PG Cooper: Superman: The Animated Series: A Retrospective Part One

Posted: April 23, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Retrospectives

01-03- The Last Son of Krypton Parts I, II, and III

Written by Alan Burnett and Paul Dini. Directed by Dan Riba, Scott Jeralds, Curt Geda, and Bruce Timm

Superman: TAS would begin with the origin of Superman, told in a three part episode. We have the destruction of Krypton, Clark’s beginnings in Smallvile, and finally, his birth as Superman. But before all that, we have the show’s intro, unfortunately it’s made almost entirely of clips, which is disappointing. The music’s nice though. Despite being a three part episode, the story feels a bit rushed. Theoretically, the producers could have spent a lot more time working on Superman’s beginnings, but one thing I’ve noticed is these shows like to get into a status quo pretty quickly. Still, there’s some good stuff here. The best part is the first episode of the three parter, where the entire thing is through the eyes of Superman’s biological father, Jor-El. They did a good job making this version of Krypton completely different from the version from the original live action films. You actually really feel the characters dread in knowing what will happen to their planet. I also really like they way they brought Braniac into the origin story. Making him responsible for the destruction of Krypton was a smart move. And the music played during Krypton’s destruction is pretty powerful. It’s the second two parts that feel rushed. I don’t think they needed to work in a story involving Luthor and a kidnapped mech suit. I don’t really think the episode needed a big action ending. I do like the final scene between Superman and Lex Luthor. It’s pretty tense, and Clancy Brown is great. I also like Tim Daly as Superman and Dana Delany as Lois Lane. I find Superman’s characterization pretty cool. He isn’t a complete boy scout and has a bit of an edge. All in all, it’s a solid start.

04- Fun and Games

Written by Robert N. Skir & Marty Isenberg. Directed by Kazuhide Tomonaga.

Gangster Bruno Mannheim is terrorized by a villain called the Toyman, seeking revenge for Bruno sending Toyman’s father to jail. Getting the negative out of the way, Bruno Mannheim’s annoying and there’s some over done animation. Also, some of Toyman’s gags go too far. Aside from that, this is another solid episode. Some may remember Toyman as that goofy looking dude in yellow from the Superfriends. Here, he looks sort of like a kid in a plastic doll uniform. It’s a creepy design, and is voiced excellently by Bud Cort. His toy gimmicks for the most part are pretty interesting and he makes a good threat. But it’s the creepy costume, voice, and deranged mind I like. This guy would feel right at home among Batman’s rogue gallery. The episode is self is okay, but it’s boosted slightly being Toyman’s introduction.

05- A Little Piece of Home

Written by Hilary J. Bader. Directed by Toshihiko Masuda.

Kryptonite is discovered when Superman fails to stop two punks because of it. Luthor attempts to exploit Superman using it, and Superman tries to find out what it is and why it effects him. This episode is pretty lame. All it really does is introduce Kryptonite. I will admit, the parts where they’re studying it was kind of neat, and there’s one scene I like which strongly implies Luthor has someone killed, but not much else happens. Superman encounters a bunch of comic relief thugs who aren’t funny, and the episode ends with Superman fighting a giant dinosaur. What the hell is with these giant dinosaurs? Batman: TAS would end up having one in “Mean Seasons”. It’s a stupid way to end a pretty bad episode, and I don’t know how Luthor got away with having a giant robot dinosaur in his museum, but whatever. There’s also an incredibly stupid thing involving Lois throwing papers in a trash can which comes into play during the climax. I suppose the episode also introduces Mercy, Luthor’s hench girl, but really, who gives a s**t. She doesn’t do anything apart from just standing around.

06- Feeding Time

Written by Robert Goodman. Directed by Dan Riba.

After being exposed to some chemicals, the wimpy Rudy Jones becomes the villain Parasite, with the power to absorb anything he touches and take their abilities. I don’t find Parasite that interesting a villain. The idea of a wimp getting super powers and taking revenge on the world is a decent concept, but I don’t find it too well executed here. Frankly I think the Justice League show did a better job with the character of Dr. Destiny, but I’m getting ahead of myself. What works for the episode is that Parasite is a pretty big threat to Superman. He’s able to go toe-to-toe with him and really puts Superman in a desperate situation. I especially like the scene where Clark is attacked in his apartment. He may not be the most interesting villain, but he’s provided the biggest threat to Superman so far. This episode is also probably the most tense of the series. Oh, and a random bit of trivia, Parasite is voiced by Brion James, who played Leon Kowalski (“Time to die”) in Blade Runner.

07- The Way of All Flesh

Written by Stan Berkowitz. Directed by Kenji Hachizaki.

Back in “The Last Son of Krypton”, we saw a thug named John Corben, voiced by Malcolm McDowell. At first glance, he was pretty boring. But here he’s pretty cool. Corben is in prison and has contracted a rare disease, so Luthor offers to put his brain in a robot body. Corben agrees, and becomes the villain Metallo. Metallo is just as strong as Superman, and the fights between the two are pretty sweet. My favourite part of the episode is the inner struggle Metallo goes through being unable to feel. It’s ground that was somewhat covered in the Batman episode “His Silicon Soul”, but it’s still pretty interesting. I also like how they worked in Metallo’s sexual desires. I also like seeing just how big an ******* Luthor is. I admit, they could have done more with the concept of a man who can’t feel, but I still really like this episode.

08- Stolen Memories

Written by Rich Fogel. Directed by Curt Geda.

I really like how they worked in Brainiac into Superman’s origin, and I was waiting for him to show up again. First off, I really like Corey Burton, who provided the voice of Brainiac. I also like Brainiac’s design. There’s a certain tension to the episode since we know Brainiac’s a villain. I like the action scenes between Brainiac and Superman, and I think Braniac makes for a good threat. I also like Brainiac’s motivation, gathering all knowledge from a planet, destroy everything. I do have some problems though. For one, I don’t like that Clark’s realization comes from a dream, and the first action scene in Brainiac’s ship felt forced. I wish the episode would have played around with the dramatic irony a bit more. Still, another good episode.

09 and 10- The Main Man

Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Dan Riba.

The plot revolves around a bounty hunter who kidnaps Superman and taken by an entity known as the Collector. It’s a simple story needlessly stretched out to be a two-parter. At times, I definitely felt it dragging. With that said, I do like this episode. Lobo’s a fun character and the fight scenes are fun. The Perserver is an interesting villain and the script has some fun Dini humour. It’s also pretty interesting to watch this episode after seeing the Batman Beyond episode “The Call”. It’s a flawed episode, and there are some inconsistencies, but overall, not bad.

11- My Girl

Written by Hilary J. Bader. Directed by Yuichiro Yano.

I was pretty worried when the episode started. With a title like “My Girl” and it starting at a fashion show, I wasn’t very excited. But the episode turned out fairly solid. I will say, all the physical scenarios Superman gets in are more or less pitiful. But I like the idea of Lana dating Lex and spying on him for Clark. I also like how Lex’s rage comes from jealousy. You almost feel bad for him. Lana also makes for a fun character. In fact, I don’t get why Superman doesn’t just nail her. Sure, Lois is great and all, but Lana’s fun, hot, and down with Clark’s secret. As an episode, it’s not great, but it has some fun things and introduces us to an adult Lana.

12- Tools of the Trade

Written by Mark Evanier. Directed by Curt Geda.

Remember the Batman: TAS episode “Vertigo”? You know, the one that was pretty lame but revealed an awesome villain at the end? Same idea here. Manheim and his gang are being provided with alien weapons while a detective named Dan Turpin struggles with feeling useful in a world with Superman. I mentioned earlier, Manheim is a boring villain. He’s just really lame. I also think the so-called advanced weapons he and his gang’s use don’t seem much more advanced than what’s been seen in previous episodes. The Dan Turpin arc I also have problems with. I feel the idea of a cop slowly coming to accept Superman should have been a gradual arc, taking place over several episodes, instead of cramming it all into this one.The action here isn’t very exciting and I don’t really like this episode on the whole. However, the ending where Manheim arrives on Apokolips and we get our first glimpse at Michael Ironside as Darkseid is pretty awesome.

13- Two’s a Crowd

Written by Stan Berkowitz. Directed by Hiroyuki Aoyama.

Superman needs to find the location of a bomb, but the only one who knows, a crazy scientist named Earl Garver, is in a coma. Superman agrees to have Parasite absorb the man’s conscious to find the location. But once inside Parasite’s head, Earl attempts to persuade Parasite to seek more power. I think this is a pretty interesting concept which could have been executed better. The idea of two entities sharing the same body could have been a lot more interesting. I’m also not crazy about how easily persuaded Parasite is, to the point where he seems stupid. But there’s some cool action here, and the core concept is still pretty neat. It’s not a particularly good episode, but it’s not bad either.

14- The Prometheon

Written by Stan Berkowitz and Alan Burnett. Directed by Nobuo Tomizawa.

A humanoid android from space goes on a rampage and Superman needs to stop him. That’s it. Yeah, the story here is pretty weak. There are some cool things here though. I like how Superman needs to use his brains to take down the Prometheon, and not just brute force. I also am grateful the episode is never boring. But there’s almost no substance here and nothing to really talk about.

15-16- Blasts From The Past Parts I and II

Written by Robert Goodman. Directed by Dan Riba.

Superman finds a device from his ship that the Kryptonians used to launch criminals into a dimension called the Phantom Zone. He lets one criminal, a girl named Mala, free because she had already served her sentence. Mala starts out okay, but becomes frustrated by the way Superman handles things and turns against them, as well as releasing her General from the Phantom Zone, Jax-Ur. Superman fans will be immediately reminded of General Zod and the Kryptonian criminals. Unfortunately, Mala and Jax-Ur aren’t nearly as awesome as Zod. Mainly because their designs are really goofy and they don’t have the same chilling badassery that Zod does. That said, they aren’t bad villains and they make for a good threat for Superman. The fight scenes between the three are indeed very enjoyable. There’s also some good ideas here, like sending Supes to the Phantom Zone, but a lot of these could have been done better. Lex Luthor’s brief appearance is also pretty cool. Okay episode, but had a lot more potential.

17- Livewire

Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer. Directed by Curt Geda.

A radio jockey who hates Superman is caught in an accident which transforms her into the super villain Livewire. I hate this character. She’s loud, obnoxious, and annoying. Everytime she’s onscreen, she’s a pain to watch. Which is unfortunate because her powers, control over electricity, make her an effective opponent to Superman. Some of the fight scenes between the two are fun to watch, but Livewire herself ruins this one.

18- Speed Demons

Written by Rich Fogel. Directed by Toshihiko Masuda.

The Flash and Superman race while dealing with super villain Weather Wizard. This episode is okay, my biggest problem being one that’s not even the episodes fault. I just am not use to the Flash not being voiced by Michael Rosenbaum (who played him on Justice League). It probably isn’t fair to hold that against this episode, but I can’t help it. It doesn’t help that Flash comes off like kind of a prick here. Still, having a crossover with Supes is pretty neat, and Weather Wizard makes a good threat, even if he himself isn’t very interesting. Overall, it’s fast paced and fairly enjoyable, but not anything special.

Strongest Episodes (One Per Disc): The Last Son of Krypton Part One, The Way of All Flesh, and Blasts From the Past Parts One and Two

Weakest Epsiodes (One Per Disc): A Little Piece of Home, The Prometheon, and Livewire

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