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"Faster than a speeding bullet!
More powerful than a locomotive!
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!note 
This amazing stranger from the planet Krypton!
The Man of Steel! (gong ring) SUPERMAN!"
— The iconic opening of the shorts

From the studio that brought you such classics as Betty Boop and Popeye, Fleischer Studios played a major role in cementing the Man of Steel as a pop culture icon by means of these lavishly animated, massive budget short subjects which served to bring Superman to the big screen, from The Golden Age of Animation. These cartoons were a big deal back in the '40s — the first short, "The Mad Scientist", was nominated for the 1942 Academy Award (losing to a Disney Pluto short, Lend a Paw). These shorts were among the first cartoons that were made for genuine action and drama, rather than crude comedy, which was part of what contributed to their success. Paramount in fact had such confidence in the shorts being a hit, they even had trailers made for them — yes, that's right, trailers for short cartoons. Try to wrap your head around that.

The Fleischer Brothers, Max and Dave, had to make similar mental gymnastics themselves at the beginning when they were approached by Paramount to make this series. Already stretched from their ill-fated feature film projects and the terrible falling out between them, they were in no mood to take on this project, which presented considerable demands for a more realistic style. So, Dave tried to scare off Paramount by saying they would need around $100,000 per short, an astronomical figure considering Disney's shorts, the most expensive shorts to produce at the time, cost on average $25,000 per short. To his shock, Paramount negotiated it down to $50,000 per short (equal to around $918,000 in 2019 dollars) and the Fleischers just could not turn down money like that, making the Superman cartoons possibly the most expensive (adjusted for inflation) animated short series in Hollywood history. And boy, does it show in the art.

On top of that, this was the series that turned Superman into a Flying Brick. To elaborate, at the time Superman's aerial abilities were limited to literally "Leaping Tall Buildings In a Single Bound," and the Fleischers intended to adhere to this, but they couldn't animate it without it looking stupid and awkwardnote . They copped out and just gave him flight, and hence an archetype was born.

On a side note, only the first nine shorts were made by Fleischer Studios, with the other eight being handled by Famous Studios, their successor. Alas, the basic American economics of the Short Film format in The Golden Age of Hollywood, where such films earned a set fee for screenings regardless of audience interest, couldn't sustain the series and it ended as simply too expensive.

On another note, in the late forties, Columbia Pictures made an unrelated live-action series of Superman serials, which featured Supes turning into an animated version of himself whenever he flew, reportedly due to budget constraints.

These cartoons were also a huge influence on the DC Animated Universe as a whole, as well as filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki.

To date, all 17 of the cartoons have fallen into the Public Domain and are all free to view on the internet. For your convenience, links have been provided below in the filmography. Despite their public domain status, from 1969-96, these cartoons were technically the earliest-released color cartoons in the Warner Bros. library (WB and DC Comics having merged in 1969), as WB had sold the color Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies they released prior to August 1948 to Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p., who also bought a Paramount cartoon series of their own, Popeye) in 1956 (including a 1943 Bugs Bunny cartoon that spoofed the Paramount Superman cartoons), these cartoons were owned by United Artists at the time WB and DC became co-owned, and later passed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Turner Entertainment, which merged with WB in 1996.

Paramount returned to involvement in the Superman franchise first in 1972, when it produced an episode of the animated TV series The Brady Kids (a spin-off of The Brady Bunch) that featured Superman, then again in 1995, when the acquisition of the studio by Viacom gave Paramount the US TV rights to three of the Christopher Reeve Superman films - Superman III, Supergirl (1984), and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace - along with US TV rights to the The Adventures of Superboy TV series. The former two films are now fully owned by WB, while Paramount continues to own US TV rights to The Quest for Peace as it was a co-production of The Cannon Group, whose films were distributed on US TV by Viacom and later Paramount, while CBS Media Ventures owns the US TV rights to The Adventures of Superboy. Coincidentally, when The CW aired the later Supergirl TV show, it was a joint venture of CBS and WB.

Paramount would later co-produce with DC Comics both the film and the series of Watchmen.

A comic tie-in to Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) established this series as a part of the Arrowverse, designation Earth-F.

     Fleischer/Famous Superman Filmography 

Tropes Employed In This Series Include:

  • Accident, Not Murder: In "The Mummy Strikes", when an archeologist is found dead from poison, it is believed he was killed by his assistant, even though she was the one who found him dead. Turns out that he had died due to triggering a poison needle booby trap inside a sarcophagus.
  • Adaptational Badass: This series of cinematic shorts is where Superman gained his powers of Flight and X-Ray Vision from.
    • The flight was created specifically because Superman leaping over tall buildings in a single bound looks a little silly in motion. The one short where he actually does this, “The Arctic Giant”, kind of shows this to be true.
  • Affectionate Parody: The Bugs Bunny short "Super-Rabbit" by Chuck Jones, as well as the Private Snafu short "Snafuperman," which even features a brief snippet of the theme song.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The prototype Giant Bomber in "Japoteurs" is shown to also be one of these.
  • Alternate Self: Given how this universe was included in the tie-in for the Arrowverse's Crisis On Infinite Earths, Superman, Lois, and Perry White all have counterparts in its multiverse, most noticeably on Earth-Prime, Earth-96, Earth-167 and two undesignated Earths.
  • Animals Not to Scale:
    • The eponymous dinosaur from "The Arctic Giant" is Kaiju-sized, far larger than any actual dinosaur species.
    • Gigantic, the gorilla from "Terror on the Midway", is a lot larger than real-life gorillas, towering over the humans in the circus.
  • Animation Bump: The whole series held no punches when it came to flaunting its huge budget, and the action scenes really pushed the Fleischer animators to their limits.
  • Anti-Villain: The Native American in "The Electric Earthquake" counts as this as unlike the previous villains, he only wants to reclaim his people's land given the terrible history regarding their interactions with the Europeans. Though this becomes Subverted in that what he demanded was all of Manhattan Island.
  • Art Evolution: Compare Lois' design in the first short to her in the second.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: The Arctic Giant has this in spades with the alleged “Tyrannosaurus” found in Siberia with its display listing its age at around 3400 B.C. which... anyone with even basic paleontological knowledge will tell you is preposterous. Never mind how the T-Rex looks nothing like the real deal.
  • Aside Glance: The wink Supes gave to the audience Once an Episode.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: "The Arctic Giant."
  • Back for the Dead: The Walmart-exclusive tie-in comic to the Arrowverse's Crisis on Infinite Earths has Pariah getting to this world to warn them of the wave of antimatter, only for him to be too late. (Although from a comics-only perspective, he wasn't "back" at all, as this was the first time any version of Harrison Wells had appeared in that medium.)
  • Beneath the Earth: "The Underground World."
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: In "The Mummy Strikes", an Egyptologist is killed by a tomb's poisoned needle booby trap. His assistant picks up the needle he had been holding and gets her fingerprints on it, so she is naturally arrested for it. Fortunately, Clark Kent and a professor find the booby trap and manage to clear her name.
  • BFG: The super laser cannon used in "The Mad Scientist".
  • Big Applesauce: At least one of the shorts, "The Electric Earthquake," takes place in New York instead of Metropolis.
  • Big Electric Switch: "The Arctic Giant". After the generator malfunctions, two knife switches are pulled out to turn it off.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Close examination of the villain's underwater lair in "Electric Earthquake" shows that it's only a few times larger than the elevator used to reach it in exterior shots but cavernous in interior shots.
  • Bird People: The inhabitants of "The Underground World"
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Lois is this to Clark when it comes to getting the story before he does. In one case, she drives off just as he's trying to get in her car but he takes the opportunity to change into Superman. In "Volcano," she steals his press pass, which prevents Clark from being inside the security perimeter when the volcano erupts. Though in "The Mummy Strikes" this habit comes to bite back on Lois as she ends up with both hands injured and heavily bandaged and so unable to do any writing for a while.
  • Bound and Gagged: Lois, several times.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: Averted with the villain of "The Electric Earthquake," who dresses in a suit and tie and later a mad scientist's lab coat. His Native American ancestry is only used as an explanation of why he's blowing up the city.
  • Burn the Witch!: This nearly happens to Lois in "Jungle Drums", after she's captured and interrogated by Nazi agents, she refuses to answer their questions, upon which they order her to be tied to a stake and burnt alive. Luckily Superman shows up to rescue her before things get too hot!
  • The Cameo: Hitler himself makes a brief one at the end of "Jungle Drums," angrily switching his radio away from the newsflash of the destruction of his U-boats to a song ("Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" (!)) as he hangs his head in frustration.
  • Catchphrase
    • "This looks like a job for Superman!" and other variations of it.
    • "Thanks to Superman."
  • Circus Episode: "Terror on the Midway", where Superman has to save spectators from a ferocious gorilla.
  • Clark Kenting: This version seemed to favor the idea that Clark was the "real" personality and Superman was a "mask" over forty years before The Man of Steel reboot nailed it in place. One way of maintaining this "mask" involved Clark Kent speaking in a higher-pitched voice than Superman. (The voice actor, Bud Collyer, also starred in The Adventures of Superman, where this voice change became the only way for listeners to tell Clark and Supes apart.) In "The Magnetic Telescope", Superman even used Lois' confusion to steal a kiss as Clark.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: Apparently, Warner could only secure one ending clip featuring the Paramount logo. They ended up taking this one clip onto the end of nearly every short on their DVD, creating an abrupt change in music.
  • Collapsing Lair: The Mad Scientist's lair, after Superman overloads the cannon.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: "The Volcano" sees Lois standing right next to a stream of lava (and possibly even standing on it) with no ill effects.
  • Cool Car:
    • The flying car from "The Bulleteers."
    • The crooks' car in "Billion Dollar Limited" transforms from an average-looking sedan by deploying armored shutters over the windows and a ramming plate on the front that also conveniently conceals the license plate. It's fast enough to pull ahead of the titular train even when it's running like a bat outta hell, allowing them to repeatedly sabotage the tracks.
  • Cool Plane:
  • Cool Train: The titular Billion Dollar Limited.
  • Costume Copycat: "Showdown", which revolves around a gangster having his henchman dress up in a Superman costume and commit crimes. It's a wonder it works at all, since the guy looks nothing like Superman, not to mention he's way too skinny, and of course, has no superpowers.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Most of the villains have non-monetary goals or don't use all that impressive technology, but the inventor villain in "The Mechanical Monsters" invented and built remote-controlled giant mechanical machines... and used them to rob banks, and jewelry stores, etc.
  • Damsel in Distress: Lois Lane has a complicated relationship with this trope. Generally speaking, if Lois isn't being Bound and Gagged at the hands of the villains, she's being put in a Death Trap, menaced by a rampaging monster, or at the mercy of some natural disaster, all so Supes can swoop in and save her. However...
  • Damsel out of Distress: ...In "Billion Dollar Limited", right after realizing the train's being hijacked, her first instinct is to try and stop the train despite the boiler being left in a pretty dangerous, un-attended state and not being a trained engineer. When the remaining hijackers' open fire on the engineer's cabin, she unhesitatingly picks up one of the fallen guards' Tommy guns and fires back. She then repeatedly sounds the whistle while the train is out of control, which helps alert everyone (including Supes) that the train is in trouble. She only has to be bailed out when the robbers lob a bomb at her (having previously stayed with the train when its bridge was blown up and Supes had to save the whole damned train and get it back on the tracks). Other shorts, particularly the earlier ones, have her performing similar feats of competency and only really put her in "distress" when she would logically just be completely outclassed as a normal human being.
    • Lois is actually the one who ends up using the titular machine to save the day in Magnetic Telescope after Superman finds himself powerless against the incoming luminous green comet, hurling the rock back into space. Superman's contribution is using his body to connect damaged power cables so the machinery runs.
  • Darkest Africa: The setting of "Jungle Drums".
  • Dead-Hand Shot: In "Destruction Inc." and "The Mummy Strikes".
  • Defiant Captive: Despite her frequent distress, Lois always manages to seem self-possessed and/or defiant until the last moment, when it really looks (to her) like this time she's not going to make it. (Superman has a tendency to arrive Just in Time.)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Maybe the earliest instance of Clark usually having a smart answer for each of Lois' jabs.
  • Dead Unicorn Trope: The "cliche" of Clark turning into Superman in a phone booth is based primarily on TWO of these cartoons: "The Mechanical Monsters" and "Bulleteers". In the first cartoon, Clark is with Lois when he ducks into a phone booth in the story to the Daily Planet. While he's on the phone, Lois sneaks away to investigate the story further. Clark finishes the call, steps out, sees Lois is missing, and only then goes back into the booth to change into Superman. In "Bulleteers", Clark changes in the phone booth for no apparent reason, helping to solidify in the public's mind that this is how he "always" changes into Supes. The earliest known comic where he does this was in a newspaper strip that came out later the same year as "Bulleteers". In that strip, Clark even thinks to himself that this is a fairly uncomfortable place to change clothes in and that he's doing it here only because he's in a hurry.
  • Deus ex Machina: Superman himself. In nearly all of the shorts save "Eleventh Hour", he doesn't pop up until more than halfway through the cartoons, acting on the established threats.
  • Digital Destruction:
    • Warner's DVD compilation has superb restorations of the cartoons, with no DVNR damage or digital interlacing; however, it does include some jarring auditory changes, such as missing sound effects from the opening credits of "Electric Earthquake" and "The Magnetic Telescope", and a jump in the prologue of the first short.
    • Their Blu-ray release uses DVNR to the point where linework is obscured along with the previously established audio issues.
  • Disney Villain Death: One of the Nazi henchmen in "Jungle Drums" gets killed while grappling with Superman atop the Anti-Air gun they've disguised as a large stone idol. He takes a leap at Superman but accidentally goes over the edge and plunges to his death. We don't see the impact, but we do see his hand bounce to a stop.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Nazis' robes in "Jungle Drums" are very reminiscent of the ones worn by the KKK. Very fitting all things considered.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Done by Lois in "Jungle Drums" where she steals the robe of a dead Nazi agent in order to use the Nazi base's radio to warn the Allies of a planned submarine attack. This fails when the Nazi commander spots Lois's high heels under the hem of her robe.
  • Early Adaptation Weirdness: With this being the second earliest adaptation of Superman (coming just a year after The Adventures of Superman), it contains a lot of stuff that modern day viewers familiar with the current Superman might find weird. This incarnation of Clark was raised in an orphanage without his adopted parents around, and he doesn't fight any supervillains barring the occasional mad scientist who has no connection to Lex Luthor. Kryptonite is completely absent (it hadn't even been created yet!), as are pretty much all notable characters except Lois Lane and Perry White. Also, Superman's power is a lot lower than what it would become in later installments; his enhanced senses, Eye Beams, and freeze breath are absent, and in one short, Superman gets around by jumping, not flying. Superman gained his flight specifically because it was easier to draw and it was later added onto the comics.
  • Earthquake Machine: The plot of "Electric Earthquake", natch
  • Earthquakes Cause Fissures: From the short "Electric Earthquake."
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The way Krypton gets destroyed in this series.
  • Elixir of Life: One is recreated in "The Mummy Strikes" by Dr. Jordan as part of his Egyptian research. The giant guards of King Tush were inoculated with the elixir, but the doctor was killed via a poison needle trap before they could properly resurrect.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: "Terror On The Midway" features Superman attempting to stop the chaos created by several circus animals, including a giant ape, escaping their cages and restraints. The "Arctic Giant" involves Superman trying to subdue a Tyrannosaurus rex that was frozen in ice until it melted, and starts rampaging in the city.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The mad scientist from the first short is known by everyone in Metropolis as... the mad scientist. He doesn't seem to have a name.
  • Evil Knockoff: The villain of "Showdown", although he's just a non-powered thief using a Superman costume to catch people off guard.
  • Evolving Credits: The opening speech quoted above underwent a revision after Superman developed flying powers.
    Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to soar higher than any plane! This amazing stranger from the planet Krypton...
    • It then evolved to the point where Superman's powers are compared to the forces of nature!
      Faster than a streak of lightning! More powerful than the pounding surf! Mightier than the roaring hurricane!
  • Exact Words: In "The Mummy Strikes", the tomb of King Tush contained a plaque bearing this warning: He Who Disturbs The Eternal Rest of King Tush Must Perish. The entire tomb had been disassembled and brought all the way to the United States, then reassembled in a museum, and even the sarcophagus of the pharaoh's bodyguards had been opened, and the mummies within injected with an experimental serum, to seemingly no ill effect, other than one man dying from a non-magical trap. It wasn't until King Tush's actual sarcophagus was actually opened that the curse took effect.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Pretty much all of the names of each short.
  • Expy:
    • "Showdown" has a cameo by a Daily Planet office boy who is clearly supposed to resemble Jimmy Olsen, but he is never named in the cartoon. It's possible Paramount didn't have the rights to the character at that point but wanted to incorporate him into the cartoons somehow, leading to this character. He never appears again after that scene or in any of the later entries.
    • The villains of “The Mad Scientist”, “The Mechanical Monsters,” and “The Magnetic Telescope” each have a passing resemblance or narrative similarity to the Ultra Humanite, Toyman, and Lex Luthor respectively.
    • The unnamed female spy in the very final cartoon, "Secret Agent", clearly was Lois Lane's character design, just colored into a blonde and the voice actress added a foreign accent, and her narrative situation is also identical to Lois.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Clark seems to have his eyes closed much of the time, like his golden age counterpart at the early days and Captain Marvel.
  • Face Death with Dignity: In "The Underground World", Lois and Dr. Henderson were ready to accept their fates, thinking Superman might not show up.
  • Face of a Thug: All of the robbers in "Billion Dollar Limited". They all look like an unshaven Vinnie Jones.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: The cops in "The Mechanical Monsters."
  • Flaming Meteor: In the opening of 'The Magnetic Telescope', a meteor is dragged towards Earth, soars through the atmosphere, and rolls through Metropolis as a red-hot solid ball of rock - so hot, in fact, that it lights a port authority building on fire just by rolling over it while simultaneously rolling past dozens of other buildings with no effect.
  • For Science!: The motivation behind the scientist from "The Magnetic Telescope," who was willing to risk human lives for his experiments.
  • Friendly Rival: Lois and Clark. Lois always tries to get a story before Clark gets it, or without him.
  • God Guise: It's heavily implied that the Nazi commander and his men are posing as gods to the African tribe serving them in "Jungle Drums", although not stated outright.
    • In the backstory for "The Underground World", Prof. Henderson explains that his father disappeared years ago while exploring the titular caverns. Later, when Clark and Lois visit the caverns a statue of Henderson Sr. can be seen towering over the tribal (and visibly non-human) inhabitants. However, it's averted when it turns out that's not a statue at all, Henderson Sr. had been murdered by the creatures by being submerged in molten metal, with his body kept on display, and both Prof. Henderson and Lois are next.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In "The Magnetic Telescope," you'd think that the professor's counter-warning to the police that any attempt to interfere with his experiments with comets would be disastrous was more of a threat than an honest warning. It turns out he had a point all along after the police sabotage his machine, as he soon loses control of his magnet after pulling a comet into the Earth and is unable to send it away from Earth. Disaster ensues.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Lois, always.
  • Gratuitous Animal Sidekick: The titular scientist's crow... vulture... thing in "The Mad Scientist"
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: After Lois submits her article about the events of "The Underground World", Perry White tells her and Clark that their readers would find it too unbelievable, and burns it.
  • Hammerspace: Subtly subverted in "Showdown". Initially, it's unclear where the spandex-clad impostor is carrying the stolen jewels (and the gun that he pulls on the real Superman), but after losing his cape, he can be clearly seen to be wearing a hip-satchel.
  • Handwave: In "Showdown", the short excuse the imposter Superman's pretty obvious disguise by not letting anyone get a good look at his face (though this doesn't explain why nobody notices that "Superman" is scrawnier than usual or that he's not using his superpowers).
  • Harmless Freezing: In "The Arctic Giant" a Tyrannosaurus rex frozen for millions of years is accidentally thawed out and goes on a rampage.
  • Heroic Mime: Not as Clark Kent, but Superman doesn't seem to talk when he's on the job. Until "The Arctic Giant", that is. That said, even in the majority of the shorts after that he remains silent most of the time (aside from the "Arctic Giant," the only other shorts where he speaks are "The Magnetic Telescope," "Japoteurs," "Destruction, Inc.," and "Jungle Drums.")
    • Technically speaking, Superman does speak in very short:
    Clark Kent: This looks like a job...
    Superman: For Superman.
  • Hoist Hero over Head:
    • In "Terror on the Midway", the killer gorilla lifted Superman over its head and threw him into the fire.
    • In "The Mummy Strikes", a mummy lifts Clark Kent and hurls him into a sarcophagus. Later, Superman lifts one of the mummies and hurls him into the others.
  • Immune to Bullets:
    • "The Mechanical Monsters" has the introduction newspaper implies that significant measures to stop the mechanical monsters, but it only amounts to a large number of guards using automatic rifles. The bullets simply bounce off the armor, and the robot simply walks into the building as if there's no opposition. These robots are still destructible (as demonstrated by Superman fighting them).
    • The Arctic Giant. Bullets were the first thing used on it, and they ricochet off the front. Instead, the creature is entangled by more mundane means.
  • Informed Species: "The Arctic Giant" is labeled in the museum as being a Tyrannosaurus rex, but it looks more like a Notzilla than any real dinosaur, is stated to be native to Siberia, and at the end, we see that it's eating hay at the zoo.
  • Invincible Hero: Admittedly, the characterization is pretty shallow and the conflicts are very one-sided. Still, the villains are shown to be ruthless and unstoppable before Superman jumps in, and there is a real sense of wonder about his fantastic abilities. So, the final analysis? Heroic, yes. Invincible, yes. Boring, hell, no.
    • Subverted several times throughout the series, as the series shows that for all of his power, there are some things even Superman can't fight namely the forces of nature itself. In "Volcano" and "The Magnetic Telescope", Superman's powers are largely ineffective against the volcano and the meteor, both being problems he can't simply punch into submission. Instead, he has to use his brain and rely on science to save the day. There are even some mundane weaknesses demonstrated, like in "Billion Dollar Limited" when the train robbers briefly knock him out with some kind of gas bombs.
  • Jungle Drums: Right there in the title of "Jungle Drums".
  • Kaiju: What the "dinosaur" from The Arctic Giant would actually be today. It even looks a lot like Godzilla, making this Older Than They Think.
  • Kangaroo Court: In "The Mummy Strikes", an assistant to a killed archaeologist goes through this when she's immediately found guilty of poisoning him based solely on her fingerprints being on the needle believed to be the murder weapon, not even letting her explain that she had found it beside the body and picked it up, or examining the needle to see if it held poison.
  • Killer Gorilla: The plot of "Terror on the Midway" is kicked off by one accidentally getting released in the circus. Its tamer was nowhere to be found.
  • Killer Robot: The eponymous machines from "The Mechanical Monsters." Not only are they Immune to Bullets and have Super-Strength, but they also have flamethrowers on their heads.
  • King Kong Copy: Gigantic, the gorilla from "Terror on the Midway", is similar in size to Kong, going on an Escaped Animal Rampage after escaping his circus cage.
  • Kryptonite Factor: While never named outright, Superman finds himself powerless against the comet in "Magnetic Telescope", which constantly emits a Sickly Green Glow and hurls Superman back to Earth unconscious every time he attempts to attack it directly, strongly implying that the comet is made of the trope-naming mineral—or, at least, a precursor thereof (considering Kryptonite as we now know it was not created until the radio show a year later and didn't appear in the comics until seven years later).
  • Lava Pit: Or rather, molten lead pit.
  • Leitmotif
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The train robbers from "Billion Dollar Limited". They're shown briefly unmasked just before they begin the heist.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: "Mundane" is a relative concept here, since it involves an Elixir of Life, but in "The Mummy Strikes", the mummified bodyguards of Pharaoh Tush swore an oath 3.000 years ago to protect their lord, both in life and in death. In modern-day, Dr. Jordan tried to bring them back to life using an elixir, which he had found in the tomb, but this failed, and Jordan himself died from a poisoned needle hidden in the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Tush. When the sarcophagus is opened, and the needle trap is discovered by Clark Kent and the curator, a light begins to glow from an amulet worn by the mummy within, and the dead bodyguards do indeed return to life.
  • Mickey Mousing: A laser shoots Supes along to the background music in one of the shorts.
  • Monster in the Ice: In The Arctic Giant, a Tyrannosaurus rex is thawed out of a block of ice and goes on a rampage. Of course, this being the 40s, it looks more like Godzilla than an actual T. rex. Though it averts being a Notzilla by predating the Kaiju by 14 years, making for a case of Older Than They Think.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lois Lane, per usual. A particularly noteworthy highlight is her opera dress in the episode "Showdown."
  • My Suit Is Also Super: Superman's cape can redirect the flow of molten lead without even getting singed. Justified in that it actually DID have this ability in the Golden Age of Comics, an early comic shows that the fabric in Superman's spaceship was used to make his costume, and was almost as indestructible as him.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In "The Magnetic Telescope," the police destroy the generator powering the eponymous telescope, just as it's pulling in a massive comet through the atmosphere.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Lois bears more than a passing resemblance to Rosalind Russell's "Hildy Johnson" in His Girl Friday (1940).
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The Arctic Giant, which goes on a rampage, only because it was scared and confused after being woken from its deep freeze.
    • In a looser sense the gigantic mummified guards in "The Mummy Strikes" were merely acting upon their Undying Loyalty to protect King Tush. They had only just come back to life after 3000 years and it was the late Dr. Jordan who revived them.
  • Notzilla: "The Arctic Giant" manages to give us a Notzilla about a decade before the real one shows up! The titular Giant is described in-cartoon as a T. Rex, but it stands as tall as a building and has fins down its back. Fleischer Studios was huge in Japan (with Osamu Tezuka considering them an inspiration) so perhaps Eiji Tsuburaya had a memory of seeing this...
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When the boss from "Showdown" discovers that the Superman he's talking to isn't his mook in disguise, but the real one.
    • The mad scientist from "The Mad Scientist" has one when he sees Superman shrugging his laser off at full power.
    • Lois's reaction in "The Underground World," is when she realizes what the birdmen creatures did to the professor's missing father, and that they're intending her and the professor to share his fate.
    • Her reaction in "Terror on the Midway", is when she sees Gigantic the gorilla coming towards a little girl, causing her to drop her camera in shock.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: One of the villains from "Showdown" impersonates Superman at the behest of his boss. Thing is, aside from obviously not having any powers, the henchman looks nothing like Superman, he's not even muscular.
  • Pet the Dog: The Arctic Giant, after its rampage is stopped, is put into a wildlife reserve. After all, it only went berserk because it was scared and confused.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Nazi commander in "Jungle Drums" makes it clear that he despises the natives who are his allies. Truth in Television of course, because, well, Nazi.
  • Public Domain Animation: All 17 of the cartoons. After Paramount's contract for the character expired, the rights to the cartoons reverted to Superman rights-holder National Comics (now DC Comics), which was a common practice by the publisher to retain maximum creative control of their property. When the time came for copyright renewals, National somehow neglected to renew all of the cartoons' copyrights, and all of the cartoons went public domain as a direct result.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: In "The Mummy Strikes" during Dr. Wilson's recounting of the hieroglyphics detailing the legend of Pharaoh Tush, music from Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves is played.
  • Removing the Rival: In "Volcano", Lois steals Clark's pass to go investigating the eponymous volcano alone and get sole credit for the story. Clark finds out at the end but doesn't seem to hold it against her.
  • Ret-Canon: Superman's ability to fly and X-Ray vision came from these cartoons.
  • Rotoscoping: Used to make the bulk of the animation. Interestingly, according to the book "Hollywood Cartoons", some of the animations weren't rotoscoped and were drawn freehand by the animators themselves!
  • Rule of Cool: Superman easily repels a deadly laser beam in the first short, then proceeds to punch said laser beam. Repeatedly.
  • Runaway Train: "Billion Dollar Limited"
  • Scenery Porn: A lot of art deco backgrounds.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The scientist in "The Magnetic Telescope" claims that he will bring the comet he is going to study to within a mile of the Earth's surface. Normal airliner planes travel at 7 times that altitude. Plus, the comet itself is wildly inconsistent for the sake of drama. A later scene shows an astronomical body being destroyed by the comet, which would only be possible if the comet was bigger than Earth, or there was a satellite in orbit, which there wasn't in 1942. Even later still, the comet is shown to be only about 3 times as large as the observatory that pulled it in, much like the asteroid that the scientist pulled in at the start of the short.
  • Schizo Tech: It's the 1940s, but somehow there are still robots, laser guns, earthquake machines and another tech around that'd be difficult to make today, much less a near-century ago.
  • Shooting Superman: In "Billion Dollar Limited."
    • Also attempted by the impostor Superman in "Showdown"
  • Shot at Dawn: Threatened by the Japanese on Lois in "Eleventh Hour" if one more act of superpowered sabotage takes place. Luckily, Superman rescues her just as the firing squad opens fire.
  • Shout-Out: Whether or not it's intentional, the scientist in "The Magnetic Telescope" resembles Captain Marvel's nemesis Dr. Sivana. And to a lesser degree, to that bald mad scientist that causes trouble for Metropolis...or, going back further still, the prototype for Lex Luthor, the Ultra-Humanite.
  • Silence is Golden: These shorts used dialogue very sparingly. Superman's stunts in particular often have no accompaniment other than music.
  • Soft Glass: In "Showdown", the Superman imposter doesn't have powers, but at one point, he punches through a window without hurting his hand.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Averted. One of the few weaknesses this version of Superman has is a need to breathe (which gives him trouble in "Electric Earthquake" and is actively exploited by the villains in "Billion Dollar Limited").
  • Taken for Granite: In "The Underground World", the professor and Lois Lane come across a statue of the professor's long-lost father, who originally discovered the caves, but disappeared into them. Lois soon realizes that the statue IS him, and the Birdmen of the Underground World intend to turn them into statues as well.
  • This Cannot Be!: In the first Superman cartoon, the mad scientist has this reaction when his destructive ray has no real effect on Superman (aside from just knocking him down and pushing against him) and that Superman is more than a match for it.
    Mad Scientist: (alarmed) I don't believe it! He isn't human!
  • Those Wacky Nazis: In "Secret Agent", Superman battles Nazi saboteurs as they try to stop a female double agent from getting important documents to Washington, D.C.
    • Superman also battles Nazis in "Jungle Drums".
  • Title Sequence Replacement: Sometimes, shorts come to home video with their openings replaced with the prologue from the first. Also, sometimes "The Mechanical Monsters" lacks the part of the opening where Superman shows off his X-Ray Vision (later used to find out which robot contained Lois).
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Lois, most of the time. In the first short, Lois insists that she'd cover the story on the mad scientist alone without Clark and despite Perry's saying "no".
    Lois: Thanks, Chief. (walks off)
    Clark: But, Lois... Chief, don't you think this is a dangerous mission?
    • How about the villain from "The Mechanical Monsters"? What does he do when he sees that Superman is trouncing his robots? Leg it while Superman is busy? Of course not, he stands there like an idiot until the last robot is demolished and Superman throws the pile on the control console. Then he tries to hold Lois hostage, but instead of trading her life for safe passage, which Superman would uphold if he agreed, he tries to kill her and THEN runs for it. Yeah, he ends up in jail.
  • Trainstopping: As Superman usually does.
  • Transforming Mecha: The mechanical monsters from the eponymous cartoon. Hayao Miyazaki would use a robot very similar to the robots from "The Mechanical Monsters" in the second Lupin the Third TV series, as well as in Castle in the Sky.
  • T. Rexpy: "The Arctic Giant." The eponymous monster is identified as a Tyrannosaurus, but it is much bigger and looks nothing like the real deal.
  • Underwater Base: The villain in "Electric Earthquake" has one.
  • Undying Loyalty: Literally in "The Mummy Strikes". 3000 years ago, the bodyguards of Pharaoh Tush swore to guard him in this life, and the next one. When Tush died young, his guards committed suicide to follow their oath and were mummified alongside him. When Dr. Wilson and Clark Kent open the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Tush during their investigation of the death of Dr. Jordan, the mummies rise from the dead to kill them, just as they had sworn to do. This is actually played with in that they wouldn’t have come back to life at all had Dr. Jordan not inoculated their mummies with the Elixir of Life. Of course, Jordan himself had died from a poisoned needle hidden in the pharao's sarcophagus, so the pharaoh wasn't actually disturbed until Clark Kent and the museum curator investigated it...
  • Unnecessarily Large Vessel: The aptly named Giant Bomber in "Japoteurs". Even considering the fact that it also serves as an Airborne Aircraft Carrier for regular-sized bombers, the extreme difference in size shows that it's still considerably larger than it needs to be.
  • Villainous Valor: The inventor supervillain in "The Mechanical Monsters" counts as this. Where many of the other villains flee at the first sign of their plans being thwarted, this guy just keeps throwing everything at Superman in an effort to either destroy the hero or escape. When Superman interferes with one robot, he drops Superman onto some power lines. When Superman breaks into his headquarters, he sends his entire robot army after Superman. When Superman destroys them, he holds Lois hostage and tries to get Superman into a risky position by saving her. And after Superman successfully saves her, the guy tries to destroy them both via a vat of molten metal. It's only after he exhausts everything on hand that he tries to make a break for it.
  • Wartime Cartoon: The later Famous Studios shorts went in this direction, resulting in some very unpleasant Values Dissonance.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The huge laser in the first short.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The villain in "The Electric Earthquake" is a Native American with obviously legitimate land claim grievances given his people's terrible history interacting with Europeans, and whose first public appearance is in the Daily Planet, where he tries the legal and moral route of getting his story published in the paper (heck, Clark clearly thinks he has a good point.) It is only the fact that the piece of land he wants people to vacate is the island of Manhattan, one of the most densely populated places on Earth; and that after it is rejected he decides to stoop to making terrorist threats and has the destructive means and will to carry them out, that is obviously beyond the pale.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never do find out why the villains in "Destruction Inc" plotted to blow up the munitions factory, let alone killed the night watchman.
  • Winged Humanoid: The bird-men in "The Underground World."
  • The World Is Not Ready: Perry White decides to burn Lois's photos of the Underground World and pull the plug on the story, reasoning that no one would believe such a tale (even if Superman is involved). In his defense, it does sound ridiculous if you think about it.
  • Your Size May Vary: The giant gorilla in "Terror on the Midway" sometimes towers over humans that can barely reach its waist. At other times, it's only one head taller than Superman.


Video Example(s):


The Mechanical Monsters

An evil inventor creates an army of giant, ogre-like machines to commit robberies.

How well does it match the trope?

4.78 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / MechanicalMonster

Media sources: