Tom and Jimmy are back with more cartoon talk! This time around, we’re covering the Superman the Animated Series episodes “Ghost in the Machine,” “Father’s Day,” and…wait, that’s it? Usually they cover three episodes! There better be a darn good reason for that!
There’s a darn good reason for that. Read on to find out.
“Ghost in the Machine”
Brainiac has kidnapped Lex Luthor! Can Mercy and Superman find him before Brainiac’s new body is finished?
jimmy: Good episode. You don’t often seen Luthor in this position. Subservient and groveling on his knees for some vending machine donuts.
tomk: The sight of a disheveled Luthor gobbling chocolate bars disturbed even him.
jimmy: Until he had finally had enough and wasn’t going to take it any more. But by then it was too late. How much did Brainiac even need him if Luthor never finished and he was still able to use his new body.
tomk: You may want to remember this episode for down the road. Just sayin’.
But my guess is Brainiac can only do so much with Earth technology. Some human hands are needed for the better fine tuning. Besides, he was using Luthor’s rejects lab.
Not exactly the high end stuff.
jimmy: It made sense, but when Luthor stops and is like “you can kill me, but I’m not going to finish helping you, so you’re screwed”; and Brainiac is just like, “meh, whatever” and downloads himself into the new body with no issues, it just seemed like it was all for naught. Granted, Luthor got him closer than the Useless Bots ever could.
tomk: Luthor got him close enough he could finish himself. Arguably, that was the only reason Brainiac didn’t put up much of a fuss when Luthor reached that point.
jimmy: I thought it was a bit sloppy that once Brainiac downloaded into his new body he lost all control over Lexcorp systems. Seems like he should have been able to control both.
tomk: Well, we can’t make things too simple for Superman.
jimmy: Actually, this seemed to make things very simple. Just shoot him with the gun prototype and just get the hell out of the way. Oh, and save Mercy, because, you know.
tomk: Yes, this episode is probably the best Mercy episode you’ll ever see in explaining her and her undying loyalty.
jimmy: She is changed by the end, but likely not much touched upon going forward.
tomk: Not really, but she actually says something about where she came from and why she’s so loyal: Luthor brought her up from the gutter.
jimmy: Yes, and I understand the loyalty. But the shine comes off him big time when he doesn’t save her at the end and only looks after himself. Which was a huge cliche, as was the beginning with the failed weapons test. Have we learned nothing from ED-209?
tomk: Robocop did. Robocop 2, the cyborg not the movie, not so much.
jimmy: I’m picking on this show a lot, but I did like it. It just has lots to pick on. 🙂
How about this one, why didn’t Clark just throw the missile that was fired at his apartment instead of trying to fly away with it?
tomk: Where does it go if he just tosses it away? Do you want to “accidentally” blow up Jimmy Olson’s place?
tomk: Man, that’s going to be fun to transcribe…
jimmy: But seriously, just fire it straight up into space.
tomk: That’s Krypto’s signal to play fetch.
jimmy: Heh. And again I’ll ask, how friggin high are the roads in Metropolis? They are higher than skyscrapers. That doesn’t seem like a good idea.
tomk: It’s the City of Tomorrow. The Big Apricot (actual nickname from Superman comics). They built it over the ruins of Gotham City after General Zod’s gravity machine was finished with it in Man of Steel, and only having a Martha-sized coincidence will save anyone.
jimmy: The Big Apricot? Seriously?
I thought it was a joke the first time I saw it. Then I saw it a few more times.
jimmy: Obviously a play on The Big Apple, which would sound just as odd if we weren’t so used to it.
tomk: Well, where is Metropolis anyway?
jimmy: Right near you
tomk: Yeah, I heard Delaware once before, and Gotham was in New Jersey. An issue of The Flash actually said Central and Keystone Cities are on opposite sides of the Missouri river in different states like real world Kansas City.
jimmy: It’s always been an odd structure for the cities since Metropolis and Gotham are basically Manhattan. And sometimes you’ll see like the Statue of Liberty in Metropolis, but there is also a proper Manhattan in the DCU as well.
tomk: We saw a similar statue in Gotham a few times.
tomk: And remember, or don’t, Batsoup had the two cities across a bay from each other.
jimmy: Are they generally considered to be that close together in the comics?
tomk: Well, maybe. Both are probably meant to be major East Coast cities. It’s not like their state is ever mentioned all that often.
jimmy: Yeah. I know they are close together, but not sure about bordering. And isn’t the majority of Gotham usually treated as an island so it can be isolated for things like No Man’s Land and Dark Knight Rises? I don’t get the feeling Metropolis is an island, though obviously coastal.
tomk: Metropolis does have a harbor.
And a colorful neighborhood where Luthor grew up in some continuities called Suicide Slums. He may have known Perry White back then.
jimmy: Well, we’ve gotten significantly off track. Anything else show specific stand out to you?
tomk: Many Silver Age comics show Lex Luthor and Brainiac often have a special partnership they use to take down Superman.
This may be a first version of that even if Luthor’s role in the story was less than willing.
jimmy: Well, Brainiac was also seeking some semblance of revenge against Luthor.
tomk: True, but we’ll see this episode has a lot more significance down the road than it appears to, and I mean way down the road. I suspect this episode, when they made it, was meant to showcase more of Mercy than we’d seen up to that point, to plant a seed of doubt in her that may never come to fruition since she never really gets the same level of spotlight again.
jimmy: Agreed. And Luthor does end up with that Brainiac body to study, so I can see how it could get tied back in later.
tomk: Yeah, I mean, as the DCAU progresses, the writers got really good at tying things together, and this is an episode that may not have meant much when they made it but accounted for a lot more later.
As opposed to the next one, which was intended to mean more later from the very start.
jimmy: Shall we check it out?
tomk: I think we should.
The brutish alien Kalibak wants one thing: to kill Superman! Will Superman survive this sudden, vicious attack?
tomk: I think about fifteen of this episode’s twenty-two minutes was a brawl between two aliens.
jimmy: There was no shortage of action that’s for sure.
tomk: Superman can slam cars together with the best of them.
jimmy: I get the feeling that regular strength Superman would have had little trouble with Kalibak.
tomk: I dunno. Kalibak is no wimp.
jimmy: Maybe the comic book Kalibak. I don’t think this version could beat a Klingon.
tomk: He puts up a good fight here. He doesn’t even really slow down until Supes tosses him to the suburbs.
And yes, I caught your reference.
jimmy: The suburbs slows down the best of us.
tomk: Actually, given where Kalibak landed seemed to be a forest of some kind, he may have sailed past the suburbs too. But he was still conscious!
jimmy: Getting back to that reference…sometimes I find it hard to tell who the guest voices are, but there was no trouble picking out Michael Dorn here.
tomk: Dorn has an incredibly distinctive voice, and he won’t change it much when we see the other character he’ll play for the show…though his Kalibak may be the better role for him. He’ll still be Kalibak for Justice League.
jimmy: Good casting choice for Kalibak for sure.
tomk: Oh, no doubt. He may have a distinctive voice, but that doesn’t make him a bad casting choice.
jimmy: Which is probably why the majority of his work that you’ve heard of the last 20 years has been in animation or video games.
tomk: It worked for Mark Hamill.
jimmy: Very true. Though who would guess the Joker was Hamill? Dorn always sounds like Dorn.
tomk: True, but now most of Hamill’s voice work sounds like the Joker to one degree or another.
jimmy: What else has Hamill done that I might know?
tomk: He was the Hobgoblin on the 90s Spider-Man cartoon.
jimmy: Really? Well, I’ll be watching that in my Epic Spider-Man Rewatch. At the rate I’m going, that’ll be somewhere around 2024.
tomk: I look forward to that year.
jimmy: Back to Supes, there’s really no match for Darkseid.
tomk: No, there is not. And he’s thematically linked here to Pa Kent.
jimmy: Who Superman never does rescue.
tomk: Sure he does…once he tosses Kalibak to the suburbs.
jimmy: We assume.
tomk: He pulled him out, then flew off to deal with Kalibak again.
jimmy: Maybe I missed that. I know there was a lot of him smashing Kalibak and by the time he turned around to rescue Pa, Kalibak was on him again.
tomk: That’s why he had to toss that shaved ape to the suburbs.
jimmy: Right checked it again; he had Pa saved before Kalibak even landed.
tomk: You know, someone needs to inform the Kents on keeping a secret identity secret. If they made the wrong hints in front of a world-class journalist, who knows what that person might figure out?
jimmy: Yeah, that was pretty dumb of them.
And I guess dumb of Lois for not catching on.
tomk: Lois can only really figure things out if it’s dumped in her lap while she’s out jogging.
jimmy: Yeah, I thought that was just too coincidental as well, but that’s how these things go.
tomk: Yeah, it’s like Lois went clear across town to a random house and then murdered Jimmy Olson’s uncle.
jimmy: Exactly. Something like that would never happen.
tomk: But given the massive brawl (which was very well done), the episode’s central theme was fathers. Superman had a good father in Pa Kent. Kalibak had a bad one in Darkseid. And Darkseid did have a very portentous line about not having any sons if you know your New Gods lore…
jimmy: I do not. And while Kalibak’s actions were villainous, it was all done to draw the attention and praise of his “father”.
tomk: And it didn’t even work.
jimmy: Well, he did violate the direct fatherly “advice”.
tomk: Desaad put him up to it. And for all that Darkseid doesn’t acknowledge Kalibak as his son, he sure didn’t take too kindly to Mannheim badmouthing Kalibak.
jimmy: True on both counts. I’m surprised Mannheim has survived on Apokolips. And Desaad definitely plays the “older brother” getting little brother in trouble with daddy.
tomk: Desaad is that type of weasel.
But, ultimately, the Darkseid plot was advanced. This episode is mostly that brawl, but we also see Superman meet Darkseid for the first time and Darkseid swats the Man of Steel away like a bug. Good setup for later.
jimmy: Yeah. They have been very restrained with teasing Darkseid along.
tomk: But it was a good tease. Superman never even laid a finger on him. That would make him a good bad guy to go forward with.
Except, of course, we won’t see him again for a little while. We have…other iconic characters to deal with in a big way first.
jimmy: Madame Xanadu???
NEXT TIME: We got a special one next. Just one. In three parts. Superman…meets Batman. Lex Luthor, the Joker, Lois Lane, Harley Quinn, and a whole lotta explosions. Be back soon for “World’s Finest”.
We told ya there was a good reason to only do two this time. Now we can spend more time on one of the big ones.