Superman: The Animated Series (or The New Superman Adventures in its second season) is an animated television series than ran from 1996 to 2000. After Batman: The Animated Series proved to be an enormous success, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini turned their attention to DC's other major hero: Superman. The new series would use the same "back to basics" approach to storyline and art stylings, giving the Superman mythos the same timeless feel that they brought to the Batman mythos.Baby Kal-El, Last of His Kind, is sent away from the dying planet Krypton and lands on Earth, where thanks to the bright yellow sun he develops famous abilities far greater than a normal human. He grows up in Smallville, Kansas, where he was found and raised as a human ("Clark") by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who instill within him a powerful sense of right and wrong. As an adult he defends the city of Metropolis as an honest, virtuous hero christened "Superman" by its inhabitants. Not like that nut in Gotham City.Since Superman does not quite have the enormous A-list Rogues Gallery that Batman has, the creators chose to largely dispense with the stand-alone format of the previous series, instead focusing on three Myth Arcs:
The second arc concerned the character of Brainiac. His origin was rewritten for the series, tying his origin far more closely with that of Superman. Here he is the computer system responsible for the upkeep of the entire planet of Krypton and he darn well knows in the pilot episode that the planet is doomed. However, he does not want the people to know because he is too busy making provisions to save himself. After the planet explodes he becomes an OmnicidalPlanet Looter, determined to repeat Krypton's fate ad infinitum: collect all the data in the universe, then destroy the originals to keep his collected info from becoming obsolete. His quest brings him into conflict with Superman a number of times—though, in practice, most of his schemes just involve him trying to rebuild himself after the last time Superman destroyed him. Again, and again, and again...
The third arc brought in the characters from Jack Kirby's Fourth World. The intergalactic tyrantDarkseid (taking the role of the Big Bad for the overall series) sets his sights on Earth, and he wants Superman's help in conquering it. Darkseid is not the type to take "no" for an answer. This arc is usually regarded as the best of the series, as the drama and action were at its peak and the individual episodes collectively formed more of an ongoing story. This arc also brought in Supergirl.
All three of these arcs were later picked up (and, to some extent, merged) in the Sequel SeriesJustice League.Standalone episodes were, of course, not unknown. Intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo showed up to collect a Kryptonian pelt. Toyman was recreated as a thoroughly creepy Psychopathic Manchild. A new female villain, Livewire, was introduced, and while not as popular as Batman: The Animated Series's Harley Quinn, similarly made the jump to the mainline DC Universe. An imp from another dimension named Mr. Mxyzptlk showed up twice to give Superman fits. A pair of Kryptonian criminals were paroled from their extradimensional prison, only to wreak havoc on Earth. And, of course, Batman came to town, hot on the Joker's trail after the latter had gotten his hands on a massive chunk of Kryptonite. The more sci-fi feel of the show allowed DC characters that would have seemed out of place on Batman (like The Flash, the Green Lanterns, and Doctor Fate) to show up.As befitting a DCAU production, the voice work is absolutely top notch. Tim Daly plays both halves of the title character with authority and distinction. Dana Delany gives us an utterly no-nonense Lois Lane who absolutely will not tolerate babysitting the newcomer from Kansas, and is skeptical about the man in the red cape flying around doing good deeds. Ultimately, Clancy Brown is the perfect Lex Luthor, smooth and cruel, slimy and utterly charming at the same time.The series would be followed by Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, which took a large amount of characters and designs from this series.A made for DVD movie was also made based on the series' style: Superman: Brainiac Attacks. It is not considered in continuity with the regular series. The series also gave stillbirth to the N64 video game The New Superman Adventures. Titus Software, the company that made the game, also released Superman, a Game Boy game also based on the series, two years prior.This series now has a fledgling episode guide (help needed) Best Episode crowner.
This series contains examples of:
Abusive Parents: Darkseid is, quite simply, not a nice person, and his children get no special treatment.
Absolute Cleavage: Livewire's outfit is cut with a wide lightning shaped V that goes all the way down to her belly button, although with the character design there is no actual drawn cleavage.
Lois Lane, though traditionally a woman in need of rescuing, also has basic hand-to-hand combat training and some proficiency with light firearms. She is outclassed by the supervillains of the show, but when faced with normal human opponents, or when she is pushed into a corner without Superman to save her, she does well all by herself.
Mercy Graves does not get many opportunities to show them off, but she has an impressive array of martial skills. In the comics she's a literal Amazon.
Let's not forget Superman's cousin Supergirl, who managed to beat the the Female Furies, Volcana and An Alien entity trying to assimilate humans. She and Batgirl also took down Livewire, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
Acquitted Too Late: When Superman and Lois Lane have found the proof to exonerate a man on death-row, they find that the governor is not at home because he decided to attend the execution personally, and Lois laments that they barely had time for him to make the phone call stopping the execution. Kenny is already in the gas chamber and the switch had already been thrown. It is a good thing Supermanwas able to save him anyway.
The Alcatraz: Stryker's Island. There there were only three known escapes from the island, the first involved a missile strike, the second involved an attack by Livewire and the third was part of a plan to blot out the sun.
Ambiguously Brown: Lex Luthor. Fan speculation often mistook him for a light-skinned African-American, but Word of God says he is Greek and his appearance was based on Telly Savalas, a Greek-American actor. He was given a lighter skin tone in Justice League, probably to rectify confusion like this. Clark Kent/Superman had the same skin tone, which the creators refer to as a "reddish" tone in DVD audio commentary, but no fan ever confuses his intended color.
The misconception was also probably partially based on the fact that, in addition to a darker skin tone, Lex had noticeably fuller lips than the other white characters.
Amnesiac Dissonance: When Metallo surfaces after being lost at sea in his premier episode he has forgotten who and what he is. He is christened "Steelman" by the pair of children who find him and is (briefly) a hero, rescuing a truck driver from a flaming wreck. However, he recovers his memory at the end of the day and resumes his vendetta against Superman.
Answers to the Name of God: Variation; when Bruno Mannheim finds himself on Apokolips, he asks "Where in God's name are we?" to which Kanto replies "That depends. To which God are you referring?" right before introducing him to Darkseid.
Arms Dealer: Luthor apparently has numerous sources of income, since he claims to employ two-thirds of Metropolis whether they know it or not, but the only one that gets any screentime is his weapons manufacturing.
A-Team Firing: Averted throughout most of the series (not that they would actually need to play it straight, with a bulletproof hero), except for the crossover "World's Finest," which brought Batman and the Joker to Metropolis and seemed to be trying to make up for not using the trope before. When the Joker kidnaps Lois his henchmen shoot at Bruce Wayne and, though they initially appear to be firing at his feet in a deliberate attempt to force him to fall off the roof, by the the time he actually falls they are firing dozens of shots at him from five feet away, outlining his entire body, without hitting him even once. When he finally does fall off the roof he lands on a scaffold and the criminals continue to shoot at him, firing so many bulets they knock the scaffold off the building and actually demolish the wooden floor he is standing on, still without hitting Bruce.
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: It might not have reached the point of actual "love" just yet, but Lois's teary-eyed confession to Superman about her feelings towards his alter-ego Clark Kent (whom at the time was believed to be dead) in the episode "The Late Mr. Kent" reveals that she is starting to think about him as more than just competition from a small town in Kansas.
Baleful Polymorph: Mr. Mxyzptlk has a tendency to transform people into random animals, creatures and paintings as part of his crusade against Superman. When his bosses get involved, they turn his wife into a tree.
Batman Can Breathe in Space: Averted. One way of killing Superman is to make him suffocate, and he is shown to need a space suit to survive in space (Lobo, on the other hand, doesn't).
Batman Gambit: Done to Mr. Mxyzptlk, getting him to proof read his name backwards.
Battle Tops: Toyman unleashes a gigantic top that generates electric fields against Superman.
Beam-O-War: Twice in "Ghost in the Machine." Mercy Graves attempts to shoot Brainiac with her pistol, but he easily overpowers her. Superman, however, activates the Sky Sentry and subsequently overloads Brainiac.
Lois and Lana can slip into this when they are in the same episode, although it's not cut and dry which is which, since Lois has better proximity with Clark but is also no simple girl next door, while Lana was the girl next door but learned how to manipulate through sexuality as she grew up.
Clark and Bruce Wayne are the Betty and Veronica to Lois's Archie in World's Finest. Lois goes on several dates with Bruce and they share some steamy kisses, to Clark's frustration. Loves My Alter Ego is played interestingly here; as Bruce puts it, she's fond of Bruce Wayne and Superman—it's the other two guys she doesn't like. (Although, according to Bruce Timm, it's only Batman she really doesn't like)
Big Bad: Darkseid, whose schemes drive the ongoing plot-arc, as opposed to Brainiac and Luthor, whose schemes are more self-contained.
Big Damn Hero: When an innocent man is about to be executed, Superman breaks into the gas chamber after the gas has been released and blows it outside to let it dissipate in the atmosphere.
Bilingual Bonus: Dan Turpin's funeral is accompanied by the Kaddish, the Hebrew mourning prayer. They got an actual rabbi to recite the prayer.
Blessed with Suck: Metallo. In exchange for super-strength, nigh-invulnerability and immortality he gives up his senses of touch, taste and smell, and slowly goes insane from the sensory deprivation.
Blood from the Mouth: Used several times on the Man of Steel himself to show the strength of his foe.
Boring but Practical: When Lois Lane needs to go out in a heavy storm she dresses in an unflattering plain yellow rain poncho, pointing out that even if it is not particularly attractive or special it will keep her dry.
Bouncer: The Metropolis Yacht Club had a bouncer outside its exclusive gala who refused to allow even people who bribed him to gain entry. Of course, Volcana got in anyway.
Bouncer: "Behind the rope." Snooty Quest: "But I just gave you a hundred dollars!" Bouncer: "Thank you."
Broken Pedestal: The writers explained that they wanted Jimmy Olsen to be a member of the resistance in "Brave New World," and explicitly wanted it to be him who began throwing rocks at Superman, because they felt that nothing would better demonstrate Superman's fall from grace than losing the adoration of his biggest fan.
Bury Your Gays: Inverted (That is, if you managed to notice it at all). Maggie Sawyer is blown out of her car during an attack by Intergang and the next shot has her badly burned and motionless beneath a crushing pile of rubble, withoutmoving her eyes or her fingers. Dan Turpin even calls the attackers "murderers" as he screams at them, so everything seems to be indicating that she is really dead... except she is alive, and she returns later on in this and future episodes. The intent of the trope, to hide or eliminate homosexuality in a work, is then reversed, as her subsequent recovery in the hospital features the very first appearance of a woman the credits and DVD commentary identify as Toby Raines, her partner in the comics. Toby is later see comforting her at Dan Turpin's funeral.
The Cape: The original, and most would say still the best.
Canon Foreigner: Volcana, Luminus, the Preserver, Sgt. Corey Mills, General Hardcastle, Detective Kurt Bowman, Darci Mason, Angela Chen and Unity. Mala is a somewhat complex example; see her entry under Composite Character.
Cape Busters: The Special Crimes Unit is the branch of the Metropolis Police tasked with combating criminals beyond the scope of traditional law enforcement. Over the course of the series they evolve from fighting organized crime (With tanks) to combating alien invasions and clones of Superman.
Superman himself uses a car to knock Metallo out of their fight when the Kryptonite has made him too weak to continue the confrontation. Afterwards he actually apologizes to Lois for the damage to her vehicle.
Cosmic Boy actually hurls cars at Brainiac when they are fighting in Smallville.
Cat Up a Tree: After Darkseid brainwashes Superman into attacking Earth, Supes end up being captured by the military and held prisoner in a facility built by Lex Luthor. When Superman asks for a chance to prove himself, a General sarcastically asks if he intends to do it by rescuing a cat from a tree.
The Cavalry: In "Apokolips... Now!" Earth has refused to submit to Apokoliptian rule and Darkseid is about to annihilate the entire planet, with the implication that he really is able to do it, when the forces of New Genesis arrive. Orion explains that Earth is now under Highfather's protection, and any aggression against it will lead to all-out war between the New Gods.
Closer to Earth: Of the two Intergang members that Jimmy asks for help in "Little Girl Lost," the boy runs off while Amy (the girl) stays behind to help. She explains that it is only right that she try to fix the problem she helped create, which is odd since she showed no concern while creating the problem, namely when she was committing robbery and attempting to kill Superman earlier in the episode.
When John Corben becomes Metallo, Luthor explains that his new body and skin are composed of metallo, an almost indestructible new alloy. However, his clothing is normal fiber and is reduced to tatters when he is hit by a train.
Clark Kent's clothing is burned off and ripped to shreds when Brainiac tries to ambush him as a teenager in Smallville.
Clark's civilian clothes are frequently destroyed, revealing his (undamaged) super suit underneath. When Superman's costume is damaged, it really shows the seriousness of the attack; the outfit has been shown to withstand fire, bullets, lasers, and all sorts of attacks that destroyed everything else in their path.
Superman spends most of his time working with Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Special Crimes Unit. Inspector Dan "Terrible" Turpin, Captain Sawyer's right hand man, was originally vehemently opposed to officially including Superman in police activities, but eventually accepted his assistance when it became clear that the superpowered and alien enemies were simply outside the weight class of the SCU.
The Complainer Is Always Wrong: This show had a particularly noticeable strain of this: pretty much everyone who didn't like Superman or was wary of him, from one-shot characters to recurrers, tended to brutally come out as either evil, highly incompetent, very misguided or just plain an unlikeable Jerk Ass that Superman can outdo and show up. The more vocally against the Man of Steel the characters were, the worse they were ultimately revealed to be, giving the impression that anyone who could possibly dislike Superman must naturally either be evil or a fool. This didn't quite continue into Justice League, as there was more emphasis on reasons why the public might be wary of superheroes, but it still manages to be there there in small qualities.
Mala is named for an obscure male character from the 1950s, the leader of a trio of the first evil Kryptonians Superman battled in two stories. The more famous Phantom Zone idea and villains like Zod came later in the Silver Age and utterly eclipsed the original trio of Mala, U-Ban, and Kizo. However, in terms of her gender and relationship with fellow Composite Character Jax-Ur, Mala is based primarily on the evil Kryptonian Ursa from the film Superman II. Interestingly enough, Ursa was probably very loosely inspired by the comics' evil Kryptonian villainess Faora Hu-Ul; unlike Ursa and Mala, who like and respect their male allies, Faora was a man-hating Serial Killer back on Krypton.
Kyle Rayner is a combination of Kyle, Hal Jordan, and John Stewart from the comics (Later, in Justice League, John Stewart eventually becomes a main character and Hal Jordan gets a minor cameo). When Kyle Rayner appeared in JLU ("The Return") he was redesigned to look less like Hal Jordan and more like his comic book counterpart.
The Flash. Although it is never stated which Flash is in Speed Demons, he is confirmed to be Wally West in Justice League. His personality has a lot in common with Bart Allen and he has Barry Allen's day job as a forensic scientist.
Jax-Ur is a mash-up of his comic-book incarnation and the better known General Zod.
In "The Last Son of Krypton, Part 3," when Clark Kent and Lex Luthor meet for the first time Luthor, irritated by Clark, remarks that he will remember the name "Kent." Throughout the series he refers to Clark only as "Kent," never by his first or both his first and last name, despite routinely varying how he addresses other characters.
After one final strong gust of wind in "Superman's Pal", Lois comments that she needs to start wearing pants. In the next episode, "A Fish Story'", for the first time in the entire series (Except when she was undercover and in disguise) she wears pants. In the same scene, Jimmy Olsen uses the signal watch he received in that same episode to call for help from Superman.
Cover Blowing Superpower: In "The Late Mr. Kent," Clark Kent is "killed" by a car bomb and Superman wonders how he is going to continue living his life, since if people see him fly away from the wreck they will know his secret.
Death Trap: Not quite once-an-episode, but explored. The episode "Target" featured several unique traps all focused on killing Lois Lane that were set up at an awards reception, her car, her office and finally in the lab of the man plotting her death.
Despair Event Horizon: As the series ends in Legacy, with Darkseid finally defeated and tossed to the masses of Apokolips for judgement, the people he has long enslaved do not rebel against Darkseid, but instead carry him on their shoulders to his recovery. As he is carried off, he speaks one final line: "I am many things Kal-El, but here, I am God." Even after he has been crushed and beaten, Darkseid still wins!
Dirty Cop: Detective Bowman. He made detective by framing a man for murder and "solving" the crime, got said innocent man sent to death row, then attempted to kill Clark Kent when he could prove the man's innocence.
Distracted by the Sexy: Volcana gains entry to a private party, and draws the eye of on-duty photographer Jimmy Olsen, through raw sex appeal.
Rejected Party Guest: "Hey, what's she got that I haven't got?" Bouncer: "Everything."
Distressed Damsel: Lois Lane is the traditional damsel, frequently being rescued by Superman, but the trope is discussed in the episode "Target." Despite a madman consistently attempting to murder her she remains unconcerned and defiant, continuing her own investigation against the advice of others. She points out that she remains in control of her life despite the danger she is in and, even if she needs Superman to physically save her, she will neverletherself become a damsel.
Does Not Know His Own Strength: When his powers first began to manifest, Clark Kent had a lot of trouble adjusting to his newfound strength. When engaging in a "friendly" game of basketball, he accidentally threw his opponent across the court and through a refreshment table.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "Double Dose", Livewire makes it pretty clear she likes to associate her powers with her... femininity. Which adds a whole rape subtext to Parasite attempting to forcibly take them from her.
Downer Ending: As the series ends in Legacy, Superman has finally defeated Darkseid, free of the brainwashing that forced him to lead an invasion of Earth, and he tosses Darkseid to the masses of Apokolips for judgment, freeing the planet after eons of slavery. However, instead of dethroning their oppressor the people of Apokolips raise Darkseid to their shoulders and carry him off to heal, begging for his recovery. As they leave, Darkseid speaks one final line to Superman: "I am many things Kal-El, but here, I am god." Unable to defeat Darkseid, even after physically crushing him, Superman returns to Earth where he has lost the trust of humanity and will be feared and hated for years to come. At least he has Lois and Jimmy's support and the issue of the public's trust of him is resolved in the later Justice League continuity.
Dystopia Justifies the Means: Darkseid. Apokolips is a nightmarish hellhole where he rules as a God, and he plans to conquer the Earth and enslave the human race purely For the Evulz. To say nothing of his ultimate goal of finding the Anti-Life Equation to eliminate The Evils of Free Will, so that he may remake the universe in his own twisted image.
Easily Conquered World: Almarec. When Maxima leaves, her maid and enemy take over by... you know, it is never revealed. They are just in charge when Maxima gets back a half hour later, with no explanation for how they executed their coupnote though from what we see of the place her subjects really didn't like her much.
The Cthulhoid Karkull. He and his shoggoth minions were pretty much straight out of a Lovecraft story and compare quite blatantly to Nyarlathotep.
Unity, sort of a mix of Shub-Niggurath and Yog-Sothoth. Not the first or the last time the DCAU would go to the Lovecraft well, but probably one of the freakiest. The Preacher/Elder God assisting Unity was an even more blatant Nyarlathotep Expy.
The End... Or Is It?: Entirely too many episodes to list. The series loves to end the episode on a shot of the Toyman's discarded mask, or Metallo walking slowly through the ocean depths, or the supposedly-catatonic Parasite's eyes beginning to glow...
In "The Late Mr. Kent," Clark Kent is reaching for a slice of pizza when he realizes that the man on death-row could be exonerated if somebody could verify his alibi, that he was eating pizza when the murder was being committed.
Even Evil Has Standards: Bruno Mannheim, otherwise highly irredeemable, doesn't allow his mooks and bodyguards to follow him into a charity event because he doesn't want them to scare the children. Though this may have been so he could uphold his already crumbling Villain with Good Publicity appearance.
Exact Words: Karkull's promise to whoever frees him. He said he was "power beyond understanding", not that you would get any of that power, foolish mortal.
In "Apokolips... Now!", Darkseid promises Bruno Manheim that in exchange for his help in weakening Earth for an invasion, he'll be made a king. When he abandons Manheim in a nuclear plant with a reactor about to explode, Darkseid crowns him a king... of fools.
Executive Meddling: Originally, Ma and Pa Kent were supposed to die in Apokolips... Now!, but DC said that if they were killed they would need to be brought back to life later. Unwilling to walk down that path, the target was shifted to a different character.
Family-Friendly Firearms: The show generally averts this trope, many characters wield normal firearms and are explicitly using advanced weaponry when lasers are shown, but Heavy Metal plays the trope straight. Intergang initially wields traditional machine guns that are shown to fire bullets and eject spent casings when they are firing into the air to intimidate their hostages, but when they actually shoot at Superman and Steel they are inexplicably firing lasers instead.
Family-Unfriendly Death: This may be the only western kids' cartoon show to feature a murderer being executed on screen.
Fantastic Racism: Most of Superman's enemies hate him for personal and direct reasons, but General Hardcastle dislikes and distrusts him solely because he is an alien, with a history and motivation that can not be trusted.
Faster-Than-Light Travel: The ship which brought Superman to Earth as a child was refurbished with the help of S.T.A.R. labs, and is used occasionally during the series to transport Superman through space. In its first re-appearance, "Stolen Memories," Superman travels five and a half light-years, just past Alpha Centauri, and returns to Earth in under four hours.
Fighting from the Inside: In "Two's a Crowd" Rudy begns to fight back against Earl Garver after Garver has taken control of the Parasite, giving Superman the time and opportunity he needs to get rid of the bomb and save the day.
In "World's Finest", Alfred's research shows that all previous owners of the "Laughing Dragon" statue have died young from illness. Luthor should have done the same reading; by Justice League, carrying kryptonite around for years has given him cancer just like in the comics.
In the episode "Little Girl Lost," the model of the comet breaking the globe hints at the upcoming impact of Fleischer's Comet.
Brainiac at one point shoots Luthor in the back. A later appearance ("Knight Time") shows Brainiac probably has the ability to outright destroy a human being if he wanted to, with the only reason he failed being that it was Superman he was blasting. Justice League would later reveal Brainiac put a sample of himself within Luthor, just in case he died.
Form-Fitting Wardrobe: Livewire's outfit is created by ionizing the air around her, and she herself describes it as "form fitting."
Free-Range Children: "Action Figures" features two children on a volcanic island, which is suffering from frequent earthquakes, running around with no more supervision than the admonition to return to the camp if the volcano erupts.
Genre Savvy: The Joker, bizarrely enough. When he guest stars and tosses Bruce Wayne off a Metropolis roof he instructs his men to go make sure that Bruce is really dead, since in this town it is far too likely that somebody could actually catch him in mid-air. When it turns out Bruce is alive (He landed on a scaffold) his men decide to stop trying to knock him off the building and instead just try to shoot him (not that that helps).
Groupie Brigade: Jimmy gets chased by a mob of lovestruck teenage girls in "Superman's Pal" after Angela Chen blows his relationship with Superman out of proportion.
Hannibal Lecture: Brainiac gives one to Jor-El in the pilot, in order to convince him to let him escape Krypton.
Hard Head: Averted. When Earl Garver is knocked out in "Two's a Crowd" his doctor explains that he has a serious concussion and will be unconcious for hours, if not days, and might even be comatose. The police have to bring in the mind-absorbing Parasite in order to get the required information before Garver's bomb explodes.
Heel Realization: You can actually see Bizarro's heart break when he sees Superman saving Lois Lane and recognizes that he himself is not Superman.
Hide Your Lesbians: Maggie Sawyer is an imported character from the Superman comics, first appearing in the 1980's, and has been an out-lesbian since 1988. However, this could not be explicitly stated in a kids show and the closest they get to covering this point is in Apokolips... Now! when she is visited in the hospital by a woman who comforts her throughout both parts of the episode. The woman is unnamed in the show, but DVD commentary and the credits reveal that she is Toby Raines, Maggie's long-time girlfriend in the comics, and was included as a reference to their relationship.
Homeworld Evacuation: Jor-El had a practical plan to evacuate the entire population of Krypton before it exploded: cast everyone into the Phantom Zone, have someone travel to a suitable planet and release them. However, the thought of being stored with the worse criminals of Krypton and Brainiac's self-serving lies made sure it wouldn't be used.
Parasite figures out his ability to drain energy rather quickly, but was confused when he began to lose what he had gained after a few hours. It took him a while to recognize the time limit and need to re-drain people.
Mala initially needs some coaching from Superman on how to use her Kryptonian powers, and falters when she first tries to fly.
I Am Not Left-Handed: When Volcana and Superman square off she knocks him off his feet, then comments that that was with her left hand.
Identity Impersonator: Superman masqueraded as Batman in the episode "Knight Time". Batman being invincible served to spook the villains of Gotham even more, enhancing Batman's legendary status.
If I Wanted You Dead...: Lex Luthor explains to Lois in "Target" that, if he were really behind the most recent attempts on her life, he would never have left such a blatant trail that would lead back to himself.
Ignore the Fanservice: Mr. Mxyzptlk's wife blatantly attempts to seduce him, magically changing into a dozen revealing outfits, but he does not even look up from the killer robot he is building. Eventually, she smashes a plate on his head and walks away.
I Never Said It Was Poison: In "Target", Lois finds out it was her acquaintance Edward Lytener who is trying to kill her when he says he watched Lois's award on the TV while in his workshop. But he does not have a TV on his workshop.
Clone!Superman: What... am... I? Mercy Graves:Bizarro is what you "am".
In Spite of a Nail: In the Alternate Universe of "Brave New Metropolis" the city and people in it have all been transformed since Lois Lane died, except for Lex Luthor. When Lois is transported there from the primary universe, she explains that he is the one person who is exactly the same.
Invincible Hero: Averted. The writers were generally quite good about coming up with new ways to challenge him, ranging from kryptonite, to red sun rays, to messing with his head and/or senses, attacking him with things his powers don't cover, to villains who were simply more powerful than him.
Just A Flesh Wound: Subverted. Dan "Terrible" Turpin is shot in the knee while trying to storm Garver's base in "Two's a Crowd," but he explains to Captain Swayer that it is "just a singe." However, he then limps away, assisted by another officer, and is absent from the rest of the episode.
Kryptonite will remove Superman's powers while causing great pain, and eventually death after lengthy exposure. The solar radiation of a red sun will likewise remove his powers, but without additional consequences.
Livewire has an absolutely crippling weakness to water. A tiny touch will cause her powers to flare up painfully, and being fully drenched will cause her to go catatonic.
The Lancer: Inspector Dan "Terrible" Turpin of the Special Crimes Unit serves as the lancer to Captain Maggie Sawyer, Superman's contact on the police force, and occasionally to Superman himself.
Last of His Kind: It's revealed that Lobo is one of these, and seems at first that this would be a point that reveals why Lobo's as psychotic as he is... until he nostalgically reflects on how he destroyed his entire planet for a school science project.
Lobo: Gave myself an "A".
Left Hanging: The episode "The Prometheon." It ends with Superman and Dr. Hamilton subduing the eponymous creature, a heat-absorbing android the size of a skyscraper, by freezing the entire Metropolis Reservoir. And that is it. Fade to black. What do they do with it? They do not say. How do they keep it from waking back up when the water melts? They do not say. And how do they deal with the fact that, until they do figure out a solution, they have frozen the entire Metropolis water supply? Again, they do not say.
Leitmotif: Most of the villains have their own motifs, as does Superman himself, naturally. Supes is the most prominent motif in the show, consisting of the first few notes of the show's opening. This is occasionally played with - for example, Bizarro's theme is Superman's theme played backwards.
Lesser of Two Evils: During the events of "The Main Man," both Superman and the psychotic bounty hunter Lobo are imprisoned, on account of both being the Last of His Kind. Superman breaks out of his cell, and Lobo pleads for Superman to release him, too. Superman initially refuses, thinking that his imprisonment is a fitting punishment. Lobo, understandably enraged, vows that..
In the short time that Lobo was on Earth, he built a small nuke when simple wanton destruction wasn't summoning Superman quickly enough. And, both from Lobo's canon and his status as a famed bounty hunter, he's a man of his word. It also helps that he's the Last of His Kind because he created a doomsday device that wiped out his entire planet... for a high school science project. Needless to say, Superman thinks that allowing the Chaotic Neutral Lobo to roam the galaxy is a preferable alternative to the prospect of a fully Chaotic Evil Lobo gunning for Earth's destruction, and lets him go after making him swear to leave the Earth and its people in peace.
This even gets carried over into the Justice League animated series: after Superman is apparently killed, Lobo shows up at the League watchtower, and the heroes initially believe him there to wreak vengeance for Superman having defeated him. Turns out he thought Superman's departure left a job opening for a Flying Brick.
Light Hearted Rematch: At the end of "Speed Demons," Superman and the Flash recognize that they never did determine who was the Fastest Man Alive and close the episode starting a private race. The winner is not revealed, but signs in the Flash Museum in the sequel series Justice League Unlimited signal that the Flash was the victor.
Lightning Can Do Anything: Including turn people into lightning - though in that case it's implied that the lightning first passing through Superman had something to do with it.
Like Brother and Sister: Lana Lang explains that if Clark says he loves her like a sister, she will go right back to dating Lex Luthor.
Limited Wardrobe: Except for two scenes, one where he is undercover with Lois Lane and once when he is attending a funeral, Jimmy Olsen wears the exact same outfit for literally every scene in the entire series. Lois actually has a very varied wardrobe of different styles of clothing (Shorts, skirts, dresses, gowns, etc.) and Clark mixed his wardrobe up on occasion. It is mentioned on the commentary of "The World's Finest" that the creators tried very hard at averting this trope, but were limited by budget constraints, so instead of getting different outfits they would just change the color of their regular clothes to give them several different combinations
Living Lie Detector: Clark Kent, using his super-human senses, can gauge heart-rate and eye-level to make a fairly accurate deduction of a person's honesty.
Loophole Abuse: Darkseid tries this in "Little Girl Lost". Following the events of "Apokolips... Now!", Earth is now under the protection of New Genesis. Darkseid can't revenge himself upon Superman or humanity without breaking his truce with Highfather. But if the Earth were to be destroyed by a natural disaster, like a stray comet... well, he couldn't be held accountable.
Love Cannot Overcome: Lois Lane breaks up with Bruce Wayne once she discovers his identity as Batman. Bruce and Clark lament together that she likes Bruce and she likes Superman, but not the other halves of their identities.
Loves My Alter Ego: Lois Lane has an infatuation with Superman throughout the series, but in keeping with the Post-Crisis interpretation of the characters she begins to develop feelings for Clark Kent as the series progresses. This is also a facet of her Betty and Veronica tension with Superman and Batman in World's Finest—as Batman points out, Lois likes Superman but not Clark Kent, and also likes Bruce Wayne but not Batman.
Lois Lane gets this all the time, as most of the time she is falling from high heights, getting caught in gusts of wind, being carried by Superman, and being attacked by bad guys, all while wearing these short skirts. She eventually gives up and starts wearing pants.
Motive Decay: Metallo. His origin episode that transformed him from John Corben into Metallo ended with his vendetta focused on Superman, but also on Luthor for transferring his mind into the strong-but-numb Metallo body. However, by his second appearance the "vengeance against Luthor" angle has been dropped entirely and in his fourth appearance he even gets a girlfriend, despite the fact that his inability to feel anything at all when kissing a woman was one of the things that originally drove him nuts. His original motive does return in the video game Superman: Shadow of Apokolips, which debuted in 2002. Recruited by a disguised Luthor and told to destroy Superman, Metallo defers and goes after Luthor himself.
My Suit Is Also Super: It was never explicitly stated so but Superman's blue and red number was shown to survive things that destroy his tougher looking space-suit and metal lined Kryptonite-Proof Suit. Indeed the fact that Darkseid can cause damage to Superman's suit is a show of how powerful he is.
Mythology Gag: There are numerous references throughout the series to past incarnations of the Superman mythos, including the comics themselves and other media adaptations.
Superman at first mispronounces the name Mxyzptlk as "Mix-ill-plick"... exactly the way it was pronounced on Super Friends.
In "Last Son of Krypton, Part 1", one of the guards says "Great Rao!", which Superman often says in the Silver Age comics.
In "Last Son of Krypton, Part 3" Lois tells Bibbo to have Clark call "Commissioner Henderson" if she is not heard from soon. Inspector William Henderson was a character originally introduced in the 1940's radio series as Superman's contact on the police force; he was later adapted into the television series and, eventually, the comics. His role was eventually supplanted by Daniel Turpin and Maggie Sawyer, two characters who would become important recurring characters within this series, and he is currently Metropolis's Police Commissioner. He is given a small role in Feeding Time and appears in the background in Apokolips... Now!
In "Target," when Lois Lane is trapped in the elevator Superman rescues her and says that "I believe this is your floor," the same line he spoke to Lois when rescuing her from an elevator in Superman II.
The comet that Darkseid will use to destroy the Earth in "Little Girl Lost" is Fleischer's Comet.
The Mxyzptlk comic strip in "Mxyzptlkated" (See Freeze-Frame Bonus above) is written by Siegel and Shuster, the original creators of Superman. Both the episode and the comic feature Mxy looking for "McGurk," a hulking strongman/Expy for Rodin's "Thinker," that Mxy searched for in his very first comic book appearance.
Bizarro gets a hideous alien "dog" which he calls "Krypto."
Krypto himself has a cameo in the pilot, and Streaky lives on the Kent's farm. At one point, Mxyzptlk makes it fly - a reference to it's Silver Age superpowers.
At Mr. Mxyzptlk's trial, his wife appears to offer up evidence that his obsession with Superman means he is not responsible for his actions. One of the pieces of evidence she puts forth is a copy of Action Comics.
During Maxima's tenure with the Justice League of America, it was revealed that her heavy-handed and reckless methods of ruling Almarec caused a lot of resentment among her subjects, to the point that when the elders banished her there was a great deal of support for said banishment. In this series, as soon as she leaves the planet to court Superman her handmaiden organizes a coup to save her people from her rule.
The episode "Monkey Fun" was apparently a remake/homage to a similar episode of the 60s Superman cartoon.
The toy monkey is named Beppo, which is the name of the Super Monkey.
In "Ghost in the Machine", Superman stops two missiles, much like in the 1978 film.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: The planet occupied by Mala and Jax-ur has a few general similarities, including references to an economic depression and internecine warfare that was stopped by the new regime which taught discipline and efficiency, but the parallels become hard to miss when they use the Hitlergru▀ (Nazi Salute).
Never Say "Die": Averted. The word itself pops up with stunning regularity, and this is probably one of the only American cartoons to show a criminal being executed.
New Gods: Jack Kirby's Fourth World becomes an integral part of the show with the introduction of the mythos in the season one episode Tools of the Trade. Eventually both Apokolips and New Genesis would compete over the Earth and Darkseid would become a personal rival of Superman. This conflict would extend past the end of S:TAS, the New Genesis/Apokolips rivalry would become a frequent issue in Justice League and Orion, introduced here in Apokolips... Now! would eventually joined the expanded League in Unlimited.
Lois Lane and Clark Kent frequently go to Lex Luthor to learn the truth behind the current villainous scheme, but several times he explains that no, he is not the one trying to kill somebody and/or blot out the sun... this week.
In "The Late Mr. Kent," Kenny, who is on death row, admits that he was a thief who committed robbery plenty of times, but he never hurt anybody and did not kill the woman he was convicted of murdering.
In "Knight Time", Superman and Robin notice that there are mind control machines on Bruce Wayne's phone in his office. They track down the Mad Hatter but, upon capturing him, he states that the technology used is beyond anything he could build, and also beyond the capabilities of everybody that he has stolen mind control technology from in the past.
Not So Different: Unusually, Superman gets this from an ally. When he goes to Doctor Fate for help, Fate explains that he has retired from superheroics, weary from the endless battle. He tells Superman that the two of them are similar, both masters of their own fate, and Superman should join him and likewise leave behind the petty conflicts of humanity. Superman, of course, explains that they are nothing alike.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: In "World's Finest", when The Joker arrives in Metropolis, the mob, Luthor, and Superman all assume that he must be, at best, a minor irritant, just a powerless whackjob in a weird suit. By the end of the three-part series, he has taken over the Metropolis mob, blown up half the city, and nearly killed both Luthor and Superman. When Batman shows up, it's pretty clear that Superman and Luthor don't take him seriously either. At first.
Not-So-Innocent Whistle: Bizarro whistles, to himself, before knocking a boulder down a hill so he can "rescue" the 'city-zens' of his planet.
Not What I Signed On For: Weather Wizard's little brother abandons the weather control machine because, even though he always knew his brother would use it for a criminal scheme, he never thought it would involve murder and wholesale destruction.
Obfuscating Disability: Clark Kent wore a sling around his "injured" arm after Superman saved him from falling to his death in "Target."
Even though Luthor honestly had nothing to to do with Livewire's attack on Superman, he still picked up her medical bills due her habit of bad mouthing Superman when she was a DJ.
When Metallo lost his memory, he saved a couple of children from a landslide and later rescued a truck driver from a crash.
Phantom Zone: The original zone appears numerous time throughout the series. Jor-El originally planned to use the zone to save all life on Krypton, as they would place the population of the planet into the zone and, using the ship he had built, fly to a new home and retrieve the people. Though the Kryptonian government refused this plan, Jor-El's ship still had a Phantom Zone projector which Superman would use on Earth to parole Kryptonian criminals who had served their sentence, and also to help human research progress in the area of inter-dimensional travel and observation.
Powers as Programs: Generally averted, if a villain seeks to remove Superman's powers they need to remove their source (the sun), but villain Parasite plays the trope perfectly straight. He can drain the powers of any character and then use them himself, leaving the other person powerless while he gains fantastic abilities. Ra's al Ghul also once attempted to drain Superman's powers and take them into himself, but his methods were outside the ken of science.
Pragmatic Adaptation: The producers realized that Jor-El and Lara wouldn't be good parents if they allowed the ship carrying Kal-El to simply crash on Earth. So, we see it landed smoothly on the planet and thus Supes has a spaceship in perfect working condition into adulthood.
Pure Energy: Livewire describes herself as such and, though it makes for a very interesting character, it does not make any more scientific sense than every other "energy being" out there.
Putting on the Reich: In "Brave New Metropolis", the alternate Superman wears a black costume with a new shield resembling the zigzagged S of the SS logo.
Readings Are Off the Scale: The machine designed to measure the air speed of Superman's spaceship gives this as a number, which is actually pretty bad since the ship clearly wasn't moving that fast. Either the machine was broken or designed to stop at a speed under what most cars could do.
Real-Life Relative: Ma and Pa Kent's voice actors (Mike Farrell and Shelley Fabares) are married in real life.
Reality Ensues: People born after the age of payphones probably wouldn't understand, but the reason for the popular image of Clark Kent dashing to the nearest phone booth to change into his costume (and the reason it was a good excuse for Clark to disappear) was because, back in the day, any reporter witnessing a crisis would be expected to find the nearest phone immediately so their newspaper could get to work on the story before they were scooped by another news outlet. The thing is, this series aired in the '90s, so the one time Clark tries to use "gotta find the nearest phone" as an excuse to leave, Lois just pulls out a cell phone.
Reed Richards Is Useless: While most of Superman's powers don't really lend themselves to a technological revolution, he never seems to think of sharing the orb containing the complete knowledge of Krypton with the rest of the world.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The final 10 minutes of "Legacy pt. II" see Superman completely storming Apokolips and taking down all its defenses in retaliation after everything Darkseid has put him through in the past several episodes.
Lois: I'm confused, Kent. See, I've lived in Metropolis most of my life, and I can't figure out how some yokel from Smallville is suddenly getting every hot story in town.
Clark: Well Lois, *lowers his glasses* the truth is I'm actually Superman in disguise, and I only pretend to be a journalist in order to hear about disasters as they happen and then squeeze you out of the by-line.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Brainiac's reaction to discovering Krypton's eventual destruction is to download himself into a satellite and jettison himself into space. In the meantime he stops the authorities from finding out and making a formal evacuation plan, as it would divert energy away from his own escape plan.
Secret Identity Identity: Clark Kent makes it pretty apparent that he is the "real" identity, whereas Superman is the costume; when Pa Kent is unconcerned that Clark has "died," since he can just pick a new name, Clark explains that he is Clark, he could never stop being who he is.
Self-Constructed Being: The entity Karkull possesses a random thief, then transforms the Daily Planet building and has his mook "children" possess Daily Planet employees in one episode.
In "My Girl," Lex Luthor is overheard explaining to his henchman that he wants him in Central City by that night.
Smug Super: "New Kids in Town" reveals that, as his powers began to manifest, Clark Kent became a jerk in high school. Even Lana Lang, his girlfriend and best friend, found him arrogant and hard to be around sometimes.
Space Jews: If Mxy and the High Council are anything to go by, the members of the 5th Dimension are apparently all stereotypically Jewish imps. Except for Gsptlsnz, Mxy's Shiksa Goddess.
Given the very nature of Mxy's species, it's entirely possible that they only act like that because they think it's funny. Or because they like how the chosen people of Israel act. Or because they like screwing with other people.
Spotting the Thread: Lois Lane recognizes that Edward Lytner was lying about something when he congratulated her on winning the Excalibur Award, since he claimed to have been in his lab for twenty-four hours without any television or radio to connect him to the outside world.
Lytner (Luminus) leaked confidential corporate secrets to Lois Lane hoping to win her affection, and when she never even noticed he was interested he began to methodically plot her death with numerous high-tech gadgets and schemes
Toyman in "Obsession".
Starfish Aliens: Including Starro itself in one brief scene. Unity is one of the strangest.
Super Empowering: Accidentally; when Superman gets struck by lightning the electricity passes through him and hits Leslie Willis. His being part of the circuit not only causes her to survive, but somehow gives her electric powers.
Taking the Bullet: Superman dives in front of Bizarro to take a sonic cannon shot that probably would have killed the already-weakened Bizarro. When Bizarro asks why, especially when they had been fighting only moments ago, Superman explains that it is because he is Bizarro's friend, and he knows Mr. Mxyzptlk tricked him.
10-Minute Retirement: Doctor Fate abandoned the war against evil after he grew weary of the endless conflict that never changed anything. He tried to get Superman to likewise step back from humanity, but Superman's refusal to do so inspired Fate to return to the war.
Terminator Twosome: Targeting teenaged Clark in "New Kids in Town", with the Legion of Super-Heroes as the good and a Brainiac drone as the bad. The villain is even a stoic, implacable robot.
There Was a Door: When Bizarro takes Lois Lane out to dinner, he enters the restaurant by smashing through the wall next to the door. When they leave, Lois asks him to use the door this time and, happy to oblige, he smashes through the door.
This Is Gonna Suck: From Luminus. After his ploy to remove Superman's powers fails, Superman catches Lytner's fist during last ditch attempt to beat his adversary. Superman then spends a very long time getting back to his feet and slowly cocking his fist... during which Lytner uneasily cringes and winces back because he knows what's coming next...
Lobo: If they drag us back into those cages, they'll probably strap our butts to the floor with razor wire. Not that it ain't a pleasurable way to perk up an otherwise ho-hum evening, but I do have me that prisoner to deliver.
Turn In Your Badge: Inverted. Maggie Sawyer remarks that if she had a nickel for every time Dan Turpin turned in his badge of his own volition, she would be richer than Luthor.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Mr. Mxyzptlk, a man approximately three feet tall with half his height occupied by his head, is married to the tall, leggy Gsptlsnz.
Undying Loyalty: The end of the series has probably the darkest version of this trope imaginable. Darkseid is about as evil as you can get and treats his slaves horribly. Yet even after Superman beats him and throws him down to the slaves' mercy, they pick him up to treat him. Why?
Darkseid: I am many things Kal-El, but here I am god.
Villainous Breakdown: When Superman manages to stop his machine and return the sunlight to its normal hue, the usually Affably Evil Luminus goes into a full-on rage and tries to beat Supes to death with his bare hands before Superman's powers return. He is not fast enough.
Bizarro: Krypton pretty, So sad now it has to blow up.
Wham Shot: In one episode, Superman does what he does best: saving the day. Then he saves... Clark Kent from falling to his doom! It's later revealed that this Superman is actually a clone and Clark is the real Superman.
In "Legacy ", the episode opens with an Alien Invasion of Akopolis on an unnamed planet. The leader of the invaders take his helm off and is revealed to be Superman.
When All You Have Is a Hammer: Averted, despite public perception of Superman as a character who simply uses his ever-evolving powers to solve his current problems. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Mxyzpixilated where Superman not only continually tricks Mr. Mxyzptlk back to his own dimension, but successfully gambits him into staying there permanently. What is more, he convinces him that he was simply toying with the annoying imp the entire time (and very well might have been).
The overall pattern in this series is that it's not difficult to catch Superman off-guard with something he hasn't seen before... but if you try the same trick on him again, he'll have figured out some way to counter it. "Fool me twice..."
Why Won't You Die?: Livewire wonders why Superman refuses to die after she keeps shooting him with lightning.
Will Not Be A Victim: Lois Lane is the traditional damsel, frequently being rescued by Superman, but she is also a competent and driven woman all on her own. In the episode "Target," despite a madman consistently attempting to murder her, she remains unconcerned and defiant. She points out that she will never let herself become a victim, and she actually beats up her assassin with her own hands before he catches her in one last Death Trap.
When Rudy Jones was first introduced his characterization was desperation instead of malevolence, and he stopped his partner when he tried to actually hurt people. However, after he became Parasite he became obssessed with draining anybody he could get his hands on and taking revenge on a world which hurt him.
Sergeant Corey Milles from "Prototype," who became violent, paranoid and obsessive after prolonged exposure to the suit.
Who Dares?: Darkseid's reaction to Superman hitting him. Unlike most examples, it's quite intimidating as Darkseid really can take whatever Superman dishes out.
The Worf Effect: Kalibak is voiced by Worf himself and always charges Superman to little effect.
Worth It: Mr. Mxyzptlk was stripped of his powers and sentenced to three months in our universe as punishment for breaking his word, but he proclaimed that it would all be worth it to see Superman get clobbered. He changes his mind pretty quickly.
Worthy Opponent: Lex Luthor once explained to Lois that, as much as he disliked her for the shots she takes at him and his company, he respects her for her skills and abilities.
Would Hit a Girl: When Superman tackled Livewire through a wall, she incredulously goes, "At least we know you hit girls!"
Xanatos Gambit: Darkseid brainwashes Superman and turns him against humanity in the series finale "Legacy." If Superman wins, then Darkseid can claim Earth without having technically broken his treaty with New Genesis, since it was Earth's own hero that conquered it. If Superman is defeated, then one of Darkseid's enemies is destroyed and Earth is laid to ruin in the conflict. If (as happens) Superman eventually breaks free of the brainwashing, he's still led an army against Earth under his own banner, greatly compromising Earth's faith in him as a defender.
You Fail Physics Forever: It is Superman, so one has to expect an elastic relationship with the laws of physics, but anything being strong enough to push a spaceship out of a black hole's gravity well is pretty hard to swallow.