Reviews: Superman Theatrical Cartoons

The second theatrical cartoon

A review of "Superman: The Mechanical Monsters"

Most people have a certain appreciation for the original cinematic Superman created by the Fleischer Brothers in the 1940s. The Fleischer Bros' short animated films showing the Man of Steel's adventures are near-universally praised for their astounding animation quality and for being a complete distillation of the Superman universe, as well as for the fact that a lot of the recurring elements seen in the Superman franchise throughout the years had their origins in the Fleischer Bros' cartoon series.

Probably the best animated Superman animated short I have seen thus far is "The Mechanical Monsters", the second Superman cartoon ever produced. To summarise, this short saw Superman go up against a small army of towering robots whose shadows resemble those of early aircraft when they fly above the city of Metropolis. Using these robots, the villainous inventor that created them robbed a load of banks and generally caused chaos in Metropolis.

The story was the first ever to feature Clark Kent discard his civilian attire to change into the Superman costume inside a phone booth, a trope which would reoccur a countless number of times in both stories that starred Superman and stories that didn't.

Mention has to be made of the robots' general design. Their stiff, inhuman gait was superbly animated, and the sound that their propellers made was amazingly disturbing to listen to. In some scenes, they almost looked like they were animated with CGI; it's amazing what the Fleischers' rotoscope machine accomplished. The previous cartoon saw Superman effortlessly defeat a nameless mad scientist after overcoming the laser beam that the scientist had focused on him. This short saw Superman tackle more imposing physical threats that proved to be more than a challenge for him and even rivalled him in his power set, considering that both Superman and the robots could fly.

As with all of the Fleischer Superman cartoons, if you're expecting a deep, character-driven narrative, then you're looking in the wrong place, Buster. These cartoons are meant to be enjoyed for their smooth animation and the cool action scenes, which is more than enough to give it a watch, honestly. Plus, it's a massive piece of cinematic history with countless imitations.

On a final note, I do have one incredibly tiny thing to criticise: the scene where Superman uses his X-Ray vision for the first time on film. The way Superman, who usually squints his eyes almost all the time, suddenly opens his eyes to a very cartoonish degree can be a little... Off putting. I remember watching this bit and just thinking, "Oh. Okay."