Geek Trivia

Which Of Superman’s Powers Was Created At The Behest Of Animators?

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The 1999 Ig Nobel Prize For Literature Was Awarded To A 5,000 Word Treatise On The Topic Of?

Answer: Flight

When people think of Superman, what’s one of the first things they think of? His superhuman strength? His near invulnerability to damage? Flight? While the strength and the stop-a-train-with-his-face powers have been there since the beginning, Superman didn’t fly in the original comics.

In fact, the catch phrase “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” hearkens to the era when that was the extent of Superman’s aerial powers—using his incredible strength to launch himself, grasshopper-like, over buildings and obstacles.

In the early 1940s, however, Superman gained the ability to fly—and for an incredibly mundane and practical reason. It wasn’t to propel a story arc forward or to forever enshrine a superpower into the fabric of the superhero genre, but at the request of animators, specifically, the Fleischer brothers. The duo behind Fleischer Studios were responsible for creating incredibly detailed and high quality Superman animations in the 1940s, and their animation shorts would set the bar for cartoons for decades.

They requested the addition to Superman’s powers not for some great artistic vision, but simply because when his bounding over buildings was animated, it proved to be both incredibly time consuming and incredibly silly looking. Rather than resign themselves to drawing Superman looking like a flea bouncing around, they asked that he be given the power of flight so that they could animate him blasting through the sky, faster than a speeding bullet—and, with that, perhaps the greatest superhero power of all time was canonized.