Best Superman: The Animated Series Episodes and Moments - VRGyani News and Media

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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Best Superman: The Animated Series Episodes and Moments

As a completed work, Superman: The Animated Series doesn't boast the staying power of Batman: The Animated Series. It's missing the consistency, sharpness, and resonance that characterized its award-winning sister show. However, scattered throughout its 54-episode run are moments that rival the quality of the aforementioned series, moments that make it worthy of our admiration.

So much of what makes Superman: The Animated Series work is its reliance on Superman's old-school appeal. Series creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini seem to revel in the Man of Steel's smaller, more everyday heroics, and it shows. And who can forget Tim Daly's take as Superman/Clark Kent? Daly redefined Supes for younger viewers and set the bar absurdly high for every Superman actor who would follow.

After revisiting Superman: The Animated Series, we've compiled a list of 11 scenes, moments, and ideas that push the series closer to the quality of DC's top-tier animated shows.

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Introducing...Mister Mxyzptlk!

Mister Mxyzptlk is an imp hailing from the fifth dimension, meaning he isn't bound to the rules of our reality. Seeing an opportunity to get silly and test animation's elastic parameters, Superman: The Animated Series has great fun bringing this pint-sized trickster into the fold. The Season 2 episode “Mxyzpixilated” marks the first time the villain appears in the series, and it's no coincidence that this half-hour is one of the finest Man of Steel stories put to screen. Mister Mxyzptlk quickly establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with, swapping out Ma and Pa Kent with ducks, rearranging words and letters while Clark is typing up articles at the Daily Planet, etc.

And then there's Gilbert Gottfried. His voice wasn't the one I used when I read Mister Mxyzptlk as a kid, but now, after hearing his take on the roguish imp, I can't not feel his nasally bark grate against my eardrums. And honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Superman Stops a Plane

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced Superman to the world in 1938's Action Comics #1, setting the comics world on fire and kickstarting a craze that endures to this day. The first issue's cover proudly bore the now-famous image of Superman hefting a car, and now every creator ever tasked with writing or drawing Supes strives to recreate the awe-inspiring simplicity of that original cover.

During the finale of its three-episode “The Last Son of Krypton” arc, Superman: The Animated Series successfully replicates the “wow” factor of that iconic cover even as it manages to raise the stakes in a simple—but resonant—way. Like Action Comics #1, it hurls a large man-made object (a commercial airliner) at civilians, ensures that we've chewed our fingernails to nothing, and then plants Superman between plane and pedestrian for maximum (emotional) impact.

It's here, just three episodes into its run, that the show fully captured the strength and spirit of this timeless hero.

She Shoots, She Scores!

Lois Lane's (Dana Delany) skill as a reporter knows few equals. Her experience as a journalist catapulted her to fame well before Superman: The Animated Series begins, so we don't see much of what Lois might have been like without her celebrity status. The show knows this and opts to build out her character while she's on the job. Much of this is done through small, almost playful moments that end up paying off in unexpected ways later.

One of these moments is Lois' “office basketball,” as seen in the Season One episode “A Little Piece of Home.” Early in the episode, we see Lois crumpling up article drafts and tossing them into the trash as she's brainstorming. Later, during Superman's first encounter with Kryptonite, she uses her...marksmanship to foil Lex Luthor's plot and save the day. While seemingly inconsequential, this payoff showcases the tight writing of which Superman: The Animated Series is occasionally capable. It shows that no time is wasted and every scene, every moment serves a purpose.

Destruction of Krypton

Superman: The Animated Series nails Superman's origin story. The destruction of Superman's home planet, Krypton, is an event from which countless DC stories have sprouted. But for a long time, our emotional investment in Krypton as a place and a people started and stopped with the Man of Steel himself. Knowing this, Dini and Timm focus on connecting viewers to Krypton's plight—and to Superman's heritage—by populating a planet that we'd only known secondhand.

It's in the show's emotional pilot that we meet Jor-El (Christopher McDonald), Superman's birth father. We're also acquainted with the villainous Brainiac (Corey Burton), who shows up throughout the series to wreak havoc, and a host of other Kryptonians we wouldn't have met had the writers skipped the titular character's origin. While many superhero fans have grown tired of origin stories, the importance of context cannot be overstated. And if it's done well--and it absolutely is here—then it should be welcomed as a necessary leg of that hero's journey.

“There's No Mere to that Mortal”

The three-part “World's Finest” arc finds Superman teaming up with Batman (Kevin Conroy) to stop the Joker (Mark Hamill), who has armed himself with Kryptonite and strikes a deal with Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown). The entire story is one of the best arcs that ever came out of the show, so let's start small.

The first act of “World's Finest” kicks off with hijackers taking control of Air Force One before realizing that by inadvertently endangering Lois Lane, they've attracted Superman's attention. It's a hilarious moment of awareness, both on the parts of the criminals and the episode's writers. The story then transitions to the Joker trapping Luthor in his limousine and tempting him with a large Kryptonite dragon he lifted from a jewelry store in Gotham. The Joker tells the billionaire that he'll kill Superman in exchange for a billion dollars. When Luthor scoffs and remarks that Joker can't even handle a “mere mortal”—in this case, Batman—the Joker's voice drops as he seizes Luthor and growls, “There's no mere to that mortal.”

The moment is chilling, and it's one of the few hints we get at the respect the Joker has for Batman. Here, the writers are doing some truly compelling table-setting, and they're doing it in a way that honors Batman: The Animated Series.

Lobo!

Lobo shows up early on in Superman: The Animated Series, co-starring in a two-parter titled “The Main Man!” and voiced by Brad Garrett. These episodes were some of the first truly great installments in the series, partly because they clearly had a blast introducing Lobo and partly because they saw richness in the Superman/Lobo dynamic.

Having Superman and Lobo team up isn't something DC does too often, but when the writers do want to see how the two get along, they work hard to evade predictability. And both parts of “The Main Man!” are anything but predictable. Sure, the two get along as long as it serves them, but that could change at any point. The series revels in that, and takes every opportunity to subvert expectations.

Batman and Superman's First Fight

Also featured in “World's Finest,” the first physical confrontation between the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader is brief but important. It acquaints both alter egos and leads to them learning each other's secret identities. It's a clash of personalities, a clash of approaches to fighting crime...it's just great to see the two titans on screen together.

Batman and Superman make a formidable crime-fighting team, but “World's Finest” is just as interested in the tension between them as it is in seeing them work together. They keep each other at arm's length; there's not much trust between them, and this arc explains why. Superman despises vigilantes, and Batman has trust issues with everyone.

Basically, the first fight between Batman and Superman makes this list because it encapsulates their relationship beautifully and succinctly, and it does so better than most other imaginings have.

Superman and The Flash Race

Would Superman beat the Flash (Charlie Schlatter) in a race? I personally adore this episode, “Speed Demons,” because it poses the question without ever actually answering it. That's not only the best choice narratively (because does it really matter who's faster?) but it also points to a deep understanding of the superhero fandom. Regardless of who wins, fans will have thoughts, theories, complaints, etc. that make asking harmless questions exhausting.

Instead, the writers quickly throw in the Weather Wizard, who—you guessed it—changes global weather patterns and forces Supes and the Flash to pause their race and go help those in need.

Me Am Bizarro

Bizarro's introduction in Superman: The Animated Series comes in the second season. The episode, titled “Identity Crisis,” finds the Man of Steel facing down what appears to be an exact clone of himself. The truth, of course, is that Lex Luthor is amassing an army of Superman clones so that one day he can eliminate the Man of Steel and leave the fate of Metropolis in the hands of his new muscle.

“Identity Crisis” works so well because it paints Bizarro—also voiced by Superman actor Tim Daly—as a misunderstood creature who genuinely wants to do and be good. His sacrifice in the episode's closing minutes is heartbreaking. Granted, it's not his last appearance on the show, but it's done with a tenderness and empathy that make it tough not to feel for the displaced prototype.

The Introduction of Kyle Rayner

Kyle Rayner has always been one of my favorite Green Lanterns. Sadly, though, we get precious little of him in screen adaptations of DC stories. Luckily, the writers of Superman: The Animated Series found a place for him in their story, and they made sure it was one that would stick in viewers' brains for years after the credits roll. Kyle Rayner (Michael P Greco) is likable because he starts off as an everyman, a struggling graphic artist desperate for the respect of the artist community. He's a creative fighting for his place in the industry, but instead of finding his worth as an artist, he claims it among the stars.

Oh, and Sinestro shows up for a spell, too. You can't go wrong there.

The Finale

As the finale to Superman: The Animated Series, “Legacy” had its work cut out for it. With so much greatness preceding it, it faced the immense challenge of closing out a popular series in a way that was fitting and satisfying. Fortunately, it does just that with aplomb.

Watching Supes duke it out with Darkseid (Michael Ironside) is bound to be thrilling, and the people behind this show go above and beyond in making sure we're left with lingering awe and a greater understanding of who Superman was, is, and will always be. That was always the show's greatest accomplishment: bringing us closer to a hero who had been written off by so many, and making us care deeply about him.

KEEP READING: 'Batman: The Animated Series': The 5 Definitive Caped Crusader Episodes



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