After the Dark Knight's legendary treatment in Batman: The Animated Series, it was The Man of Steel's turn to wow the new generation of animated superhero fans. Expectations for the series was certainly high given the acclaim the Caped Crusader had rightfully earned. And while Superman's animated adventures did not quite rise to the heights of the former series, this animated series was wonderful and one of Superman's greatest treatments to date. As far as I am concerned, Superman: The Animated Series is the definitive Superman series in animation or live action. It's the truest take on the Superman that exists in my own imagination.
Over 54 episodes and three seasons, Superman: The Animated Series hit most of the high points that "must" be included in a true adaptation of the character including a telling of Superman's origin but with a new twist that linked Brainiac to Krypton's fate. The three part epic, like Superman: The Movie, covered Superman from Krypton to Smallville to Metropolis and while it could have stood on its own it also managed to set the stage for some series story arcs.
The series was instrumental in reminding fans that Superman has one of the greatest and most diverse rouges galleries. Although Lex Luthor played a prominent role in the series, other previously under utilized villains got their moments. While Bizarro and Mr. Mxyzptlk had been featured previously in animation, this was their chance to receive some character depth. Other villains like Parasite, Metallo, and Toyman received the Batman: The Animated Series style rejuvenation from which foes such as Mr. Freeze had previously benefited. And of course, Darkseid made a major impact as the series progressed.
Superman's cousin Kara AKA Supergirl was eventually introduced as well and though she didn't get as much screen time as the Robins had with Batman, it was nice that the Girl of Steel finally got featured in animation.
Over the course of the series, along with a three part Batman team-up (facing the combined efforts of Joker and Lex Luthor), Superman got fill in for Batman as Robins partner and also got to team with other heroes from the fledgling DC animated universe sowing seeds for an eventual Superman featured Justice League.
Other featured guests included the Flash, Aquaman, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner (in what is still one of his few very onscreen depictions) and of course, the New Gods.
Even the Legion of Super-Heroes chapter of the Superman mythos was touched upon in a flashback to the Superboy era of CK's life.
Alternate versions are always fun and Brave New Metropolis gave a dark and memorable take on a Superman troubled by the loss of his love, Lois Lane.
While the final episodes were very good, the series did end on a bit of a downer with a brainwashed Superman leading an invasion from Apokolips - though the final showdown with Darkseid would have been tough to top. Still, its a shame that the series ended when it did, there were still stories to tell and colors of kryptonite to discover, but I guess that territory would be thoroughly trod a few years later in Smallville.
And while the intro theme was fun to sing along to using the word SUPERMAN, it did have tendency to get stuck in my head for days at a time. :)
Check back next week for another chapter in The Super History of Superman.