Written by Pirata Hermosa
In 1988 Ruby-Spears productions in combination with Warner Brothers released a Saturday morning cartoon to correspond with the 50th anniversary of DC Comics’ Superman character. The major difference in the series in regards to previous offerings is Superman’s arch nemesis, Lex Luthor, is no longer just a mad scientist, but instead a corrupt billionaire who held great power and influence.
The show lasted only thirteen episodes on CBS. Each episode is twenty minutes long and contains a five-minute short from the “Superman Family Album” showing small clips from Clark Kent’s life starting at his arrival on Earth to the moment he finally becomes Superman.
After viewing, it’s pretty obvious why the series only lasted for one season. It was 1988 and it felt like it was done in the ‘70s at the same time as the Super Friends. A lot of the sound effects sounded the same and they even used the same narrator.
Even the voice casting seemed particularly poor. Superman’s (Beau Weaver), voice was a little too thin but at least it was tolerable, Lois Lane (Ginny McSwain) was a little whiney, Jimmy Olsen (Mark L. Taylor) was overly childish as was his behavior throughout, and Lex Luthor (Michael Bell) was just a sniveling wimp. In the first episode “Destroy the Defendroids,” the combination of all those voices at once made it nearly unwatchable. Thankfully, the voices of Lois and Jimmy improve once the series gets going.
The good thing about the show is that the storylines are fairly decent. Granted there are a few ridiculous moments like when Lois and Jimmy are trapped in an open-air cage on a giant robot that flies up into space, yet they can breathe the entire time and somehow manage to survive re-entry as the cage becomes red hot.
It’s pretty obvious that the plots have become a little more involved than in previous incarnations, but unfortunately the “Superman Family Album” at the end of each episode really sets any progress backwards. These stories are snapshots of Clark’s past up until he becomes Superman. When they start he has just arrived and is a baby. Even then he has super powers: can fly, use heat vision and has incredible strength. You can imagine how difficult a regular baby can be, but one with super-human abilities is even worse as Clark flies around getting into all sorts of trouble at the orphanage, the grocery store, on his first day of school, and with his new baby sitter. As he grows up he learns to use his powers less and less and while still somewhat corny, they aren’t nearly as bad as when they started.
The DVD includes the original thirteen episodes and corresponding “Superman Family Album” shorts.
The lone Special Feature is “Corporation of the Corrupt: The Rise of Lexcorp,” a discussion about the new re-launch of the Superman story by John Byrne in 1986 and how Lex Luthor is now a businessman instead of a scientist because money and business became the true power in the world during the 1980s.
If you’re a huge Superman fan, you might feel like picking this up for your collection, but it most people probably won’t find it necessary.