Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Star Trek: The Animated Series: "The Survivor"

Stardate 5143.3: The Enterprise is near the Romulan Neutral Zone when it assists a damaged one-man vessel.  One crew person is recovered from the ship: the long-missing philanthropist and “living legend,” Carter Winston.  Winston has been missing for five years, and presumed dead, but his fiancé Anne serves aboard the Enterprise as a security officer.  She is thrilled to learn he is still alive.

Not long after Carter Winston boards the Enterprise, however, he breaks up with Anne, and sabotages the ship.

In truth, he is an alien known as a Vendorian, a shape-shifter who can “re-arrange his molecular structure” and who practices “deceit as a way of life.”  This particular Vendorian is also a Romulan spy, but by taking on Carter Winston’s form, he has also begun to take on some of the philanthropist’s emotions and personality…

This episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973 – 1974) is so good, so mature in terms of its storyline and characterizations that you almost forget it is a cartoon.   Indeed, this installment looks, feels and plays like “real” Star Trek. 

In particular, “The Survivor” asks the viewer to reckon with the grown-up idea that “form isn’t terribly important” when it comes to love.  Today, our culture is still learning in this idea, in terms of the type of partnerships it finds acceptable, but as usual, Star Trek – in episodes such as “The Survivor” and “Metamorphosis” -- proves itself ahead of the curve.  Here, Anne (voiced by Nichelle Nichols) realizes that something of the man she loves survives in the Vendorian, and decides that she can love him despite his alien origin and nature. 

The alien also arrives at an interesting conclusion about his life.  On his world, he says, he was a “non-producer” and “useless.”  He undertook espionage work for the Romulans so he could do “something of value.”  After experiencing human emotions towards Anne – after knowing what it means to actually live as a human -- he realizes that producing or doing something of value may not be as important as honoring love, and feelings.  Again, that’s an incredibly Star Trek-kian message.

I should also add, this episode follows up brilliantly on “The Lorelei Signal” by featuring a female security guard as a central character.  Science fiction television, in particular, has often been slow to allow its female characters to operate outside the traditional “caretaker” role.   But Star Trek: The Animated Series blazes trails in this regard, noting that women can function, and function well in dangerous assignments.  One could make the argument that this episode is really about Anne: about her conflict between duty and personal life, and her decision to love a man who embodies all she misses so deeply in Carter.

“The Survivor” is such a strong episode in terms of its themes and characters that the sequence involving the Romulans and their attempt to capture the Enterprise hardly seems entirely necessary.  One wonders why the Romulans would violate a peace treaty and use a Vendorian when it is so easy to prove his involvement.  

It also stretches believability, just a bit, that the Vendorian could change himself into “energy” by becoming a deflector shield.  It’s established early in the story that the being must change to a person or object (like a sick bay table) of relative size. Is a deflector shield around the Enterprise of relative size?

Beyond these minor problems, “The Survivor” proves how ably Star Trek: The Animated Series dramatizes adult stories about important qualities of life.  In this episode, an alien hiding in human form finds that humanity isn’t a disguise, but a way of being.  It’s a really good, really original show, especially after last week’s unnecessary tribble re-hash.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Superman Week: The End

Well, that's it!

I hope you all enjoyed Superman Week here on the blog. I know I did.  I'll be looking forward to reading your thoughts about the new Zack Snyder movie, Man of Steel in the days and weeks ahead.  Let's all hope it's a bold new beginning for a great superhero, although the reviews aren't exactly encouraging at this point...

Tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Superman Week: Smallville (2001 - 2011)

Smallville (2001 – 2011) is the longest-running superhero series in television history. 

The fact that this series ran so long also means that, to some extent, Smallville managed to out-live the snarky criticism it faced at the very beginning of its life, which compared the Superman “prequel” to Dawson’s Creek.

I still remember the early days when some geeks termed the program “Dawson’s Cape, or "Kal-El’s Creek.”

In truth, that comparison to another teen-centric WB hit series never exactly fit, and Smallville seemed to re-invent itself every couple of years, anyway. 

Smallville began as a series that was part-Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003) and part-X-Files (1993 – 2002) it seems to me, since it focused on a team of adolescent “Scoobies" -- Clark Kent (Tom Welling), Lana (Kristin Kreuk), Pete Ross (Sam Jones III) and high-school reporter Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) -- investigating “Freaks of the Week” from Chloe’s “Wall of Weird.”  

In this continuity, Clark arrived on Earth during a violent meteor shower, and Kryptonite -- or “meteor rocks” -- not only affected him, but transformed normal humans (and often high-school teenagers) into monsters with super-powers.  “Metamorphosis’ featured “the Bug Boy” (Chad E. Donella), “Cool” featured a boy Sean Kelvin (Michael Coristine) who could freeze anyone he touched, “Cravings” starred future Man of Steel (2013) Lois Lane, Amy Adams, as a girl with the insatiable desire to eat…everything, and so forth.

By the time of the second season, however, the Freak of the Week paradigm became less repetitive, and the series started to focus on myth-building, on charting Clark’s journey to manhood. Over the years Smallville became more confident of its identity as a more traditional re-assertion of the Superman legend, one featuring a variety of villains and heroes from DC comics, plus serialized story-lines of remarkable complexity and maturity.

One key aspect of the program that elevated it above mere rip-off of Buffy or The X-Files was the  on-going Clark/Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) relationship and dynamic.  In this universe, Clark and Lex become best friends for a time, but friends with opposite -- and opposing -- destinies.  The series often brilliantly played these two men as mirror images in terms of their choices and friendships, and even in terms of their family lives.

And the really great thing about Smallville’s long run is that it allowed a full exploration of Superman’s youth, without racing rapidly through any particular stage or period.  Even the great Superman: The Movie (1978) can't afford to linger, for long, on the Smallville interlude.  

So the first few seasons of Smallville involve Clark’s (Tom Welling) discovery of his extra-terrestrial origin, and the development of such powers as his heat ray (“Heat”) and X-Ray vision (“X-Ray”).

Meanwhile, the third season involves the creation of the Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic.

The fifth season brings about the death of Clark’s adopted father, Jonathan (John Schneider), and season seven introduces Supergirl (Laura Van Voort).

Finally, Seasons 8 through 10 move Clark and Lois (Erica Durance) to Metropolis and to the Daily Planet for the traditional Superman story we have come to expect in all iterations of the mythology. 

Although many times throughout the series, fans complained (loudly) about Clark’s slow progress  from adolescent to superhero, it’s also fair to state that there’s an arc and direction to Smallville, and that by going chapter-by-chapter, stage-by-stage, the series pays off in its high-flying 2011 conclusion (which features an inspiring, emotional reprise of John Williams’ “Superman March.”)

Also, Smallville universally kept things interesting by introducing different villains as yearly “Big Bads,” to co-opt Whedon nomenclature.  Brainiac (James Marsters) menaced Clark throughout Season 5. Doomsday (Sam Witwer) is the villain of Season 8.  Major Zod (Callum Blue) is the nemesis of Season 9, and so on. 

Meanwhile, the final three or four seasons also involve the incipient gathering of the Justice League, with Clark teaming-up often with Aqua Man (Alan Ritchson), The Flash (Kyle Gallner), Martian Manhunter (Phil Morris), Hawkman (Michael Shanks), Cyborg (Lee Thompson Young), and series regular, Green Arrow (Justin Hartley).

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to note how thoroughly Smallville honors previous Superman productions with meaningful guest roles for previous and beloved performers.  Christopher Reeves has a recurring role early in the series as Dr. Virgil Swann.  Terence Stamp (Superman II's General Zod) provides the voice of Jor-El in The Fortress of Solitude throughout the series.  Also, Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher, Margot Kidder, and even Lynda Carter make crucial appearances throughout the series’ run.

I know it is easy to quibble with details or get frustrated with pacing, but it’s difficult for me to understand how fans could not fall in love this modern Superman series, which demonstrates such tributes to the past, as well as such an infusion of characters from the comic universe.  Also, via the home scenes with Jonathan and Martha (Annette O'Toole) Kent, Smallville demonstrates genuine heart on a regular basis. 

My wife and I binge-watched Smallville two years ago, and it was a great experience.  I can certainly name some stinker episodes (like the vampire entry "Thirst"), but overall it's a grand and unforgettable -- and emotionally resonant -- re-boot of the Superman mythology.

Superman Week: Superman (1988): "Destroy the Defendroids"/"The Adoption"

Even as the Superman feature film series collapsed into inanity in the late 1980s, the mythos continued in another form.  The Man of Steel returned to Saturday mornings in this half-hour CBS series created by Ruby-Spears Productions.   With a focus on fidelity to previous media entries, this one-season series boasts a re-orchestration of John Williams' "Superman March" as a theme song, and re-purposes the opening narration of the 1950s Adventures of Superman.

The great Marv Wolfman serves as the story editor for 1988's Superman, and Beau Weaver provided the voices of Clark/Superman.  In these tales, Clark frequently clashes with his regular nemesis, Lex Luthor, who is aided not by the movies' Miss Tessmacher, but a character similar in nature: Jessica Morganberry.  

Meanwhile, all the old friends at the Daily Planet -- Lois, Jimmy and Perry White -- are also on hand.  Typically, each episode of Superman (1988) features a main story, and then a short vignette from the so-called "Superman Family Album."

In "Destroy the Defendroids," Superman and Lois are enjoying a romantic flight over Metropolis together when Superman must set down to battle a remote-controlled tank of some type.  

After defeating the robot vehicle, he traces it back to Lex-Corp.  Luthor claims that he is "strictly a legitimate businessman" but threatens Superman with his Kryptonite ring nonetheless.  Meanwhile, Luthor donates to the city a squad of specially-built "Defendroids," robots which can accomplish the same super deeds as The Man of Steel.  

When a fire rages out of control at an apartment building, the Defendroids get all the good press for rescuing two trapped children, and make Superman look like yesterday's news.  Superman resigns from service, but secretly uses his new-found anonymity to discover Luthor's real plan:  "Operation Nugget," the robbery of a train carrying a billion dollars worth of gold.  Superman defeats Luthor's scheme, and Lex quips "I've seen cats with less lives than that man!"

In "The Superman Family Album" portion of the episode, "The Adoption," we witness Martha and Jonathan Kent take young Clark to the orphanage after discovering the strange boy on their farm.  The orphanage would prefer younger parents, so the Kents must say goodbye to the boy...forever.

But Clark knows who he wants his parents to be, and even as a toddler demonstrates a propensity towards action.  

When other couples come to adopt him, Clark acts out -- demolishing a bed room, or flying in a lion from the local zoo -- and scares off the prospective parents.   Finally, the exasperated workers at the orphanage have no choice but to let the Kents adopt young Clark...

Unlike the six-minute Filmation Superman adventures on The New Adventures of Superman, these episodes from the 1988 program allow a bit more time for character development, which is a relief.  

In "Destroy the Defendroids" it looks as if Superman's out of a job...and Lois isn't about to take that lying down.    The story is fun, if relatively predictable given Superman history, but even after just one episode it is annoying how Luthor weasels out of getting caught.   Superman always stops his plans, but somehow never lands the villain in jail.   It seems that if Superman focused a little more on catching Luthor red-handed, so-to-speak, he could get rid of the menace permanently.

On a design note, I'm not entirely enamored of the visual approach regarding characters.  Both Lex and Superman seem to possess heads much too small for their pumped-up, steroidal bodies.  They look mis-proportioned.  

On the other hand, there are moments here when -- looking at Clark Kent -- I swear I can see Christopher Reeves, which is a nice touch.

The "Superman Family Album" section of the episode is extremely silly, and seems to run counter to the whole idea that Clark needs to hide in Smallville as a child, before growing up and moving to Metropolis.  

If Clark really pulled off the egregious, crazy stunts we witness here in this vignette, it wouldn't be long before every newspaper reporter within a hundred miles was coming to get a good look at the amazing baby who could levitate a rocking horse, or tame a lion.

Superman Week: The New Adventures of Superman (1966 - 1970)

In 1966, Filmation Studios launched an animated Saturday morning TV series for CBS called The New Adventures of Superman.  Each episode consisted of several brief vignettes approximately six minutes in length.  The opening credits of the series feature an almost-shot-for-shot animated edition of the opener for the live-action Adventures of Superman of the 1950s,  except with Superman in the action, performing the deeds (running faster than a speeding bullet, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, etc.)

With episodes directed by Hal Sutherland, and stories frequently crafted by Oscar Bensol and George Kashdan, The New Adventures of Superman often pitted its Kryptonian hero against villains created for television, as well as those from the comic (like Toyma, Brainiac, Lex Luthor, Prankster and Mr. Myxpltlk).  

Many of the episodes tend to repeat the same sequence of shots of Clark Kent ducking into a supply closet at the Daily Planet offices, ripping open his shirt, announcing "this is a job for Superman" and taking off into the wild blue yonder.

Perry White and Jimmy Olsen frequently appear in the series and utter their popular stock phrases, "Great Caesar's Ghost!" and "Jeepers!" respectively.  Bud Collyer voices Clark Kent and Superman, and as the latter, he deepens his voice significantly.

Given the context, it is appropriate that the stories on The New Adventures of Superman feel very 1960s in terms of visuals.  This is a world of rocket launches at Cape Kennedy and big bulky computers, as well as white male dominance over the culture.  

Throughout the series, Superman repels danger from outer space, and also other dimensions.  In "The Force Phantom" for instance, he battles a "compressed energy" monster that is pulping rockets around the world, and serves a diabolical race from the Martian moon of Daimos.  In the end, Superman defeats the monster and pulps the alien saucer, thus killing its crew with hardly a thought or comment.

In "The Wicked Warlock," Superman battles a black magician or "male witch" (as we are told twice...) who invokes Lucifer, and uses magic to bring statues to life and serve "the will of the warlock."  

The warlock goes so far as to call Superman "super boob," but Superman tricks him at his own game and destroys his magic scepter.  

Perhaps the most alarming thing about this entire episode is Superman's unquestioning, instantaneous acceptance of black magic as a real force in the universe.  Since he owes his powers to science (a different solar environment), I found this a bit alarming.

Designed for children, The New Adventures of Superman doesn't really develop Superman or the characters around him.  Instead, it's one super smack-down after the other as Supes defends Metropolis with a minimum of moral questions or hesitation.   This approach makes the stories less-than-deep in terms of theme and narrative, but the trade-off is that the pacing is often electric.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Superman Week: Max Fleischer's Superman, Part II

Superman Week: Max Fleischer's Superman, Part I

Superman Week: Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: "Strange Visitor" (September 26, 1993)

In Strange Visitor," the second episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993 - 1997), officials of the U.S. Government raid the Daily Planet offices in search of information regarding Superman, and force Lois (Teri Hatcher) and Clark (Dean Cain) to undergo lie detector tests.

After finessing the test, Clark goes into hiding at Kat's (Tracy Scoggins) place to avoid the military officer behind the interrogation, Jason Trask (Terence Knox).  

But soon, Lois and Clark are back in action, and learn that the investigation into Superman is being led by the secretive Bureau 39, a classified division of the military obsessed with UFOs.  

While searching Trask's office, Clark learns that there was indeed a flying saucer crash in Smallville in 1966, and that his parents found a baby aboard that spaceship...

"Strange Visitor" is all about Clark's search for self, for his real identity.  

Before the events of this segment, his adoptive parents, the Kents, have never shared their full story with him.  In "Strange Visitor" he learns he came to Earth aboard a pint-sized spaceship, and that he is really and truly alien to Earth.   The search brings him into conflict with Jason Trask and Bureau 39 (which I wondered, while watching this time, was the inspiration for Deep Space Nine's Section 31).  He also gets to see his spaceship (with the "S" emblazoned on the hull) and a strange globe that may have significance.

Clark's identity also comes into question involving his romantic intentions during "Strange Visitor." 

Although there is nothing romantic "officially" between Clark and Lois, he nonetheless feels guilty and ashamed when an office rival, Kat, suggests that he slept with her and their (imaginary) coupling becomes fodder for office gossip.  Lois pretends not to be jealous, but it's obvious that she is.  

Like many episodes of Moonlighting suggest,  the idea in any developing romantic relationship (at least on television) is to toss obstacles in the way of the primary couple, and that's Kat's purpose in this episode.  She embarrasses Clark, and provokes Lois.  

These scenes between Clark, Kat and Lois are all playful, and that is the word that really best describes this iteration of the Superman mythos.  As viewers, we have more invested in the relationships than in the action scenes.

In "Strange Visitor" Clark must also fool a polygraph test, and he does so by using his super breath to impact the lie detector's "needle."  It's a little silly in concept and execution, and a bit hard to take seriously, but the cast plays moments like this straight, and the result is certainly a sense of fun, if not suspense.

This episode also features a classic Superman situation.  Clark and Lois are thrown out of a jet plane in flight, and Clark must turn into Superman and rescue Lois before she plunges to her doom.  

After landing her safely (and flirting with her), Superman then intercepts a guided missile, and destroys the plane with it.  Lois is worried, however, because Clark is nowhere to be found.  Superman assures her -- and she takes his word for it -- that he also rescued Clark.

The joke inherent in this oft-repeated action scene involves Lois and her character.  She is the most discerning and intelligent reporter on the planet.  

And yet she is so blinded by love (or is it lust?) for Superman that she can't see what is right in front of her nose: Superman is Clark, and Superman is constantly covering for that fact.  I've always appreciated this aspect of the Superman legend, and find it endlessly fascinating. Lois believes she's a hard-nosed, objective observer of the human condition, but she's just as susceptible to her emotions as anyone. Thus, in some way, this trope in Superman is really about the way we, as humans, delude ourselves, and misjudge those around us. 

Superman Week: Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: "Pilot"

In Lois and Clark’s pilot episode, which first aired on September 12, 1993 and was written by Deborah Joy Levine, Clark Kent (Dean Cain) of Smallville moves to Metropolis to pursue a job at the Daily Planet.  

Of course, Clark is no ordinary rookie reporter: he was adopted as a child by a kindly Kansas couple (K. Callan, Eddie Jones) under unusual – and alien -- circumstances in 1966.  He is unaware of his exact origin, however.

After impressing Editor Perry White (Lane Smith) with his writing and feeling for “human interest” stories, Clark teams up with the beautiful, feisty, and highly-neurotic Ally McBeal, er Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) on his first story: the sabotage of the space shuttle, Passenger.  That vehicle has been assigned to add an important module to the Prometheus Space Station, and the orbiting platform will fail without it.

Even as Clark Kent assumes the disguise of a hero called Superman to use his super powers (including x-ray vision and flight) for good, the richest man in Metropolis, Lex Luthor (John Shea), plots to sabotage the next shuttle launch so that he will have the opportunity to build a new space station, one which he can control without government interference…

I watched and enjoyed Lois and Clark throughout its four year run in the mid-1990s, even though the program focused very heavily on relationships and comedy, rather than crime-solving and action. 

The workplace romance aspects of this series are indeed charming and reflect the new idea that in the 1990s, we would fall in love at our jobs, where we would spend the bulk of our time. The yuppie-ism of the 1980s had made work the center-place of American lives in a way it hadn’t necessarily been in previous decades, but even a workaholic like Lois in Lois and Clark still actually pined for personal fulfillment outside of her career.

Lois and Clark reflects many such new realities of the nineties (like Don't Ask, Don't Tell) with a wink and a nudge.  One joke in the pilot involves a member of the Royal Family getting a sex change operation, and at another point in the premiere story, Perry White pointedly asks Clark Kent when he is going to "come out of the closet.

In the latter instance, Perry is being literal: Clark is hiding in a supply closet while he plans his next move to rescue Lois and Jimmy.  But the "come out of the closet" lingo is important because it signals that Clark is indeed an outsider among his peers, hiding a secret about his identity and his very nature.

Another moment in the pilot suggests the burgeoning 1990s obsession with fitness and diet.  Lois takes one look at Clark's refrigerator -- which is filled with candy bars -- and notes "You eat like an eight-year old but you look like Mr. Hard Body."

The pilot episode also gets in a reference which will seem familiar to fans of Superman: The Movie (1978).  In that Jimmy Carter Era film, Superman promised Lois that he would never lie to her.  Here, the Man of Steel says instead that she can "trust" him, and one has to wonder if, in the 1990s (and the Clinton Era), it is meant ironically, as counter-point to reality.

In terms of the famous characters of the Superman mythos, there have certainly been some notable updates for the 1990s.  

Lois Lane is described by another character in the drama as “domineering, uncompromising, thick-headed and brilliant,” a straight-forward update that doesn’t take traditional sex roles into consideration.  In this era, Lois has nothing to apologize for by putting work first, or competing with -- and vanquishing -- male reporters.

Lex  Luthor  (John Shea) in this incarnation, furthermore, is not a power mad criminal or scientific genius, but a corporate raider, someone who seeks power through the world of business.  He is also a physically-attractive man, and not apparently bald or wearing a wig.  Later, we do find out he has the familiar chrome dome.

Perry White is very much the same man we've met before.  He's curmudgeonly and obsessed with "hard facts" and getting the story right.  Instead of invoking Great Caesar's Ghost, however, this White likes to invoke the memory of the King...Elvis Presley, another indicator of how this edition of the Superman myth revolves around pop culture references.

In terms of Clark Kent/Superman, this pilot episode makes it abundantly clear that Clark is the real person -- the son, the journalist, and prospective romantic partner -- and that Superman is the disguise he puts on, for the sake of the world.  This is an inversion of the Adventures of Superman dynamic of the 1950s, but it works.  The pilot makes it clear that Clark is a real man of honor.  At one point, he notes that "Like any citizen of the planet, I must obey the law," and that's classic Man of Steel dogma.

In many ways, this pilot episode of Lois and Clark reflects almost perfectly the yin-and-yang of the continuing series.  This installment boasts exceedingly good humor and fun banter, as well as romantic fireworks. But the suspenseful/action/adventure aspects just don't quite come together, despite everyone's best efforts.  Today, the special effects look especially dated, but I remember that in 1993 they looked rather impressive.

So, this may not be an "astonishing debut," but Lois and Clark's pilot reboots the Superman legend in a pleasing and funny, if not suspenseful and dynamic, fashion.  Today, this happy lark of a series absolutely reeks of the roaring nineties, an era when we had so much peace and prosperity that Superman/Clark Kent actually spent more time trading barbs with Lois than racing to save the world.

I sort of wish we still lived in that world today.

Superman Week: Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Series Brief

“Is that Kryptonite in your pocket, or are you happy to see me?”

Lois Lane in Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman (1993 – 1997)

The Superman films of Christopher Reeve were a product of the late 1970s and the 1980s, starting in the immediate post-Watergate Age. 

However, the legend was reborn in the Age of Clinton with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, a romantic/comedy/adventure that shifted and updated the general tone of the franchise, but in a manner that was largely pleasing to mass audiences (if not always to the long-time Superman aficionado).

Developed for TV by Deborah Joy Levine, this series premiered in 1993 -- the same year as The X-Files (1993 – 2002) -- and was scheduled by ABC for Sunday nights at 8:00 pm. 

Lois and Clark competed for audience attention against the successful CBS mystery series Murder She Wrote, and NBC’s new science fiction epic from Steven Spielberg, SeaQuest DSV (1993 – 1996). The new Superman series was not a hit with audiences at first, but it resonated immediately with critics and good word-of-mouth spread until the series began to smash its weekend competition on a regular basis. 

Writing for Commonwealth, reviewer Frank McConnell concluded of Lois and Clark that it is “one of the best things – smart and poignant – you can watch on the tube,” and noted that the series boasted a “sense of high fun…that can’t be faked.” 

At Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker called Lois and Clarkthe most human hour of programming that Sunday night has to offer.”  Time Magazine preferred SeaQuest DSV but commented admiringly of Lois and Clark’sgood-humored verve” and “hip facetiousness.”

This nineties-era Superman series stars Dean Cain as Clark Kent/Superman and Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane.  The late, great Lane Smith (formerly of V: The Series) plays Daily Planet Editor-in-chief Perry White, and the series boasts two incarnations of Jimmy Olsen: Michael Landes and Justin Whalen. John Shea menaced Metropolis as Lex Luthor in the first season, and was then seen only sporadically through the ensuing three years before cancellation.

Over the span of four years, Bruce Campbell, Jonathan Frakes, Harry Anderson, Roger Daltrey, Emma Samms, Robert Culp, Drew Carey, Delta Burke, and Bronson Pinchot all showed up to menace Metropolis.  

One of the most popular villains was Lane Davies’ Tempus, a time traveling nemesis who appeared in three different stories.  The series featured many familiar superhero tropes, including an episode in which Lois was gifted with Superman’s powers (“Ultra Woman”) and another in which Superman experienced amnesia, right when he was needed to stop an approaching asteroid, "All Shook Up."  The latter episode was a remake of an Adventures of Superman story, "Panic in the Sky."

Lois and Clark also occasionally featured villains from the comics, like Metallo.  However, the series wore out everyone’s patience, with the Lois and Clark wedding which turned out to be a sham: Clark ended up marrying a frog-eating clone of Lois instead of the real thing.  

The next season, a story called “Swear to God, This Time We’re Not Kidding” got the real nuptials out of the way, but felt like an anti-climax.

The most exciting episodes of the series were likely those that featured renegade Kryptonians arriving on Earth and capturing Smallville so Clark would surrender and take his place as prince of New Krypton.  

This multi-part story included the chapters bridging the third and fourth seasons, “Big Girls Don’t Fly,” “Lord of the Flys” and “Battleground Earth.”  

Although a fifth season of Lois and Clark had been promised by ABC, the network reneged and the series ended with “The Family Hour,” a story which found Lois and Clark suddenly acquiring a mysterious baby…

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Superman Week: Superman Food

Superman Week: Smallville Action Figures

Superman Week: Pocket Heroes (Mego; 1979)

In 1979, Mego released a series of bare-bones action figures from the Superman universe.  The sparsely decorated red cards read: "Only 3 1/4 inches tall and fully poseable. Small enough to fit into your pocket. Big enough for giant sized adventures."  

Although there are better-sculpted Pocket Heroes toys out there (from the Marvel and DC universes), these Pocket Heroes are notable for featuring the characters of Jor-El and Zod, with a loose but fair resemblance to Terence Stamp and Marlon Brando.  The Lex Luthor in this series resembles the comic-book character, rather than Gene Hackman.