DIRECTORS: Dave Fleischer, I. Sparber, Izzy Sparber, Dan Gordon, & Seymour Kneitel
May Contain Spoilers!
Superman was born into print in April 1938 by two Jewish writer/artists Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster as World War II was looming. The roots of Superman may go back to 1800’s, but as the war broke out and Hitler’s vision of his army of Supermen was becoming reality, in propaganda terms anyway, Siegel and Shuster’s motives may have been more political than purely artistic.
But Superman’s evolution came from many sources. First he appeared in Action Comics, where he could leap buildings in a single bound rather than fly and it wasn’t until the Radio Show soon after that Kryptonite was devised and then introduced in print. But in 1941, just three years after Superman had arrived and World War II was literally just around the corner, producer Max Fleischer, known for the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons, began work on a series of 17 Superman shorts, beginning with Superman (aka The Mad Scientist) (1941). This was first time that Superman had appeared on the big screen and don’t forget that TV was still a way off at this point.
The beauty of these, looking back, is just how good they are. Simple, short and effective and compared to the George Reeves 1950’s series or the other serials, they hold up really well. The dialogue is short and sweet, focus is on the action and because it’s animation, the action can be anything that you can imagine. And this is Superman, unrestricted by special effects budgets or practical limitations, if you can imagine what this man can do, he can do it. Whether it be throwing a car, catching airliners of suppressing a volcano, Superman of the 1940’s was the most Super character to bear the name until the 1970’s.
Certainly worth a look and at only 9 minutes a piece, you won’t be bored.