part to Frank Lovejoy, one of the finest radio actors with a distinctive voice that nonchalantly exuded cool, making his occasionally Chandlereque narration sound completely natural rather than self-consciously stylish.
Though his stories were usually the type that found their way to private investigators like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, the fact that Randy Stone was a reporter searching for a human interest story made him, if not less cynical, at least a little more sympathetic than the ordinary noir protagonist.
This situating of a reporter in a noir tale made for one of the best installments of the Bruce Timm-created Superman animated series. Titled “The Late Mr. Kent”, the episode not only features first person narration but one of the darkest endings of a children’s cartoon ever!
It begins with a memorial service for Clark Kent witnessed by Superman who then begins narrating in noirish voice-over how Clark’s “death” came about while investigating a murder. Not only does it end with a very crooked cop being executed via gas chamber (a Saturday morning first?), but he realizes Superman’s secret identity seconds beforehand, making Superman an unwitting beneficiary of his death!