When it comes to Superman, reimaginings that resonate with multiple generations of comic books fans are difficult to pull off because he’s one of DC’s oldest, most beloved heroes who people have spent decades becoming attached to in one form or another. Everyone knows the broad strokes of the Man of Steel’s story, but what feels “right” or “true” to the character often depends on when, where, and how you first encountered him. And because Superman’s been around for such a long time, there are as many different takes on him as there are realities in DC’s comics.
This is why it’s always at least a little dubious when DC or Warner Bros. Discovery debut Superman riffs meant to feel fresh and hearken back to his earliest days as a simple symbol for hope the way Adult Swim’s new My Adventures with Superman series from executive producer Sam Register does. At a time when WBD’s already announced that it’s cooking up another live-action take on Superman, it’s easy to write off an animated show like My Adventures with Superman as just being a zippy, quippy onboarding point for young(er) audiences. In truth, the anime-inspired, Studio Mir-produced show is that — especially in its first couple of episodes. But it’s also one of the most heartfelt, human depictions of Clark Kent that DC’s ever put out, and it feels like exactly the sort of updated origin story the character deserves in 2023.
Set in a world where supervillains and metahumans have only just begun coming out of the woodwork, My Adventures with Superman chronicles the escapades of young Daily Planet interns Lois Lane (Alice Lee), Jimmy Olsen (Ishmel Sahid), and Clark Kent (Jack Quaid) during their earliest days as aspiring journalists trying to make names for themselves Metropolis.
Image: Adult Swim
With the Daily Planet being one of the country’s preeminent newspapers, muscular square Clark, alien conspiracy theorist Jimmy, and consummate go-getter Lois all know that staying in the good graces of editor Perry White (Darrell Brown) could be the key to them becoming well-known, respected journalists. But despite all of Lois’ intrepidity, Jimmy’s eye for detail, and Clark’s work ethic, White’s reluctant to see them as much more than inexperienced cub reporters, which inspires each of them — but mostly Lois — to start taking matters into their own hands.
Rather than radically changing all that much about any of its core characters, My Adventures with Superman breathes new life into the Superman origin myth by exploring the lives of people around Clark at a time when he’s still figuring out where he comes from and how all of his abilities work. My Adventures with Superman’s Lois yearns to break huge, hard-hitting stories, and Jimmy dreams of snapping the kinds of photos that end up on front pages. But this Clark — a polite and awkward man Quaid imbues with a gentle boyishness — isn’t quite sure how he fits into the world, and the show doesn’t exactly rush to give him an answer because it knows that you (probably) already know what the future holds for him.
What’s interesting about My Adventures With Superman is how, by putting more focus on Lois, Jimmy, and their work at the Daily Planet, the show’s able to turn what might have otherwise been an all-too-familiar Young Superman™ tale into a much more dynamic story that takes a number of narrative cues series like Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon.
Like Son Goku and Usagi, this Clark’s klutzy dopiness isn’t really a bit — it’s a core part of who he is in the same way that his strange superpowers and compulsion to help people are. Clark’s Kryptonian physiology is what makes him strong, but it’s his connections with others that both literally and figuratively make him truly powerful, and My Adventures With Superman hammers that point home by putting Lois and Jimmy front and center rather than merely having them act as supporting characters in yet another straightforward Superman story.
Like any shonen story worth its salt, My Adventures With Superman balances out its lighthearted whimsy and hints of romance with healthy doses of action courtesy of the many villains Clark faces as a fledgling vigilante — many of whom manage to genuinely give him the work because of the unique way his powers function in the show. It’s worth seeing for yourself how My Adventures With Superman reimagines Clark’s powers and his unfailing compassion for others as being intertwined. But after years of watching Superman viciously mow people down in the name of justice on the big screen, this is a welcome change of pace that feels much more reflective of the ideals Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster wanted to define their iconic creation.
My Adventures With Superman also stars Jeannie Tirado, Kiana Madeira, Michael Emerson, Chris Parnell, Reid Scott, Kari Wahlgren, Zehra Fazal, and Jason Marnocha. The show airs Thursday nights on Adult Swim and hits Max the next day.