Move Over Superman, It's Superpup!
Retro Thing's SuperWeek comes to a close with possibly the oddest tie-in to Superman we've found. As if the live-action of adventures of Superman weren't intriguing enough to children, the producers of the 50s TV show wanted to target an even younger audience. They shot a pilot for "The New Adventures Of Superpup", and boy... it is odd.
It was 1958. The star of TV's Superman was dead under mysterious circumstances. Show producers were left in a quandry. Reeves was so closely associated with the Superman character, that recasting the role didn't seem like an option. So producer Whitney Elsworth came up with "The New Adventures of Superpup". Shot on the same sets as the George Reeves series, "Superpup" reimagined all of the characters as dogs. Clark Kent became "Bark Bent" and Lois Lane became "Pamela Poodle" in an all-dog universe with no human beings.
Rather than cast trained dogs (that would have been silly!) Superpup stars a cast of little people with (frankly gorgeous) oversized dog masks making their way through a puppy-sized Superman-styled adventure. Aimed at the kiddos, there are a few weak attempts at jokes for the grown-ups watching. Oh, and there's a little puppet mouse who lives in Bark's desk that speaks right to the audience... of course...
Though Superpup may seem like a peculiar idea (because it is!), fans of anime and Japanese video games see this concept all the time. Otherwise serious characters may suddenly morph into exagerrated cartoony versions when showing strong emotions, when used in ads or doing cameos in kiddie cartoons. These versions are called "super deformed" or "chibi" versions. Today popular characters are often reimagined and reproportioned into all manner of things (witness the loathesome "bobblehead" craze) just to come up with more ways to sell the same idea, but back in 1958 I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this idea was still more than a litle perplexing.
The project never got past the pilot stage. It was too soon after Reeve's death, and the premise was just too peculiar for TV stations to be interested. The pilot was thought lost for decades, relegated to being dismissed as an improbable rumor. Then in the 1993, Chuck Harter wrote a book called "Superboy and Superpup: The Lost Videos" with stories from people who claimed to have seen the show. Shortly after that, the pilot film was quietly released onto the bootleg VHS circuit to prove that the show had really happened.
Today you can get the show as part of the massive 14 DVD "Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition", but we've got it right here for you (with a truly awesome generic announcer intro). Half of the episode is in color from a nice film print, the second half is in black and white from a poorer video copy.