Going Through The DCAU Part Forty-Nine

Jimmy and Tom can’t stop talking about cartoons involving guys in tights.  But after finishing off the different Batman series, it’s time to return to Superman the Animated Series.

This time, they’re talking the episodes “Where There’s Smoke,” “Knight Time,” and “New Kids in Town”.

“Where There’s Smoke”

New villain Volcana may not be the real villain when she crosses paths with Superman! Can the Man of Steel set her on the right path?

jimmy:  And we’re back to Superman. Ho hum. 🙂

tomk:  He does seem rather dull after all the Batman material, doesn’t he?

jimmy:  At least Volcana of Project: Firestorm is around to heat things up. Man, they just didn’t even try to come up with names this episode.

tomk:  She’s a new character. You know how that works out. If this weren’t the last season, she might have been (they hoped) the next Harley, Mercy, or Live Wire.

jimmy:  She’s definitely not just a female Johnny Storm.

tomk:  True, though why fire powers let a person automatically fly has always been a bit beyond me.

jimmy:  I wasn’t sure she could fly. The first scene where she seems to fly, it ends up with being some kind of fire doppelganger that she sent at Superman while she snuck away. Later we see her “flying” by shooting flames into the ground and riding them up like a wave. And if she can fly, the ending with her being stranded on a deserted island makes even less sense.

tomk:  She shot flames between her wide open legs to fly. And she did fly ahead or form her body out of fire at one point chasing that Nick Fury wannabe.

jimmy:  Are we sure he was a wannabe? That guys is in everything.

tomk:  Well, he did have a sidekick in a derby hat. That guy was probably some kind of Dum Dum.

jimmy:  Heh. And she shopped at the same tailor as Superman…fire retardant clothing.

tomk:  What there is of it, yes.

That was some headscarf she was wearing in the beginning to hold back all that hair.

jimmy:  Ha. I thought the same thing.

tomk:  But this episode features Nick Fury and, uh, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters?

jimmy:  Yes. It sure did. Member it wasn’t just the names they mailed in this episode.

tomk:  Does that make Jimmy Olson Spider-Man?

jimmy:  He did have a decent case of Parker Luck with the film in his camera. And that “private collection” joke. Jimmy needs a date.

tomk:  Yeah, nothing creepy about a private collection.

Or just trying to get a photo of a hot redhead. Not sure Spidey knows anything about that…

jimmy:  Are you talking about Mary Jane? It’s not like they were married or anything.

tomk:  Well, there was always Firestar.

Who, originally, did look a lot like MJ…

jimmy:  Not to mention Jackpot.

tomk:  Face it Jimmy, someone hit the Jackpot.

jimmy:  Apparently we don’t feel we did with this episode since we’ve talked more about Marvel than Superman.

tomk:  There’s not much to say. Did you find Volcana to be an interesting character?

jimmy:  Not really. And they kinda just glossed over the potentially interesting parts of her back story.

tomk:  About the only thing I think is worth noting is she’s voiced by actress Peri Gilpin who, at the time this episode aired, had a supporting role on Fraiser.

She does have an appropriately smokey voice.

jimmy:  She does. Some good casting there.

tomk:  But really, Volcana seems to be maybe sympathetic, but she’s still a thief.

jimmy:  Almost in a Catwoman vein.

tomk:  And her punishment is living in a tropical paradise with Superman personally bringing her supplies.

jimmy:  Yeah. WTF?

tomk:  And Lois was limited to a small cameo providing exposition.

jimmy:  That happens now and then. I guess they only needed Jimmy talking pictures of one hottie for his personal collection.

tomk:  Yeah, gee…

Jimmy Olson sure is a creep.

jimmy:  I didn’t think this episode was bad. Nor particularly good. I think “forgettable” is the word we’re looking for.

tomk:  We’ve seen those before. They’re hard to talk about but that’s about it.

It’s a decent adventure, but neither the story nor the animation stands out one way or the other. The villain is a bit forgettable. It just doesn’t register as much of anything.

However, speaking with a great deal of confidence, we will find the next episode more interesting.

jimmy:  Shall we move on already? I’m really not sure what more I have to say about this Marvel tribute episode.

tomk:  Me neither.

Moving on it is…

“Knight Time”

Batman is missing! It’s up to Superman and Robin to find out what happened to the Dark Knight!

jimmy:  Hey! A Batman cartoon! And you said we were done with these. Are your pants on fire?

tomk:  Batman himself is barely in it. Superman saves the day.

jimmy:  Actually, the real Batman never appears if you are counting him being in costume. Instead we get this Golden/Silver Age homage with Superman dressed as Batman.

tomk:  Good observation. I never thought of that. My take on this in part is Bruce was completely outclassed by Brainiac and this was truly a job for Superman.

Though the second and final team-up shows how Batman’s foes might outclass Superman in the right situation.

jimmy:  They weren’t much of a match here once Superman got over being caught by surprise.

tomk:  Let’s just wait and see how it turns out.

jimmy:  They had a lot of fun with Superman as Batman, but seeing “Batman” speak with Superman’s voice was jarring.

tomk:  I do like the moment when “Batman” goes to see Commissioner Gordon and we see what Superman thinks Batman is like with the chin in the air.

jimmy:  Ha, yes. And then reaching to the wrong side of the belt for the grappling hook. At least the officer with Gordon recognized that Batman looked bigger.

tomk:  Was that Montoya? She plainclothes these days, but it reminded me of her.

jimmy:  I thought it was Montoya at first too, but it didn’t fit with continuity. Unless they just messed it up.

tomk:  It doesn’t matter. Gordon was fooled. So was Bane. Bane deserved that beating.

jimmy:  I was a little surprised that both never picked up on it.

tomk:  Precise muscle control.

Plus Robin.

jimmy:  Ugh. The Super Rich Little act did make me twinge a little.

tomk:  Super Ventriloquism used to be an actual power Superman had.

jimmy:  I know. Ugh.

tomk:  But we saw Superman deal with Roxy Rocket. Didn’t you comment on that potential encounter the first time we talked about her?

jimmy:  I did! See, I know what I’m talking about…sometimes.

Though Batman had to chase her around for a full episode, only took Superman about 3 minutes.

tomk:  He had other bad guys to make look foolish.

jimmy:  Also, who thinks it’s a good idea to try their luck as a robber in Metropolis?

tomk:  Roxy was always all about the thrill of the chase.

jimmy:  Fair enough.

tomk:  I didn’t see Catwoman trying it!

jimmy:  Catwoman has some sense.

tomk:  This would be about where you remind me you hate the redesigned Riddler.

jimmy:  God, do I ever. At least Robin made him look like a fool.

tomk:  Doesn’t that look already make him look like a fool?

jimmy:  Yes. Seriously, why? And I don’t really like Bane’s design either, but at least it’s not embarrassing.

tomk:  Any other character design you want to bring up? Gordon looking sickly? Bruce smiling funny? Gotham’s constant red skies? The Joker in general? The lack of Aquaman?

jimmy:  Heh. Gordon does look sickly but I guess we covered that. I like how Robin tried to show Superman that there was something wrong with Bruce because Bruce was smiling.

tomk:  Not everyone would pick up on my that. Clark didn’t.

jimmy:  Well, they’re not exactly buddies. Superman says as much early in the episode. So him not being familiar enough to know that Bruce is acting weird is no surprise.

tomk:  But then he makes a friendly comment at the end about Bruce not being a loner, so they might be growing closer as friends.

jimmy:  For sure. The relationship is definitely building. Even rescued Bruce at the end seems more chipper than usual.

tomk:  He still has leftover Brainiac Happy Nanite Juice in his system.

jimmy:  That’s probably it.

tomk:  Were you satisfied by Clark’s interactions with the Batman cast? His Batman seemed politer to Gordon, apologizing for lateness and thanking him for his help…

jimmy:  And not just disappearing on the rooftop when Gordon’s back was turned. I was satisfied. It seemed like Superman doing an impression of Batman.

tomk:  A slow to anger hero who doesn’t get rough until he has to, but watch out when he does?

jimmy:  “Kick over the desk.”

tomk:  Penguin hadn’t made him mad yet.

Bane on the other hand…

jimmy:  Well, when you drop one of the heads from Easter Island on a guy…

tomk:  That’s disrespectful on so many levels.

jimmy:  So, I was surprised that Robin was unaware who Ra’s al Ghul was.

tomk:  Well, it’s not like Ra’s came back for the new episodes.

jimmy:  Fair enough, but you’d thinks Bats would educate him.

tomk:  Yeah, well, somehow Bats never got around to the immortal eco-terrorist.

Ok, we’ve covered all the Batman characters. But when did you figure out Brainiac was involved?

jimmy:  Probably when Brainiac showed up. 🙂

Maybe when the nanobots were discovered? I don’t recall. But it wasn’t like, say, a Scarecrow episode where I sat there 15 minutes knowing what was going on.

tomk:  It was a rare mystery for Superman to solve. Usually he knows what he’s up against from the start.

jimmy:  When in Gotham…

tomk:  But I think the big takeaway here is either some things need a Superman to deal with them. Or Supes gets along better with sidekicks.

jimmy:  I think both are true. I think Superman views them more potentially as partners than sidekicks the way Bruce does. Especially with Supes being the orange fish out of water and needing a lot of Robin’s help along the way.

tomk:  It is an undercover Superman. He doesn’t normally do that. Unlike Batman, Superman wants to be seen by everyone.

jimmy:  Speaking of Superman characters, we haven’t seen much of Lois since the switch back.

tomk:  Well, Lois Lane is far too important to disappear for long. Heck, she appears quite a bit in Justice League.

jimmy:  Somebody’s gotta need rescuing.

tomk:  Yes, and this time that person was Batman.

jimmy:  It happens.

tomk:  Well, this was overall a good, fun episode. Did you have anything else to add, Jimmy? Should Superman spend more time in Gotham?

jimmy:  Only so we can see more Batman.

tomk:  I think I am sensing a pattern. What about a different team-up?

jimmy:  As long as it’s not Aquaman.

tomk:  Not Aquaman.

Though Lois sits this one out too…

“New Kids in Town”

A familiar foe from the future shoots through time to kill teenage Clark Kent well before he became Superman! Can three members of the Legion of Superheroes help Clark survive?

jimmy:  Well, I think that’s a first. An episode without a single line from the main voice actor.

tomk:  If you mean Tim Daly, then yes.

Aside from Brainiac and the Kents, that weren’t any regular cast members to be heard from.

Though now I am wondering if Conroy had any lines in that last BTAS episode before the redesign where Batgirl, Robin, and Catwoman were the main characters and Batman sat most if not all of the episode out.

jimmy:  I don’t recall for sure, but his name is listed in the credits online.

tomk:  If he was, he was barely in it.

But hey, the Legion!

jimmy:  Looks like he was in the opening dream sequence.

But yeah, the Legion. Where every character is Blank Boy or Blank Girl. 🙂

tomk:  Not true!

There was also Invisible Kid, Matter-Eater Lad, and Shrinking Violet.

jimmy:  Yeah, but they aren’t called out by name.

tomk:  True…

And let’s be fair…everyone eats matter.

jimmy:  Haha.

And called out by Brainiac…for the second episode in a row.

He’s becoming the Joker of STAS.

tomk:  Well, yes, but looking over the remaining episodes, we won’t see him again until Justice League.

Lex is still the Joker. Sort of. Especially when he’s played by Jesse Eisenberg.

jimmy:  It takes a while to come back from being thrown into the sun.

tomk:  But he comes back as something that seems to require the entire Justice League to beat at times.

jimmy:  Brainiac is one of those characters that is as powerful as the plot needs him to be.

tomk:  Funny. So is Superman.

jimmy:  Touché.

tomk:  So let’s see who the Legion sends after him…

Cosmic Boy. He controls magnetism. That’s pretty handy all told.

Chameleon Boy. He can change shapes. Not as useful if he can be knocked out while taking the shape of a wall.

Saturn Girl. The telepath…against a robot. Uh, yeah.

jimmy:  Well, they needed Saturn Girl to fix the space time continuum. But otherwise…it seemed more like the trio just happened by the Brainiac attack and less so that they were sent to deal with anything in particular.

tomk:  Too bad Ultra Boy or Mon-El wasn’t handy.

jimmy:  And isn’t Brainiac a Legionnaire?

tomk:  Brainiac 5 is. He’s a descendant.

But Ultra Boy had a lot of Superman-like powers. He could only use one at a time though…

Mon-El was a Daxamite. They’re like Kryptonians, only lead weakens them instead of kryptonite.

jimmy:  Hence his arch nemesis, HP Pencil Lad.

tomk:  Most stories say that lead exposure to a Daxamite can’t be cured by moving away from it, so that’s a problem.

Actually, Mon-El was originally from the same time as Superboy. The Kents found another boy in a spaceship who had amnesia and seemed to have powers like Superboy. Since it was Monday, Clark gave him the Kryptonian name of Mon-El. Then Clark exposed the kid to Kryptonite for different reasons depending on the story, but the lead box he kept it in poisoned the lad and they had to put him in the Phantom Zone so he wouldn’t die. He was more or less cured and let out in the Legion’s time a thousand years in the future. So, really, Clark is a crappy brother.

jimmy:  Lol.

So…the Kent’s found another boy…in another spaceship?

tomk:  Yup.

It was the Silver Age of comics. Those things lived off coincidence.

jimmy:  Like a young boy with great power not being responsible and letting a crook get away that would come back to haunt him?

tomk:  Yeah, but if I remember right, the first time that story was told, Clark was jealous of his new brother and that was what led to the kryptonite.


Mon-El also liked giant buttons for his cape.

jimmy:  Well, we all know Superman can be a dick.

tomk:  No arguments here. There was a whole website on that. And the Internet wouldn’t lie.

But using the Legion on STAS makes sense. The Legion started as a Superboy spin-off series. Every so often, Superboy would see a special lamp in his room flash a few times (as happens in this episode when Brainiac taps into the power at the Kent farm), and that would be a signal he had to fly a thousand years into the future to help the Legion with something.

jimmy:  I’m not super familiar with the tales of Superboy and the Legion, but this was a nice nod to the past.

tomk:  I like reading old Silver Age DC Comics, but I can’t handle old Superman material. Much of it works off Superman tricking people. The Legion was done by the same writers and artists, so they did the same thing. As a result, my Legion knowledge is a bit more limited than, say, what I know about Batman or the Flash.

jimmy:  So the Legion can be dicks too.

tomk:  It’s why they got along so well with Superboy.

Though, fun fact: Marvel based the Shi’ar Imperial Guard off the Legion.

jimmy:  Obviously.

tomk:  No, really. All the Imperial Guardsmen line up to a Legion member. Gladiator is Mon-El.

jimmy:  Sure, sure. What’s next? Man-Thing is a rip-off of Swamp Thing? Green Arrow of Batman. C’mon Tom.

tomk:  Now hold on…Swamp Thing might have ripped off Man-Thing.

jimmy:  Heh. Seriously though, I never knew that. But not unusual for the Big Two to “borrow” from each other.

tomk:  In this case, it might have been a gentle ribbing. The Legion in their heyday were rather popular. Heck, they were allowed to age.

Which is nice, since otherwise it suggests that the universe is happy to let a bunch of underage kids do all the stuff that puts them in mortal peril on a regular basis.

jimmy:  Yeah. Imagine. Kids fighting street crime or becoming kings.

tomk:  The kids to which you refer don’t work alone or outright suck. When Joker gets loose, no one expects Robin to go out and handle it by himself every time.

jimmy:  That’s fair of one Robin. In the Legion’s time, are there super powered adults heroes as well?

tomk:  Nope.

Well, bad guys.

Actually, in many cases, the different members of the Legion just have the natural powers and abilities of their homeworld, and unless they come from Krypton, there are a lot more people like them back home, but there aren’t any adult heroes. The closest they come to adult heroes are the Science Police, who are basically just cops.

jimmy:  So they have little choice then to rely on a bunch of teens.

tomk:  More or less.

And old Legion stories show just about every kid wants to join the team because it is the coolest thing ever.

Now, granted, Silver Age stories were a lot less…lethal. The one time I can remember off-hand where they promised a Legionnaire would die, it looked like one of the regular cast but turned out to be Chameleon Boy’s pet glob of shapeshifting protoplasm in disguise, and he just got another one.

But the only adult heroes from the Legion’s time were the relatively recent Justice League 3000.

And when that book was running between Flashpoint and Rebirth, the Legion wasn’t being published and didn’t even seem to exist anymore.

jimmy:  I can’t remember if I read that or not. Maybe only the first issue.

tomk:  I read the first trade. It wasn’t bad.

jimmy:  I’ll add it to the List That Can Be Seen From Space.

tomk:  I can’t endorse the entire run for this one. Stick to Spider-Man 2099.

jimmy:  I always want that to be better than it is. With that great costume (which they changed…WTF?) and Peter David writing. Alas, we’ve wondered far off topic. Back on topic, Clark put on quite a reckless display of his powers in his game of one on one.

tomk:  Clark is a dick.

jimmy:  lol

tomk:  You said so yourself.

jimmy:  At least here he can blame it on being a teenager. And he makes some comment about “going through changes”, so I get the feeling he is only starting to manifest his powers.

tomk:  True, and we saw that in the pilot.

But he could have learned more responsibility for powerful things, like he would have to have learned given all the shotguns in the Kent house.

jimmy:  Ma and Pa were kicking ass!

tomk:  Ma was right. Pa did need something better than a shovel.

jimmy:  Ma is always right.

She knows when the Dukes of Hazard is on.

tomk:  But I think we learned something here: Clark may have been a bit of a dick, but everybody will try to take down the bigger dick, Brainiac.

jimmy:  Darth Vader you mean.

tomk:  I mean all kinds of things.

jimmy:  I take it they were trying to make sure we realized this was in the past, but seemed like a lot of pop culture references in this episode.

tomk:  Yeah, nothing that will date the episode for future viewers.

“Daddy Impossible, what’s a Duke of Hazard?”
“Listen, Moosely, some things we don’t wanna talk about, like what we did in the culture war or the Dukes of Hazard.”

jimmy:  lol, Exactly, which I’m sure is a reason they usually avoid it. Seemed unnecessary.

tomk:  Speaking of references, the Legion got some noteworthy voice actors in the form of Jason Priestly, Melissa Joan Hart, and Chad Lowe.

jimmy:  Yes, that added to the nostalgia of it all too. Are you sure you didn’t hate this episode?

tomk:  It wasn’t nostalgia for those actors at the time the episode was made, and I appreciate something that is well done from the past for the reason it was well done and not just from my past.

And this was a nice tribute episode to the Legion and Superboy’s connection to it, even if no one called him Superboy.

jimmy:  Which is good, since he never was in this continuity.

tomk:  And even if he was, he wouldn’t remember it now.

jimmy:  They also give some gentle ribbing to “glasses as disguise” and “red underwear on the outside”.

tomk:  See, in the 80s, those ideas aren’t hip like they are now.

But after the general blahness of Volcana, did the next two episodes seem better to you, Jimmy? We got some nice team-ups out of them.

jimmy:  Yes, definitely. My only “concern” with the continuous team-ups is that it seems like they were running out of ideas for how to handle Superman individually and keep him fresh.

tomk:  In that case, you will be pleased to know the next batch of three has no team-ups with other heroes.

You can see for yourself how fresh he stays.

jimmy:  Fair enough. And not that I dislike the team ups, but that’s just a general feeling I get from them.

tomk:  I just see it more as Timm and Dini and Co. wanted to expand the DCU while they had the chance. They didn’t know Justice League was coming.

jimmy:  That’s a good point.

tomk:  And looking over the remaining episodes…three more team-ups, not counting Supergirl, and one of them is Batman again.

jimmy:  And maybe next time Lois will show up.

tomk:  I think it’s likely. Shall we move on?

jimmy:  Yes, before Saturn Girl wipes our memory and we’re back to BTAS episode one.

Next Time:  We’ve got more Superman on the way as Tom and Jimmy cover the episodes “Obsession,” “Little Big Head Man,” and “Absolute Power”.

tomk74

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

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