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The Unique Challenge Superman: The Animated Series Dealt With That Wasn’t A Problem On Batman, According To The Producer

Superman flying with Jax-Ur in hand
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

In 1996, four years after Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox Kids and took the world by storm, the creative team behind the popular show joined forces to bring Superman: The Animated Series to life. This show, which boasted vocal talents like Tim Daly as the title Man of Steel, Dana Delany as Lois Lane and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, was also a critical darling during its four-year run on Kids’ WB. That said, there was a unique challenge that arose on Superman: The Animated Series that wasn’t an issue during the Batman days: plotting out the larger action sequences.

I learned this while speaking with Superman: The Animated Series co-creator Bruce Timm on behalf of the show’s Blu-ray release. When I asked if there were any specific issues that popped up during the making of this series that he didn’t deal with on Batman: The Animated Series, Timm responded:

Oh, tons. Everything about it was a challenge. One of the biggest things was the increased scale of the action sequences. Because Superman has superpowers, so that means he’s fighting superpowered villains more often than not. And that means a lot more collateral damage and big action set pieces. Batman, it was mostly very street-level scale and a lot of hand-to-hand, Republic serial-kind of fist fighting. Superman, it’s a much bigger scale. At the same time, it was the same budget that we’d had on Batman, so it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, they’re gonna give us more money so that we can blow shit up.’ That was not gonna happen. So it was a challenge, and it was a challenge to not only think bigger, but also keep it on a scale that was still producible within the scope of our budget. So that was a challenge.

While Batman: The Animated Series certainly wasn’t without its fantastical elements, as Gotham City wouldn’t have a caped vigilante if it wasn’t packed with weirdness, on the whole, the cartoon’s action was certainly more grounded compared to Superman: The Animated Series. As Bruce Timm noted, focusing on a superhero like Superman allowed for the action sequences to become even bigger, from the Kryptonian powerhouse preventing a plane from crashing to venturing out into space to battle alien antagonists. As if plotting those moments wasn’t difficult enough, Timm and his cohorts also had to work with this same budget they’d been given on Batman, making it understandable why that aspect of putting Superman: The Animated Series together was daunting.

Along with larger action sequences, Bruce Timm also highlighted in our conversation how Superman: The Animated Series was able to delve into the sci-fi realm more often than Batman: The Animated Series did. In his words:

And again, just by the fact that we were exploring a lot more science fiction-y elements, both in our backstory and in our villains. A, it was a muscle we hadn’t used much on Batman obviously. We didn’t have aliens, rarely giant robots. So it was fun to get to do that kind of stuff, and at the same time, come up with designs that still would be animatable in a way that would not break our budget, break our studios. So that was a big challenge for us.

Batman’s rogues galley includes a handful of folks who boast special abilities, like the plant-manipulating Poison Ivy and the shapeshifting Clayface, but for Superman, it’s much more common for him to deal with threats with powers beyond that of mortal man. Still, in the end, Superman: The Animated Series managed to deliver plenty of entertaining content during its run and stay on budget. Playing around with these larger action sequences and sci-fi villains also ended up being good preparation for the DCAU’s Superman’s continued adventures in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited alongside Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl and many others.

Superman: The Animated Series is now available on Blu-ray, and you can also stream the show on HBO Max. If you’re looking for other DC animated projects to watch, check out our movie and TV recommendations for those who enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.