Thursday, July 30, 2009

Episode #83: An Imaginary Summer 2009 Part III: Lois Lane's Super Dreams!

The stories featured in this episode include the same plot device of Lois Lane's dreams. They come from different eras of Superman stories. The first one was from the golden age. Lois Lane -- Superwoman appeared in Action Comics #60, May 1960, published around March 16, 1943. The issue contained 64 pages. Jack Schiff was the editor during this era. The cover, drawn by Jack Burnley, depicted Superman bringing supplies and first aid to American combat troops. Jerry Siegel wrote the twelve page story, which was drawn by George Roussos. This story was reprinted in Superman: The Action Comics Archive vol. IV.

Lois Lane was accidentally hit by a truck while she crossed a street. Lois needed an operation which can be done by only one doctor, whose whereabouts are unknown for some unstated reason. Superman begins searching for this doctor.

Lois seemed to awaken after receiving a blood transfusion from Superman. She immediately recovered and left the hospital to return to the Daily Planet offices to file her news report. Lois discovered that not only had Superman's blood transfusion not only miraculously healed her, but had also given her his super powers. Lois sewed a sleeveless Superwoman costume, with a heart shaped S on the front. Her first super powered deed was to rescue a man who was being kidnapped. When she removed the hood she discovered the intended victim was none other than Clark Kent. He imediately recognized Superwoman as Lois Lane. She carried him to the top of a skyscraper to guarantee that he would promise to keep her secret. After she returned Clark to the ground she flew away and was captured by a super villain. Superman attempted to rescue her from the evil villain's lair, but he was also knocked out. Superwoman awoke in time to save Superman and defeat the villain, with enough time to corner Superman to propose marraige to her. Their super hearing detect a newsboy hawking a Daily Planet headline that promised to reveal Superwoman's identity. Superwoman is furious with Clark Kent, but she fainted.

Lois awoke to find Superman at her bedside. He had found the missing doctor, who saved her life, without having to shave a hair from her head. But such were the advantages of golden age comics book medical science.

This story was the first story of the issue. The other stories in the issue were:

Vigilante, a modern singing, motorcycle riding cowboy, appeared in the next twelve page story, Rainbow Over Crimeville. The writer is unknown, but the pencils are credited to Mort Meskin and inks by Charles Paris. Vigiante twice failed to stop the villain Rainbow Man from committing two robberies. After escaping from the trap Rainbow Man set for him, Vigilante captured Rainbow Man during his third robbery attempt. I guess the third time's a charm.

Next were the Three Aces who appeared in the six page adventure genre story The Lieutenant From Corregidor, drawn by Louis Cazeneuve. No plot informantion was available.

The fourth story portrayed Mr. American, as Americommando, in the eight page story Rations For Victory, written by Joseph Greene and drawn by Bernard Bailey. Americommando engaged Nazi troops while Greek resistance defeated German troops at the docks and liberated much needed supplies for a starving Greek town. Greek troops and the Americommando join to liberate the German town.

The fifth story of the issue starred Congo Bill in the six page story Jungle Justice. It was written by Joe Samachsona and drawn by John Daly. Congo Bill saved the life of the chief of an African tribe. A Nazi, who congo Bill was hunting, shot the tribe's sacred Jaguar and framed Congo Bill. The chief defended Congo Bill. When the Nazi attempted to shoot Congo Bill, the sacred Jaguar knocked the Nazi off of a cliff and Congo Bill was vindicated.

The final story of the issue was about the magician crime fighter Zatara, in the nine page story Styles In Crime, written by Gardner Fox, with art by Joseph Sulman. Zatara tracked a gang to their hideout after a robbery but was captured. He escaped from their trap in time to capture them during their next robbery attempt.

The second story featured in this episode is Lois Lane's Super Dream! which appeared in Superman #125, November 1958, published around September 18, 1958. Mort Weisinger was the editor by this time. Jerry Coleman wrote the story, which was drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger. This story was reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archive vol. I and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

Lois Lane fell off of a second story ledge in an attmept to gain another scoop for the Daily Planet. Superman took her to the hospital. While she lay unconscious she dreamed that Superman gave her a blood transfusion, using his fingernail to puncture his own skin so that doctors could give her some of his blood. Actually Superman had brought a pint of Lois's blood type from a Chicago blood bank.

In her dream she immediately recovered and changed back into her clothes and flew out the hospital window. She made a costume and used a red wig to disguise her identity as Power Girl, no relation to the current Power Girl in DC Comics. Power Girl helped Superman in some emergencies and then rescued Clark Kent from a power plant explosion. She followed Superman's example and gave Clark a pint of her blood, and Clark also gained super powers. But in her dream Clark was his usual milquetoast self and was still clumsy, even with super powers. He even managed to reveal his secret identity as Power Man when he thought he walked into a department store changing room to change into Power Man. He actually walked into a window display of one way glass, and the crowd on the sidewalk watched him change into Power Man. Power Girl flew away in disgust.

Lois woke up, and, after she recovered, she told Clark about her dream, and how she could now never suspect Clark Kent as Superman.

This was the first story of the issue. The second story of the issue was the ten page story Clark Kent's College Days! which was featured in episode #79: Happy Birthday, Clark Kent!.

The final story of the issue was the one featured on the cover, which was drawn by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye: Superman's New Powers!. The story was written by Jerry Coleman, pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. This story was reprinted in Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow Archive vol. I and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I. Superman found an alien spacecraft that was buried inderground. It exploded and affected Superman. He was able to project a miniature double of himself, which had all of his powers and left him powerless. Superman became jealous of his double, who became popular with the public. The duplicate died saving Superman from a kryptonite meteor, and his powers returned.

Next week: The first official "Imaginary Story": Mr. & Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent! from Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #19, August 1960. This story was reprinted in DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories.

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at , , and most other podcast aggregaters. Send e-mail to . The podcast theme is Plans In Motion composed by Kevin MacLeod, part of the royalty free music library of .

My Pull LIst is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Superman Fan Podcast and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Episode #82: An Imaginary Summer 2009 Part II: Superman's Other Life!

Superman's Other Life appeared in Superman #132, October 1959, published on August 6, 1959. Mort Weisinger was the editor, and the cover was drawn by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. Otto Binder wrote this story, which was pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. This story was a full length tale, in an era when many comic book titles carried several unrelated stories, even about the title character. It was reprinted in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, vol. II and Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I.

Batman and Robin went to Superman's Fortress Of Solitude to show their appreciation to the Man of Steel for rescuing them from a criminal's trap during the previous week. They show their appreciation in a very unusual way. They use some photographs Superman had somehow made of Krypton from the light that had reflected from the planet before it exploded, and scan them into Superman's Univac computer. They programmed it to show what Superman's life would have been like if Krypton had not exploded, in an audio-visual, almost Second Life presentation.

In this unusual imaginary story Kal-El (Superman's Kryptonian name) got a baby brother from his parents. Kal-El grew up to become a Space Patrol officer, but instead of his desired job as a patrolman, he is designated as a dispatcher. Ironically the Space Patrol uniform is an exact copy of his Superman costume. Krypton got its own super hero in the form of Futuro, who received his powers in a lab accident. Kal-El even dressed in his Clark Kent suit for a costume ball on Krypton, from his study of Earth with kryptonian telescopes.

Lois Lane even made an appearance, up to her old tricks to deliver another scoop to the Daily Planet newspaper. She was a stowaway on an Earth rocket that landed on Krypton. Her preference for super powered men is also explored when she fell in love with Futuro, who was equally smitten with her. He decides to return to Earth with her, where he would still have super powers. Futuro did not leave Krypton without a protector, but exposes Kal-El to the same equipment that gave him superpowers, which also made Kal-El's Spaceman uniform indestructible. And so Kal-El became the Superman of Krypton.

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at , , and most other podcast aggregaters. Send e-mail to . The podcast theme is Plans In Motion composed by Kevin MacLeod, part of the royalty free music library of .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Superman Fan Podcast and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Episode #81: The 1940's Superman Cartoon And The Fleischer's Studio!

For Father's Day this year I received a copy of the DVD collection Max Fleischer's Superman: 1941 - 1942, which was released on April 7, 2009. It included a preview of the upcoming Warner Premiere direct-to-DVD animated Green Lantern movie, a history of superhuman characters through eons of literature, and a history of the Fleischer Studio. The cartooons were reproduced from the original masters, and only a brief scene of the cartoon Terror On The Midway seemed of poor quality after all of these decades. This DVD set is perfect for any fan of animation or Superman in particular.

I thought I would interrupt my summer series on imaginary stories to highlight these cartoons and the Fleischer Studio which produced them.

Fleischer Studio began as Inkwell Studios in 1921, founded by brothers Max and Dave Fleischer. Dave served as director and supervised production, and Max served as producer. They gained experience working for J. R. Bray's Paramount Pictograph film magazine, a studio that produced silent cartoons to theaters in 1916. Bray's studio went into business two years after Windsor McCay's Gertie The Dinosaur proved animation was practical, even though it was not the very first cartoon. That honor went to Humorous Phases of Funny Faces by J. Stuart Blackton in 1906.

In 1919 Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope, a device that allowed animators to trace the movement of live actors into a cartoon, to provide the animated characters with more realistic movement. The first use on a character was Koko the clown. Brother Dave performed the actions animated in Koko. He starred in the Out Of The Inkwell series that began the same year as the rotoscope's invention.

In 1921 the Fleischers left Bray's to form their partnership. Along with Koko, the Fleischers created a series of anthropomorphic characters. Thier most famous creation ever was Betty Boop, who premiered in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes, which was released on August 9, 1930. The brothers competed with Walt Disney with their own short cartoons during this early era of animation's history.

The Fleischer brothers were innovators in animation, many of which are still in use today. They were the first to use "in-betweeners". The main animator would draw the first and last drawings of a particular motion, and an assistant animator would draw the in between drawings of the movement. They also produced the first sound cartoon, and the bouncing ball sing along. Their first sound cartoons were called Talkatoons, which premiered in 1929. The Fleischers' 3-D setback, which was a tiny stage where animation cels were hung in front of the background to create a 3-D effect were as effective as Disney's multi-plane camera.

Popeye premiered in cartoons in 1933, in Betty Boop Meets Popeye The Sailor, when the Fleischers licensed Popeye from King Features Syndicate.

In October 1938 the Fleischer Studio moved to new facilities in Miami, Florida, financed by Paramount Studios, to take advantage of tax breaks and to end union activity after a bitter strike in 1937.

The Fleischer Studio also competed with Disney with feature length animation. After Disney's Snow White And The Seven Dwarves in 1937, the Fleischer Studio produced two feature length animated movies, Gulliver's Travels (1939) and Mr. Bug Goes To Town (later released under the title Hoppity Goes To Town) (1941).

When Paramount, the Fleischers' distributor, gained the rights to the Superman character they wanted the Fleischers to produce a series of cartoons about the Man of Steel. The Fleischer studio was in the middle of production of their second feature length animated movie and didn't want to tackle this new project. In an attempt to discourage Paramount from deciding to go forward with the series, they quotede a price of from $30,000 - $100,000, depending on the source you want to believe. Much to the Fleischers' surprise, Paramount accepted the bid. The first cartoon, simply titled Superman cost $50,000, three times the cost of the average Fleischer cartoon. The rest of the cartoons in the series cost $30,000 each, for a total cost of $530,000.

While some think the Superman catch phrases "Look, up in the sky! ... " and "Faster than a speeding bullet, ..." originated with this animated series, they were introduced in the radio series. Bud Collyer reprised his role as Clark Kent / Superman from the radio show for the cartoon series, as well as Jane Alexander, who voiced Lois Lane in the radio show. The narrator for the cartoon series was Jackson Beck, who was the narrator and voiced Perry White. Beck had no previous connection with the radio show but would later join the voice cast. All three voice actors would reprise their roles for the 1960's Superman TV cartoon.

The Fleischer Studio would receive five Academy Award nominations, Sinbad The Sailor (1936), Educated Fish (1937), Hunky & Spunky and Riding The Rails (both 1938) and Superman (1941). Each year the studio lost to a Disney short cartoon. Only MGM would break Disney's Oscar streak in 1940, when the Fleischer Studio did not have a cartoon nominated.

The two feature length animated films the Fleischers produced did not make enough money to repay their loans to Paramount. This, along with the unexpected costs of the additonal overhead of the Miami studio, caused Paramount to foreclosed on the loan, take over the studio and fire the Fleischer brothers. By this point they were not talking to each other because of personal and professional differences. Paramount renamed the studio Famous Studios. The first Superman cartoon produced under the Famous Studio name was the now considered xenophobic title Japoteurs, which was released on September 18, 1942. Famous Studios also changed the introduction from the familiar "Faster than a speeding bullet, ...". In 1943 the studio would move back to New York City.

Max Fleischer would become head of the animation division of the Jam Handy Organization, which produced films for business, education, government and military.

Dave Fleischer moved to California and became the head of Columbia's Screen Gems cartoon studio.

Today, the Fleischer Studio is located in Los Angeles, California and handles the merchandise licensing of Betty Boop and other original Fleischer characters.

Fleischer Studios Superman cartoon summaries:

Superman, the pilot cartoon, released September 26, 1941, running time 10:22. This cartoon earned the last Academy Award nomination for Fleischer Studios and lost to Disney's Lend A Paw, starring Pluto. After a brief origin portraying the last survivor of an exploding planet rocketed to Earth as a baby, being found and turned in to an orpanage and growing up to be reporter Clark Kent, the story involved a mad scientist who threatened the city with a destructive ray at midnight.

The Mechanical Monster, November 28, 1941, 10:14. Another mad scientist used an army of robots to rob the city on solo missions.

Billion Dollar Limited, January 9, 1942, 8:35. Superman protected a train, loaded with gold and bound to the National Mint, from a masked gang who attempted to hijack the train and steal the gold.

The Arctic Giant, February 27, 1942, 8:35. A frozen dinosaur was discovered in Siberia and shipped to Metropolis to be displayed, still frozen, in a museum. After the refrigeration generator malfunctioned, the dinosaur awoke and threatened the city.

The Bulleteers, March 27, 1942, 8:02. A gang, piloting a bullet shaped flying car, terrorized and robbed Metropolis. This cartoon included the first specific mention of Metropolis.

The Magnetic Telescope, April 24, 1942, 7:38. Another mad scientist used a magnet on top of an astronomical observatory to pull celestial bodies closer to Earth for observation. One fell out of control and crashed into the city, coming to a stop in the water off the docks. The city authoritites warned the scientist to stop his dangerous experiments.

Electric Earthquake, May 15, 1942, 8:42. A Native American scientist used an underwater base to cause earthquakes in Manhatten, because the island rightfully belonged to Native Americans, in his opinion. This was a less objectionable portrayal of a minority because, even though the villain was a Native American, he was brilliant, which differed from the portrayal of Native Americans in this era. Also, there were no racial comments by any of the characters. When he told the Planet staff his claims, Clark asked, "Well, what do you want us to do about it?". The villain answered, "Print the truth."

Volcano, July 10, 1942, 7:56. Clark and Lois covered the threatening eruption of Mt. Monokoa on an island. Lois was trapped on the volcano slope when it erupted, and a lava flow threatened the population.

Terror On The Midway, August 28, 1942, 8:22. Clark and Lois covered a circus, where a giant gorilla escaped from its cage and terrorized the crowd.

Japoteurs, September 18, 1942, 9:05. Japanese spies attempted to steal the world's largest bomber plane and fly it to Tokyo. This cartoon contained the typical racial caricature of oriental people in this era. As mentioned before, this was the first Superman cartoon produced under the Famous Studios name after Paramount took control of the studio.

Showdown, October 16, 1942, 8:14. A criminal wore a Superman costume while performing robberies for his crime boss, who was based on Al Capone. The real Superman was wanted by the police for the crimes.

Eleventh Hour, November 20, 1942, 7:58. Clark and Lois were held in a Yokohama hotel with barred windows. At 11:00 every night, Clark, as Superman, would remove the bars from his window and fly away to sabotague the Japanese military. Lois faced a firing squad as a spy. This was another cartoon that continued the racial caricature of oriental people common to the era.

Destruction, Inc., December 25, 1942, 8:32. The body of a munitions plant guard was found in a swamp. Lois went undercover at the plant and was discovered by a shady manager and two of his henchmen.

The Mummy Strikes, February 19, 1943, 7:46. An expert Egyptologist was found dead near the mummy of King Tush in a museum. His assistant Janet Hogan was convicted of his murder. A Dr. Wilson contacted Clark Kent about evidence he had found that might clear her name. Lois, suspicious of s story, secretly followed Clark into the museum. It was unusual to watch a cartoon with a character who had the same last name as me.

Jungle Drums, March 26, 1943, 8:00. Nazi soldiers used an ancient African temple as a base to radio the coordinates of Allied convoys to German submarines. Lois's plane was shot down and she was captured by members of an African primitive tribe loyal to the Nazi leader. He portrayed a high priest that the tribe worshipped. The African tribe was protrayed in the typical racial stereotype common to the era.

The Underground World, June 18, 1943, 8:13. The Daily Planet financed an expedition led by an explorer of hidden caverns discovered by his long lost father. Clark and Lois accompanied the explorer where they discovered an underground civilization of winged humanoids.

Seceret Agent, July 30, 1943, 7:39. An undercover woman had infiltrated a Nazi spy organization. She broke her cover to carry information about the group to her superiors in Washington, D. C. She was being chased by Nazi agents. This was the only cartoon in the series that did not include Lois Lane, but it is possible that Joan Alexander voiced the female agent. This cartoon was the last episode of the series.

For more information about the 1940's Superman cartoon and the Fleischer Studo:

Next week we return to an imaginary summer with Superman's Other Life, from Superman #132, October 1959. It was reprinted in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, Showcase Presents: Superman vol. I and Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, vol. II.

Superman Fan Podcast can be found at , , and most other podcast aggregaters. Send e-mail to . The podcast theme is Plans In Motion composed by Kevin MacLeod, part of the royalty free music library of .

My Pull List is my spoiler free comic book review blog of the titles I read every week. It can be found at . Send e-mail about this blog to .

Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Superman Fan Podcast and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

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