Monday, February 15, 2010

A "Super" FIFTH Post in My "Best of" Series

This week marks the second anniversary of David'Z RantZ, the blog I "retired" in March of last year. I often feel that a lot of my current "Foxyblog" readers missed out on some really good RantZ, so I've been posting "The Best of David'Z RantZ" since the 11th, and will do so until the 17th. Where necessary, I've done the most minor of edits.

As I trimmed down a list of my favorite two dozen RantZ, trying to decide on the seven -- one week's worth -- which I wanted to share again with my readers, I made it as far as eight before realizing that, since two of them were Superman-themed, I could probably get away with combining them. Plus, it gave me the excuse to add the above photo of Lucy Pinder.

(And before you begin reading this post: Here is the BEST actor who ever played Superman!)

* * * * *

Truth, Justice, and... Name That Tune?!?

During the 1960s, I grew up with Curt Swan's version of Superman, so it's
Curt's version (shown above) that will forevermore be "my" Superman!

Ever see a little kid pretending to be Superman? Chances are, he (It's almost always a "he," since a little girl would probably pretend to be Supergirl.) will be charging back and forth across a backyard, or a living room, or down a hallway, etc., with one fist in the air and a towel (or another, similar rectangular piece of fabric) attached at the neck, singing one word:

"Supe - er - maaannnnn!"

Okay, now. I just wrote that. I certainly didn't sing it for you, right? Right.

But I'll still bet that you "heard" the tune that kids always sing whenever they sing the word "Superman."

I've been reading comic books (and comic strips) since I was about three or four years old. That's almost half a century, folks. I've collected comics as well. I've bought them new, off the rack. I've bought countless back issues that were even older than I am. (They still are. Funny how that works, innit?) I've bought and sold comics as a business (variously employed by others, or self-employed). I've done extensive reading -- one could really say research -- on the subject. I've met quite a few comic book writers and artists. I've even written quite a few comic book scripts myself, some of them eventually published.

In other words, while my knowledge of and familiarity with the subject is not comprehensive by any means, I can safely say that I know a hell of a lot more about comic books and their history than the average person would ever care to.

This includes my having sat through movies, tv shows, documentaries, a reality show -- thanks, Stan Lee! -- and even one freakin' musical about the subject.

That musical, by the way, was about Superman. So were some of the aforementioned movies and tv shows, and more damned comic books than I could ever count.

And you wanna know something?

I have absolutely no freakin' idea where the hell that sung version of "Supe - er - maaannnn" comes from.

Do you?

If you do, please tell me. Just be damned sure of what you're talking about before you gushingly offer an answer, such as "Oh, it must be from the old George Reeves television series. That had a great theme song!"

Well, yeah, it certainly did. But that theme song was comprised of dramatic -- dare I say inspiring? -- music played in the background, sans lyrics, while announcer Bill Kennedy practically went nuts extolling the virtues of the man comic readers in that Mort Weisinger era were used to thinking of as "Clark (Superman) Kent." Nobody sang the word "Supe - er - maaannnnn."

I've given this a lot of thought, obviously. (Characteristically, maybe enough thought to make some of you worry.) And the closest answer I've been able to come up with doesn't involve Superman.

It involves Hercules.

As in "The Mighty Hercules," an animated cartoon series produced in 1962, and broadcast from 1963-1966. (And just for a reference point here, I turned six years old near the end of 1962, placing the airing of "The Mighty Hercules" right smack in the middle of my so-called formative years.)

Its dynamic theme song was sung by Johnny Nash, who may or may not be the same Johnny Nash who had several Top 40 hits in the 1970s, depending on which internet source you believe.

And the way Nash opens the song is by singing "Hercules" in that
"Supe - er - maaannnnn" style. Note for note. See -- well, "hear" -- for yourself.

So, is it possible? Did some nameless kid -- approximately my age -- appropriate the opening bars of the theme from "The Mighty Hercules" and apply it instead to DC Comics' Man of Steel as a soundtrack for his playtime? And did it somehow catch on and spread, to the point where it ultimately became universal?

I hope it's true. Stranger things have happened in terms of how something is absorbed into our culture. There are a lot of people out there who, when receiving change from a cashier, say "Just like McDonald's," but these same people are far too young to have ever seen the commercial that inspired that line.

I've never actually asked anyone my age or younger if he or she knew where the "Supe - er - maaannnnn" thing originated. Nor, more importantly, have I ever asked anyone older than I if he knew. So I don't even know if it goes back to the 1940s or 1950s...

Which would kinda/sorta suck, in a way, because it'd blow the crap out of my own hypothesis if I were to discover that:

1) The "Supe - er - maaannnnn" musical sound bite did originate back in the 1940s or 1950s, and....

2) The producers of "The Mighty Hercules" ripped it off for their theme song!

Thanks for your time.

* * * * *

Up, Up, and... Oh, Sh*t...!

In a New Yorker article written by Michael Chabon, he tells of a "religious-school teacher," Mr. Spector, who told "a fine story about a boy who loved Superman so much that he tied a red towel around his neck, climbed up to the roof of his house, and, with a cry of 'Up, up, and away,' leaped to his death. There was known to have been such a boy, Mr. Spector informed us—at least one verifiable boy, so enraptured and so betrayed by the false dream of Superman that it killed him."

(And I'll bet my bottom dollar that, as he plummeted downward, the poor kid was singing that unofficial "Supe - er - maaannnnn!" tune I wrote about above at the top of his lungs, in case that could provide the power of flight which the makeshift cape hadn't.)

Ah, yes, the towel-necked kid who jumps off the roof... I've always put that particular urban legend one notch above that damned Walt Disney story.

So. I interrupted my reading of Chabon's article and took a brief time-out to check, the internet's best urban legend debunker (at least, it is in my opinion, which, as you may have noticed, is pretty much the only one that counts here at David'Z RantZ), to see if they could shed any light upon the old "kids-dies-trying-to-fly-like-Superman" tale. Nothing.

There is this, however, taken from a short article in the September 11, 1939 issue of TIME Magazine : "[Y]oungsters have taken to wearing Superman capes and carrying shields. In Milwaukee one enthusiastic young Superman fan jumped off the roof of his house and survived."

(Aside: "Shields?" WTF? These kids couldn't have been confusing Superman with, say, Captain America, because the Captain wasn't created until two years after the TIME article! But I digress.)

Okay, so TIME says the kid didn't actually die. Small consolation, I suppose. But the article doesn't offer any actual substantiation for the story, either. Hell, even Wikipedia doesn't let people get away totally unscathed for that!

But even as I sat there wondering if anyone ever could or would prove the roof-jumper story true or untrue, another thought came to mind: Long before the modern days of political correctness and the tendency to childproof everything in sight, this planet and the people on it operated under the "survival of the fittest" principle. Cars didn't have seat belts. Nobody wore crash helmets just to ride a freakin' bicycle. Anybody who could pull open the door to the cabinet under the sink would have access to ammonia, and bleach, and Pine-Sol, and all sorts of cool stuff! And if somebody wanted to smoke a cigarette, he or she would just light up anywhere and you were pretty much required to suck in the smoky air just like the rest of us! (Possibly the true origin of the phrase, "sucks to be you." Just a thought.)

Anyway, I'm enough of a comic fan not to want to step on anybody's wanting to indulge in a little bit of fantasy, especially a child's, but... It does occur to me that even if you could truly acquire the power of flight by attaching a freakin' towel to your neck, you still needn't jump off a roof to fly. You could either simply jump upwards from a starting spot on the ground, or get a running start and then leap... and with or without that shout of "Up, up, and away!" you'd be... well... up and away. Wouldn't you? I wouldn't climb up on a freakin' roof to try it unless I was... oh... 101% sure it'd work! I mean, were these legendary kids that stupid?

Look, even I'm not so cruel as to actually suggest that the little roof-leapers -- who probably never really existed, anyway -- deserved whatever they got, but... well... come on.

Thanks for your time.

* * * * *

Tomorrow: An article about two of my favorite subjects: Breasts. Its title? "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts!"


  1. Heh, heh! What I remember most about the Hercules cartoon was that obnoxious little sidekick of his, that little centaur who kept piping "Herc! Herc!"

    BTW, Snopes does bust the frozen Walt urban legend.

  2. @Roy: Newton was annoying, even to my six-year-old self.

    And you're absolutely right about Uncle Walt, of course. Personally, I've been trying to "bust" that one for years.

  3. I remember, as a child, tying towels around my neck and pretending to be Superman; however I never jumped off any tall buildings. I don't think, even as a 10 year old, I was quite that dumb.

    But then again, my mother never had any red towels either.

  4. @Barry: Ah, maybe that's the secret! If the towel is red, it'll work!

    Even I did the superhero dress-up bit, without any attendant roof-leaping, but naturally, my towel was black. And if you -- or anyone else -- is tempted to click on that link and read my old, lengthy anecdote, please feel free to comment, even at this late date!

  5. Now that you mentioned it, leave me with the same doubt. I've always read comics but never ask myself, which was the origin of the word supe-er-maaaaaaaannn. Definitely I have to investigate it, and I promise that if I found something, I'm gonna share it with you.


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