Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Supermarathon! Adventures of Superman: Superman on Earth! and The Haunted Lighthouse!

Few shows change tonally over a few seasons so much as The Adventures of Superman.  And I kind of love all the takes.  Really, I can't think of anything I don't like about The Adventures of Superman.  

in the old days, Superman didn't need a scaly outfit and proudly wore his pants really high


When the show started, it reflected the Superman vs. Crime vibe of the early comics, and it was probably seen as doing the show a whole lot cheaper if you just put a fedora on a stock actor and put a rubber pistol in their hand and had Superman throw the mug in jail.  By Season 5, we've got robots and pirates and all sorts of nonsense.

I rewatched the first two episodes of The Adventures of Superman, and they hold up pretty well.  The pilot, "Superman on Earth" gives us the Kryptonian Council poo-pooing Jor-El's findings in a manner one would pretty much expect of any scientist in the US going before a House Committee on Science and explaining they'd discovered Earth was about to blow.  It's damn inconvenient, it is.  

Robert Rockwell gets the thankless role of Jor-El, having to explain to everyone, and everyone sort of half-listening that maybe the whole planet is doomed.  He seems beleagured in a way many others who have taken on the role don't choose to convey (we'll see what Mr. Crowe goes for).  

On Earth, Super-baby is discovered by Eben and Sarah Kent (not Ethan and Mary, as they appeared in the serial), two sort of rubish hillbillies.  With Pa Kent's passing, Ma Kent sends the now fully grown George Reeves off to the big city.  He decides to get a job at the Daily Planet as a reporter despite a lack of credentials.  

Perry White, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane - our key players for the next few seasons, are introduced, but Lois is played by the lovely Phyllis Coates in Season 1, rather than the lovely Noel Neill who took the role back from her place in the serials with Season 2.  

Phyllis Coates was a little bit of a Betty


Anyway, some dude is dangling from a blimp, Superman saves him, Kent gets the interview and the job.

Pretty simple stuff, but effective in conveying the now well understood mechanics of the Superman origin.  By Episode 2 we're all old friends, and aren't making time anymore for learning about who is who.

I had forgotten "The Haunted Lighthouse" featured a narrator's voice over by Superman, and a pretty dastardly group of hoodlums threatening old Jimmy Olsen.  It's typical of many of the Season 1 episodes in that it feels a lot more taught than the Season 2 approach. 

If you get me in a quiet moment of honesty, you'll catch me talking about how great I think George Reeves is as Superman.  If Morrison was trying to get the essence of a Superman who seems at ease with his powers and his world, this is the best one on film.  Chris Reeve's was required to be a bit more stoic as Superman, and his Clark Kent was a world of difference from George Reeves' Clark - who was never much different from Superman, aside from the outfits.  

Also, it's the least forced costume of the various movie and TV iterations.  The cape makes sense, hanging loose from the shoulders, much more so than piling it into the collar as you see in everything more modern.  This is a Superman who stays in motion.  And looks cool jumping in through windows and busting through fake walls.  It's just a really fun show, and I always get a little bummed that so few die-hard comic fans don't do more to sample it.  It may not be as wild as the Silver Age comics, but it's such a great bit of superhero media.

The Adventures of Superman is really the number one thing I'd recommend to friends considering how to get their kids into Superman.  You might need the Season 2 color episodes, but the Season 1 take is a great ride in itself.

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