It’s a time to celebrate for fans of the Man of Steel as we’ve just reached the 25th anniversary of Superman: The Animated Series. Premiering on Kids’ WB on Sept. 6, 1996, the cartoon was the second series in the DC Animated Universe following Batman: The Animated Series, which had been a big success. In stark contrast to Batman, however, Superman was much more vibrant and closer in tone to its source material, serving as one of the greatest adaptations of all time.
Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm developed Superman: The Animated Series, also writing the cartoon with Stan Berkowitz. Tim Daly provided the voice of Clark Kent, leading a cast that also included Dana Delany as Lois Lane, David Kaufman as Jimmy Olsen, and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor. Many notable celebrities had also provided guest roles on the series including Roddy McDowall, Melissa Joan Hart, Ron Perlman, Malcolm McDowell, Gilbert Gottfried, and Ed Asner.
Ultimately, Superman: The Animated Series would consist of three seasons with its final episode hitting the air in 2000. The story was furthered in a comic book adaptation that ended its run in 2002 after 68 issues. The DC Animated Universe had continued to grow outside of Superman, with shows like Batman Beyond, Static Shock, and The Zeta project coming along around that same time.
The same Superman character did return in the crossover sequel series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, though Tim Daly was unable to return as the voice of Kal-El. This was because he was busy working on a new adaptation of The Fugitive at the time. Speaking with us in 2009 while looking back upon the role, Daly admitted that he “really had missed” playing the role, which would lead to him voicing Superman in animated movies in recent years.
“It’s acting 101,” he also said of voicing the role “I see what Superman is supposed to say, and then I say it as truthfully and straightforward as I possibly can. It’s always more fun to play villains and there’s a lot more latitude, but it’s way more difficult to play the good guy – especially someone as squeaky clean and straightforward and All-American as Superman. You really have to commit to the idea that this guy believes in his mission, that he’s telling the truth and that he’s looking somebody in the eye and giving it to him straight. It’s surprisingly difficult to do.”
Fans online have been celebrating 25 years of the Superman cartoon. For many fans of the Man of Steel, the show remains a personal favorite from the superhero’s many incarnations. As one fan puts it, “Happy 25th Anniversary to the Best #Superman cartoon and one of my favorite pieces of Superman media of all time!”
Happy 25th anniversary to Superman: The Animated Series! A quarter-century may have passed since the premiere, but the series really holds up very well. It’s as good a time as any to watch some classic episodes of the show, and you can do that right now by checking it out on HBO Max. You can join in on the 25th anniversary celebration with other fans on Twitter.