Superman on Television

DVD Review - "Superman: The Animated Series Volume One"

Reviewed by Nick Newman
and Derrick Lyle Coleman

Superman: The Animated Series - Volume One 4Box Art - 4: The box has a nice embossed picture of Superman, with the comic strip panels depicting other characters from the series. Inside the theme is repeated, with contents listed on the inside pages. I'm not a huge fan of the scheme that WB has gone with for these boxed sets, but I do give them points for consistency. This makes this set and the two Batman sets look really nice on my shelf. I could imagine a better box, but I'm still happy with this.

2Disc Art - 2: Disc one has a pretty horrible picture of Superman. I don't know why they couldn't have just pulled an image from the show and slapped that on there, but the picture they do have is a definitely disappointment. Disc two is even more disappointing as it is a two sided disc and therefore has no art, despite what product pictures would indicate on sites like Amazon. I understand that this allowed them to go with only a two disc set, rather than a three disc one, but a three disc set would have been much nicer. After all, the Batman collections could have been substantially cut down with double-sided discs and they didn't do that there. It probably saves two dollars on the set, but I would have paid the extra for a nicer-looking, three disc set.

5Content - 5: This set contains the first eighteen episodes of the series. Like me, you may have wondered why they went with eighteen when the first season was only thirteen episodes, but eighteen breaks the whole series nicely up into three DVD volumes (the DVD says there are fifty-four total, I can only find fifty-three unless I'm missing a two-parter somewhere, or if they're including 'Girls Night Out', which I always counted as a Batman episode). They also moved the episode 'The Prometheon' from after 'Blasts from the Past' to before it, and 'Livewire' from after 'Speed Demons' to before. I'm not sure why, but none of these changes mess with continuity at all, so it really doesn't matter. This break also puts the six episode Apokolips saga all on one volume, which is nice.

This collection includes the origin of Superman in 'The Last Son of Krypton', which was done extremely well, especially the segments on Krypton and the end scene with Superman hovering outside of Lex's office. The Toyman episode 'Fun and Games' was never one of my favorites, and 'A Little Piece of Home' is more of a setup episode than anything, introducing Kryptonite, Mercy Graves, and Dr. Hamilton, as well as establishing Luthor's character. 'Feeding Time' introduced Parasite, one of the recurring villains on the show, and 'The Way of All Flesh' followed up by bringing in Metallo. Combined, these two accounted for much of Superman's enemies throughout the series.

Particularly good episodes from this collection include 'Last Son of Krypton', 'Blasts from the Past', 'Stolen Memories', and 'Tools of the Trade'. It's not as strong a lineup as volume two will have, with fantastic episodes like 'The Last Mr. Kent', which in my opinion is probably the best on the show outside of the Apokolips saga, and it can't even compete with the glory that will be volume three, with the aforementioned and absolutely marvelous collection of 'Apokolips... Now!', 'Little Girl Lost', and 'Legacy', but it is still a very solid collection of episodes, and as they're going in chronological order like they should be, there's nothing wrong with this collection at all.

4Commentary - 4: The inclusion of commentary is always nice, and the fact that they did four of the episodes is pretty impressive considering they really didn't have to. The line up is also nice, with Timm and Dini doing all four of them. Initially the commentary didn't do much for me, but it grew on me as time went by and I ended up really enjoying it. The commentary doesn't so much tell any new information about the show, but it does provide lots of their feelings about the show and the problems they went through when making the show. It's definitely worth your time to watch these with the commentary on.

4Extra Features - 4: The two behind-the-scenes shorts are pretty much what you'd expect, clips from the show mixed into interviews from all of the creators. It's not terribly insightful, as a lot of it is predictable, but that doesn't mean that they aren't enjoyable. As with the commentary, and the stuff they did on the Batman DVDs, I'm impressed that Warner Brothers got these guys together at all for a set that could have stood on its own without the extra features. These won't change your views on the show any, but they're nice to watch once and add to the value of the collection.

2Trivia - 2: One of the included extras is pop-up trivia on one of the episodes. If you're expecting anything new, then look elsewhere. There were a few interesting factoids, but overall this is just a tacked-on extra that doesn't amount to anything.

3Picture - 3: Like the Batman DVDs, it doesn't look like they did any touch-ups to the original animation. Luckily, these episodes stand up much better than the thirteen year old Batman episodes do. The bright animation also stands up much better than the dark deco of Batman. So apart from the occasional spot, the animation is pretty clean. Still, it's disappointing that they couldn't have spent some time restoring these episodes.

3Sound 3: I didn't really hear anything to wow me, but the audio sounds as good as it should. And considering I hardly expected them to go and improve the audio I'm not at all disappointed with this.

4Menus - 4: Most of the sub-menus are reasonably standard, but I really liked the main menu, with Superman flying around the panels. Sure they could have added more to them, but considering there weren't many addition features as it is, I'm glad they didn't spend too much time on the menus.

5Overall - 5: Despite a few shortcomings, including somewhat disappointing extras and no image restoration, there really isn't much bad about this set. The picture and sound quality are solid, and you get eighteen episodes of a great show. And really, while commentary and behind the scenes features are nice, what I really wanted was this great show on DVD, and that's been delivered. If you watched the show like I did, then you probably don't need my encouragement to go and purchase it. If you haven't seen the show, and you're on this site, then you really should. Priced at less than twenty dollars on some online retailers, there really isn't any reason not to buy this set. Bottom line, surf over to Amazon and buy this, now.

Nick Newman

I recently purchased Superman: The Animated Series Volume One. The collection is on 2 DVDs, one of which is 2-sided. Overall, 18 episodes occupy the discs, along with commentaries for key episodes, and two features:
  • Superman: Learning To Fly chronicles the genesis of this particular animated series, and how the creators managed to differentiate Superman and his realm from the shared designs of Batman: The Animated Series.

  • Building The Mythology: Superman's Supporting Cast elaborates on the supporting characters throughout the series. And yes, they go into details concerning Maggie Sawyer, revealing how a potentially controversial situation was overcome with great direction, story development, and just pure tact and creativity.

Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker are the creators and designers who are interviewed and give great detail into the development of the show.

The Episodes:

Overall, 18 episodes are included, with The Last Son of Krypton broken into three parts. The rest of the shows included are introductory episodes that have the Man of Steel contending with Brainiac, The Parasite, Jax-Ur and Mala, Metallo, The Toyman, Livewire, and The Weather Wizard. The two-parter The Main Man introduces Lobo, and part two is picked out for selected commentary. Tools Of The Trade is featured because it concludes with the first appearance of Darkseid - who managed to become one of Superman's deadliest archfoes by the end of the series.

Perhaps the most controversial inclusion is the episode Prometheon. Some (online, at least) point to this as a throwaway episode. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest episodes, because it shows Superman battling a titanic, nearly invincible enemy - one hellbent on destruction and chaos. The Prometheon itself is a reminder of the monstrous entities Superman often faced during the Silver Age, including the likes of Titano, Eterno, and The Galactic Golem. This particular tale also introduces us to General Hardcastle - the gung-ho, Superman-hater, who later teams with Luthor to take Superman down. And, it shows Metropolis as an East Coast mecca - a seemingly enormous interstate urban center. That's personally fun for me, considering they could have made Metropolis a midwestern city along one of the Great Lakes (like Cleveland or Toronto - the cities which are historically considered the inspirations for Metropolis).

I'm a big Superfan, and thoroughly enjoyed the set. If you enjoyed Superman: The Animated Series, and the DC Comics Classic Collections, you can't go wrong with this box set. There's a healthy number of episodes and features, and all of the characters seen on the box make appearances - even Darkseid. I'm not one for 4-star ratings; I like to keep it simple with a thumbs up or thumbs down. Superman: The Animated Series Volume One deserves all thumbs up!!!

Derrick Lyle Coleman

Back to the main TELEVISION page.