Sunday, May 26, 2013

Supermarathon: Some 60's Cartoons and "Panic in the Sky"

Back in the 1960's, Filmation had just been formed, and they had a contract to develop some cartoons based upon DC Comics characters.

The New Adventures of Superman rolled out as one of these cartoons, short cartoons long enough to get packaged with other DC characters, so you got a full cartoon between each commercial.  The animation is of the "limited" animation variety.  Lots of Superman's mouth moving and nothing else.  A static Superman in flying position as the background scrolls by behind him.  Lots of stuff re-used.  All to contain cost to deliver just a whole ton of these things at a reasonable cost.

By modern TV cartoon standards, the animations doesn't look so hot, the voice acting is stiff and awkwardly paced (Filmation would go on to do He-Man in the 1980's, a show which - even then - I thought had some very strange voices), and the stories are nigh non-existent.  Still, it's pretty clear these cartoons were aimed at little kids, and as straightforward Superman adventures, they do the trick.  And, as its more likely kids will come to Superman via cartoons than comics, it's not a bad first exposure.  If the kids can make heads or tails of 1960's technology and fashion.*

And, I like the theme song. It's jazzy!

Here's the pilot cartoon in its entirety.

I also watched a few episodes of Season 2 of The Adventures of Superman (live action, black & white, Noel Neill as Lois), including the famous episode Panic in the Sky.

This episode on the DVD set includes a voice over commentary with Jack Larson (Jimmy Olsen) and Neill as Lois.  In the manner of so many commentaries, you sort of expect them to start talking about what they had for lunch or something they saw on the way to recording the voice over.  They're just sort of chatting over the episode and its clearly a favorite for both of them.

The episode is a bit higher budget and reflects the Season 2 (1952) change in tone from noir-esque crime stories to threats more similar to the comics.  A giant meteor is headed for Earth and Superman has disappeared.  Clark Kent appears and has amnesia - forgetting he is Superman.

It's a really good episode and oddly more tense and with a lot more at stake than most of the show's installments.  Larson has a good time talking about how the reason they don't recognize a glasses-less Clark as Superman was explained to them that if they did, they'd get fired from the show.

Anyway, "Panic in the Sky" will also be the name of my first solo album.

Also watched "The Dog Who Knew Superman" and "The Man in the Lead Mask".  Kind of wondering if "The Dog Who Knew Superman" led to the appearance of Krypto a few years later (in 1955) as Superman finds a dog that could blow his secret identity.

*Clark wears an ascot while sipping tea at a seaside cafe.

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