Monday, May 9, 2011

Look to the Sky...

As a child of the '80s and early '90s I was also into comic books of the era, too. Batman and Superman were at the top of the list for me...I love the Super Friends cartoons as well. I was not familiar with the earlier cartoons of Superman until they were released on a low-budget home video in the early '90s. Those cartoons were the theatrical releases by the Fleischer Studio. I was then acquainted with the George Reeves version of Superman when Nick-at-Nite began to air the television show...around the same time I began hearing the radio version with Bud Collyer that would often show up on NPR and the anthology series, When Radio Was, formerly hosted by Stan Freberg. I was very familiar with the movie version of Superman played by Christopher Reeve. The movies used to air seemingly all the time in the 1980's on HBO and TBS.

In addition to Superman, Bud Collyer was equally noted as a game show host ("To Tell the Truth", "Winner Take All", "Beat the Clock", etc. etc.).

In this DVD we get 36 six minute episodes. I don't necessarily know if each episode runs exactly 6 minutes but I'd say 6 and a half to 7 minutes is the general length per episode. Among the many adventures in this collection quite a few of them are wonderful in their story-telling...one of the adventures that's fine but isn't on the same level as the other episodes is "The Iron Eater". In that episode Superman has to stop a bizarre looking mechanical menace devouring iron all over the world. That episode, as well as "The Imp-Practical Joker" featuring Mr. Mxyzptlk, are more whimsical than anything else.

One of the criticisms of the collection is that the episodes aren't in chronological order. For example, "The Return of Brainiac" is on Disc 1 while "Superman Meets Brainiac" is on Disc 2. As you can tell, the compilers of this collection should've caught the error before the DVD collection was released. Even with the collection not in chronological order at least someone should know, judging by the titles of those two episodes, which one came first. Regardless of this it doesn't take away from the enjoyment you'll get watching the episodes.

In what could be described as a forerunner to the future Legion of Doom makes an appearance as A.P.E. The members of the A.P.E organization are: Lex Luthor, Toyman, Prankster, and the Warlock. In their episode "The Men from A.P.E." we have Luthor as the inventor of a Kryptonic projector which is shot from a light-house. It's beam of kryptonite is capable of aiming at Superman within a mile radius. The villains purposely device schemes that cause Superman to fly near the light-house. "The Tree Men from Arbora" is a tale of a tree creature that consumes gallons of water...ponds, rivers, even the water from a by-stander's car engine. The creature hides in the Redwood Forrest and Superman has to battle him and return him to the Arbora planet.

"Merlin's Magic Marbles" involves Luthor and his assistant, Blinky, obtaining magic marbles from the spirit of Merlin. Toyman, in a later episode, creates a robot version of Superman for criminal use. The episode, "The Two Faces of Superman", is on Disc 2. One of the funnier aspects of the dialogue is when Superman refers to one of the insects in "Insect Raiders" as Buzzy...in another episode, "The Prehistoric Pterodactyls", Superman refers to one of them as Terry Baby. In the Superman history there have been various criminals to use the name, Toyman. The original, Winslow Schott, is who the Toyman in these cartoons is based on. The illustration of him in these cartoons has him with dark hair, a big red bow tie, and just as a side-note the Toyman in these cartoons makes me think of comedian Henry Morgan (most famously known as a regular panelist on the classic game show, "I've Got a Secret").

Something of a mystery to me is the identity of the person providing the voice in the opening sequence saying the line "It's Superman!". We hear Jackson Beck do the narration but then we hear "It's a bird!", "It's a plane!", and then "It's Superman!". The reason I'm curious about who did that particular "It's Superman!" voice-over is because it sounds incredibly like Danny Dark, the man who voiced Superman in the 1970's and 1980's Super Friends episodes. If anyone has any information I'd love to know if it was Danny Dark or someone else.

Given that The New Adventures of Superman originally consisted of three short episodes per half hour (2 of Superman, 1 of Super-Boy) we have all of the Superman episodes that aired on that program. Since there were 2 short adventures of Superman per half hour episode, and there were a total of 18 half hour episodes produced, that's 36 in total.

The Super-Boy episodes aren't included due to legal complications.

To clear up some of the on-going confusion of whether to call this a "complete series" it's important to note that without the Super-Boy segments it isn't a "complete series" but as far as the Superman segments are concerned it's indeed a "complete series" since it has each and every Superman adventure from the first season, 1966-1967. The second season, 1967-1968, aired under the title The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure. The third season, 1968-1969, aired as The Batman/Superman Hour.

Each of those Superman adventures in the third season were split up into 2 parts.

The fourth season, 1969-1970, was nothing but reruns from earlier seasons.

Bud Collyer passed away on September 8, 1969 which was the same day an updated version of "To Tell the Truth" began airing with Garry Moore as the host!

Collyer was the voice of Superman/Clark Kent on radio, in theatrical cartoons, and in the made for TV cartoons of the mid to late '60s.

The voice of Lois Lane in these episodes is Joan Alexander...she also provided the voice of Lois on the radio version, too. She became a regular panelist on the 1950's game show, "The Name's the Same", in addition to her being a regular actress on various radio drama's of the time period.

Jack Grimes is the voice of Jimmy Olsen in these cartoons just as he was in the final few years of the Superman radio show.

The show's narrator, Jackson Beck, also provided the voice of Perry White in addition to various incidental characters. Beck was also the narrator and voice of Perry White in the radio version of Superman. Beck's most recognized cartoon voice is that of Bluto/Brutus in the Popeye cartoons produced from 1944 through the 1960's.

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