|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 superhero 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 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.
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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. 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. However, Clark Kent is shown to be openly, if quietly, self-confident. This is 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. This series also featured other popular DC Comics characters, including Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl. It spawned a sequel series entitled Justice League Unlimited.
Originally producer Bruce Timm wanted the show to have a more classic 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, Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD and Group TAC 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 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.
While the series adapts many villains from Superman's rogues gallery in the comics, the archenemies and primary antagonists that he faces throughout the show and the DCAU continuity as a whole are Lex Luthor, Brainiac and Darkseid.
In the series, the writers decided to alter Brainiac's origin by making him an artificial intelligence supercomputer from Krypton, instead of the planet Colu like the comics, to give him a more personal rivalry with Superman. While the producers of the show found Brainiac's character and abilities interesting in the comics, they disliked his original design so they drastically altered his appearance; his green artificial skin was replaced with an icy-blue colouration, and the rest of his outfit became a mix of purple and grey rather than pink and black. Corey Burton's vocal performance as Brainiac was done in a cold, low-affect style similar to HAL 9000 in the Space Odyssey films and the 'Control Voice' heard during the opening narration of The Outer Limits.
To pay tribute to Jack Kirby's Fourth World creations, the show introduced the New God Darkseid to Superman's roster of villains. The character had previously appeared in Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in the 1980s, but Superman: The Animated Series portrays him as the dark and powerful cosmic dictator as originally envisioned by Kirby in the comics. Michael Ironside's voice was initially lowered for Darkseid's first two appearances in the series, though this modulation was dropped in favour of Ironside's natural voice for subsequent episodes.
TMS also did the digital black hole effects in the 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.
Disc One (Total Time 78:59)
Disc Two (Total Time 78:59)
Disc Three (Total Time 78:36)
Disc Four (Total Time 79:00)
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.