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Cartoons: The New Adventures of Superman

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Episode Review
History of The New Adventures of Superman
Quick Facts
Voice Cast

History of The New Adventures of Superman:  This cartoon series set a lot of precedents.  It was named "The New Adventures of Superman" to follow up on the live-action TV series, "The Adventures of Superman".  This simply expanded the Superman saga that everyone had already become familiar with, without really changing anything that we already knew.  It was the first series from Filmation, a studio that became extremely successful with TV adventure cartoons.  This was also the first superhero cartoon series shown on Saturday mornings.

    The cartoon series was done a lot like old time radio shows.  Between the narrator and the characters, you knew everything that was going on because they told you.  The animation is really more of a visual aid.  You can listen to the show without looking at and still be able to follow the story.  As another tip of the hat to the classic medium, three of the voice actors from the old "Adventures of Superman" radio show (1940-1951) were hired to play the same parts as they had on that series' long run:  Bud Collyer, Joan Alexander, and Jackson Beck as Superman, Lois Lane, and Narrator (respectively).  This wouldn't have had to be done.  The radio show had been cancelled for nearly 15 years before this show aired.  Young children watching this show wouldn't have remembered Bud and gang, but the show's producers wanted that past connection, and they were good on top of that nostalgia.  As a further bit of nostalgia, Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander were also the voices of Superman and Lois Lane in the popular series of theatrical "Superman" cartoons made by Max Fleischer Studios from 1941-1943.  In addition, Jackson Beck did various voices in these cartoons.

    "The New Adventures of Superman" was also pretty faithful to the comics.  These were original stories, but contained almost all of the same story elements, and certainly the "Silver Age" look of the comics from that time.  The cartoons were colorful, fun little six-minute short stories that were accessible to all groups.  These shows didn't try to be edgy, and they certainly weren't trying to creep anyone out with gross-looking characters or bizarre subject matter.  At this time, cartoons were still for kids, but could also be enjoyed by adults.

    This series was almost instantly a huge hit.  Two segments of "The New Adventures of Superman" were shown each episode, with one segment of "The Adventures of Superboy" sandwiched in between.  This was the first time Superboy was brought into animation.  Amazingly, the Superboy cartoons were just as good, if not better, than the Superman cartoons.  I'm surprised that I enjoy the Superboy cartoons so much from this program.  I think the advantage of Superboy over Superman is that he has his "super dog" Krypto.  This cute, heroic animal provides some sort of intentional comic relief.  Since these are light-hearted cartoons to begin with, a character like Krypto works and is most welcome.  The Superman cartoons did NOT have a lot of purposely comical moments, or even a character you could think of as "the funny one".  Cartoons need to be funny.  I think that's the primary ingredient to any good cartoon.  Superman and Superboy cartoons ran in this format for one season, from 1966 to 1967, but that wasn't the end of either one.

    The next season of the primarily Superman cartoon series was called "The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure" and ran from 1967-1968.  16 new "The New Adventures of Superman" cartoons were created.  8 new "The Adventures of Superboy" cartoons were also created for this series.  But more interesting, the roster of superhero cartoons was largely expanded in this now 60-minute program.  As the title implies, Aquaman (and his sidekick Aqualad) cartoons also highlighted the program.  A rotating series of "guest-superhero" cartoons was also featured in the series.  These superheroes included:  The Atom, The Flash (with Kid Flash), The Green Lantern, Hawkman, and The Teen Titans (Speedy, Kid Flash, Wondergirl, and Aqualad).

    The third and final season of this phase of Filmation's Superman was called "The Batman/Superman Hour" and ran from 1968-1969. The Superman cartoons were changed a bit.  There were 8 new two-part cartoons (16 cartoons in all) created for "The New Adventures of Superman".  8 new "The Adventures of Superboy" cartoons were also created for this series.  The Batman cartoons were handled a bit odd.  Batman (with sidekicks Robin and Batgirl) had half of the hour-long program.  In each episode one two-part cartoon (each part 6.5 minutes long) was shown, and one short 6-minute cartoon was also shown.  This was the first time Batman was put in animation.

    The TV series "The New Adventures of Superman" returned for one last time on CBS for the 1969-1970 season, but all of the episodes were just reruns.

Quick Facts:
  • Although largely faithful to the Superman comics of the time, certain changes were made to fit the cartoon series.  The villain Parasite was one of the biggest changes.  In the comics he is purple and disfigured, a grotesque-looking monster.  That didn't play in kiddie cartoons in the 1960s, so Parasite was drawn to look like a regular guy in a suit.  Another significant villain change is Brainiac.  He actually LOOKS like an android in this cartoon series.  In the comics, Brainiac looked more human.  As a matter of fact, Superman did not know Brainiac was an android for a long time.

"The New Adventures of Superman" (1966-1967)
Studio: Filmation
  1. The Fearful Force Phantom/The Spy From Outer Space (Part 1)/Mermen of Emor (September 10, 1966)
  2. The Prehistoric Pterodactyls/The Spy From Outer Space (Part 2)/Merlin's Magic Marbles (September 17, 1966)
  3. The Threat of the Thrutans/Krypto's Calamitous Capers/The Wicked Warlock (September 24, 1966)
  4. The Chimp Who Made it Big/The Man Who Knew Superboy's Secret/The Deadly Icebergs (October 1, 1966)
  5. Robot of Riga/The Deep Sea Dragon/The Invisible Raiders (October 8, 1966)
  6. Neolithic Nightmare/Super Clown of Smallville/The Return of Brainiac (October 15, 1966)
  7. The Magnetic Monster/The Visitor From The Earth's Core/The Toys of Doom (October 22, 1966)
  8. The Iron Eater/The Beast That Went Bezerk/The Ape Army of the Amazon (October 29, 1966)
  9. The Fire Phantom/Superboy's Strangest Foe/The Deadly Dish (November 5, 1966)
  10. Insect Raiders/The Capricious Crony/Return of Warlock (November 12, 1966)
  11. The Abominable Ice-Man/Krypto, Super Seeing-Eye Dog/The Men From A.P.E. (November 19, 1966)
  12. The Tree Man of Arbora/The Black Knight/The Image Maker (November 26, 1966)
  13. Superman's Double Trouble/Operation Counter Invasion/The Deadly Super-Doll (December 3, 1966)
  14. Lava Men/The Jinxed Circus/Luthor Strikes Again (December 10, 1966)
  15. Mission to Planet Peril/Hurricane Fighters/The Pernicious Parasite (December 17, 1966)
  16. The Two Faces of Superman/Superboy's Super-Dilemma/The Imp-Practical Joker (December 24, 1966)
  17. Superman Meets Brainiac/A Devil of a Time/Seeds of Disaster (December 31, 1966)
  18. The Malevolent Mummy/The Revolt of Robotville/The Bird-Men From Lost Valley (January 7, 1967)
Episode Review:

1. The Fearful Force Phantom:  From their spaceship, two aliens create a giant composed of electrical energy to smash Earth's rocket bases.

The Spy From Outer Space (Part 1):

Mermen of Emor:  Jimmy Olsen is captured by monstrous mermen who want to wreak havoc on the surface world.

2. Prehistoric Pterodactyls:  Two very large pterodactyls break free from their icy imprisonment and cause nothing but trouble!

The Spy From Outer Space (Part 2):

Merlin's Magic Marbles:  Lex Luthor tricks the spirit of wizard Merlin into giving him magic marbles.  One type makes him 8-years-old for a short period of time.  The other type makes him invisible.

Voice Cast:

Clayton "Bud" Collyer as Clark Kent/Superman
Joan Alexander as Lois Lane
Jackson Beck as Narrator
Ted Knight as Perry White
Jack Grimes as Jimmy Olsen
Bob Hastings as Young Clark Kent/Superboy
Janet Waldo as Lana Lang
Various Voices by: Julie Bennett, Gilbert Mack, Cliff Owens.