The third animated take on the Man of Steel (following the Superman Theatrical Cartoons and Filmation's The New Adventures of Superman), Ruby-Spears' Superman ran for 13 episodes on CBS in 1988. The series was not renewed as the licensing fee for the character was too high.
It managed to coincide with Superman's 50th anniversary, given the hero's 1938 debut.
Notable for being the first Post-Crisis take on Superman on television, although it takes most elements from the Christopher Reeve film series. Longtime comic book scribe Marv Wolfman acted as story editor, and character designs were made by longtime comic book artist Gil Kane. Amongst the writing team happened to be Larry DiTillio, who'd later go on to greater fame being half the creative drive behind Beast Wars.
Episodes were split in two parts, with the main plot being followed by a light-hearted four-minute "Superman's Family Album" segment, showcasing Clark Kent's upbringing on the Kent Farm.
Beau Weaver voiced the titular character, Ginny McSwain both voiced Lois Lane and voice directed (she would later be the voice director on The Batman), Mark L. Taylor voiced Jimmy Olsen, Stanley Ralph Ross voiced Perry White (he had previously written for Batman, Wonder Woman and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, and did voice work on Super Friends and Centurions) and Michael Bell provided the voice of Lex Luthor. Animation duties were provided by Toei Animation in Japan, and Dai Won in South Korea.The full series is presently out on DVD.
- Aliens Speaking English
- Always a Child to Parent: The Kents consistently treat Clark like the adult he is, but Ma Kent admits in "The Hunter" that she can't help but think of Superman as her little boy whenever he's in a fight. Pa Kent feels similarly.
- Baseball Episode: In "Triple Play", the Prankster teleports the players from the Metropolis/Gotham City World Series to a tropical island, then forces Superman to play against both teams combined.
- Being Good Sucks: Superman knows Lex is a snake, but all he can really do is foil a weekly scheme. Luthor always ensures there's no hard evidence connecting him to any crimes, preventing Superman from simply hauling him off to jail.
- Beware the Silly Ones: This version of Lex Luthor is pretty quick with the quips and hammy reactions, but he's still a genius, a first-rate Manipulative Bastard, and someone with a vast array of resources. It takes some doing for Superman to figure a way out of his schemes.
- Blinding Camera Flash: In "The Beast Below the Earth", Jimmy gives the depowered Superman time to recover by darting between him and Dr. Morpheus and snapping a photo, blinding the villain.
- Canon Foreigner: Aside from Lex Luthor, General Zod and the Prankster, all the villains were created specifically for this series.
- Captain Ersatz: Cybron was pretty much created because they wanted to use Brainiac, but weren't sure what direction the comic was taking the character during John Byrne's revamp of the mythos.
- Catchphrase: Superman's here is "Up, up, and away!", which he utters quite frequently. The show also carries on the tradition of Perry White telling Olsen not to call him Chief. However, humorous variations do pop up, such as:"Olsen... Don't. Call. Me.""Chief?""No! Don't call me for references, YOU'RE FIRED!"
- Clark Kenting: Obviously. Follows the Christopher Reeve formula of making Clark Kent meek and bumbling.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Lois Lane, when Wonder Woman came to Superman for help.
- Composite Character: The Lex Luthor presented here is a hybrid of John Byrne's cold and menacing corporate executive Lex Luthor and Gene Hackman's more comedic fugitive criminal Lex Luthor.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lex Luthor, following in the character's depiction in The Man of Steel.
- Dark Mistress: Jessica Morganberry, in a manner reminiscent of Miss Tesmacher from the Superman films.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lex, especially when discussing either Superman ("Blue Boy") or Jessica ("My little neanderthal").
- The Ditz: Miss Morganberry.
- Drive-In Theater: Featured briefly in "Bonechill"; the titular villain causes the monsters from a B-Movie to come to life. After defeating them, Superman quips that next time, the kids should see a musical.
- Decomposite Character: In the episode The Hunter, Zod appears alongside Ursa and Faora. Faora debuted in the comics in Action Comics #471 (May 1977, while Ursa first appeared in the 1978 film and they are very similar, given that there is no way to specify which one was created first ( after all, the film was recorded between 1977 and 1978). In 2007, Geoff Johns and Richard Donner introduced Ursa into comic book continuity, however, in Man of Steel, Zod appears alongside Faora.
- Dumb Blonde: Again, Miss Morganberry. To the point that Luthor at one point quips that she's "a waste of evolution".
- Episode Title Card
- As mentioned before, Jessica Morganberry pretty much fills in Miss Tesmacher's role here, only even ditzier.
- As noted, the titular villain in "Cybron Strikes" is Brainiac in everything but name.
- Wonder Woman’s guest spot includes an evil sorceress who is clearly Circe.
- Game of Nerds: As the Prankster's episode reveals, Clark is a huge baseball fan.
- George Jetson Job Security: Perry is livid over Jimmy's photos in "Fugitive from Space" and fires him on the spot. Jimmy doesn't sweat it, saying Perry fires him every Friday and always forgets doing so by Monday morning. At the end of the episode, Perry proceeds to yell at Jimmy for being in the office, but only because there are pictures to take out in the city.
- Humongous Mecha: In the first episode, Lex Luthor's Defendroids can combine into one gigantic robot, with a prison cell tummy. Complete with a Batman Can Breathe in Space, where Jimmy and Lois are fine despite spending part of the fight in space and the robot entering the atmosphere with no apparent protective measures for anyone in the cage.
- Identity Impersonator: When Luthor learns Superman's real identity, Pa Kent disguises himself as Clark to make Luthor believe he made a mistake.
- King Kong Copy: Superman deals with one of these climbing the Daily Planet building in the opening.
- Large Ham: Lex Luthor. Michael Bell really hammed it up, in a manner quite reminiscent of Gene Hackman's portrayal of Luthor in the live-action films.
- Mythology Gag:
- The series begins with Lois and Superman flying together in a manner reminiscent of their romantic flight in the 1978 Superman film, and the theme song is the theme by John Williams from that film. Also, the intro used an abbreviated version of the opening narration from the old The Adventures of Superman TV show from the 1950s, albeit re-recorded by the Super Friends narrator William Woodson.
- The DVD's cover art homages the cover of the first issue from Byrne's Man of Steel mini-series, using the series' character design instead.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Downplayed. Luthor is somewhat disappointed in "The Hunter" to be robbed of the opportunity to kill Superman himself, though he takes some solace in how it only happened because the perpetrator used his kryptonite.
- Opening Narration: As noted, it's a shortened version of the narration from The Adventures of Superman.
- Pendulum of Death: Theme Serial Killer Bonechill kidnaps the Daily Planet staff and leaves them in Poe-themed death traps to distract Superman. Perry White almost gets sliced open by a swinging pendulum.
- Poorly-Disguised Pilot: Superman and Wonder Woman vs. the Sorceress of Time.
- The Rich Want to Be Richer: In "Destroy the Defendroids", when Lex Luthor tells Miss Morganberry what crime he plans to use the Defendroids for, she points out he's already rich. Luthor says his father taught him one can never have enough.
- Sadistic Choice: Superman faces this situation a few times, usually having to choose between saving Lois and preventing some life-threatening disaster. He always manages to Take a Third Option.
- Subverted Catchphrase: "It's Superman" shows us the first time Clark donned his Superman costume for an adventure. Of course, he hadn't settled on a name at the time, making one of his comic counterpart's most famous phrases a bit awkward.Clark: This looks like a job for... for, uh... [just rushes into the nearest telephone booth]
- Sugary Malice: Luthor has an array of insults for Miss Morganberry, but between his sweet tone and her being a Dumb Blonde, she thinks they're just cute pet names.
- Taken for Granite: The Dragon King from "By the Skin of the Dragon's Teeth" has Eye Beams that can turn anything he's looking at to stone.
- Theme Serial Killer: Bonechill kidnaps the Daily Planet staff and leaves them in Poe-themed death traps to distract Superman. Perry White almost gets sliced open by a swinging pendulum; one of Bonechill's monsters entombs Lois in a wine cellar, and the villain seals the Bound and Gagged Jimmy Olsen under some floor tiles, using a recording of a heartbeat to attract Superman's attention.
- This Cannot Be!: Luthor's stunned reaction in "The Big Scoop" to seeing Clark Kent change into Superman.
- Threatening Shark: In "Triple Play", a shark attacks the Prankster. Superman saves him, but his ego is seriously injured.
- Ungrateful Townsfolk: Exploited in the first episode. Luthor's new robots do an amazing job across the city, prompting a group of civilians to denounce Superman as ineffective and a has-been by comparison. However, they're really actors that Luthor hired in the hopes of getting Superman to just leave town of his own accord.
- Villain Ball: Xelandra from "Fugitive from Space" was proving to be a handful to Superman. During her metamorphosis into a more powerful form, she mocks him for continuing to use heat vision, boasting that only the cold could immobilize her. Superman proceeds to use his super-breath to wrap up this adventure.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The "Superman's Family Album" segments. They're actually done in order, showing assorted milestones in Clark's life from being a baby at an orphanage all the way to the first time he became Superman.
- Xanatos Gambit: Luthor's plot in "The Big Scoop" is intended to be this. Having used the Chronotron to learn his foe's secret identity, he arranges for Clark to be on a tabloid show he owns at the exact same time he initiates a satellite plot that would effectively give him control of the world. As he says, Clark can either expose his secret or do nothing, meaning he'll win either way. However, he fails on both counts because Pa Kent posed as Clark in the studio, leaving Superman free to destroy the satellites and then appear alongside "Clark" on live TV.
- You Are Not Alone: Superman thanks Pa Kent for his bit of Identity Impersonator, saying it saved his secret identity and helped him foil Luthor's latest scheme. Pa Kent says that's just what parents are for.