In 1992 Batman: The Animated Series premiered with Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s take on the Dark Knight. The series was leaps and bounds beyond anything fans had ever seen before and it created what’s been affectionately referred to as “the Dini-verse.” The second entry in the Dini-verse premiered four years later in 1996 with Superman: The Animated Series which aired 54 episodes from 1996 to 2000.
This would be the fourth animated series for The Man of Steel and it's arguably the best. Tim Daly (Wings, Private Practice) voices Clark Kent/Superman and does a great job of distinguishing between the two voices. While he has many conflicts throughout the series his most frequent adversary is Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) who he clashes with on numerous occasions with various levels of success. Rounding out the main cast is Dana Delany as Lois Lane who has eyes for Superman while also engaged in a professional rivalry against Clark Kent.
The series had great episodes. Some of the best were the team-up episodes which included Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and numerous pairings with The Dark Knight, including a team-up that pitted Superman and Batman against Luthor and The Joker. The episodes were lighter in tone than Batman, but as Superman is more of a hero than a vigilante it makes sense. The series included lots of nods to the DC universe and continuity as well as adding to the Superman mythos including getting a Harley Quinn-like character in the form of Mercy Graves which fans loved.
One of my favorite episodes has to be “Mxyzpixilated” from the second season where a being from the fifth dimension named Mr. Mxyzptlk shows up every 90 days or so to annoy Superman and can only be defeated by saying his name backwards. Mxyzptlk is loud, rude, annoying, grating, and a general irritant, so who better to voice the character than Gilbert Gottfried? He nailed the character perfectly and would show up several more times throughout the show.
Other villains and characters that would show up include Brainiac, Lobo, Maxima, Bizarro, Orion, The New Gods, and more. The series took A, B, C and Z level characters and mixed them in throughout the show's run. Since Superman is an icon in the DC universe it makes sense that he has characters of all levels show up and it’s done well.
Superman had to be somewhat de-powered in order for a series to work, otherwise the series would be dull. However in the second season the enormously powerful, evil cosmic emperor Darkseid (Michael Ironside) is introduce. Darkseid is as strong as Superman, but has no compunctions about using his power to subvert people and this changed the tone of the series for the better. The battles between Superman and Darkseid are like chess matches — each time Superman defeats the despot he still finds a way to hurt him. Darkseid kills allies, brainwashes friends, and more, leading up to the two-part series finale which damages Superman’s reputation on Earth. Superman: The Animated Series also sets things up for the next entry into the Dini-verse — Justice League. Certain threads would be resolved there.
There’s a new disc for this collection. “The Despot Darkseid: A Villain Worthy of Superman” delves into how the addition of Darkseid allowed producers to tell new types of stories. In the featurette, they discuss Darkseid, his origins, what creator Jack Kirby did with the character as well as including a great tribute to Kirby himself. Sadly this disc clocks in at about 17 minutes and if you already have the previous releases, it isn’t worth buying this set for. However if you don’t own the series already, it’s worth it since all the previous featurettes which include commentaries, behind the scenes featurettes, and more are included here, and it's economically priced.
While it’s great the series has been collected in one package, meaning I won’t have to look through all of my DVDs to find an episode, I still have one complaint. It looks like Warner Brothers just took the three existing collections and slapped them together, including the double sided DVDs, which all three volumes have in common. This can cause scratches and just looks cheap. They went ahead and added a bonus disc, and they could have redone the older discs as well.