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The third animated take on the Man of Steel (following the Superman Theatrical Cartoons and Filmation's The New Adventures of Superman), Ruby-Spears' Superman ran for 13 episodes on CBS in 1988. The series was not renewed as the licensing fee for the character was too high.
It managed to coincide with Superman's 50th anniversary, having debuted in 1938.
Notable for being the first Post-Crisis take on Superman on television, although it takes most elements from the Richard Donner film series. Longtime comic book scribe Marv Wolfman acted as story editor, and character designs were made by longtime comic book artist Gil Kane. Amongst the writing team happened to be Larry DiTillio, who'd later go on to greater fame being half the creative drive behind Beast Wars.
Episodes were split in two parts, with the main plot, followed by a light-hearted four-minute "Superman's Family Album" segment, showcasing Clark Kent's upbringing on the Kent Farm.
Beau Weaver voiced the titular character, Ginny McSwain both voiced Lois Lane and voice directed (she would later be the voice director on The Batman), Mark L. Taylor voiced Jimmy Olsen, Stanley Ralph Ross voiced Perry White (he had previously written for Batman, Wonder Woman and G.I. Joe, and did voice work on Superfriends) and Michael Bell provided the voice of Lex Luthor.
The full series is presently out on DVD, and definitely worth a look.
- Acting For Three/Talking to Herself: In the Phantom Zone prisoners episode, Ginny McSwain pulled triple duty voicing Lois, Ursa and Faora.
- Aliens Speaking English
- Baseball Episode: In "Triple Play", the Prankster teleports the players from the Metropolis/Gotham City World Series to a tropical island, then forces Superman to play against both teams combined.
- Canon Foreigner: Aside from Lex Luthor, General Zod and the Prankster, all the villains were created specifically for this series.
- Captain Ersatz: Cybron was pretty much created because they wanted to use Brainiac, but weren't sure what direction the comic was taking the character during John Byrne's revamp of the mythos.
- Catch Phrase: Superman's here is "Up, up, and away!", which he utters quite frequently. The show also carries on the tradition of Perry White telling Olsen not to call him Chief. However, humorous variations do pop up, such as:
"Olsen... Don't. Call. Me."
"No! Don't call me for references, YOU'RE FIRED!"
- Clark Kenting: Obviously. Follows the Christopher Reeve formula of making Clark Kent meek and bumbling.
- Composite Character: The Lex Luthor presented here is a hybrid of John Byrne's corporate executive Lex Luthor and Richard Donner's more comedic Gene Hackman Lex Luthor.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lex Luthor, following in the Man of Steel comic's footsteps.
- Dark Mistress: Jessica Morganberry, in a manner reminiscent of Miss Tesmacher from the original Superman films.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lex, especially when discussing either Superman ("Blue Boy") or Jessica ("My little neanderthal").
- The Ditz: Miss Morganberry.
- Drive-In Theater: Featured briefly in "Bonechill"; the titular villain causes the monsters from a B-Movie to come to life.
- Dumb Blonde: Again, Miss Morganberry. To the point that Luthor at one point has to quip that she's "a waste of evolution".
- Episode Title Card
- Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: In "Triple Play", a shark attacks the Prankster. Superman saves him, but his ego is seriously injured.
- Expy: As mentioned before, Jessica Morganberry pretty much fills in Miss Tesmacher's role here, only even ditzier.
- Also, as noted, the titular villain in "Cybron Strikes" is Brainiac in everything but name.
- Humongous Mecha: In the first episode, Lex Luthor's Defendroids can combine into one gigantic robot, with a prison cell tummy.
- Complete with a Batman Can Breathe in Space, where Jimmy and Lois are fine despite spending part of the fight in space and the robot entering the atmosphere with no apparent protective measures for anyone in the cage.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: The opening theme is pretty much a Jimmy Hart version of John Williams' Superman March.
- Large Ham: Lex Luthor. Michael Bell really hammed it up, in a manner quite reminiscent of Gene Hackman's portrayal of Luthor in the live-action films.
- Opening Narration: It's a shortened version of the narration from The Adventures of Superman.
- Post-Crisis: As mentioned, this series was the first non-print Superman media following John Byrne's revamping of the character, and Wonder Woman's guest episode was the same for her following George Pérez's revamping of the character.
- Sadistic Choice: Superman faced this situation a few times, usually having to choose between saving Lois and preventing some life-threatening disaster. He always managed to Take a Third Option.
- Shout-Out: The series begins with Lois and Superman flying together in a manner reminiscent of their romantic flight in the 1978 Superman film. Also, as noted, the intro used an abbreviated version of the opening narration from the old The Adventures of Superman TV show.
- The DVD's cover art homages the cover of the first issue from Byrne's Man of Steel mini-series, using the series' character design instead.