Superman 1.24: A Balanced Breakfast

Martha wakes up, and remembers.

In that first moment just after dawn, her head still clearing from sleep, there’s a fraction of a second when nothing has changed.

She opens her eyes and Jonathan isn’t there, because he couldn’t sleep — worried about the taxes again — and he ended up dozing in the armchair in the living room, a magazine in his lap.

She opens her eyes and Jonathan isn’t there, because his leg is bothering him again, and he went downstairs to do those funny exercises the doctor told him to try.

She opens her eyes and Jonathan isn’t there, because

Because he isn’t there.

And Martha remembers.

There’s work to do. It’s a farm, there’s always work to do, and now there’s even more. She’ll get up, and get dressed, and she’ll make breakfast for Clark — a complete breakfast, the best way to start the day, with two eggs, a slice of buttered toast, a glass of orange juice and the delicious whole-grain oats crunch of General Mills’ Cheerios.

So that’s the tone that we’re going for, I guess, in this moment between Jonathan’s funeral and Clark’s goodbye. Martha’s world is falling to pieces around her — tomorrow, for the first time in her life, she’ll wake up to an empty house — but the really important thing that we need to capture here is the breakfast cereal.

After a brief establishing shot of the farm, we see the view from the kitchen windows. Everything is dark and still, with Martha quietly moving across the screen in silhouette. There’s just one exquisite pinpoint of light, and what are the odds, it’s aimed directly at the spot where Martha happens to put down a box of great-tasting, heart-healthy Cheerios.

Looking through the window, she sees her son, standing alone in the sunrise. He’s leaving, of course; they always knew that he would. God granted them this miraculous child, but they knew, in their hearts, that he wasn’t really theirs. He belonged to the sky, somehow. They were just the people lucky enough to love him, for as long as it lasted.

Oh, and the box of Cheerios is in this shot too, and it must be one of those special imaginary boxes that has the front printed on both sides; what a lucky coincidence for General Mills. This is probably their happiest day since they were promoted from Lieutenant.

There’s another oats-focused shot in the Director’s Cut, too, which adds an extra 33 seconds of Martha calling for Clark, chirruping at the parakeet and waving the cereal box around.

So yeah, it’s another 0-1 game in the age-old tournament of Art vs. Commerce. The Salkinds were sick of paying other people’s money for cranes, trains and dolly shots; they wanted a little money coming in the other direction for once. And who would even notice a bit of subtle product placement, besides every single person who watches the scene?

To be fair, the Cheerios cameo is the only one that stands out; the other sponsors are pretty low in the mix. There’s one where Lois checks her Timex watch when she’s waiting for Superman to arrive, but it’s not particularly noticeable.

And then there’s the JVC sign when people are watching the news through the TV showroom window, which doesn’t really stand out either.

According to the credits, Clark’s wardrobe was also furnished by Barney’s, and Eve’s jewelery by Cartier, not that you’d notice. We’ll have to wait until Superman II to get any more really obvious product placement, especially in the New York street fight where it turns out Superman really, really wants to sell us cigarettes.

But nothing is entirely pure in this fallen world, not even Superman. He was doing product placement all the way back in 1941, in Action Comics #32. The story was about Superman smashing the gambling racket in Metropolis, which is centered on a secret gambling establishment called the Preston Club.

The story itself is pretty pedestrian for a Superman comic. Clark urges the mayor to close down the Preston Club, but when they pay a visit to the notorious den of vice, everyone’s just sitting around reading the newspaper. Lois manages to get in that night, but she’s exposed as a reporter, and Preston drugs her with a special fluid that causes complete amnesia. Superman beats up some thugs and then cures Lois with a shot of mental hypnosis, which is all fairly routine.

But then we end up in Clark’s laboratory, which is a one-time concept as far as I know. He explains to us what he’s been working on: “The Krypto-Raygun — a startling invention with which I can snap pictures — they are developed right in the gun — and can be flashed upon a wall!” And I suppose that could be kind of startling, assuming you’re easily startled.

Next thing you know, he’s clinging onto a wall like Spider-Man with his new toy, gathering up all the evidence he needs, assuming that images that can be flashed upon a wall are admissible in Metropolis.

There’s some smash-em-up action at the club, where Superman continues his one-man war on interior design by smashing the door in and wrecking all the furniture. Then he heads to city hall, where he gets a shot of the mayor telling the mobster to go to hell — I’m not sure how that picture helps the case, but maybe Superman has a scrapbook projected on his wall at home.

After a brief spot of hostage-taking and a mountainside car chase, the story ends with the Krypto-Raygun providing the crucial evidence that the police force needs to conclusively settle Preston’s hash, and then we never see it again, except at the department store.

That was all an ad for a toy, obviously, and quite a misleading one, because it suggests that the toy is able to take pictures as well as project them, which it can’t.

It’s pretty sweet, though, especially with the packaging. It was made by Daisy Toys, who had a whole line of different projectors. They came with thin metal film strips that you could feed into the gun, and then you’d project the film on the wall, one frame at a time, to tell a little story. They had sets for other comic strips, including Red Ryder, Big Chief Wahoo from Steve Roper and Mike Nomad, Dan Dunn and Captain Easy, plus sets with Fighting Planes of the World and one that had “Wild Animals, Night Before Christmas, Little Black Sambo”, which is a nice varied assortment.

They went all out on the Superman set, creating a custom art deco design with a raised image of Superman pointing down the barrel of the gun. The box makes up a whole bunch of science words for different parts of the toy, including the Krypto-Ray Filter Tandem, the Krypto-Wave Accumulating Antenna, the Beam Source and Picturizing Chamber, and the Chronology Control and Krypto-Contact Lever.

I honestly don’t know why they even bothered trying to make a story about boring things like gambling and racketeering, when they could have just published this diagram, and kids would have been absolutely entranced by it. Sometimes Commerce deserves the win, and that’s all there is to it.

The really startling thing about this invention is that the ad copy invented Kryptonite, two years early.

The ad says: “RAYGUN looks exactly like the KRYPTO-RAYGUN used by SUPERMAN in his never-ending fight against crime… like the one SUPERMAN had made of KRYPTONITE — that amazing metal from SUPERMAN’S birthplace — the Planet KRYPTON!”

As far as I know, that’s the first time the word “Kryptonite” was ever used. The real Kryptonite, the dangerous one, was first introduced on the Adventures of Superman radio show in June 1943, in a story called “The Meteor from Krypton”. It didn’t hit the comic books until 1949.

I assume this is just a case of parallel evolution — a copywriter coming up with a cool-sounding word, like the Krypto-Contact Lever and the Krypto-Beam Generator Housing, and then the radio show writers came up with it independently a couple years later. After all, if the Krypto-Raygun was really made of Kryptonite, Superman wouldn’t have been able to settle Preston’s hash; the hash-settling would have been on the other foot.

There’s an even weirder example of in-comics product placement in the 1978 Superman comics, but I’m going to save that story for another day, when we can sit down and have a good long chat about it. After all, we haven’t even finished breakfast yet, and look at the time.

Does Superman: The Movie
follow a three-act structure?
1.25: Syd Field Forever

Movie list

— Danny Horn

26 thoughts on “Superman 1.24: A Balanced Breakfast

  1. Superman: The Movie turned their back on Kellogg’s…

    …to get in bed with General Mills, and I guess it’s been a lucrative partnership ever since:

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Noel Neill, when she visited my high school in 1976, said that either the sponsor Kellogg’s or the producers or someone had at first thought about doing a Kellogg’s commercial showing Jimmy and Lois eating Kellogg’s. Then someone brought up the impropriety of that – if Jimmy and Lois were having breakfast together, that would imply that they spent the night together! And of course, that would have been improper for the 1950’s!

      Liked by 5 people

      1. I’ve heard her tell this story too (or someone; maybe it was Jack Larson), and I think she added something about how it was fine to think of Jimmy and Clark waking up and having breakfast together.

        But of course, the dialogue in the commercial makes it very clear that Jimmy is just stopping by on his way to work. Because that’s a thing you did in the 50s apparently: drop by to eat cereal with your coworkers.

        Liked by 5 people

  2. Later they would diffentriate Krypton metal from the radioactive Kryptonite. That is, safe Kryptonian metal would be strong enough to harm or restrain Superman, at least in PreCrisis.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. According to the credits, Clark’s wardrobe was also furnished by Barney’s, and Eve’s jewelry by Cartier, not that you’d notice.

    I remember being amused by the “Cheerios by General Mills” entry in the closing credits when I first watched it in movie theatres.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My son is 3, and for a while we were listening to Superman radio show episodes during his drive to school. He got extremely excited about three things, every time –

    1) Any time the name “Superman” was spoken out loud.
    2) Any time Jimmy Olsen said “Jeepers!”
    3) Most of all, the commercials for Pep Cereal.

    It got to be a regular thing about our house this summer that I would say “Eat all your Pep!” and then Miles would say “Don’t waste it!” Eventually, he started saying “Waste it!” and then giggling. Then both of my kids (my daughter is 6) started doing this thing where they would dance around chanting “I’m gonna waste my Peh-ep! I’m gonna waste my Peh-ep!”

    Yes sir, it was regular Pep Cereal Madness around the Strand house this summer. My favorite was when I heard my daughter’s friend say, seemingly out of the blue, “I mean, don’t waste your Pep, am I right? Well, he did it!”

    Liked by 6 people

    1. The radio show commercials are pretty mesmerizing; the announcer had a lot of personality. “Kellogg’s — PEP! The super delicious cereal.” And often it starts with “say, fellas and girls, I bet you’ve been wondering…” I’m not really selling this concept to anyone who hasn’t heard them, but they are legitimately interesting to listen to.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. The other things from those ads that my kids started saying all the time was “We’re sending cereal grains to the fellows and girls overseas!”

        Liked by 4 people

  5. I think people would also be touchy about Lois and Jimmy spending the night together because she’s supposed to be a fraction older than he is.
    Of course, I’d say the same thing if he were supposed to be a fraction older than she is, because (regardless of what you hear) people act just as uptight about THAT.


  6. Danny, you got me tearing up with Martha waking up with no Jonathon being there and not being there ever again while she putters around the house.
    Also wondering who the Writer and Artist was for that issue.
    Was it Siegel and Shuster? Looks to be!
    And I don’t mind product placement usually, it’s a real life thing anyway.
    Got a kick out of the Cheerios box!
    Kix! Get it? Anybody?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The ad for the Krypto-Raygun says that Superman carries it concealed on his person. Seems to me there’s not much room in his Super-uniform to conceal much, let alone a pistol that large. I trust that the Man Of Tomorrow has opted for a smartphone for more streamlined camouflage.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I should have asked this question during the Venom post but my brain is slow this week. Venom is labeled 91 so I’m assuming that means it’s the 91st Superhero movie you intend to cover. I know I haven’t seen that many! What is your criteria? Do they have to be live-action? (No “The Incredibles”.) Do they have to be based on a comic book? (Two strikes against “The Incredibles”.) Do they have to have actual superpowers? (Does being super-rich count as a superpower? Because Batman just has “wonderful toys”.) Does Constantine count as a Superhero? Am I overthinking this? Even if you’re just doing every American DC and Marvel movie, you have your work cut out for you. It seems to be a growth industry.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. The criteria are: live-action blockbuster-style theatrical movies starring characters from DC and Marvel Comics. From DC, that’s Superman, Supergirl, Batman, Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, Catwoman, Constantine, Watchmen, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Joker, Suicide Squad, Steel and so on. From Marvel, obviously it’s the MCU films, as well as the Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men films, Ghost Rider, Blade, Daredevil, Elektra, the Punisher, Jonah Hex, Deadpool, the Wolverine films, Blade, Howard the Duck. There’s a lot of them. I should actually post the list somewhere.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. > Okay, I posted it — it’s in the header now.
    Movie list

    I’m shocked. I “don’t go to comic book movies” but I’ve seen 29 of those on the list, which is almost a third. It’s mostly DC, X-Men and pre-Disney Marvels (including Howard the Duck on original release!), with almost no Disney Marvels (the two exceptions being Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy).


  10. I can understand why you would tend to concentrate on films connected to Marvel and DC, but might you consider finding some way to work in “Mystery Men” or “Unbreakable”?

    Liked by 1 person

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