A True Super Classic: "The New Adventures of Superman"
When I first heard that The New Adventures of Superman was finally coming to DVD, I was really excited. And when I watched the two-disc set that Warners has produced, it took me back to being a four-year-old watching The Bozo Show on Tuesdays and Fridays.
This new collection brings together all 36 short episodes from the first season, unedited. This is a terrific improvement on the airings Cartoon Network and Boomerang gave them as part of The Superman/Batman Adventures, where they were edited in a way that any old-school animation fan could spot a mile away. The character designs are also a winner, looking more than a little like Curt Swan’s artwork from the 50s and 60s Superman comics. It also features the animated debuts of such Superman characters as Jimmy Olsen, Toyman, Brainiac, and Lex Luthor. It is unfortunate, though, that Warner Bros. is still fighting the estate of Jerry Siegel over the rights to the “Superboy” name, and so the collection does not come with any Superboy cartoons, which originally aired between the Superman cartoons. The start of the episode “The Deadly Dish,” though, is preceded by an intro to The Adventures of Superboy.
Though the episodes are fun to watch, there are weaknesses. Not all of them appear to have been remastered, and some of the stories are quite silly by today’s standards. I’m also not a fan of the interior box layout, which has the DVDs overlapping each other.
The set comes with a good documentary that features interviews with Mark Waid, Mark Hamill, and executives Sander Schwartz (former president of Warner Bros. Animation), Paul Levitz (President & Publisher of DC Comics), and Lou Scheimer (co-founder of producer Filmation). Scheimer in particular gets to tell the story of how his company won the rights to make a Superman cartoon while still lacking a full production staff.
The New Adventures of Superman was the first cartoon to feature a comic-book hero on the small screen, and it’s a chapter in the character’s 70-year history that deserves to be told, and it’s a must for Superman fans young and old.