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A Timeline History of Superman: Part 4

Our finale on Superman

By Tim Janson     June 13, 2013
Source: Mania.com

Superman was not off TV for very long.  Just a year after Superboy ended in 1992, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman premiered in ABC.  It was a series that polarized its fan base.  While many comic book fans were put off by the fact that it focuses as much on the relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane as on the adventures of Clark's alter-ego, it certainly attracted its share of non-comic book fans.  It starred Dean Cain as Superman/Clark Kent and Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane.
 
The series was loosely based on the recent DC Comics continuity established by writer/artist John Byrne.  While the first season featured Lex Luthor as the primary villain, the second season began to introduce more characters from the comics including The Prankster, Intergang, Mister Mxyzptlk, Toymaker, Metallo, and other Kryptonians.  Superman and Lois attempted to marry several times leading to season four’s episode entitled, “Swear to God, This Time We're Not Kidding” where they finally wed and which coincided with the comic book marriage.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman could be overly campy, particularly when it came to using guest stars like Harry Anderson, Sherman Hemsley, Jonathan Frakes, Tony Curtis, and William Devane in roles as villains.  It conjured up images of the 1960s Batman TV show.
 
It took over 50 years but the Fleischer Superman cartoons were finally eclipsed in 1996 when Superman: The Animated Series hit the airwaves on The WB.  Riding the wave of popularity off the critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated series, the new Superman series was the first to fully embrace its comic book roots.  The series combined the classic comic book and Fleischer appearance with a modern take on Superman.  The series featured a stellar voice cast including Tim Daly (Superman/Clark Kent), Dana Delany (Lois Lane), Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor), Michael Ironside (Darkseid), and Mike Farrell Jonathan Kent.  The show also featured an incredible list of guest star voices like Ron Perlman, Malcolm McDowell, Michael Dorn, John Glover, and many others. The high profile voice cast gave the show instant credibility.
 
The series began with the three-part “Last Son of Krypton” storyline which detailed the destruction of Krypton, Kal-El’s journey to Earth where he is found by the Kents, growing up in Smallville and his eventual move to Metropolis and his first appearance in costume.  The show would feature just about every major villain from the comics and included frequent guest appearances by other heroes like The Flash, Green Lantern, and Lobo.  One of the highlights of the run was the three-part “World’s Finest” story arc as Superman teamed up with Batman to take on Lex Luthor and the Joker.
 
Superman: The Animated Series ran for a total of 54 episodes from 1996 – 2000.  From there, Superman became one of the core members in the WB’s Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series, this time voiced by George Newbern.  The two series ran from 2001 – 2006 amassing 91 episodes.  Superman would also appear in the next WB, DC Comics inspired series, The Legion of Superheroes.

A new series was about to hit television.  This wasn’t Superman and it wasn’t Superboy.  In fact the Producers creed for the new show was “no tights, no flights!”  Well what the hell kind of show has Superman but doesn’t have him in costume and flying?  That show was Smallville and it became the most successful show about Superman in history running for an incredible ten seasons.  Tom Welling starred as a teenaged Clark Kent growing up in Smallville and first learning how to use his incredible abilities.
 
At first, the series relied on the simple plot device of Clark fighting regular people who gained super powers after being exposed to kryptonite meteor rocks.  But the show’s success quickly forced the producers to cull comic book continuity for new plot elements and soon the show featured a host of DC Comics heroes and villains including Green Arrow, Doomsday, Zod, Aquaman, Brainiac, Impulse, The Martian Manhuter, Black Canary, Zatanna, Cyborg, Booster Gold, The Legion of Superheroes, The Justice Society, and Darkseid.
 
 
While the show too often relied on Dawson’s Creek style melodrama, particularly in the early seasons, by the time the show reached its last few years it was full on comic book action (mostly) and the producers even broke their own rule in the series finale when Clark finally donned the cape and tights to finally fly and rescue the planet from Darkseid.

Superman had reached his loftiest heights yet in animation and live-action TV but it was still nearly 20 years since the last Superman theatrical film.  That finally changed in 2006 when Bryan Singer, Director of the first two X-Men films helmed Superman Returns.  Superman film projects had been kicking around for years in development hell including Superman Reborn featuring a battle against Doomsday; Kevin Smith’s Superman Lives; and Batman vs. Superman written by J.J. Abrams.

Superman Returns acted as a semi-sequel to 1980s Superman II and smartly disavowed any relationship to Superman III and IV.  Brandon Routh took over as Superman with Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.  The Film remained faithful to the look of the first two Superman films and did reasonably well at the box office and with critics although most comic book fans were lukewarm towards the effort.  Despite making nearly $400 million worldwide, Warner Bros. also found the film lackluster and a 2009 sequel was canceled in favor of a complete re-boot.
 
Before the 2013 Man of Steel re-boot however, Superman has starred in several, direct-to-video animated films including Superman:Brainiac Attacks (2006), Superman Doomsday (2007), Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009), Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010), Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (2010), All-Star Superman (2011), Superman vs. The Elite (2012), and Superman: Unbound (2013), as well as appearing in the various Justice League animated films.

So there you have it…nearly 75 years of Superman’s history in radio, TV, Film, and animation, all leading up to Friday’s premiere of The Man of Steel.  And we haven’t even touched on Superman in toys, videogames, and…well, maybe another time!
 
Check out Part 3 of a Timeline History of Superman here

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COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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vitieddie 6/13/2013 12:21:47 AM

Lets hope MOS is not the death bell for the character in mainstream media.

dojen1 6/13/2013 4:09:11 AM

that's "death knell"...just sayin'. I don''t think that it will be.

DarthBob 6/13/2013 4:32:28 AM

Looks like MOS is another Snyder all style and no substance turd.  You could see this coming from miles away.

monkeyfoot 6/13/2013 7:36:25 AM

I enjoyed Lois & Clark for what it was. It did something totally original with a take that was quite obvious when you think about it. Their on/off relationship is a romance that everybody familiar with pop culture knows so why not do a light romantic comedy/drama focused on it. It suffered from too low a budget and would often get too damn silly but it worked. You don't break it if it works!

SupermanTAS. What can you say. Everything the writing/producing team of Paul Dini & Bruce Timm did at Warner Animation was touched by magic. It was the perfect animated adventures of Superman.

Smallville for me was another excellent premise. At first they just adapted it to the standard Dawson Creek pretty boy and girl style of the WB/CW. It worked more or less. But this type of show had a mandated time limit. You could only carry it maybe a couple years after he graduated from high school and your time is up. It's cape and flying after that. The problem was it was stupendously successful and you can't shoot your best thoroughbred when he's winning. So they ran through anything and everything to fill the seasons. I was pretty pissed at the messed up continuity but then I did a wtf  and took it as a Bizzarro World version of Superman. Then I just tuned in to see what weird thing they'd do next.

I also mostly liked SR. It was actually the ultimate fanboy tribute video to the Donner Superman films. But instead of just doing a youtube video slapping together your favorite scenes with cheaply shot footage Bryan Singer got the backing and full approval of WB/DC to do his geek wet dream. I hated that he constantly repeated lines and whole plot ideas from the originals even down to Luthor (Spacey was a better Donner version Luthor than Hackman IMHO) having an idiot girlfriend who screws him over in the end. But I liked that it tied up the storyline of that Superman with him returning to his true love, finding his child, and repeating the same loving words over him that his father did to him. Circle complete.

No I'll see what I think of MoS this weekend.

redhairs99 6/13/2013 7:51:05 AM

Left out of the conversation on Lois and Clark is the effect that show had on the actual comics.  It's because of this show that we got the whole Death and Return of Superman story arc in the comics with Doomsday and the fake Supermen.  DC was ready to have a year long arc leading to Clark and Lois' wedding, but WB stepped in and "NO, we have to have the wedding coinside with the Lois & Clark Show and we are ready to do that just yet."  Okay, that's not a direct quote but that's the basic idea I have seen (actually the best part of the DC Animated feature Superman: Doomsday was this bonus feature).  So DC had to scrp their plans for the year and asked their writing team for ideas, and someone said "Let's kill him!" And they developed that instead.

slayerfaith 6/13/2013 8:59:16 AM

The premise for Superman Returns just messed the franchise up until now. I have no idea what Singer was thinking. Superman was alone felt alone, only Kryptonian alive??????? All of this made no sense since everybody knows thats why they introduced Supergirl. Singer could have just continued from Sup II by introducing the other Kryptonian known as Kara Zor El...DUH!!!! 

msglover 6/13/2013 11:50:05 AM

Not to knitpick but what about Superman's appearances on Young Justice?

RobertTrate 6/13/2013 12:06:42 PM

 Any body see Entertainment Weekly similar article? We at least mention more of the cartoons. 

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