Adventures of Superman (TV series)
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In part one and part two of this series, we looked at Superman-related appearances and references in seasons one and two of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” the 22 issues of the BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD comic and first four issues of ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. In this installment, we begin our look at season three of the show.
Season three started off in high form with Superman’s most epic appearance throughout all of the “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon with “Battle of the Superheroes!” The episode, the fifth of season three and the 57th overall, but the first to air as the episodes were aired out of production order, was written by Steven Melching and directed by Ben Jones. And it featured, finally, the first full animated appearance of Superman!
A full Superman appearance in the cartoon had been a long time coming, and the episode’s creators pulled out all the stops to create a tour-de-force with an almost non-stop string of eye candy. Treats for Superman fans covered a wide range, including character appearances, both in full supporting roles and cameos; homages to classic stories and covers from the a wide range of eras; and send-ups to classic Superman tropes.
The Man of Steel, is, obviously, front-and-center in the episode. Voiced by Roger Rose, the character evokes equal parts the models used in the Fleischer and Famous Studios Superman shorts and “Superman: The Animated Series,” with hints of George Reeves’ and Christopher Reeve’s portrayals thrown in for good measure.
Like his cameo in “Sidekicks Assemble!,” but unlike his appearances in the comic books, Superman’s cape does sport a yellow S-shield. The episode sees Superman exhibiting a full range of classic Superman abilities, including strength, speed, flight, invulnerability, super-breath, X-ray vision, heat vision and super-ventriloquism.
Yes, even super-ventriloquism.
The “big three” of Superman’s supporting cast, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and Perry White, all played prominent roles in the episode. And, with exception to the possible appearance of Lois in “The Knights of Tomorrow!,” it marked the first official appearance for all three in any “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” story. All three characters were portrayed at their most classic and iconic Silver Age bests.
Jimmy Olsen, voiced by Alex Polinsky, is clad for most of the episode in his trademark green suit and red bow tie. Many times throughout the episode, he is seen wielding his camera, taking photos in his role as photographer for the Daily Planet. During the episode, Jimmy is also in possession of not one but two different signal-watches.
The original watch is activated by spinning the dial on the outside frame of the watch, causing it to emit a high-pitched chirping sound, alerting Superman. No information is given in the episode as to how the second watch works.
Lois Lane is voiced by Sirena Irwin and works as a reporter for the Daily Planet. In a throwback to her classic Silver Age portrayal, at one point Superman makes a comment about “all the love schemes” Lois has pulled in order to try and trick him into marrying her.
Perry White is voiced by Richard McGonagle. Portrayed as the sometimes affable and sometimes gruff and blustery editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, during the episode Perry utters the classic Perry White-isms of, “Don’t call me chief!” and “Great Caesar’s ghost!”
The Daily Planet’s signature rooftop globe first received a cameo appearance in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2. However, here, we see the globe in full.
Two issues of the Daily Planet are also seen in the episode, giving us a look at the paper’s nameplate (or masthead).
The second issue also gives us another tribute, paying homage to the book that featured Superman and Batman team-up stories for the majority of its run from 1941 to 1986 and is a term that, even today, is used to refer to the pairing of the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight: World’s Finest.
Speaking of Daily Planet employees, though, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent also has a brief appearance, marking his first appearance in the series, outside of the cameo in the possible future from “The Knights of Tomorrow!”
Like his alter ego, Clark is voiced by Roger Rose. Rose softens his voice somewhat for the role, but doesn’t seem to go out of his way to distinguish between Clark and Superman. Clark’s time in the episode amounts to only one scene, unfortunately, so we don’t get much with which to gauge his personality or relationship with Lois, Jimmy or Perry beyond that Clark is portrayed as somewhat clumsy.
Krypto the Super-Dog also had a bit part in the story, complete with cape.
He looks rather unfriendly here, but the episode showed him being (Super)man’s best friend, and we even got a small sampling of Krypto’s powers as he and Superman engaged in a short game of fetch, sending Krypto in to outer space. During the episode’s climactic battle, Krypto also got a chance to shine, hitting his opponent with a blast of heat vision.
Superman’s friends weren’t the only ones to make appearances in the episode, though, as cameos were made by an entire line of Superman villains, ranging from the well-known to the obscure.
First up was Lex Luthor, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. Richardson had previously held other Superman-related voice acting roles, including that of Darkseid in the “Superman: Shadow of Apokolips” video game.
Luthor is considerably different, both visually and in characterization, in his appearance here compared to his previous comic book appearance in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1. In fact, the Luthor presented here is much closer to Rohtul from “The Super-Batman of Planet X!” Though, while it may not have been intentional, it is interesting that the comic book appearance pays tribute to Luthor’s Golden Age incarnation, while the appearance here pays tribute to both his Silver Age and post-Crisis incarnations, given that in the episode, Luthor is seen wearing gray prison togs as well as a business suit.
Also here, Luthor sports a piece of jewelry very much associated with this post-Crisis incarnation: a ring studded with Green Kryptonite.
This episode marks the first actual appearance in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon, after previously being mentioned in the show in “The Rise of Blue Beetle!” as well as in the comics in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2. Green Kryptonite seems to cause immediate weakness and pain in Superman and, according to Luthor himself, eventual death.
Red Kryptonite, making its first appearance and the first and only form of kryptonite other than green to be seen in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon, also plays a role in the episode, being used by Luthor against the Man of Steel.
According to Batman, Red Kryptonite has unpredictable effects on Superman, lasting approximately 24 hours before wearing off on their own. In this particular instance, the Red Kryptonite caused Superman’s personality to change, making him, as Jimmy Olsen put it, a “rude, selfish, sadistic creep.”
Luthor’s hideout also holds another treat for those familiar with the Silver Age of Superman, in that it is located within an astronomical observatory on the outskirts of Metropolis. (The city of Metropolis also makes its first appearance true appearance in this episode, though its skyline was seen in the distance in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2. The majority of the episode is set in the city, so much of its architecture and people are seen throughout.)
Luthor had many hideaways pre-Crisis, with this one, often designated “Luthor’s Lair II,” introduced in SUPERMAN #167. Inside, we see statues of Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun as part of Luthor’s twisted “Hall of Heroes,” another nod with roots in the Silver Age.
Other statues pre-Crisis included Nero, Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold, Captain Kidd and Al Capone, though these are not seen in the episode. Traditionally, the statues were life-size and in full color. Here, though, while they are not full color, they appear to be at least twice life-size.
One final tool in Luthor’s arsenal that seemed to be an Easter egg is that of the aircraft he used at the episode’s beginning in order to stage an attack of the Hall of Minerals in Metropolis.
With a change in paint, the ship is identical to the Supermobile, complete with fist-shaped battering rams. The firsts are made from titanium, according to Lex Luthor. No word in the episode on how much, if any, of the ship is comprised of Supermanium, sadly.
The Toyman, complete with armies of toy soldiers and lethal toy tanks, also makes an appearance in the episode. He is voiced by John DiMaggio, who had previously voiced the character — though a much different take on him — in “Superman: Doomsday,” the direct-to-video feature that very loosely adapted the death and return of Superman storylines.
Toyman looked somewhat different than in his previous appearance in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2, though that likely owes to the different artists and that the model sheets for the animated version were not available when the comic book was produced. Like with his comic book counterpart, he is only called Toyman, but he resembles the Winslow Schott version. No mention is made of the other Toyman that appeared in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #17.
Other villains making appearances, though only in the form of cameos, included Metallo, who was first seen as an action figure, again complete with Green Kryptonite “heart.”
The character is not named in the episode and has no dialogue (and thus no actor portraying him), He seems to draw visual inspiration from the Bronze Age Roger Corben version as well as the post Crisis (circa 1990s to early 2000s) John Corben version.
Also not named, but making a non-speaking cameo appearance, was a character who seemed to be El Gar-Kur, perhaps the most obscure reference of the episode.
First appearing in “The War Between Jimmy Olsen and Superman!” from ACTION COMICS #253, El Gar-Kur was a criminal from the Bottle City of Kandor who is able to free himself from the city and sets about in an attempt to conquer Earth, only to be ultimately thwarted by Superman. If he looks a bit familiar, it’s because El Gar-Kur was, amazingly, a perfect look-alike for Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen. El Gar-Kur wore an outfit similar to the one seen in the episode in his original ACTION COMICS appearance, though with a different color scheme.
Speaking of Kandor, this episode also featured a cameo appearance by the villainous Brainiac and his alien pet Koko (though both were unnamed in the episode).
Richard McGonagle, also the voice of Perry White, voiced the character, who threatened to subject Metropolis to the “shrinking process,” causing Superman and Batman to go into action once more.
First alluded to in “Legends of the Dark Mite!,” Mr. Mxyzptlk (pronounced by Superman as mix-yiz-pit-lick) makes his first appearance here.
Mxyzptlk was voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, also the voice of Lex Luthor, and plagues Metropolis, not only by bringing the Daily Planet globe to life in his own image, but by triggering a series of transformations in Jimmy Olsen, including turning Jimmy into…
…the shape of a human balloon with ears and teeth like a mule (a reference to “Jimmy Olsen, Freak!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #59):
…a human octopus (a reference to “The Human Octopus!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #41)
…a gorilla’s groom (a reference to “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #98; including an homage to that issue’s cover by Curt Swan and George Klein)
…a genie (a reference to “Jimmy the Genie” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #42)
…a wolf-man (a reference to “The Wolf-Man of Metropolis!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #44 and “Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #52)
…a Bizarro (a reference to “Jimmy Olsen, the Bizarro Boy!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #80 as well as the Bizarro Jimmy Olsen that first appeared in “Jimmy Olsen’s Kookie Scoops!” from ADVENTURE COMICS #287) and constituting the only Bizarro reference in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon)
…a giant-head version of himself (a reference to “The Super-Brain of Jimmy Olsen” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #22)
…and a human porcupine (a reference to “The Human Porcupine” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #65).
These direct references to stories and homages to covers from the comics were not isolated incidents in the episode, as many other classic covers and scenes were paid homage to throughout the duration of the episode via flashbacks or in-story happenings.
A scene early in the episode paid homage to the cover of SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #121 by Curt Swan and Neal Adams. And, yes, the scene involved the exact scenario presented on the cover (Jimmy trying to trick Superman into revealing his secret identity).
A brief dream-sequence brought an homage to the cover of SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE #23 by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye. Note the attention to detail in Lois’ wardrobe, the placement of objects on the blanket as well as the rocks in the foreground.
A flashback scene gave us a look an homage to the classic cover of SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #53 by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, which itself was inspired by the cover of the July 1940 cover-dated issue of “Thrilling Wonder Stories” (Mort Weisinger had a hand in both books). The dialogue on the comic’s cover was also used verbatim in the episode.
Another classic cover, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #30 by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, also got a send-up.
The cover of SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE #26 by Curt Swan and John Forte was also paid homage to in a scene that, unlike its original comic book counterpart, was not an “imaginary story.” Again, note the attention to detail.
This scene also marks the first an only appearance of Lana Lang in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” continuity (aside from a possible cameo in “The Knights of Tomorrow!”). She is not named in the episode, but is clearly meant to be Lana, as it was on the original. She had no dialogue in the scene, and thus no voice actress portraying her.
And finally, the cover to ACTION COMICS #311 by Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff was recreated. Unlike the Turtle Man cover, the dialogue was not verbatim in the episode, but similar dialogue was.
Though these are all Silver Age covers penciled by Curt Swan, another distinctly different story was paid homage: BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT by Frank Miller. In the climactic final battle between Batman and Superman, Batman dawns a suit of armor nearly identical to the one worn in the final issue of that series, and two of the show’s recognizable “freeze frame” scenes paid direct homage to iconic panels in the issue, when Batman punches Superman and later kicks him in the face.
Just because they moved on to more-recent stories, however, they weren’t done with Curt Swan. The legendary Superman penciler was also payed tribute to in the name and likeness of the mayor of Metropolis.
While not an exact likeness, the mayor does very closely resemble Swan in his latter days. Many creators were paid tribute to throughout the series by having streets or buildings named in their honor. However, to my knowledge, Curt Swan is the only comic book creator to get a nod like this on the show — something not even done for Bill Finger or Bob Kane, the creators of Batman. Quite an honor!
Superman’s arctic getaway, the Fortress of Solitude, was seen very briefly in ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1. It makes a return appearance here, with its door looking slightly different. However, we also got a look at the famous giant key! Superman is not seeing using the key in the episode, though. As well, there is seemingly a way to access the Fortess without using it, as Batman was able to enter the Fortress on his own.
By stitching together several frames from the episode, we get an extended look at the arctic landscape surrounding the Fortress.
The interior of the Fortress also brought more treats, including another look at the Bottle City of Kandor (though, in the episode, it is oddly only referred to as “the shrunken city of Kandor”).
We actually get two shots of it, with the bottle looking slightly different each time. And both are somewhat different than in its earlier appearance in the comics. But, again, models sheets were likely not available for the comic book’s artists. Note the detail that in the second shot the bottle’s artificial sun is visible — and further note that is is indeed a red sun, as traditionally was found on Krypton.
Other mementos in the Fortress also provided nods to two other classic takes on the Man of Steel.
The giant robot over Batman’s right shoulder is nearly identical to the ones unleashed by the unnamed scientist in the second Fleischer Studios Superman short, “The Mechanical Monsters.” Over Batman’s left shoulder are the imprisonment, rings as first seen in the Krypton scenes from “Superman: The Movie,” as well as what might be the Phantom Zone prison itself.
While she was not seen, Ma Kent was also spoken of by Batman near the episode’s conclusion.
Other Superman references in the show included classic Superman phrases, such as, “Up, up and away!” (said by Superman while leaping out of a window).
A crowd of people, seeing Superman soar overhead, echoed the classic opening to the radio serial and “Adventures of Superman” television show with “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” And Lois, reporting on Superman, stated that he “has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.” And shortly later, Superman claimed he is “faster than a speeding bullet,” “more powerful than a locomotive” and “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” [sic].
Further references to “Superman: The Movie” and Superman II” came when Superman told the citizens of Metropolis to “Kneel before… King Superman” (a take off on “Kneel before Zod”) and later referred to Luthor as a “diseased maniac.”
And finally, as almost no take on Superman is complete without it, we got a great scene of Clark performing the classic shirt rip as he ducked into a nearby storeroom, before taking flight as Superman.
All in all, it was an episode chock-full of Superman references and tips-of-the hat to almost every era of the Man of Steel both in comics and other media. No other character on the show (save for Batman himself) received such numerous and wide-ranging tributes, despite many characters making multiple appearances over the three seasons. Clearly, the show’s creators had a deep love for the character of Superman and really wanted to give him his due.
We will finish up this series Friday, March 16, with a look at the rest of season three and comic books released during that time, as well as a brief look at some other appearances of interest. Don’t miss it!
Tags: Action Comics, Adventures of Superman (TV series), Alex Polinsky, Batman: The Brave and the Bold (series), Batman: The Dark Knight, Bizarro Jimmy Olsen, Bottle City of Kandor, Brainiac, Clark Kent, Curt Swan, Daily Planet, El Gar-Kur, Fleischer Superman shorts, Fortress of Solitude, Frank Miller, George Klein, Giant Turtle Man, Green Kryptonite, Jimmy Olsen, John DiMaggio, John Forte, Kevin Michael Richardson, Koko, Krypto the Super-Dog, Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Luthor's Lair II, Metallo, Metropolis, Mort Weisinger, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Neal Adams, Perry White, Red Kryptonite, Richard McGonagle, Roger Rose, Sheldon Moldoff, Signal-watch, Sirena Irwin, Stan Kaye, Steven Melching, Superman, Superman (radio), Superman II, Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, Superman: The Movie, Supermobile, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Toyman, Winslow Schott
My name is Michael.
I like Superman. A lot.
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