Superhero Sunday: Superman (1941)

Superman captivated the world in the 1940s. Long before the George Reeves TV series, Superman was hitting the big screen in short form animated features. Fleischer Studios, perhaps most famous for Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons, produced the first several episodes.

This entry, The Mad Scientist, was released in 1941, a mere three years after the character’s comic debut. As you can see below, it has the early motion picture animation style at its finest. Every frame was drawn by hand. In fact, the episode was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short that year.

For its time, the series had a huge budget of $50,000 per episode, the largest in history for its time. Far more than any Popeye Disney cartoon. Modern DC Animation guru Bruce Timm credits the series as one of his influences for the classic Batman and Superman animated series he produced in the 1990s.

The film is also notable for having the first iteration of “Look! Up in the sky!” and “Faster than a speeding bullet!”

So start up the Wayback Machine, and watch one of the greatest pieces of superhero animation ever produced, Superman: The Mad Scientist.