Superman The Animated Series is the best adaptation of the character of Superman ever. It kept to the heart of the character, but updated him as well, and embraced some of his goofier sides while also created some really intriguing stories. The show brought in some of DC’s other superheroes, and gave Superman a memorable rogues gallery of great villains. But, this article isn’t a retrospective look at the animated series (Andrew Stewart wrote a great article about the series) this is just a look at few episodes. The twenty greatest episodes the show ever produced, and keep in mind that I consider two-part episodes to be one full episode. So, without further adieu, let’s get started.
20. Blast From The Past
These episodes are a retelling of a classic Superman story, and the first time the Man of Steel has to fight other Kryptonians on the show. After he and Professor Hamilton discover the Phantom Zone they find out that one of the criminals, Mala, has been stuck there for longer than she was supposed to be. Superman decides to let her out, but she has a bit of violent streak and an authoritative attitude. Kal-El, decides that it might be best to send her back to the Phantom Zone, but she grabs the machine and lets out her former commanding officer Jax-Ur. Jax-Ur was a military commander that tried to overthrow Krypton, but was stopped by Superman’s father, Jor-El. It’s the classic Zod story, but without the character of Zod. Jax-Ur was a Superman Villain in the comics before, but the episode would have been more memorable if it were Zod. It’s still a great episode though.
19. Fun and Games
Superman TAS reinvented many aspects of the character’s mythos. One of the best decisions they made was to reimagine the villain Toyman. Instead of just a creepy guy with a toy gimmick, the show gave him a much darker and depressing backstory. Part of this was actor Bud Colt’s sinister yet soft voice and that creepy as hell mask they gave him. They managed to take a character so goofy and make him dark and pretty menacing. Add on top of that a desire for revenge against a Metropolis gangster, and this one of the darker episodes that the show produced.
18. My Girl
Lana Lang is one of Superman’s supporting characters that has a certain popularity and had a strong resonance with fans. While she was introduced in the second episode she came back with a fashion design angle and a funnier outlook. While the episode’s main story isn’t particularly interesting, Lana Lang and Clark Kent’s interactions are incredibly entertaining and fun. It’s easy to feel the relationship the two had in the past and how they could have had a relationship together, but they just couldn’t due to the circumstances. The episode also sets up the interesting dynamic between Lex Luthor and his assistant Mercy Graves who later became another fan favorite.
One of the crowning achievements of this series was that it created a memorable, and fun new villain called Livewire. A former radio DJ with an anti Superman agenda, she gets electrical powers and decides to try and take out the big blue boy scout. Unlike other villains on the show, she wasn’t brooding or dark, she was funny and energetic and had a lot of personality. Also, she could be the best designed supervillain ever. The dark blue outfit and spiked hair worked well with Lori Petty’s voice.
Many of the episodes stem from Lex Luthor and his company in one way or another. This one is the most unique of them all, because Luthor enlists John Henry Irons (the superhero soon to be known as Steel) to create a robotic suit that can help the Metropolis Police Force better adapt to the crazy threats they have to deal with. The problem is the suit they created has its own artificial intelligence that corrupts police Sergeant Mills, the man wearing the suit. And soon it’s up to Superman and Irons to find a way to stop him. The episode focuses heavily on Mills and his downfall, but also gives enough time to Irons to see how he feels about his machine failing. It’s a goofy premise that has a lot of heart behind it.
15. Knight Time
Batman and Superman crossed over a few times on their respective series, but this one might be the funniest episode they crossed over. After an encounter with the villain Roxy Rocket, Superman discovers that Batman has gone missing, and Robin is completely on his own fighting crime in Gotham (Batgirl and Nightwing are trying to see if Bruce Wayne is with Ra’s Al Ghul). So, the Man of Tomorrow becomes the Caped Crusader, and it’s hilarious to see Clark Kent try and act like Batman as he takes on a slew of Batman’s rogues gallery with Robin. It’s a very enjoyable episode and gives more of a window about how Clark Kent views The Dark Knight and his methods.
14. Identity Crisis
Bizarro is one of Superman’s more well-known villains, but his origin is bizarre (pun absolutely intended). So, the creators thought of a new way to recreate the character in a much darker way than expected. Luthor tries to clone Superman, and it kind of works at first, but then the clone starts to decay. And his transformation is pretty horrifying and disturbing. His mind starts to slow, and his body rots into a pasty white disfigured look. Superman and Bizarro clash, and we got a lot of great episodes with Bizarro in them. He became one of the show’s greatest recurring villains.
13. A Little Piece of Home
Kryptonite is one of the bigger plot elements that people like to pick on, and it’s a fair point to make: Superman can only be hurt by a rock from his planet that doesn’t exist. It removes the character from any possible danger from the real world. This episode really plays with the idea of how Kryptonite works, and while it’s not the strongest episode, it has a lot of interesting situations on how Luthor uses the Kryptonite. It’s a very action packed episode and solidifies the relationship between Superman and Professor Hamilton.
12. Heavy Metal
Steel was a really cool superhero that had an Iron Man like suit, but had a unique personality and an awesome giant hammer. He was introduced in the comics after Superman died from Doomsday. In the animated series they introduced John Henry Irons earlier to give him more development. And here they gave him the chance to really resonate with audiences. In this episode he fights the metallic baddie Metallo with Superman in downtown Metropolis, and it’s so freaking cool. This introduction to the character was a welcome addition to the series and helped launch the character’s popularity.
11. Ghost in the Machine
When the Kryptonian computer menace Brainiac infiltrates LexCorp, he holds Luthor hostage and forces him to make another body. Luthor agrees, and Superman has to save him from the mechanized menace. What’s great about this episode is how Luthor and Brainiac interact with each other; they don’t end up teaming up to take down Superman, they’re both try to use each other to get what they want. It’s also the episode used to set up a lot of what happens in Justice League Unlimited’s climax, which is also pretty fantastic.
10. Brave New Metropolis
Parallel universes are a staple of the comic book superhero world, so it’s fun to see Superman in an alternate world. After Lois Lane is thrown into a parallel universe she finds a Metropolis where her death created a union between Superman and Lex Luthor. They created a police state in Metropolis and have an authoritarian rule. It’s a dark, heartbreaking episode that has a lot of “what ifs” and twists on classic characters. Jimmy Olsen is kind of bad ass actually, and it’s a great episode that put a lot of interesting emotion into the episode that we haven’t seen in a lot of Superman stories. Definitely a great departure from the classic Superman stories.
9. A Fish Story
Aquaman is a bad ass, and this show was the first time a TV could really show audiences his awesomeness. After trying to stop Luthor from some nefarious deeds in the ocean, Aquaman gets captured, and the Atlanteans are ready to start an all out war against the surface world. Superman saves Aquaman, but Luthor is still being a dick, and tries to kill most of Atlantis. Aquaman stops him with some help from his sea friends and it’s a great episode filled with action and a great team up that showcased a character that gets a bum rap too often.
8. The Hand of Fate
The show had many team ups and most of them were pretty standard team ups, and most of them involved Superman helping a new superhero adjust to their powers. This one is a little different. Superman has to help a retired, uninterested superhero get back into action. Dr. Fate has given up his heroics, but one of his old enemies is back, and Superman needs his help to fight him off. It’s interesting to see how Superman needs to inspire someone again, and how Superman knows he can’t defeat this enemy by himself. Dr. Fate’s powers are cool, and the episode is basically visual candy.
7. Father’s Day
One of the underlying plots in the show that was set up brilliantly was the introduction of Jack Kirby’s creation Darkseid and the New Gods. Throughout the series Darkseid’s plan was to invade Earth and control of Superman. However, Superman’s first introduction to the world of Apokolips is Darkseid’s adopted son Kalibak. Kalibak tries to honor his father, who’s constantly disappointed in him, by trying to kill Superman first. The two have a brawl in downtown Metropolis (a constant setting in this show) during Father’s day. It’s a great episode that sets up some of the best story arcs in the show.
6. Little Girl Lost
Supergirl’s live action series has been a smash hit since its debut back in September, and her animated induction had a similar fun and spunky character with a similar origin story. Superman finds his long-lost cousin in the deep depths of space, and decides to bring her to Earth and have her live on the farm. Of course she gains superpowers like Superman, and wants to fight crime, but bites off more than she can chew when she takes on Apokolips queen Grannie Goodness and her army of teenage gangsters. It’s a fun introduction to the Girl of Steel, and she also became a great recurring character for the series. The only catch is that her design wasn’t great, but they rectified that in Justice League Unlimited.
5. In Brightest Day…
Green Lantern’s introduction to the series was a little weird. They used Kyle Rayner instead of Hal Jordan and John Stewart (who ended up being in the Green Lantern in Justice League) and while it made sense because Rayner was the Green Lantern in the comics; they designed him to look like Hal Jordan. But, it’s a fun episode with the introduction of Sinestro and the concept of the Green Lantern Corps, and it’s another feast for the eyes. Rayner is very likeable and entertaining as a reluctant hero who has to own up to the responsibility of what’s been thrusted upon him.
4. Speed Demons
Like with the introduction of Green Lantern, the show also introduced Wally West as The Flash and created a really goofy episode about the classic race around the world between Superman and Flash. The two end up going up against The Weather Wizard who is ready to destroy cities with a new weather machine. It’s a great goofy episode that’s very Silver Age in a lot of ways, but it also has a great team up between the two. Wally West is kind of a lovable jerk, but has a good heart and the two heroes have a strong interaction worth watching.
3. World’s Finest
All this talk about Batman finally meeting Superman in live action, and it’s impossible not to mention their great meet up story in this episode. The Joker and Luthor are out to kill Superman, but The Man of Tomorrow has an unlikely ally in The Dark Knight. The two have to workout their differences to save Metropolis and take down The Joker. What really works great is the chemistry between Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, as well as the Lois Lane factor. Wayne and Lane have a near romance in the episodes, and of course it doesn’t really work out the way Wayne wants it to. There are also some fun action scenes involving the most homicidal robots ever created by Luthor. It’s definitely the best incarnation to Batman and Superman’s first meeting.
One of Superman’s most unusual villains is a fifth dimensional imp named Mister Myxyzptlk. His only goal in being Superman’s enemy is to annoy him, and Superman can only stop him if he can get Myxyzptlk to say his own name backwards. What follows is a hilarious episode that is somehow so Silver Age and bizarre, but so funny and enduring. Plus it also showcases Superman’s intelligence and creativity to outwit his opponents. A lot of people forget that Superman is smart, and resourceful. Plus Gilbert Gottfried’s voice is perfect for the character. Kind of a weird episode, but a good kind of weird.
1. The Main Man
Lobo is a space bounty hunter created by DC Comics as a parody of the muscle-bound overly dark 90s characters that were so prominent in that era. Lobo’s popularity sprung up so quickly that they actually introduced him into the animated series before other heroes. And it was great two-part episode where Lobo captures Superman for a mysterious being called The Collector. The episode is weird, funny, involves Clark Kent using his wits and fighting ability to defeat Lobo and the Collector, and a great team up. These episodes perfectly capture the oddities of the character Superman, but still stick to the core of who he is, and what he’s willing to do. They’re the perfect episodes for a great series.
So there you have it, 20 great episodes of Superman The Animated Series, if you didn’t see your favorite episode, let us know in the comments below, and tell us why it’s you favorite. Next time the “Road to Batman V Superman” continues; this time we look at 20 great episodes of Batman The Animated Series, which is the finest adaptation of the character ever. See you then.