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The 20-Year Wait for Inspector Henderson to Appear in Superman Comics

In "Follow the Path," I spotlight changes made to comic book characters that are based on outside media, as well as characters who entirely came from outside media. I’m sure you can think of other examples, so feel free to e-mail me at brianc@cbr.com if you want to suggest some other examples for future installments.

Today, we look at the oddly long delay for Inspector Henderson to make his debut in the Superman comic books (especially considering at one point the editor of the Superman titles said he HAD made his debut already)!

Now, you don't need me to tell you that comic books and television adaptations of comic books are MUCH different things. Anyone who has ever seen a TV show based on comics knows that there is always an increased amount of non-superpowered characters in every superhero series so that the show can avoid using expensive special effects as much as possible. It's why you get stuff like how the Legends of Tomorrow would always find ways to keep Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson from being on screen at the time during a mission because then there wouldn't be any good reason for them not to transform into the very powerful (but very expensive to film) Firestorm.

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Anyhow, before there was television, even, when special effects were not an issue, there was still a problem of needing to get plot across to the listener at home. Therefore, the creators of the Adventures of Superman radio show introduced a police contact for Superman called Inspector Bill Henderson.

Voiced by Matt Crowley and Earl George (later on in the series), Henderson was a valuable piece of exposition.

Years later, when the Adventures of Superman made the transition to television, the exposition aspect of the character was not as important, but now the "avoid using Superman as much as possible because of the special effects" aspect of the show came into play (a la the Firestorm situation), so the Adventures of Superman TV show was, in a lot of ways, more of a crime series than it was a superhero series. You had crime reporters, Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, along with their editor boss, Perry White, and their police contact, Inspector Bill Henderson, who would often coordinate cases with them.

Henderson was played by Robert Shayne.

As noted, though, the need for Henderson on radio and TV did not translate over to television. In the Superman comic books of the 1950s, Superman was going on outlandish adventures (or trying to keep Lois Lane from finding out his secret identity), so he had minimal interaction with the Metropolis police, so Inspector Henderson was unnecessary.

Fascinatingly, however, Mort Weisinger specifically noted in 1959's Superman #132 that Henderson HAD appeared in Superman comics before!

I have no idea where he was going with that. Could he have been honestly confused?

When Superman was adapted into a Filmation animated series in the late 1960s, Inspector Henderson was along for the ride...

But it was not until 1974, over THIRTY YEARS after the character was introduced on the radio show and over TWENTY years after he was introduced on the TV show, that Henderson made an appearance in Action Comics #440 (by Elliot S! Maggin, Curt Swan and Bob Oksner)...

Not much of an appearance, space-wise.

Four issues later (in a story by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger), Henderson plays a bigger role and right away, we see that Bates is taking for granted that we are all used to Superman and Henderson being close from the TV show, so their close relationship in the comic book did not need to be explained...

After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway took over Superman, which was now re-named Adventures of Superman, and so Wolfman and Ordway did little nods to the TV show, like prominently featuring Henderson...

In the 1970s, when Tony Isabella created Black Lightning, he had the comic book set in Metropolis' Suicide Slum and so Inspector Henderson was a regular supporting character in the series (initially he hunted down Black Lightning when he thought that the hero was actually a bad guy, but they eventually became allies)...

Therefore, recently, when Black Lightning got his own TV series, Inspector Henderson was adapted BACK into television! He's now played by Damon Gupton...

That's it for this installment of Follow the Path! If anyone else has a suggestion for a comic book character changing due to TV or movies, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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