|Superman: The Animated Series|
Image showing Superman during the end credits of the series
|Theme music composer||Shirley Walker|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||54|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production||Warner Bros. Animation|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original network||Kids' WB|
|Original release||September 6, 1996 -|
February 12, 2000
|Preceded by||Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)|
|Related shows||DC animated universe television series|
Superman: The Animated Series is an American animated television series based on the DC Comics's flagship character, Superman. It was produced by Warner Bros. Animation and originally aired on Kids' WB from September 6, 1996 to February 12, 2000. The series was the first of several followups of the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, and was equally acclaimed for the thematic complexity, quality animation and writing, faithfulness to the source material, voice acting, maturity and modernization of the title character's comic-book mythos.
Premiering ten years after the 1986 reboot of the Superman comic-book character, the animated series paid tribute to both the classic Superman of old and the newer "modern" Superman. For instance, the depiction of Krypton reflects the older idealized version in the Silver Age of Comic Books while the scope of Superman's powers reflects the more restrained contemporary concept as developed by John Byrne in that the superhero has to struggle to perform spectacular feats, while Clark Kent is shown to be openly, if quietly, self-confident (similar to the depiction of Batman's alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, in Batman: The Animated Series).
Midway through the series' run, it was combined with The New Batman Adventures to become The New Batman/Superman Adventures. The characters of Superman and Batman were then spun off into a new animated series, Justice League, which also featured other popular DC Comics characters, including Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl which spawned a sequel series Justice League Unlimited.
Originally producer Bruce Timm wanted the show to have a more 1940s Fleischer Studios Superman-cartoon feel. Another original character design sheet showed the characters in a stylised 1950s style (not unlike that of the live-action Adventures of Superman TV series), suggesting that the producers also considered setting the series during that period, or possibly ending up like Batman: The Animated Series (set during modern times, but with an Art Deco feel) or as the producers said Gotham was Art Deco with Gothic elements, Metropolis was "Ocean Liner Deco". As with the first season of Batman, the opening theme sequence of Superman lacked an on-screen title. Also like Batman, the opening theme for Superman lacked any lyrics, instead being an instrumental piece played over various scenes from the series. Koko Enterprise Co., LTD., TMS-Kyokuchi Corporation and Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD contributed some of the animation for this series.
During the series, Bruce Timm and his crew began using TMS-Kyokuchi Corporation as an outsourced pre-production unit as well as an animation unit, and TMS storyboarded and directed episodes themselves.
One noticeable aspect of the series carried over from Byrne's work was Superman's powers were significantly downplayed compared to his comic book counterpart. Where as in the comic he could lift millions or billions of tons effortlessly, this version struggled lifting trucks, construction equipment, roadways, etc. The writers admit that he was made as strong as story permitted. His durability was also considerably less that while bullets bounced off him, heavier ordnance like high caliber bullets, cannons and missiles caused him pain or discomfort (but it's often due only to the recoil, such weapons are still rather inefficient, only slowing him down). He's also recurrently shown being sensitive to electricity, high-voltage electric currents being able to cause him a great deal of pain (for this reason, Livewire is one of his most formidable enemies in this animated series), and in one episode lasers proved capable of blinding him temporarily. Despite this greatly reduced durability, he's very rarely shown injured or bleeding. His lung capacity seems also quite limited, since he needs special equipment to go underwater or in outer space.
In the series, the evil computer Brainiac is not only from Krypton, but is portrayed as responsible for preventing the knowledge of Krypton's imminent destruction from reaching its people so as to save himself, rather than be committed in the presumably futile task of saving the population of the planet. In addition, the ship that carries the infant Kal-El to Earth is designed to have a pilot, and the autopilot used instead was programmed to land smoothly upon reaching its destination. This was done so that the ship is in perfect working condition during Superman's adulthood and could be used as his mode of long range transportation in space. Access to Kryptonian technology and artifacts is initially severely restricted, such as the ship containing a phantom zone projector and Braniac's technology, although Superman later finds a devastated colony in Krypton's solar system with partially salvageable technology, in addition to Kara In-Ze in her functioning cryostasis capsule.
While the series features adaptations of much of Superman's rogues gallery, the writers supplemented the supply of enemies by paying tribute to Jack Kirby's Fourth World creations that introduced the villain Darkseid to the series as Superman's archenemy. Darkseid had been portrayed as a villain in Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in the 1980s, but in this series, he was closer to the enormously powerful, evil cosmic emperor originally envisioned by Kirby. Corey Burton's voice performance as Brainiac was done in the same cold, low-affect style as HAL 9000 in the Space Odyssey films, and was also modeled after the 'Control Voice' heard during the opening narration of The Outer Limits.
TMS also did the digital black hole effects in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Absolute Power," although Koko and Dong Yang did the background and character animation.
As with the majority of shows in DC animated universe, Superman: The Animated Series received a comic adaptation taking place in the same universe, that ran from 1996 to 2001, with 68 issues, an annual and a special issue featuring Lobo. Paul Dini wrote the first issue of the series, followed by Scott McCloud, Mark Millar and Evan Dorkin. Among the artists that contributed with the series are Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Mike Manley, Aluir Amancio, Min S.Ku and Neil Vokes.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||13||September 6, 1996||February 15, 1997|
|2||28||September 8, 1997||May 2, 1998|
|3||13||September 19, 1998||February 12, 2000|
|Tim Daly||Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman / Bizarro|
|Dana Delany||Lois Lane|
|David Kaufman||Jimmy Olsen|
|Clancy Brown||Lex Luthor|
|Joseph Bologna||SCU Lt. Dan Turpin|
|George Dzundza||Perry White|
|Lisa Edelstein||Mercy Graves|
|Lauren Tom||Angela Chen|
|Mike Farrell||Jonathan Kent|
|Shelley Fabares||Martha Kent|
|Joely Fisher||Lana Lang|
|Victor Brandt||Professor Emil Hamilton|
|Joanna Cassidy||Inspector Maggie Sawyer|
Much like Batman: The Animated Series and other Warner Bros. cartoons adapted from popular DC Comic books, Superman: The Animated Series was released on DVD January 25, 2005, though it did not receive the same disc transfer as Batman did (the second disc of each volume was given the Side A/B treatment). The DVDs present the series' episodes in their airing order along with special features. Volume Two was released on December 6, 2005 and Volume Three was released on June 20, 2006. On November 24, 2009, Warner Home Video released Superman: The Complete Animated Series, a 7-disc boxed set that includes all 54 episodes of the series as well as extensive bonus features.
A direct-to-DVD feature, Superman: Brainiac Attacks was released in 2006, although it is not considered to be part of DCAU continuity, despite featuring the same character designs as Superman: The Animated Series, as well as both Tim Daly and Dana Delany reprising their voice roles as Superman and Lois Lane, respectively.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date||Additional Information|
|Superman: The Animated Series - Volume 1||18||January 25, 2005||
|Superman: The Animated Series - Volume 2||18||December 6, 2005||
|Superman: The Animated Series - Volume 3||18||June 20, 2006||
|Superman: The Complete Animated Series||54||November 24, 2009||
"Apokolips...Now! Part II" was later altered from its original airing on February 7, 1998. Originally the Dan Turpin funeral at the episode's end was a true homage to late New Gods creator Jack Kirby and featured several of his comic creations as attendees to the funeral including Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four, Big Barda, Scott Free, Orion and others, alongside Kirby's friends and fans Mark Evanier, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Alex Ross, his father Norman Ross and Stan Lee. These characters and persons were later removed and the scene pacing was re-edited for subsequent airings and its DVD release on Superman: The Animated Series Volume 3 Disc 3. The original sketches for this scene can be found at Michael Eury's book The Krypton Companion published by TwoMorrow's Publishing (ISBN 1-893905-61-6). Neither DC nor Warner ever commented on the decision to alter this particular scene, but it has been speculated that copyright issues regarding the use of the likenesses of Marvel Comics characters and the long-time rivalry between the two companies might have motivated the deletion.
As with Batman: The Animated Series, Shirley Walker was in charge of the series' music. Walker wrote the series theme and composed themes for various characters, as well as scoring six episodes herself - "Father's Day," "The Hand of Fate," "Obsession," "Absolute Power" and the two-parter "Legacy." Unlike the previous series, only four other composers worked on the series - Kristopher Carter, Harvey R. Cohen, Michael McCuistion and Lolita Ritmanis. Almost every episode had a completely original score; very few reused music from previous shows, and only one episode ("Superman's Pal," credited to Carter, McCuistion, Ritmanis and Walker) was entirely "scored" with tracked material.
On January 28, 2014, La-La Land Records released a 4-disc compilation of music from the series, collecting 20 complete episode scores, including those of the "World's Finest" three-parter, the "Apokolips... Now!" two-parter, the "Little Girl Lost" two-parter and "In Brightest Day...". It is a limited edition release of 3000 units and can be purchased through the label's website.
If sales of this release improve significantly, La-La Land Records will produce a second volume.
Superman 64, released for the Nintendo 64 console in 1999, was the first video game to be produced based upon the series, however it is considered to be one of the worst Superman video games and worst games ever. A second video game, Superman: Shadow of Apokolips was released in 2002 for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube consoles. It was produced by a different company, and was described as "a respectable but average superhero game.