- Series Title: Superman: The Animated Series
- Season: Complete Series
- Episodes: 54
- Discs: 7
- Network: WB Animation
- Cast: Tim Daly, Dana Delany, David Kaufman, Clancy Brown
- Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC, R1, Animation
Superman: The Animated Series along with Batman: The Animated Series started off what became known as the Timm-verse, a series of related series by WB Animation based on DC Comics. Although I am quite a fan of Batman: TAS and later series Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, and Young Justice – I had never watched Superman: TAS before, also the first series I saw chronologically was Justice League even though it was a later series in terms of when it was made. (I basically caught some of Justice League on Boomerang a sister channel to Cartoon Network and loved it so much I bought everything on DVD a set at a time. I did not see the Timm-verse in the chronological order of when it originally aired.) Superman has never been one of my favorite DC characters, though, I’m much more of a Batman fan, so I delayed ordering and watching this.
Superman: The Animated Series does well what other series in this set of shows do well – the stories emphasize the character from the comics as he was in the early modern age of comics. This isn’t an angsty Superman or a conflicted Superman who is unsure about his role. Also, other than showing the destruction of Krypton (a sequence repeated in the title sequence) and an almost montage of Clark being found and raised by the Kents and first using his powers as a teenager in Smallville, this series doesn’t dwell on Superman’s origin story. After the 3-part pilot, “The Last Son of Krypton”, the series settles down into its usual format: Clark Kent, a reporter for the Daily Planet, is secretly Superman and must battle bad guys and rescue people.
I’ve always found the character of Superman to be too perfect. He has the perfect parents, perfect job, perfect girlfriend, and he’s basically invulnerable to everything except for Kryptonite. That Superman is only vulnerable to Kryptonite is something so well known in modern culture, “What’s your Kryptonite? or, “he’s my Kryptonite” – has become slang for “What’s your vulnerability?” or “He/she’s my vulnerability?” In Superman: The Animated Series – Kryptonite is something that seems extremely easy for any villain to get. Also, because Superman is so over-powered, his villains are extremely over-powered. Many of the Superman: TAS episodes have an extremely strong villain (like Darkseid) show up and try to physically beat up Superman, which tends to not work. We also see a lot of Brainiac, who in this series comes from Krypton and was responsible for no one else being saved from the planet.
Superman: TAS also doesn’t build up a relationship between Lois and Clark. They are shown to be more colleagues than romantic partners. Clark’s relationship with Jimmy Olsen doesn’t get really explored until nearly the end of the series – when Jimmy gets a signal watch (something that Lois doesn’t have as far as I can tell). Even Clark’s relationship with his parents, Jonathon and Martha Kent, is not really explored. We see them a few times, but they are definitely background characters.
However, there are some episodes I really liked. One episode I enjoyed very much was “The Late Mr. Kent”. First, it had a monologue for Clark – this made him more relatable. If the entire series had used a monologue I probably would have liked it better. The episode tells the story of Clark investigating the case of a man found guilty of murder during a robbery and sentenced to be executed. Clark talks to the man and examines the evidence and believes that the man was, in fact, innocent – and framed. As Clark investigates further, he discovers proof. But then his car is blown up by a car bomb and crashes into the ocean. Because there’s a witness to the “accident” Clark fears he can’t just show up again, unhurt. Clark as Superman continues his investigation, while Lois, Jimmy and other characters mourn the death of Clark Kent. Eventually, Superman is able to prove that a dirty cop was behind everything – the frame up, planting evidence, the actual murder, etc. Superman also finds out the witness was unreliable, so with some help from Lana Lang, he returns as Clark, claiming he swam ashore and was under Lana’s care. The convicted man is released and the cop is executed instead.
There are also episodes of Superman: The Animated Series that introduce other characters from the DC universe, including Lobo, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, The Legion of Superheroes, and Batman. I, for the most part, enjoyed these team-ups. The Lobo two-parter felt a little flat to me, but the others range from good to excellent. There are three Batman-Superman team-up stories in this collection and I liked all three. Batman is voiced by Kevin Conroy of Batman: The Animated Series and the guest characters are voiced by their Batman: TAS counterparts. I enjoyed seeing Batman and Superman work together, and their mutual relationship was well done. We also get to see Lois fall for Bruce Wayne, whom she discovers is Batman. I thought that was a bold choice, and something different.
Superman: The Animated Series also featured several impressive guest stars including: Mike Farrell (as Jonathon Kent), Michael Ironside (as Darkseid), Malcolm McDowell (as Metallo), Edward Asner (as Granny Goodness), Charles Napier (as General Hardcastle), Robert Hays, Robert Ito, Carl Lumley, Roddy McDowell, William H. Macy, Robert Morse, Michael York, John Rubinstein, Charlie Schlatter, Jason Priestley, Sarah Douglas, Richard Moll, Paul Williams, David Warner, Ernie Hudson, Carolyn Seymour, Ron Glass, and Marion Ross, and as mentioned from the Batman crossover episodes: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin, and Bob Hastings. As with other Timm-verse shows – the casting is extremely impressive on Superman: The Animated Series.
Overall, though I have some issues with the perfect nature of the character of Superman, I find that this series brings the comics to life so to speak. Because it’s animation, the budget is less limited than in a live-action series, and we see Superman in space, huge fight scenes, and impressive story-telling. Superman: The Animated Series is recommended. This particular set consists of discs that have not been labeled consecutively. Also, every other disc is a two-sided disc. And the final disc has one special feature on it and that’s it – no episodes. I would have preferred it if they had remastered everything, putting eight episodes per disc and not doing any two-sided discs, even if that had increased the number of discs and making the set more expensive. I did like the single case with flip pages to hold the discs and slipcase packaging though. Even with the mastering issue, the episodes themselves look good and I recommend this series, especially to Superman fans.