Going Through The DCAU Part Thirty-Four

It’s that time again, when Jimmy and Tom stop to talk cartoons and you can read what they thought.

This time around, we have the Superman the Animated Series episodes “Mxyzpixilated,” “Action Figures,” and “Double Dose”.

“Mxyzpixilated”

Mr. Mxzyptlk is trying (and often failing) to match wits with the Man of Steel! Can Superman find a way to make this pest go away for good?

jimmy:  Perhaps we should start with what history you know of Mr. Mxzyptlk? I know his is a magical imp from the 5th dimension and his whole having to say his name to make him disappear schtick. But not much else.

tomk:  Well, his original name may have been…McGurk.

jimmy:  I figured that had some significance.

tomk:  Yeah, he’s an old Superman foe, though rarely depicted as outright evil, more of a prankster who causes trouble. Traditionally, once he says his name backwards he’s banished back to the 5th dimension for at least 90 days (or, as he says here, three months). More recent versions have depicted him as setting a challenge and once Superman meets the challenge, he goes back and saying his name backwards was only one such example.

That can also lead to stuff like this.

jimmy:  Lol, that is awesome.

tomk:  He’s also one of Paul Dini’s favorite characters.

jimmy:  By the sounds of the various commentaries I’ve listened to, he’s not alone.

tomk:  Well, I know the video commentary they did for this episode, they basically said Mxy should have been a one-and-done, and they do bring the character back for a less impressive episode.

But really, I think this episode is sort of the “Heart of Ice” for STAS. It’s just an all-around great episode that sets a higher standard for the series going forward.

jimmy:  It is a great one, it if this is the STAS “Heart of Ice”, then this show never reaches the heights that BTAS did.

tomk:  No, probably not. I mean, the Darkseid stuff is often great, but STAS doesn’t have the same psychological complexity of BTAS. There’s some really good superhero stuff coming, but nothing on par with BTAS.

It probably helps to remember this series is aiming closer to the Silver Age Superman era.

jimmy:  That’s true. I think it is just the character of Superman. There is just so much more you can do with Bats I think. And he had a better gallery of rogues.

But back to this episode, could the casting of Gilbert Gottfried be more perfect?

tomk:  Sure. Um…Robin Williams?

jimmy:  Robin Williams playing a loud-mouthed magical cartoon character that can bend reality? He’d never pull it off.

tomk:  Probably.

On a side note, the first Superman comic I ever picked up was Superman #50, AKA Clark and Lois get engaged. May was one of the bad guys there in a storyline where Lex used some Red Kryptonite from Mxy to rob Clark of his powers. But there was a side plot where Mxy would go visit some “fantastic” new friends he’d made in a neighboring universe. Though the foursome were never quite seen on the page, it did imply heavily that Mxy is also the Impossible Man.

jimmy:  That rumor sounds vaguely familiar.

tomk:  Well, it was silly.

No sillier than ignoring some Jessica Rabbit-type girlfriend to build death machines all through the months of George and Pants.

jimmy:  As played by Sandra Bernhard in some more great casting. How Mxy hooked a girl like that I’ll never know.

tomk:  She has an Elmer Fudd fetish.

He has no fetishes at all considering all the outfits he ignores.

jimmy:  The little “fashion show” might have caused a few awkward questions/feelings for parents watching with their kids.

tomk:  Probably. Thanks, Paul Dini!

Then again, kids might not have noticed it in the same way, say, Watson would.

jimmy:  True

tomk:  Can we say Clark is actually pretty clever in this episode? He comes up with some rather novel ways to get rid of Mxy rather quickly on a routine basis.

jimmy:  I was just thinking that. Though he does have 90 days to plan it out.

tomk:  Well, the typo-laden news article surely was planned. And he did have his calendar marked.

But he whipped up the missile plume plan pretty much on the spot.

jimmy:  The skywriting one?

tomk:  Yes, that one.

He had no idea Mxy was going to change the rules.

jimmy:  True. Well, I don’t think anyone has ever accused Superman of being dim witted.

tomk:  Though, interesting to note before he takes off to lead Mxy on that merry little chase, when Mxy threatens to tell the world Clark Kent is Superman, Supes’ reply is “I’ll find another disguise.”

ANOTHER disguise.

As in, Clark is a disguise.

Kill Bill theory!

jimmy:  That’s a deep cut. And tying in Spider-Man too for bonus points.

tomk:  Deep cuts go well when referencing anything with a Hattori Hanzo blade.

jimmy:  Yes, sensei.

tomk:  So, as for Mxy, he gave the episode a very Looney Toons feel. The giant battle suit with a zipper down the crotch and the sorts of weapons Daffy Duck might use in a fight helped there. To say nothing of using the more Elmer Fuddish look he sometimes uses.

jimmy:  Very true.

One thing I wasn’t clear on, did anything that Clark sees actually happen? Like when he punches the head off McGurk, it seems the whole thing was an illusion. But say, in the office, when Lois turns into a horse, Jimmy talks about all the animals before being turned into a turtle. Was all of that happening in Superman’s head? Was everyone standing around in real life going like “uh, Clark, are you ok?”

tomk:  OK, good question.

Post-Crisis, at least, any stunt Mxy pulls immediately reverses itself once he disappears back to wherever he came from. That seems to be the case here, but only Superman (as the direct target of Mxy’s stunts) remembers anything directly. So, while they are happening, everyone notices. Once Mxy is gone, everyone but Superman forgets he was ever there. BUT, any damage caused by, say, Superman or anyone else doesn’t get fixed. Hence, Superman decapitated a priceless piece of artwork.

jimmy:  So Lois really became a horse and the Kents really thought they were chickens and then became monsters, but when it reverted back, they couldn’t remember?

tomk:  Yes.

And interesting choices on the animals. Lois Lane got turned into a horse once in the Silver Age, and Jimmy Olsen famously had a superhero alter-ego named Turtle Boy.

Plus, a flying cat with a lightning bolt on the side could be Streaky the Super-Cat.

jimmy:  I’m sure they were intentionally done that way.

tomk:  They were. They said so on the commentary track!

jimmy:  Dammit, Jimmy! The first one you haven’t listened to so far!

Well, if this show did nothing else, at least it taught me how to say (but not spell) Mxzyptlk.

tomk:  That’s why I always type Mxy.

But, in all seriousness, I do think this episode is the STAS version of “Heart of Ice”. It’s not as deep or sad or anything, but it steps up the game a bit. There are some really smart episodes coming up, few if any on par with BTAS, but they’re a step up from many we’ve seen so far.

jimmy:  Good, good. I think BTAS has had deeper lows (and higher highs). STAS is more a well oiled machine. I won’t say “going through the motions”, but they got most of the creative speed bumps out of the way with Batman. Each show is usually solid.

tomk:  I agree. But that lack of psychological depth comparing Superman and Batman’s respective shows can make conversation rough. But still, we’ve got a good thing going here. Maybe we should move on. Maybe Metallo got off the bottom of the ocean by now.

jimmy:  I’m always down for some Malcom McDowell.

“Action Figures”

Two kids living on a volcanic island with their researcher father discover an amnesiac robot washed up on shore. They think he’s a superhero, but he’s really Metallo!

jimmy:  One thing I didn’t quite get was how did Metallo even get amnesia? I guess his brain is likely the only human piece of him remaining, and who knows what one runs into walking on the bottom of the ocean for a year, but it just seemed unrealistic…he says about the cyborg on the super hero cartoon show.

tomk:  Considering all his memories are of getting punched in the face and dropped into the ocean, I think a little amnesia is quite in order.

jimmy:  His brain can still get concussed I suppose.

tomk:  Isolation does something to a man, too. We’re social creatures, and the Little Mermaid isn’t much of a conversationalist, though his fate at the end of the episode is arguably much worse.

jimmy:  Yes. But he makes an effort to remember who he is. Can Metallo die? I assume his brain is still aging, or will he be stuck in that lava flow for the rest of time?

tomk:  Without a power source, too.

Theoretically, if his brain isn’t given whatever nutrition it needs, stuff that presumably is given to him by the robotic parts of the rest of him, he’d die like anyone else.

jimmy:  Seems like a scenario where Superman would feel guilty enough to save him. But I guess if he never went and got him off the bottom of the ocean…

tomk:  That whole “kryptonite heart” makes it a little unsafe to do so.

jimmy:  Well he has/had that suit.

tomk:  That suit…that suit gets trashed in every episode he takes it out from what I recall. It only stops kryptonite radiation for about a minute in most episodes.

jimmy:  Like Watson, a minute is all he needs.

tomk:  Yeah, well, Watson is getting killed by a space rock when his protective barrier breaks.

jimmy:  He is? Oh no?

tomk:  Wow. What a typo. I’m leaving it there because I love the imagery that produces.

So, Jimmy, did the kids bother you in this episode? I was fine, but I know plenty of Batman episodes seemed a bit lackluster whenever Batman had to deal with children.

jimmy:  No, they didn’t bother me at all. Maybe because the tone of the show is generally lighter and brighter? Not sure why.

I felt bad for them there all by themselves though.

tomk:  They weren’t being set up as sidekicks for one thing.

For another, they were gullible. Metallo told them a story and they bought it.

And their dad isn’t afraid of no ghost.

jimmy:  They were kids. I don’t know if I would say they were gullible. And yes, I noticed Mr. Ernie Hudson.

tomk:  Well, kids can be gullible. Ask the Moose about Santa Claus.

jimmy:  Haha. Plus Metallo only acted heroically initially.

tomk:  Well, the kids told him to. He didn’t exactly leap into action right away.

jimmy:  They never told him to act when he saved the girl initially. Though I’m sure he could have moved before the boulders actually fell on them…but looked cooler this way.

tomk:  Well, yes, but the second save was them telling him to.

jimmy:  Fair enough. Now that I think about it, this is a cyborg that trades blows with Superman, but he couldn’t lift up that truck without tearing the front car off?

tomk:  That let the burning end land in the ocean. So, that put the fire out while burning chemicals killed all the fish and angered Aquaman.

jimmy:  Indeed, it worked out, but seemed more lucky than planned.

tomk:  I’m sure the truck driver didn’t mind the luck all things being equal.

jimmy:  True.

It doesn’t take Metallo long to resort to his old ways though.

tomk:  Well, he just needed to remember his roots.

Namely as an amoral sociopathic mercenary.

jimmy:  Who has taken a lot of head shots from Superman.

That said, previous Metallo appearances have painted him as more of a tragic figure. He was more straight up evil here.

tomk:  Yeah, I can see where the guy who tried to blow up Superman with a suit of armor he “stole” from Lex Luthor to sell to terrorists might be a tragic figure.

jimmy:  Well, more about his transformation into Metallo, losing his ability to taste, etc.

tomk:  Well, yes, but he was hardly a sympathetic figure before that.

jimmy:  Fair enough. But speaking of suits…is Superman’s indestructible?

tomk:  Nope.

Not that lead one.

jimmy:  Obviously, but why didn’t Supes end up in his birthday suit?

tomk:  Well, traditionally, the Supersuit it made of Kryptonian material that is as indestructible as he is.

Ma Kent made it from his baby blankets.

jimmy:  How do you sew indestructible materials together?

tomk:  Post-Crisis, John Byrne said all of Supes’ powers were more mental than physical, and he gave off a low-level telekinetic shield that was the source of his invulnerability and protected stuff that was generally skin tight, so anything except the cape.

How did she sew it? She unraveled it and then knitted it back together again.

jimmy:  But the cape wasn’t hurt by the lava either!

tomk:  So clearly this is not the John Byrne Superman!

jimmy:  But I guess the lava isn’t the hot kind of lava as it doesn’t melt Metallo either.

tomk:  Well, what is Metallo made of anyway?

jimmy:  Jagged Krusty-O’s?

tomk:  Sounds about right.

But he’s still stuck in rock trying to remember who he is until he gets out.

jimmy:  On a unrelated but related note: Tim Daly broke his legs skiing.

tomk:  Well, I guess he’s not the Superman we thought he was.

That or that Superman Curse thing is a lot more real than we thought.

Should we move on?

jimmy:  Let’s.

“Double Dose”

Live Wire breaks out of prison and quickly realizes she can’t take Superman alone. But she might with some help…from the Parasite!

tomk:  So, I was looking over all the future episodes, and I was surprised to learn this one is the last Parasite episode until the guy pops up again in Justice League.

jimmy:  Good. He’s a decent enough character, but seems to be used a lot, especially for a one trick pony.

tomk:  Yeah, but something else struck me about this episode, something that will be something of a Superman hallmark for the better episodes: we may not be getting the deep psychological insight into bad guys the way BTAS does, but what we get instead is a lot of smart action. Look at how Superman drove Live Wire off the first time, then came up with a plan to defeat the two that didn’t actually work, and finally that burning mop trick to stop Parasite. And the bad guys weren’t exactly idiots either…well, Live Wire wasn’t at any rate.

jimmy:  The action was good, but electricity-based characters have such a weakness for water it’s amazing that they accomplish anything.

tomk:  Which is funny, because in reality, water is not an electrical conductor.

Your body in water, that’s a conductor.

jimmy:  That’s an interesting point. Especially since Live Wire claims to be a being of pure energy, so her “body” must be an electrical construct of some kind. In which case she should have no fear of water. As opposed to say Electro, who is generally portrayed as still being human.

tomk:  Well, I chalk it up to a common misunderstanding of science.

jimmy:  Quite likely. Also not good conductors of electricity…full body condoms.

tomk:  With the strong possibility of no air holes.

jimmy:  It didn’t seem to bother Supes.

tomk:  He can hold his breath for a very long time.

Theoretically.

jimmy:  You mentioned that Parasite doesn’t show up again until Justice League. They probably ran out of ways to give him localized amnesia so that he forgot Superman’s secret identity.

tomk:  The way his powers work, he should forget over time as the whatever abilities he stole wore off.

jimmy:  Does it work like that? I know the power will fade, but he memories?

tomk:  They do in a lot of stories.

Anything he takes, up to and including memories, are temporary.

jimmy:  I’ll take your word for it as much more of a DC guru than I am. Do Rogue’s powers work in a similar way? I don’t think she gets memories though?

tomk:  She gets memories and personalities. She got Carol Danvers’ whole fighting style. Some stories say Rogue has the memories of everyone she ever touched buried deep in her subconscious.

jimmy:  I knew there was a whole thing with Carol Danvers that gave her flight, etc.

tomk:  Chris Claremont wrote a Contest of Champions 2 where the Brood Queen got Rogue to touch her and managed to take over Rogue’s body. Then Rogue touched and stole the powers of all the contest’s “winners” (Hulk, Spider-Man, Scarlett Witch, Cap, etc) and was mopping the floor with, oh, everyone else, but Carol knew Rogue’s fighting technique because it was hers and beat the possessed Rogue easily.

jimmy:  I’m sure I’ll read that some day soon for my chronology.

tomk:  You can probably skip it since Spidey is such a minor character. The main characters were more or less Iron Man, Psylocke, and a pair of new characters that promptly disappeared.

Unless you want to see the Hulk defeat Mr. Fantastic by inhaling him until Reed passes out from lack of air.

jimmy:  We’ll see. His role was minor in the first CoC as well.

tomk:  But you know whose role was really minor in CoC? Superman.

jimmy:  Haha. That’s very true.

tomk:  But really, this was somewhat classic for the Parasite. Some smarter criminal basically does all the thinking. If he wasn’t just solely interested in feeding time, it might have even worked.

jimmy:  He can’t get past wanting to keep Supes alive and captured as an endless “battery”.

tomk:  Clearly, Live Wire did not stop to think having a partner with the same goals as herself was a top priority.

jimmy:  Well, at least Superman didn’t resort to this to stop her:

tomk:  That sort of thing would be ridiculous.

But Superman doesn’t need that sort of thing. He can win a fight with a flaming push broom.

jimmy:  Well, they don’t call him Superman for nothing.

tomk:  Do you have anything else to add here, Jimmy? This was a pretty good episode, exciting, smart action scenes, but maybe not so much to talk about aside from how we aren’t really going to miss the Parasite all that much.

jimmy:  It was a good episode, but am struggling to find a whole lot to talk about.

tomk:  Yeah, me too. I really liked this one, but it doesn’t lend itself to deep conversation once you get past the idea both Superman and the bad guys were smart and figuring out new strategies to use against each other until only one was left standing.

jimmy:  Onward and upward?

tomk:  Yes. On, on, and away!

NEXT TIME:  Jimmy and Tom will have more to say in the future, specifically the episodes “Solar Power,” “Brave New Metropolis,” and “Monkey Fun”.  Be back for that soon!

tomk74

Defender of the faith, contributing writer, debonair man-about-town.

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