Micro-Face gets an original comic book : Planet Money We have found the perfect superhero. Now we just have to make him our own. | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.
NPR logo

We Buy A Superhero 3: Resurrection

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/971227357/971999525" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
We Buy A Superhero 3: Resurrection

We Buy A Superhero 3: Resurrection

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/971227357/971999525" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCASTS)

NICK FOUNTAIN: Christmas tree here.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Make a T-shirt and then follow that shirt around the world as it gets made.

CHANA JOFFE-WALT: We were Toxie's last owners. She was our pet toxic asset.

ROBERT SMITH, HOST:

A hundred barrels of crude oil.

STACEY VANEK SMITH: Yes, we did.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Three, two, one. We have ignition.

SMITH: Oh, whoa.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, my gosh.

SMITH: This is PLANET MONEY Studios from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AMANDA ARONCZYK, BYLINE: I can narrate this for you. Is this - this is the last one?

KENNY MALONE, HOST:

Yup.

ARONCZYK: OK.

SMITH: Remember how in last week's episode we had just picked a public domain superhero called Micro-Face?

ARONCZYK: Micro-Face, yes.

SMITH: He was created in the 1940s.

MALONE: And we've done some research, and what we want you to narrate is, like, our comic bookified (ph) version of how we imagine the moment Micro-Face was created.

ARONCZYK: Sounds good.

MALONE: We're very excited. We're going to shut our mics off. You ready?

ARONCZYK: Yeah.

PLANET MONEY Buys A Superhero - Issue No. 3. It opens in 1942. A man with a thin mustache is riding the subway. He mutters to himself...

SMITH: (As Allen Ulmer) I need a new character.

ARONCZYK: The man is comic book artist Allen Ulmer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUBWAY)

ARONCZYK: He hears an overhead announcement.

SMITH: (As announcer, unintelligible).

ARONCZYK: A woman sitting next to Ulmer turns to him.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Gee whiz. You'd think that announcer has a microphone strapped to his face or something.

SMITH: (As Allen Ulmer) Sure, and you'd need super hearing to understand it.

ARONCZYK: The next panel shows a lightbulb drawn over Allen Ulmer's head.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

ARONCZYK: We cut to the office of Hillman publishing, home of Clue Comics, where Allen Ulmer is at his desk frantically drawing.

SMITH: (As Allen Ulmer) OK, we got the super hearing side of the mask and - oh, yeah, yeah, a microphone - yeah, a nice big microphone right here in his face.

ARONCZYK: Allen Ulmer's mind is racing.

SMITH: (As Allen Ulmer) OK, OK, OK. How about eyes - eyes that can see through anything? No, no, no - almost anything.

ARONCZYK: And so a new superhero was born.

SMITH: (As Allen Ulmer) Just one more line and...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: (As Allen Ulmer) ...Micro-Face.

ARONCZYK: Micro-Face.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ARONCZYK: Allen Ulmer finishes his sketch, turns off his desk lamp and looks at a picture of his 5-year-old daughter, Peggy (ph).

SMITH: (As Allen Ulmer) I'm coming home, Peggy. I'm going to make my famous beef Wellington.

ARONCZYK: Mmm. Beef Wellington.

Kenny, can I be done? What is this?

MALONE: It's going to be - it's going to come back. It's...

ARONCZYK: (Laughter) OK.

MALONE: OK, whatever. Thank you, Amanda. You're perfect. You're done.

ARONCZYK: Great. Thank you.

MALONE: You've been spectacular.

ARONCZYK: Don't call me. I'll call you (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MALONE: Hello, and welcome to PLANET MONEY. I'm Kenny Malone.

SMITH: And I'm Robert Smith.

MALONE: Audio embellishments aside, Allen Ulmer really was the creator of Micro-Face, the PLANET MONEY superhero. He did not own the rights. His company did. And the company never renewed the copyright. Micro-Face was forgotten.

SMITH: Our mission today is to do what Allen Ulmer was never allowed to do - finish the story, update it for the 21st century and have Micro-Face live again, but this time in our world, in the world of business and economics.

MALONE: Today on the show, we are going to figure out how to build a new superhero franchise from the ground up. And who knows? If we do this right, Micro-Face could be bigger and more lucrative than the Hulk.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: He is the biggest.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: Right here in my hands is what Allen Ulmer created in 1942 - Clue Comics issue No. 1, the very first comic book appearance of Micro-Face.

MALONE: In this origin story, our hero is an inventor and mechanic named Tom Wood. We see him at a defense factory, tinkering with a plane engine when his colleague comes running into the panel and says, quote...

SMITH: (As character) Say, Tom Wood, you're wanted on the phone.

MALONE: Tom picks up the phone. It's the police.

SMITH: (As character) This Tom Wood?

MALONE: (As Micro-Face) What?

SMITH: (As character) We're sorry to report, sir, that your brother was murdered.

MALONE: (As Micro-Face) What?

SMITH: Tom wants revenge, goes back to his house, where he pulls a strange mask from a drawer.

MALONE: (As Micro-Face) Maybe at last I've found a use for my Micro-Mask invention, which the government turned down.

SMITH: Yeah, I guess Tom Wood tried to sell this mask to the Defense Department. That's the first and last we hear of this particular plot point.

MALONE: But we do see a patent drawing of the Micro-Mask's powers.

SMITH: Super sensitive hearing.

MALONE: Photoelectric eyes, which can penetrate almost anything.

SMITH: And microphone-amplified voice, which can appear to come from anywhere.

MALONE: In the next panel, we see Tom Wood wearing the mask and announcing himself to the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MALONE: (As Micro-Face) Crime can blame none but itself for its most dreaded menace, Micro-Face.

SMITH: A little bit of a confusing sentence. So he's a menace to crime itself.

MALONE: Yes, that's what's written there - to the crime. And they have only themselves to blame for him becoming their menace.

SMITH: Makes sense. Now, here is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of our plan for world superhero domination. In order to make money off a superhero, you need to own the copyright to that character.

MALONE: But remember; no one owns the copyright to Micro-Face because he is in the public domain. Everything in that old comic book we just read is public domain.

SMITH: Yeah, the story, the design of Micro-Face, the alter ego - inventor/mechanic Tom Wood, all the superpowers.

MALONE: If we were going to try and sell a T-shirt with Micro-Face for $18, I mean, we're allowed to do that. But you, dear listener, you could sell that exact same T-shirt and only charge $15. We can't sue you.

SMITH: No. In fact, we would have to probably buy your T-shirts and then sell them for $18 - make a little profit.

MALONE: There is, however, an exception to the public domain rule that is critical for us. If we do add things to Micro-Face's story, if we can improve him in some way - we can give him new superpowers, a new identity, change the design - we will own all of those changes. PLANET MONEY would hold the copyright to that new version of Micro-Face. So you would have Allen Ulmer's version of Micro-Face, which we cannot own, but we would create PLANET MONEY's version of Micro-Face, which would be different enough for us to own.

SMITH: The best way to do all this, to reboot a character, is actually the old-fashioned way. We need to make a comic book of our own, "The New Adventures Of PLANET MONEY's Micro-Face." Like, I'm imagining something that will look totally authentic, with pictures and the dialogue bubbles, printed on real paper. That will conveniently cement our ownership.

MALONE: Now, of course, we have no idea how you actually make a comic book.

SMITH: Nope.

MALONE: And so we needed a guide, someone who knows everybody in the comic book industry.

Hey, Alex.

ALEX SEGURA: How's it going?

MALONE: I think we're ready to tell you which superhero we want to go with.

SEGURA: I'm excited.

SMITH: Alex Segura is the co-president of Archie Comics. We talked to him in the very first episode of the series, when he refused to sell us one of his superheroes.

MALONE: He was understandably not helpful back then. But Alex is a close friend of mine, and he told us at the time that if somehow we did end up with our own superhero character, he would personally take off his Archie president hat and put on his freelance comic writer - I don't know - visor, whatever it would be, and then he would actually do a comic book for us.

SMITH: We explained the whole thing to him - how we had found someone who was basically like a podcaster but in the public domain from 1942.

SEGURA: What's his name? What's his, like, superhero name?

MALONE: So you want to take any guesses of what you might expect his name to be?

SEGURA: Microphone Man. The Recorder. The Speaker.

MALONE: All very good names. The name for the character is Micro-Face.

SEGURA: Micro-hyphen-Face.

MALONE: It is Micro-hyphen-Face.

SEGURA: That's an unfortunate name.

(LAUGHTER)

SEGURA: It's not a good name.

SMITH: But as we kept pitching Alex, showing him our enthusiasm, sending him some of the panels from the old comic books...

SEGURA: That's a pretty cool costume.

MALONE: It's not bad.

SEGURA: It's not bad.

MALONE: He is jacked.

SEGURA: Yeah, he's got, like, 15 abs.

MALONE: He has more abs than I would have known were possible.

SEGURA: And not as many fingers as he probably should.

MALONE: He has the right amount on his right hand, and there's a confusing number on his left hand.

SEGURA: Yeah.

MALONE: Who knows? He's a mechanic. Maybe he lost some fingers.

SEGURA: This could be worked with. This is very basic superhero costuming. It's a good starting point.

MALONE: OK, good.

SMITH: All right. Alex is in. We have a bona fide comic book executive who is going to write the new Micro-Face story for our brand-new comic book.

MALONE: Now, Alex explains that we do need to make a few decisions first because when you're reviving an old character and when you want to make it, you know, like the old version but just different enough to satisfy the lawyers, of course, there are a few classic ways to do a reboot. No. 1, continuity.

SMITH: This is where our comic book would just continue the existing Micro-Face story, set our comic in the 1940s and literally pick up where Al Ulmer left off.

MALONE: (As Micro-Face) Again, as I said 11 episodes ago, crime can blame none but itself for its most dreaded menace, Micro-Face.

SMITH: I'm already a little bored. Let's not do this one.

MALONE: On the other end of the spectrum is the homage, where our comic book doesn't worry too much about the existing canon. We just let the old stuff inspire us to make a whole new thing.

SMITH: We could just make up any story about a sound-wielding superhero. Maybe an archaeologist...

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMB CREAKING)

SMITH: ...Opens the tomb of Sonos (ph), the god of sound, and finds...

MALONE: (As Micro-Face) What is this, a mask?

SMITH: ...A burial mask that gives the powers of amplification.

MALONE: (As Micro-Face) Crime can blame none but itself for its dreaded menace, Micro-Face.

Which, you know, maybe. But we really do love, like, the old Micro-Face. We love the weird character and all the weird details that Al Ulmer created, and so we don't want to just throw those out, which leaves us a third choice - the legacy route.

SMITH: What if in our comic book, we pretend that all of the old Micro-Face stories really did happen back in the 1940s, Micro-Face really was this inventor of the mask, but the mask itself is passed on somehow?

(As Micro-Face's grandson) What's this? Pop-pop's mask?

MALONE: Yeah. Maybe it's like a grandson who discovers the mask in the attic.

SMITH: (As Micro-Face's grandson) I'm going to put it on. Crime can blame none but itself for its most dreaded menace, Micro-Face. Cool. I sound like Grandpa. Maybe I can buy beer.

MALONE: OK, so maybe not that version of the legacy. I feel like maybe I've already seen that in a movie anyway. But 100% yes to the legacy approach. Like, this feels exactly right for a comic book. Allen Ulmer's Micro-Face passes on the legacy of the mask to PLANET MONEY's new hero.

SMITH: We have a modest budget to pay Alex for the story and bring on whatever artist he feels he needs to make this happen. And I got to say, he does have an amazing Rolodex.

MALONE: It is like assembling a band. So Alex is the lead singer-songwriter. The main artist is going to be our lead guitarist. And we needed somebody who could update Micro-Face's look, take this admittedly kind of weird, old character and turn him into a modern-day classic. And we found a virtuoso.

JERRY ORDWAY: There's this saying in comics. There's no bad character; there's only bad, you know, handling of a character.

SMITH: Jerry Ordway is a legend. Over 40 years, he's drawn modern versions of all the famous golden age characters - Superman. He's been on Batman, Captain America.

MALONE: And Jerry says he is willing to help us. He pulls up a picture of the old Micro-Face - big helmet, mask - and he looks at that like a superhero plastic surgeon.

ORDWAY: I mean, it is very unusual and interesting that the original helmet or whatever it is has these two kind of projections on the side that are clearly some sort of - maybe a hearing device or microphone thing.

MALONE: They are, in fact, Micro-Face's super-ears.

ORDWAY: But they look almost like a floppy dog ear. And I said that really doesn't work unless he's, you know, got some kind of canine name or something.

MALONE: Excellent. So we are going to get an updated Micro-Face look from Jerry. We're going to get an updated Micro-Face story from Alex.

SMITH: And now we just need someone to make those little letters inside the dialogue bubbles. That's an actual job.

MALONE: What is your official title? It's letterist, letterer.

TAYLOR ESPOSITO: So I prefer letterer. Letterist, like, gives me the heebie-jeebies. It's like, ugh.

MALONE: Letterer is harder to say, I will say.

SMITH: Letterer - yeah.

ESPOSITO: It is. It's a lot of r-r-r-r (ph).

SMITH: This is Taylor Esposito. He says that the letterer is sort of like the bass player in the artistic band. You know, he sets the rhythm of the story. And kind of like the bass player, he never gets any credit.

MALONE: And so you know what? Here's an interview with the bassist, Taylor Esposito, letter master for the ages.

SMITH: Did you just have extraordinarily neat handwriting when you were growing up?

ESPOSITO: Oh, I have chicken scratch. It's awful (laughter).

MALONE: What have we done?

ESPOSITO: No, no. Luckily, today, everything is done digitally. It's more of a graphic design job these days than it is a hand-done job.

MALONE: So we got our story, we got our art, we got our words. This comic book team is starting to come together. And then we realized there is one more person that we probably should have on board before we start production on an entirely new comic book about Micro-Face, somebody who embodies the legacy of the original Micro-Face and could, with one little word, tank this entire project.

PEGGY LOUCKS: Hello.

MALONE: Hi. Is this Peggy?

LOUCKS: Yes, it is.

SMITH: The daughter of the original artist who created Micro-Face, Al Ulmer. Maybe we should have our lawyers here just in case it gets a little litigious. After the break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MALONE: You want to start by just telling us your name and who you are?

LOUCKS: Hi. Yes. I'm Peggy Loucks (ph), and I'm 83 years old. And I'm a retired librarian. And I'm the daughter of Allen Ulmer - U-L-M-E-R.

SMITH: When we found out that Al Ulmer's daughter, Peggy, was still alive, I was thinking, yes. I have so many questions for her.

MALONE: I, on the other hand, was nervous because, look; we don't need Peggy's permission to do anything with her father's character, Micro-Face, since he is in the public domain. But like, look; if she hates this project, I mean...

SMITH: Yeah, it would be a jerk move to be like, tough luck, lady; we're taking your father's idea and completely changing it and making a fortune off of it. So we started off with some easy questions for Peggy.

MALONE: Do you know what he thought about drawing superheroes? Did he enjoy doing superheroes in particular, creating them?

LOUCKS: Oh, yes. You know, the - especially some of these characters, they were always in tights with capes and, you know, some kind of headgear or masks.

SMITH: So what was your father like as a person?

LOUCKS: You know, he would've been really someone you would like to have known and been in their company. You know, he was a gourmet cook. His beef Wellington was to die for. We always waited for that.

SMITH: The Ulmers lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Peggy was 5 years old when her dad created Micro-Face.

LOUCKS: This guy with these goggled eyes and this nose with the microphone. I just - where did he come from?

SMITH: We were going to ask you the same thing. We were going to ask you, where did he come from?

MALONE: Where did he come from?

SMITH: Where?

LOUCKS: Where? Where? Truthfully, I don't know.

MALONE: Peggy says that she doesn't know the whole backstory, but Micro-Face was one of her dad's favorite characters, but he never really got the chance to have this character take off. After drawing just about six issues, her father went into the Army, served during World War II. And then after he got back, her dad got caught up in this huge moment, this huge change in comic book history that drove him from comics forever.

SMITH: This was in the 1950s. And there was this backlash amongst parents against comic books and superheroes. They blamed comic books for juvenile delinquency. There were congressional hearings. And eventually the industry created the Comics Code to, quote, "self-regulate content." What that really meant was...

LOUCKS: Comic books were censored, and it led to the loss of hundreds of artists and closed down many of the comic books - almost all of them.

MALONE: Her father lost his job during that and sort of also lost his will to try and do comics at all.

LOUCKS: Then he went into making filmstrips, educational filmstrips, which were a big thing at the time. And he just started doing fine arts. He did a lot of paintings up in - from Maine and here on Long Island of, you know, seashore and that type of thing.

SMITH: But he wasn't drawing any superheroes anymore.

LOUCKS: No, no. I think it left such a bitter taste in his mouth, you know, from doing something that you love to do and then to have people just randomly say, you know, forget it. You know, you're not good anymore. We don't want our children looking at anything you were drawing.

SMITH: Al Ulmer died at the age of 64. Peggy says that as a child, she never really followed comics or knew much about her father's work. But recently, she's been looking back at his collection. And sometimes she thinks that she sees her father - his little mustache, dark hair - drawn into the action.

MALONE: Now, after about 30 minutes of chitchat with Peggy...

SMITH: We did awkwardly start to broach the subject with her of PLANET MONEY's plan to reboot Micro-Face.

LOUCKS: Are you going to use this somehow in connection with your program or...

MALONE: Now, so...

SMITH: So go on, Kenny.

MALONE: Oh, go ahead, Robert. I was going to do...

SMITH: No, I was going to say so we are doing this radio series where we're talking about public domain and about how characters got lost and...

MALONE: So we explained how we'd found Micro-Face and about how we were going to reboot him as the grandson of her father's version of Micro-Face.

SMITH: Make a new comic book, maybe a limited selection of Micro-Face merchandise, which would not bring in a ton of money, to be honest.

MALONE: And it would go to NPR anyway.

SMITH: Yeah. Really, it's nonprofit.

MALONE: So what do you think about that?

LOUCKS: I think it's great. Oh, that is wonderful.

MALONE: I got to be honest, that's a relief to hear. We were worried your reaction would be, call my lawyer.

LOUCKS: Oh. No, I'm beyond those years.

(LAUGHTER)

LOUCKS: Way beyond (laughter). I think it's great. I really do. And I'd like to be the first one to get a T-shirt with his photo on it.

MALONE: OK.

LOUCKS: (Laughter).

SMITH: And with that last piece of business taken care of, we call forward the PLANET MONEY comic book team to assemble.

SEGURA: Alex Segura, story.

ORDWAY: Jerry Ordway, cover artist.

ESPOSITO: Taylor Esposito, lettering monkey.

MALONE: Lettering monkey is too mean to yourself.

ESPOSITO: (Laughter).

MALONE: And Peggy.

LOUCKS: Peggy Loucks, retired librarian.

MALONE: Now, we gave the team a few weeks to come up with a rough outline of the new PLANET MONEY version of Micro-Face, the comic book.

SMITH: Jerry, the artist, sent the new look of Micro-Face. The mask is much more streamlined. There's less - how would you say?

MALONE: Canine - less dog, yeah.

SMITH: Less dog-looking. Plus, now you see a chin, little - a little emotion behind the mask.

MALONE: Taylor, the letterer, he designed, like, a brand-new, almost '80s video game logo for Micro-Face.

SMITH: And Alex, the writer, sent over a story outline. He told us he really connected with the legacy part of this story. Alex is from Miami. His parents are Cuban. And he came up with this brand-new character inspired a little bit by his upbringing. The character is Sam Salazar.

MALONE: And here, for the very first time, is our version of Micro-Face and a taste of the story that will be in PLANET MONEY's comic book. It begins with Sam Salazar, an investigative business reporter, which, obviously, we love.

SMITH: Love it.

MALONE: And he happens to be investigating the bad guys, who happen to be a private equity firm.

SMITH: Ooh, I see some learning in there.

MALONE: Now, in the new origin story for PLANET MONEY's Micro-Face, we see Sam Salazar in his closet, finishing up a radio story.

DANNY RIVERO, BYLINE: (As Sam Salazar) But still no one knows why the Golden Age Private Equity Group is buying and gutting these beloved old companies. For Financial Radio, I'm Sam Salazar.

(As Sam Salazar) Oh, I'm so sick of reporting in this stupid closet.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

RIVERO: (As Sam Salazar) Hello. Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I can't tell you who I am, but Golden Age Private Equity is going after Wood Family Inventions.

RIVERO: (As Sam Salazar) That's my grandfather's old company.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) He invented something that they're after. I don't have time...

(SOUNDBITE OF DIAL TONE)

RIVERO: (As Sam Salazar) What? What?

(SOUNDBITE OF DOOR BUZZING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As courier) Sam Salazar?

RIVERO: (As Sam Salazar) Yeah?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As courier) Somebody paid a lot of money to send this to you, kid.

RIVERO: (As Sam Salazar) It says it's from my grandpa. He's been dead for 10 years.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As courier) I don't know what to tell you, kid.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOX OPENING)

RIVERO: (As Sam Salazar) It's some kind of mask.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: What's going to happen next? Well, you're going to have to pay to read the comic book.

MALONE: I hope this works. We're very bad at selling things.

SMITH: We can do it.

MALONE: OK, let's do it.

PLANET MONEY's Micro-Face comic book is available at a special preorder price starting right now at npr.org/microface.

SMITH: One second. I'm getting a pen to write that down. What was that again?

MALONE: Npr.org/microface.

SMITH: Should I put a hyphen in it?

MALONE: You can put a hyphen in it or not.

SMITH: What?

MALONE: It'll all take you there.

SMITH: Npr.org/microface - got it. I think it'll take a few months to fully write and produce and print this comic. We're going to follow the process and tell you all about it in a few months. Again, that is npr.org/microface.

MALONE: Also, you know, we did think that a comic book was all we would be selling today.

SMITH: Sure, that's a lot.

MALONE: But when Peggy Loucks told us...

LOUCKS: And I'd like to be the first one to get a T-shirt.

MALONE: We were like, oh, crap. We really probably should make a T-shirt.

SMITH: Yeah.

MALONE: And we did - three of them.

SMITH: What?

MALONE: Including one shirt that you can completely steal and resell featuring the public domain, wonderfully weird face of Al Ulmer's Micro-Face.

SMITH: In fact, you should tell us if you can double our price...

MALONE: Yeah, let us know.

SMITH: ...And sell it someplace else. We actually want to know.

And, Kenny, that's not all. Over the next couple of months, we want to crank up the merchandising opportunities for the new Micro-Face.

MALONE: We want to learn all of the ways that you can license a superhero and then follow that process.

SMITH: We're now in the superhero business. Do you own a toothpaste company? A movie studio?

MALONE: Yeah.

SMITH: A Broadway theater?

MALONE: Bup, bup, bup, bup, bup, bup, bup (ph).

SMITH: You want to license PLANET MONEY's Micro-Face? Well, we're in business now. We own it. Seriously, we're taking all meetings. Give us a call. You can contact us - planetmoney@npr.org.

MALONE: We are serious. We want to talk licensing. Please call us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: At this point, I should take off my capitalist top hat...

MALONE: Yes.

SMITH: ...Take out my money-making monocle...

MALONE: Yes.

SMITH: ...And put back on my journalist baseball cap and say that all proceeds from the Micro-Face project go to NPR to support the programming that you know and love.

And as a journalist, we would love to hear what you thought about, you know, the actual learning and ideas in this series. We are planetmoney@npr.org. We always love to hear from you there or on any of the socials - @planetmoney. We're on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the TikTok.

MALONE: If you know a comic book fan who would love this series, you can send them the entire series at the website npr.org/superhero. That is npr.org/superhero.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SMITH: PLANET MONEY Buys A Superhero creative team - project manager James Sneed, sound designer Maria Paz Gutierrez, engineer Gilly Moon, narrator Amanda Aronczyk, series editor Liza Yeager, micro-consulting Dan Girma, PLANET MONEY editor Bryant Urstadt, supervising producer Alex Goldmark.

MALONE: Comic book team - writer - Alex Segura; cover art - Jerry Ordway; interior art - Peter Krause; letterer - Taylor Esposito; colorist - Ellie Wright.

SMITH: PLANET MONEY staff - Mary Childs, Nick Fountain, Sarah Gonzalez, Jacob Goldstein, Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi, Emma Peaslee, Greg Rosalsky, Darian Woods, Karen Duffin, Dave Blanchard.

MALONE: Visual team - Keith Jenkins, Nicole Werbeck, LA Johnson, Siena Mae, Bronson Arcuri, Tsering Bista.

SMITH: Marketing team - Kristin Hume, Jane Scott, Rachel Buse (ph), Jewelan Cleveland, Carlee Ingersoll, Kelsey Page.

MALONE: Web and digital team - Stacey Goers, Patrick Cooper, Alison Hofer, Ryan Patecell, Vick Krishnaswamy (ph), Todd Welstein, Grant Dickie.

SMITH: Legal team - Ashley Messenger, Kimberly Chow Sullivan. And for copyright searches, Jennifer Jenkins and Balfour Jones (ph).

MALONE: Special thanks - Neal Carruth, Mathilde Piard, Anya Grundmann, Nick Kaplan (ph).

SMITH: And introducing Gene Luen Yang as the voice of the Green Turtle and WLRN's Danny Rivero as the voice of Sam Salazar. I'm key grip Robert Smith.

MALONE: I'm best boy Kenny Malone.

SMITH: This is NPR. Thanks for listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Meanwhile, back at Golden Age Private Equity headquarters.

MALONE: (As character) Sir, I have some bad news. We weren't able to find the mask. It seems to have fallen into the hands of a reporter named Salazar.

SMITH: (As character) I don't know why I even employ you. You had one job. Luckily, I knew you were going to fail. That's why I have developed...

(SOUNDBITE OF CRUNCHING)

SMITH: (As character) ...A robot to take your job, the Master Business Ass-Kicker, the MBA 2000.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As MBA 2000) Follow me on LinkedIn or die.

SMITH: (As character) A robot who will do what you can't do.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As MBA 2000) Commence Micro-Mask acquisition.

SMITH: (As character) A robot, you may notice, has no ears, has no hearing. The Micro-Mask is useless against him.

MALONE: (As character) I love it, boss. It's amazing.

SMITH: (As character) Yeah, well, you're fired.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.