Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thoughts on Superman ~~ A "Comical Wednesday" Post Combining Two David'Z RantZ Posts from 2008!



Since two of my early David'Z RantZ posts were Superman-themed, I figured that I could probably get away with combining them. Plus, it gave me the excuse to add the above photo of Lucy Pinder.

* * * * *

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 more than 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 Snopes.com, 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), 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.

23 comments:

  1. I smiled at that last part--no, you don't have to jump off a roof to fly, but doesn't it seem like that's always the way it's tested in movies and TV shows? Someone can't just stand on the ground and see if they can fly. It has to be a do-or-die moment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've jumped off of things as a child, but never to test any imagined power of flight. I always pretended I was parachuting from a plane, abandoning a flaming vehicle soaring off a cliff, etc.

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  2. i may or may not have jumped off things...but luckily the TIME article is 21 year too early....ha...of course superman has been re-made enough int he last 20 years....as that is the name of the game these days...i think he is still from krypton...

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    Replies
    1. His Kryptonian origin is about the only thing they haven't changed with all the re-boots.

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  3. Yeah that is kind of dumb about jumping off things to fly. Either you can or you can't. I read something that they were legally obligated to put "can't make you fly" or something on superman costumes because kids would try. As for the song, beats the heck outta me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are all sorts of warnings on things now, for children and adults... because a lot of people are just plain stupid. Ha. Ever see a car commercial where the driver goes up a wall, or something like that? They always have a disclaimer like "Professional driver. Do not attempt."

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    2. Yeah seen that too, sadly there is probably a moron that would attempt it

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  4. Ha. I had a Superman pajama top like that. Funny, it didn't look like that on me. maybe they sent me the wrong size. :-0
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. I still love superman (the comics)
    Always wanna be a Super girl :)
    And the first woman you put forget her bra lol

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  6. Oh, my. This post is old. You've been reading comic books almost half a century? We're well beyond that now, aren't we? And I use the Royal We because I am younger than you are.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. Forgot to change "almost" to "more than." See, everybody needs an editor!

      Delete
  7. See, that's why I love supergirl soo much. That said, let's read your post... Curt Swan's version of Superman is the best. I might be biased, though, looking like him in my dreams. When I was a kid in the early seventies, I charged back and forth across a backyard wearing my superman outfit. I was so frustrated... I thought wearing a superman costume meant you could fly. So much for acquiring the power of flight. No, it wasn't a towel and, yes, you might be on to something.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I was about five, I had a Superman outfit. For some stupid reason, they gave the suit a red domino mask!

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    2. Red domino.... Say it ain't so.

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    3. Yep. A full face mask that had black hair (with that little spit-curl) would have made more sense.

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  8. I have to first say..nice picture, lol. Also great articles. Now personally I grew loving the Reeves version and with John Williams Theme song on my lips I ran with my towels or even once was lucky enough to have a Superman costume complete with red cape. I would say possibly the radio show might have started the singing of the name, but I don't think they had a theme song. Also I would have to check but there was a cartoon that came out in the 40s. Again while they had music I don't remember them singing in it. It is an interesting question. I could spend so much time talking about this grandfather of super heroes.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You've certainly done your homework on Superman. I'm impressed by someone your age who knows about the 1940s cartoon and the radio show. To my knowledge, there was no singing in the Fleischer Superman cartoons, and the radio show had no theme song, as you said.

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  10. When I was a kid, I used to play Superman all the time (as well as Batman, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, etc) and when I would, I used this yellow ottoman that my grandparents had. I would lay on it, on my stomach, and reach out my arms and I was flying. I wasn't stupid enough to jump off the roof.

    See ya 'round the web. All Things Kevyn.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Now there's a novel way of doing it!

    (Direct reply feature isn't working, btw.)

    ReplyDelete

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