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Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Explores How Animator Max Fleischer Defined Superman

Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Explores How Animator Max Fleischer Defined Superman

Have you gotten your fill of Superman yet? Whether you love or hate Zack Snyder’s interpretation of the iconic superhero with “Man of Steel” and this past Friday’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” it’s just one in hundreds, if not thousands, of incarnations of Krypton’s sole survivor. With nearly 80 years under his belt, he is among the first and proudest superheroes in U.S. history. “The Hercules of American culture,” as he is boldly called by YouTuber kaptainkristian. And in his latest video, “Superman – The Golden Age of Animation,” we get a thorough, loving look back at what brought the alien in red and blue tights off the page and into the hearts of millions.

While many would believe either George Reeves, Christopher Reeves or Kirk Alyn were among the first on-screen representations of the iconic DC character, it was actually through Max Fleischer, the creator behind animation icons like Popeye and Betty Boop, where audiences first started to believe a man could fly. Literally. In addition to establishing the look of The Daily Planet, Fleischer and his team were the first to make Kal-El soar above the sky. Superman would “leap tall buildings in a single bound” before Fleischer requested he simply fly, because the limitations of animation made it hard to have him bounce willy-nilly everywhere he went. What once was just a just a means to lighten the workload of animators soon became among the most iconic staples of comic book superpowers.

But this is just one of the many impacts Fleischer’s work had on popular culture at the time. These shorts eventually became the first action-adventure serial — which, in a time when animation was solely for comedy, was unprecedented. His work would also eventually pave the way to the Rotoscope, which is often still used in filmmaking today, in animation or otherwise. Supremely advanced for its ‘40s origins in terms of fluidity, lightning, movement and synergy, Fleischer’s work is often as incredible as anything Superman did himself. But you should check all that out for yourself in the video below.

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