Sgathaich: Superman (1941)

Sgathaich, an old woman with long hair and wearing a crown

Time once again to talk about a film of historical importance. This being the first of the Max Fleischer Superman animations. To say this was important is an understatement. Sups had only been around for around 3 years by this time.

Some key elements of what we come to think of as Superman come right from this. This was the first time he was seen flying. Originally, he just was really good at jumping, hence the line of being able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. But as stories go, they found that looks just stupid when in motion so changed it to just flying (something Captain Marvel was already doing).

The story is very basic. A mad scientist is threating the city with his big ray gun. Now we could go in to, how did he get this mountain base built with no one noticing ? Why isn’t the army dealing with him ? Where does he get his funding ? But this is the Golden Age and this stuff just happens. Also of note, no its just a generic mad scientist… with a mountain lair overlooking the city and a pet vulture. (Even has special switches for the vulture to pull)

the Superman title

Despite the fact they know where the scientist is, rather than take the threat seriously – Lois asks to fly off on her own to check out the story, openly saying she will do it alone and pushing the editor to let her. Lois in these is… there’s no polite way to say it but it begins with the letter B.

So anyway she lands her bi plane, gets captured and the scientist fires the ray. Fortunately, Superman shows up to literally punch the laser back and blow up the ray gun capturing the scientist.

The short is basic, but looks amazing. This is quite likely due to the considerable budget they were given. They gave an unrealistic cost of what they would need… and were given it. If you have seen Batman the animated series, the art style for Metropolis will be quite reminiscent.

The short, and all the Max Fleischer Superman shorts, are in the public domain so it’s very easy to find them, though they will be of varying quality. Still, these are a must see given the historical importance of both them and Superman.


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