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Max Fleischer's

"Intended for the adult collector and is not suitable for children."

I'm still psyched about Warner Brothers releasing Max Fleischer's original Superman cartoons in one beautifully remastered set. For years, when new acquaintances wanted to give me a cool but cheap Christmas gift, they would pick up one of the public domain copies available from $1 to $5 on VHS or DVD at TargWalBuy.

Sure, the thought really counted, but aside from having about four different compilations of the cartoons, they were scratchy, faded and often with those annoying jumps that come from having lost the original elements.

Age couldn't dim their power, though. Fleischer and for a time his brother Dave made history with these shorts. A few years before Kirk Alyn put on the tights - and still had to be animated when he used his powers - the Fleischers made movie audiences believe a man could fly. At least, in eight minute increments.

A few years ago, Warner put the kibosh on their flagship character flying around in the public domain by digitally remastering the shorts. Initially spread out over the DVDs for either the Superman Collection Collector's set or the "Christopher Reeve Collection" they released in Christmas 2007, they were welcome extras, but still, collectors needed them all in one place.

Here it is. As beautiful as before, with documentaries putting everything in historical perspective. But I have a bone to pick with that warning I put up top. I won't argue that not all of the shorts are suitable for children. Because many were filmed during World War II, some feature racial stereotypes that may cause you to shake your head. No way should you show your child "Japoteurs" or "Jungle Drums," though both have been available on those cute public domain cheapies with no outcry.

However, many of the cartoons work incredibly well for kids, even today. Fast-paced, full of energy, and simple in plotting but not simplistic, this is the Superman you want your kids to root for. The initial episode, titled "Superman," stands out as great for kids, along with "Terror on the Midway" (Superman takes on rogue circus animals) and "The Mummy Strikes" (come ON! Supes versus a Mummy!).

Each one gives you everything you need to know about Superman and his world. Voice artist Bud Collyer became so iconic in the role, he played it in radio and cartoons up until his death in 1969. Listen to him change from Clark Kent to Superman, and you'll know what a debt later actors like Christopher Reeve, Gerard Christopher and Tim Daly owed to Collyer's work.

So give it a once over for yourself before showing it to kids, but share the magic of this stuff. It's not just historic - it's alive.

Derek McCaw


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