Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s anything but the original Superman, because he couldn’t actually fly!
As bizarre as it sounds, the Man of Steel—the original FGG (flying good guy)—didn’t have the superpower of flight in his initial 1938 incarnation. And he wouldn’t get that power until three years later, when Max Fleischer of the then-named Fleischer Studios created a silver screen series for the hero and needed to lessen the illustration strain on his animators.
That’s right. Superman (and subsequently many other superheroes) flies because in 1941, animators wanted to avoid carpal tunnel.
The revelation—or succinct organization of facts, if you already knew this about Superman—comes to us via kaptainkristian’s YouTube Channel. If you haven’t heard of kaptainkristian, who simply “[makes] video essays,” that’s probably because this is his first video, and there seems to be little else available about him online. Although he does appear to be friends with CGP Grey, who directed the Internet to the above video via his twitter account.
In the video, entitled “Superman – The Golden Age of Animation,” kaptainkristian describes how Max Fleischer and his brother not only gave Superman the ability to fly, but also changed the cartoon paradigm by combining animation with action-adventure serials. Kaptainkristian also points out that the Fleischers’ take on Superman “elevated the medium [of animation]” by using realistic lighting and illustrations that “almost look like… oil painting[s].” Even the look of the Daily Planet and Godzilla(?!) were established by the Fleischers.
Aside from innovating and elevating (literally!) Superman, kaptainkristian also notes that Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope, which is still used to create stunningly realistic animation by using filmed footage of live action characters as the basis for illustrations.
Now that we know the real “origin story” behind Superman’s flight, that Bill Gates quote about choosing “a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it,” seems super relevant. Although the animators probably weren’t lazy. But then again, they weren’t Supermen either.
What do you think about kaptainkristian’s video and the effects Max Fleischer had on Superman? Let your comments fly in the comments section below!
HT: CGP Grey
Images: Fleischer Studios via kaptainkristian