Now it’s time to take a look at the Superman show! Unlike Batman, Superman never really got any shows after this, which was really too bad. He had the ultra old shows from the good ole days, which were a lot of fun, but Superman needs a new one. Ah well, it would have a tough time beating this one anyway as this is the definitive Superman cartoon, which really defined the character. I still consider this to be the definitive Superman portrayal. Between owning all of the collections for this one and the Batman show, our comic book show collection is going strong!
The Superman show was much shorter than the Batman one, but with around 50 episodes give or take a little, I’d say that it still had a good run. We got to see a lot of villains and there were a lot of plot lines to wrap up. I’d also say that the series had more guest stars than the Batman cartoon, which is impressive considering its smaller size. It doesn’t have that same theater feel, but that’s all right since Superman accepts its position as more of a comic book series from start to finish. It’s fantastical and gets pretty out there at times, but this is a Superman show so that’s really how it should be.
As with the Batman review, I’ll quickly highlight some of the good episodes and maybe mention one or two, which fell flat for me before going into the characters. Naturally, Lobo’s big debut made for a good two parter. The fight between him and Superman was a lot of fun and Lobo is crazy in an interesting way for the most part. Likewise, Blasts from the Past was another good story arc as two Kryptonians arrive from the Phantom Zone and try to trick Superman. When that doesn’t work, it’s fighting time and seeing Superman go up against foes who are nearly as strong as him is always a blast. Of course, they don’t have Superman’s longer exposure to the sun or his genius intellect.
Speed Demons was really fun as the Flash makes for a great guest star. I still say that Superman would easily beat him in a race, but I know that Flash fans would beg to differ. The Weather Wizard wasn’t much of a threat…but who would be right? Father’s Day was another good one as it saw the debut of Kalibak. We can’t forget the Hand of Fate either as Dr. Fate helped Superman fight off a demon. That episode was a lot of fun and the creature had a good design.
There are many more really good episodes, but let’s talk about what could be the best one. The three part World’s Finest event! Batman comes into town and Superman doesn’t like that since the Dark Knight’s tactics can be…questionable. Lex Luthor and Joker also decide to team up so the heroes have a real fight on their hands. Naturally, the big draw was that the heroes would finally be meeting up and I’ve seen those three episodes over a dozen times. This was an awesome event and I never tire of them.
Batman would appear two more times as Superman teamed up with Robin to find him and when they teamed up against Ra’s Al Ghul. Supergirl’s opening two parter was another great arc as she got to fight the Furies and help Superman out. The final two parter with Darkseid was definitely intense although I don’t believe that Superman could ever be mind controlled. It was still definitely an intense arc. Darkseid’s first two part event was also quite good as well as the episode where Clark Kent appears to have died in a car crash.
Another solid episode had the Legion of Superheroes arrive to help Superman in the past. Those characters never got to appear all that much in animation although they had a great episode in Justice League Unlimited, which was certainly neat for their fans. Seeing Superman in high school was also neat as he took down the bullies while still learning more about his true strength. He went a little far with the bully, but it was still relatively minor to what the average character would have done and Superman learned his lesson. The bully did have a rough time of it later on as he was thrown quite a long distance. (But lived somehow)
There are a lot of entertaining episodes to be found in this show. Ranging from light hearted Clark Kent themed ones to the dark and intense Darkseid episodes. The show really knows how to alter the mood depending on the situation and it makes for a lot of good stories. Superman is always in character and since the writing is always good, that takes care of most of my main concerns.
As for episodes that were more of a miss for me, basically any Bizarro episode. I definitely didn’t care for those stories. Obsession was another episode that fell flat. Basically, any time the villain is obsessed over getting a girl, the episode is going to fail because it just makes the villain look so petty. There are other episodes out there that don’t rank too high either due to animal shenanigans or villains who weren’t very cool, but for the most part, nearly all of the episodes were quite good.
Naturally, Superman is an incredible main character. He is the definition of heroic and definitely stands up for justice. While Batman gets things done in the shadows, Superman gets to be around during the daytime. The public is usually very appreciative of him and Superman does his best to keep their trust. Darkseid wrecks this for him in the end, but it’s always nice to see Superman get public support. After seeing so many heroes run from the government and be despised by the world, Superman is always a nice contrast to that.
While some may find his incredible abilities to make him boring, I’d say that they help to make him such a great character. He is supposed to be virtually perfect so then you can see how well we could all handle tough situations if we were invincible. Superman always makes the right calls and he’s a great role model for anyone. Naturally, he’s a little too tough in the sense that he has to get nerfed in just about every episode or else it would all be too easy. So, get ready for a lot of plot holes involving the power levels. Superman shouldn’t lose to just about any of the situations that he’s put in, but you can just assume that he is holding back and toying with the opponents. This is practically canon after Justice League anyway.
Superman’s supporting cast is stronger than Batman’s if you ask me. Naturally, Lois Lane has a huge role here and she instantly beats the people surrounding Batman. She’s constantly going on dangerous missions so Superman has to come to the rescue. That being said, she can fight and Lois is still prepared for many dangerous situations. It’s just that she tends to attract super threats who aren’t deterred so easily. Her bold personality has won Lois many fans and this is definitely the best portrayal of her character. She is supposed to be tough and independent, two traits that the show does a good job of showing.
Beyond that, Superman’s supporting cast don’t really get huge roles. Perry White is around to remind Clark that he needs to step up his game. A drunk sailor is typically around to back up Superman. He’s a nice guy and a good character even if he could have used some more screen time. Lana doesn’t appear very often either. I always found her to be a likable character back in the Smallville days, but the city life didn’t do her any wonders as she became the head of a fashion show and got tricked by people in the know. She also didn’t handle the puppet lady too well, but since she knows Clark’s true identity, at least she can typically count on a save since he’s always pretty close when in Metropolis.
We’ve also got Jimmy Olson here as well. I’ve never been a big Jimmy fan in any continuity, but he had some decent moments I suppose. He certainly looks better here than in some other adaptions like Superman vs Doomsday where he sold out. Thurpin was essentially the big cop in the Superman continuity. He didn’t last as long as Bullock, but he was certainly a good officer. He definitely didn’t mind jumping into danger and he talked tough right up until the bitter end. That being said, antagonizing the enemy is something that you should typically only do when you have super powers or can think of a way to survive the situation.
We also can’t forget Superman’s super powered help like Steel. He didn’t get to appear all that much, but he was a nice guy before he adopted the persona so it was cool to see him get his blows in. He would have a small role in Justice League as well, but a pivotal one as he held off Galatea for a little while. Green Lantern makes a brief appearance and he looks pretty good. It was a nice way to see his origin story even if he would never really do much in the continuity again. Sinestro made for a fun villain in that episode.
Another guest star for the series was the Flash of course. He was certainly a fun addition to the team. Supergirl had a fairly big role as she helped out in quite a few multi part episodes. She was introduced a little late in the series, but she mastered her abilities with great speed. Her powers never seemed to be as impressive as Superman’s, but she helped fight off an invasion and cover for Superman when he was out of town. She even got some episodes to herself where she proved her meddle. Supergirl’s always been a really fun character and I’d say that this show really nailed it with her portrayal.
As for the villains, Superman definitely dealt with quite a few heavy weights during the series. Metallo was one of the main stays who appeared quite a few times through the episodes. It’s safe to say that he’s nowhere near Superman’s level in strength, but he did put up quite a few close fights thanks to his Kryptonite. It’s a running gag that he always clobbers Superman at least once with that gimmick. For the most part I’ve always been a Metallo fan. He can be a little cheesy and act like a generic grunt at times, but for the most part he’s a pretty neat villain.
That being said, I prefer Parasite. His gimmick has always been cool as he can steal energy from Superman and grow stronger. I grew up with this design thanks to the Gamecube design and it always made me think of him as a really cool villain. He’s technically not too much of a threat unless he can grab Superman, but he’s able to do that quite often so I guess that would make him a legitimate threat right? Livewire was not quite as likable in her human form although I did like her gimmick of basically being against everyone. She thinks that adults are part of the old way and basically tries to incite rebellion at every chance that she can get. Even Clark Kent had enough at one point and Superman always tries to act mild mannered in that form. I do like Livewire’s confidence though as she seriously believes that she can win the fight.
Lobo is naturally a pretty chaotic villain who gives Superman a tough time. He’s definitely not my kind of villain in the sense that he’s constantly looking for romance and flirts with Lois. It’s sad because he’s a cool character otherwise. He reminds Superman that he is The Man and I like to see him fight other villains. He would make a brilliant rival/”anti hero” (likable villain) if not for his character flaws. If nothing else, he’s a pretty fun character to watch. I’d say that he’s essentially a better version of Bizarro. I personally don’t find Bizarro all that funny or entertaining. Typically his stories just end up being tragic and you can’t help, but feel bad for the guy. He gives Superman some tough fights, but he’s typically just misunderstood.
Naturally, Darkseid has a fairly big role in this series. He’s a villain from the shadows from the most part, but he does step out into the limelight when the time is right. He’s a very strategic villain who rarely fights himself even though he has the power to do so. He prefers to break Superman through other means like telepathy. Naturally, Superman can crush him when going all out, but Darkseid has the edge otherwise. He launched a pair of pretty solid invasions on Earth and he’s definitely one of Superman’s ultimate villains. He’s a fighter who always has a threatening presence.
Granny Goodness is also around, but she’s really just there to be a weak villain who lets her minions do all of the work. It’s definitely hard to find any reason to really like the character. The Furies are decent fighters and I like them as enemies for Superman and Supergirl, but their personalities aren’t really existent. I also call plot hax whenever they appear since they shouldn’t pose much of a threat physically.
Brainiac is definitely known as one of Superman’s most deadly opponents. I mainly became a fan of him through the DCAU as I liked his new mecha design much more than the traditional green one. He could actually give Superman a pretty good fight when they met up and his laser blast against Lex would certainly have some future ramifications. This genius always has a backup plan and while it is not enough to take down someone like Superman, it makes for some good episodes.
Toyman has always been a bit of a recurring Superman villain. He can be amusing at times and unlikable for the rest of the episodes. I can’t say that he’s typically my kind of villain, although he’s much better than other interpretations of the character. The one in Superman vs Doomsday for example, Toyman looked pretty bad there. Kalibak’s surprisingly more likable, although his whole gimmick is that he’s strong, but not very smart. I liked the fights between him and Superman and even the senior Kents got involved. That was one of the episodes which had a lot of fun with the soundtrack and Superman just seemed to be in shock for the whole fight. Once he snapped out of that, it was game over for Kalibak!
Superman’s animation is naturally solid as it came out during the prime of western animation! The fights are even better than Batman’s as Superman trades blows with heavyweights like Darkseid and Lobo. Buildings are shattered and Superman is taken to his very limits during some of these fights. The visuals are always very bright and you will clearly be able to see everything as it unfolds. This definitely doesn’t feel dated and should continue to look good for some time.
As for the soundtrack, the Superman show had a lot of fun altering it to fit whatever the episode’s theme was. For example, the Lobo episode used a lot of crazy disco music throughout the episode. Some will play out more like the retro Superman, heroic themes that you would expect. The music can go from ancient to futuristic, from elevator styled peace to chaotic war themes. Superman really has it all and it’s why I’d say that the soundtrack is pretty stunning. No matter what type of music you like, you should find some good themes to listen to during the show.
There aren’t any other Superman shows to compare this too so let’s look at where it ranks compared to all superhero shows! Right off the bat, it loses to Justice League, but beats up every other DC show. Really, the only other show that I would say is really close would be Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. After a little thought, I would still say that Superman has the advantage here as it has the solid edge in fight scenes. At 2nd place in the all time lists, that’s pretty impressive for the show!
Overall, Superman is definitely a great show. He makes for a great lead in it and the characters who surround him are pretty good. Add in the solid soundtrack, good animation, and the fun battles and you have got a winner here. You’ll definitely be cruising through the episodes once you start and there’s no turning back. You can continue these adventures in Justice League and then you’ll find it hard to watch the newer versions of the characters. I highly recommend this to all comic fans or to anyone who likes a good adventure with solid writing and some action to top it all off!