Following the massive critical and commercial success of Batman The Animated Series, we were treated to the new animated adventures of Superman. Helmed by the same crew, Bruce Timm and company presented us with a Superman who, while maybe not the strongest version ever, was still smart and tough enough to call himself the Man of Steel. A unique fusion of Silver Age and John Byrne, the animated Superman introduced many DC characters to a new audience and opened the door for shows like Justice League Unlimited.
10 Best Superman The Animated Series Episodes
So in celebration of Superman’s 700th issue, we are counting down the best episodes of Superman the Animated Series.
10. Last Son Season 1, Episode 1-3
We all know the story of Jor-El, Krypton’s greatest scientist who saved his infant son and gave Earth a Superman. But up till this point, most depictions only showed us Jor-El and Lara in the moments before Krypton’s doom. Here we get to see them actually live their lives. We grow to like them and actually feel sad when they finally die. Raised beyond being merely “Superman’s Parents” the couple are actually given real personalities and flaws. Jor-El is a man of action, like Doc Savage or Tom Strong, using his fists as often as his brain. And Lara is a supportive and loving wife, but she still has her own mind, and resents her husband’s bleak world view. Perhaps the biggest shift came from having Brainiac be a Kryptonian creation, as an artificial intelligence that monitors the planet. But it makes the Kryptonians seem less stupid for not believing Jor-El when Brainiac disagrees with him as well, and it makes Brainiac Superman’s hereditary enemy. The last shot of Kal-El leaving Krypton is as heartbreaking as it is awe-inspiring.
9. Father’s Day Season 2, Episode 15
Ma and Pa Kent come to visit Clark in Metropolis at the same time Kalibak, Darkseid’s idiot son, arrives, seeking to kill Superman and win his father’s approval. This episode would be on the list simply for showing the first meeting between Superman and Darkseid, with the tyrant taking down the Man of Steel without breaking his stride. But beyond that, we see the Kents out of their element, running around Metropolis with Lois and embarrassing Clark by mentioning how much he talks about her. The love we see between Clark and Pa is a great counterpoint for the relationship between Darkseid and Kalibak, and we see the results of both styles of parenting.
8. Hand Of Fate Season 2, Episode 19
Superman TAS had a number of superhero cameos, but among the best was this one, introducing Dr. Fate, who is shown as a master of the mystic arts and long time friend of Superman. This episode’s pace is enhanced by the fact that Fate and Superman already know each other, and don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining things. And while other guest-starring episodes tended to focus on the new characters, this episode displays Superman at his best. Fate, a being with great power who has retired to his isolated fortress, could almost be seen as a future version of Superman who has given up the good fight. But instead, even with the odds against him thanks to his demonic adversary, Superman refuses to give in, and inspires Fate to take up arms once again. Plus, it’s fun to watch the Daily Planet literally be turned into Hell.
7. Knight Time Season 3, Episode 6
After Bruce Wayne goes missing, Robin enlists the aid of Superman. The Man of Steel becomes the Dark Knight, running around Gotham as Batman to keep up appearances in classic Silver Age fare. From mimicking his voice to taking down foes like Bane with one hand, Superman does Batman’s job better than he does. Usually flying solo, this was a rare chance to see Superman interacting with another character while on the job. The fact that Robin is not his contemporary like Aquaman or the Flash lets us see what it would be like if Clark had a sidekick.
6. New Kids In Town Season 3, Episode 7
Three members of the Legion of Superheroes arrive in Smallville to save a teenage Clark Kent from Brainiac. Along with numerous favorable references to Superman’s destiny, we get a nice proto-Smallville episode, complete with a bizarrely coincidental Dukes of Hazzard reference. What makes this episodes so refreshing is that Clark isn’t as sure or confident as he will be in the future. But he also isn’t as restrained. The beating teenage Clark lays down on Brainiac is probably the most brutal and impressive of the whole series, and it’s nice to see Clark be more normal and human.
5. Identity Crisis Season 2, Episode 6
Far from being a bad joke, Bizarro Superman is treated as a tragic figure. Created by Lex Luthor, the clone starts off as a perfect copy of Superman, only to slowly lose his appearance and then his mind. The level of pathos heaped upon the monster is rare for a children’s cartoon, as is the subsequent destruction of his brethren. Lex’s cold involvement in the project hits home that this is probably the most dangerous version of Lex outside of the comics themselves, while at the same time, the compassion Lois extends to the man-monster gives her typically brash and tough-as-nails persona a ton more depth.
4. Legacy Part 1 & 2 Season 3, Episode 16-17
Darkseid finally makes good on his promise to attack the Earth, and leading the charge is none other than Superman! Albeit a brainwashed one. Rather than present the story in linear fashion, we start in the middle and work backwards, a sophisticated technique. Just about everyone in the show returns for the last two episodes, which see Superman pushed past his breaking point, both physically and mentally. One of the joys of this story was seeing how bad-ass Superman could be without powers. It was like, without powers, Superman no longer had to restrain himself, even going so far as to break Lex’s jaw while under Red Sunlight. But once he does get his powers back, he finally goes after Darkseid, and the ensuing fight topples the despot’s palace and sees the Man of Steel tossing his body to the ground, and the waiting slaves with jaw-dropping results.
3. Brave New Metropolis Season 2, Episode 12
Lois falls into a parallel universe where she died years ago, leaving Superman a broken man who patrols Metropolis as a grim totalitarian working with Lex Luthor. In this, the most Lois-centric episode of the series, we see just how important she really is and where Superman would be without her. There is a theory that a tragic Superman is more interesting than a happy one. Just look at Kingdom Come. One of the best things about Alternate Universe episodes is that anything can happen. For the most part, this series downplayed the importance of Lois’s relationship with Superman, focusing more on the action than the romance. But here, it’s refreshing to finally get some Super-Love.
2. Mxyzpixilated Season 2, Episode 8
Superman meets Mr. Mxyzptlk in probably the funniest episode of the series. Set over the course of a year, with Mxy appearing every 3 months, we see Superman constantly outsmarting the imp and sending him home with his tail between his legs. Far from being the dumb jock, Superman’s use of his brain to outwit Mxy is great fun. Along the way, we see more of the 5th Dimension, and Mxy’s hot wife. The level of obsession Mxy develops over the Man of Steel just gets funnier as the story goes on and Mxy gets more and more frustrated. The final battle royal between the two marks one of Superman’s greatest moments, and proves that he has both brains and brawn.
1. The Late Mr. Kent Season 2, Episode 22
They say that the best episodes of a show are often the most unusual. Told from Superman’s point of view, complete with narration, this episode is a great film noir piece, as Superman and Lois investigate the murder of Clark Kent. The way we get into Superman’s head really makes me wish he had narrated every episode. And the genuine grief Lois displays over Clark’s death is a surprise, especially with Superman standing right there. The damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario is heighten by the fact that Superman knows an innocent man is about to get the electric chair, but he can only be saved if Superman reveals that he is Clark Kent. The deep themes and grown-up story put this episode head and shoulders above a lot of the other, action-packed stories.
So there you have it, the 10 best episodes of Superman the Animated Series. Did we leave off your favorite one? Let us know.
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