The last son of a dying planet is sent to Earth not only for his survival but to be a hero for the people. Clark Kent grows up different and learns of his alien origins as he develops powers as a teenager. Labeled Superman, Clark Kent is going to become a hero for the world. Unfortunately, heroes have enemies, and Superman’s list is growing with Lex Luthor leading the charge.
Superman: The Animated Series—Season 1 (often just called Superman) aired from September 6, 1996 to February 15, 1997. The series aired on Kids’ WB and spun off the popular Batman: The Animated Series. The series was also adapted by DC Comics into a continuing comic series.
I loved Batman: The Animated Series. It was inventive and had a cool noir style. I wasn’t able to watch Superman: The Animated Series in its original run and though it follows in the style of Batman: The Animated Series, it feels like a different animal.
Superman: The Animated Series just doesn’t quite work as well as Batman. Like the comic book character, Superman is a bit too strong. Over the years, DC Comics have worked around it (primarily with Kryptonite and magic), but in this season of the series, it doesn’t quite feel there. Despite his powers, Superman feels a little too powerful and then too weak (when it comes to things like Kryptonite). I liked the episode with the Parasite which tried something different but it often feels like the writers aren’t utilizing his powers correctly to create storylines.
I also am not a huge fan of Superman’s rogue gallery. Unlike Batman who has some of the best villains, Superman has Lex Luthor and…um…Brainiac? Lex is dynamic, but Parasite, Toyman, and Metallo and even Brainiac just aren’t up to the level of characters like Joker, Penguin, or Riddler. Superman doesn’t have the depth. This puts a lot of weight on Lex, and it becomes a bit too Lex heavy.
This doesn’t mean that Superman: The Animated Series is bad, but you can’t go into it expecting Batman: The Animated Series (though the art does show improvement over early episodes of Batman). Superman is simply a brighter and more uplifting character that doesn’t quite fit the noir style created in Batman. The stories try to be Batman, but Superman just isn’t quite a perfect fit. It will hopefully get better with future seasons.
Superman: The Animated Series—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:
1.1 The Last Son of Krypton—Part 1 Airdate: 09/06/96
Jor-El makes a horrific discovery while researching Krypton…the planet is dying. When their planetary computer Brainiac rejects Jor-El’s discover, Jor-El takes his family’s safety into his own hands against the wishes of the council. Jor-El might not be able to change the fate of Krypton, but he and his wife Lara can change the fate of his son Kal-El.
1.2 The Last Son of Krypton—Part 2 Airdate: 09/06/96
Kal-El arrives on Earth and is adopted by the Kents. As their son Clark, Clark discovers he has strangely developing powers and learns of his true origin. Travelling to Metropolis to make a name for himself at the Daily Planet, the world is about to meet Superman!
1.3 The Last Son of Krypton—Part 3 Airdate: 09/06/96
Clark is no longer operating in secret as the story of his arrival is revealed by the press all over the world. With Lex Luthor’s super-suit stolen, Clark and Lois investigate if Lex could be hiding something about the theft.
1.4 Fun and Games Airdate: 09/07/96
The Toyman has come to Metropolis and trying to find way into the criminal underworld. When Lois becomes his prisoner, Superman must find who the Toyman really is before it is too late!
1.5 A Little Piece of Home Airdate: 09/14/96
When Superman has an adverse reaction to strange meteorites in a museum, Lex Luthor realizes he might have found Superman’s weakness.
1.6 Feeding Time Airdate: 09/21/96
An attempt to steal chemicals from S.T.A.R. Labs leads Rudy Jones mutated and the power to steal energy. When the Parasite comes in contact with Superman, the Parasite gains true power…and the truth about Superman’s secret identity!
1.7 The Way of All Flesh Airdate: 09/28/96
John Corben finds he is dying. With Lex Luthor’s help Corben is about to be reborn as Metallo. With a kryptonite core, Metallo could mean Superman’s death.
1.8 Stolen Memories Airdate: 11/02/96
Brainiac has come to Earth and sided with Lex Luthor. While Superman finds Brainiac is Kryptonian in origin, he discovers Brainiac might have a more sinister past that not even Luthor is ready for.
1.9 The Main Man—Part 1 Airdate: 11/09/96
Superman has become the target of a collector who wants the last Kryptonian in the universe. Superman discovers a galactic bounty hunter named Lobo is after him, and Lobo always gets him man…but Lobo is facing a surprise.
1.10 The Main Man—Part 2 Airdate: 11/16/96
Lobo and Superman are prisoners of the galactic zoo and discover that they are going to have to escape with limited powers and help from each other.
1.11 My Girl Airdate: 11/23/96
Lex Luthor is dating Lana Lang, and Clark isn’t happy about it. When Lana reveals she knows Clark is Superman, Lana tries to be his sidekick…whether Clark likes it or not.
1.12 Tools of the Trade Airdate: 02/01/97
The Metropolis Police Department finds itself under fire for relying on Superman. As a crime wave hits, Dan Turpin disagrees with Maggie Sawyer’s decision to bring in Superman…but Intergang has help from an otherworldly source.
1.13 Two’s a Crowd Airdate: 02/15/97
A bomb is in Metropolis and no one can find it. With options running out, the Parasite is brought in to leech the information from Earl Garver, but when Garver’s persona takes over the Parasite, the combination could be dangerous.