The New Adventures of Superman
July 3, 2007
The New Adventures of Superman originally aired on CBS Saturday mornings between the years of 1966 and 1969. The 1960s was a great time for animated super hero shows with Spider-Man in 1967 and, of course, Superman providing a helluva Saturday morning line-up for comic book super hero fans. This volume collects the first 36, six-minute animated episodes produced by Filmation Associates (who also did Batman and Tarzan in the 1970s). They are tightly plotted shorts in the Fleischer brothers tradition and, in fact, this had been the first time that Superman, his alter ego Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Perry White had been seen in animated form since those legendary 1940 short films.
In many respects, the cartoon was quite faithful to the comic book with Superman uttering famous lines like, “Up, up, and away!” and “This is a job for Superman!” While the writers invent a lot of new villains – some pretty outrageous, like the Warlock, who looks like Count Dracula with a top hat – a few from the comic book show up, like Brainiac, the Toyman and Superman’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor. Superman also deals with deadly aliens, mermen and prehistoric pterodactyls. However, aliens from outer space, threatening to destroy the Earth, seem to have been a favourite of the show’s writers as they return to that well again and again. A super-serious narrator (Beck) always sets the stage and each episode always ends with Clark Kent or Superman telling a cheesy joke.
In a nice nod to both the Superman radio show and the Fleischer cartoons, Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander returned to provide the voices for Kent/Superman and Lois Lane respectively. Sadly, Alexander left after the first season and was replaced by Julie Bennett.
The first thing that strikes you is the limited production values (something that you don’t really think about as a child) with stock animation re-used for shots of Superman flying or switching identities from Clark Kent into the Man of Steel and character movement kept to a minimum. True, the animation isn’t the greatest, but it was pretty good for television of the day and quite popular at the time. Mostly, it holds a certain nostalgic charm for those of us who can remember watching it on Saturday mornings in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“Superman in ‘66” takes a look at Superman in the 1960s and how the wholesomeness of the character was a reaction to the jaded times. There was more of a science fiction angle because of the popularity of the space race. It was a time of outlandish, fantastical ideas and this is reflected in the cartoon. This featurette gives a brief history of Filmation and how they got the Superman gig while also examining how it was faithful in feel and tone to the comic book in many respects.