Going Through The DCAU Part Thirty-Eight

Jimmy and Tom are back for more with the Superman the Animated Series episodes “Hand of Fate,” “Bizarro World,” and “Prototype”.

“Hand of Fate”

Demonic entity Karkul is loose in the streets of Metropolis! Superman is going to need some mystical help for this, but what will he do when Dr. Fate claims he’s retired?!

jimmy:  Your memory is better than mine: has Fate been on this before? I don’t think so, but him and Supes were old pals.

tomk:  No, he hasn’t. Fate’s usually depicted as a member of the Justice Society, but maybe Supes knows him the same way he knew the Flash. Kind of an odd choice for a guest star at any rate.

jimmy:  Yeah, I remembered that the Flash kinda just shows up like he’s always been there as well. When I realized the show was about magic I figured Zatanna was showing up.

tomk:  No, not her. Look at it as there’s a wide world of other superheroes out there, and Fate was the best guy to call in this situation.

jimmy:  Plus, “Hand of Zatanna” is a pretty dumb episode name.

tomk:  She doesn’t look as good in a solid gold helmet.

Though the Young Justice cartoon did something with Zatanna and the Helmet of Fate…

jimmy:  Fate makes more sense and fits better in the Superman universe, but Zatanna crossed my mind as she’d been already established thanks to BTAS.

tomk:  Yes, but only as a stage magician of questionable usefulness.

jimmy:  True. No match for Carpool, or whatever his name was.

tomk:  Karkul. Actual Fate enemy. Sort of. He’s usually known as Ian Karkul and is a necromancer or something.

jimmy:  I know Fate is more of a Justice Society member as you said, but is it a common trait for him to be 100+ years old? I can see the helmet being ancient and passed through generations, but the Doctor himself?

tomk:  The Doctor? No. The helmet is generally depicted as containing the spirit of Nabu, a powerful Lord of Order. The guy underneath just gets the benefit of Nabu’s experience. Or sometimes Nabu possesses the guy. Classic Dr. Fate is an archeologist named Kent Nelson.

jimmy:  Right. So when Fate talks about defeating Karkul a century ago, someone else was probably wearing the helmet.

tomk:  Or they just changed his backstory.

jimmy:  Possible.

tomk:  Either works. Besides, this Karkul wasn’t human like he usually is.

jimmy:  Near the beginning when Jimmy shows up with his “friend” who we’ve never seen before and probably never see again and he promptly gets turned into a monster, I was thinking, “he might as well have been wearing a red shirt”. In fairness, pretty much everyone is transformed by the end of it.

tomk:  The black fellow with Jimmy?

I think he’s supposed to be minor Superman supporting character Ron Troupe, an African American reporter who works for The Daily Planet.

jimmy:  He still needed a red shirt. 🙂

tomk:  No arguments.

But the character pops up frequently in group shots at the Planet.

I was surprised Lois got to keep her hair as a monster. It’s like we couldn’t tell who she was any other way.

jimmy:  I was surprised it never ended up being everyone transformed EXCEPT Lois.

tomk:  Lois was last.

Superman never wrestled Lois. Buffalo Bill taunted it “may” have been a friend of his, but he never knew for certain who Superman’s friends were.

jimmy:  Ah, Buffalo Bill hey? I never even noticed. Not that you could understand half of what Karkull was saying.

tomk:  Well, Ted Levine got some nice billing in the closing credits, which is more than you can say about whoever Dr. Fate was.

jimmy:  What? You mean you don’t recognize, uh, this guy?

tomk:  Is he my Uncle Louie?

jimmy:  He’s not my Uncle Louie, so he may be yours!

tomk:  Well, if he’s not my Uncle Louie or your Uncle Louie, I’m gonna guess he’s Ryan’s Uncle Louie.

jimmy:  That good enough for me. Kent “Uncle Louie” Nelson Garcia.

tomk:  But really, there wasn’t much to this episode in the grand scheme of things. Weird monsters, a hero that didn’t need much encouraging to come out of retirement, and…that’s about it.

jimmy:  That strange group of Tolkien worshipers.

tomk:  Yeah, a little comedy.

jimmy:  I love when Superman is like “thanks, but no thanks” and just picks the first one up and moves her out of his way.

tomk:  I’ll give the show this much: many times when they bring in a guest star, they bring the guest star’s bad guy with them. Flash got Weather Wizard, and Fate got Karkul. Oh, and of course whenever Batman is in town.

jimmy:  At least Superman seeking out Fate makes sense here as they keep the common Superman weakness of magic.

tomk:  And it is a bit impressive that they went with a third string or so hero like Dr. Fate for a guest star.

jimmy:  You think Fate is third string?

tomk:  First string is Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, maybe a few others getting their own movies.

For second sting, you get your Nightwings, your Hawkmans, somewhat recognizable figures who can be relied on to hold down a solo series from time to time and not disappear all that often. Fate doesn’t fit that category.

jimmy:  I’d say Hawkman barely does either, but I’ll give you he’s probably more recognizable to the non-fan than Fate.

tomk:  And there are odder characters further down the ladder than Fate.

jimmy:  I was just going to mention him. 🙂

I’ve always thought Fate was a very cool looking character.

tomk:  He is. That blinged out helmet sure does attract the ladies.

jimmy:  I assume Inza is a common DC character who has a story all her own that is more interesting than fixing Superman’s suit.

tomk:  She’s Kent’s wife.

She may or may not also be Fate. There was a female Fate for a period.

jimmy:  I guess Fate could be just about anyone that can lift the helmet off the pedestal. I might be mixing up my mythos here.

tomk:  Well, in the Young Justice series, the helm had a mind of its own, and putting it on meant if you had magical powers, you probably weren’t taking it off again. Kent died, and the helm bounced around. For that show, Zatara was a member of the League so his young daughter Zatanna would eventually be a member of Young Justice. She put the helmet on in an emergency, and Zatara sacrificed his own freedom to get the helmet off by offering himself as a replacement. He never stopped being Fate after that.

Basically, the helmet took over the wearer’s personality.

And the less said about this guy, the better:

jimmy:  Ah, Zero Hour.

tomk:  Of course, writer Steve Gerber, who wrote a number of episodes for both STAS and the newer Batman adventures, was working on a new Dr. Fate, but then died before he could finish the last issue.

jimmy:  Really? Howard The Duck Steve Gerber?

tomk:  The very same.

jimmy:  Nelson’s grandnephew…I guess they were really playing up the Fate as member of old school JSA angle during those days.

tomk:  Something like that. I read the issues. The old Fate angle was only barely played up.

jimmy:  Well, not much to talk about with old Crackle or Carpool or whoever. I was wondering what would become of the burglar at the beginning as they seemed to straight up kill him, but everyone turned back to normal in the end. Though he probably got away scott free. (That’s a Miracle Man joke.)

tomk:  The burglar was standing where Karkul used to be when he was defeated. And I think you mean Mr. Miracle. Miracle Man is probably someone else.

jimmy:  Damn autocorrect, spoiling my best jokes.

tomk:  Well, the real Miracleman was who may have made Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman big hits in the United States, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

jimmy:  I meant whichever was funnier.

tomk:  Then we’ll leave it at that. Standard Superman team-up with a somewhat unexpected guest star. I think we may need to find a classic Superman foe to deal with next time.

“Bizarro’s World”

Bizzaro has returned, and after finding the Fortress of Solitude, is convinced he is Kal-El and Metropolis is Krypton! Superman better stop his imperfect clone before Metropolis suffers Krypton’s fate!

jimmy:  Bizarro am good episode.

tomk:  Am it?

Or Bizarro make bad episode.

I’m confused already. I don’t think a whole discussion in Bizarro-speak is a good idea…

jimmy:  Lol, no. You didn’t like this one?

tomk:  I did. But can Bizarro say something he liked was good?

jimmy:  He sure liked Krypto.

tomk:  Krypto has a face only a Bizarro would love.

jimmy:  That is very true.

tomk:  Besides, there was a glimpse of the real Krypto on Krypton. And as before, I choose to believe Jor-El sent that Krypto to Earth first on a prototype rocket rather than let a puppy explode.

jimmy:  Dogs never die on TV or in movies so you are probably right.

tomk:  And there was a Krypto the Super-Dog cartoon for younger fans.

jimmy:  I guess we’ll do that show last.

tomk:  I’d prefer to skip it entirely since it was aimed at small children.

jimmy:  I’m kidding. I’m a kidder.

tomk:  Margot?

jimmy:  Heh. Fitting, but thank God no.

tomk:  So, anyway, Bizarro ain’t much of an architect.

jimmy:  There’s this notion that Bizarro is simply the opposite of Superman (“Bad bye”) but this episode shows there is more to it than that. He recreates Krypton and then to make the recreation complete he has to blow it up like the real Krypton. That’s not the opposite of Superman, that’s crazy town. Bizarro is more super powered mental patient than villain.

tomk:  Or a simpleton who knows certain things in that addled brain of his, but doesn’t get the complexities. Krypton, he thinks, is his home planet, but Krypton was destroyed, so if Krypton exists, then it shouldn’t.

jimmy:  It makes a bizarre kinda sense.

tomk:  It does. In “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” Alan Moore referred to Bizarro as more a harmless nuisance than anything else. He can be manipulated somewhat easily, but he isn’t actively malicious like Metallo or something.

But on second thought, Bizarro must have been trashing a pretty upscale neighborhood if there was a doorman there.

On left: Bizarro’s Da-Da.

jimmy:  Well, we know one thing, Superman might as well just give up on those suits from Star Labs that never end up protecting him from Kryptonite. A nice touch that Bizarro wasn’t affected by the rock.

tomk:  Classic Bizarro was only hurt by blue kryptonite, which was harmless to Superman.

jimmy:  Blue Kryptonite? That’s a new one to me.

tomk:  Silver Age comics had kryptonite in every color imaginable. Blue, red, gold, and green were the big ones.

jimmy:  Were they “real” pieces of Krypton or synthetic?

tomk:  They were real as far as I know.

That Richard Donner/Geoff Johns Superman story I’ve mentioned in the past had the Superman Revenge Squad featuring Metallo armed with all four of them.

jimmy:  *comment deleted because of Rebirth spoilers*

tomk:  I’ll get to Rebirth stuff eventually. I read trades at random. Right now is a giant Iron First Omnibus.

jimmy:  Hopefully it is better than the show…which I only have half finished…

tomk:  So far…yes, easily.

jimmy:  Since we’re now talking about Iron Fist, anything else to add on Bizzaro this go round Tom?

tomk:  You know, it was a fine, fun episode, but that was about it. Maybe what Superman needs are more eventual allies.

jimmy:  My segue-senses are tingling.

“Prototype”

LexCorp’s new high tech battle suit is giving Superman needed help from a hero cop. But when the suit corrupts the wearer, can Superman stop him?

jimmy:  Obviously very different beasts but I couldn’t help but think of Venom while watching this.

tomk:  Yeah, a bit. Truth be told, Officer Mills didn’t do much for me as a character one way or the other. He was just there in what I felt was a suit Superman could have ripped apart without too much trouble if he’d actually tried.

The blindness was a nice touch, though.

jimmy:  I thought the same about the suit. And agreed about the blindness. One of several nice touches in this episode including the animation on the imprint of Superman’s face and the outline of the suit in the wall shortly after.

tomk:  Yeah, I loved that imprint detail.

I think, for me, the problem was pacing. We barely meet Mills and already we see him try to crush Superman’s hand as a means to show off. We were told he’s the most decorated cop in Metropolis, but we’ve never really seen him before. And then he’s evil. Plus, that bit with the glove matching the movements of his hand after Superman pulled it off looks like a setup for the future, but the ongoing plot line from this episode is John Henry Irons, not Mills. I don’t think we see Mills again.

Part of that problem comes down to needing to do everything in about twenty minutes, but that doesn’t really justify the episode’s pacing that much.

jimmy:  I agree with all of this. Seems like they should have made this a two parter and fleshed out the Mills story and explain how Kalibak got that John Henry Irons flesh suit.

tomk:  Yeah, I love Michael Dorn’s voice, and he’s a good choice for Irons, but it isn’t that different from Kalibak.

Maybe that’s why Irons gets recast for Justice League but Kalibak doesn’t.

But was there enough to Mills for a two parter? Maybe if he’d been a steady supporting presence all along like Sawyer or Turpin. Heck, maybe he was but he was just a forgettable background character, like Ron Troupe at the Daily Planet. Someone they kept slipping in but forgot to give a distinct personality to.

And, in case you forgot, Troupe was the guy in the Dr. Fate episode you said needed a red shirt.

jimmy:  Once again I agree, but they could have done some fleshing out. Of both Mills and Irons for that matter. He kinda comes out of nowhere with no backstory as well. We know him from the comics, where I assume there is no Mills? (He’s a rather generic character anyway.)

tomk:  I have no recollection of Mills from anywhere. He seems to be an original character, but closer to memorability as, say, the Sewer King, the suckiest suck who ever sucked, as opposed to a Harley or Live Wire.

And John Henry comes back, so he can grow more then.

jimmy:  Sure, but I wanted more of Irons here, even if he didn’t become Steel.

tomk:  So did I. I was glad of what I got. Steel was the best thing to come out of the Death of Superman.

jimmy:  Not the black suit and the mullet?!???

tomk:  Everyone picks on the mullet…

Well, better than the Cyborg Superman, Doomsday, the Eradicator in humanoid form, and even Superboy.

jimmy:  That Superboy was a jerk.

tomk:  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t hang around much anymore.

And his haircut when he first appeared was every bit as dated as that mullet.

At least Superman had the excuse of not being able to get a haircut for a while.

jimmy:  I actually don’t mind the mullet. And it’s easy to look back in hindsight as it being so 90’s, but hey, it was the 90’s. Better than the outfits they were putting the likes of Daredevil and Sue Storm in at the time.

tomk:  I still have nightmares about that Sue Storm costume.

OK, not nightmares, but moments where I wonder why anyone wanted the prototypical superhero mother to run around in a barely there costume.

jimmy:  Complete with “4” boob window.

But back to the show. Speaking of barely there…has Lex ever had a giant shark tank in his office before?

tomk:  I think the tank’s been there. But the shark may be new. Why do they keep doing stuff that just screams, “Aquaman would be so helpful right about now!”?

jimmy:  Said no one besides Watson ever. :p

tomk:  I was wondering how the water stayed if Mills blew the door off its hinges when he came in. Then we saw it was just in a couple places.

jimmy:  Let’s backtrack a bit. When Superman saves the two firefighters should he have saved the truck instead? The people on the street got very lucky that Mills showed up. If no Mills, more than 2 die on the street.

tomk:  True, but there wasn’t a baby in a carriage under the falling truck. The baby was on the roof. Superman has to prioritize.

jimmy:  Baby schmaby.

Ok, then, how far does a black light laser travel? Won’t it keep cutting what is behind the target?

tomk:  Are you using real science again, Jimmy?

jimmy:  Am I not supposed to do that? Well, this is embarrassing.

tomk:  I don’t know. I was just asking.

jimmy:  I know it’s one of those things you don’t think about, but I did, and then I couldn’t stop.

tomk:  Let’s say there’s a simple rule of thumb where if you aren’t sure if you should think about something, then you definitely shouldn’t be thinking about it.

jimmy:  Good call.

Ok, so, comic book John Henry Irons never worked for Lex right?

tomk:  No. He was an engineer working for a woman in a big arms manufacturer who never realized how destructive his weapons were, so he quit, adopted the alias Henry Johnson, and became a construction worker in Metropolis. After Superman saved his life from a fall, he decided to be more like Superman and built the first Steel armor as a tribute to Superman after the Man of Steel died fighting Doomsday.

jimmy:  That last part I remember.

tomk:  Of the four replacement Supermen, he was the only one not to call himself Superman.

jimmy:  Because he wasn’t. While the others thought they were or claimed to be. It’s nice that he’s had such longevity, even surviving that horrid Shaquille O’Neal movie adaptation.

tomk:  He was modeled after Shaq actually.

jimmy:  Don’t you ruin Steel for me, Tom!

tomk:  “Ruin”?

The movie or the character?

jimmy:  The character.

Actually, I don’t mind Shaq…as a basketball player.

tomk:  Good answer.

As it is, Steel will be back in another two episodes. Anything else about this episode cross your mind, Jimmy?

jimmy:  I think that about covers it for me. You?

tomk:  Yeah. Here too. Maybe we can have an episode about Clark Kent now.

NEXT TIME:  More of Superman as Tom and Jimmy look at “The Late Mr. Kent,” “Heavy Metal,” and “Warrior Queen”.

tomk74

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

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