From September 1996 until February 2000, The WB aired Superman: The Animated Series. The show – a spin-off of the smash-hit cartoon, Batman: The Animated Series – introduced the Man of Steel to a whole new generation of fans and entertained millions worldwide.
Running for 54 episodes, across the course of three seasons, Superman: The Animated Series was a truly fantastic show – arguably one of the best comic book-to-cartoon adaptations of all time. Every episode was certainly worth a watch, but some really stood out from the crowd.
In this post I am taking a look at the best episodes of Superman: The Animated Series. These are the stories everyone should watch, as they are hugely entertaining and are perfect Superman tales for newbies and die-hard fans alike.
The Last Son of Krypton (Season One – Episodes One, Two & Three)
First up is the three-part story, The Last Son of Krypton. This multi-part story kick-started Superman: The Animated Series, and chartered the character’s origin from his early life as a baby, through to his first major appearance as Superman. It introduced villains such as Brainiac and Lex Luthor, and spent a considerable amount of time with Superman’s father, Jor-El.
What makes The Last Son of Krypton easily one of the best stories in the series is the way it tells Superman’s origin as three separate episodes, covering life on Krypton, life in Smallville, and life in Metropolis. Superman’s backstory has been told and re-told countless times before, but here it feels fresh and succinct, leaving audiences with a great opening and the perfect way to begin the series.
Fun and Games (Season One – Episode Four)
Next up is Fun and Games – a creepy little episode about an unhinged toy enthusiast out for revenge. The episode introduces the menacing Toyman, and presents a tale packed with action and adventure.
What makes this episode standout is the way in which it reinvents the Toyman as a truly freaky villain. Superman is often seen as a ‘light’ character, but Fun and Games and the Toyman demonstrate that this show is not afraid to go to dark places.
The Main Man (Season One – Episodes Nine & Ten)
This two-part story makes it onto this list for two reasons. Firstly, The Main Man introduces the foul-mouthed alien bounty hunter Lobo, who is a great character and one who really comes to life on screen. And secondly, because The Main Man tells a brilliant story, about an alien with a desire to collect rare and endangered species – and this leads to an epic adventure.
If you haven’t guessed, the rare and endangered species in this story is Superman – aka the Last Son of Krypton. While he might be the champion of Earth, Superman is also the last of his kind (more or less) and this makes him a rare commodity to the right collector.
Mxyzpixilated (Season Two – Episode Eight)
Although Superman: The Animated Series takes itself seriously, with a focus on strong storylines and dynamic characters, it still finds room for a little fun. Case in point: Mxyzpixilated – a humorous little episode which introduces the whacky and villainous imp, Mr. Mxyzptlk.
Mr. Mxyzptlk is a very unusual Superman villain, who is part god, part cartoon character. However, he is extremely powerful, very resourceful, and thanks to voice actor Gilbert Gottfried, in this episode he is very memorable.
Brave New Metropolis (Season Two – Episode Twelve)
In Brave New Metropolis, Lois Lane is whisked away to a dark reality; one where Superman rules over the city of Metropolis and the world is a cruel place. In this twisted take on the universe, Lois Lane is dead, Superman and Lex Luthor operate a police state, and nothing is what it seems.
Brave New Metropolis is an episode which turns the show on its head, to create a dark dystopian world in which Superman is the villain and all bets are off. Every good sci-fi series likes to tackle the ‘alternate universe’ storyline at some point during its run, and Superman: The Animated Series is no exception, serving up a stand-out story not to be missed.
World’s Finest (Season Two – Episodes Sixteen, Seventeen & Eighteen)
Superman and Batman meet for the first time in this three-part story which acts as a crossover between Superman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series. The events of the story take place in both Gotham and Metropolis, and focus on a partnership between the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader, as they join forces to tackle the Joker and Lex Luthor.
World’s Finest is a fantastic story which is filled with some brilliant action set-pieces. It works well within the established continuity of the show, but can easily be watched as a mini-movie by anyone who simply wants to view a Superman/Batman team-up story.
The Late Mr. Kent (Season Two – Episode Twenty-Two)
Clark Kent is dead. Or at least he appears to be in this great little noir/detective tale about the supposed death of the Daily Planet reporter.
OK, so it’s obvious Clark isn’t really dead (he is Superman after all), but that doesn’t stop this being a top episode, which places character development at the forefront. Some episodes rely on big dynamic moments, but this one is a small-scale story packed with heart.
Apokolips… Now! (Season Two – Episodes Twenty-Five & Twenty-Six)
Apokolips… Now! is a huge two-part story which makes it very clear to audiences that THIS IS A BIG DEAL. The villainous Darkseid has set his sight on conquering Earth, and he will not back down.
Over the course of the two episodes, Superman and a band of champions fight back. But it is not without tragedy, leading to a milestone moment in the show’s history – the death of a beloved character.
Knight Time (Season Three – Episode Two)
In this story, Superman takes on the guise of Batman, when the Caped Crusader goes missing. This leads to a few laughs, with Superman doing his best impression of Batman.
Knight Time is another Batman/Superman crossover episode, and one that is a great deal of fun. It might not add much to the overall story arc of the series, but it is a nice little diversion.
Legacy (Season Three – Episodes Twelve & Thirteen)
And finally, Superman: The Animated Series bows out in style with the superb two-part finale, Legacy. In this story, Darkseid and his legion of followers (and minions) invade Earth once more, but this time after they have captured and brainwashed Superman.
Under Darkseid’s influence, Superman becomes Darkseid’s right-hand man and an enemy to the planet. What follows is a story of betrayal and heroism, which takes the series in an unexpected direction as it draws to a conclusion.
To recap, the best episodes of Superman: The Animated Series are:
- The Last Son of Krypton (Season One – Episodes One, Two & Three)
- Fun and Games (Season One – Episode Four)
- The Main Man (Season One – Episodes Nine & Ten)
- Mxyzpixilated (Season Two – Episode Eight)
- Brave New Metropolis (Season Two – Episode Twelve)
- World’s Finest (Season Two – Episodes Sixteen, Seventeen & Eighteen)
- The Late Mr. Kent (Season Two – Episode Twenty-Two)
- Apokolips… Now! (Season Two – Episodes Twenty-Five & Twenty-Six)
- Knight Time (Season Three – Episode Two)
- Legacy (Season Three – Episodes Twelve & Thirteen)
If you have never watched Superman: The Animated Series before, then now is the time to give it ago – I promise you will adore the show. The episodes listed above are the best of the best, but there is much to enjoy across the entire series.
For more DC-related posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below. And should you want the names of all the Superman episodes, then check out my post: A list of every Superman: The Animated Series episode.