The 1988 “Superman” animated series was the first version of the character to come to television since comic-book writer/artist John Byrne’s noted revamp of the character in the 1986 “Man of Steel” miniseries. In the new “Superman” comic-book line, Byrne and writer Marv Wolfman introduced the idea of Lex Luthor as a corrupt industrialist instead of mad scientist. That characterization is followed up here, as Wolfman was the animated series’ head story editor.
Even though the Christopher Reeve film series was over by the time this series aired, after the dismal failure of 1987′s “Superman IV,” the 1988 animated series still paid homage to those films. Luthor’s assistant, Jessica Morganberry, is a version of the film’s Miss Tessmacher, and Luthor, though an industrialist, speaks in a manner consistent with Gene Hackman’s Luthor from the films. Furthermore, the theme song for the Ruby-Spears “Superman” uses a bit of the famous John Williams “Superman” score. The series calls back to Superman’s past in another way, too: The opening narration was the same as the 1950s “Adventures of Superman” television show.
Superman/Clark Kent was voiced by Tulsa-born Beau Weaver, who later voiced Mr. Fantastic in the 1990s “Fantastic Four” animated series.
Each episode of “Superman” featured an 18-minute Superman adventure followed by a 4-minute segment called “Superman’s Family Album,” which touched on his days as a youngster in Smallville.
While “Superman,” produced by Ruby-Spears, only lasted one season, it provided an intermediate step between the silliness of the “Super Friends” of the 1970s and the more modern take of the 1990s series.
— Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman