Max Fleischer’s Superman (Blu-ray Review)

An essential piece of the multimedia lore of Superman has been the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s. They’ve been on Blu-ray before, via a more rough and not high quality. The Superman film box set included them, but they were rough SD ports from the DVD set of those film. Warner Bros, in coordination with the 4K Superman set coming out this month, is putting a restored/remastered standalone release of them out on May 16th. Popping on a new featurette, will this be a definitive version of these or will people still wish better could happen. Well, read the review and discover for yourself. And if you feel the need to dive in, go ahead and pre-order a copy using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review.


Superman made his comic book debut in 1938, appearing in Action Comics #1 (dated June 1938, but officially published on April 18, 1938), and the Man of Steel’s popularity grew with his subsequent radio program. Max Fleischer gave the world’s first Super Hero his initial animated spotlight, producing 17 theatrical animated shorts from September 1941 to July 1943 that further elevated the character’s profile, and added many significant aspects to his canon – including coining many of Superman’s patented catchphrases and attributes.

There’s a beauty in the simplicity of Max Fleischer’s adaptation of Action Comics star Superman. Nothing overly complex comes about in the 17 stories put to animation here. Diabolical baddie has scheme, most of the time Lois Lane tries to get the scoop on it and Superman comes to save the day. The villains may differ, but the idea is all the same. And its harmless fun that is easily enjoyed by any age at any time. Even then, but perhaps moreso now, what you are here for is a bit of an experience of a superhero as art. In 1941, it is was the first you could see Superman in motion, but in 2023, you can see what an iconic influence it had on comic book heroes and animators for the next 80 years.

Fleischer’s Superman arrives after he’s only been around for roughly 3 years (Probably less when these stories were written and the animators began work). The mythology and characters aren’t even close to the fully formed nature of what would be known later. Not a flyer, but a big leaper. No Kent family, an orphanage. Lex Who-thor? But with that adds to the simplicity and purity of this storytelling. And it allowed these creators to play and also invent. Adaptation was much more accepted, and playing around with “canon” was perfectly acceptable and lead to many of the things you know and love about the Man of Steel first appearing here.

Animation and stylings here would resonate throughout the industry in the many years following. In an oddly full circle moment, one of its greatest influences would be in the creation of the 1990s show Batman: The Animated Series. The success of the cape crusader would then lead to the creation of Superman: The Animated Series, which was also done in that similar style. Max Fleischer’s Superman is something to behold and study and see what a big deal it was and still is. And its probably best enjoyed kicking back and allowing yourself to just sink into its art and style and appreciate how timeless it sort of feels.


Encoding: MPEG4-AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Here’s what Warner Bros provided me about the release when it was announced:

Warner Bros. Discovery’s advanced remastering process began with a 4K, 16-bit scan of Fleischer’s original 35mm successive exposure negative. Staying true to the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37-to-1, the highest quality raw image was then scanned and then entered into the recombine process – utilizing special proprietary software to merge the successive exposure Technicolor negatives into a single RGB color image. The end result are pristine animated shorts that have been restored to the animators’ originally intended production quality.

From that, you’d have been expecting a hell of an experience. Now, disc-wise, this is a very good presentation of the video. Its pretty crisp and colorful with the details there being plenty crisp. However, this is a very overly cleaned up and overly polished looking animation. Things are a lot more flat and primary than what they should be. There are plenty of detail, texture and depth missing with their choice to excessively scrub this one up to fix damage and attempt to remove the grain. There are moments where the genuine article looks to appear in spots and its quite good, but for the most part this one looks like they did quite a makeover on it. To the untrained eye, the person who doesn’t go to this a lot or isn’t privy basically it will probably appear just fine. But those of you hardcore home video junkies, I’m sure you’ll be polishing up those pitchforks.

Depth:  This is a bit of a flatter experience and that’s likely due to the source, but the restoration doesn’t help that out a whole lot. Movement is smooth and natural with no real issues with motion distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rather solid. In some areas of night, shadow or darkness, the remnants of some grain can be found. No crushing witnessed during my viewing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are plenty bold and do pop quite well here. Reds, blues, yellows, greens and more really strike quite well and lift off the screen.

Flesh Tones: N/A

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean


Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: The audio here is a decent presentation, though at times a bit of a warbly effect can come through, especially on some of the introduction scenes. There’s a bit of the analog nature still present here. I’m sure they’ve done what they can with likely poorer and 80 year old source material. But overall its rather “fine”.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and analog sounding with a hiss base to them.


Max Fleischer’s Superman: Speeding Toward Tomorrow (HD, 13:20) –

First Flight: The Fleischer Superman Series (HD, 12:55)

The Man, the Myth, Superman (HD, 13:37)


Max Fleischer’s Superman has already proven a disappointing release among reviewers. Though, a casual buyer probably won’t even notice, nor care. Its a wonder if Warner Bros is going to react and go back to the drawing board on it. The new featurette is pretty nice, but nothing the previous ones really didn’t bring already to the table. If you really need this, wait until a very nice sale price to pull the trigger.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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