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"Superman: Volume 2": No Middle Child Syndrome

Superman returns with a second DVD collection. Once again it collects 18 of the Man of Tomorrow’s finest adventures, ranging from such slugfests as “Father’s Day” to the hilarious antics in “Mxyzpixilated”

Chances are you’ve seen enough of the show to form your own opinion by this point, but for those of you who haven’t, the series is undoubtedly worth another look. Superman: The Animated Series is a classic example of being the middle child. Whilst most rave over its predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series and its Dark Deco mood, or the futuristic, sleek portrayal of the future in Batman Beyond, Superman certainly isn’t without its charm. One does have to admire the series when comparing it to the other shows in the DC animation universe, though, as Superman is arguably twice as difficult a show to make than those featuring pointy eared cowls.

Given how bland Superman, the character, can be portrayed, and how dull his rogue’s gallery is when compared to the likes of Batman and Spider-Man, it’s a wonder there are as few bad episodes in the show as there actually is. This set in particular does feature a handful of bland episode, such as “Double Dose,” “The Hand of Fate” and “Monkey Fun,” yet only one truly bad episode, “Prototype.” However, it more than makes up for it with “Mxyzpixlated,” Bizarro’s World” and the epic three part Batman team up, “World’s Finest.”

DVDs are nothing without features, and we’re treated to the usual here. First up is a featurette focusing on Superman’s rogue’s gallery, and what efforts were made to translate them to the small screen. As with the previous sets, these clips are simply too rushed, with too many villains portrayed in too short a time. What is said is still interesting, without a doubt, but you can’t help but feel that the villains got the short end of the stick here, as adapting the villains from the comic seems like a daunting task. It would’ve been nice to know more of the specifics behind them. I did like that a great range of people were interviewed though – producers, writers, directors, character designers and voice directors all had their say on certain characters, only the cast’s comments aren’t found.

The audio commentaries are usually my favourite of all the features, and I wasn’t disappointed here. “World’s Finest Part One” was a treat to listen to as a fan of both Superman and Batman and the episode itself. The crew talks about wanting to bring them together, and how TMS was asked to do pre-production on the episode, and how well a job they did animating it.

“Brave New Metropolis”‘ commentary was arguably the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. They explain the process of how the episode was originally pitched, but then it becomes a series of questions and answers with the vast majority of them answering with “I don’t know,” before finally relenting and admitting defeat. One can’t help but feel that the inclusion of the screenwriter, Stan Berkowitz, in the commentary would’ve been a wise choice, but it was still funny, for all the wrong reasons of course.

The highlight is undoubtedly the video commentary of “Mxyzpixlated.” Jason Hillhouse is back once again, but doesn’t really act as annoying or ask frankly retarded questions this time. The ending was ridiculously cheesy, but all done in the spirit of fun. I honestly couldn’t see the gift exchange coming, but it did bring a smile to my face. I usually find the video part to be pointless, as it’s not really exciting to watch people look at monitors, but they’ve really made it work this time.

As for the disc itself, it holds up. The transfer brings the show to life with very few complaints. Colours are lively, blacks are solid and grain or interlacing rarely causes a problem. People often complain about WB’s transfers, but when comparing this to the Justice League: Paradise Lost or early X-Men: Evolution DVDs, it’s the equivalent of a light hop to leaping over a tall building in a single bound.

Overall, Superman: The Animated Series Volume 2 is a must own DVD, whether you’re a fan of the character or not. Between its excellent writing, often stunning animation and its beautiful designs, Superman is truly one of the finest superhero cartoons ever made. Perhaps best of all though, is that with Volume Three only mere months away, the best is truly yet to come.

The images in this review appear courtesy of The World’s Finest Superman subsection.

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