Long-time Superman fans may find the first minutes of My Adventures With Superman a bit off-putting. The soft, watercolor backgrounds, the sharp angles on the character designs, and the stuttered animation reveal the series’ debt to anime. As a young Clark Kent tries in vain to free his kite from a tree in his front yard, viewers will notice more similarities to My Hero Academia or Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba than to the Fleischer Bros. cartoons of the 1940s.
Suddenly, Clark notices a car spinning out of control, its driver distracted by the fussy child in the back seat. Without a second thought, Clark rushes to the car, stopping the vehicle before it slams into a tree. Clark stares at his hands in confusion, wondering how he suddenly gained such speed and strength. But we viewers know the answer: this is Superman, the Man of Steel we know and love.
In its best moments, the Adult Swim series My Adventures With Superman combines the old with the new, updating settings and designs while maintaining tried and true themes and dynamics.
My Adventures with Superman retells the Man of Steel’s early days with a decidedly 2020’s flair. Jack Quaid (The Boys, Star Trek: Lower Decks) voices a nervous Clark Kent, who just wants to be a normal person as he and his conspiracy-minded college roommate Jimmy Olsen (Ishmel Sahid) start their internship at the Daily Planet. But plans for normalcy go right out the window when the duo is placed under the supervision of senior intern Lois Lane (Alice Lee), who defies the orders of Daily Planet chief Perry White (Darrell Brown) to investigate the appearance of a flying man in Metropolis. Further complicating things is a series of high-tech crimes, which have some connection to a triumvirate of villains, consisting of the mysterious General (Joel De La Fuente), Task Force X supervisor Amanda Waller (Debra Wilson), and their agent Slade Wilson (Chris Parnell).
In addition to the weaponry plot, the series also follows overarching storylines about Clark’s developing powers and the mystery of Clark’s Kryptonian heritage. Veteran Superman fans can easily guess some of the plot points that the series sets up as twists, as it downplays even well-established bits of Superman lore, such as his weakness to Kryptonite. But each episode tells a satisfying story on its own, making it easy to ignore any obvious twists.
Furthermore, the overarching plot allows the show to make changes to established characters, providing a fresh take on familiar stories. Not all of the revisions work, particularly those that turn a shock jock into a hardened mercenary or transform a magical baddie into a punk with fancy tech. But these missteps are few, as the series wisely balances the government conspiracy plot with an understanding of Clark’s genuine goodness and relationship with his friends.
Sahid and Lee bring lovable energy to their characters, making even their biggest outbursts feel lived-in and sweet. They mesh well with Quaid’s awkward and unsure Clark, which sometimes overlaps too much with Hughie from The Boys or Ensign Boimler from Star Trek. Quaid’s take works fine for his awkward and unsure Clark, but it becomes distracting when he’s Superman, at least until he’s reunited with Jimmy and Lois.
“Who am I?” the child Clark asks himself after stopping the car in the pilot episode. Throughout the first season, Clark never finds an answer to that question that fully satisfies him. But for us viewers, the answer is clear. Even when it borrows anime storytelling and pits the Man of Steel against mechs instead of giant robots, this is still a powerful hero who takes time to get cats out of trees and to do good deeds for local shopkeepers. This is a god-like alien who falls in love with the bravery and uniqueness of his best friends Lois and Jimmy. This is a boy from space who holds to his Midwestern values. This is Superman.
The first two episodes of My Adventures With Superman debut on Adult Swim at midnight on Thursday, July 6th. New episodes release weekly.