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Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Since the release of "Superman Returns" in 2006, it seems like there's been an almost non-stop release of Superman-related DVDs from Warner Home Video. We've seen releases from Superman properties such as "Justice League Unlimited", the syndicated live-action "Adventures of Superboy", "Krypto the Superdog", "Smallville", the live-action "Adventures of Superman", "Hollywoodland" (from Focus Features, not Warners), and 14 discs of "Superman" movies, documentaries, cartoons, and even the unaired pilot "Superpup" as part of the "Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition". Surely Warners is running out of Superman stuff by now.
Hardly. It'll take more than a mild-mannered reporter's salary to cover even an iota of what remains unreleased on official DVD or Blur-ray format.
This article is being presented in two parts. Part one, which you're reading now, presents an official compilation of Superman-related cartoons, live-action shows, specials, musicals, and guest appearances that Warners has yet to release on authorized (i.e., non-bootleg) DVD or Blu-ray format. The listing is, more or less, presented in chronological order. Part two attempts to chronicle all of the footage that remains unseen from the five (or six depending how you count the first sequel) "Superman" movies, 1978's "Superman: The Movie", 1980's "Superman II" (and/or 2006's "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut"), 1983's "Superman III", 1987's "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace", and 2006's "Superman Returns". Believe it or not, even after 14 discs of films and supplements, there's still plenty of deleted footage and/or alternative cuts that have yet to see the official light of DVD or Blu-ray release.
Superboy made his first comic book appearance in early 1945 in More Fun Comics # 101. Though the adventures of a costumed Boy of Steel contradicted seven years of Superman stories depicting a super guy who appeared in costume for the first time as an adult, Superboy was a huge hit and eventually received his own self-named comic book title.
"Adventures of Superman" Producer Whitney Ellsworth put together a pilot episode of "The Adventures of Superboy". Filmed in black-and-white, "Superboy" starred Johnny Rockwell as young Clark Kent and Superboy and Bunny Henning as Lana Lang. Ellsworth also commissioned additional scripts but only the pilot episode was ever filmed. Unfortunately, no sponsors bit at the concept and "Superboy" sat unseen for decades until bootleg videos began surfacing at conventions and on the internet.
Though Ellsworth's 1958 unaired pilot "Superpup" (with the Superman characters in animal costumes) showed up as a special feature on the "Superman: Ultimate Collector's Edition" set, "Superboy" did not - most likely because the heirs of "Superman" co-creator Jerry Siegel were attempting to reclaim the Superboy copyright from DC and Warners at the time.
The Broadway show starred Jack Cassidy as the immoral Max Menken, Bob Holiday as Clark Kent and Superman, Patricia Marand as Lois Lane, and Linda Lavin as Menken's assistant Sydney (who would later play the title role on television situation comedy "Alice"). "It's Superman" was produced and directed for the Broadway stage by Harold Prince. Charles Strouse and Lee Adams wrote the music and lyrics - they'd previously collaborated on well known musical "Bye Bye Birdie". The story was by writers David Newman and Robert Benton who later were among the plethora of writers who contributed to the screenplay of 1978's "Superman: The Movie". Newman also later collaborated with his wife Leslie on the scripts for "Superman II" and "Superman III".
Unfortunately it appears no one ever filmed "It's Superman" during its short run. The research team on 2006 documentary "Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman" searched for film of the original Broadway show and were unable to locate it. It will likely remain forever unavailable on DVD.
The first season of the show featured two "Superman" adventures, split into two six-minute segments. These are the 36 'episodes' featured on the June 26, 2007 DVD titled "The New Adventures of Superman: Volume One".
In between the two Superman cartoons, each first season episode included a six-minute segment of "The Adventures of Superboy". "Superboy" starred voice actor Bob Hastings as young Clark Kent and Superboy (Hastings later portrayed Commissioner Gordon on "Batman: The Animated Series") and featured Superboy's Dog of Steel, Krypto the Superdog. During this first season, there were 18 "Superboy" cartoons. None of these have been released in any official DVD package (though eight episodes were released a decade or so ago on VHS as part of Warner Home Video's "Super Powers Collection").
There were 16 new six-minute "Superman" cartoons, two of which aired per hour. There were also eight new six-minute "Superboy" cartoons, which again partnered the Boy of Steel with his canine companion Krypto. None of these episodes - "Superman" and "Superboy" - have as yet been released on DVD.
To fill out the hour, which now included Aquaman and Aqualad, Filmation added six-minute segments of other DC heroes - three each of "The Flash", "Green Lantern", "Hawkman", "The Atom", "The Teen Titans", and "The Justice League of America". The three "Justice League" segments - "Between Two Armies", "Target: Earth", and "Bad Day on Black Mountain" - included Superman (still voiced by Collyer) teaming up with "JLA" comrades Flash, Atom, Green Lantern, and Hawkman (though Aquaman appeared with the heroes in the promo-segments, he didn't appear as part of the "JLA" stories). These DCU-wide adventures were released on DVD as "DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures" in August 2008.
Following the two-part format, "Superman" returned with eight new 12-minute adventures, split into two six-minute parts one and two, respectively. The artwork also changed somewhat in this last season to make the Superman characters more resemble at-that-time current comic book artist Curt Swan's depictions of the characters.
Superboy and Krypto also returned with eight six-minute segments.
None of the segments from this final season of the Filmation franchise have appeared on any authorized Warner Home Video DVDs as of yet.
"The Brady Kids" cartoon included three very special guest stars during its 1972-73 run: Wonder Woman (in her very first animated appearance), the Lone Ranger, and Superman.
Superman's guest shot happened in the episode titled "Cindy's Super Friend". In the episode, Cindy Brady meets up with mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent and his colleague Lois Lane. The Brady Kids team up with the Man of Steel to paint a bank building during the city's "Paint-Up" week. The villains secretly replace the paint with delayed-action invisible paint so they can rob the bank after it becomes invisible. Superman and Cindy paint the bank at super-speed. Clark unwittingly reveals his identity to the Brady Kids' dog who is unable to communicate what he's learned to the rest of the bunch or Lois (since he's a dog). Superman foils the robbers and the Brady Kids sing a song.
It's unlikely this will see an official DVD release any time soon as it involves a rare pairing of a Paramount-owned property (the Bradys) with Warner's Superman characters.
Among the - few - noteworthy Superman moments during this first version of the "Super Friends" is Marvin's detailed retelling of Superman's origin in episode "The Planet Splitter". In addition, Superman appears as Clark Kent in several episodes, and he's a TV reporter for Galaxy Communications just as he was at the time in the comics.
As detailed below, different incarnations of the "Super Friends" continued on and off until 1986 but the one super-constant throughout every version, beginning with the 1973 series, is the late voice actor Danny Dark who voiced the Man of Steel.
Lesley Ann Warren portrayed Lois Lane - she later auditioned for the Lois role in "Superman: The Movie" and portions of her audition are included as special features on the "Superman: The Movie" Special Edition DVD. An unknown actor, David Wilson, played Clark and Superman - for some reason he's the only character in the musical who doesn't sing. The cast also included such TV staples as Allen Ludden (host of "Password" and late husband of Betty White), David Wayne (the Mad Hatter on "Batman"), Loretta Swit (Margaret "Hotlips" Houlihan on "M*A*S*H"), Al Molinaro (Al Delvecchio, second owner of Arnold's, on "Happy Days"), and Michael Lembeck (Julie's husband Max Horvath on "One Day at a Time").
This version of the musical is available on bootleg DVD - it's never been officially released by Warners - and portions of it can be seen on both video service "YouTube" and in 2006 documentary "Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman".
Also included during this season were Superman characters Mr. Mxyzptlk, Superboy, and the Phantom Zone villains.
These are collected on DVD as "All-New Super Friends Hour: Season One - Vol 1" and "The All-New Superfriends Hour: Season One - Vol. 2".
However, that wasn't the only "Super Friends" show airing at that time. "Challenge" was so popular that ABC aired a second series of shows on Saturday mornings either immediately before or immediately after "Challenge". These 16 half-hour segments, which included the classic Super Friends lineup - with Zan, Jayna, and Gleek too - are sometimes referred to as the "lost" episodes and are the 16 episodes comprising the somewhat misleadingly titled "Super Friends: Volume Two" DVD. This poorly packaged DVD further confuses the issue by picturing heroes who never appear in these episodes such as Apache Chief, Flash, and Hawkman.
In syndication, these 16 episodes are often paired with the opening to the following year's incarnation of the show leading some internet episode guides to pair these episodes with "Challenge" and some to pair them with the 1979 series. They are, however, technically, an additional series that also aired during the "Challenge" year.
In 1980, there are 24 new shorts, some of which include guest stars such as Apache Chief, Samurai, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Black Vulcan, the Atom, Rima, Lois Lane, Bizarro, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and the Riddler. Clark Kent appears (with Lois) in the segment titled "The Ice Demon". All 24 shorts have been released on DVD in the "Super Friends: A Dangerous Fate - Season 5" collection.
In 1981, there are 18 new shorts, some of which include guest stars Samurai, El Dorado, Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, the Atom, Green Lantern, the Flash, and Bizarro. None of these 15 shorts have been released on DVD.
Things get more complicated in 1983. "Super Friends" isn't on the ABC schedule but Hanna-Barbera has additional shorts ready-to-go. Some of these aired internationally and some aired later in syndication. Some have never aired in the United States including episodes featuring the return of the Legion of Doom. There are 24 of these so-called "lost shorts". These were released on DVD in 2009 as "Super Friends: The Lost Episodes".
These eight episodes - consisting of six half hour episodes and four 15-minute segments comprising two episodes were released in their entirety on DVD November 20, 2007 as "Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians".
The entire collection of Ruby-Spears Superman cartoons were released on DVD in 2009.
Actor Gerard Christopher played Clark and Superboy for the three remaining seasons of the series. There were 22 episodes starring Haymes-Newton as the Boy of Steel and another 78 starring Christopher. While season one is available on DVD titled "Adventures of Superboy: Complete First Season", it's the 78 episodes comprising seasons two, three, and four that have yet to be released on DVD. This is especially unfortunate given the sharp rise in quality of the stories and effects beginning with season two.
"Superboy" first season episode "Countdown to Nowhere" was shown in some markets as the pilot episode of the show, though, in most markets, "The Jewel of the Techacal" was shown as the first episode. In those markets where "Countdown to Nowhere" aired first, it was presented as it's included on the first season "Superboy" DVD. However, there is an alternate cut of "Countdown to Nowhere" not included on the DVD. This includes a several minute wrap-around segment that has Lana Lang, T.J. White, and Clark Kent reminiscing about when Superboy made his first public appearance at Shuster University while waiting for Superboy to show up for a photo shoot/interview. Several minutes of "Countdown to Nowhere" as presented on the DVD never aired during the original run of the series in the markets that aired this second version of the show to make room for the wrap-around segment. Unfortunately, the wrap-around segment isn't included on the "Superboy" DVDs.
Warner Home Video has released all four seasons of the TV series on DVD: Lois & Clark: Complete First Season, Lois & Clark: Complete Second Season, Lois & Clark: Complete Third Season, and Lois & Clark: Complete Fourth Season.
When "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" debuted on ABC-TV in September 1993, the "Pilot" episode aired in a 90-minute time slot. In syndication, the pilot airs in two one-hour time slots with several minutes of new footage - which are included on the season one DVD of "Lois & Clark". However, there's an alternate version of the scene where Clark's mother makes his super-suit that is not included on the DVD. On the DVD, the montage where Clark tries on the different costumes designed by his mother, played by actress K Callan, is accompanied by the song "Holding Out For a Hero" from the 1984 movie "Footloose" and sung by Bonnie Tyler. The alternate unreleased version has Clark trying on costumes to 1983 hit "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top. Special thanks to Superman Homepage reader Justin Cousson for this information.
Two months later, Superman comes to Static's 'burg of Dakota in "Toys in the Hood". Superman and Clark Kent both appear on the episode with George Newbern voicing the Man of Steel for the first time in a solo adventure apart from the League. Supes and Static team up against the Toyman to rescue Toyman's robotic girlfriend Darcy, voiced by Nicolette Sheridan ("Knots Landing", "Desperate Housewives").
None of these episodes of "Static Shock" have as yet been released on DVD.
Only the first five episodes have been released on DVD to date on two DVD volumes: "Krypto the Superdog - Vol. 1: Cosmic Canine" and "Krypto the Superdog - Vol. 2: Super Pets Unleashed".
"The Legion of Super-Heroes" ran for a total of two seasons, with actor Yuri Lowenthal providing the voice of Superman (and beginning with season two, also the voice of the 41st Century Superman). The first four episodes from season one were released on DVD on August 28, 2007 in a collection titled "Legion of Super Heroes - Volume 1". The next four episodes from season one ("Champions", "Fear Factory", "Brain Drain", and "Lightning Storm") were released on DVD February 5, 2008 as "Legion of Super Heroes - Volume 2". The final five episodes from season one ("The Substitutes", "Child's Play", "Chain of Command", "Sundown, Part 1", and "Sundown, Part 2") were released on DVD September 9, 2008 in "Legion of Super Heroes - Volume 3". No word yet on when the second season episodes will be released.
Also, in season four's "Clayfaces", a character resembling Clark Kent runs out of a diner under siege in a scene reminiscent of the diner scene in 1980 feature film "Superman II". Of additional note to Superman fans on season four of "The Batman" is episode "The Everywhere Man" featuring guest voices Brandon Routh ("Superman Returns") and Allison Mack ("Smallville"). "The Batman - The Complete Fourth Season" is available on DVD.
Thanks to Barry Freiman for writing most of this article.