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With: Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Mark Hamill, Timothy Daly, Dana Delany, etc.
Written by: Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, etc.
Directed by: Eric Radomski, Bruce W. Timm, etc.
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 30
Date: 03/18/2013

Superman: The Animated Series, Volume One (1996)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cape Gear

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Looking at these groundbreaking cartoons once again, my first reactionwas that they didn't look nearly as good as I remembered.

However, a little perspective is in order: in the early days of television, programmers ran high-quality cartoons that had been made for theatrical exhibition, like Felix the Cat, Max and Dave Fleischer's Popeye and Chuck Jones's Looney Tunes. After a while, people like William Hanna and Joseph Barbara invented cheap ways to make cartoons directly for television by skimping on backgrounds and in-betweeners that made the action smooth.

Thanks to the advent of anime and other factors, fans began to demand more quality from their cartoons. When Batman came along in the early 90s, its creators, Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski found a happy medium: a cheap cartoon with vivid backdrops and moody "lighting" that gave it a richer, more fully accomplished look.

Warner Home Video has recently released Batman: The Animated Series, Season Two, as well as Superman: The Animated Series, Season One, and the result is a mix of excitement and disappointment. As a longtime fan of both heroes, it's always great to see them again, but I found myself disenchanted by these cartoons. Perhaps if I had first seen them as a child instead of as a college student, they might have held some nostalgia for me.

But the writing on Batman is still very hip and dryly comical, a fair cross between the serious comics and the goofball, live action 1960s television series. And the first three episodes of Superman outline the best version of his secret origin story that I've ever seen or read (it implies that supervillain Brainiac began life as a computer on Krypton that was partially responsible for the planet's destruction).

DVD Details: The Superman set comes with 18 episodes on two discs (one is 2-sided), plus commentary tracks and two featurettes. The Batman set includes 28 episodes on four one-sided discs, plus commentary tracks and three featurettes: Robin Rising, Gotham's Guardians and Voices of the Knight.

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