It’s time, once again, for a stroll through the DC Animated Universe.
This week, Tom and Jimmy are covering the episodes “Fun and Games,” “A Little Piece of Home,” and “Feeding Time”.
“Fun and Games”
The mysterious Toyman has kidnapped two people for the purposes of his own twisted sense of justice: gang leader Bruno Mannheim and reporter Lois Lane! Can Superman get to them before the Toyman murders them both?
jimmy: An episode that features Superman punching a giant duck…we’re definitely not in Gotham anymore. That said, for all the toys in this one, it’s actually pretty dark.
tomk: It is. Toyman may come closest to being like one of those Batman foes who messes with the hero but leaves a creepy epilogue when he’s finished. And we never see him unmasked. That mask doesn’t help.
But you think he got the duck from the Penguin’s garage sale?
jimmy: Haha, it did make the Penguin cross my mind. That mask is super creepy. Mannheim was very “Gotham” too.
tomk: Well, Bruno “Ugly” Manheim, leader of Intergang, is a longtime Superman foe dating back to Jack Kirby’s 4th World stuff. But he did try to take over Gotham once in the 52 maxi-series.
jimmy: I had to check if he had been on BTAS. He would have fit in perfectly there as well.
tomk: Yes and no. As a run of the mill gang leader, he does. But when he comes back with some help from somewhere else, his guys really are Superman calibre foes.
jimmy: “Somewhere else”…how mysterious you are.
tomk: Yes. He raided the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters and got a bunch of Danger Room tech.
As we have been watching these shows from Batman on through to these first Superman episodes, I know I’ve seen a good majority of them, but most I barely remember. But this one for some reason really sticks out in my memory. I don’t know if I had seen it “recently” but the scene with the ball and the rubber duck and the climax in the dollhouse were all really familiar.
tomk: Well, some of it might have been in the opening credits.
But I know what you mean. That ball, for one, is a rather memorable weapon.
jimmy: Yeah, I think the credits is part of it. But the ball scene was very memorable; as was the duck attacking the boat.
tomk: Oh, I agree. I think it helps that this version of the Toyman, a very different incarnation from any previous one, is such a memorably creepy guy.
jimmy: Toyman is from the comics I’m guessing?
tomk: Well, yes and no.
There were a lot of different versions of the Toyman. This version is unique to the show, but probably carried over.
Not that long ago, writer Geoff Johns did an origin of the Toyman that showed the classic Toyman was the real thing and all the others, particularly one that murdered some kids, were robot duplicates and the killer one was especially faulty. Toyman usually has a soft spot for kids.
jimmy: Yeah, this version was the creepiest (based on that picture).
tomk: Well, the one in the upper left of that picture was an ally of Superman’s in the form of a tech genius kid from Japan.
And the child killer had a Norman Bates thing going. That’s fairly creepy.
But the animated one? Oh yeah. Bud Cort’s creepy vocals don’t help there.
jimmy: No doubt that Cort’s voice and acting add to it.
tomk: He sounds a lot different from the first time we heard him, doesn’t he?
jimmy: Well, he’s not trying to cover Superman in wax (though the Doopey Doo or whatever it was called may come close) but he still loves his death traps.
tomk: One of the last episodes of Justice League features mostly villains as the League itself doesn’t appear until the end of the episode, and the Toyman is freakin’ scary in a variety of unexpected ways there.
jimmy: Again though, another Superman villain with no powers.
tomk: It’s amazing how many Superman villains don’t have powers when you look them over. A number, Luthor included, were mostly guys building giant weapons and traps that Superman would just plow through.
If you build stuff that can keep a Kryptonian busy, you probably aren’t anyone to take lightly.
jimmy: He’s never kept busy for very long though.
tomk: No, but if the Joker pulled out that deadly Play-Doh stuff, you think Batman can spin around to dislodge it?
jimmy: He’d have some form of Play-Doh repellent or something, because he’s Batman. Might just take him a little longer while Joker runs off with Lois to do unspeakable things.
tomk: Batman would probably just not get hit by the Play-Doh to begin with, but you get the idea.
tomk: Superman just stands there and let’s stuff hit him.
And why not? He’s invulnerable.
jimmy: We aren’t far in, but they have done a good job so far of establishing Supes is powerful, but not TOO powerful. For example, how much effort he exerts saving the plane in the pilot episodes. Even here it takes him awhile to finish off the duck.
tomk: Bruce Timm readily acknowledges they powered Supes down for the show so that, theoretically, he could die.
jimmy: It’s a delicate balancing act. Don’t make him powerful enough and people wonder, “Isn’t this guy supposed to be Superman?”, but make him too powerful and most stories lack all suspense as he can pretty much do anything…and then people are bored.
tomk: That was a major complaint for season one of Justice League. Fans thought Superman was depicted as too weak when they tried to balance him against the rest of the team.
They course corrected for season two, and it showed.
jimmy: He’s a tricky character. He is supposed to be the greatest, but if he is too powerful like we said, he alienates people. It also makes it difficult to match villains up against him. Likely the reason we’ve only see villains trying to use brains over brawn so far.
tomk: Well, that will change. Outside of Luthor and Toyman, most of the foes the show lines up are more physical threats, even the smarter ones.
Well, with one noteworthy exception. No one would call Mxyzptlk a physical threat by himself.
Anything else you wish to add about this one, Jimmy? Aside from how creepy it was that Toyman possibly changed Lois’ clothes into that doll outfit?
jimmy: Possibly or definitely?
tomk: Well, he may have some automatic changing dealies.
tomk: But, did you have anything else to add? Let’s just assume everything Toyman does is creepy.
jimmy: I don’t have much else besides the opening taking place on “3rd and Shuster”.
tomk: Yeah, that’s always a nice touch.
Well, Jimmy, if Superman is too powerful, maybe someone should find a magic rock to keep him contained.
jimmy: Magic rock? Now I know you’re making that up.
“A Little Piece Of Home”
Lex Luthor finds Superman’s weakness in the form of a mysterious green meteorite! Can Superman escape a deadly Kryptonite trap?
jimmy: I think it is a credit to the show that it can take very well known aspects and tropes about Superman and make you interested in them, like you haven’t heard about kryptonite a million times.
tomk: And still have some fun with the stuff. There’s something distinctly goofy about Superman having to fight a robot T-Rex.
Especially because it implies Luthor must have had one just lying around.
jimmy: That made me laugh and wonder was the T-Rex in the museum a robot the whole time or did Lex have one “lying around” as you said and replaced the original when hatching his plan?
tomk: I can’t imagine Lex had a killer T-Rex robot lying around, even in a museum, but the idea that he had one built in a matter of hours and slipped inside when no one was looking…that’s the sort of zanny silliness you expect from a Superman show. If this had been Batman, we’d be wondering how it happened. It’s Superman, so we don’t question it near as much.
jimmy: The kryptonite into the lead cup shot from across the room bothered me more. 🙂
tomk: We saw Lois practicing earlier. It was clearly set up as a skill she, er, had?
jimmy: Oh, they set it up nicely, but it was still ridiculous…he says about a show where an alien fights a robotic dinosaur.
tomk: A flying alien with laser eyes that looks human.
And this comes after some morons try hitting Superman with a wooden spear and a shield.
jimmy: He’s still pretty new in town/they’re idiots.
tomk: He did something in that scene he does quite a bit…zipping around so he’s always right in front of whoever he’s tangling with.
But this episode had some very creepy moments when you consider that scientist feeding Lois information was probably killed on his “walk home” with Mercy Graves.
jimmy: Again with the “probably”. 🙂
Was Mercy a creation for the show or an existing character?
tomk: Mercy was created for the show, but like Harley, she took off…though nowhere near as much as Harley did.
jimmy: That’s what I figured. And no one took off the way Harley did. That’s a lightening in a bottle situation.
tomk: But they came somewhat close with Mercy. She gets around.
When she slipped over to the comics, she originally had an associate named Hope. I think they were disgraced Amazons.
The Young Justice animated series had her as a mute with a cyborg gun-arm.
Luthor let her get blown up in the Senate hearing for Batsoup.
And this seems to be her current appearance.
jimmy: I’m not super familiar with these other incarnations of her, but it seems like she’s simply “Lex’s assistant” whenever he needs one. As opposed to Harley who took on a character and personality all her own apart from The Joker.
tomk: All true. STAS will do a spotlight episode to explain Mercy’s undying loyalty, but she’s basically just a name to slap on Luthor’s assistant.
jimmy: So she’s basically an Easter egg outside of this show.
tomk: Well, removing her voice and replacing it with a gun-arm makes her basically the same character on Young Justice. She even had the same uniform.
jimmy: I just ordered my own gun-arm from Amazon. It was over $25 so shipping was free!
Joking aside, Mercy is a pretty cool character on this show.
tomk: Oh yes. She doesn’t say more than she needs to here, but they establish how formidable she is from her interactions with Tom Wilson’s thief, and then with the scientist. She fits well into the corrupt business world Luthor is such a part of.
jimmy: I don’t think the show really touches on it (in this episode at least), but the commentary for this one seems to imply there is much more to Mercy than meets the eye. With talks of gun-arms and such, it wouldn’t surprise me. Time will tell.
tomk: Well, I know she doesn’t have a gun-arm in this show.
So, there’s that.
But if Luthor is Superman’s Joker, Mercy is definitely the Harley as the incredibly-loyal and dangerous on her own female sidekick to the main villain.
jimmy: There are definite parallels for sure.
tomk: It would be hard not to see the parallels all things being equal.
And it wasn’t as if Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were adverse to adding new characters to the canon.
And just like with BTAS, some of the new characters would stick and some wouldn’t.
jimmy: Ok, let’s shift gears a bit. I know we are only 5 episodes in (3 if you count the pilot as 1) but I’ve noticed that the show reuses the main title theme a lot. I don’t remember BTAS often (if ever?) incorporating the music from the opening titles into the show.
tomk: I’m at a loss for any time Batman’s theme was heard in any episode. Maybe a couple distinctive notes here and there, but not the whole theme.
jimmy: Exactly. But this show uses the theme regularly.
tomk: Well, if I had a theory, I’d say this show was done a bit more quickly than BTAS. That was the big reason for the redesign: less details make for quicker animation. It could be they didn’t have the time to make more incidental music for different types of scenes, so they just stuck to the action of the stirring main theme.
jimmy: I would agree with that and it was my guess too. Similar to the opening being mostly clips from the show.
tomk: But on the other hand, how often did Batman mess with a guy in a jetpack with a flamethrower?
jimmy: Three times?
tomk: Well, he hasn’t met Firefly yet.
So, my guess, not too much.
Superman is the guy to do that.
jimmy: A trio of guys with jet packs and flamethrowers? A convenient robot dinosaur? And we still wait for our first super powered baddie.
tomk: Well, he’s in the next one.
But I would point out that we are introduced to another character here with long term implications.
Superman’s scientist friend Professor Hamilton is someone you should remember for something that will happen way down the road.
jimmy: I figured that would be who you were going to mention. And the first talk of S.T.A.R. Labs.
tomk: Hamilton was a crossover from the comics, usually depicted as a somewhat daffy scientist.
tomk: Eh, close enough.
Too bad the jetpack leader didn’t call Superman a butt-head, though…
jimmy: Ah, our good friend Tony Zucco is back!
tomk: Well, he didn’t learn in Gotham…
jimmy: Apparently not.
tomk: Well, aside from the overly silly but entirely appropriate plot, the introduction of some important characters, and some kryptonite, was there anything else you wished to comment on, Jimmy?
jimmy: No, I think we’ve covered it. As I said, I was impressed that they could take something that has been around since the 1940’s radio show and that is engrained into every geeks consciousness and make it enjoyable.
tomk: We’ll see how much that stays true depending on how often they go back to the kryptonite well.
Pathetic janitor Rudy Jones is splashed with chemicals, transforming him into the power-sucking Parasite! Can Superman beat a foe he can’t touch?
jimmy: I like how this episode starts by picking up the stands with regards to the kryptonite from last episode. These shows don’t often have a super tight continuity, but this was nice.
tomk: Superman was a little better than Batman.
At least, the old Batman. Newer Batman is maybe a little better.
jimmy: That’s cool. It’s not a big deal, but you know how am I about continuity.
Like, when you have to figure out where in the Spider-Man Chronology the Spider-Man-Superman team-up that featured the antagonism of Dr. Doom and some purple sucker guy fits into everything. Oh wait, that purple sucker guy was the Parasite!
jimmy: Finally, a super powered adversary! Who defeats Superman and he is only saved because…Jimmy Olsen knows Morse code…
tomk: I look at it this way…they had to show Jimmy was useful for something. Lois had, what, two lines for the entire episode?
jimmy: I never really noticed. Just thought it was funny that both Supes and Jimmy knew Morse Code.
tomk: Look, Jimmy is, at heart, a big nerd. He isn’t cool. He never was cool. Even when DC tried to pretend he was cool, he was phenomenally uncool.
jimmy: And Superman is the big blue boy scout so of course he knows it.
tomk: To be fair, SOS is a call for help because its supposedly the easiest Morse Code to learn.
jimmy: Just like in Metallica’s video for “One”.
I suppose. I don’t think I’ve seen it.
jimmy: For shame Tom. For shame.
And given your talk about Jimmy being uncool, I guess it is fitting he makes a reference to Barney.
tomk: That’s as cool as he is allowed to get.
And look at all those photos he’s taking of a barely conscious woman cop.
jimmy: Damn. Poor Jimmy.
tomk: That should get him arrested or put on a restraining order.
jimmy: Funnily enough I recently read some Spider-Man where Peter wouldn’t take crime scene murder photos. But eventually when times got tough and the Bugle wasn’t too keen on Spider-Man pics anymore, he relented, and of course felt horrible after.
tomk: That’s because Peter has a conscience and isn’t uncool.
And man, I had to sit through five minutes of that Metallica video to get your reference, Jimmy…
jimmy: Metallica is awesome!
tomk: I have a ringing in one ear, so music can be hard to enjoy sometimes. And I didn’t care for those guys after the whole Napster kerfuffle.
jimmy: Ok, we’ll keep the music, particularly Metallica, references to a minimum.
tomk: Yeah. Well, until we get to The Endless The Animated Series and need to cover Enter Sandman.
tomk: But Superman’s Pal rescued Superman. Mostly.
jimmy: That’s what pals are for.
tomk: Yes, it’s why I insist anyone I consider a pal knows Morse Code.
jimmy: Watson knows Morse Code? Or have I opened up a can of worms here…
tomk: Watson is more of a contemporary. Maybe a well-wisher in that I don’t wish him any particular harm.
jimmy: Ok, we are all over the place on this one. Let’s get back to important show related topics like: where did Parasite get his outfit?
tomk: Is it an outfit? Or if that just where the coveralls burnt into his skin?
I mean, he doesn’t seem to have a mouth.
jimmy: Hmm. I dunno. I like that explanation better than him just “finding” something appropriate to wear.
tomk: Parasite’s outfit, depending on the artist, often seems to be his body and not his clothes. Have you ever seen Alex Ross’ paintings of the character?
tomk: He generally depicts the Parasite as looking a bit on the sickly side.
jimmy: Being covered in toxic waste will do that to you.
tomk: But as a character here, he seems mostly…dumb.
Like, he was pathetic before the accident, and while his new powers make him formidable, he doesn’t seem to actually become much better or worse than before. He even has a hide-out in his old place of employment.
Not a very creative guy.
jimmy: I actually found he improved somewhat when he became Parasite. He was a scared, stuttering loser before. For better or worse…a confident madman afterwards.
tomk: Well, yes, but still basically a dumb crook. Confidence didn’t make him smarter. All he could think to do was rob people and break stuff.
tomk: There’s a brilliant bit during Kurt Busiek’s Thunderbolts run where Graviton is just going on a rampage, and Moonstone manages to beat him just by asking if this is the best he could do, and why not figure out what he wanted to do first rather than just run around breaking things. Graviton just thinks about it for a second and leaves. And then he came back much, much later with a plan for world domination or something along those lines.
jimmy: I remember that. Loved that early Thunderbolts run.
tomk: Imagine if someone said that to the Parasite?
Actually, given Graviton was a brilliant scientist or something before he gained his powers, and Rudy was just an unlucky janitor, it probably wouldn’t have changed much.
jimmy: Probably not. Zebra’s can’t change their stripes and all that.
tomk: It may be why Parasite’s future appearances often have him as a sidekick or muscle to some smarter villain. Really, locking up Superman for a daily feeding was about the smartest he could come up with.
jimmy: Knock him if you want, but if not for Jimmy that may have lasted a long time.
tomk: Well, maybe trying to suck the juice out of a radioactive rock was enough to kill whatever intelligence he’d picked up.
jimmy: Hmm…what else can we talk about? Well, another Terminator alum makes an appearance in the DCAU. The T1000 himself, Robert Patrick.
tomk: Funny you should say that given the next episode features Metallo…
NEXT TIME: Superman faces off with Metallo, Brainiac, and Lobo in “The Way of all Flesh,” “Stolen Memories,” and “The Main Man Parts 1 and 2”. Tom and Jimmy will be back. Will you?
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