Warner Bros.' new--but old--collection of the classic 1940s Superman cartoons is certainly worthy of your attention. These ground-breaking shorts, made in the character's infancy, helped define the hero as we know him today. Beyond that distinction, they're absolutely gorgeous-looking cartoons, beautiful in their simplicty of design and their breath-taking backgrounds.
This is a 2-disc set, utilizing the same remastered cartoons that were included in that big metal Superman box, which came out in 2006 and featured all the Christopher Reeve films, plus Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Still, this standalone set is a perfect companion for WB's excellent Popeye series, also by Fleischer. The title of this set is a bit incorrect, though. Fleischer did the first 9 cartoons (the first disc); the remaining 8 were finished by Famous Studios after Paramount took over the Fleischer's studio in Florida. While the non-Fleischer cartoons are still something to behold, there is a slight loss of quality between the 2 discs. (Superman, for example, suddenly goes sans belt.) Some of the latter cartoons are beautiful, though, especially "Jungle Drums" and "Underground World," which features a race of hawkmen. The latter films also deal more with World War II propaganda, but that might have been something that even Max Fleischer couldn't fight. (Note that there's a small error on the menu for the second disc; "Destruction, Inc." was released in 1942, not 1943. The cartoons are presented in the order in which they were released.)
I grew up on these cartoons and can remember being absolutely thrilled every time one appeared on TV. I watched Captain Jack McCarthy's Popeye show on Channel 11, WPIX, out of New York City each afternoon, and occasionally Capt. Jack--or the great Chuck McCann on Sunday's "Let's Have Fun" show--would throw one of these in. With our brand new color TV (purchased in 1962 solely so we could watch Bonanza and baseball in glorious "living color"), I can vividly remember seeing these later on in the 60s for the first time in color, and being blown away again by them.
This set also features two previously released documentaries: the way too short "First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series," which features Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, among others, talking about the far-reaching influence of this series, and the tedious and boring "The Man, the Myth, Superman," another in a series of DC/WB documentaries which includes long, drawn-out commentaries by doctors, philosophers, and authors about myth, supermen, and all things yada-yada-yada. I sincerely wish WB would get off this track and just present documentaries which dealt with the history of the characters in comics, movies, TV, etc. I'd much rather see a fun doc on licensed products than watch some boring professor trot out cave drawings and Greek mythology once again.
Many video companies have released these Superman cartoons over the years, claiming they're in public domain. I ordered my copy from Amazon, because the local Best Buy didn't seem to carry it. I can't say I blame them; these things sometimes go for $4.99 at WalMart, so a new collection at the suggested price of $26.99 doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but trust me: it's worth it. These are beautiful cartoons in the best presentation you'll ever see. If you're a fan of these--no matter how many times you've seen them--you owe yourself the small luxury of buying them again in this spiffy--and "absolute"--new edition.