Besides being the scourge of evil cultists, sorcerer crime lords and the Panthers of Istanbul, our pal Kalimán was also a genuine media sensation. As we’ve already seen, Kalimán made a successful leap into comic books and a mostly decent hop into movies, but until fairly recently he never strayed from his birthplace — radio.
The man of mystery came to life in 1963 after Radio Cadena Nacional broadcast its first Kalimán episode on channel 1110 AM in Mexico City. The show starred Luis Manuel Pelayo as Kalimán and Luis de Alba as Solín, though Pelayo wouldn’t get on-air credit since once of the conceits of the broadcast was that it was hosted by Kalimán himself. Joined by the smooth narration of Isidro Olace, the exploits of the peace-lovin’, face-punchin’ hero was pretty much a hit from the start.
Before it was over, the show would log more than 100,000 hours of radio, planting an iconic character so deeply into the Mexican psyche that you can’t bring it up to someone from Mexico without them belting out, “KA! LI! MAAAANNN!!” Like, right in your face. The same goes for Colombia — using the original radio plays and Colombian actors, broadcaster Todelar would have similar success with Kalimán, and no doubt just as much shouting.
Back in Mexico, Kalimán enjoyed a place on the airwaves with both original episodes and reruns as recently as 2008, where shows were still being broadcast on XERL Radio Colima. As far as I can tell, though, there aren’t any stations broadcasting Kalimán anymore, anywhere. And it’s a shame, but these radio shows (and the comics, for that matter) aren’t even available as any kind of collection. Just as it happened with Golden Age comics in the United States, it’s the fallout from producing something the general public viewed as disposable at the time and there’s precious little of it out there now. So if you’re sitting on a stash of Kalimán stuff, you let me know, OK?
Luckily, some Kalimániacs out there seemed to have grabbed some of the radio plays (recording it right from the speakers, from the sound of some of them) and put the original audio on YouTube and for download from … ahem … other sources. Even it is limited, we’re lucky to have anything out there at all, and a lot of it is great. Take, for example, Kalimán in “The Queen of the Gorillas.” Oh, yeah … you heard me.
The show starts with the classic Kalimán opening, thundering out the hero’s name and going on to describe him as, “A gentleman to men! Gallant with the ladies! Tender with children … RELENTLESS WITH EVIL-DOERS! That is Kalimán — EL HOMBRE INCREIBLE!”
Unfortunately, that’s almost how it ends, too: This is the only part of the episode that’s available. C’mon, YouTube user Alisal88, get crackin’!
Still, for something that comes in at just a little under five minutes it’s packed fat with action. The story opens with Kalimán and Solín finally reaching a life-saving, secret oasis in an African desert, where they fill their water bags and plan to catch up to an expedition that will surely croak without their help. Suddenly, shots ring out — someone is shooting at Kalimán and Solín! So much for secret oases!
The pair hit the dirt, and Kalimán soon figures out that they must have been followed, as well as that the shooter is using a Winchester automatic. (When Solín asks him how he can tell, Kalimán tells him he recognizes the sound of the gunshot. Dude’s good. Real good.) Solín tells Kalimán that he’s worried about the horses, since if they get shot they’ll be screwed seeing as they’re out in the middle of a desert that was close to killing them already. Kalimán tells him not to worry; the shooter is alone, and only has three shots left. He’ll get him to waste those bullets and then grab him while he’s reloading, using himself as a target.
Telling Solín not to move, no matter what, Kalimán stands up as another shot ricochets past and says, “Come, assassin! You’ve failed again! Shoot! SHOOT!”
And then … cliffhanger! Argh! It’s like a shot to the gut with a Winchester automatic.