Superman: The Animated Series was made in the same fashion as Batman: The Animated Series. The tone was a little more serious and a lot more action. It was first produced in 1996 and made 54 episodes through the year 2000. The show received high praise for raising the bar but at the same time keeping what was important to the mythos of Superman. In fact, it even received a nomination for an Emmy. Besides Smallville, this probably stands out as the best television adaption of the one known as Superman, the Last Son of Krypton and hero to the planet Earth (and beyond).
Most of us know the story of Superman, but perhaps it is best that we run it over a little bit adapted to the actual animated series. Krypton is approaching devastation but only one scientist believes it to be true, Jor-El. He feeds his information to a computer named Brainiac who is in charge of the planet and all of its major operations. The computer analyzes the information and says the planet is safe. Jor-El knows the computer is lying and can’t convince the others of the danger.
Jor-El decides to break into the holding place of Brainiac and see for himself what is the real truth. He finds out that Krypton is indeed dieing and there is nothing he can do about it. With the cops in pursuit, he runs to his home and with his wife’s help they put their son Kal-El in a spaceship. They set the course for a planet called Earth. As the spaceship flies away, we see two things: the destruction of the planet Krypton and Brainiac escaping.
The scene shifts to the planet Earth where the spaceship crashes. Martha and Jonathon Kent find the spaceship and the adopt the baby as its own. They name him Clark. The next few minutes, we saw Clark grow up. But Clark realizes he is different from the other human beings. He has amazing powers and he uses them to save others. Eventually the Kents tell Clark about the spaceship and he learns where he came from.
Eventually Clark accepts his powers (and also learns to fly) and takes a job at a local newspaper office as a reporter along with Perry White & Lois Lane. Clark keeps his powers secret as Lois and him investigate Lex Luthor who is showing off his new battle suit robot. The robot gets stolen but its up to Clark to change into his suit and take out the bad guys. He succeeds and pictures are taken. From that point on, he is dubbed Superman. As the show continues and he comes to understand his powers, he battles many more villains and keeps the world safe for at least one more day.
To be honest, I never watched this series all that much. I was a Batman boy and spent most of my time between that and the X-Men animated series. I never got around to Superman as he always seemed too powerful and too much of a goody goody image. I should have. These fifty four episodes are some of the most wonderful pieces of super hero cartoons I have ever laid my hands on. Superman is still shown in a goody two-shoes kind of light but it’s more edgy and less apple pie.
The stories are excellent and the range of characters will make any fan-boy squeal in delight. I absolutely adored Lobo (Brad Garrett is awesome in portraying his voice) and new villain: LiveWire. Lobo needs his own animated series so bad, it isn’t funny. But even if you took out those two characters, there is still a good dozen or more that I could still rave on about for the next couple of paragraphs.
Through the course of fifty four episodes, there are naturally a few shows that you could describe as somewhat troublesome (examples like Unity & Superman’s Pal). In fact, anything involving the Toy Man wasn’t my cup of tea. He seemed much more suited for Batman. But most of episodes were at the end of the run when they needed some filler before the final uplifting episodes. But honestly, the complaints on the show are few and far between.
The video is shown in its original 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation. The color is about what you expect for mid-nineties animation and basically about as good as the Batman animated series was. There was apparently a lot of work done in the editing room and most of it stands out wonderfully. Everything is pretty sharp and you’ll get to see plenty of Superman close up and personal. Even far away shots are above average for the most part.
Audio is presented in English and French 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround. There is also a Spanish option but it only appears for the first couple of discs. Sound is strong and about as full as a 2.0 mix can get. Dialog is clear and the audio presentation feels very solid. An important note, subtitles are also a little confusing. Spanish and French are provided on all episodes while English only appears in discs one through four.
- The Last Son of Krypton – Part 1 Commentary – Producers Bruce Timm, Paul
Dini and Alan Burnett, Director Dan Riba and Art Director Glen Murakami: The first of many awesome commentaries in this set. The people you see above reflect the general cast for most of the commentaries. They really put together great tidbits about this incantation of Superman along with past including representations in movies and the comics. If you enjoy learning about Superman and the show, you’ll love these commentaries.
- A Little Piece of Trivia 21:29: This is like a pop-up video track but it is all about Superman and it is ran over the “A Little Piece of Home” episode. Pretty informative and lots of good tidbits about the series and Superman in general.
Disc Two – Side A
- Audio Commentaries for the episodes: Stolen Memories, The Main Man – Part Two, & Tools of the Trade
- Superman: Learning To Fly 9:40: A behind the scenes look at the Superman animated series. They talk a lot about the show in general and we learn that a lot of magic occurred in editing with this series. Apparently the product given by the animators wasn’t up to standards and they really had to work out quite a few things in editing.
Disc Two – Side B
- Building the Mythology: Superman’s Supporting Cast 9:37: This features goes over all of the supporting characters in the series from Lois Lane to Ma & Pa Kent. Good for people who are watching the show for the first time.
- Trailers: Batman: The Animated Series Vol 1 & 2, Challenge of the Super Friends
- Video Commentary for the episode: Mxyzpixilated: Several of the key guys from the show get together in an apartment to discuss this episode. To be honest, it would have probably better off to keep this in audio commentary mode. It added nothing extra, and you really didn’t get to enjoy the episode either.
- Menaces of Metropolis 13:00: Another great feature that goes over all of the various villains found in the series. This includes old enemies that everybody knows from Lex Luthor to Brainiac. But it also includes some new ones made especially for this series like LiveWire & Luminous.
Disc Four – Side A
- Audio Commentary for the episodes: Brave New Metropolis & World’s Finest – Part One
Disc Four – Side B
- Trailers: Thundercats Season 1 Volume 1, Batman Volume 4, Superman Volume 2, Batman vs Dracula, Batman: Man Who Would Be Bat, Teen Titans: Fear Itself,
Justice League: Joining Forces
- Audio Commentary for the episodes: Apokolips Now! – Part 2
- Superman: Behind the Cape 15:20: The voice of Jimmy Olsen or rather David Kaufman interviews some of the makers of Superman: Animated Series. This interview goes over the high and low points of the last 18 episodes. Very focused and a lot of good information.
Disc Six – Side A
- Audio Commentary for the episode: New Kids in Town
- Look Up in the Sky! Amazing Story of Superman, Excerpts from the New
Documentary (Produced by Bryan Singer & Kevin Burns) 6:26: This is the only featurette that was a miss for me. It’s movie and tv fluff about Superman for the most part. It dives into the old series with George Reeves and continues to the present to include Smallville and Lois & Clark. Six minutes is hardly long enough to get into anything meaningful.
Disc Six – Side B
- Audio Commentary for the episode: Legacy – Part Two
- Trailers: Superman – Brainiac Attacks, Superman – Hero, Justice League Season Two, Superman Volume 3, Sound of Superman, February DC Comics Kids, Superman
- The Despot Darkseid: A Villain Worthy of Superman 16:55: A good lengthy feature all about Darkseid including information from the comic and the series. He replaced Luthor as the central villain for the last bulk of episodes. I have no qualms with the featurette, just question a 17 minute featurette by itself with a few trailers on a single disc. It seems like they could have given us something else.
- Trailers: Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Complete Season One, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Green Lantern: First Flight – The
Animated Movie, Superman Doomsday
I do feel my duty is to mention the packaging as some people will hate it and some people will live with it. Each volume of 18 episodes gets one disc with full color cover art with roughly six episodes and then a normal two-sided disc with six episodes on each side. So that represents the first six discs and then there is a seventh disc which includes the special Darkseid featurette.
These seven discs are placed into one very complicated case holder and thrown into a very nice slip box with collectible packaging. It does sit nicely in your collection but one has to wonder about the condition of the two-sided discs after a year or two of usage. I can certainly understand why some fans are not pleased but a ten-disc collection might have been hard for executives to swallow.
There are plenty of things in my life that I have only come to appreciate many years later. John Carpenter movies, Charles Dickens, and a gamer fiancée are among a few. I can safely add Superman: The Animated Series to the mix. It’s blend of great storytelling with solid animation and fantastic characters made this a complete joy to watch. Some will find the packaging troublesome but with the wealth of special features and all fifty four episodes, it is really hard to discount this one. If you only decide to watch one version of the man who is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, this would be a fine choice. Highly recommended.
The Last Son of Krypton – Part 1
The Last Son of Krypton – Part 2
The Last Son of Krypton – Part 3
Fun and Games
A Little Piece of Home
Disc Two – Side A
The Way of All Flesh
The Main Man – Part 1
The Main Man – Part 2
Tools of the Trade
Two’s A Crowd
Disc Two – Side B
Blasts from the Past – Part 1
Blasts from the Past – Part 2
Disc Four – Side A
Brave New Metropolis
Ghost in the Machine
World’s Finest – Part 1
World’s Finest – Part 2
World’s Finest – Part 3
Disc Four – Side B
The Hand of Fate
The Late Mr. Kent
Apokolips Now! – Part 1
Apokolips Now! – Part 2
Little Girl Lost – Part 1
Little Girl Lost – Part 2
Where There’s Smoke
Disc Six – Side A
New Kids in Town
Little Big Head Man
In Brightest Day
Disc Six – Side B
The Demon Reborn
Legacy – Part One
Legacy – Part Two