Tom and Jimmy are back for another animated discussion about animation.
This time, we’re covering the Superman the Animated Series episodes “The Way of All Flesh,” “Stolen Memories,” and “The Main Man” parts one and two.
“The Way of All Flesh”
When mercenary John Corben is found to be dying of a rare disease, he agrees to have his brain transplanted into the powerful Metallo body Lex Luthor has built. Powered by kryptonite, can Superman stop the murderous cyborg?
jimmy: That was a good segue with Robert Patrick, Metallo is very Teminator-esque.
tomk: Well, the half-a-face look certainly helps there.
jimmy: And the indestructible cyborg look.
Not to mention the Terminator always getting upset that he can’t taste apples.
tomk: Or kiss a woman.
Maybe not that one.
jimmy: Well, he usually tries to kiss them with his machine gun.
tomk: Jimmy, you’re the biggest Terminator fan I know. You must have been really digging this episode.
jimmy: Great episode. Having McDowell helps. Though I’m already tiring of kryptonite.
tomk: Well, the next two adventures feature Brainiac and Lobo, so we won’t see as much of the stuff then.
But yes, one of the problems perhaps with Superman is the over-reliance on kryptonite.
jimmy: I can understand, as it is difficult to defeat him otherwise, but still.
tomk: It’s the downside of having many foes who are just guys who build large weapons.
How much Metallo really needed it is up for debate.
jimmy: Good point. Metallo seemed to be holding his own without the kryptonite crutch.
tomk: Kryptonite theoretically just gives him a slight edge.
jimmy: Corbett’s story is pretty tragic though post Metallo surgery…besides all the insanity and murdering. (edited)
tomk: It’s always the insanity and the murdering we remember, not his complete lack of buoyancy.
jimmy: Well, everyone knows that cyborgs weight more than a duck.
tomk: True. He wouldn’t be a witch.
Metallo is a good Superman villain though, even of the kryptonite thing is a bit already overused. Plus now we have the bonus of him wanting revenge against Luthor.
tomk: Ever read the first Metallo appearance, Jimmy?
jimmy: I don’t know if I’ve read any.
tomk: I found it in one of those black and white reprints I used to get. That was back when Superman referred to everything he did as a “super-” something. If he got into a “super battle” it meant mostly his opponent would toss things at him and Superman would let the stuff just bounce off him.
Anyway, the first Metallo appearance was from the 1959.
Metallo looked like a regular guy for the entire issue, and he died off-panel when he tried to change the radioactive rock charging him and grabbed the wrong one.
jimmy: That seems…lame.
tomk: This was back when Superman was more likely to trick a bad guy than anything physical.
jimmy: And why was that? And when did it change? Was there like a “Neal Adams 70’s Batman” moment or anything?
tomk: Well, I’m not sure. Maybe it was more of a reaction along those lines, but there doesn’t seem to be a single distinct moment.
Keep in mind, Silver Age Superman, for all his inherent corniness, is considered a classic interpretation of the guy. The man who basically had any power necessary to solve any problem no matter how odd, but many times didn’t even need it.
So, perhaps, as characters like Batman had less silly adventures, Superman did too.
There is that weird period in the 70s when Denny O’Neil wrote Superman. He temporarily lost the kryptonite weakness, famously taking a bite out of some, was a little less powerful but also worked as a TV anchorman.
jimmy: Wait……he bites someone?
jimmy: Sorry, misread that….he bites the kryptonite?
Swallowed some too,.
jimmy: How odd.
tomk: Probably the most famous three panels from O’Neil’s short Superman run.
jimmy: How did he become immune? And immune or not, he essentially eats a rock. His dentist will not be happy.
tomk: I don’t remember off-hand, It was an attempt by O’Neil to make Superman more realistic and relatable or something. He was less powerful, but still able to eat a rock.
Obviously, it didn’t last.
jimmy: Seems we’re struggling to keep a conversation going about Mr. Metallo. Good episode, but not a lot to chew on. You have anything more to add?
tomk: He has a long walk to get to shore.
jimmy: He’s got plenty of time to kill.
tomk: Hopefully he’s walking in the right direction.
jimmy: If we see him next with Mr. Freeze, you’ll have your answer.
Lex Luthor has made contact with alien life…and it’s Brainiac! Can Superman figure out what the other survivor of Krypton is up to before its too late?
jimmy: It’s been several decades and Brainiac is still a jerk.
tomk: Well, he doesn’t really learn from mistakes. He’s always tugging on Superman’s cape.
jimmy: Looks like he’s tugged on a lot of capes based on how many orbs he had collected.
tomk: He even tried tugging on Luthor’s.
jimmy: Well, Luthor did screw him over pretty good.
tomk: Luthor does that. I actually thought this episode was interesting in that Luthor and Superman were almost allies in it.
jimmy: I don’t know about the show, but that often happens in the comics. Superman will reluctantly work with Lex, all the while looking for something to use so he can point and say “I knew you couldn’t be trusted!”
tomk: Well, let’s be fair. Luthor can’t be trusted.
jimmy: Oh, that is 100% right.
tomk: That was actually the reason for the alliance of sorts. Brainiac probably shouldn’t have trusted Luthor, if he even did. And Luthor himself doesn’t really trust anybody.
jimmy: Well, I think Brainiac more used Luthor than trusted him. And if anything, Luthor did trust Brainiac a bit too much. But…he did have all those missiles aimed at him…
tomk: Yeah, missiles suggests a lack of trust.
Brainiac, on the other hand, doesn’t have to trust anybody if he thinks everyone is beneath him somehow.
jimmy: Well, he’s thought that since the Krypton days.
tomk: Yes, but even though he didn’t cause the destruction of Krypton, it was still a good thing for him to keep going. Brainiac didn’t kill the Kryptonians directly. He did wipe out those other worlds personally.
And, given Superman only saves one orb, all those peoples are now forgotten.
jimmy: Yes, I felt bad about the orbs. And I’m sure Supes could have grabbed a couple more along his way. And how did he even know which one to grab?
tomk: Um…Kryptonian homing beacon?
It would have sucked if he’d grabbed the wrong one from a personal perspective.
You make a good point though. Brainiac didn’t destroy Krypton. He did nothing to help and just saved himself, but that’s different. Did he only seek out similar worlds and download their knowledge prior to their similar destruction? Or did he cause the destruction himself? Appears to be the latter, which begs the question why?
tomk: Brainiac decided, at some point, that being a knowledge bank doesn’t count for much if the knowledge is shared with anyone else.
Plus a little Kryptonian superiority in his programming, and voila.
jimmy: That makes “sense”.
tomk: He got his start not sharing his data with Krypton, thus ensuring its destruction.
jimmy: Do we have any sense for how long Jor-El had been pleading his case to the council about the upcoming destruction? All we ever see in movies and shows at least is usually one conversation and then the walls come tumbling down. I know there might have been nothing to save the planet but at least some people could have been evacuated. Brainiac does comment that he kept the news a secret so that exactly that wouldn’t happen.
tomk: Brainiac said there wasn’t time to evacuate everyone, but Jor-El’s father-in-law seemed to suggest Jor-El had been saying that stuff for quite some time. Brainiac actually knew more than Jor-El about what was coming.
jimmy: Yes. I guess I’m just curious how long “quite some time” actually was. Fair enough, not long enough to evacuate the whole planet, but at least make preparations to save as many people as possible. Which could lead to it’s own type of anarchy as predicted by Brainiac, but that wasn’t the council’s reasoning. They just dismissed Jor-El’s claims, mainly because Brainiac didn’t support them.
tomk: Yes, and maybe Brainiac was wrong.
jimmy: That’s unpossible.
tomk: Well, he would certainly agree with that.
jimmy: Does Brainiac’s Krypton globe appear in any subsequent episodes?
tomk: I don’t recall offhand.
jimmy: Superman does hide it away in the Fortress of Solitude which we see here for the first time.
tomk: Well, he just found the place after probably forcibly evicting that polar bear.
jimmy: I smell a Mr. Freeze crossover!
tomk: You can smell all kinds of things in the Intergalactic Zoo Superman traditionally has in his Fortress.
tomk: Yeah, that sure does sound selfish though as I type it, a zoo of private wonders just for Superman, but I an digressing.
jimmy: Isn’t it animals that would have gone extinct though?
tomk: Something like that.
jimmy: It’s a good thing that Brainiac is an AI, after being defeated by “inferiors” like Superman and Luthor, he might develop a complex.
tomk: Maybe he will anyway. We’d call it a virus or a subroutine gone awry or something.
jimmy: Let’s take a step back…did you think the first shot of the show was of the Batmobile for a split second?
tomk: I did…a little.
jimmy: Me too. On the episode commentary Paul Dini says that it was the Batmobile reimagined as a tractor trailer. He said that at the time they all thought it was hilarious, but now he doesn’t know why they did it.
tomk: I can think of a few reasons why they might have thought something was hilarious at one point but a mystery to all involved later.
jimmy: Is it drugs?
tomk: Yes, that would be the few reasons.
jimmy: Lol, quite possible.
tomk: But I would like to make a special mention to actor Corey Burton. That guy has done a ton of voice work (a lot for Disney), but he does have a few other emotionless robots on his resume.
Some of them were even heroic.
But his Brainiac is a rather chilling bit of work, considering it sounds as if he won’t even break a sweat if Superman puts a fist through his chest.
jimmy: He was Shockwave? Awesome!
Yeah, he does a great job.
tomk: He was also Megatron in another version, but yes, a lot of robots.
And this guy, another robot…oh wait, he’s the guy on the left.
tomk: Close enough.
jimmy: Anything more on Mr. I’ll Let Krypton Blow Up As Long As I Survive It’s All Good?
tomk: Well, he may be the most evil character in the DCAU.
Even Darkseid would rather capture worlds alive.
jimmy: He gets pretty woozy in Convergence…but we won’t go there.
tomk: No one should.
Maybe we should consider something more of a cartoon character for a villain than a genocidal machine.
jimmy: A main man so to speak?
tomk: The mainest.
“The Main Man Parts One and Two”
The Preserver wants to protect the last of every species, and that includes the last Kryptonian! Who can he hire to bring Superman in to his intergalactic zoo? The last Czarnian, Lobo!
tomk: OK, did Lobo seem like he almost came from another cartoon here?
jimmy: Definitely. And at the same time, understandably completely neutered compared to his comic book origins
tomk: Well, yes. But even comic book Lobo, when he’s on his own, he’s a bit of a very violent cartoon character. His solo series after a certain point generally featured Lobo, sometimes with his bounty hunter friends, would go to some planet where everything was something of a lame stereotype and there’d be some so-so jokes and then at the end of the issue there’d be a huge explosion killing everyone except for Lobo and any of his bounty hunter friends he brought with him.
So, seeing Lobo blow up the bar in the beginning was par for the course, but having everyone stumble out like a Wile E. Coyote type was a form of making it more kid friendly.
jimmy: For sure.
I never got the heights that Lobo’s popularity reached in the 90’s. And after watching this now, in retrospect, I still don’t. I mean, he’s essentially a cross between Wolverine/Punisher who rides around in space.
tomk: He was a parody of those sorts of characters. He’s not supposed to be taken all that seriously.
jimmy: Fair enough. I know Keith Giffen was involved with Lobo and he has had his share of comedic/parody series.
He just never appealed to me.
tomk: I can’t say he works for me all that often. He used to be part of a team book called L.E.G.I.O.N. which was a space police corporation for hire, and Lobo was a member for some reason. There was a hilarious issue where Captain Marvel literally fell out of the sky on top of Lobo, but Cap was such a decent fellow who didn’t believe in violence that Lobo couldn’t get the Big Red Cheese to fight him. It worked well by using the two opposites to play off each other.
jimmy: I’m guessing they went for a similar dichotomy here…though Supes seems to have little issue throwing the punches back at him.
tomk: Yeah. Marvel eventually threw a punch, causing everyone else in the bar they were in to gasp, “He hit Lobo! Suicide!” But Marvel did it when he saw Lobo had stuffed a guy into a urinal and Marv can’t stand bullies.
But yes, Superman is another opposite.
jimmy: On the commentary track for the second episode they talked about how they had to “power down” Superman a bit so that Lobo stood a chance in a fight. Which was partially explained in the episode with Supes feeling the effects of the red sun from his captivity. They also said there were many characters throughout the series who could kick Superman’s ass that really shouldn’t have been able to.
tomk: That’s essentially true, and that’s not even getting into how John Byrne powered down the more-or-less unstoppable Silver Age Superman. A buddy told me a story of a Silver Age Superman who stopped some computer hackers by picking up a phone (remember, dial up modems in those days at best) and whistling into it to trick the hackers’ own computers. I didn’t think the Silver Age Superman lasted that long, but that story sure does sound like it came from then. But the animated Superman needs to have a struggle, so characters like Lobo need to be more of an even match.
Comic Lobo is generally seen as on par with Superman because Superman won’t use his full strength on most opponents.
If Superman does, Lobo is toast.
But that weakened Superman thing will carry on into the first season of Justice League. Fans complained, so the Man of Steel got tougher after that.
jimmy: I think you mentioned that before about Justice League. It’s no big deal and understandable from a story telling standpoint, but I’m often wondering things like, “why does Superman need a spaceship and a space suit?” I’m just so used to him flying around the cosmos unencumbered. Even Lobo is completely exposed to space, essentially riding a motorcycle.
tomk: Lobo has always been a “can survive and even talk in space” character.
Superman, though, post Byrne, actually needed a spacesuit to breathe. After Doomsday killed him, he came back with his cells gaining some sort of supercharge ability, and as a result one breathe could oxygenate his blood for however long he’d be in the vacuum.
As for the spaceship…well, it does have a nifty hyperdrive.
jimmy: It’s cool that they have retrofit the ship he arrived in.
tomk: Yes. I mean, they must have at least made the pilot’s seat bigger.
jimmy: Exactly what I was thinking.
tomk: I will say, Lobo does rather casually mention genocide.
jimmy: Well, he only wiped out his whole species.
tomk: For a school project. Gave himself an “A”.
jimmy: Well, there was no one else left to grade it.
tomk: That’s one way to get to the head of the class.
jimmy: I don’t know much about comic book Lobo, does that match his origins there at all?
tomk: More or less. He did kill off the rest of his planet.
He also can track anyone with his sense of smell, even through the vacuum, and on some occasions has the ability to make a clone of himself with a single drop of blood.
But an overly violent clown? Yeah, that fits. He even uses his signature weapon a few times in the form of the hook on a chain.
jimmy: They mentioned the hook and chain on the commentary. How it wasn’t used much because it was a real strain on the animators wrists.
tomk: Or, you know, it was sharp on one end on a show where no one was allowed to bleed.
jimmy: And maybe that too. That said, it never stopped him from skinning a space snake nor for the Presever from shedding his own skin.
tomk: Yeah, this was not a good episode for skin-attached-to-the-body enthusiasts.
But a good episode for fans of fake Jabba The Hutts or talking eyeballs.
tomk: Yeah, those eyeballs…
Those were weird.
jimmy: Inventive design though. The “slug Jabba” was more disturbing.
tomk: Well, seeing as he bathed in sludge the entire time he was onscreen, yes…methinks Professor Hamilton would be less impressed by alien life if he saw those guys.
jimmy: It makes sense though that there would be different shaped intelligent life forms out there, and an animated show would have much greater capacity to show it then something like Star Trek. That said, the majority of them were still humanoid, and those that weren’t were mostly “animals” in the zoo like the Dodo and Starro.
tomk: Didn’t the Preserver say he mostly only collected animals? He made exceptions for sentient life with Superman and Lobo.
jimmy: Quite possible, I may have missed that. But what I said still holds up for the various aliens Lobo interacts with at the bar, etc.
tomk: Well, yes.
But they still had a couple guys with talking eyeballs.
One of whom sounded like Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley.
jimmy: I’m sure it was tough for him to get work after 1983.
But I kid, because he has done A LOT of work since, including many cartoons and video games.
tomk: Yeah, but he still sounds like Squiggy.
jimmy: Maybe on his home planet he played Squiggy on Larthraxia And Sherix.
tomk: That show’s a classic!
jimmy: Ok, in part one, why did Lobo stop fighting and leave Earth?
tomk: He was probably looking to come back soon, maybe with a bigger weapon. He wasn’t quitting. He was just…strategically withdrawing.
Those words are a bit big for Lobo…
jimmy: Strategic withdrawal doesn’t seem like it would be a move in the Main Man’s playbook.
tomk: It worked, didn’t it?
jimmy: No doubt.
tomk: I am sure Lobo picked up a few tricks when out hunting bounties.
jimmy: He also learned a few tricks from watching Aliens.
tomk: Lobo has a different kind of face-sucking in mind.
jimmy: Well, he sure liked those Fembots initially.
tomk: They were his type…sleazy and easy.
And by “easy,” I mean “fairly easily provoked into gassing the Main Man.”
jimmy: Heh. Indeed they were.
The ending was straight out of Aliens as well.
tomk: A bit, though the Preserver’s true shape reminded me of a beet red Rancor.
jimmy: Now that you mention it, he was very Rancor-esque.
tomk: It went well with the Jabba guy.
jimmy: Very true.
tomk: Well, we did have a bunch of bounty hunters running around after some guy with special powers who was the last of his kind.
jimmy: Man, I never realized this was a Star Wars homage.
And they went in that cell with the underwater snake thing.
tomk: And there was the rather casual discussion of the destruction of planets we never really saw. Alderaan was Czarnia!
jimmy: Mind. Blown.
tomk: I mean, the only other thing worth mentioned is the actor who played the Preserver had some past Superman experience.
jimmy: Ah right. The commentary mentioned something about that. That he played Luthor on the Superboy show (there was a Superboy show?) and almost got he part of Luthor in this show.
tomk: Yes, there was a Superboy show.
A not-very-good Superboy show in syndication. After season one, pretty much the entire cast was dumped save the redhead playing Lana Lang, and Sherman Howard was the new Luthor.
jimmy: Lana Lang eh? That sounds like a segue.
tomk: An unintentional one, but I’ll take it!
NEXT TIME: Tom and Jimmy continue with the Man of Steel, as they discuss the episodes “My Girl,” “Tools of the Trade,” and “Two’s a Crowd”.