Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Faster than a Speeding Bullet . . .

I bought a DVD of the old 1940s Superman cartoon, packaged in a cute metal lunchbox. (Cost me $5. The lunchbox itself is probably worth that.) I'm sure I saw these cartoons as a child, but I don't remember them. I watched the first two tonight. What a hoot!

The first thing that struck me is the difference in Superman's origin story. Yes, he's still the sole survivor of Krypton, which was apparently destroyed by massive earthquakes. However, the narration implied that everyone on Krypton was super, while the Superman canon I grew up with (the Christopher Reeve movies) had it that everyone on Krypton was normal while on Krypton, and they only developed the amazing powers on Earth due to the effects of our yellow sun. (Yeah, that doesn't really make much sense when you think about it. I suppose it's fine to imagine that everyone on Krypton was super. Like Buddy said in The Incredibles, "When everyone's super, no one will be.")

The biggest difference in his origin story, however, was that he grew up in an orphanage. No kindly Ma and Pa Kent to raise their special boy on a spacious farm. The Man of Steel was on his own from the get go.

The next thing that struck me was the character of Lois Lane. I figured, these were made in 1941-1942, so I expected Lois to be, you know, pre-feminist. Not so! She's gutsy, even if she has no self-preservation instinct. ("What is this 'danger' of which you speak? Pardon me, but I have to crawl inside the cargo hold of this giant, marauding robot.") In the first episode on the disc, when she wanted to go somewhere, she hopped into an airplane and flew herself. Yep, Lois was a pilot. Sure, she still got captured and needed Supes to save her, but so has every version of Lois Lane. Ever. I'm actually finding 1940s Lois more independent, more liberated, and generally more awesome than later versions. (So far, anyway. As I've said, I've only watched the first two episodes.)

Anyway, these are good, clean, leave-your-brain-at-the-door fun. I look forward to watching the rest of them.

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