October 10th, DC and Warner break their official rule by featuring Superman in season two of “Supergirl.” The series makes the trek from CBS TV to CW TV this fall and Warner are throwing out all the stops by having her crossover with her iconic cousin, the man of steel. Tyler Hoechlin of “Everybody Wants Some!!” steps in to the cape and tights this time around and as a Superman geek I’m expecting a lot of fun action and family dynamic. To celebrate Superman coming to “Supergirl,” I list five of the best Superman-centric episodes for Bruce Timm’s “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited.”
What are your personal favorites?
5. Patriot Act
“Patriot Act” is very much an episode about Superman even though he never actually appears at any point during the episode. Despite being dismissed by Amanda Waller, paranoid General Eiling takes a super serum that turns him in to a deformed super powered monster. Wreaking havoc during a parade, he calls on Superman to battle him. Sadly, Superman is off in the far end of the universe, so now Eiling has to face off against second tier Leaguers. This includes Stargirl, S.T.R.I.P.E., Green Arrow, Vigilante and Shining Knight, all of whom give Eiling a run for his money and battle him as best as they can.
Despite Mister Terrific sending the only heroes he can, including Speedy, and Crimson Avenger, Eiling gets the upper hand, but once he realizes he’s become a weapon himself which the public at large despises, he flees in horror, leaving the heroes to be celebrated for their sheer courage and self sacrifice by the civilians Eiling claims to want to protect. Green Arrow says it best: “See where it says, “Heroes One and All”? That’s what it’s all about. The crowd doesn’t care who can bench-press a mountain, or shoot lasers out of their ears.”
In what would become one in many of their major battles, Superman is introduced to the one and only Captain Marvel aka Shazam. When he becomes the new hero in town who begins helping with the League, he is courted by the other leaguers to join the team. Though Superman is not so sure about him yet, Shazam sadly becomes a pawn in the massive plot to end the Justice League when Shazam accidentally endorses Lex Luthor for president, thanks to a comment overblown by the media. Superman begins to become convinced that Lex has sinister motives for his building of a city that could help him with his election.
With both superheroes on separate wave lengths and Shazam immensely confused, Superman and Shazam to do battle with one another in front of the public as Superman desperately dismantles a part of Lex’s land he is convinced has explosives waiting to be detonated. Sadly the battle is lost as, in the end, Shazam turns down the League membership feeling a sense of disillusion with Superman, while Lex gets to look like a victim from a power mad Superman. It’s a great DCAU introduction of Shazam who sadly never quite finds his place in the League.
What is Superman without his powers? Still pretty bad ass, is the answer. After battling the Toyman alongside the Justice League, Superman is blasted by the foe in to an alternate dimension. Though it seems like Superman is dead, the world has to move on without him, except for Batman who is convinced Superman isn’t dead, but just in another place. Superman is now in something of a apocalyptic Earth without the sun that rapidly robs Superman of his powers. Now something of a mortal, he has to rely on his wits and will to survive the elements. He even has to do battle with a group of rabid wolves, and even carves out his own sword for protection. In the end the Justice League is happy to have him back thanks to Vandal Savage, and Superman shows he’s not all about his god-like powers.
2. War World
It just goes to show that with the proper material, Superman can be a remarkable hero, and one who can inspire hope, and help and oppressed world stand up on its own and find a voice. Superman can be a symbol for something amazing with the proper creative team behind his character. Superman is about self sacrifice, wielding great power wisely, and learning to give people something to reach for, as well as overcoming great evil. When Superman and Martian Manhunter are knocked unconscious after an explosion in space, they’re kidnapped and brought to the sinister War World.
The planet is impoverished and ruled over by the evil Mongul who uses death sports to keep his citizens distracted, forcing competitors to fight to the death. Superman is forced to do battle in the arena and accidentally becomes a hero for the planet, defeating his competitors in combat and inspiring a revolt against Mongul, including the planet’s fiercest warrior Draaga. “War World” is an excellent two parter, and a great testament to the type of greatness Superman can inspire in the oppressed and downtrodden.
1. For the Man Who Has Everything
Based on the iconic Superman tale, “For the Man Who Has Everything” is a pretty gut wrenching story even in animated form. When Batman, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman go to give Superman his present for his birthday, they’re stunned to learn he’s been taken hold by a mysterious alien life form that is sapping his life. Superman is in a comatose state that is also giving him delusions of being back home in Krypton where his life is happy, and he’s no longer an orphan. Batman and Wonder Woman learn that Superman was taken surprise by the villainous Mongul who returns for vengeance after the episode “War World” and seeks to keep Superman in paralysis and blissful ignorance.
After battling Mongul as much as they can, Superman is freed of the life form and is given a rude awakening that angers the man of steel beyond comprehension. When he does he rains hell on Mongul, zapping him and beating him to a pulse, while the other trio of heroes is forced to confront their own base desires when they too become accidentally attached to the parasitic plant. “For the Man Who Has Everything” is the quintessential Superman story that is well realized by Bruce Timm and works as a stand alone Superman tale.