It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

February 14, 2007 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

Birthday related celebrations yesterday were a complete success, but now that it’s over it’s time to go back to the hard, cruel world of blogging. To commemorate my feelings of good-will, I’m going to talk to you all about what’s really important in life. That’s right, my friends, today I continue my talk about the glory that is…


Superman!
The Max Fleischer Cartoons

Last time, I told you all about the first cartoon and it’s building-catching, laser-punching action. Today, I’m going to talk about the next two cartoons in the Fleischer series, which feature Superman beating the hell out of everything that opposes him. It is, I assure you, marvelous.

The cartoons really start hitting their stride here, now that the main points have been established. For these episodes, set-up consists only of the “faster than a speeding bullet” speech. Twenty seconds later? Commence awesome. Here’s how it all goes down:

Episode 2: Mechanical Monster (1941)

Imagine, if you will, twenty-five super strong robots that are also airplanes*. Now, imagine Superman has to fight them all at once. That should give you a pretty good idea of what this ones about.

The robots in question have been staging a series of bank robberies around Metropolis, directed by their Evil Scientist creator. Clearly a man with the intelligence and skill to build giant, transforming robots could only ever turn to a life of crime; skills like that have absolutely no application in the civilized world.

This plays right into my theory about the early Superman stories being anti-industrialist parables.

Now, how do the people of Metropolis respond to the fact that nigh-unstoppable robot thieves are roaming the streets? They decide to open a $50 million exhibit at the Metropolis “House of Jewels!”. No wonder Superman is always having to save them; the people of Metropolis are perhaps the stupidest people on Earth.

Police officers trying to fend off the robots. At least by this point,
the people of Metropolis are not so cowed as to wait for Superman to do everything.

Needless to say, robots arrive, Lois Lane is captured, and Superman is needed to save the day. While our Evil Scientist friend threatens to drop Lois into a pool of molten metal, Superman busts in and throws down with all 25 robots at once.

It is glorious.

The whole scene really showcases what makes these Fleischer cartoons so great; they have an incredibly dynamic understanding of movement and action. Superman is stronger than the robots, but their sheer numbers creates an even playing-field. There’s a wonderful back-and-forth to the battle where every time he takes down a robot in front of him, another attacks him from behind. The whole battle is thrilling to watch, even if the result is a foregone conclusion.

That result? Twenty-five busted robots, of course.

Superman finishes just as the Scientist is about to drop Lois into the molten metal, and has to make a making a thrilling leap to catch her mid-fall. But the Scientist isn’t done yet; he pulls a level to spill the molten metal on Superman and Lois, hoping to roast them alive. Instead, Superman uses his cape to deflect the flow. That’s right, his cape withstands thousands of degrees of heat to save the day. The conclusion is clear:

Superman’s Cape also has superpowers.

The obligatory “catching the villain” scene follows, followed by the standard cut to a Daily Planet article and the characters discussing their adventure. Pretty much every cartoon ends with this formula, so you’d better get used to it.

*Yes, the robots can transform into airplanes, making 1941 perhaps one of the earliest appearances of Robots in Disguise. By the 80’s, they’d be everywhere.

Episode 3: Billion Dollar Limited (1942)

A billion dollars worth of gold is put on a train heading to Fort Knox. Which, of course, means theft. Which means Superman is going to have to get involved to save the day. You know how these things work

This one is notable for being the first cartoon where Superman doesn’t fight mad science. Compared to giant robots and lasers, the two-bit thugs trying to steal the gold are nothing to him; he takes them down like the scrubs they are. But where, you ask, is the awesome?

Maybe the part where, after the thugs have caused the train to break down, Superman is forced to grab the front and drag it cross-country to get to Fort Knox.

Once again, man’s superiority to technology is proved. Though trains may break, the day shall still be saved by the organic power that is Superman!

Oh, and there’s some cool bits where Superman deals with explosions.

That’s all for today! Next time, dinosaurs and rocket cars: More ass-kicking, more awesome, more hatred for the Industrial Age! All this and more, thanks to that Last Son of Krypton, Superman!

You can read earlier posts about the Fleischer Superman Cartoons here:
Superman! (The Series Commences)

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Entry filed under: review. Tags: , , .

It’s my birthday…. In Reality, No One Wants to Hear About my Life

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