Going Through The DCAU Part Thirty-One

Superman Gif

Jimmy and Tom return once more, with talk of Superman the Animated Series.

This installment will cover the episodes “My Girl,” “Tools of the Trade,” and “Two’s A Crowd”.

“My Girl”

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Clark’s childhood girlfriend Lana Lang is dating Lex Luthor! She’s willing to send Clark some tips, but what happens if Luthor wonders why Lana and Superman seem so chummy?

jimmy:  I find our Superman chats a bit more of a chore. While I know my share of Superman history and mythos, it is not at near the level that I know Batman. So while I know exactly who Lana is, I don’t really know a whole lot about her. But I don’t think any of her previous incarnations was as a rich fashion mogul?

tomk:  Maybe Superman The Animated Series just isn’t as deep as Batman was.

That may have something to do with the fact Superman’s best remembered and iconic period was in the middle of the Silver Age and all its inherent silliness. Batman, on the other hand, didn’t come around to be what he is until the 70s, where he went back to his roots as a dark vigilante.

But as for Lana…nope. Classic, Silver Age Lana Lang was just a variation on the Lois Lane character to either be a romantic partner (as much as it was possible for anyone to be a romantic partner in those days) for Superboy or to be a romantic rival for Lois when Lana visited Metropolis in any attempt to win over Superman.

More recent interpretations seem to go for a more brash character, a confidant and good friend to Clark from his childhood that he just doesn’t have with other people.

jimmy:  Actually, here is current Lana…

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tomk:  OK, well, that’s a really recent version.

jimmy:  I found the start of this episode funny, when someone mentions “LL”, Clark is immediately like “Lana?” I’m like, every woman in the DCU has those initials. 🙂

tomk:  And some of the bald supervillains.

jimmy:  Exactly

tomk:  I think the bigger problem is Clark went to some event without knowing who it was for. He apparently knew who LL was, but didn’t know he was at LL’s fashion show.

jimmy:  Or it was just a surprise that she actually appeared.

tomk:  Yeah, I mean, I think that explains why Superman can’t catch Luthor. He’s probably lucky he has a driver’s license.

Speaking of which, why does Superman have a driver’s license?

jimmy:  And a very high tech car that opens from the top.

As for the license, just keeping up appearances I guess.

tomk:  Maybe he needs it for this thing.

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Well, all that tells me is Metropolis must not have much in the way of mass transit.

And Supes can leave his car in a dark alley with the roof up without any worries.

jimmy:  Wow, that’s even worse than this.

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tomk:  At least Spidey knows a fiasco when he sees it.

But what about this one?

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jimmy:  So…it’s just a car with a giant Superman hood ornament?

tomk:  No…it’s just a car with a giant Superman hood ornament that, according to the narration, used to be the Batmobile.

jimmy:  Yes. That does make it a “bit” better.

tomk:  Well, taking that panel out of context…who knows why Batman needed to do that.

But there was one thing that struck me about the episode that has nothing to do with Clark’s insurance rates…Lex seems genuinely heartbroken when he orders Lana taken care of.

jimmy:  Even megalomaniac super villains need love too.

tomk:  True, but I couldn’t help but think Luthor believes Superman took everything from him when the Man of Steel first appeared in Metropolis. Here’s something else in a sense, and this time he may actually be right.

jimmy:  That is a good point. Another thing to fuel his hatred.

tomk:  Here’s a question for you: what hurt Luthor more? That Lana went for another man, or that the man in question was Superman?

And that’s not counting the fact Luthor has no idea how innocent the relationship is…at least in terms of all hanky-panky.

jimmy:  Definitely the latter. Especially since if it was only the former, that man would be former as well after a visit from Mercy.

tomk:  Mercy so enjoys visiting…

jimmy:  You have to think that even if Clark wasn’t Superman, he might have been fending Lana off.

tomk:  Well, that’s what may be cool about Lana. She actually likes Clark. Lois, so far, prefers Superman.

jimmy:  Though we can never really know with Lana as she knows his secret. And Lois is a bit snobby. She dated Lex too, so both of the women’s taste needs to be brought into question.

tomk:  Well, both wised up when they realized what kind of person Lex was.

And Lana seemed to be at least friendly with Clark before his powers kicked in.

jimmy:  Well, when you grow up in Smallville, you probably don’t have a wide choice of friends to pick from.

tomk:  There was always Pete Ross. And, like, three other kids.

jimmy:  I rest my case.

Either way, dating Lex seems like a no-no…betraying Lex? Well, you’re just asking for trouble. But I’d probably be brave too if I knew Superman was watching over me.

tomk:  Yeah, too bad Lex was the only one really watching much of anything. Lana should have been Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend. He’s better at that observation sort of thing.

jimmy:  Yeah, but knowing BTAS, she’d only show up for no other reason than to cause trouble, much like she’s done here.

tomk:  Look, childhood friends are nothing but trouble for anyone who wears a cape. It’s true for Superman, it’s true for Batman, and it’s true for Frank Costanza’s lawyer.

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jimmy:  Is he wearing a cape?

tomk:  Sure he is.

And his childhood friends are nothing but trouble.

jimmy:  Switching gears a little, but sticking with Lana (and Lois too really), I’m always amazed at how the women of this show remain “decent” while getting into fights and being thrown around while wearing the shortest skirts imaginable.

tomk:  Well, longer skirts are more likely to get caught on things.

I was amazed about the apparently never-ending supply of liquid lead from that one vat.

jimmy:
It’s like in old westerns where you should never count the number of bullets fired from a six shooter.

tomk:  Yeah. Bullets and molten lead are both things in a never-ending supply that can’t hurt Superman.

jimmy:  And Lex keeps a lot of lead around because someone conveniently can’t see through it.

tomk:  But his hearing is just fine.

Next time, Lex should work with guys who know sign language.

jimmy:  Yes, that was a good bit.

tomk:  And they tried to send Superman to Central City! When the show came out, I knew they were planned Lobo and Flash team-ups, so every time they mentioned Central City, I always hoped the Flash was coming. That came later.

jimmy:  I liked that when they thought they had sent him on a wild goose chase to Central City he just shows up and is like “how dumb do you think I am?”

tomk:  Well, he didn’t realize who LL was until just before she showed up, so maybe he is a little dumb.

jimmy:  I didn’t see it that way, I think he knew who it was, but was just surprised she was there. Either way, I’m not calling Superman dumb. Fictional character or not, he’d still probably kick my ass.

tomk:  Well, maybe not dumb, but people underestimate his intelligence all the time. And he can come across as naive.

jimmy:  Naive, I can see, yes.

tomk:  Terry Pratchett in his Discworld books had a character named Captain Carrot of the City Watch. Implied heavily to be the rightful heir to a long lost throne, Pratchett described Carrot, a human raised by dwarves, as “simple” in how he views people as being mostly good with the need for a push and without a cynical bone in his body, but would then clarify that “simple doesn’t mean stupid” and show Carrot may have had a simplified view of morality, but he wasn’t an idiot.

I think that can cover Superman at times too.

jimmy:  This guy?

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tomk:  Nope, not that guy.

jimmy:  🙂

Actually, your description kinda reminded me of Mark Millar’s Huck. Have you read that?

tomk:  Not really.

jimmy:  It’s pretty good.

tomk:  I’ll see about adding it to my (long) list.

But now that I think about it, I don’t think Lana appears all that often in future episodes. Maybe in a flashback or two, but very few times in the present.

jimmy:  They already had a short-skirted troublemaker that appeared regularly.

tomk:  Man, you are certainly obsessed with this skirt thing.

Wait until you see Maggie Sawyer…

jimmy:  It certainly seems that way. I won’t bring it up again, I just thought it needed to be said. 🙂

tomk:  Well, we all have our interests. So, aside from various LL women wearing short skirts everywhere and Lex being utterly heartbroken that he lost something else to Superman, is there anything else you’d like to add here, Jimmy?

jimmy:  Did I mention the short skirts?

tomk:  Possibly. Did you switch places with Watson?

jimmy:  God I hope not. But in seriousness I think I’m ready to leave Lex and Lana for the time being.

tomk:  Good. Let’s check in on Bruno Manheim again.

“Tools of the Trade”

kanto

The mysterious Kanto is giving weapons to Bruno Manheim and his Intergang! Can Superman survive the onslaught of these advanced weapons and bring the gang down before he or Inspector Dan Turpin get killed?

tomk:  Like many artists, Bruce Timm is apparently a big fan of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, and those characters and concepts will run through Superman and on into Justice League. And while we saw Manheim and his “Intergang” before (though I don’t recall if they called his organization by that name), now we have a first appearance by some of the New Gods, setting up future appearances for a bad guy that Superman will encounter many times over.

Oh, and Superman probably killed that guy with the energy hands if he hit him hard enough to send him flying across the room.

jimmy:  That guy might as well have been wearing a red shirt.

tomk:  I know some of the commentary tracks on different episodes talk about how Superman is probably killing people when he hits normal guys.

jimmy:  They did so on the commentary here too.

tomk:  Ah. Amazon Prime doesn’t have the commentary.

So, Superman has killed more people than Intergang so far…

jimmy:  Not for lack of trying. They did drive a tank into the middle of the city and derail a train.

tomk:  That just makes it worse. Superman isn’t trying. He’s careless.

jimmy:  We suspect that, and the commentary suggests it, but I don’t think watching the show, especially as a kid, you would think “yeah, that guy’s dead”. It’s just a patented Tom Kelly thing you shouldn’t think too much about.

tomk:  Oh, I know it. But we can have some fun. You know, besides all the talk of New Gods.

New. Gods.

Better than the Old Gods.

These are New Gods.

jimmy:  Heh.

On the commentary track they talk about sitting down and trying to plot out the episodes and realizing that unlike Batman, Supes doesn’t have a great rouges gallery. Then they remembered that Jack Kirby did a lot of work with Superman and the New Gods and it went from there.

tomk:  Not only that, they redesigned Jack Kirby’s character of Dan Turpin to look like Kirby.

jimmy:  Yes, I was going to mention that. And I really hope that Kirby never had those eyebrows.

tomk:  Judge for yourself.

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jimmy:  Not quite. Turpin’s eyebrows are outrageous.

tomk:  Well, it’s a caricature. Exaggerate the most distinctive characteristics, like Kirby’s Old Man Eyebrows.

jimmy:  Fair enough, but it was so over the top it takes you out of the moment. All you can think about are those eyebrows. How did they get that way? Why doesn’t he trim them? Am I going to wake up tonight in a cold sweat after some awful eyebrow chasing nightmare?

tomk:  Well, I won’t.

Would you rather go back to short skirts?

jimmy:  Or nonexistent skirts if you are Maggie Sawyer.

tomk:  Yes, well, the trench coat flasher look is very popular on the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit.

jimmy:  Let’s move on, but remember that you brought it up, not me. 🙂

So back to the midtown tank…why are they not firing shells instead of bashing police cars, etc, with the turret?

tomk:  Limited ammo?

jimmy:  Perhaps. Or saving what they had for Supes I guess.

tomk:  For all the good that does. How Manheim figures regular military weapons can stop Superman is beyond me.

jimmy:  Well, it doesn’t take him long to figure it out, which is essentially the plot of the show.

tomk:  Well, yes. Maybe he should have figured it out after the Toyman went nowhere, though.

Might have saved him some tank money.

But, say, Jimmy, what did you think of Kanto, Darkseid’s personal assassin?

jimmy:  I assume he is a character from the comics? My New Gods-fu is pretty weak.

tomk:  Yes, yes he is. And he is exactly what I said he is. He’s Darkseid’s personal assassin. And he even wore the correct look when we got to Apokalips.

jimmy:  Was he prone to disguising himself as human and offering toys to mobsters?

tomk:  Not to my knowledge. He was more inclined to get his hands dirty, so to speak.

Even in that jaunty beret.

jimmy:  I guess a straight up assassin might be pushing it for Saturday mornings.

Unless they were in League form.

tomk:  Yeah, I don’t think we see Kanto again.

But he makes for a finer lesser-known minion of Darkseid. Better known ones will appear later.

jimmy:  And we don’t leave Mannheim in the greatest of predicaments.

tomk:  Well, true, but it may work out for him yet.

In a depressing sort of way.

jimmy:  That’s what I would suspect.

tomk:  But hey, we got Darkseid!

And he sounds awesome!

Michael Ironsides does a fantastic voice here.

jimmy:  True. Always liked Ironside anyway, but yeah, good choice here.

tomk:  And speaking of voices (since Darkseid doesn’t say much here), we got a return from actor Michael York as Kanto. Last we heard his voice, he was Count Vertigo messing with Batman and Talia.

jimmy:  Another classic actor. Too bad you say Kanto is one and done.

tomk:  York will be back for Justice League…it’s just I am pretty sure Kanto won’t be.

So…yet another character!

jimmy:  Those tricky voice actors!

tomk:  It’d be trickier if they didn’t all sound like Michael York.

jimmy:  Well, they can’t all be Corey Burton.

tomk:  But can you imagine Corey Burton with those energy hands?

Admit it, those weapons were fairly creative…at least until we got to the last one, and it was just a handgun that hits really hard.

jimmy:  Darkseid is not one to mess around with the conventional. The hands were especially cool, and successfully managed to not seem completely cartoon-y and ridiculous.

tomk:  Aside from having only four fingers each, yes.

jimmy:  I noticed that too and the next time I saw Turpin, I counted his digits. Seemed odd to go with the more cartoon-like 4 finger hand, especially given their size and I would imagine easier to draw than normal hands which have 5 fingers in the show.

tomk:  There are other easy things to draw that don’t appear too often…leggings on the women come to mind.

jimmy:  And you say I’m obsessed with the short skirts.

tomk:  I know what keeps your interest in conversation.

Besides, once that sort of thing has been seen, it can never be unseen.

jimmy:  Like this?

Watson can be surprisingly literate when the mood hits.

tomk:  A prime example.

Of someone who would also not need to be reminded of things like short skirts.

I dunno. This was a good intro to the corrupting element of Apokalips all told. Any additional thoughts, Jimmy?

jimmy:  I think that covers it. Looking forward to more from Darkseid.

tomk:  We may have to wait. But we have the Parasite again. He’s cool, right? Right?

jimmy:  Well, really, he sucks.

tomk:  Well, he’s up next anyway.

“Two’s A Crowd”

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A scientist gone bad has a bomb somewhere in Metropolis. He’s in a coma and the clock is ticking. Maybe the Parasite can find the bomb before it’s too late…

jimmy:  So, Superman can’t search all of Metropolis in 4 hours?

tomk:  Apparently not.

Slacker.

jimmy:  Or here’s another idea, bring the body of the scientist to the prison. He “only” has a concussion.

tomk:  Nobody thinks that far ahead.

I mean, sure, that would take less time than securing the Parasite in that fancy Hannibal Lecter Hand Protector, but…wait, that really was stupid.

jimmy:
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tomk:  Actually, this seems to be the sort of episode that would more or less establish the pattern for future Parasite appearances where he’s basically something of a patsy for someone else most of the time.

jimmy:  Is he like that in the comics?

tomk:  No. Usually he’s more of a monster. Some unstoppable force, sometimes more highly deformed than others. Parasite’s no mastermind, but he isn’t a patsy either. And his power is usually lethal, too.

jimmy:  Yeah, he was something of a pushover in this episode. Punctuated by his glee over his cable TV over any feelings about his lost taste of freedom.

tomk:  He did let that scientist push him around a bit. He even tried to help.

jimmy:  He really wanted to watch Game of Thrones.

tomk:  I pegged him more for a SportsCenter type.

jimmy:  Yeah, I can see that.

tomk:  I mean, he’s not Watson. Watson has a college degree.

jimmy:  From Bovine University?

tomk:  That or clown college.

But did it surprise you, Jimmy, that Superman has a wet suit with the S-shield on it?

jimmy:  No. I’ve seen cartoons and read comics before. 🙂

tomk:  Well, if Spider-Man can have a dune buggy…

jimmy:  Heh.

But you know how these things are. Everything Batman owns has a bat symbol on it. And we’ve already seen that Superman’s space suit has the shield. So, not surprising. Silly maybe, but typical.

tomk:  True, but you did wonder about the space suit.

jimmy:  Hmm. I guess I learned my lesson.

tomk:  Still, I’m not sure there was much going on here. It was like a scavenger hunt with no clues because the big purple guy knew stuff but couldn’t say much.

jimmy:  I know they have to depower Supes so they have a show, but as mentioned, I found it a bit much that Superman couldn’t fly over all of Metropolis in 4+ hours. And there was a comment (I think) that the bomb was hidden in lead so he couldn’t see it. You know what he can see? Lead. Just look for the bomb shaped lead box.

tomk:  That’s assuming there’s only one lead box in the entire city.

jimmy:  Even so, how many can there be?

The lead thing is just so random, like Green Lantern and the color yellow. And I find it a bit eye rolling that everyone knows Superman’s weaknesses.

They must publish them in Super Villain Monthly magazine.

tomk:  Well, lead is a natural impediment to radiation, which includes x-rays. Not that baffling. And it beats Martian Manhunter’s fire weakness.

jimmy:  Stop making logical points!

tomk:  If it helps, the DCAU does not use any weaknesses for its heroes based on common chemical reactions that produce light and heat or anything involving a primary color.

jimmy:  Is GL afraid of wood?

tomk:  Um…you’ll see.

Trust me, it’ll be worth it when you see what that means.

jimmy:  So, back to Parasite, he can only draw energy from things that are organic? And do they have to be animals? Can he draw energy from plant life?

tomk:  What about the Parasite suggests he’s smart enough to think of that?

jimmy:  Well, that’s a whole other story. Where I was going with it was can he use his powers to charge himself up with that 85 inch TV he has in his cell at the end?

tomk:  I’d say no.

He drains life energy. Whatever that is.

jimmy:  So he’s like a day at work, only crammed into 7.5 seconds instead of hours. Got it.

tomk:  You wish you had his job. All the cockroaches you could suck dry, watch cable, and occasionally get to touch a superhero.

That sounds really wrong.

jimmy:  Depends on the superhero…

tomk:  Not Power Girl.

Hopefully not Swamp Thing either.

For very different reasons.

jimmy:  What did you think of the animation this episode? Both Supes and Parasite seemed “rubber-y” during their fight scenes. Not a complaint that has been relevant since the early days of BTAS.

tomk:  Well, the redesign we spoke of often made for a lot of rubber-y looks. Part of that was to actually get the animation done quicker by cutting down on the details. It’s a look that will stay through the end of our talks.

jimmy:  Guess I better get used to it.

tomk:  Well, there’s a rubber-y aspects to a lot of animation. Slowed down it may be more noticeable, but it’s usually done to make things look better.

jimmy:  Well Tom, are we done sucking the life force out of this one?

tomk:  Maybe.

Yes.

Of course.

NEXT TIME:  Clearly we sucked the life force out of this one.  Come back soon as Tom and Jimmy cover “Blasts from the Past” Parts One and Two, “The Prometheon,” and “Speed Demons”.

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