If the Superman radio show let people know what the Man of Steel sounded like, the animated shorts put out by Fleischer Studios in the ‘40s let the whole world see his powers in motion. Unlike animated series from today, these shorts were shown exclusively in movie theaters before the start of the feature film. Using a technique known as rotoscoping—where an actor’s facial expressions and movements are recorded, traced over, and animated—these cartoons brought a beautiful realism to Metropolis that went unrivaled for more than 50 years.
These cartoons were short, often lasting less than 10 minutes, but it was the first glimpse most Americans got of Supes, and they proved to be a huge hit. The art-deco styling and bombastic action were mesmerizing for the time, and it still holds up today. Comic artists, writers, film directors still consider this a milestone for the character, and its influence can be seen in the work of writers and artists like Mark Waid and Darwyn Cooke, as well as in movies like The Rocketeer and Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow.