Comic Adaptations: The Serial Era

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)

Kinda boring and repetitive, as these serials usually are. Less boring than like Flash Gordon or Buck Rodgers I guess, but still definitely a chore to get through.

(D-Rank)

Batman (1943)

(CW: Racism, ethnic slur, concentration camps.)

Narrator: This was part of a foreign land, transplanted bodily to America, and known as Little Tokyo. Since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs it’s become virtually a ghost street.

Yeah that’s gonna be a DNF for me. I’ll put up with quite a bit of racism/etc in movies, but sometimes something is so egregious that it tells me everything I need to know about a movie. Narrator Word of Author cheering on concentration camps is gonna fall into that category.

Oh hey, that reminds me, happy The United States Shouldn’t Exist Day.1

Fleischer/Famous Superman Cartoons

Superman

Iconic animation, even if Superman fighting a laser by punching it was pretty unintentionally hilarious. And that score, heck. We used to have these on VHS so these shorts really informed a lot of my early understanding of the Man of Steel.

Also, while I’m sure it wasn’t intentional (especially given how propaganda-y these get later), I kinda loved that when they said what Superman fights for they said “truth and justice,” but no “American way.” Idk if that was a later addition or if they just omitted it, but once again, happy the U.S. Shouldn’t Exist Day.1

Oh, in Things That Matter To Me news, this had some pretty great bondage in it. You see the shadows of Lois getting tied to a chair, and she’s bound and gagged for most of the latter half of this short.

Also come to think of it when the fuck did she get a plane???

The Mechanical Monsters

Decent, generic Superman short where he punches a bunch of robots. Superman punching robots looks a bit less silly than Superman punching a laser, even if The Mad Scientist is a bit more iconic. Lois gets bound and gagged rather fetchingly again, this time suspended over a pit of molten metal by the villain.

Billion Dollar Limited

Were mistakes made? I don’t think anyone could or would say otherwise. In retrospect it does seem that sending a billion dollars in gold on a single train and publicizing it on the front page of the newspaper had some conceptual shortcomings, no one’s trying to deny that. And with the full benefit of hindsight perhaps the vast majority of the guards protecting the train shouldn’t have been in a single, easily-detached car. And possibly the train should have been monitored or escorted in some fashion.

And Lois not getting bound and gagged even once? Serious oversight. Let’s not kid ourselves.

But I think taking all of that into account, we can take the lessons we learned here, and move forward. I don’t want to get into fingerpointing or casting blame. I just don’t think that’s productive right now.

Thank you all for coming. I will not be taking questions at this time.

The Arctic Giant

Tyrannosauruses lived in what’s now North America, not Siberia. And this big guy didn’t look anything like a T-Rex, so I’m gonna say he’s some kind of kaiju and he’s a big cutie and I would date the heck out of him.

Lois doesn’t get bound and gagged in this one but she does almost get vored by the giant not-dinosaur, so I’ll let it slide but it’s on thin ice.

GET IT??? “THIN ICE”??? … I’ll show myself out.

The Bulleteers

Perry calls for Lois and Clark to come see him in his office and they enter from two separate doors on the opposite sides of the office and it’s really silly and I have so many questions about the architecture of this office.

Electric Earthquake

Land Back.

Eleventh Hour

No see it’s good when Superman does a sabotage.

Destruction, Inc.

More wartime propaganda but at least not racist this time. And Lois gets bound and gagged and stuffed in a torpedo which is probably the best bondage peril of the entire series if you’re into that kind of thing (and I clearly am).

The Mummy Strikes

Wow these things had even more racism per capita after Famous Studios took over huh?

The Underground World

This is the best one of these after Famous Studios took over and it’s not close. Lois and some old guy explorer get kidnapped by some buff bird furries, and yeah I’m pretty jealous tbh. They’re tied up and dangled over a pit of molten gold, and when they see a golden “statue” of another outsider proudly displayed it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen to them if Superman doesn’t save the day.

Superman (1948)

“When you wake up you’ll be at the mercy of the Spider Lady!”

This one starts a lot stronger than other serials I’ve seen, and it really takes past the first hour for it to start dragging like serials pretty much always do. The destruction of Krypton is done fairly well, it’s really only once Martha and Jonathan Kent become involved that things get a bit corny. They have a pretty wooden conversation that leads to Clark leaving home to be a superhero, and then the narrator literally says something like “Ma and Pa Kent died soon after this” which just felt pretty unnecessary. But after that Superman’s first few adventures are actually pretty good, and I like the Spider Lady and her gang as adversaries. And I’m maybe a little gay for the Spider Lady.

There’s also some pretty good bondage throughout, which is obviously always going to be something I’m looking for in a serial. But yeah. Eventually this gets pretty repetitive and back and forth, but that’s kind of normal for the genre, and like I said it takes a lot longer to get to that point than most serials! Admittedly I can’t compare it to the Batman serial since I abandoned that one after it literally endorsed concentration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, so it’s possible that one was of a similar quality. But yeah, I’ve seen the little bit I saw of that one, Adventures of Captain Marvel, and one each of Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers, so I’ve seen a decent number of serials compared to the average fox and this is pretty easily the best one I’ve seen so far.

The thing is, it’s still kind of just not that fun to watch after a point? So even though it’s the best serial I’ve seen so far that doesn’t make it good by any stretch of the imagination, and I think that just speaks to the limitations of this format. But still, I do definitely enjoy a lot of the more pulpy aspects you often see in these even if the experience as a whole does tend to end up wearing thin before too long.

(D-Rank)

Batman and Robin (1949)

I’ve had more fun watching paint dry.

  • It’s still pretty funny watching Batman and Robin just driving around in a regular car.
  • I think it’s hilarious that Batman has a house in the suburbs because the movie couldn’t afford a house like Bruce’s
  • The opening montage had some thick copaganda (the usual stuff about them being undermanned and helpless etc), but I giggled when the headline “Police baffled!” was followed by the headline “Citizens demand more police.”
  • At one point Robin gets beaten up and kidnapped but they don’t tie him up at all and he easily runs away. They really need to work on their sidekick subduing technique. Vicki Vale gets bound and gagged nicely though!
  • The Wizard is such a boring-ass villain.

(D-Rank)

Captain America (1944)

“The vibrator! If it isn’t shut off the building will collapse!”

Look I think we’ve all been there.

(D-Rank)

Superman and the Mole-Men

The only good part of this movie is the part where Superman calls a bunch of small town white idiots Nazis and takes away their guns. And I’m making that sound slightly more awesome than it actually was, but it was still pretty fucking cathartic.

(D-Rank)

Stamp Day for Superman

If only I had seen this sooner and bought U.S. savings stamps and bonds I wouldn’t have turned out to be such a gay trans pervert stoner commie.

(D-Rank)

Notes

1. I watched these on the 4th of July, ironically.

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