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Saturday in the Sick Bed… with Headphones

by  in Comic News Comment
Saturday in the Sick Bed… with Headphones

Okay, just swimming in irony here.

The first week after putting up a column about deadlines, I found myself in very real danger of completely missing my own weekly deadline for the first time in years. I don’t mean late…. I mean no column at all.

The truth is that I got knocked flat on my back by some kind of horrible cold/flu thing and for the last few days I’ve mostly been a semi-conscious lump smelling vaguely of mentholatum. Really not up to working or reading or watching television or doing much of anything. So this is going to be a short one, today — but by God, I made it.

I did read some, but not enough to get much of a column out of any of it. What I’ve really been doing is lying in bed, listening to audiobooks on CD…. and it occurred to me that I’ve been meaning to mention some of those here for a while.

In particular, I wanted to plug the work of Dirk Maggs. He’s done a bunch of full-cast radio dramatizations for the BBC. Probably his most widely-known works were the BBC radio versions of Douglas Adams’ books he did — Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently, all that stuff.

They're a bit choppy and episodic to listen to all at once but a lot of fun, nevertheless. I don't know why the Superman title is different in the picture, mine has it as SUPERMAN LIVES!

What makes Mr. Maggs of interest to us is that he also produced a number of adaptations of comics storylines for radio, notably Batman: Knightfall and Superman Lives!

These I don't have, actually, but I imagine if you like one of the Maggs CDs you'll enjoy all of them. Mostly the same actors and production values in each.

Before that, he did The Adventures of Superman, and Superman on Trial. The first draws heavily on the John Byrne reboot The Man of Steel, though it’s not exactly a full-on adaptation of it. The second is a combination of an original drama and a 50th anniversary tribute. All are now out on CD.

Maggs also has produced an original Batman adventure, The Lazarus Syndrome, as well as a Judge Dredd radio play.

Of these three, I believe only the Batman one is commercially available on CD.

Marvel gets short shrift here, because even though Maggs also did an adaptation of Spider-Man for BBC radio during that same period in the 1990s, that one’s never been released. (Nor has the Dredd — Superman on Trial and The Lazarus Syndrome have only been available since last month as far as I know.)

In addition to Dirk Maggs’ BBC radio plays, there’s also a series of original DC audio dramas out there as well. The success of releasing the Maggs BBC radio stuff as the ‘audiobook edition’ of the novels based on Knightfall and The Death and Life of Superman meant that when it was turned into a novel by Elliott Maggin, Kingdom Come got an audiobook adaptation that was also done as a full-cast audio dramatization. It was received with mixed reviews, although I rather like it.

Also from the 1990s, you can get the audiobook adaptation of the Andrew Vachss Batman novel, The Ultimate Evil. This is just a straight audiobook, but read with great panache by Tony Roberts. (Yeah, the guy that was in all those Woody Allen movies. But he’s really good at reading this.)

Both of these are pretty good. Apparently, I like the Kingdom Come audiobook better than Mark Waid does.

These are only available on cassette, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some enterprising soul has converted them to mp3 and put them up somewhere on the net. (I don’t know of any, but even if I did I wouldn’t link to it here at CBR; you’ll have to do your own Googling.)

If I don’t mention them, I’ll be deluged with comments telling me I forgot, but the plain truth is that I have not yet checked out the new DC audioplays being produced directly for CD by Graphic Audio.

I enjoyed the books these are based on, certainly.

I am very interested in these, though, especially the ones that are adapted from the DC original novels that I enjoyed a lot, like John Shirley’s Batman book and Jeff Mariotte’s Trail of Time.

Haven't heard anything beyond a few samples, but I liked what I heard.

I liked the books these adaptations are based on, by and large, so I imagine I’ll probably really enjoy the adaptations as well. (You can hear preview samples on the site and those certainly sound like a good time.) Besides the DC audio CDs, Graphic Audio has a bunch of other stuff, too; their web site is well worth a browse if this is your kind of thing.

And there’s an entire fandom and subculture built around old-time radio dramas, of course. There’s lots of places that have The Shadow and The Lone Ranger on CD, and the Smithsonian’s been putting out some very nice collections of the 1940s Superman show in collaboration with Radio Spirits, as well.

These haven't aged that well, and a little goes a long way -- but it's nice to have them out there.

Those should be enough to get you started, anyway. If you’ve never really been into audiobooks or radio drama in general, well, you’re missing out. I find that it’s just as soothing to lie back and listen to someone tell me a story today, even though I’m pushing fifty, as it was when I was just a kid. It’s especially nice when I’m not feeling that great.

Like, for example, today. I think I have about enough stamina left to get this proofed and posted, and then it’s back to bed for me. Julie’s already giving me the you’re supposed to be resting look.

So I’m calling it a day. See you all next week, and one hopes I’ll be feeling better by then.

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