Monday, January 11, 2010

RUBY-SPEARS' SUPERMAN - THE COMPLETE SERIES

I missed it when it aired in 1988 (I was nearly 30 and generally slept through most Saturday mornings), but the fan-favorite RUBY-SPEARS’ SUPERMAN cartoon has recently come out on DVD from Warner Home Video, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve now rectified that oversight.

The first TV incarnation of The Man of Steel "post-Crisis" (ask your comic book fan friends), this Saturday A.M. animated series from veteran kidvid producers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears interestingly combined elements of the old George Reeves 50’s television show, the Christopher Reeve features (including the themes) and the then-current comic book continuity. This was the first film version of Superman that used the corporate CEO incarnation of Lex Luthor, for instance (previously, he had been a mad scientist in a purple and green battlesuit), though Jimmy Olsen still wore a green checkered jacket and bowtie. The story editor was comic book veteran Marv Wolfman and the character designs were by legendary artist Gil Kane. The animation was quite decent, by 80's standards anyway, and the scripts were slightly more adult than those of previous Superman cartoon series.

Each episode also included a short "Superman’s Family Album" segment, which chronicled the hero’s childhood misadventures. I expected to hate these, frankly, but I actually found them kind of charming. I guess I'm getting soft in my dotage.

In short, this was probably the best Superman animated series produced up until that time, and wouldn’t be surpassed until Bruce Timm and crew launched their excellent version in the mid-90s, after re-defining super-hero toons with BATMAN.

Warner Home Entertainment has included all 13 episodes of the single-season show on two discs, in their original full frame aspect ratio. The transfers are clean and look pretty good. The only bonus features are trailers for other Warners animated releases and a very odd featurette that explores the creative decision to turn mad scientist Luthor into a financial mogul and corporate profiteer.

If you’re a Superman fan, or enjoyed the show back in ’88, you’ll want to add these toons to your DVD library. Other comics or super-hero animation fans might want to at least give ‘em a rent. They’re a lot of fun.

BUY: Ruby-Spears Superman