And we’re back as Tom and Jimmy continue a never-ending battle with covering a lot of cartoons with three more episodes of Superman the Animated Series.
Today’s entry covers parts one and two of “Blasts from the Past,” “The Prometheon,” and “Speed Demons”.
“Blast from the Past Parts One and Two”
Superman discovers the Phantom Zone projector in his Kryptonian ship, and finds a prisoner in there named Mala. Letting Mala out seems like the humane thing to do, but what happens when a violent criminal from Krypton’s past suddenly finds herself with the powers of Superman?
jimmy: So, let’s start with the most obvious question: why wasn’t this Zod?
tomk: Well, good question.
Jax-Ur was another old comic book villain, an evil scientist trapped in the Phantom Zone.
jimmy: Ah. Really? And Mala?
tomk: Looks like…Mala was based on the standard female sidekick Zod has in the movies. The comics version of Mala was a dude.
jimmy: I just found it not being Zod really strange. Maybe they didn’t have the rights (which doesn’t seem likely) or they simply didn’t want yet another Zod story. But they did the same story, just with a different name. Not a big deal. Does an actual Zod show up at some point?
tomk: Not really.
Jax-Ur and Mala are the only Phantom Zone villains that appear in the show.
I’m sure there’s a good reason that STAS uses Jax-Ur instead of Zod, but I couldn’t tell you what it was. Phantom Zone escapee stories tend to be more or less the same no matter who the escapee is.
jimmy: Odd. Oh well.
At least he had a great voice.
tomk: Mala’s wasn’t bad either. Leslie Easterbrook did a lot of Police Academy movies.
But yes, we got Ron Pearlman back.
Like Michael York, he does all three shows as different characters.
jimmy: Her Police Academy character…probably not appropriate for STAS.
tomk: Police Academy isn’t really appropriate for anybody.
jimmy: LOL, don’t tell the Stonecutters.
tomk: They were satisfied with Three Men and a Baby.
jimmy: Probably the only ones.
tomk: Oh come now. It did well enough to justify a sequel.
But what does that have to do with the great Ron Pearlman?
jimmy: I think he voiced the baby.
I sit corrected.
Funny voice for a baby.
jimmy: He’s that good!
tomk: From Hellboy to Jax-Ur to a baby, he’s voiced ’em all.
jimmy: And also did one of dem Police Academy movies.
tomk: Well, nobody’s perfect.
Like, Superman isn’t perfect. He somehow decided to just fiddle with the Phantom Zone and let a potential criminal out into a world where she’d get, you know, a lot stronger.
He really shouldn’t have asked an orb with Brainiac’s voice for advice.
Next time, Clark, try a halfway house first.
jimmy: It was impressive that Professor Hamilton could cobble together another Phantom Zone transporter that was a perfect replicate minus the crystal.
tomk: Hey, they don’t just hand out that “Professor” title to just anyone!
jimmy: Well, it did take him a while, after retrofitting an entire rocket, to find a not so small “hidden” compartment with the original device in it.
tomk: He’s a quick study apparently.
And he did get the knowledge from that orb.
jimmy: In a constant stream in Kryptonian. And I’m sure there had to be materials besides the crystal that were not of Earth.
It was great that he wrote it down with pencil and a pad of paper though.
tomk: Say, does Clark know Kryptonian?
jimmy: The orb probably taught him. You gotta do something in the Fortress of Solitude besides feed the animals.
tomk: When exactly does Clark do that?
I think I may be overthinking it. Clark wasn’t smart enough to realize letting any ol’ Kryptonian out could be bad.
jimmy: And you have to think there is more than just a twinge of homesickness and wanting to connect with a fellow Kryptonian. And to be fair, “Brainiac” did spin it like she wasn’t so bad after all.
tomk: To be equally fair, Mala does sort of seem to try and be good at first.
jimmy: Yes. She is just super (pun intended) intense. It wasn’t until Superman decides, “if she doesn’t fly by my rules, I’ll send her back to the Phantom Zone”. He had no other options?
tomk: Apparently not.
I mean, what if Mala just didn’t want to be a superhero?
Granted, her first instinct is to let obvious bad guy Jax-Ur out, so maybe she isn’t as innocent we she led us to believe.
jimmy: I think they mention that the Orb never really painted a true picture of her character.
tomk: I got the impression that they weren’t sure of her true character, and she could have gone either way. Only it turns out she was that bad.
jimmy: And in many ways she seemed more destructive than Jax-Ur, but that could simply be that his batteries were still charging.
tomk: That was my take. Clark took years to get to his current levels.
jimmy: I found the ending a little anti-climactic. I mean, it made sense, but Superman basically flies around and lures them close enough so Lois can shoot the device and transport them back. Not to mention all the damage/loss of life that casually occurs as they fly through the city.
tomk: Or break stuff in the city. It doesn’t pay to be a Metropolis mailman.
jimmy: Yeah, I’m pretty sure that guy retired on stress leave after that day.
tomk: That or he transferred to a less scary city, like Gotham.
jimmy: I think I’d still take my chances in Metropolis.
tomk: Well, some people do. I’ve been reading Scott Snyder’s first Batman work with Dick Grayson as Batman, and there’s a crook in there who tried to screw around in Metropolis like he did in Gotham, but he says some Big Blue Boy Scout scooped him up and scared the crap out of him.
jimmy: Black Mirror is awesome.
tomk: Yes, I am almost done and it is. Of course, by the time this chat is posted, the review will be long since posted.
jimmy: Not to sidetrack, but I liked the Dick Grayson Batman era. I’ve mentioned before that I think DC had truly accomplished something and moved on from Bruce Wayne and made Batman eternal. And Snyder does some great work in that period as well. Doesn’t help that the transition from Dick back to Bruce…never occurs. It just “is” when the New 52 launches.
tomk: Yeah, well, such is life and the New 52. Dick went the way of Clark Kent’s marriage.
jimmy: But at least Superman was completely relaunched. With Bruce/Dick, that period where he was Batman still happened in New 52 continuity. Like many things in the New 52, that continuity made no sense, but it still did happen.
tomk: Sounds like as good an idea as letting unknown convicts out of the Phantom Zone.
jimmy: Haha, nice segue back.
But when you think about it, it’s like letting someone out of a maximum security prison, and then being surprised when they return to crime/murder/mayhem.
tomk: Still, it was an impressive fight scene between Superman and the other two.
And Lois Lane made a Wonder Woman reference. You might want to remember that for later.
jimmy: Which I’m guessing makes no sense when Justice League comes around.
tomk: Well, yes.
jimmy: Maybe she meant it more generally like “what am I some kind of wonder woman?” (Which I had a hell of a time typing in as my phone kept wanting to autocorrect it to two capital W’s…)
tomk: Your phone has problems. I can’t imagine how much it loves these Kryptonian names.
jimmy: I installed an English to Kryptonian keyboard, so it’s all good. Also how I imagine Professor Hamilton translated those instructions.
tomk: Not buying that Hamilton is just Superman’s all-purpose genius friend?
I mean, Ryan went to his musical, like, five times.
jimmy: Ryan loves him some singing scientists.
tomk: Wait til Einstein hits Broadway.
jimmy: :notes:E equals MC squared. “It’s the Theory of Relativity!” everyone cheered!:notes:
tomk: You know, Part Two had perhaps the best action sequence we’ve seen since the pilot episode, and Mala’s gradual reveal as a not-nice-person worked pretty well, but I think it says something when we can’t say much about the episode itself without sidetracking to all kinds of silliness.
I think it says something about how Superman plots are generally rather simplistic compared to all those Batman episodes we waded through.
jimmy: Agreed. But I think it is also that by this point the production team was a well oiled machine. I felt somewhat the same way last going off on BTAS. There aren’t as many errors to pick on and everything is just solid.
tomk: Yes, but there also aren’t particularly deep or troubling villain psyches to discuss. We’ve seen flashes that there’s more to Luthor, and the Toyman was just disturbing, but what do we say about Jax-Ur and Mala? They like the use their power to get what they want and think everyone else is beneath them.
Though the scene where the two ransack The Daily Planet did remind me of a similar scene in Superman II.
jimmy: The whole thing was very Superman II-esque. Hard not to be. And as much of a let down as the finale was, at least Superman didn’t pull a giant cellophane “S”-shield off his chest to use as a weapon.
tomk: Ah yes, the mildly inconvenient superpower.
jimmy: And he never made use of the SuperKiss, though at this point he doesn’t need to.
tomk: Yea, for an investigative reporter, Lois sure isn’t particularly observant of men she spends a lot of time with.
jimmy: She’s also pretty clumsy when it comes to holding onto the one weapon that will destroy Zod, er, Jax-Ur.
tomk: Lois only destroys through the occasional craftily-worded editorial.
jimmy: And I know the answer to this, but I kept wondering, “Where’s Batman?” He’d put those two Kryptonians in their place.
tomk: Sure, after they put him in traction. Here’s a better question: why didn’t Luthor pop up with some Kryptonite?
jimmy: Well, Superman did try that, so I guess Lex wasn’t needed. It also left me thinking, “Kryptonite? Again?”
tomk: Superman won’t use lethal force. Luthor would do it with a smile, discovering what it felt like to finally kill a Kryptonian.
At least, that’s how he reacted when he finally did it to a Phantom Zone criminal during Richard Donner and Geoff Johns’ Superman comics run.
jimmy: I missed that. I only read recently that Donner was even involved with the comics. I was surprised.
tomk: Yeah, interesting story. The three villains from Superman II came to Earth. We learned the big mute was actually once Jor-El’s lab partner before he was made mute and stupid by Kryptonian law enforcement, and Zod and the woman had a son in the Phantom Zone that escaped from his (awful) parents and was adopted by Clark and Lois. Then the villains released another 40 Phantom Zone criminals (including Jaz-Ur), and captured the rest of the world’s heroes. Superman had to go to the “Superman Revenge Squad” for help, and the membership then was Luthor, Bizzaro, Parasite, and Metallo. Luthor got to kill one of the escapees and said, “So THAT’S what it feels like.”
jimmy: Interesting. I’ll put it on the back end of a very long list of things to read.
tomk: Yeah, it actually mostly worked. It got a bit better when Donner left.
jimmy: Well, anything left to add on Superman II Redux?
tomk: Not really, no.
I think we need something different. Like, maybe just a giant space monster with no personality of its own.
tomk: No, he has a personality.
A giant found on an asteroid could wreck untold havoc on Metropolis. Can Superman stop it in time?
jimmy: I thought the monster was very Doomsday like, especially when chained to the asteroid. But with an obvious Jack Kirby flare to the design.
tomk: Yeah, but he didn’t seem particularly evil or anything. Like, if he’d been more or less left alone, he maybe wouldn’t have caused any problems.
jimmy: Not evil, but I don’t agree with the left alone statement. He caused all sorts of havoc simply absorbing all the heat/energy or whatever that he could find. Hence his creators strapped him to an asteroid and shucked him out into space.
tomk: True. He wasn’t harmless, but attacking him just made him stronger.
jimmy: Don’t tell The General.
tomk: Clearly a man from the Thunderbolt Ross School Of Monster Interaction.
jimmy: Shoot missiles first, ask questions later.
tomk: Who said anything about asking questions?
jimmy: “Where’s the rest of my missiles?” is a question.
tomk: “Monster ate ’em, sir!” is the usual answer.
jimmy: Quite a diverse job description he has. Leading a mission to Armageddon an asteroid and then ground commander vs the monster.
tomk: Do you tell a man with Charles Napier’s voice “no”?
jimmy: Excellent point.
tomk: I mean, he was also the Hulk. That wasn’t Lou Ferigno growling on that show.
He recorded some general growling, like, one time, and it got reused for every episode.
jimmy: Wow. I suppose you’re going to tell me next that Lou Ferigno wasn’t really green.
So I have a few points. Some good, some bad. Point the first: the sound effects while Superman worked on space was very well done. And by well done, I mean non-existent, which is great since sound doesn’t travel in space.
tomk: Yes, that is great.
Supes could teach some TIE fighters a lesson on that.
jimmy: Point two. They creature falls from space…and lands directly on Metropolis?
tomk: If he landed in the ocean, he becomes Aquaman’s problem. We aren’t ready for that yet.
I know the whole genre is built on suspending disbelief, but I thought that was a bit eye-rolling.
tomk: Look, psychos go to Gotham. Alien powerhouses go to Metropolis.
It keeps things running effectively.
jimmy: If he chose to go to Metropolis, fine. But the creature falls from space, could literally land anywhere on Earth…smack dab in the middle of Metropolis.
tomk: Why do you think Superman was able to get out to it in space so fast? Shortest distance between two points is a straight-line. And if it was going to land on Gotham Supes probably gives zero figs.
jimmy: I know, I know
tomk: Heck, he’d probably get a medal if he landed on Gotham.
tomk: Should we ask how the General got back to Earth and out with those tanks so quickly?
jimmy: No, probably not.
Third, so, it’s all well and good that they stopped the creature…but then what do they do with him?
tomk: Yeah, I noticed that too. The episode just…ended. Giant frozen in the reservoir, and then what? Shoot him back into space? Phantom Zone? Leave him there?
jimmy: Not to mention that reservoir is completely poisoned now.
tomk: Oh, who needs fresh water?
jimmy: He prefers salt.
tomk: In the old comics, Aquaman had to be exposed to some kind of water, no matter how little, once an hour to stay alive.
jimmy: That may still be true to some degree in the modern era, but I don’t read much Aquaman. Though in the Justice League movie it looks like he’s replaced water with beer.
tomk: I think that one went the way of Green Lantern’s yellow weakness. But I remember a Silver Age story I read where Aquaman and Aqualad were pursuing some crooks on land who kept getting them in trouble of drying out. Even in the desert, Aquaman found water in places like inside cacti and the radiator of an old, abandoned car. And then in town, he set off a sprinkler system. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of water he used or how much. He just had to be hit with some.
jimmy: I knew I read something recently that was centered around Aquaman’s need for water, but that was during Convergence which featured (I think) a pre-Zero Hour Aquaman.
tomk: That might be it. I can’t think of a single modern day Aquaman issue that covered that need for water, at least one based around a clock.
But how would Aquaman have beaten the Prometheon?
jimmy: School of killer whales, I guess.
tomk: Well, maybe Aquaman has an idea how to get that guy back out into space because no one else offers one. Stupid, sexy Flanders.
jimmy: How did the original creators get him out there?
tomk: Stupid, sexy creators.
tomk: We’ve devolved into a parody of a joke of a riddle of a conversation at this point. Anything else you wish to add, Jimmy?
jimmy: No, I think we’re done. Solid episode from an action standpoint, but it felt like a “fill in issue” if it was a comic book. And it really suffers when you start analyzing it and asking the questions that we did, particularly about the ending.
tomk: Well, maybe we should see how Superman does when he has to work with another hero.
Superman and the Flash are having a race for charity to see who truly is the Fastest Man Alive! But what happens when the Weather Wizard uses the race to attempt to blackmail the world?
jimmy: I think this might be the first team up of this kind that we’ve seen. Batman teamed up with Robin and Batgirl on occasion, but they are core parts of the Bat-Family. Superman here teams up with a character completely “outside the scope” of the show.
tomk: And he’s more or less an equal. Not an adversary like Lobo, or a bad guy with no where else to turn. The Flash could just be guest cameo from his own show.
jimmy: When I thought about it more, Lobo did come to mind, but he was more like one of the many villains that have shown up in both series. It did feel a bit odd that suddenly Flash is part of the “universe” and everyone knows him after never being mentioned before. But I guess Batman existing establishes that there are things going on elsewhere in the world and Gotham/Bats has only gotten a passing reference so far on STAS.
tomk: Yeah, the Flash would have looked out of place on Batman’s show. Remember how Zatanna turned out?
jimmy: Very true. And unlike Batman who never seems out of place in any situation, the reverse is not true for other heroes trying to integrate into the Bat-Family. That’s how we end up with things like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.
tomk: That and, I am assuming, a lot of drug use.
jimmy: Did you find it actually seemed to take Flash and Supes a LONG time to make a revolution around the world? If they did 100 laps it would take forever. (Unless each cut scene was from a different lap, but I think they only got in 5 before the “plot” started.)
tomk: Hey, you try running around the world and see how long it takes you!
jimmy: Well, I know I would go in a straight line…
tomk: You gotta follow the Great Circle. A straight line isn’t so straight!
jimmy: Well, I’m sure the Great Circle doesn’t go under an overpass and then back over it.
tomk: It’s really easy to get lost if you’re moving too fast to read a road sign.
jimmy: Haha, fine.
tomk: But I did hear something…the music playing when the Flash first arrives on the scene sounds an awful lot like the score Danny Elfman wrote for the 90s live action TV version.
jimmy: Really? I wouldn’t remember that, but would be an awesome throwback.
tomk: Give it a listen.
Of course, the ends credits for that video tell me Shirley Walker was involved for both STAS and The Flash there.
jimmy: The fact that you could remember and recognize that is very impressive. It is definitely very Elfman.
tomk: I was a fan of the old show when it ran. Heck, I recognized that every one of the main cast (plus Mark Hamill) has appeared on the new Flash series at least once.
jimmy: I watched it too, doesn’t mean I remember it. 🙂
tomk: Well…maybe I just dug Danny Elfman’s score.
jimmy: And that my memory is horrible. But back to this episode of Batman…
tomk: Yes. I was surprised when Ra’s al-Ghul woke up that mummy.
And then it challenged Superman and the Flash to a race around the world.
jimmy: I sense you are teasing me, but that sounds like the best episode ever.
tomk: Well, combine one of the screwier Batman episodes with a fairly good Superman episode, and that’s what you get.
jimmy: Back on point, while powerful, Weather Wizard was totally lame and I struggled to figure out how his machine worked.
tomk: Aw come on. Miguel Ferrer helped build Robocop!
Besides, you never questioned Toyman’s living ooze stuff.
jimmy: Did he really help build Robocop? I’m sure he did nothing hands on.
tomk: Well, he got the funding. That helped.
jimmy: I think Weather Wizard is a core Flash villain, but was he this lame in the comics?
Yeah, that is about par for the course for a Silver Age Flash foe.
Just a guy with a gimmick weapon that probably defies multiple laws of physics.
tomk: Actually, I wanted to add something about Miguel Ferrer. This isn’t the only time he’ll voice a character for this show, but I’m wondering what happened to that guy. He used to pop up all over the place in various cartoon voices or sci-fi supporting roles, and I can’t remember the last time I saw or heard him in anything.
Then again, he didn’t seem to have the same career his cousin had.
jimmy: Looks like he still does a lot, but most of it is crap. Like Iron Man 3.
Who’s his cousin?
tomk: Oh, some guy. Played Batman once. Clooney or something.
Ah, yes, Ferrer was in Iron Man 3…
jimmy: Batman you say? Keaton, Keaton, Kilmer, Bale, Bale, Bale, Affleck. Nope. Never heard of him.
tomk: You forgot West.
jimmy: I know; I just went modern.
tomk: Well, Ferrer’s cousin’s probably only made, like, eleven or twelve films. A lot of aquatic stuff on the ocean.
jimmy: Well, hopefully whatever plans he had were better than Weather Wizard’s.
tomk: Oh, I dunno. Using hurricanes for blackmail isn’t completely terrible as supervillain plots go. I just wonder about his brother. What did he think Mark was going to use the weather wands for?
jimmy: Shorter winters?
tomk: I would have thought maybe a way to fight droughts, but what do I know? He had to give it a hurricane setting.
jimmy: Sometimes you just do things because your big brother told you to.
tomk: Well, thanks for that tip, George Orwell.
jimmy: Not that big brother.
Um, so, actor Charlie Schlatter voiced the Flash here. The show doesn’t say which one it is, but it is Wally West on Justice League. Schlatter will voice the Flash again, but not on Justice League. He’ll reprise the role for The Batman.
jimmy: I was wondering if it was Wally or Barry. I assumed Wally since Barry was quite dead at this point in the comics and had been for awhile.
tomk: The Flash is eventually revealed to be Wally on Justice League, though it takes a while, and the character has some Barry-ish traits, though not many. The flirting with Lois will be dialed up to eleven on the next show.
jimmy: Hopefully he doesn’t live up to his name…with the ladies…youknowwhatI’msaying?
tomk: Sadly, yes.
That was even a concern at one point on the current Flash series.
Thanks for Watsoning that up for us, Jimmy.
jimmy: That’s what I’m here for.
tomk: Should I ask if you have more to add, or do you want to do more stuff that makes the sleaze run strong in this conversation?
jimmy: Hmm, well I was wondering if they could have used the trackers to attempt to find Weather Wizard instead of destroying them?
tomk: But then he would know they were coming.
Even if they got out of his trap where they ran through the desert like the goddamn Roadrunner.
jimmy: Meep meep
tomk: Well, the Weather Wizard should have known better than to do all his shopping for that machine’s parts from the Acme Catalog.
jimmy: So to clue up, you are much more up on your DC lore…who has generally won this race in the comic incarnations?
tomk: The Flash.
In the earliest few races, when they ran for charity, they’d tie.
But the first time it actually counted, Flash won by a nose.
jimmy: I like that. Superman shouldn’t be the best at everything.
tomk: Well, if the Flash isn’t the fastest man alive, he kinda loses his whole schtick.
But when we get to Justice League, we’ll see more of the Flash. And that speed thing comes in handy sometimes.
jimmy: Well, let’s take another step forward towards that.
NEXT TIME: Jimmy and Tom will return to discuss another trio of episodes, featuring two new villains and one classic Superman foe! Be back soon for “Livewire,” “Identity Crisis,” and “Target”.