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February 16th, 2010


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09:07 pm - Superman: The Animated Series? More Like The Man of Steel Magnolias!
After mainlining Batman: The Animated Series last year, I was inspired to continue through the rest of the DCAU (sans Static Shock). I really had no interest in watching Superman since I'm not really into him, but I liked the series a lot more than I expected to.

I feel like this is blasphemy, but in a couple aspects, Superman is better than Batman. The main thing I love about the series is that it has continuity!! Batman had very mild continuity, but for the most part, episodes were self-contained, making no references to past episodes and having no effect on future episodes beyond the existence of recurring villains whose recurrences were never explained. From the very beginning, Superman makes sure that episodes don't exist in a vacuum. Things that happen in one episode are visited in the next one, even if they're just minor things. Characters make specific references to things that happened in past episodes. If a villain was previously imprisoned, you actually get to see how the villain breaks out to wreak havoc again! Oh, you all know what continuity is. I'm just appreciating it. The other thing Superman gets away with that Batman could not is that people die. Even named characters! It threw me for a loop since it was clearly against the rules a few years before. The standards of storytelling had changed; it makes me wonder what Batman would have been like if it had premiered a few years later.

Pretty much all I know about Supes I learned from Smallville, so it was great to see an adaptation that held a little bit closer to the comics. For instance, Lois Lane is awesome! She's strong, confident, sarcastic, and hilariously reckless: even in a battle between two superpowered beings, she'll feel the need to get a couple licks in. Hell, she even saves Superman's ass a couple times. There isn't a whole lot done with the Lois/Clark (or Lois/Supes, really) romance, but it's always there. Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen doesn't get a lot to do besides take pictures in perilous situations and, like Lois, get thrown off of buildings every now and then, but he's a good kid. That's pretty much it for the good guys. Supergirl shows up late in the run, and she's great, but for the most part, Supes works alone. There are cameos from other DC heroes, and those episodes are all really good, which makes me more excited for Justice League and more interested in learning about the DCU. There are even some awesome crossovers with B:TAS!

As for the villains, Supes cannot compete with Bats, and I think one of the inherent flaws in the series is that since Kal-El is an alien, he tends to have a lot of alien enemies, which makes everything much less grounded than the world of Gotham. The series wisely makes Superman superstrong but not omnipotent, so even when he's lifting up buses and throwing cranes, it looks like he's exerting himself like a regular person. Otherwise, it's hard to really care about any of the battles, which can frequently be repetitive and boring since they just involve two superpowered beings punching the shit out of each other. Batman has to use his WITS. And his GADGETS. Not his SUPERPOWERS. Okay, Supes does use his powers in clever ways every now and then. Anyway, I did really enjoy some of the villains, especially Brainiac, Parasite, and Livewire. I wanted to like Metallo more than I did. Oh, and I loved Bizarro! I had issues with Tim Daly's Superman voice (even though I grew to like it), but he was a great Bizarro (and I was pleased that he did the voice). Oooh, and Mr. Mxyzptlk was a hoot, of course. Lex Luthor—pronounced Luth-or for reasons unknown—figures prominently as Superman's nemesis early on, but he seems to fade into the background after a while, which is unfortunate because Clancy Brown is beloved for a reason. The major villain of the series, however, is Darkseid, voiced by Michael Ironside, and while a lot of Jack Kirby's Fourth World concepts don't make a lot of sense, they made for a good story.

Superman: The Animated Series was far better than I thought it would be, and it's telling that I'm now much more interested in reading Superman stories. It's not so much the character himself I've gained a new appreciation for but the stories you can tell with him. I still think he's annoyingly self-righteous and causes way too much property damage, but the series really plugs into the fact that he's the Last Son of Krypton, and in those moments where you see Clark as this alien among humans, his entire planet dead, you feel for him, but you're glad that he's on this one and that he likes it enough to defend it.
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: Our Lady Peace - Superman's Dead

(18 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:the_narration
Date:February 17th, 2010 08:09 am (UTC)
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Oh, those two particular nicknames have been around for ages. They even get used by other superhero characters with regularity.

The Teen Titans also used to call each other really silly stuff, like "Bird Boy" (Robin), "Flat Feet" (Kid Flash), "Green Genes" (Beast Boy) and "Chrome Dome" (Cyborg).
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From:equustel
Date:February 17th, 2010 06:19 am (UTC)
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Yay, Superman! This was actually the series my brother and I watched before getting into Batman (previously, all we knew about Batman was that his movies were by Tim Burton and kind of creepy). We loved it. I remember being SO disturbed by Parasite – you have no idea. Whenever his episodes aired I'd have nightmares about them. (I was 10 at the time.)

I've always liked Supes as a character, mostly because he so clearly stands for something. The modern tendency is to make your heroes a bit dark and flawed, so Superman tends to get a lot of flak for being straight-edge, but I think that's part of what generates his pathos – so few people are willing to take on the huge burden of being a blatant Symbol of Hope and All That Is Just. It isolates him, when he's already an isolated character (as you pointed out) – an alien fighting for an ideal that, technically, doesn't even belong to him.

Maybe it's for these reasons that I liked Superman Returns when a lot of people didn't...? It totally took that thread and ran with it.

Anyway, I agree about this series' Lois being the best incarnation; I loved her.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 17th, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
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I can see how SV's Lois is actually pretty similar, but this Lois is much sharper and snappier. Plus she gets hilarious lines like "I've gotta start wearing pants!"
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:February 17th, 2010 07:44 am (UTC)
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The one downside to JL/JLU is that Lois is sorely under-used. Dana Delany still shows up to do her voice, though (and even did the voice of Lois Lane on the unrelated The Batman cartoon, too), when she does appear.

Once you're done with the DCAU, you should watch Lois & Clark. A lot of the goodwill I have for Clark Kent and Superman comes from that silly show and then carried on to S:TAS. And then was tarnished by various comics and ruined by Smallville.

So, when are you going to start Batman Beyond?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 17th, 2010 08:02 am (UTC)
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Once I get through the Fringe and Guild DVD extras, I think.
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From:ebongreen
Date:February 17th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
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Pretty much the entire Timmverse run is FTW. Even Static Shock and the Zeta Project had their moments.

I know I was never the target audience (being 22 when B:TAS premiered), but nearly a decade-and-a-half of well-told stories deserves respect and admiration - period.
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From:the_narration
Date:February 17th, 2010 08:12 am (UTC)
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I've never actually seen this one. It came out during the time when I was ignoring animation as "kid's stuff", and I've never really been big on Superman, so I never went back to check it out later.

Superman villains like Luthor, Darkseid and Brainiac got a lot of face time on JL/JLU, however, I guess because they were sufficiently threatening.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 17th, 2010 09:39 am (UTC)
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The DVDs are really cheap on Amazon Marketplace. It's worth watching, fun stuff. As I said, I wasn't big on Superman either, and I really enjoyed it.
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From:the_narration
Date:February 17th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC)
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I'll add it to my increasingly long "Maybe Someday" list. I'm sure that I could rent the DVDs from Scarecrow.

In the short term, I really should stop putting off watching Starship Operators (which I borrowed from my friend months ago) and Madlax (which I downloaded sometime last year).

You've seen Gargoyles, right? That was the "Holy crap, this is awfully smart and complex for what is ostensibly a kids show" cartoon of the '90s... sort of the Avatar: The Last Airbender of its day.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 17th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
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Oh yeah, I loved Gargoyles. I want to rewatch that one.
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From:the_narration
Date:February 18th, 2010 02:14 am (UTC)
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I watched it just a couple years ago, and while '90s American animation... does not age well, the writing is still as sharp as ever. It helps to know a little Shakespeare, too.

The first season (which is short) and the first half of the second season (which is super-long) are on DVD. The second half of the second season will have to be downloaded. The third season should not be watched at all... it's been removed from canon for sucking. There was recently a short-lived comic book series written by the series creator picking things up after the end of the second season.
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From:lembeau
Date:February 17th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
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and causes way too much property damage

RIGHT?! That was one of the things that drove me crazy when I watched it back in the day. I was always worried about the people that were on the street at Superman battled with something and caused chunks of buildings to break.

All of this time and I still remember the Mr. Mxyzptlk ep, or at least the part where he gets rid of the little alien by having him write his name in the sky.

I mostly remember how that time after school during Batman and Superman was sacrosanct.

Was there an ep that really stood out to you?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 17th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
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An? There were several! Obviously the Flash and Green Lantern and Aquaman eps because of the guest stars. The AU ep. "World's Finest." The Mxyzptlk ep. The one where Parasite and Livewire team up. The one with the Legion of Superheroes. "Apokolips...Now!" Supergirl! There were a lot of good ones.
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From:paladin42
Date:February 19th, 2010 01:55 am (UTC)
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I agree with this list. I'd also have to add "Knight Time" when Supes has to pretend to be Batman. Hi-larious. Supes as Bats after scaring a bunch of criminals: "This is kind of fun."
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 19th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
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And Tim teaching him to be more like Batman! That was HILARIOUS.
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From:ethanvahlere
Date:February 17th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
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I understand what you're saying re the continuity, and that's a good point. However, while I liked the Superman series, I didn't love it as much as the Batman one. Part of it, as you say, is inherent in the character of Superman having to face more larger-than-life villains, but I also thought Batman was better animated.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:February 17th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC)
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Oh, no question. B:TAS had a much better style and look to it, and I wasn't a fan of the revamp that matched the S:TAS animation. That being said, the S:TAS style was still good and crisp and worked for the show.

I also felt that the characterizations were more compelling on B:TAS. With few exceptions, the villains aren't as interesting and complex as on S:TAS. You really felt for those crazies in Gotham. The crazies Supes faces are generally just evil psycho alien robots.

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