The Big Picture
- My Adventures with Superman celebrates brightness, lightness, and charm, providing a refreshing, upbeat take on the iconic superhero.
- The series offers a healing balm against grimdark superhero stories, ushering in a new era of creativity and abandoning dull retreads.
- The show’s depiction of Clark Kent as an earnest, compassionate, and idealistic hero showcases the true essence of Superman, proving that dark and gritty portrayals aren’t necessary for a compelling character.
Max and Adult Swim’s new series My Adventures with Superman has turned Clark Kent into an anime hero, and it’s the best creative decision DC’s made in years. Hear me out: My Adventures with Superman comes with a prestigious heritage. Warner Bros. Animation’s long line of cartoons successfully captured the DC mythos so well, they’re often considered the most faithful and beloved adaptations of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League.
My Adventures with Superman is certainly a lighter, more cheerful affair than Batman: The Animated Series’ striking gothic sensibilities and Superman: The Animated Series’ mature delivery. That’s precisely why My Adventures with Superman, for lack of a better analogy, soars. The series celebrates unabashed brightness, lightness, and charm, and places smiling altruism above all else. It’s guileless in its intentions yet deliberately maneuvering against the engrained cultural image of a Superman who mopes in dark corners and snaps his enemies’ necks. That interpretation was so yesterday. It’s past time for the door to hit the grimdark era of superhero stories on their way out. Accordingly, My Adventures with Superman should be the starting gun ushering in a new era that abandons the shackles of studios greenlighting dull retreads over creative gumption.
My Adventures With Superman
Clark Kent builds his secret Superman identity and embraces his role as the hero of Metropolis, while sharing adventures and falling in love with Lois, a star investigative journalist, who also takes Jimmy Olsen under her wing.
- Release Date
- July 6, 2023
- Jack Quaid, Alice Lee, Ishmel Sahid, Kari Wahlgren
- Animation, Superhero, Action, Adventure
‘My Adventures With Superman’ Succeeds Where Other Superman Projects Fail
When it comes to the controversial subject of Zack Snyder and his beleaguered DC Snyderverse, this writer isn’t a knee-jerk hater. Man of Steel proposed interesting thematic avenues that were spiritually faithful to Superman’s original status as an outcast created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish men in the 1930s and the sons of immigrant families. Snyder’s emphasis on Clark Kent’s (Henry Cavill) self-imposed social ostracism and his reintegration into society as a heroic figure proved an excellent starting point. Nevertheless, at the risk of recycling a talking point that’s been analyzed to the planet Apokolips and back, Snyder and the producers’ misguided attempts to emulate Christopher Nolan’s wildly successful Batman trilogy by making Clark “grounded” and gritty” (words I’d happily never hear again) missed the point. Instead of forging a new legacy with relatively unexplored material, Man of Steel‘s own legacy is how chasing a successful trend instead of being accurate to the source material pleases no one except rich studio executives. Snyder’s DC films certainly strike a chord with a large audience, and Cavill brought a depth of soul that deserved more time in the spotlight. But for some, Snyder’s sour, unrelenting darkness is depressive and oppressive in equal measure.
Simply put, My Adventures with Superman is the healing balm the world needs right now. Its playful, gently upbeat atmosphere proves that if you can’t do Superman joyfully, you shouldn’t be in the Metropolis playground. The production design bursts with color and light both stylistically and emotively while still letting Clark (Jack Quaid of The Boys, ironically enough) grapple with his mysterious origins in flashbacks that inform the narrative rather than studiously retelling the origin story ground we’ve heard a dozen times. Quaid’s Clark is much younger than any other Superman put on screen. He’s a fresh-faced, awkward, polite intern at the Daily Planet who brings three dozen donuts to the office for his coworkers. He can’t control his powers; he smashes an alarm clock to pieces instead of turning it off sans damage. He blushes and stammers around his crush. Meeting Superman at a time when he doesn’t have his stuff together is automatically appealing for its fresh perspective and gives Clark an arc to strive toward.
Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen Perfectly Balance Clark Kent in ‘My Adventures With Superman’
Balancing out Clark’s baby boy nature is a Lois Lane (Alice Lee) so dynamic she might as well have strutted out of His Girl Friday, and a nerdified Jimmy Olsen (Ishmel Sahid). This trio doesn’t just personify delight, they’re a wellspring of joy. Once upon a time, Lois and Jimmy were simplified into a damsel in distress and an ignored side character, respectively. Now, there are evolving dynamics between all three characters. The situations sparkle: Clark and Jimmy as roommates? Yes, please. Clark and Lois as a screwball comedy couple who blush over each other and flirt badly? I’ll have that for dinner, thanks. When the trio earnestly bumble their way around supervillains, it’s an amazing sight.
My Adventures with Superman handles Lois in particular with exquisitely astute grace. If Clark is the antidote to grimdark media, Lois is the corrective countermeasure to the many failed attempts to encapsulate one of DC Comics’ most enduring women. With her snazzy short hair and button-down blouses, Lois is as fiercely driven as a speeding Ferrari on an empty highway. Her determination to be a hell of a journalist leads to selfish decisions at first, but she corrects the mistakes she made in the heat of investigative passion. She’s never punished or mocked for her ambition, but Lois is also allowed to act like an awkward, enthusiastic goofball. As a bonus, she figures out Clark’s secret identity within four episodes! Yes, Amy Adams‘ Lois deduced things by the end of Man of Steel, but still: this girl’s on fire.
Hand-in-hand, My Adventures presents on a silver platter the cutest, most adorable version of the Clark and Lois love story. Clark’s burgeoning crush plays out with all the precious, dreamy atmosphere of a romance anime sans the heart eyes. Clark is Lois’s number one fanboy, and Lois is so into it. Their mating dance is unfairly sexy for a cartoon. They thirst over one another constantly, the mutual attraction simmering through longing gazes, waist touches, and reddened cheeks. Jimmy, meanwhile, is reinterpreted as a semi-oblivious, camera-loving nerd fixated on alien conspiracy theories. Equality exists between this trio that demonstrates how Superman is best understood through those he loves rather than his inherited Krypton powers. The three’s developing friendship, conveyed through snappy voice acting and intricate animation, is something new and daring.
Superman Works Better as a Lighthearted Hero
Then there’s Clark Kent, the titular man in question. Hands down, My Adventures with Superman is one of the most achingly beautiful and accurate depictions of Superman to date. Clark’s floundering exuberance paired with his extraordinarily muscular physique is the American version of a shonen anime protagonist deposited into the superhero world. He’s earnest, idealistic, and compassionate to a fault while also being a klutz. His farm boy roots with his loving parents feel palpably honest and his struggles with his identity are depicted with delicate sensitivity, as are his insecurities. He’s incapable of ignoring those in need; even when he’s rushing down the street reciting a “just have a normal day” mantra, he’s compelled to rescue a cat stuck in a tree. Yes, Clark Kent is a boy scout, but he’s stubborn enough to get the job done. As he asks the villain in Episode 4, “Is it that hard to believe that some people just want to help?”
For some fans, it apparently is. We’ve heard the old refrain: Superman is boring. Superman has no personality. Superman’s too nice. In reality, Clark Kent is never dull. Adaptations casting him in such a light don’t understand his layers, and I dare say that readers who take similar ideas to heart haven’t met the true Clark. My Adventures with Superman‘s refreshing unironic approach finally allows the iconic character to fly free of cliché in a way that’s sorely missed and long deserved. Superman is a beacon of kindness, an inspirational and aspiration figure designed to spread hope. Clark’s tireless selflessness in My Adventures is proof that goodness can triumph. The series humanizes a god-like alien being whose heart beats human. This dopey dork with glasses is the definitive nail in the argument coffin: dark and gritty does not a compelling hero make.
Animated series are DC’s bread and butter. Any comics fan should try My Adventures with Superman even if a perky, optimistic story isn’t their normal choice. Everyone has preferences when it comes to a character as frequently adapted and instantly recognizable as Superman. But if all you know of Superman is the dismissive, routine image of a boring guy in blue tights, you might be surprised at the pearl of a character that My Adventures with Superman freed from its restrictive oyster.
My Adventures with Superman is available to stream on Max.