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Director: Seymour Kneitel
Release Date: September 18, 1942
Stars: Superman
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Japoteurs © ParamountNo sooner were the Fleischer brothers removed from their own studio, or their stars Superman and Popeye were fully put to the war effort.

No other American cartoon stars featured in as many propaganda shorts fighting the foe. Superman stars in five, of which ‘Japoteurs’ is the first.

In this entry three Japanese spies try to steal the world’s largest bomber on its test flight. Of course, Lois flies along, and both she and the plane have to be rescued by Superman.

‘Japoteurs’ is an unfortunate cartoon, which adds to the idea of a fifth column of Japanese within The United States, making every Japanese person suspicious. Indeed, due to this type of paranoia, during the war no less than 110,000 Japanese Americans, including women and children, were put into internment camps.

This is Superman film No. 10
To the previous Superman film: Terror on the Midway
To the next Superman film: Showdown

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Director: Isadore Sparber
Release Date:
 Oct 16, 1942
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★★½
Review:

Showdown © ParamountIn an original twist to the Superman formula, a sneaky fake Superman steals jewelry for his gangster boss.

Meanwhile Lois and Clark  have to report an opera performance. Luckily, the fake superman is there, too, pickpocketing the attendants. Superman captures his look-alike and his boss.

‘Showdown’ clearly has the most original story line of all superman cartoons, and this makes the short arguably the best entry of the series. At least the cartoon contains the funniest line in the series, when Lois makes Clark Kent the sarcastic remark “fine Superman you‘d make”.

Watch ‘Showdown’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 11
To the previous Superman film: Japoteurs
To the next Superman film: Eleventh Hour

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 August 26, 1942
Stars:
 Superman
Rating:
 ★★★
Review:

Terror on the Midway © ParamountIn ‘Terror on the Midway’ Lois is reviewing something as mundane as a circus, when a small monkey accidentally releases a titanic gruesome gorilla.

The gorilla follows her, while Superman’s busy putting other animals back into their cages. He rescues Lois and captures the gorilla, but it remains unclear how he stops the fire that has started, too.

‘Terror in the Midway’ is one of those fortunate Superman shorts without a villain (see also ‘The Arctic Giant’ and ‘Volcano‘ from the same year). However, it also shows Fleischer’s ambivalent realism: it contains some generic Fleischer thirties children designs, which by 1942 really look old-fashioned, but there are also some rare close-ups of Lois and Superman, which add to the drama. The staging, too, is superb, with some spectacular shots.

The gorilla looks like a typical King Kong-like monster, despite the fact that its model sheet was partly based on rotoscoped movements of real gorillas. Apparently, Bambi-like naturalism was wasted on the Fleischers animators.

Terror on the midway gorilla modelsheet © Max Fleischer

gorilla modelsheet from ‘Terror on the midway’

Unfortunately, ‘Terror on the Midway’ would be the last Superman cartoon made by the Fleischer studios, before Paramount stole their crew to form their own Famous Studios. Indeed, it was the very last film the Fleischer brothers made together, ending an era that had begun 27 years earlier.

Watch ‘Terror on the Midway’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Superman film No. 9
To the previous Superman film: Volcano
To the next Superman film: Japoteurs

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