You didn’t think I wouldn’t go over the other intros, did you? If so you’re new around here. Welcome!
When a show has multiple iterations I like to go over all of the intros, but Superman has a lot of shows behind him. Thus he has lots of intros. While the live-action ones tend to be a bit on the mediocre side (the downside of having to credit the lead actors–it’s not always easy to pull off although it’s happened) the animated ones tend to be good. And frankly few heroes are as suited to animation as Superman anyway. It’s easier to suspend your disbelief, allowing you to get more imaginative with the story.
So tonight we’re going to look at all the animated Superman show intros…well, not all. Superfriends is pretty much its own article, I don’t plan to include Justice League Action because it isn’t technically a Superman show, and I already discussed the intro for The New Batman/Superman Adventures. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other cartoons to make this article complete, starting with the one that wasn’t started on television.
The Fleischer Studios Intros (1940s)
There are two intros produced by Fleischer (later Famous when Paramount took over the studio) Studios. This first one features the full history of Superman at this point. If you saw my review of Action Comics #1 last week you know that the orphanage backstory is the original story, although the Kents had been added to the comics by 1941, so it’s an odd choice. Although it’s better than the radio drama origin, where Kal-El just arrived fully adult, met a scientist who gave him his names and somehow got a reporter gig. The intro was later shortened to something you might find a bit more familiar.
This gets you to the action faster and it doesn’t shorten the opening theme, just the backstory. I like the theme music too. It’s strong and triumphant, celebrating the hero. Superman would get a few live-action appearances, a serial and a movie that was the pilot for the TV show, before returning to animation thanks to Filmation.
The New Adventures Of Superman (1966)
Speaking of theme songs this one is definitely a relic of the time. It really doesn’t age well. It also monkey’s with the traditional opening created in the radio show and use for the Fleischer cartoons and Adventures Of Superman. However, it does its job. It tells you who Superman is, that he has amazing powers, and that he’s Clark Kent. Simple and to the point. I can’t fault it. There’s a second intro here, as this was the time when Superboy was about Superman as a teenager fighting crime in Smallville because it was apparently the quietest yet most crime ridden small town you ever saw. The show followed suit and gave Superboy his own segment.
There’s not really much there, but it’s a segment intro rather than the full show so you get what you can.
Ruby-Spears Superman (1988)
I know, I already wrote about it yesterday. It’s here for completeness.
Superman: The Animated Series (1990s)
I don’t care if the John Williams score is here or not, this is easily the best Superman intro animated or live-action. The music fits the visuals perfectly and is just as timeless as the Williams score. Everything you want to know about Superman’s origin and this incarnation is on display and perfectly captures the show. The full version is also nice to listen to if you haven’t tracked it down.
Krypto The Superdog
My website. I can count it if I want to.
Krypto was introduced in the original version of Superboy and was so loved by fans and writers that even the “no more Kryptonians” call of John Byrne could keep him out of continuity for long. This version was made for younger kids and…let’s be honest, the theme song is lame! The music is okay but the lyrics are just kind of weak, like the writer wasn’t able to think of enough things to say so he or she just put in enough words that sounded right to fit the time limit. I do like how his story is told in a comic book.
Superman & The Legion Of Super-Heroes (2000s)
You’re probably wondering why I’m including this show when I didn’t include any of the Justice League/Superfriends cartoons. Well, there was more focus on Superman in this one, even though each member of the Legion was on display. Season one had a pre-Superman Clark brought in by the League because they were fans of who he’d become and needed his help. The Legion Of Super-Heroes debuted in the Superboy stories of Adventures Comics. (I once reviewed a reprint of that story.) However, Superman as a boy was since replaced with clone Superboy and that wouldn’t have sold the show as well. The Legion aren’t really well known outside of the comics despite appearing in the DCAU and Smallville. So using Superman to help sell the show was the way to go.
It does balance out the depictions of each member of the Legion, figuring everybody knows who Superman is by now. He’s also wearing one of the Legion flight rings because this was still Clark learning his powers, which made him a good fit for the team at the time, and he needed the ring to help him control his flying power. The theme song has an “updated retro” feel to it that I just really like. The show was okay, but for season two they really meesed with the status quo and not all of it was for the better.
They decided to do a time jump and age the characters. It also got a little darker. One of Triplicate Girl’s duplicates was sucked into a vortex or something (mimicking her duplicate’s death in the comics, causing her to rename herself Duo Damsel or something…I can’t remember off-hand). They call on an older version of Superman, now already making his legend, for a new threat. And then there’s that other Superman in there, with the laser hand blades in the shape of his symbol. That’s Superman X, a clone of Superman intended to be a weapon but now turned against his creators. He’s from a further future than the Legion and is working to keep that timeline from happening. He doesn’t exactly live up to Superman’s message of limited violence and he’s really angry a lot. I never liked him or thought he was a good addition.
Since then he’s appeared in direct-to-video movies, a short or two, and Justice League Action but no other Superman series, as DC wants to push Batman nowadays. Superman is a great superhero for kids and kids still love Superman somehow despite what little showing he gets to them. I’m not telling DC to stop with Batman; there is a reason they’re putting out Batman shows. All I’m saying is kids need their own Superman show too, to see a hero who stand for truth and justice, using his powers to help others but also just being a shining example of how to treat others and be a better person. And a good intro for that show is a must. There are some great guides here to go with.