My Adventures Watching My Adventures With Superman
A few weeks ago I finished writing my recaps of each episode of My Adventures with Superman for Multiversity Comics. After a brief hiatus I wanted to write about the experience and my feelings on the show as a whole now that the first season is complete. Figured I’d put my six hours flight to good use.
The conceit they go with for television recaps is to organize them into “five thoughts”. It was helpful to have a structure like that because it prevented me from writing a boring beat-by-beat recap of each episode. While each piece did include a recap I was able to structure them around themes and my ideas. It even let me put in some Easter eggs of my own. While each article was a lot of work it was ultimately rewarding to be able to write about a great new Superman adaptation for an audience.
One of the things the show did really well is demonstrate how great Superman really is as a character. It’s been brought up in both a Superman Homepage interview with producer Josephine Campbell and on the Always Hold on to Smallville podcast but the moment where he says to Lois that he didn’t know if he was bullet proof but knew she wasn’t will be remembered like the Regan scene in All Star Superman. Quintessential Superman.
The show shows us in no uncertain terms how special it is to have someone with the power of Superman who chooses to use it for good. The opposite of the old absolute power adage. Characters like Ivo, Waller, and Alex (definitely Luthor) are all well chosen to demonstrate the opposite. None of them can fathom that Superman uses his abilities for good. This is key to getting Superman right and this show nails it. Even when they dip into the alternate evil Superman well it’s done to reinforce how special Superman really is. Because not everyone with this power would do what he does. Also note the main evil Superman we see is Overman from Grant Morrison’s Animal Man not Ultraman or any other variant as I’ve seen speculated.
At first glance it may seem that Clark is the real person and Superman is the made up identity in opposition to the famous Kill Bill scene. But I think that when you look closely there are three personas. There is Clark Kent the reporter. This Clark needs to hide who he really is to fit in with his coworkers and the rest of the world. There is Superman the hero. Lois and Clark explained it well when Clark said “Superman is what I can do”. Superman is Clark at his most selfless best. Then there is the Clark that he can be with Jimmy and Lois when they discover his secret. It’s the Clark from the farm in Kansas. This is the real person. I love that the show handled it with as much care and depth as they did. The “who is the real person” debate has been had for ages and I’ve always felt it was more complicated than a duality. The best written Superman stories often show this.
The show goes a step further by exploring Clark’s identity by making him afraid of being different. The first episode is titled “Adventures of a Normal Man” which he wishes he could be. This reminded me of Smallville, where there were many moments when Clark just wanted to be a normal Kansas kid. I loved the way MAWS used his fears of being different along with the General Lane story. The revelation that his home planet of Krypton might be an invading force and that is why he’s special is so shocking to Clark. The moment where Lois tells Clark that he could try being normal for a while hits Clark so hard. Throughout the season he becomes more comfortable with who he is and confronts his identity head on.
I read once that Donner said if they could make the Lois & Clark relationship believable the whole movie would be believable. They clearly took that to heart here and made the Lois & Clark relationship the core of the show. This relationship is so key to the character and it gets the attention it deserves. Unlike the last solo Superman show which I think made the core relationship an after thought.
The best part of TAS is the way they adapted the villains. Taking a page out of the Batman shows book they depicted some of the most iconic interpretations of the rogues gallery. MAWS didn’t quite live up to that mark. The choice to tie all the antagonists to Zero Day and Kryptonian technology is an excellent one. It makes it personal for him and pays off when he discovers their purpose. But I don’t think there is a reason for any of these characters to keep their tech after they’ve been caught. I also don’t think they chose the best characters. Heatwave? Mist? Livewire in particular is overshadowed by her TAS counterpart. Maybe like Superman & Lois they were given a list of characters they could use and it was very limited. I hope this is something that James Gunn fixes now that he’s in charge since it’s been a problem since Smallville. TAS has possibly the best versions of Bizarro, Parasite, Metallo, and Mr. Mxyzptlk. Tough to compete with that. I will say this Mxy was a ton of fun and it allowed them to really pay homage to different eras of the character. I like the idea that there is one Mxy that just looks different depending on the universe he’s in. Much better than when they do that with Darkseid.
A great part of our modern internet era is our ability to see behind the scenes of this show in a way that wasn’t quite possible in the 90s. Artist Kris Anka has shared some of his designs for the Superman costume. Producer Jake Wyatt said they wanted Jor-El to look like Big Boss. We’d be lucky to get this insight into TAS in DVD special features back then!
Speaking of DVD I am hoping and praying we get a physical release of this show. Warners is a horrible company in so many ways (lots of which we can thank the constant mergers and acquisitions of the last 30 years for) but one thing they do get is their fans still like physical media. Even Scooby Doo and Krypto Too got a DVD release. Maybe they’ll wait until after season two airs. It would be nice to have a complete twenty episode blu-ray set. Even better would be if this show continues past the two seasons, but that seems unlikely just due to WB being bad.