Arriving for the first time on DVD is a pair of classic DC Cartoons—and these aren’t like the “classic” toons that WHV released previously (Justice League Unlimited and Batman Beyond most recently). No, this wave of DC Comics Classic Collection’s feature The New Adventures of Superman and The New Adventures of Batman, cartoons from the 60s and 70s from the pioneering Filmation studios.
For The New Adventures of Superman we’re given thirty-six episodes (around six or seven minutes each) sp read across two discs. The way these stories are told is done in an incredibly simplistic way and it wasn’t until I watched the retrospective featurette on the second disc did I realize what it was: all of the episodes sound like a radio play and, in fact, many the original voices from the Superman radio broadcasts lent their voices to this series. While this is great for a continuity aspect, it’s also very annoying to have the scenes being told to you as you watch them—for instance, the ocean begins to freeze over in one episode (“The Abominable Ice-Man) and the announcer proceeds to tell us that everything is freezing.
On top of the redundant storytelling in the audio and visual department, the episodes are met with jarring cuts and awkward storytelling, but for six minute stories you can’t really fault them. It’s just weird to see the ice monster (again, using the above episode as an example) who was once fighing Superman, is now completely ignoring Superman and doesn’t resist one bit about being picked up and thrown at a distant asteroid along with a bomb that would have forced another ice age on Earth (why was the Abominable Ice-Man looking for that? No idea.). Again, they’re simple and silly things to pick at, considering the shows age and production values.
Because of the age of the show, it’s hard to review it on anything other than the historical factor. There is nothing amazing to behold in the animation department for this series, unlike the Fleischer cartoons which can still amaze to this day with their fluidity, and the repeated animation is bothersome, but overall the show is fun to watch just because it’s Superman, even if there is a lot of sci-fi like stories. There’s a lot of content here (about four and a half hours) on this two-disc set and fans of the Man of Steel will no doubt be entertained by what we’re given. It’s a shame the Superboy shorts couldn’t have been included (the credits for the set even list the voice for Superboy), but hopefully once the legal disputes on that property is settled, we’ll get a small single disc release to compliment this release.
The single-tray digi-pak cases first debuted by Batman Beyond’s first season returns for both of the The New Adventures of Superman and The New Adventures of Batman volumes. The packaging is colorful and lets the view know what they’re in for and the discs have a curious mixture of villains (no Superman on either disc, although he is shooting laser beams at the disc tray from the other side of the flap). As a side note, the Superman set sports a typo, incorrectly listing the audio on the release as Dolby Surround 5.1. I was at first surprised they remastered the audio for this cartoon, but after checking the contents on my PC I discovered it is actually a mono track (just like the Batman set). So those hoping to hear some classic 60’s animated Superman in surround will be disappointed.
Continuing with the audio and visual front, despite the mono track the sound comes through clear for the most part. Sound effects can overcrowd dialogue, but other than that the audio is satisfactory considering its age. The video sports a serious amount of cel dirt, scratches and other attributes of older animation. These were not cleaned up at all and are rather ugly to look at at times. Despite this, the compression levels are low and there is not a bit of interlacing/ghosting to be seen on this transfer. There are no errors in the DVD transfer area, which is great because if there was any digital distortion on the video I can only imagine how muddy everything would get to look.
The featurette on the set covers the cartoon, but in a limited fashion. In its short runtime, the featurette instead focuses on the comics of the 60s for the first part of the featurette, although it thankfully delves into the cartoon for the remainder. A humorous story on how Filmation got the contract to do the Superman cartoon is included and we hear from Lou Scheimer (of Filmation), Paul Levitz, Mark Hamill and various other DC Comics aficionados.
Overall The New Adventures of Superman is a fine presentation for a fine piece of animation history. While it won’t be winning any awards for the animation or writing, it’s more Superman to add to your collections, something fans will be incredibly happy about. Recommended.
The New Adventures of Superman arrives on DVD on June 26th.