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Max Fleischer's SUPERMAN

(1941 - 1943)

By Tom BakerPublished about a month ago 4 min read

I watched all seventeen short episodes of Max Fleischer's excellent, excellent "Superman" series from the early Forties, from start to finish. They were great, well-animated, slam-bang actioners the lot of them, and, although there was little plot to get in the way of the derring-do, they were all that much more a visceral bang of enjoyment, an old-fashioned childlike pulp fiction, comic book dive into all-American costumed hero mythology.

Superman, Clark Kent, and Lois Lane, his spunky girl reporter gal pal, have a great time getting themselves (mostly Lois) knee-deep in supervillain hot water, as Lois is repeatedly kidnapped by evil geniuses plotting destruction. She gets herself into a lot of trouble when she sneaks aboard a B52 Flying Fortress which has baby prop planes inside its tail, which has been hijacked by the "Japoteurs" (yeah, yeah, but it was right after Pearl Harbor). The Japanese in these cartoons are all wildly uh, "un-PC" stereotypes that would create a firestorm of anger and canceling if brought out today. I maintain that judging a book or film based on modern standards when it was created eighty, ninety, a hundred years ago, is just wrongheaded.

Most of the stories unveiled here are somewhat redundant, with Lois getting kidnapped after a brief "Set-up" of the scene, and Clark coming to the rescue, stripping down to his famous red and blue skivvies, and saying "This is a job for Superman!" in a voice that drops an octave to as more "manly" baritone when he says the name "Superman."

Some episodes are over before you know it. Notable ones include "The Mechanical Monsters," in which Superman rescues Lois from giant killer robots, and "The Bulleteers," in which Superman saves Lois from costumed baddies in a bullet car, which he later destroys. "The Arctic Giant" sees an expedition to a frozen wasteland to awaken a prehistoric lizard-thing (that is still rather cutesy and cartoon-like), and the "Magnetic Telescope" has a mad scientist (or mad astronomer in this case) using a magnetic scope to pull a comet into Earth's orbit, but it gets out of control and Superman has to regulate that bitch.

"The Electric Earthquake" features another sensitive racial stereotype, in the character of a Native American supervillain who goes to the Daily Planet complaining that Manhattan belongs to his tribe. (I didn't even know Metropolis was in Manhattan, FFS; I mean, where in the hell is Gotham City located, huh?) He's another supervillain sci-fi inventor with an underwater electric earthquake machine he's going to use to turn Metropolis/Manhattan to toast. Superman, as can be imagined, flies in to shut that bitch down.

We also have completely racially insensitive portrayals of Haitian or island people with bones in their noses in "Jungle Drums." The natives are the dupes of Nazi saboteurs. Yes, Hitler himself makes a cameo, along with a guy that just sort of looks like Hitler; but Der Fuhrer is all over this bitch, and Superman, yet again, has to whoop ass on that little Charlie Chaplin moustache-wearing fascist shitbag.

(Note: Despite the subject matter, this review might be just a little salty for the youngins.)

I can't remember much about the other short little comic book vignettes. They all pretty much follow the same pattern. "Terror on the Midway" is a circus-themed story with a cartoon King Kong breaking out of his cage. Here comes Superman, baby, and he ain't got no bananas either. "The Underground City" has a sort of Indiana Jones thing going, with Kent and a professor discovering some winged alien horde that lives beneath the Earth. They worship the professor's father, but I can't remember why. Superman kicks winged, hawk-headed subterranean alien ass.

Great old-timey fun, if you're not too sensitive to the fact that this collection just SCREAMS fucking "politically incorrect." If not, then, well, Max Fleischer was a pioneer, a genius, a true artiste, and the best thing to happen to Superman since they invented Kryptonite Be Gone. I'd advise any knucklehead who gets honked off by old cartoons to go and see a shrink. He needs his head examined, but it may be a losing proposition, regardless.

There are some jobs even Superman can't handle.


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About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.:

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knockabout a month ago

    Great review. Look forward to watching them once we're back home.

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