Monday, August 20, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman: The Animated Series (1996)

Warner Bros. launched their own television network in 1996, and one of the benchmarks of its overall schedule was the launch of a new Superman cartoon series, his third solo series, coming 8 years after the failure of a CBS Saturday morning entry.

The animation style was the same as Batman, who would join the Man of Steel on WB the following year after 5 years on Fox. Producers Paul Dini & Bruce Timm used the comics of the period as a template, except for one key factor. By the time this series launched, Superman (Tim Daly, ex-Wings) had just married long time love Lois Lane (Dana Delany, ex-China Beach) in the comics, something that wouldn't be done in this series or in the Justice League cartoons that followed. Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) was still a corrupt, billionaire businessman who had built most of the modern-day Metropolis, but saw his popularity plunge with the emergence of Superman. However, as with the previous series, Lex was given a sexy sidekick, this time in the form of chauffeur/bodyguard Mercy Graves (Lisa Edelstein, later of House), a significant upgrade from airheaded Jessica Morganberry in the 1988 series. Mercy not only was easy on the eyes, but she could kick your tuchis from one end of the room to the other.

Mercy would later be integrated into the DC Universe, but for some unknown reason, the editors at DC rebooted her as a plus-sized African American bodyguard, rather than retain her original appearance. As of this present time, Mercy has not been reintroduced in the company's "New 52". Perhaps it's to make sure that this time they get it right.

Superman: The Animated Series lasted 4 seasons, including a Saturday stint as 1/2 of The New Superman-Batman Adventures, so titled because the first series under that title was a Time-Warner-produced cable-only compilation package that aired on USA & Cartoon Network, collecting earlier shorts from the 60's and Super Friends episodes. Some say the series ended too soon, but, as noted, it did ultimately lead to Justice League on CN a year later, but the part of Superman was recast, with George Newbern taking over the role.

Here's the open:

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

Like BTAS, this was a worthy reboot to the Superman franchise.

The stories wre well written, the characters well developed and great voicework from all the main characters. Clancy Brown is often seen as THE Lex Luthor. Mercy Graves personified the "lovely but deadly" trope.

Another thing I'd always appreciated about this version of Supes was that Clark Kent was the main persona, while Superman was the disguise, not the other way around.

hobbyfan said...

In other words, Supes was a diametric opposite of Batman in more ways than one.

Like I said, it's too bad the series ended so abruptly.