Max Fleischer’s Superman (1941)

Film Title: Max Fleischer’s Superman superman

Year: 1941

Studio: Fleischer Studios

Silent or Talkie: Talkie

Genre: Adventure/Cartoon

Starring:

  • Joan Alexander – Lois Lane (voice)
  • Jackson Beck – Perry White / Narrator (voice)
  • Bud Collyer – Clark Kent / Superman (voice)
  • Jack Mercer – The Mad Scientist (voice)
  • Julian Noa – Perry White (voice)

Review

Warner Bros. continues their line of classic Superman-related releases with Max Fleischer’s Superman: 1941-1942, a collection of 17 theatrical shorts on 2 DVDs. Long before Brandon Routh, Christopher Reeve, George Reeves, or Kirk Alyn, the Superman cartoon was a marvel for young and old alike. These shorts echo the era in which they were produced. The backdrops are like film noir paintings, using elements of the city, shadows, and unique angles, while the characters are animated representations of wartime America. Coming in at roughly 10-minutes apiece, each short finds a mischievous entity looking to wreak havoc on the city, and star reporter Lois Lane somehow getting caught in the middle. Naturally, Clark Kent becomes his alter-ego and races to stop the evildoer before it’s too late. While the plots are simple in comparison to today’s outlandish romps, each cartoon was handled as a major project. Orchestras scored the action, and the vibrant Technicolor landscapes made the audience feel as if they’d literally jumped into a comic book. This early 1940s Superman was hell-bent on restoring order; and in one comic book sequence, he even brings Adolph Hitler to justice. There are small nuances scattered throughout each short that remind the viewer of the time period. For example, the police officers use Thompson submachine guns as their primary weapon. Aside from the shorts themselves, this collection includes some excellent bonus features. The first is titled The Man, The Myth, Superman. This featurette examines not only the history of Superman, but the culture which shaped the human need for a hero. The origins of a “super man” are traced all the way back to Greek mythology to figures like Achilles, and even further back to Egyptian cave drawings. The second bonus is titled First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series. This featurette delves more into the beginnings of this particular series, including the invention of Fleischer’s “Rotoscope”, which changed the animation process. Interviews with Fleischer’s son and former animators lend an even greater depth to the story. Finally, Warner Bros. grants us an early, sneak peek at the upcoming animated feature, The Green Lantern. Though these shorts fall primarily between 1941 and 1942, there are a few episodes that were produced in 1943. The episode list is as follows: Superman (Mad Scientist), The Mechanical Monsters, Billion Dollar Limited, Arctic Giant, The Bulleteers, The Magnetic Telescope, Electric Earthquake, Volcano, Terror on the Midway, The Japoteurs, Showdown, The Eleventh Hour, Destruction , Inc., The Mummy Strikes, Jungle Drums, Underground, Secret Agent. Max Fleischer’s Superman is a must-see for fans of the man of steel; but also, it’s an important landmark in animation history and a reflection on the greatest generation.

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