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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Threatening Shark: In "Triple Play", a shark attacks the Prankster. Superman saves him, but his ego is seriously injured.