This week of DC Universe's ongoing Meta Madhouse is devoted to Superman's Aliens. (You can vote in the current round here!) Many members of the team, as well as its coach of course, appear in Superman: The Animated Series, which ran from 1996-2000. While Batman: The Animated Series may have come first, it was Superman that created the larger DC Animated Universe. Many of its concepts and characters would play a large part in later series from producer Bruce Timm, like Justice League Unlimited. On its own, however, the show offers, in the eyes of many fans, the definitive screen versions of Superman, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Darkseid -- and many of the other DC favorites that appear in its 54 episodes. Here are ten of the best. Just click on each title to watch the complete episode on DC Universe...
Superman's origin story is one of the most often re-told origins of any character in popular fiction, and rightly so, since it's a darn good story. One of the best versions can be found in the three-part first episode of Superman:The Animated Series.
From the classic imagery of Krypton to the plains of Smallville to the hustle and bustle of Metropolis, these episodes tell Superman's origin story quickly and efficiently, but also with style. They also introduce us to a great cast of characters brought to life by amazing voice actors, including Tim Daly as Clark Kent/Superman and Dana Delany as Lois Lane. Perhaps the standout is Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor. This version of the character takes its cue from the evil corporate CEO introduced in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths comics of the '80s. But Brown gives him that extra villainous edge that makes him one of the all-time classic bad guys. A great pilot for a great series.
The proper introduction of Brainiac as a villain in Superman's world takes place in this episode, which reinvents the alien menace as another survivor of Krypton, now as an A.I. which used to run the planet… and allowed it to die. Although he may be of Kyrptonian origin, he's without a trace of Superman's compassion for living beings. Corey Burton's voice performance is superb; and, from the get-go, this portrayal of the robotic genius is one of the all-time greats.
Superman's greatest Kryptonian enemies are usually General Zod and his cronies. But in Superman: The Animated Series, that role is bestowed to Phantom Zone escapees Jax-Ur and Mala. In this two-parter from season 2, the two Kryptonian criminals are freed from the Zone, and Mala, at first, appears as an ally to the Man of Steel. But when she frees her leader Jax-Ur (voiced by Ron Perlman) and attempts to take control of Earth, her true colors are revealed. Superman must then go toe-to-toe with two beings who are not only his equal in strength, but have military training as well.
Superman's first team-up with another DC hero takes place in this episode, as Supes must run against Central City's resident speedster, The Flash, in a charity race. The two heroes wind up joining forces to take on the threat of the Weather Wizard. But the fun part of "Speed Demons" is watching the wise-cracking Flash (then Wally West in the comics) grate on Clark's nerves.
In this second appearance of the dim-witted Superman clone Bizarro, he visits Kal-El's Fortress of Solitude, and decided he needs a fortress all his own. The resulting 20 minutes offer some of series' funniest bits.
"World's Finest" Parts 1, 2, and 3
There have been many first meetings between Superman and Batman, but none as outstanding as these three episodes, in which Clark and Bruce (voiced, of course, by Batman: The Animated Series star Kevin Conroy) meet -- and don't get along at all. To make matters worse, Lois Lane finds herself dating Bruce Wayne but hating on the Batman. (Meanwhile, she loves Superman but ignores poor Clark. Oh, Lois...) This episode also has Lex Luthor and the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) team up to take on the heroes, and, even better, has Lex's bodyguard Mercy take on Harley Quinn. What more could you want from an hour of television?
After Superman: The Animated Series teases the Lord of Apokolips throughout its first two seasons, Darkseid (unforgettably voiced by Michael Ironside) finally makes his grand entrance on Earth in this two-part episode. Unleashing his army of Parademons on Metropolis, he captures and tortures Superman. Eventually, the people of Earth rise and stand up to Darkseid, but not before he casually murders one of Superman's closest allies out of spite. It's a powerful ending to one of the series' best episodes.
Another crucial component of Superman's mythos is his cousin Supergirl, who finally appears in this two-parter. Although this version of Kara (voiced by Nicholle Tom) is technically not the Man of Steel's cousin (it turns out she belongs to another Kryptonian race), Clark nevertheless asks his folks to raise her in Smallville, and we see her follow in his footsteps when she arrives in Metropolis. On her very first mission, Supergirl must face off with Darkseid’s minions. No pressure.
The Legion of Super-Heroes, in their first-ever animated appearance, travel back in time from the 30th century to make sure a future version of Brainiac doesn't kill Clark Kent in his teenage years and prevent him from becoming Superman. This delightful episode also gives us a glimpse into the life of Smallville-era Clark Kent.
"Legacy" Parts 1 and 2
In the series finale, Superman is kidnapped by Darkseid and brainwashed into thinking he's his son. Using his new Kryptonian weapon, Darkseid is easily able to conquer the Earth and subjugate its people. Once Superman overcomes his conditioning, we see him unleash all his powers against the ruler of Apokolips in what is arguably the series' best battle scene. The events of these two episodes haunt Superman well into the Justice League series, which continued this storyline in its episode "Twilight", parts 1 and 2.
HONORABLE MENTION: No list of Superman: The Animated Series' greatest episodes would be complete without mentioning comedian Gilbert Gottfried's magnificent performance as the near-omnipotent, extra-dimensional imp Mister Mxyzptlk in "Mxyzpixilated".