Raiders of the Story Arc: Superman
November 15, 2011
NC: Have I talked about “Batman: The Animated Series” yet? (A woman is heard screaming, and he reacts in surprise to it) OK, a few times.
(Clips from “Batman: The Animated Series” are shown)
NC (voiceover): Well, then, you can gather that it was a huge hit, so with all that popularity, it only made sense for the makers of the show to move onto the next logical superhero… (The front cover to a “Howard the Duck” comic is shown) …Yes, “Howard the Duck.”
NC: They took their entire creative team and they went into “Howard the Duck”—“SUPERMAN”!!
(Clips from “Superman: The Animated Series” are shown)
NC (voiceover): Unlike the “Batman” cartoon, though, they didn’t just start out in the middle of the story. Here, they had to go straight to the beginning of his origin and give him—you guessed it—a story arc. But this would be tricky, seeing how most people already knew the story arc of “Superman”: Moses with aliens. (A painting of baby Moses found in a basket in a river with three women and a girl is shown briefly with cartoon alien antennas attached to all their heads) So it would be a little bit more difficult to make this fresh and new.
NC: Does it succeed? Let’s take a look.
(The first episode begins)
NC (voiceover): So we get our first episode, “The Last Son of Krypton [Part I].” Yeah, last one until we see the guest star list of future episodes. (Screenshots of characters voiced by various guest stars in the show are shown quickly) We get a look at Superman’s father Jor-El, who is very happy that his science suit is able to hold all of his chin.
(Jor-El is collecting data from a hole in an ice field on Krypton)
Jor-El: Gathering readings for final subterranean probe.
(Jor-El is suddenly attacked by a Kryptonian creature)
NC (voiceover): He suddenly gets attacked by a Metroid monster but manages to fight it off and continue with his research, research that a giant computer named Brainiac is very interested in knowing.
Brainiac: The planetary council demands that I analyze your data.
Jor-El: People don’t like to be spied upon.
NC (voiceover; as Brainiac): I’m sorry, Jor-El. This cartoon series is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize.
NC (voiceover): So we see that Krypton is a little bit more diverse than it is in the other movies. Not only do they have black people on Krypton, but also British people, too. Real British, not that fake British that [Marlon] Brando was trying to pull off.
Lara: They’ll start going over the data. I keep thinking what if it supports your theory. What then?
Jor-El: We can deal with it.
NC (voiceover): This is Lara, Jor-El’s wife. And, of course, his son Kal-El, which begs the question: Is the last name in this family L? (An image of L from the anime “Death Note” is shown quickly) They go back home to look over the data they discovered. But Lara’s father, played by Tony Jay, is not enthusiastic and tries winning his daughter over to his side.
Sul-Van: If he persists in predicting the end of the world, it’ll be the end, all right; of his political and professional career.
Lara: But what if he’s right, Father?
Sul-Van: Try convincing the council! He has one support of his theory.
Claude Frollo (from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”): (sings, dubs over Sul-Van) The world is cruel, the world is wicked / It’s I alone whom you can trust in this whole city / I am your only friend.
Jor-El: Why is that, Sul-Van?
Sul-Van: Because you can never be wrong, Jor-El.
Jor-El: I never let my ego get in the way of the facts.
(Cut to Kal-El and a white puppy playing with a ball together)
Sul-Van: Well, let me let you in…
NC (voiceover): Dude! They had dogs on Krypton? How is it the evolution of this planet is almost exactly the same as Earth’s? It creates creatures that look like Flying Spaghetti Monster mucus, and yet it still somehow produces human beings and dogs? How does that work?
(Cut to a profile picture of Charles Darwin being voiced and animated by NC)
Charles Darwin: (with his eyes rolled up) I don’t know. Maybe God made them.
(Back to the episode)
NC (voiceover): So Jor-El goes to the council and pleads his case.
Jor-El: Please no doubt that the planet’s core is undergoing a mounting chain reaction that will eventually destroy Krypton!
Science Council Member #1: Lunacy!
Science Council Member #2: Ask Brainiac.
Science Council Member #3: Yes!
NC (voiceover): (laughs at the tall, angular designs on the shoulders of the council’s outfits) Nice outfits there, guys. Today’s wardrobe is brought to you by the letter M. (The letter “M” appears bottom left of the screen)
Brainiac: As I’ve stated before, the temblors are the result of a slight polar shift.
Jor-El: He’s wrong! He doesn’t know!
Science Council Member #4: He was built to monitor all of Krypton, and, as I might add, served us far better than upstart scientists with apocalyptic visions!
NC: Yeah, come on. Don’t you know it’s the job of conservative news programs to tell you it’s the end of the world? (A screenshot for a promo of Fox News Channel is shown briefly)
Jor-El: Act now and we can save everyone.
Council Member #4: And how do you propose to do that?
Jor-El: Put everyone in the Phantom Zone.
(The council members mutter to themselves at such a ridiculous proposal)
NC: The Phantom Zone? I wonder what’s in there. (He picks up a remote to aim at the camera and flip to Elisa Hansen next to her huge collection of “Phantom of the Opera” memorabilia and with the caption “Phantom Zone” below her)
Elisa Hansen: (sings in an over-the-top fashion) Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation.
(NC screams and readies himself to flip back)
Elisa Hansen: (sings) Darkness stirs…
(Channel flip back to the episode)
Jor-El: We can restore ourselves later, on another planet. (The council members have started to leave) I’ve built a ship! Listen! Please!
NC (voiceover): But nobody believes his story, and Jor-El is stuck trying to find answers, only to discover that Brainiac has been lying the whole time.
Jor-El: You’re transmitting your memory to a satellite…saving yourself!
Brainiac: Am I not the repository of all Kryptonian knowledge? If the council knew that Krypton was doomed, they would frantically put me to work on calculating an evacuation plan; a futile gesture, given the time remaining.
NC (voiceover): Well, wait a minute. Jor-El built a ship, and they both must have known for the same amount of time that the planet was doomed. Why could he come up with an evacuation plan? Hell, Jor-El had a plan ready to go! Why didn’t Brainiac just say…
NC (voiceover): (as Brainiac) Bitches, you’re screwed. Pile into Jor-El’s car. It’s a six-seater.
NC (voiceover): (normal) But the guards locate him and try to shoot him down.
(The guards chase Jor-El all around the city and try firing their lasers at him)
NC (voiceover): I would say that this scene is ripping off “Judge Dredd,” (a clip of a chase scene in “Judge Dredd” is shown briefly) but that would imply somebody actually saw “Judge Dredd.”
(Jor-El uses his ray gun to aim a laser through a ceiling and make it crumble onto the guards, allowing him ample time to escape)
NC (voiceover): So he escapes the guards and makes it home, where the family decides the only logical choice is to save their only son.
(Jor-El and Lara place Kal-El into a small pod, and she puts in a device shaped like a small box in a compartment next to Kal-El)
Jor-El: Lara, I could send you with him. There’s a risk, but if I have time to recalibrate the course…
Lara: (goes up to place both hands on Jor-El’s cheeks) No, my love. I’m staying with you. (She presses a button to start launching Kal-El into space)
NC (voiceover): (as Lara) I’d rather much risk my baby boy being sent into a dangerous world with no adults than leave your side, my love.
Brainiac: Farewell, Krypton. (It turns itself off)
NC (voiceover): So Brainiac takes off as does Kal-El, and the planet meets its timely demise.
(Krypton starts to crumble and the citizens scream and run about in panic)
NC (voiceover): You know, it just hit me: I don’t think they ever specifically say in this version what it is that destroys them. Is it the inside of the planet? Is it colliding with another planet? Is the sun too close? (Beat) Is it Marvin the Martian again??
(Cut to a clip of the Looney Tunes cartoon “Hare-Way to the Stars” with Marvin the Martian talking to Bugs Bunny)
NC (voiceover): (as Marvin the Martian) Oh, I’m going to blow up Krypton. It obstructs my view of Venus.
(Krypton is finally shown exploding, causing the whole screen to turn white)
Marvin the Martian: (voice-over from "Duck Dodgers") Isn’t that lovely, hmm?
NC (voiceover): (normal) As we begin Part II, we see Kal-El crash-lands on Earth right in front of a couple known as the Kents.
(Martha Kent sighs in awe at the sight of Kal-El and picks him up)
Jonathan Kent: Whoa, Martha, what are you doing?
Martha: Who would put a baby in a spaceship?
Jonathan: That’s just my point. Could be Russian; a Sputnik baby.
Martha: I don’t care where he came from. All I know is he needs us, Jonathan. Look how he’s reaching out to you.
NC (voiceover): Ah, yes, to hell with calling the authorities. We’ll just replace the word “kidnapping” with “adoption,” and all our problems will be solved.
Martha: What do you think of the name Christopher? What do you think of…
(Cut to Kal-El as a teenager daydreaming in class)
NC (voiceover): So Kal-El has grown up into a teenage Clark Kent. But he can’t help but feel he doesn’t quite fit in.
Young Clark Kent: I’m feeling kind of weird.
Lana Lang: You’ve always been weird if you ask me. (Clark has turned away from her with his arms folded; she moves in front of him to get his attention) Hey, it’s Lana. You know, the girl who’s had a crush on you since we were three? You can tell me.
NC (voiceover): Wait, what?
Lana: You know, the girl who’s had a crush on you since we were three?
NC (voiceover): OK, anyone who would just awkwardly say that, they’re the weird ones. I think the only thing weirder is that Clark doesn’t take her up on it! I mean, you’re a teenage boy! I don’t care what planet you come from. Your hormones would grab that Mary Jane Want-Some in a millisecond!
Young Clark: And I can see things, too, like in the gym. (He uses his X-Ray vision to look through the brick wall and see the inside of the gym) Miss Stevenson’s inside putting up decorations for the dance.
Lana: You’re saying you can see through walls? So, how many times have you peeked into the girls’ locker room, huh? (She giggles)
Young Clark: Lana!
NC: (as Clark) Lana! (He confesses) 12.
NC (voiceover): So he brings up these issues to his mom and dad, and they decide it’s finally time to tell him the truth. They show him the ship as well as a strange device that came with it.
(The device forms the familiar “S” symbol (as one would see on Superman’s outfit), it shines the symbol onto Clark’s forehead, and it flashes him into a different environment, which is the home of Jor-El and Lara)
Jor-El: Hello, son. You’ve activated the message we placed in your escape rocket.
Lara: We are your parents.
Young Clark: (is back on Earth and shakes his head in disbelief while watching the message on the device) No. No, it can’t be true.
Lara: You are the sole survivor of Krypton, a planet similar to Earth in many ways. (She gestures to a part of the home) This is our…
(We suddenly cut to an advertisement with people dancing out on the streets)
NC (voiceover): (as Young Clark) Whaaa?
NC (voiceover): (as Lara) Oh, sorry, son. Advertisements. (A screenshot advertising the logo for Fiat cars is shown with NC’s caption “This Memory Regenerator brought to you by” over it)
Jor-El: You may have already discovered that you are much stronger and faster than a normal human being. It will give you abilities that no other human has.
NC: (as Jor-El) You may also notice your voice getting deeper, sporadic hair growth, and people’s inability to recognize you if you wear glasses.
(Once the memory regenerator has ended, Clark drops it on the floor in disbelief)
Young Clark: I’m not a freak. I’m not! I’M NOOOTTTT! (He punches a wooden support beam, breaking it before he runs away)
Jonathan: Clark! Come back!
NC (voiceover): (as Jonathan) The least you can do is not run like a complete pussy! You freak.
(Clark runs to get enough speed and leaps over a river before landing onto the other side safely)
NC (voiceover): But he discovers more of his powers and figures out that being a freak is…well, freaking awesome!
(Cut to Clark flying back home to meet up with Jonathan and Martha, who both hug him)
Martha: Oh, Clark. (Jonathan chuckles warmly)
Young Clark: It’s OK.
NC (voiceover): And faster than you can say “What transition?” he’s suddenly grown up into a man and saving people in Metropolis.
Angela Chen: (on TV) Just ask little Dimitra Evans.
Dimitra Evans: (on TV) I was fooling around with a window when I lost my balance and fell. Suddenly, this big blue angel with red wings came down and caught me. (She starts drawing a picture of Superman)
Angela Chen: (stands at the base of the apartment building) This is where they found Dimitra. (She points upward) And that’s where she fell from; 30 floors up.
NC: (as Angela Chen) Clearly, Dimitra is possessed by the devil. Buy your torches and pitchforks here. (The caption “Bob’s ‘Stab em and Burn em’ Torches and Pitchforks 555-KILL” is shown below him)
NC (voiceover): This steals the front page of the Daily Planet from Lois Lane, voiced by Dana Delany. And she’s pissed, because despite her wearing a skirt about as wide as toilet paper, she’s not getting the attention she feels she deserves.
Lois Lane: Some sprouty New Age granola crunching fluffy piece on angels.
Perry White (Editor-in-Chief): Good timing, Lois. I want you to be the first to know I’m hiring a new guy on the city desk.
(Clark Kent walks in behind Lois)
Lois: Is he cute?
Perry White: (gestures to Clark) Um, you tell me.
Lois: (turns to see Clark) Oh. (laughs)
NC: Of course, if a woman says that about a co-worker, it’s fine, but if a man says that about a co-worker, suddenly it’s a sexual harassment suit. I ONLY SAID IT ONCE TO YOU, AMANDA!
NC (voiceover): So Lois is teamed up with Clark Kent and they go to cover the latest weapon demonstration from Lex Luthor.
Female Emcee: The next wave in military defense, the Lexo-Skel Suit 5000.
NC (voiceover): Yes, like in most comic book universes, we’re always looking to make you safer with the most psychotically-designed death machines the world has ever shit their pants looking at!
Female Emcee: Lex Luthor.
(Lex Luthor steps out to greet the crowd, who cheers for him)
Lex Luthor: I’d like to say that I view the Lexo Suit not as an instrument of war, but as an instrument to end war.
(A blasted hole is made after some ammo is shot through the building and a few terrorists start shooting everywhere)
NC (voiceover): LOOK OUT! WAR!
(During the terrorist attack, Lex Luthor steps off the stage casually)
NC (voiceover): (as Lex Luthor, in a monotone voice) Oh, God, no, stop. Did I mention I’m the villain? I don’t need to. Bye.
(In the middle of all the chaos, Lois trips and falls before a support beam from up above starts to break and fall onto her, but not before Superman flies in to catch the beam)
NC (voiceover): (as Superman) Alright, you get one. But I never want to see you in trouble again, got it? (Superman throws the beam aside) I’m gonna hold you to that! (Superman flies off) NEVER, EVER AGAIN!
NC (voiceover): So the villains try to destroy another plane to get Superman away from them, as this begins our third part of the story arc.
(As the plane plummets into the city, Superman flies in front of the windows where the cockpit is; inside the cockpit, we see that there is an animation error, for some of the controls and screens are missing, and that the city could be seen where the controls and screens should be)
NC (voiceover): Whoa, wait a minute. (He rewinds the footage to where the animation goof is) No wonder the plane went down so easily! Half of the equipment isn’t there!
NC: Everybody wants to fly Southwest, but then when you see when they cut corners….
NC (voiceover): Of course, he saves the plane and a…mime…
NC: Err, thank God.
NC (voiceover): ...and all of Metropolis is amazed.
Perry White: Where did he come from? What does he want? Look who I’m asking.
Lois: (studies a screenshot of Superman flying) Nice S. (Clark and Perry turn to look at her)
NC: (stares in disbelief) I know, I heard it, too. Here’s a clip of something awesome to off-set it.
(A clip of a high school cheerleader doing a flip in the air before landing in the arms of her squad is shown along with a short audio snippet from the introduction to “CSI: Miami”)
NC: Better? OK.
NC (voiceover): So everybody wants the story on Superman, and Clark is wondering what’s the best route to take.
Clark Kent: (to Martha and Jonathan) Suddenly, people are calling me “Superman.” They want to know everything about me. Some are even afraid of me.
Jonathan: You’ll always be Clark Kent. Superman just helps out now and then.
Martha: Still, it wouldn’t be bad if people knew a little more about Superman. I don’t want anyone thinking you’re like that nut in Gotham City.
NC: (as Martha) You know…Spider-something.
NC (voiceover): So Superman decides to give the story to Lois in a not so subtle way.
(Lois is driving in her car, and she gasps upon hearing Superman’s voice come out of nowhere)
Superman: (voice) Excuse me, Miss Lane. I believe I’m the one you want to talk to.
Lois: Where are you?
Superman: Just hang on. (He lifts the car from underneath and into the air while it’s still moving)
NC (voiceover): (as Superman) It’s OK! I learned this by watching my parents! We just called this an adoption instead of kidnapping and everything will be fine!
(At a roadside lookout, Superman explains his story)
Superman: As far as I’ve been able to piece together, I’m the last survivor of a planet called Krypton.
Superman: Uh-huh. All I ask is that you tell the truth about me.
Lois: And that is…?
Superman: I’m not here to scare anyone.
NC: (as Superman) "And if they ever make a movie about my life, don’t hand it to the guy who directed “300.” I saw “Sucker Punch”; (whispers) it was bad!
NC (voiceover): So Lois prints the story and people get the info they’ve been looking for. But there’s still the issue of Lex’s missing suit, which Clark now thinks might have been planned so that the Pentagon would pay even more money for Lex to make an even larger one.
Clark: (to Lex) When all is said and done, this could net you a multi-billion dollar windfall.
Lex: You’re very amusing, Mister…Kent, is it?
(Cut to later with Lois and Clark in his car)
Lois: Nice work, Smallville. You’re only the second person I’ve ever seen getting under Lex’s skin.
Clark: Who’s the first?
Lois: Me, when I dumped him.
Lois: Ancient history. Anyway, what makes you think…
NC (voiceover): Stop, stop!
NC: No, no, no, no, no, no, no! You go back to dating Lex Luthor! Tell me everything! Give me all the details! You can let me know. He’s bald down there, right?
NC (voiceover): So Lois goes to do even more research aboard one of Luthor’s ships. She gets talking with one of the heads of the ship, played by Malcolm MacDowell.
John Corben: You must know there’s a trade embargo between the U.S. and Kasnia. We’re part of a diplomatic envoy trying to restore friendly relations. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have.
(A door opens behind where John and Lois are standing, revealing one of the Lexo-Skel Suits as a worker walks out of the storage room it’s in)
NC (voiceover): (as John Corben) Oh, damn it, Frank! Could you open that door any wider?
Lois: I can think of some doozies.
John Corben: I’ll bet. (He raises a pistol at Lois)
NC (voiceover): (as John) It’s OK. We’ll just say it’s an adoption.
NC (voiceover): (normal) So they tie her to a pole and get ready to axe her off.
John Corben: (to his men) We’re clear. Lose her.
NC (voiceover): (laughs as he speaks) Bet you’ll never guess what’s gonna happen here.
(Before one of John’s men could fire at Lois, Superman suddenly flies in through the ceiling to stand in front of her, shielding her from the bullets; we hear Speedy Gonzales’ “Yee-ha! Arriba, arriba, yee-ha!” as he does this)
NC (voiceover): I guess the “S” on his shirt stands for Speedy Gonzales.
(Superman turns to look at Lois)
NC (voiceover): (as Superman) Andale.
(As John Corben’s men start firing at Superman, he turns to face Lois and uses his heat vision to break the ropes off of her)
Superman: Take cover!
NC (voiceover): (as Superman) Your bra might also be missing. Just ignore that.
(Cut to the Lexo-Skal Suit 5000 breaking free from its chains; we get a low-angle upward view behind Lois of her looking up at the approaching Suit; this angled shot is repeatedly shown as NC speaks)
NC (voiceover): Oh, yeah, they got that angle because it was SOO important to the story! No, really! I swear! They got that angle because cinematically, it just works so much better! It was much more compelling. I mean, what other reason would they possibly—you can’t even hear me anymore, can you? Yeah, well, let’s try this. (A demon face appears to scare the audience, and it screams)
NC: HA! That’ll teach ya!
(Cut to John Corben inside the Lexo Suit and controlling it)
John Corben: So long, sweetheart.
(After struggling to get up, Superman dashes quickly to grab for Lois before John could fire (the Road Runner’s “Meep-meep!” is heard here); John uses the suit to launch it out of the ship and land on a few wooden crates on the docks)
NC (voiceover): (as the suit) Never mind me! Just a giant walking mechanical robot going for a stroll—(Superman comes in to kick down the suit) Ohh, you piece of shit! I’ll stab you in the yarbles!
(The Suit slides through a warehouse, and Superman flies to the other side to slow down the Suit as a police car approaches and stops where they are)
NC (voiceover): (normal) So it looks like this fight is over, and—
(The suit lifts up an arm to fire at Superman, who goes flying into an incomplete building (the Goofy yell is heard here) before an explosion occurs inside of it; the robot starts approaching the building)
Waltzer (from “Milk Money”): (audio) I’m going to the so’-‘op.
Policeman: (speaks through a police squad microphone to the crowd) Everyone clear the area now!
NC (voiceover): But Superman does get back up and puts that evil machine in its place.
(Superman knocks off one of the suit’s legs before the suit stands at the building’s top ledge and is about to lose balance; Superman comes up to simply blow at it, making the suit fall)
NC (voiceover): (as the suit) ASSSSHOOOOLLLLLLLLEEEEEE!!!!
(The suit lands on the ground and breaks off a fire hydrant, causing water to spew out)
NC (voiceover): (normal) So Superman saves the day, but there’s still no evidence leading directly back to Luthor. But that doesn’t stop old Supe from paying him a visit.
(Superman flies in mid-air outside of Lex Luthor’s office with his arms crossed as Lex speaks to him)
Lex: You see, err…Super-man, I own Metropolis. My technology built it, my will keeps it going, and nearly two-thirds of its people work for me whether they know it or not. Even you have to admit that’s a model of efficiency.
NC (voiceover): Huh, it’s like Donald Trump, only he knows he’s evil.
Lex: Why don’t you float on in and we’ll discuss it? (Superman is still silent) SAY SOMETHING! (He takes a model of the Lexo-Skel Suit and throws it at him, but Superman grabs it and crushes it in his hands)
Superman: I’ll be watching you, Luthor.
(Images of several direct-to-video movies featuring Superman are shown as NC speaks the following as Superman)
NC (voiceover): (as Superman, who flies away) Though our designs may vary, our voices might change, and we even may work in a few swear words every now and again, I’ll be watching you for a long time.
Metropolis Citizen #1: (points to the sky) Hey, look!
Metropolis Citizen #2: There he is!
NC (voiceover): So Superman flies off into the night and everybody cheers! (The episode fades to black) The End—(sudden cut to an alien spaceship in space) ...what the fuck? (Inside the spaceship, we are introduced to its extraterrestrials) What’s with the walking clitorises?
(A satellite brings its robotic arms out to grab and attack the extraterrestrials)
Extraterrestrials: Get down! Get down!
(The satellite gets up and kills the extraterrestrials before walking away to plug itself into the control panel, turning itself on)
Brainiac: Braniac systems activated.
(Having full control of the spaceship, Brainiac flies it away)
NC (voiceover): Well, (sighs) I’m sure he’s just going to enlighten people of the Kryptonian culture in a peaceful manner. (The end credits start to roll) So that’s the Superman Animated Series Story Arc.
NC: How does it hold up?
(Clips from the story arc and other episodes of “Superman: The Animated Series” play out as NC speaks)
NC (voiceover): Well, for a story that most people already know, it’s a pretty good reinterpretation. It feels a little rushed at times—which is weird; you’d think, being a TV show, they could have as many episodes as they wanted to explain it—but, you know what? It still holds up. The best parts are in the first episode, as you really do feel the dread and despair that’s sweeping over our main characters. But the other stuff is good, too. Superman is good, Lois is good, Luthor is good; it’s a decent beginning to a decent show. If you ever get a chance, check it out.
NC: So, because I reviewed something positive this week, I’m sure you want me to review something negative next week. Well, OK. What’s one of the movies that you guys asked me over and over to review—? (The movie poster for “Felix the Cat: The Movie” appears to his right) WHY DO I ASK YOU—?!
(As the credits roll, we hear NC sing his own lyrics to the tune of the theme music to “Superman: The Animated Series”)
NC (voiceover): (sings) Superman! Superman! Does all the things super people can! Fly around! Catch a plane! Never get nookie from Lois Lane!
Elisa Hansen: (sings in an over-the-top fashion) Silently the senses abandon their defenses!
Channel Awesome Tagline—Lois: Nice S.