Legends Looking Back on Superman
Joe Ruby & Ken Spears on their short-lived
(yet super) series...
More than two decades after its television premiere, the
popular Ruby-Spears Superman animated series returns to TV
screens via Warner Home Video as a two-disc DVD collection
of cartoons. The DVD is available today, November 3.
settled on the Christopher Reeve model..."
in 1988, the Ruby-Spears Superman series brought back some
familiar foes and new unfriendly faces for battles against
the Man of Steel. In addition to the thrills of Superman’s
weekly adventures, each episode included a mini-segment
called Superman Family Album that told the “real”
story of what it was like to grow up as the most powerful
boy in Smallville.
at Ruby-Spears Productions right next door to Hanna-Barbera
Studios, and animated in Japan and Korea at Toei Animation
and Dai Won Animation, the series benefited by a stellar
production team of writers and artists (including supervising
producer John Dorman, story editor Marv Wolfman, and production
designer Gil Kane), solid voice acting, and an immediate
link with Christopher Reeve’s popular films via an
opening theme score that was remarkably similar to John
Williams’ acclaimed Superman music.
Productions was founded in 1977 by veteran writers Joe Ruby
and Ken Spears. The team started as sound editors at Hanna-Barbera
Studios, branched out into writing, and eventually went
on to create “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” In
total, Ruby-Spears Productions produced 36 different TV
series including the hit, “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”
They continue to be a creative force in the industry today.
Ruby and Ken Spears took a few minutes to reminisce about
the creation, development and production of their landmark
1988 series in a recent conversation. Here’s what
the animation veterans had to say:
was the title character developed for your Superman series?
you read my mind?"
went through a lot of different directions in development
as to what kind of Superman we wanted. We had several different
models – the crying/feeling Superman, the lecturing/do-gooder/save-the-day
Superman, then there was the hip Superman and even the long-haired
Superman. And, of course, there was the old straight-as-an-arrow
Superman. Ultimately, we settled on the Christopher Reeve
model – he had personality and a sense of humor, and
yet he was still Superman. We figured that it worked for
the films, so it would work well for us.
were there only 13 episodes to the entire series?
I think the problem for us was our timeslot. It turned out
8:30 in the morning was a killer for Superman. Only the
little kids were up, and they don’t understand Superman
as well as the older kids. It wasn’t for 4- to 5-year-olds.
there a guiding theme to the series?
think we were true to Superman to begin with – we
produced a show that the audience expected Superman to be.
He was the tried and true Superman, That’s who they
wanted to see – that’s the feedback that we
continue to get today.
basically had Superman tackling anything and everything,
with the marching orders to have bigger-than-life fights.
did you see as the strength of your Superman series?
had the best talent in the business at the time –
that was our strength. They were excellent. When you first
create a show, you hope your talent will be able to plus
it – and they really plussed it. There are so many
shots in the show that weren’t written into the script
– those kind of great additions come straight from
the artists and the storyboarders.
had the best talent in the business at the time."
had a pretty amazing crew – and an especially great
crew of artists – including some of the best comic
book guys in the business, and that made for good filmmaking.
Guys like John Dorman and Gil Kane – we had an army
of great talent on that show. Give credit to John Dorman
– he’s a filmmaker and that’s the difference.
He made sure the show had all the creative shots, the movement,
some of that great left-to-right or down-angle camera moves.
The show was well paced, well boarded, and I think John
really put these things together well.”
splitting the production between two overseas studios in
Japan and Korea cause any problems?
was an experience for us, from a production standpoint,
traveling overseas and working with two different interpreters
having to translate in three different languages. They’d
be answering before I’d get done with my question.
It was the worst torture I ever had in my life.
back now, can you see how Ruby-Spears Superman fits in the
canon of productions surrounding the Man of Steel?
a kid, we all grew up with Superman. He’s the favorite,
always. Your heroes stick with you. So we wanted to make
the best Superman show we could, to really set it apart.
I think everyone that worked on it felt that way. He’s
was like an honor to do something that classy and classic
as Superman. He’s the No. 1 guy. We wanted to do it