Not quite Superman - yet!
from Edinburgh, Scotland
, 05 Apr 2007
Is it a bird? Is it a plane. No, its Superman; here seen for the first time in full motion on the small screen. These classic cartoons from 1941/42 introduce us to the worlds greatest superhero in a series of 6-8 minute short scenarios. A lot of the way Superman looks and behaves today is taken from these cartoons and it is great to see the genesis of these archetypal characters as they come to life with voices and actions that couldnt be attributed to them in the comic books.
However, be aware that this is Superman stripped to the bare bones. The brevity of the cartoons does not allow for a lot of character development and indeed there is extremely little dialogue to latch on to. Perry White has no characterisation whatsoever, Lois just seems to be an annoying bird with a habit of putting herself in dangerous situations and Clark Kent never got raised by the Kents at all, he was seemingly made up as an alter-ego when Superman felt he needed an alias in the real world.
There is no Lex Luthor in these cartoons, which is mildly disappointing and we are left to deal with megalomaniacal scientists and greedy heist merchants (with a panache for the theatrical) who have no backstory nor much motive other than greed. At other times we watch Superman deal with un-frozen dinosaurs and erupting volcanoes, all showing us what The Man Of Steel can do in a number of situations, not just when fighting the bad-guys.
These short stories though do have an awful lot of action going on in them. There is a massive amount of destruction taking place around the city (New York apparently; not Metropolis) as buildings and bridges regularly get dismantled and razed to the ground. In fact in his quest to pulverise the bad guys, Superman himself seems to do an awful lot of damage, not really caring about the fleeing innocents, so long as the bad guy goes down and Lois is alright.
The animation of course is superb and the theatrical feel from the scenes is expertly elicited. We get introduced to some of the standard Superman mythology, such as the Is it a bird? line, the Faster than a speeding bullet analogy, and the quick change in the phone booth -which is strangely always preceded by the words, This looks like a job for Superman.
On the surface this really does seem as though its Superman by numbers, and there is an awful lot of repetition between the separate episodes. The focus has to be mainly on the story of the bad guys and how Supes saves the day, but this is all we get, time and again. Unfortunately this means there isnt a lot to hold on to while you are wading through the basic storylines waiting for any kind of depth to come.
Sadly I can therefore only recommend this to the youngest of young viewers, as they would probably be the only to ones to be properly entertained by the episodes. Even as a hardcore fan there just wasnt enough in the stories to keep me wanting to see more. This is real first-attempt Superheroing, focusing only on saving the day instead of giving us our loved characters. Still a fine first foray into a new media and something that young viewers should enjoy.
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