If it sometimes seems as though Lois & Clark is offering Superman Lite — frothy romance, giggly escapades — the new animated version of the Man of Steel is definitely, gloriously, classic Superman. Less a reworking than a revitalization of the comic-book hero, Superman is snappy, clever stuff that ought to entertain adults as well as kids. Wings‘ Tim Daly provides a confidence-inspiring voice for Superman and his alter ego, reporter Clark Kent; China Beach‘s Dana Delany gives Lois Lane a sharp wit the character hasn’t possessed since she was introduced by creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the ’30s.
The Sept. 6 premiere set the tone. Clark is no four-eyed wimp; he and Lois compete fiercely for scoops. (Law & Order‘s George Dzundza supplies the voice of boss Perry White.) Producers Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett have an interesting take on Superman: He zooms to the rescue and is gone in a flash, leaving the people of Metropolis grateful but puzzled as to what he’s all about.
The Supermen interpreted by George Reeves (and Dean Cain) on TV, and by Christopher Reeve in movies, have all been kindly and a bit stuffy. By contrast, this Superman is more a Robert Mitchum who flies than a Jimmy Stewart with muscles. Lois tries to explain him by huffing ”He’s the Nietzschean fantasy ideal, all wrapped up in a red cape,” but all that’s likely to do is set tykes to asking their parents what a ”Neat-Chee” is.
The same producers oversaw the terrific Batman cartoon series that ended recently, although they’ve wisely avoided copying Batman‘s film noir cartoon style. In the ’40s, director Dave Fleischer made a series of beautiful, Art Deco-ish Superman cartoon shorts. The WB’s Superman has its own distinctive look; lollipop-bright colors with smoothly animated images burst out at you. This sets up a neat contrast: jaunty atmosphere, hard-edged dialogue. It’s become a cliche to say that Superman is the goody-goodiest do-gooder in the comics world; this Superman aims to debunk that myth. B+