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Warner Home Video presents
Superman: The Animated Series—Volume One (1996)

"Some people will fear you, perhaps even try to destroy you. Despite this, you must never use your powers in anger."
- Lara (Finola Hughes)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: February 11, 2005

Stars: Tim Daly, Dana Delaney, Clancy Brown
Other Stars: Christopher McDonald, Finola Hughes, Malcolm McDowell, Cory Burton, Mike Farrell, Shelly Fabares, Lauren Tom, George Dzundza, David Kaufman
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for superhero violence
Run Time: 6h:36m:00s
Release Date: January 25, 2005
UPC: 085393189723
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+BB+ B+

DVD Review

After the success of the drenched-in-noir Dark Knight of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, it seemed only natural for the same creative team (and some newcomers) to take on the other giant in the DC mythos. Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Curt Geda and Glen Murakami applied their creative talents to bring the Last Son of Krypton to the small screen once more, infusing a welcome sense of freshness that sets this version apart from its predecessors, but does not abandon the legacy that is Superman.

Unlike Batman, whose Gotham boasted the art deco lines of a 1940s Fleischer cartoon, Metropolis is a pseudo-futuristic world that provides grand scale to Superman's already gargantuan adventures. The character designs and animation have been streamlined, dropping the more "chunky" aspects of the prior series for a sleeker, angular look. This take would endure throughout future incarnations, including Batman Beyond and later adventures of Batman and Robin. This series is much more colorful, pitting Superman against enemies during the day, devoid of the blood red skies of the detective's dark city.

There are some new takes on the old formula. In the stunning three-part opener, The Last Son of Krypton, we learn Krypton's destruction was hidden from the public by Braniac, Krypton's supercomputer. This is a great new angle, commenting on the danger of our overdependence on technology. Jor-El is also quite the action hero here—Kal comes from adventurous stock. Some of the best entries in this first volume of 18 episodes reveal dimensions of Superman's past, such as A Little Piece of Home, My Girl and Stolen Memories. There are plenty of bold adventures, including Lobo's comedic bout in The Main Man, Parts I & II, and a race to beat all races in Speed Demons, starring the Flash.

Some of the mainstay characters have undergone a few changes, as well. Lex Luthor evokes Telly Savalas, Jimmy Olsen is a little more hip, and Lois Lane is a competitor of Clark's at the Planet, not a sidekick. Detective Dan Turpin's design is a nice homage to Jack Kirby, and he even saves Superman's neck from time to time. Plenty of larger-than-life villains are here, such as Darkseid in Tools of the Trade, and goons from the Phantom Zone in the two-part Blast from the Past. This series has a decidedly sci-fi flair that is appropriately less grounded in reality.

Though Batman is the better, more thematically rich series (and less kid-friendly), this is another rousing success by a creative team who has the utmost respect for the mythos, but is not afraid to reinvent along the way. Superman's dual life is intact, along with a few needed weaknesses, adding a welcome sense of humanity to his existence. He is, after all, only a man, but one we should all aspire to.

The picture quality is comparable to other DC animated sets, and features bold colors and a relatively clean image. Occasional debris and dirt does appear, such as a stray hair in the camera gate. Fine black lines have a tendency to pixelate, but these are small marks against a fine image. The Dolby 2.0 audio is quite dynamic, showing off Shirley Walker's rousing theme. These shows have always sounded great, and this is no exception. Sound effects and dialogue are crisp and clear.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno
Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishno
Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Batman: The Animated Series—Volume One, Batman: The Animated Series—Volume Two, Challenge of the Super Friends
2 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Curt Geda and Glen Murakami
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Pop-up trivia track
Extras Review: The 18 episodes are spread over one single-sided disc and one dual-sided disc. Extras begin with commentaries by Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Curt Geda, and Glen Murakami on The Last Son of Krypton, Part I, Stolen Memories, The Main Man, Part II and Tools of the Trade. Once again, these are the highlight of the sets. This crew has a great dynamic, and offer some humorous anecdotes, observations, and intriguing background info.

Two featurettes are included: Superman: Learning to Fly (09m:40s), found on Side A of Disc 2, is a discussion of the show's inception and stylistic choices with comments by the creators; Building the Mythology: Superman's Supporting Cast (09m:37s), on Side B of Disc 2, takes a look at Supes' co-stars, such as Professor Hamilton, Turpin, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and others. Finally, a rather useless "pop-up trivia track" is available on A Little Piece of Home; these graphics reveal such newsflashes as "Superman's powers include flying..."

The commentaries make the extras grade soar a bit higher.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Warner has put together another fine package for a stellar DC animated series. Continuing the quality begun by Batman, Kal-El's adventures are bold, well told, and plain fun. Highly Recommended.

 


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