REVIEW: RUBY SPEARS SUPERMAN

MAIN CAST (VOICES)

Beau Weaver (Transformers)
Ginny McSwain (Scooby Goes to Hollywood)
Mark L. Taylor (The Mask: TAS)
Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons)
Michael Bell (Rugrats)
Alan Oppenheimer (Westworld)
Stanley Ralph Ross (Helter Skelter)
Lynne Marie Stewart (Bridesmaids)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Jack Angel (A.I.)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons)
Peter Cullen (Transformers)
Linda Gary (He-Man)
Mary McDonald-Lewis (Deep Dark)

In my mind, this remains one of the very best depictions of Superman on TV, as well as one of the most faithful to a particular comics period.
This series paid homage to both the Superman films of the ’70s/’80s and the Superman comics series “reboot” of 1986-onward (“Man of Steel,” “Superman Vol 2,” “Action Comics,” “Adventures of Superman,” etc). The opening score and titles were stirring, based on the John Williams score from the films, updated for a Saturday morning action series. Marv Wolfman, one of the main contributors to the comics reboot (writer of “Adventures of Superman”) was a perfect choice to be involved in this animated series. Overall, the series had a more mature feel while continuing to be very kid-friendly.

Superman was presented as believable, strong, and iconic. His recurring nemesis was Lex Luthor in his megalomaniac/CEO incarnation. The Daily Planet characters Lois, Jimmy, and Perry were portrayed well. One of my favorite appearances was by Wonder Woman, and the story revolved around her home island of Themyscira (“Paradise Island”). Both her design and that of her mother Hippolyte were in keeping with the similarly rebooted Wonder Woman comic book series of the era, and it seemed like an equally well-done animated series could have been developed for her if handled the same.A must have for any Superman/DC fan.

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REVIEW: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

CAST (VOICES)

Bud Collyer (Beat The Clock)
Jackson Beck (Popeye)
Joan Alexander (The Name’s The Same)
Jack Grimes (Speed Racer)
Julie Bennett (Mister Magoo)

The New Adventures of Superman’ was the first animated immortalisation of the Man of Steel for the small screen audience, since the Fleischer theatrical shorts of the 1940s. It was one of  Filmation’s first attempt at television animation, having acquired the license rights for DC characters, and quickly became Saturday morning’s staple for superheroics for decades to come.

The show’s first season, which aired on CBS from 1966-67, had a particular format of two 7-8 minute Superman cartoons, with one 7-8 minute episode of the first season of ‘The Adventures of Superboy’ sandwiched in-between. Subsequent seasons would incorporate a variety of other DC superheroes into the format, including Aquaman, Batman, Atom and Hawkman, amongst others. What is most interesting about this show and subsequent seasons is that it served somewhat as a precursor to the long-running Super Friends series of the 70s and 80s, after Hanna-Barbera acquired the rights to use DC characters from Filmation.


Throughout this first season of 36 7-8 minute episodes, Superman/Clark Kent deals with a lot of rather one-dimensional space villains from Pluto and Jupiter, for example, mad scientists harnessing insectoid and robotic powers, plus an army of sea-creatures and pre-historic dinosaurs. Classic villains from the Superman comic books also make their first appearance in animated form here in a few episodes, including Lex Luthor, the Prankster,the Parasite (albeit in a rather child-friendly depiction compared to his appearance in the comics), the Toyman, Brainiac, Mr. Mxyzptlk and original villains, the Sorcerer and the Wicked Warlock. Also making their small screen debut alongside the Man of Steel and his rogues gallery are Daily Planet Chief Editor Perry White, journalistic reporter Lois Lane and cub-reporter Jimmy Olsen. Interestingly, Bud Collyer, who voiced Superman in the 1940s’ Fleischer shorts and the long-running radio programme, also voiced the man of Steel here; while Joan Alexander, who also voiced Lois Lane in the same radio show, reprises her role here as the journalistic beauty of Metropolis. Ted Knight, who went on to narrate the adventures and action during the Super Friends series, also provides narration here, explaining the action as it is happening in a way very much synonymous with radio broadcasting.Ironically, compared to today’s standards, the action presented was very limited and Superman was not permitted to pull punches towards anyone or advocate any use of violence towards his enemies. This was due to a parental union, stating that comic book violence in books and on television were a bad influence on the young target audience. Therefore, the majority of DC’s Filmation Adventures series and subsequent Super Friends cartoons (as well as many other contemporary Hanna-Barbera cartoon series) were not especially full of animated action sequences, but did present a lot of moral messages for young children through dialogue and story-telling. Also, being a fledgling company, Filmation was famous for making use of stock footage quite frequently in their series and, unfortunately, this makes the cartoon sequences a little repetitive and predictable at times. However, on the whole, the character depictions and storyboards are relatively faithful to their comic-book counterparts, such as the utilisation of Jimmy Olsen’s Superman signal watch, for example.


Regarding this release from the DC Comics Classic Collection, the first season of ‘The New Adventures of Superman’, comprising 36 episodes (culminating in 252 minutes of classic animation fun!), is spread over two disks, containing 18 episodes each, with each disc having an approximate running time of just over two hours long. Unfortunately, the ‘Adventures of Superboy’ segments, exploring Superman’s teenage exploits, are not included, presumably due to the on-going legal dispute regarding character copyright and creation. Ironically, they did include the intro to one of the segments towards the end of the first disk, though the episode itself is not included. As an additional retro accompaniment, I would suggest exploring both the two disk DVD set of ‘DC Superheroes – The Filmation Adventures’; which includes the guest spot segments from ‘The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure’ (1967/68), and ‘The Adventures of Aquaman’, also available in a two disk DVD set from the DC Comics Classic Collection (which includes the Aquaman segments from the aforementioned show). Thankfully, Warner Brothers have finally released the last two seasons of ‘The New Adventures of Superman’ onto DVD as of 2014, and let’s hope that we won’t have to wait too long for the interconnecting Season One Superboy segments to be made available to a very eager audience of golden-age animation and Superman enthusiasts.

REVIEW: LOIS & CLARK – SEASON 1,2,3 & 4

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CAST

Dean Cain (Supergirl)
Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives)
Lane Smith (V: The Series)
Michael Landes (Final Destination 2)
Justin Whalin (Child’s Play 3)
Tracy Scoggins (Babylon 5)
K Callan (Heroes)
Eddie Jones (C.H.U.D.)
John Shea (Mutant X)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Elizabeth Barondes (Oscar)
Kim Johnston Ulrich (Passions)
Mel Winkler (Coach Carter)
Shaun Toub (Iron Man)
Clyde Kusatsu (Paradise Road)
Persis Khambatta (Star Trek: TMP)
Joseph Campanella (Guding Light)
George Murdock (Star Trek V)
Terence Knox (Children of the Corn II)
Tony Jay (Beauty and The Beast)
Leslie Jordan (Jason Goes To Hell)
Jim Beaver (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Miguel Sandoval (Alias)
Jessica Tuck (Super 8)
Alexander Enberg (Gia)
David Deluise (Vampires Suck)
Courtney Peldon (Say It isn’t So)
L. Scott Caldwell (Lost)
Morgan Fairchild (That 70s Show)
Charles Cyphers (Halloween)
Fred Stoller (Little Man)
Richard Belzer (The Flash)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Elliott Gould (Ocean’s Eleven)
Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch)
Penn Jillette (Sabrina: TTW)
Richard Gant (Godzilla)
Chris Demetral (Dolly Dearest)
Robert Costanzo (Batman: TAS)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap)
Beverly Johnson (Crossroads)
James Earl Jones (Star wars)
Phyllis Coates (Adventures of Superman)
Robert Beltran (Star Trek: Voyager0
Denise Crosby (Star TRek: TNG)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Traylor Howard (Two Guys and a Girl)
Michael Des Barres (Poison Ivy 3)
Barry Livingston (Argo)
William Schallert (Innerspace)
Peter Scolari (Gotham)
Rick Overton (Cloverfield)
Bronson Pinchot (True Romance)
Bruce Weitz (Deep Impact)
Dick Miller (Gremlins)
Farrah Forke (Wings)
Peter Boyle (Taxi Driver)
Melora Hardin (17 Again)
John Pleshette (Rocky II)
William Devane (Interstellar)
Isobel Sanford (Love at First Bite)
Dick Van Patten (Spaceballs)
Denise Richards (Valentine)
Sherman Hemsley (Amen)
John Rubinstein (Legends of Tomorrow)
Scott Valentine (My Demon Lover)
Christian Clemenson (Apollo 13)
Brian Doyle-Murray (Groudnhog Day)
Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2)
Raquel Welch (Fantastic Voyage)
Cliff De Young (Glory)
Jim Pirri (Alias)
Curtis Armstrong (American Dad)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Terry Kiser (Friday The 13th – Part VII)
Lane Davies (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Meredith Scott Lynn (Legally Blonde)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Frank Gorshin (Batman 60s)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Jason Carter (Babylon 5)
Michele Abrams (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Martin Mull (Sabrina: TTW)
Adam West (Batman 60s)
Maurice Godin (Working)
Jessica Collins (Tru Calling)
Carlos Lacamara (Heroes Reborn)
Olivia Brown (48 Hours)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: TNG)
Genie Francis (Roseell)
Kenneth Kimmins (Beauty and The Beast)
Shelley Long (Cheers)
Mary Gross (Sabrina: TTW)
Sandra Hess (Gargoyle)
Sean Whalen (Twister)
Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)
Robert Carradine (Django Unchained)
Harve Presnell (Star trek: Voyager)
Beverly Garland (Decoy)
Gary Dourdan (CSI)
Emily Procter (CSI: Miami)
Hamilton Camp (The Little Mermaid)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Brad Garrett (The Crazy Ones)
Tony Curtis (The Great Race)
Larry Poindexter (Blade: The Series)
Daniel Roebuck (Lost)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Justine Bateman (Family Ties)
Roger Daltrey (Highlander: The Series)
Jon Tenney (Green Lantern)
Nark Lindsay Chapman (Swamp Thing: The Series)
J.G. Hertzler (Star Trek: DS9)
Eric Allan Kramer (The Incredible Hulk Returns)
Simon Templeman (Angel)
Jack Larson (Adventures of Superman)
John D’Aquino (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Alan Rachins (L.A. Law)
Jasmine Guy (The Vampire Diaries)
Sydney Walsh (Point Break)
Antonio Sabato Jr. (The Big Hit)
Steve Hytner (Roswell)
Drew Carey (Fuck)
Kathy Kinney (Arachnophobia)
Howie Mandel (Bobby’s World)
Keene Curtis (Stargate SG.1)
Tony Amendola (Annabelle)
Kristanna Loken (Painkiller Jane)
Vito D’Ambrosio (The Flash_
Dwight Schultz (The A-Team)
Patrick Cassidy (Smallville)
Keith Brunsmann (Tweek City)
Lori Fetrick (CIA II)
Tim Thomerson (Transcers)
Stacey Travis (Highlander: The Series)
Grant Shaud (Antz)

Die-hard Superman fans are torn on this one. Some think of L&C as the black sheep of Superman history. Others see it as one of their favorite adaptations. And how could they not, really? Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher as Clark and Lois had some serious chemistry going on. The late Lane Smith as Perry White is still my favorite version of the character, though Michael McKean did a darn good job himself. Michael Landes as Jimmy, Tracy Scoggins as Cat, Eddie Jones and K Callan as Jonathan and Martha… it all really gelled. And John Shea as Lex – how was he missed as a regular in the later years. Because of personnel changes throughout the series’ run, unfortunately, there were very little references or flashbacks to the first year because the show was now guided by a new regime.
 But the first year really is where it’s at. Teri Hatcher, before she was a desperate housewife, looked real and spectacular as Lois Lane. They dressed Lois in retro outfits that looked like they came from another decade, which gave the show a timeless quality. Dean Cain as Clark offered a “cool” but alien take to the role. Both Dean and Teri look really fashionable even to this day in the first season of the show.
The special effects are hit-or-miss; in some scenes, the effects work, but in others, you cringe. We’ve really gotten spoiled by the top-notch effects work in programs like Smallville. Guest stars in that first season include model Beverly Johnson, James Earl Jones, Michael McKean, Law & Order’s Richard Belzer, Morgan Fairchild, Dean Stockwell, and many others. But it’s the show’s recurring cast that makes it the most, well, super.
The DVD set includes commentary on the pilot episode by actor Dean Cain, director Robert Butler, and show creator Deborah Joy LeVine. It’s a lot of fun, especially hearing stories about the show’s casting and production of that pilot episode. I really wish Deborah Joy LeVine had stayed on the series as an executive producer, because she had such an amazing vision for the show that I think is a big reason of why that first season was so good. There’s also a documentary on the effects, but the real treat is a bonus documentary where almost all of the L&C cast and many members of the crew are interviewed about the show, except for Michael Landes (Jimmy #1) and Lane Smith (Perry White). How cool is it, ten years later, to see Big TV Superstar Teri Hatcher talking about her days of Lois Lane, all while speaking on Housewives’ Wisteria Lane set. Even K Callan, Eddie Jones, Tracy Scoggins, and John Shea participated in the action. I applaud Warner Home Video for going to the effort of including these people.
 The second season of L&C holds a special place to me because it is the year that taught me how to be a fan. Series creator Deborah Joy LeVine exited after the thrilling first season finale, and departing at the same time were Tracy Scoggins (Cat Grant), Chris Demetral (Jack), and – the most painful loss at the time – Michael Landes, who I referred to back in the day as “the real Jimmy.” He was replaced by Justin Whalin in the role, and I admit, I didn’t take to him very easily. The show went for more of an action-oriented tone, but luckily, Lois & Clark had some very good writers who still managed to find a way to keep the romantic elements of the series. Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain had a chemistry, as did their characters of Lois and Clark, and you can’t help but feel for them as they go along.
Season Two was also the season where Lois & Clark finally became a hit – no “sophomore slump” here. From the time Clark finally asked Lois on a date in “The Phoenix” things were looking up. No Mayson Drakes or Dan Scardinos could get in the way of finally getting these two characters together.
Upon watching the DVD, my first stop after the special features was “Whine Whine Whine.” In it, Superman fights a foe more dastardly than Kryptonite – greed. The episode featured guests like Ben Stein, Adam West, Frank Gorshin, Martin Mull, and others… it’s just great. Long-time Lois & Clark fans will also remember it for bringing in a scene that we’ve waited for for a while. “
Like Season 1, the producers of the L&C DVDs went all out in providing an assortment of special material, and for the most part they were very successful. Dean Cain provides interviews again (no Teri this time), and other interviewees included K Callan (Martha Kent), Eddie Jones (Jonathan Kent), Denise Crosby (Dr. Gretchen Kelly), and Justin Whalin (Jimmy Olsen). The show’s Season 2 writers and some crew are also featured, including John McNamara, who is awesome not only for his great L&C contributions, but because he co-created Profit, which is the best show you probably have never seen.
In the interviews Justin Whalin talks about the initial fan reaction to his recasting, which makes me feel a bit bad for the way I felt and posted years ago after he was cast. I later met Justin and thought he was a really nice guy. I’ve also noticed on the DVD interviews that Justin has apparently not aged at all in the past 10 years – he looks almost exactly the same.
Another bonus feature takes a look at the fandom for the show, again featuring some actors and creators and some visits to some fans at a recent “FoLCFest” (Fans of Lois & Clark) gathering. I was glad to see an assortment of people interviewed for the featurette, but I was a bit disappointed that no one from the Krypton Club was represented – after all, its subscriber list WAS bigger than the listserv or the IRC channel for most of its existence – but that fact seems to have been forgotten in the passing of time.
Finally, Dean Cain provides commentary for “Season’s Greedings,” where you hear – about 2 dozen times – about how foamy material rather than real snow were used to provide the “snow” for the episode. It’s very cool to hear Dean talking about his writing debut, which conveniently also happened to be one of the most popular episodes of the series. Dean’s a great sport and I really love the fact that he’s even doing DVD commentary. .
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 The third season was probably the most memorable time for me to be a part of the Lois & Clark fandom, as the show started hitting high gear. Unfortunately, some of the situations that I found to be “funny” back as a kid are just kind of annoying and childish now. If I ever see Olivia Brown’s Star anytime soon, it’ll be too soon. Jonathan Frakes and Genie Francis also camp it up way too much as collectors Tim and Amber Lake. And they’re not the only ones who bring bad camp to the season.
Luckily, some episodes have a good mix of camp and story. “We Have A Lot To Talk About,” the season’s premiere, is an episode that will always be close to my heart and has some of the best quotations in Superman history. (“That is so unfair! You know I can’t fly!”) There’s camp in the form of the Churches in that said episode, but when it’s Peter Boyle, Bruce Campbell, and Jessica Collins, you really don’t seem to mind.
“Ultra Woman” gives Lois super-powers, and again, a very campy costume, but makes for a good story anyway. The episode also features the Metropolis Park Wishing Well, which now can be paused so you can actually see this author’s name inscribed on the well! Another highlight of the season – and one of the series’ best all around – is “Tempus Anyone,” a return appearance for the Tempus character from Season 2’s “Tempus Fugitive.” Season Three rushed right into a wedding, and “I Now Pronounce You” promises the “wedding of the century” – a wedding that ABC touted as being “bigger than Burt and Loni, Michael and Lisa Marie…” You see where they’re going with that. I don’t want to spoil the episode, but the episodes following it may become increasingly frustrating, even though “Double Jeopardy” and “Seconds” are also two of the season’s best shows.
The season finale introduces some aliens fom a New Krypton. This is the spot where the producers chose to ignore the whole “Last Son of Krypton” aspect of Superman.
 Season 4 does have some gems. Some I liked the first time around, like the “Meet John Doe/Lois and Clarks” two-parter… and some were surprisingly better than what I remembered, like the Leslie Luckabee trilogy. One advantage of watching this season on DVD ten years later, besides the feeling of nostalgia, is that many of these episodes were ones I had only seen once back in the day… compared to the dozens of times I re-watched the early episodes. So, in effect, this is kind of new, and I like that.
 Season 4 is still enjoyable but as you get closer to the last episode you know the end is coming, plus the final episode is a cliffhanger that will never be resolved.