Retro Review – Fleischer Superman – “Showdown”

Fleischer Superman

Superman Homepage reviewer Micah Pickering reviews the Fleischer Superman animated shorts for those nostalgic for the 1940s.

Check out his review of the cartoon titled “Showdown”.

A common trope in the superhero genre is to have the hero framed for a crime they didn’t commit and subsequently become a pariah in the community. The trope works well because the audience knows the truth and they’re clamoring for the hero to be vindicated. Our old pal Superman runs into this case of identity theft in this cartoon from Famous Studios in 1942.

Now onto the review!

4Rating – 4 (out of 5): I’m giving this cartoon a high review because it efficiently tells a compelling Superman story within its short runtime. It also follows a different pattern than earlier installments of this series. There is no giant dinosaur, killer asteroid, or mechanical monster attacking the city. However, there is a dim witted mafia henchman dressed as Superman committing crimes across the city. The press begins to report on the crimes as public opinion begins to ask the question “Superman; Friend or Foe?”

Lois scoffs at the thought of Superman being anything less than a noble hero, and she and Clark are assigned to cover the opera. I wonder why the Daily Planet would need two reporters to cover the opera. As Lois and Clark cover the opera, the imposter strikes again robbing everyone at the opera including Lois. Naturally, Lois chases after the man ripping the “S” off of the imposter’s costume. The costumed crook runs to the roof of the building passing Clark. There is a small dose of corny humor when Clark says: “My double is in for some trouble,” just before changing into Superman.

What happens on that roof has become a somewhat iconic Superman moment. It is something that has been done and referenced in other Superman media. When Superman confronts the imposter, the imposter attempts to shoot Superman. Naturally, the bullets bounce off of Superman, as he slowly advances towards the criminal. Once the imposter is out of bullets, he foolishly attempts to throw the gun at Superman. As a kid, I always wondered why comic book crooks actually thought throwing the gun at Superman would succeed, where bullets failed. I guess some mysteries never get solved.

When the imposter stumbles off of the roof, Superman catches him in plain sight of the police. Superman is now vindicated in the eyes of the public as he flies away with the imposter. He takes the imposter back to his boss’s lair. Superman toys with the mob boss by pretending to be the imposter. The mob boss tries to hit Superman with a golf club, which is something I’ve never seen anyone else try. I wonder if we can get a comic one day where Lex Luthor has golf clubs made of Kryptonite.

As the mob boss tries to escape with his henchman Superman overcomes a trap door, electric fences, and a steel vault. Superman stops the boss’s getaway car from colliding with a police car, and the criminals are brought to justice. This cartoon had a refreshing change of pace and stakes for Superman. It’s a genuinely fun watch for any fan of the Man of Steel.

I’ll end this review by commenting on something new at the beginning of this cartoon. The normal introduction was slightly changed. There was no talk of speeding bullets, locomotives, or tall buildings. Instead Superman’s power was described as “faster than a streak of lightning, more powerful than a pounding surf, and mightier than a roaring hurricane!”

It’s a small change, but when you’re used to the iconic original lines a change like this really stands out. All in all, I thought the change was a neat way to mix things up and give Superman plenty of hype (not that he needed it).