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Superman: Family Album (Ruby Spears, 1988)

Another unearthed oldie from a guest-piece I wrote back in the long ago. This was featured at DC in the 80s, and was meant to be the first of many. In revisiting so much of my older “work” of late, I’m realizing that I have a pattern of starting things with a whole lotta P&V… but, follow-thru ain’t my strong suit. Oh well. Enjoy!

Ever wonder what happened between the time young Kal-El was adopted by the Kents and his arrival in Metropolis?  If I were to assume… and I probably shouldn’t, I’d say most folks reading this site already have a pretty good idea.  For this piece/series, we’re going to put all of that out of our minds, pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, whatever.  Where we’re going… we have little need for such terms.

In 1988, Ruby-Spears Productions created an animated Superman series.  The episodes would feature an 18-20 minute feature, and be followed by a short Superman Family Album segment which served to fill us in on the Man of Steel’s childhood and adolescence.  I figure those might be the best place for us to start our coverage!

Let’s take a look at the first installment… The Adoption, written by a very familiar name… Marv Wolfman!

We open with Jonathan and Martha Kent sitting in the office of the Smallville Orphanage.  They explain that they found the young boy on their farm… and even considered adopting him themselves, after all they’d always wanted a little boy of their own.  Gotta mention that the Kents are portrayed as being at least in their 50’s, which would put them at over 70 by the time (spoiler alert) Clark becomes Superman.  I don’t recall them being of the same generation as Aunt May… but, at least in the Ruby-Spearsiverse, they just might.  They are told that the orphanage usually looks for younger folks to give children to, but they’ll… erm, keep them in mind.  As the young boy is handed over, he begins to fuss.

I really appreciate that Mr. Warner from the orphanage isn’t depicted to be evil or malicious in any way.  He’s just a man doing his job, and has no ill-intent for the boy or his previous guardians.  As the Kents leave, the Walters family arrives… they’re looking for a sweet young boy with no inclinations toward “roughness”… I never realized picking a child was like picking the flavor of ice cream you want in your waffle cone, but we’ll let that slide.  Either way, Mr. Warner’s got just the lad for you… or does he?

The Walters decide to… go another way.  Some time later, The Kenny’s (and their cat) arrive.  At that very moment, our boy is flying off to visit the nearby Zoo… Mrs. Kenny is hopeful their potential new baby likes pets.  C’mon now, all young children like animals.  Though, this one might like his cats a bit on the larger side.

With another set of parents fleeing the facility, Mr. Warner must stop to consider the possibility that this young tot is acting in way that would purposefully scare potential parentals away.  Thinking aloud, he posits that perhaps the boy has his own idea for proper parents… to which, the baby begins clapping.  Warner and Conroy leave the baby alone and unattended to check who is next on their list… which seems a pretty unsafe thing to do.  Anyhoo… being left by his lonesome, our tot of steel heads out on a night-flight all the way to the Kent Farm, where he nuzzles in between his would be guardians and goes to sleep.

The following morning, the Kents awaken to the shocking appearance of the baby they’d dropped at the orphanage… um, earlier that day?  Busy day, right?  Martha asks what they should do, to which Jonathan suggests they go back to the orphanage… and convince Mr. Warner to let them legally adopt the child!  They (preemptively?) name the boy… Clark Kent.  The baby seems to dig the idea, because he chooses now to utter his first words… Mama and Dada. Oh c’mon, don’t be such a cliche Clark-O.

A touching start to the series… really quite a cute story.

The strange thing about this series, at least to me, is that I have a difficult time reconciling that this hit network television in 1988.  I can’t say for certain where I mentally “place” this… but the late 80’s certainly ain’t it.

I’m not sure what it says about the current comics/entertainment culture where when I sat down to watch this I thought for sure the orphanage’s Mr. Warner was going to be revealed as a baby seller and slaver.  I was quite pleased to be mistaken… and for the light comedic take we received instead.

I find it funny that nobody thinks twice about this baby flying around a room on a rocking horse or abducting a lion from the zoo.  It’s just accepted!  Imagine having to return a lion to the zoo!  How would one even go about doing such a thing?  Yeah, I’m thinking too hard about it… it’s kinda what I do.

Overall, had a decent amount of fun with this silly short.  This (somehow) wasn’t part of my childhood, so that’s not nostalgia talking.  Hope this was an enjoyable read… if you dug it, let me know.  Also, if this show was a part of your childhood (or adulthood!) please feel free to reach out and share your memories of the series.

2 thoughts on “Superman: Family Album (Ruby Spears, 1988)

  • I’ve never heard of this series but I’m a big fan of Ruby Spears animation (off to Amazon I go). Your piece was interesting, thanks for sharing this.

  • I remember the Ruby/Spears Suerman show existing, but I never watched it. By the time it came out in 1988 I was 16 and well past my Saturday morning cartoon phase. Although I do remember something about Wonder Woman guest starring in one episode. I never knew these shorts were a part of the show. I may need to track down the DVD set to check these out.


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