Superman: Japoteurs (1942)

Director: Seymour Kneitel
Animation: Myron Waldman, Nicholas Tafuri
Voices: Bud Collyer, Sam Parker, Joan Alexander, Julian Noa, Jack Mercer
Music: Sammy Timberg

Here’s just a quick one to kick off the week. In my intro to Costumed Adventurer Week I mentioned that many of our more famous costumed superheroes, such as Superman and Wonder Woman started off battling Nazi and Japanese spies. Just as a example, here’s Superman battling a Japanese spy ring in Japoteurs – which I sure you have worked out is a mashup of the words ‘Japan’ and ‘Saboteurs’. This is the tenth of seventeen animated Technicolor short films, and it’s the first made by Famous Studios taking over from Fleischer Studios.

The United States War Department has just unveiled it’s latest bomber aircraft. This massive beast, apart from it’s devastating payload also carried four smaller aircaft in it’s belly. These aircraft, via lift can rise up onto the spine of the plane and use the plane’s back as a runway. We are talking one mighty big plane. As it is launched the Daily Planet Newspaper sends along two of its reporters to the airbase to cover the event.

The reporters are the intrepid, but trouble prone Lois Lane and the mild mannered Clark Kent. The reporters are briefed and shown through the aircraft. Once the tour is over, the reporters are asked to disembark, so the mighty aircraft can make it’s maiden voyage. All the reporters leave except one. Lois Lane decides to stay aboard and hides in a locker.

Lois isn’t the only stowaway. Two Japanese saboteurs have hidden themselves is dummy shell casings, and once the plane is in the air, they make their way to the control cabin and take over the flight. They turn the plane towards Tokyo.

As Lois emerges from her hiding place and makes her way to the cockpit, she realises something is wrong. Instead she makes her way to the radio and informs the tower that the plane is now in the hands of the Japanese.

Soon the airforce is scrambled in order to stop the plane. Also to the rescue is Superman. As he catches the plane, he finds that one of the saboteurs has captured and tied up Lois. The saboteur orders Superman to leave the plane or he’ll drop Lois from the bomb chute to her certain death. Superman agrees to leave, but the saboteur decides to drop Lois anyway. At the last second, Superman swoops in and catches Lois. He then doubles back and clobbers one of the saboteurs.
Superman then makes his way to the cockpit and towards the other saboteur. This one has the steel door to the cockpit bolted shut. But this is no chore for Superman who simply pushes the door in. Realising that he is defeated, the saboteur grabs a fire extinguisher and smashes the controls to the plane, so it spirals out of control, down towards the crowded Manhattan streets.

Will Superman be able to save Lois, the largest plane ever made and the people of Manhattan? I shouldn’t have to ask really!

Japoteurs has now passed into public domain, so you can find it on various compilation DVDs and videos (many of dubious quality). But if you wish to watch it online (it only goes around 9 minutes), then click here.

Well that’s a very brief look at a classic costume hero battling spies – but tomorrow we move into the sixties and explore one of the more tepid costumed adventurers battling organsised crime.

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