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.