Superman Helps to Promote the Superman Animated Films in the Comics

This is "A Wall Between Us," where I spotlight notable examples of comic books breaking the fourth wall. What I'm looking at here is mostly examples from characters other than She-Hulk, Deadpool, Ambush Bug, etc. You know, the kind of stuff that is a bit more of a surprise to the reader. If you have any suggestions, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

Today, we look at how Superman broke the fourth wall to help promote the then-new animated films starring Superman by the Fleischer Studios!

In 1941, National Comics cut a deal for the Fleischer Brothers animation studio (working in conjunction with Paramount Studios, who distributed their animated films for a few years before outright buying the studio from the brothers) to put out a series of Superman animated films. Amusingly, what National did not know at the time was that they had negotiated away the rights to make Superman movies PERIOD, not just animated ones, so when they tried to make a Superman serial later that year, Paramount told them they couldn't because of the contract.

The animated films became major hits...

Not only were they popular, but they also popularized a number of aspects of the Suprman mythos, like the idea that Superman flies instead of just leaps from place to place (they did not ORIGINATE the idea of Superman flying, but they clearly did popularize the idea) and, of course, Superman winking directly to the audience, an early example of comic book characters breaking the fourth wall.

As part of an attempt to help promote these new animated films, 1942's Superman #19 (by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Ed Dobrotka and John Sikela) saw Clark Kent and Lois Lane actually attend one of these animated films, even though just doing so made it inherent that they were breaking the fourth wall, since those films were made as part of the "real world."

We see the issue right away when Clark and Lois note the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who obviously could not have created Superman WITHIN the DC Universe...

It's a clever artistic bit to have the reel edges denote what is the animated film and what is the "real" comic book story.

The film breaks the fourth wall again and Clark has a problem, as he can't allow Lois Lane to see the truth of his secret identity...

Clark has to improvise again later in the film...

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