In the eleventh episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast, Christopher Olson and I welcome friend of the podcast Blair Davis of DePaul University to discuss a pulp hero from the radio era, Captain Midnight.
Captain Midnight began as a radio serial in 1938 (which you can listen to here), at the dawn of the age of superheroes, and the character appeared in numerous other media during the 1940s, such as comic books, comic strips, and a film serial.There was even a television series for the character in the 1950s, although they didn’t get the naming rights for the character and had to change it to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando.
Beginning as a famous aviator tasked to fight crime and nefarious elements, over the years he has been adapted to become more of a superhero, complete with secret lair and advanced technology giving him inhuman abilities. The character was recently revived by Dark Horse Comics, where he truly seems to have become a standard superhero; this series just ended its run after two years.
Because of the character’s longevity and appearance in numerous media, this episode focuses on the adaptation of the character across these media, and how such adaptation also suggests that Captain Midnight was one of the earlier examples of transmedia storytelling, which is so common in our contemporary world of shared universes (e.g. the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Blair is an excellent guest in helping us understand the distinction, or lack thereof, between adaptations, reimaginings, spin-offs, and transmedia. And his idea of “transmedia archeology” is fascinating, especially given the appearance of characters like Captain Midnight in the “old media” of their time.
Overall, I feel this discussion truly shows how as more things change, the more they stay the same.
Have a listen, enjoy, and let us know what you think!