As the year 2017 draws to a close, Jimmy and Tom come to the end of Superman the Animated Series.
Let’s see what they had to say for the episodes “Unity,” “The Demon Reborn,” and “Legacy” parts one and two.
An alien hivemind has taken over all the humans in Smallville! Can Superman and Supergirl stop the Unity?
jimmy: Not a particularly good episode, but nothing to be hated.
tomk: It was mostly…dumb.
Like, what sort of alien invades a town by bus?
jimmy: Hey, world domination is expensive. Sometimes you gotta start small.
tomk: How did he get the giant Unity squid to Smallville?
jimmy: Well, since he turned into one himself in the end, perhaps quite easily.
tomk: He hid it in his luggage? Or under his hat?
jimmy: Who says he had it with him? She/it could have arrived later. Maybe he was just scoping out Smallville first and getting things ready.
tomk: And then…why Smallville? Why not Metropolis?
jimmy: That’s what was in the script?
tomk: Man, I hate when the bad guys know what the script says…
jimmy: But again, start small.
tomk: Well, the small part must have inspired the Reverend. It was either Smallville or Tinytown, Nebraska.
jimmy: That place would drive you a little looney.
tomk: I suspect even alien space squids have their limits.
jimmy: The Reverend looked awfully familiar. Unless he was simply stereotypical looking evil preacher type.
tomk: He looked a little like Farmer Brown.
jimmy: Maybe that was it.
tomk: Man, Batman should have locked that guy up better.
jimmy: He probably didn’t know he was a space squid.
tomk: Batman…didn’t know something?
jimmy: I know, I barely was able to get that sentence typed out.
tomk: Batman is unhappy with you.
jimmy: Well, we won’t see him anytime soon, so I think I’ll be ok.
tomk: Yeah…uh, yeah.
jimmy: So…were the parasites in the people or grow out of the squid and attach to people or both? It’s not really consistent. And for the ones that seem to be in people, they sure can grow and regenerate awfully fast…until they can’t for whatever reason.
tomk: Until they get hit with X-rays.
So, that leads to me wondering why the hell Superman and Supergirl didn’t just scan everyone with their X-ray vision rather than just trying to punch people.
jimmy: I wondered that too, but I guess that would make for boring TV.
tomk: Was it that interesting to begin with?
jimmy: Well…no. Though they did get in a good dig at Spider-Man.
tomk: Poor Spidey.
Apparently, in the DCAU, J. Jonah Jaimeson is a comic book editor.
jimmy: And I guess Volcana got sick of living on an island paradise having Superman bring her any supplies she needed.
tomk: Well, she threw away her one chance at reform. Supergirl can take care of her.
jimmy: Not that we haven’t seen reformed villains go back to villaining before, but seemed like a bit of an odd choice, when they had so many others at their disposal.
tomk: She was someone Kara could just knock out real fast.
jimmy: Fair enough.
I also noticed that Superman, like Batman, has a strict no killing code. (Unless you are watching a movie in the DCEU.) But like Batman and Poison Ivy’s constructs, Supes has no qualms about killing the parasites and tearing the aliens apart.
tomk: Um, they got better in space jail?
jimmy: Lol. Indeed they did Tom. Indeed they did.
tomk: Who can say what constitutes a fatal blow to a hive mind alien squid monster?
jimmy: Oh, big surprise, Tom defending xenocide again.
tomk: I am all for xenocide when xenomorphs are involved.
jimmy: Speaking of putting an end to things, anything else to add here?
tomk: Um, no. It’s just a dumb episode. We need something smarter. A smarter opponent for Superman. Someone who shows where Superman’s general limitations are.
jimmy: Where would we ever find such an opponent?
tomk: We might need to check in with another hero’s rogues gallery.
jimmy: It’s the Green Goblin isn’t it?
tomk: Well, close. Shall we go see?
jimmy: Yes. Indeed we shall.
“The Demon Reborn”
Ra’s al-Ghul is dying, and he’s captured Superman to steal the Man of Tomorrow’s strength! Can Batman save the day?
tomk: Say, Ra’s was the one big Bat villain who sat out the new Batman episodes…
jimmy: Well, he was a little under the weather.
tomk: Just a bit.
So, who saved the day here?
jimmy: That loose piece of cliffside?
tomk: See, here’s my takeaway.
After “World’s Finest,” there are two crossover episodes featuring both Batman and Superman. The first involved Brainiac and showed there are some bad guys Superman needs to handle as Batman was outclassed. This episode does it the other way around. Ra’s was planning rings around Superman, and Batman has to mostly save the day. True, Superman gets the last licks in (it’s still his show), but Batman was far more heroic overall this time.
jimmy: Good observations. Superman doesn’t do much besides become a D cell battery for Ra’s. It’s even Batman that deals with the runaway train.
tomk: Superman just seemed so outclassed. In a straight fight, he’d almost certainly do fine, but the Society of Shadows doesn’t play that way.
jimmy: And then he had to fight Bane al Ghul.
tomk: Well, we couldn’t make Superman completely useless on his own show.
jimmy: True. Though they tried.
tomk: Batman has to make up for being a stooge of an alien despot.
jimmy: This is why I wish every week was “Batman/Superman”.
tomk: Wait for Justice League. That’s the closest you’re going to get.
jimmy: That’s what I figured. Having Batman in action here reminded me of my preference for his show. Or like I said, the two of them teamed together. STAS just never reached those same heights to me.
tomk: It was always a different kind of show. Superman doesn’t solve mysteries. He breaks giant robots.
jimmy: Very true.
tomk: It’s why I think the turning point episode for STAS is the first Mxy episode. It’s not the same as “Heart of Ice” in terms of quality or tone, but it more or less set the standard for the series.
jimmy: I did appreciate the show’s powering down of Supes this episode. How many other incarnations of the Man Of Steel couldn’t stop a speeding locomotive?
tomk: That powering down will be a point of contention for Justice League.
But to answer your question, I will guess three.
jimmy: Name them. Go.
tomk: Um…that weird Elseworlds Superman with the Santa beard who needed guns…uh, a Superman who crossed over with the xenomorphs from the Alien comics and had to be powered down to make them a threat, and, uh, this one?
jimmy: Nicely done.
tomk: I did my homework.
jimmy: I know we’ve talked before about each of us having our own mental image of “my Batman” and if he strays from that we find it off-putting. Like for me, when he’s losing fights to schmoes like the Clock King or whomever that he shouldn’t be for example.
Do we have a similar “ideal Superman”? I’m struggling to pinpoint my own. I feel like Superman is always potentially a “you can’t win” character for creators. If he’s not powerful enough we think, “c’mon, he’s Superman! This shouldn’t be a challenge for him.” But, conversely if he is like (movie) Justice League strong and has no real peer or fear of anything, it is hard for the audience to be engaged.
tomk: There’s a fine line to walk. I think the DCAU got it about right as you will see me, but somehow DC never had this as much of a problem in the old comics. Superman has any amount of power necessary to save the day, and that was all you had to worry about. It wasn’t until Marvel really took off that the idea that Superman was too powerful really became a thing.
For me, the ideal Superman is more about his attitude, determination, and overall benevolence that makes him Superman. No one is complaining Thor or the Hulk is too powerful. It’s the personality people complain about and then tie the powers back to it.
jimmy: That’s a good point. But I don’t think that Thor or Hulk have the same overall exposure and history of stories, particularly in different mediums, to garner as much attention and notice.
tomk: Plus, the Marvel characters were generally designed to have more relatable problems. Superman’s biggest problem for the longest time was keeping his secret identity a secret from Lois Lane.
jimmy: Accurate, but funny enough I was going to say the opposite since Hulk is a monster and Thor a God. While Superman is an alien (and could be considered a God) he is more relatable than either of those characters.
tomk: The Hulk, though, was initially a big hit with 60s teens since his main opponent was an authority figure (Thunderbolt Ross) and he just wanted to be left alone. He was a counterculture hero. Plus, Thor turned into a guy with a limp.
jimmy: And we’ll see them all together soon in Infinity War after Disney buys Warner Bros.
tomk: But that has nothing to do with Ra’s al-Ghul and his nefarious plan.
jimmy: I thought it was an interesting idea that the Lazarus Pits began to lose their potency. Or more accurately, the effects grew shorter and shorter lived, much like Ra’s time itself.
tomk: Ra’s al-Ghul’s defining characteristic may be an extreme fear of death. That would have to catch up to him sooner or later.
jimmy: Have the comics ever touched on this? Or a similar storyline?
tomk: The catching up or the fear of death thing?
jimmy: The catching up.
tomk: Not that I can recall, but it would make sense if it did. He’s probably lost use of the Pits in the past, and his other daughter Nyssa even killed him (it didn’t take).
jimmy: Now that you mention Nyssa, I think there might have been a similar storyline in one of the Arkham games.
tomk: It would not surprise me, and I have mentioned Greg Rucka’s “Death and the Maidens” story often enough that you may even recall Nyssa from past conversations.
jimmy: Indeed. I guess I should add that to…The List…
tomk: If you haven’t already.
jimmy: Possible. It would take me 3 days to look it over and see if it is on there.
tomk: You should just get one of those voice-command computer things like Siri organize it for you. Then you could just ask a disembodied voice, and there’s nothing creepy about that.
jimmy: Nothing at all.
So, does Ra’s appear again in Justice League or anything?
tomk: Not Justice League.
He has one more…very memorable appearance.
jimmy: We’ll leave it at that.
tomk: I was wondering how strong Superman was for much of this episode. Those restraints didn’t look too tough for a guy like him, but he was still able to fly Batman out of there…
jimmy: In most stories where he is weakened somehow, he usually finds the strength to fly (and often carry others) from peril in the end.
tomk: He just couldn’t bust out of those restraints. At least he didn’t try to punch out Ra’s. He let gravity do it for him.
jimmy: Well, the staff likely had some magical power, and we know Supes is vulnerable there
tomk: True, but he was able to crush the stone too. And before Hulk-Ra’s got to him.
jimmy: He was as strong or weak as the plot needed him to be.
tomk: Good point! You get a gold star!
tomk: So, let me ask you: how satisfying was this episode? It had Batman in it, so the plot was a little better than your standard “Superman has to punch things” plot.
jimmy: I liked it. I think it emphasized again the need to depower Superman to be able to wrap a story around him that is not punching giant robots.
tomk: Or to show Batman is needed to deal with a certain class of villain.
jimmy: Yes. A mirror to the Brainiac episode. That said, it is Supes, not Batman, that takes out Ra’s in the end. Mostly.
tomk: Don’t forget our old friend Gravity!
And Supes was only able to do anything thanks to Batman’s intervention.
jimmy: And subsequent unconsciousness.
tomk: It’s still Superman’s show.
jimmy: Yes. Exactly.
tomk: Speaking of Superman, it is kind of a shame Talia was recast. Nothing against Olivia Hussey, but that meant it wasn’t Helen “Supergirl” Slater.
jimmy: Would have been Superman v Supergirl. Nice.
tomk: And again, Olivia Hussey has a nice resume, but we miss out on that sorta reunion. Though between Talia and Mala, I am wondering why so many female villains are suddenly turning British on this show…
jimmy: It’s part of the British Invasion. Pretty soon they’ll be taking all the best Walking Dead and Game of Thrones roles.
tomk: Someone is replacing Peter Dinklage on Walking Dead?
jimmy: They better not! *shakes fist*
tomk: Trivia note: Peter Dinklage plays the youngest Lannister sibling, but is actually older than both of his onscreen siblings.
Huh. That trivia note could have more easily gone into that other chat.
Did you have anything else to add to this one, Jimmy, the last appearance of Batman on Superman’s show?
jimmy: I’m gonna miss Batman.
tomk: You might be missing Superman more…he only has one more story left, even if it is a two-parter.
jimmy: I’ve made my choice.
tomk: It is a good one.
jimmy: Well, I guess we should finish up Superman The Animated Series then?
tomk: Looks that way.
“Legacy Parts I and II”
Superman! Darkseid! The fate of the Earth hangs in the balance when Darkseid finally goes too far!
jimmy: And that, as they say, is that! So what are we watching next?
tomk: Well, Batman Beyond comes next after a surprisingly dark ending for Superman.
jimmy: Listening to the DVD commentary, Dini, Timm, et al seemed to take great pride in that as a contrast to how optimistic and hopeful Supes usually is as a character. It leaves him in a situation mostly foreign to him.
tomk: And to us. This was the last episode, and they knew it.
It’s not like they knew Justice League was coming.
jimmy: How many years later would it be?
tomk: Well, color me surprised. It looks like the answer is about a year and a half.
jimmy: You thought it was more?
tomk: These episodes first aired in February 2000. Justice League premiered November 2001.
I somehow thought Superman ended a little earlier and Justice League started a little later.
jimmy: I don’t know the ins and out of the shows like you, but I would have guessed the same. And agree that they didn’t know Justice League was on the horizon when they finished up STAS.
tomk: I know Batman Beyond has a two parter with a futuristic Justice League, and that was done in part to see if they could do an effective team show, but they couldn’t have known for certain that Superman would come back in any form when they approved this script.
jimmy: The commentary says that this was originally supposed to be the season three premiere but they held it back for the finale because of Darkseid, the kiss, etc. I think they realized that they couldn’t have the following shows all with a feared Superman trying to rehabilitate his image.
tomk: Good point, and he punched Luthor. That couldn’t be taken back.
jimmy: Haha, that was so great. And Luthor at the end in the neck brace.
tomk: I am sure the commentary mentioned how normally Superman can’t punch Luthor so they made sure he could just this one time.
jimmy: They did indeed. 🙂
tomk: But consider: Luthor came closest to killing Superman this time.
jimmy: Yes. But again, Kryptonite. Well weaponized Kryptonite, But Kryptonite none the less.
tomk: Arguably, Darkseid hurt Superman in the worst way possible without physically doing a thing.
jimmy: That was a key part of the darkness of the two episodes. Superman, outside of the brainwashing, becoming more like Darkseid than ever. And then to “free” the people of Apokolips and have them reject it and tend to the needs of their God.
tomk: And ruin the one thing Superman never questioned on Earth: his reputation.
jimmy: Yes, exactly.
tomk: I mean, sure, he finally got a kiss from Lois, who apparently was saving up all her quality screen time for this last pair of episodes, but at what cost? When only Jimmy Olson will say on TV he likes you…
jimmy: He is Superman’s pal.
tomk: Professor Hamilton is afraid of him now.
jimmy: Most people are. And Hamilton is also probably bitter about his Super Space Suits budget going through the roof.
tomk: Well, there is that, but Hamilton is a longtime friend and ally. He knows Superman. What does it say when a friend is now afraid of him because of a single moment where he lost his temper?
That’s how you end up sending your nephew to a bad place!
jimmy: In the commentary they talked about how much they hated Hamilton for some reason that they couldn’t put their finger on. He was just there as a tool to explain the science of the show. And now his true weasely nature has been revealed, like you said, because of a single outburst. I never really got that feeling about Hamilton. In any case, I know it was a one time that he lost his temper, but when the guy losing his temper can rip you apart with his bare hands without breaking a sweat, it probably leaves an impression.
tomk: Yes, like a fist-shaped impression in a steel girder.
I can see Hamilton as more of a technobabble guy, but never saw the weasel thing. Not even now. He’s not one of the classic Superman allies of Lois, Jimmy, and Perry White, so his personality is less developed than at least two of them, but still…
jimmy: Yeah. There comments just seemed odd to me.
This was a great pair of episodes though, particularly part one. It did remind me of a couple of things. You read Irredeemable by Mark Waid right?
tomk: The first couple trades. Never finished it.
That one is on MY list!
jimmy: Oh, you have to finish it. But you get the idea. Basically a Superman turning evil and how hopeless it can become for everyone else.
tomk: There’s no Plutonian Girl with a robot double in that series, I am guessing.
jimmy: Haha, no. Man, those robots were quite sophisticated. Especially the Clark one. At least the Superman one could just fly around and give the impression he is there and not get too close to anyone for scrutiny. That Clark one had to fool Lois, Perry, Jimmy, etc. And not for a short amount of time either, Clark’s been gone for like a month.
tomk: The Superman Robots are a longstanding Silver Age thing, where he kept a bunch who could fill in for him as needed.
jimmy: I thought it was odd they just happened to be on hand for Kara to use.
tomk: Maybe she built them!
tomk: She probably didn’t. She certainly barely knew how to drive one. Let alone two at the same time. And not well enough to trick Luthor.
jimmy: That’s not surprising. More surprising is that with all hat surveillance he’s never been able to figure out Superman or Kara’s identities.
tomk: Well, when Superman suddenly stopped midair and said “buffering” over and over for a few minutes, he got suspicious.
jimmy: He does that all the time. SO Golden Age Superman.
tomk: It was late 90s wireless. That was the best he could hope for.
jimmy: Lol. That’s so true.
The other thing these episodes made me think of, and this one is a bit more out of left field…I think they are what Batsoup/Justice League very unsuccessfully strived to be. Though mostly Batsoup as most of the Darkseid stuff got ignored in JL. But we had Batman’s vision of Superman turning bad, etc.
tomk: Let’s face it: a Superman that turned bad has been a source for DC since at least the first Bizarro story.
jimmy: It’s low hanging fruit for sure.
tomk: But part one is a stronger episode. Part two, though, is the payback, as Superman slams all those Apokaliptans (or however it is spelled) for making him their dancing monkey, and all he had to show for it was he maybe had an orgy with the Female Furies.
jimmy: Not bad.
tomk: Well, they did all go off together to “celebrate” and he definitely had something going with Lashina, who at least looks a little like Lois.
jimmy: So, apparently (and you probably knew this already), in the earlier scene where it is Lois and Superman silhouetted against the Boom Tube and she is wishing him luck, she originally kissed him at that point, but the edited it because it took away from the power and significance of the end. You can kinda tell too as Lois backs away from him all weird and it just looks like they reversed the footage.
tomk: That would not have robbed the ending, but it would have made the rest of the season hella weird if they made this the season premier instead of the series finale.
jimmy: It might explain Lois being non-existent for much of the season. Or not. I don’t know.
Well, we seem to be running out of steam on all things Superman. Do you have any thoughts on all things Superman, Jimmy?
jimmy: I thought we’d have more to talk about with this one, but I only had a couple of other notes. One, it has to be pretty rare for a cartoon to have subtitles. And two, why didn’t Superman just fly around kissing everyone and make them forget what happened?
tomk: Superman doesn’t have the amnesia kiss power in this one?
jimmy: Really? Odd.
tomk: Who knows how many times he would have kissed Lois if he had!
jimmy: As for Superman the Animated Series in general…it was very well made and had some great episodes. And probably had less poor episodes than BTAS, particularly from an animation standpoint.
However, there’s just so much more area to explore with Batman. Particularly with his rogues gallery, which leads to episodes that are more mysteries and/or psychological than most of Supes which are just slugfests.
tomk: Yeah. Supes had a lot of smart, exciting action sequences. That much we can say for certain. Those don’t make for good online chats.
Luthor always has potential for discussion, but he generally just came across as a slimy, behind-the-scenes guy.
And we did get some nice guest heroes.
jimmy: Yes. And good point about the action sequences. Chatting about the Superman episodes was definitely harder.
tomk: Plus, I am inclined to think as good as Tim Daly was, actor George Newbern was a better Superman on Justice League.
jimmy: I guess I shall see. I liked Daly though.
tomk: Daly’s fine, and both he and Newburn both keep getting Superman voiceover parts. Newbern, for example, did the Injustice games.
And we’ll still have Dana Delany and Clancy Brown, regardless.
jimmy: Both good castings.
tomk: Brown is right up there with Hamill for DCAU bad guys.
jimmy: I think Hamill is a bit more iconic, but he’s not too far behind.
tomk: I just know we’ll hear more from Brown than Hamill going forward, and Brown’s material improves over time.
jimmy: Cool. And Hamill has done a lot of games as well and is Joker in Justice League Action, so we’ll see a lot of him in the future as well…just maybe not in our trip through the DCAU.
tomk: We’ll see the Joker a few times. We’ll just see more of Lex Luthor.
jimmy: Lex seems more likely to get mixed up with the Justice League.
tomk: There was a reason the Joker was not included, and I will get to that in the future.
jimmy: Future, eh?
tomk: Did I do a segue? I may have meant that.
jimmy: Is it time to see what Batman is up to in…I dunno…30 years?
tomk: Only if we don’t have to wait that long.
jimmy: There might be something we can do.
tomk: Oh yeah! Batman Beyond!
jimmy: Nice! And you thought I never knew what was going on before…
NEXT TIME: We’re moving on to a new (for this feature) series! Be back soon as Tom and Jimmy jump into the futuristic world of Batman Beyond.