1943 Max Fleischer Superman Theatrical Shorts
I remember watching some of these as a kid and not appreciating them at all; they looked scratchy on my old VHS and hard to see. It’s a revelation to be able to re-watch them now.
- I’m bowled over by the animation style in an 80 year old cartoon. It’s most definitely the pre-cursor to Batman: The Animated Series with the art-deco buildings, the fog hovering over the city and the attention to detail and sound. Every single electric buzz, hammer pounding a nail or building crashing down is given crystal clear sound and it just radiates off the TV. It’s alive and vibrant and feels timeless watching it now.
- Classic Superman and Lois; she always gets in trouble but does it with attitude and moxy and he always knows just when to bail her out. Great heroic feats abound all over this series.
- The theme song. I’ve been humming it for a week straight now. And I thought the Christopher Reeve song was iconic; this one is close.
- The shorts seem to change a bit once you hit episode 10 (Japoteurs) The focus of the stories switches to Superman fighting secret Japanese plots to destroy our army or Nazi criminal coups out to destroy America. You can hardly blame the creators at the time. There are also some episodes later on with no or garbled version of Superman’s theme, no Lois Lane sometimes, quick, abrupt endings and several that have Superman (as Clark) get beaten up or kidnapped. After watching the first batch of 9, this felt like a downgrade; even the animation isn’t as crisp and the sound effects I loved from the earlier episodes are gone entirely.
I went with “Electric Earthquake” episode 6(although “Terror on the Midway” is a close second). Mostly because of the amazing sound effects and the super heroics Superman gets to perform such as fighting against a meteor slowly dragged to Earth by an evil scientist.
The worst episodes are either “Japoteurs” or “The Mummy Rises”; “Japoteurs” is just plain insulting for the crass racism all over the cartoon; from the horrific accent to buck teeth and evil intentions , it’s just plain hard to sit through. “The Mummy Rises” is nearly all exposition about this ancient civilization and how this professor was trying to bring them back to life….SEE, Now I’m wasting your time! Anyways, not good at all.
Overall: I give this series 73/100; I checked to make sure this was a “film series” to include it here and I’m glad it was; it gives me even more appreciation for the lengths my favorite comic book mainstream media project Batman: The Animated Series than I did before.