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August 14, 2010 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Max Fleischer's Superman (1941-1942) In the early 1940s, Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons gave the Man of Steel an Art Deco flair and plenty of robots to defeat. Here's a brief history and some episodes of the cartoon (Previously)
posted by Artw (40 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know who I don't think gets enough credit for these? Izzy Sparber, who was one of the absolute workhorses in the Flesicher stable, writing and directing an enormous amount of material, including almost all of these.

Why do I care? Because my name is Max Sparber, that's why.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:22 PM on August 14, 2010 [21 favorites]


That's some great stuff. I used to have these on horrible, public-domain, tenth generation video tapes. Looks like they've done a decent job with some DVDs. I'll have to put these on my Christmas list.
posted by marxchivist at 8:29 PM on August 14, 2010


Oh, and I love the parts where he beats the shit out of the robots.
posted by marxchivist at 8:31 PM on August 14, 2010


You know who I don't think gets enough credit for these? Izzy Sparber, who was one of the absolute workhorses in the Flesicher stable, writing and directing an enormous amount of material, including almost all of these.

Why do I care? Because my name is Max Sparber, that's why.


Nice One. A fuckload of effort went into these - It's almost Snow White level animation in parts, and clearly very intensive stuff.
posted by Artw at 8:41 PM on August 14, 2010


Bah buh-bum! Bah buh-bum! Bah buh-bum bah buh-bum bah buh-bum! (ratatata-tata)
Bah buh-bum! Bah buh-bum! Bah buh-bum bah buh-bum bah buh-bum! (ratatatata-tatata)
Da-da dada da da! Da-da da-dum...
Da-da dada da da! Dadadada da-dum! Dum! Dum-dum-dum!
Bah buh-bum! Bah buh-bum! Bah buh-bum bah buh-bum bah buh-bum!
Bah buh-bum! Bah buh-bum! Bah buh-bum!
posted by Rhaomi at 8:44 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, they've really cleaned these up. I remember watching these on VHS as a kid, and they were really dark and dingy.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:48 PM on August 14, 2010


But what were they doing in Manhattan?

I remember these fairly well. Cool they actually hold up.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:52 PM on August 14, 2010


My first reaction to seeing Clark Kent turn on the lights in the stock room when changing into his Superman costume was that it was a silly risk to take, risking being seen mid-change. But then I realized that of course he turned the light on, not turning lights on is how he ended up going out on his first day of crime-fighting wearing his underpants over his outerpants, and then he was stuck pretending that's what he meant to do all along.
posted by Kattullus at 9:03 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie: Why do I care? Because my name is Max Sparber, that's why.

Oh shit, you're Izzy Sparber's (great?) grandson?! I never made that connection.
posted by Kattullus at 9:04 PM on August 14, 2010


Yeah I had these on VHS and they were fucking epic. (I don't think I put in quite those terms then.)
posted by shakespeherian at 9:08 PM on August 14, 2010


I have a half dozen of these on a public domain DVD. They're the best things on it, not only in terms of the quality of the shorts themselves, but in their preservation... there's one Little Lulu on there from a TV print that's faded to red so badly you can barely make anything out.
posted by evilcolonel at 9:19 PM on August 14, 2010


I love the Fleischer Superman cartoons. I'm always delighted when I see them mentioned on the blue.
posted by immlass at 9:50 PM on August 14, 2010


Oh shit, you're Izzy Sparber's (great?) grandson?! I never made that connection.

No. Probably a distant relative.

I am Judd Hirsch's cousin, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:52 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, that theme song is the worse earbug.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:08 PM on August 14, 2010


Those are some damn cool robots.
posted by cthuljew at 10:46 PM on August 14, 2010


Astro Zombie: No. Probably a distant relative.

Ah. It's a good thing I asked before I completely geeked out all over you. That doesn't come out in the wash.
posted by Kattullus at 10:55 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interesting that Lois Lane has more personality in these 70 year old cartoons than she did in the 2006 feature film.
posted by bowline at 11:08 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Superman actually fucking does something in them as well.
posted by Artw at 11:12 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you watch Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, it's fairly obvious that the opening sequence is greatly indebted to the Fleischer Superman cartoons, specifically the one with the giant robots. And, these cartoons make me wish Superman had stayed at this stage of development; he was much more interesting before he became omnipotent.
posted by motown missile at 11:15 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


a lot of Disney character and set design looks like this, no?
posted by es_de_bah at 11:29 PM on August 14, 2010


Ah. It's a good thing I asked before I completely geeked out all over you. That doesn't come out in the wash.

Don't let that stop you.
posted by clarknova at 11:43 PM on August 14, 2010


Isaac Asimov was establishing the Three Laws of Robotics contemporaneously (1942), no doubt trying to fix up the dreadful state of robots we see in these documentaries from that time.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:52 PM on August 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


So Judd Hirsch does nothing for you? He was in the original cast of Hot L Baltimore!
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:36 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


We used to project these cartoons on a big screen in our old mall store and run them in a continuous loop... I still know most of the dialogue of every episode and have many favorite scenes and you know what? The true test of quality is that I can STILL watch these with enthusiasm even after seeing them literally hundreds of times. Truly great cartoons.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 6:26 AM on August 15, 2010


Ya, despite being a child of the 80's, I watched ALL of these growing up. And this also. I think I just lived near a weird video store growing up?

Anyways, fantastic post.
posted by rosswald at 7:35 AM on August 15, 2010


I was given a public domain DVD of these as a gift a couple of years ago and love them. Now I want to see the inferior second batch the blogger mentions, as well as the Batman cartoon.

Also, Judd Hirsch hit on my wife once.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:35 AM on August 15, 2010


Correction:

Judd Hirsch did not hit on my wife. In fact, my wife hit on Judge Reinhold.

I apologize for any inconvenience my misstatement might have caused.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:50 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: So Judd Hirsch does nothing for you?

He's a good egg and a great comic actor (I have a soft spot for Dear John) but cartoons of that era are something of a lifelong obsession for me (for example, I'm more thrilled to share a birthday with Tex Avery than Johnny Cash).
posted by Kattullus at 8:52 AM on August 15, 2010


Hot l Baltimore! It basically created the Off-Off Broadway scene!

Nah, I'm kidding. My relation to Judd has never really gotten much of a reaction. A few months ago I found myself talking to Marshall Mason, who created the Circle Rep Company in New York and directed Hot l Baltimore, along with a lot of Lanford Wilson's plays, and where Judd was an actor for many years (Wilson wrote "Talley's Folly" for him.) "I think you know my cousin," I told Marshall. "Judd Hirsch."

"I've heard of him," he answered, and we never discussed it again.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:07 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting that Superman isn't all that super yet. I mean he's real strong, but not, say, fly into the Sun and rebuild it from the inside strong like he is now. That gorilla seems to almost match him.

I'm no Superman aficionado, but wasn't this addressed at some point?
posted by cmoj at 10:22 AM on August 15, 2010


Comic actors never get any respect.
posted by Kattullus at 10:22 AM on August 15, 2010


Other actors I thought of before Judd Hirsch, upon reading the name Judd Hirsch, despite the fact that I am more familiar with the work of Judd Hirsch than of said other actors' work:

-Judd Nelson
-Judge Reinhold
-Emile Hirsch

Hey, at least I completely bypassed The Judds.


Bottom of article: This post original appeared on Voyages Extraordinaires. How's that work? Is i09 some kind of scraper site of something?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:02 AM on August 15, 2010


Do you know what I love about these cartoons? Superman is a badass.

Somehow this has been forgotten in virtually every retelling of Superman that has been made since, from the camp of comics in the 50's and 60's to the everyone-getting-drug-addictions-and-relationship-issues from the comics of the 70's and the let's-make-everything-dark-and-gritty-and-intense-in-every-single-panel-even-when-it-makes-no-sense of the 80's and 90's.*

Why is Superman so badass in these cartoons? Because he doesn't say anything. He flies in, gets the job done, and flies out. He's a professional. His attitude is "Let Clark Kent do the talking, Superman's actions speak for themselves." It's a very simple, very refreshing take on the character.


*To be fair, there have been a lot of fantastic interpretations of Superman over the years, from Frank Miller's Superman-as-a-government-patsy to Grant Morrison's work in All-Star to the very distant and detached Superman of Kingdom Come (which of all the interpretations was the one that made the most sense to me).
posted by Ndwright at 11:06 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing I find disturbing: watching Superman take his pants off. No, really. We're all familiar with the iconic "Clark opening his shirt to disclose that he's really the Man of Steel" moment. But Max Fleischer actually shows (in silhouette, of course) that awkward moment when Clark steps out of his trousers. For some reason, this makes me love Clark all the more. ("Yeah, yeah. Just a minute. Let me hang these up, OK? Man, I just got them back from the dry cleaners.")
posted by SPrintF at 11:54 AM on August 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember watching these a while back and I couldn't seem to find all of them. One of the ones I couldn't find had Superman fighting the Japanese(?). I believe it doesn't really pull any punches in full on racist depiction.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:48 PM on August 15, 2010


Interesting that Superman isn't all that super yet. I mean he's real strong, but not, say, fly into the Sun and rebuild it from the inside strong like he is now. That gorilla seems to almost match him.

That's why, as a kid/teen, I hated Superman and could never really get into the DC universe. He was just too powerful. The writers kept using Kryptonite over and over again (Hey, look at that, Lex got more Kryptonite!) or started using more ridiculous and overpowered villains like Brainiac, Bizzaro. Seriously, Bizzaro? It just all seemed so silly and Golden Agey compared to the X-Men stuff I was reading at the time, Chris Claremont's run mostly.

One of the ones I couldn't find had Superman fighting the Japanese(?). I believe it doesn't really pull any punches in full on racist depiction.

Its here. Fleischer and company were pretty fond of the "big toothy grin" look for the Japanese soliders.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:43 PM on August 15, 2010


I have a DVD of all of these, and saw one recently. The one that's missing, the one that DDA linked to, is no longer on the DVDs.

But "Japoteurs" (I swear, that is the title) is, to our eyes today, so shockingly racist it almost is uncomfortable to watch.

But yes, watch thee and you can see that, exactly, where Paul Dini got a lot of his ideas.
posted by mephron at 3:23 PM on August 15, 2010


Yep, Japoteurs, was the one I was thinking of. It looks like it part of the second run done by Famous Studios and not Fleischer.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:36 PM on August 15, 2010


Wow, that animation is really fantastic. The people move like robots, only one part at a time. The backgrounds are beautiful. Fantastic work on the lighting in some scenes too.
posted by the_aardvark at 4:47 PM on August 15, 2010


Incidentally, the entire collection of these old gems are streamable from Netflix. Watched some of them with my kids the other day, in fact.:)
posted by spirit72 at 11:28 AM on August 16, 2010


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