Bring Back The Annihilator Family

This isn’t going to be a particularly deep one, but I just want to say I think that the Superman villain called the Annihilator and Annihilator Junior should come back.

Daddy-O.

In one multi-part story in the Silver Age comics, the Annihilator was Karl Keller, a Nobel prize winning chemist who used Kryptonian chemicals to fill his body with explosive energy that made him powerful enough to defeat even Superman (because, as I’ve said, people who think Superman is too powerful are too lazy to remember you can just make powerful foes). Annihilator used his powers for a successful supervillain career and, on a whim, adopted a teenage criminal named Pete as his son. They did crime together, even managing to conquer America. It couldn’t last of course, and Annihilator soon realized that the biochemical process that empowered them was bad for their health. He tried to warn Junior, who assumed the old man was turning on him. In the end, somehow Junior was de-aged to a toddler and Annihilator, now reformed, got a chance to raise him right this time. It’s as dumb as the comics of that era always are, but it doesn’t mean there’s not potential for real stories there.

As far as I’m aware the characters have only appeared since in a Jimmy Olsen book that was going for comedy and treated them as jokes. That’s fine, that book was fine, it’s fine. But these characters don’t need to be jokes.

All it would take is for a story that treats the characters more seriously than a Silver Age Superman comic. That’s not difficult. We can keep the idea that Karl is a brilliant scientist who dislikes Superman (a bit overused, but it’s fine), but we need to establish that he’s been raising Pete for more than a week. If he’s a single father trying to raise an adopted son who has been getting into trouble, you wind up with a villain who can go up against the Man of Steel but who has more complicated motives. Does Karl want to keep Pete out of the life of supervillainy? Maybe that could work. Or we could position Karl as an opposite of Pa Kent, actively teaching his son to abuse his power. I’d probably go with that latter take, because it was the fact that Clark is also an adopted child that made me think it’d be good to have the Annihilator(s) around for stories about adoption and family.

Of course, we also need to give them a Super-Pet. Some sort of Annihilator Ferret or something? Look, we can take the stories seriously and still have goofy fun, okay?

Defending Lois Lane, Secret Identity Seeker

The easy joke about Lois Lane is something like “If she’s such a good reporter, how come she can’t tell that the guy she works with is Superman except he’s wearing glasses?” This is all well and good when done in jest, but sometimes people who don’t care for Lois will use this as actual evidence that she’s not a good reporter. The temerity!

Over the decades of Superman’s existence we’ve had almost every kind of story play out with these characters. More often than not these days, Lois does find out that Clark is Superman. I don’t know that there’s been a Superman continuity for decades in which Lois doesn’t find out Clark’s secret identity (actually, maybe the Superman Returns movie, but I legitimately don’t recall). When people mock Lois in this way, they’re actually mocking the Silver Age Lois, which is probably still the most iconic version of the character, which is a shame because it’s not the best by any means.

But even that Silver Age Lois was suspicious that Clark and Superman were one-and-the-same, right? You Loismockers have to admit that. And how did Silver Age Superman escape her suspicion? He used robot duplicates, hypnotism, amnesia, shapechangers, time-travel, and all manner of other Super-Schemes to throw her off the tail. Superman had to use these high-concept deity-level tactics to avoid being found out by Lois Lane, ordinary human reporter. And she was STILL suspicious of him. If anything, Lois Lane’s inability to prove the Clark-Superman connection in that era is a sign that she’s capable of rivalling a human god in a grand intellectual game. Lois Lane is not a bad reporter, people. She’s a super-reporter.

Jimmy Olsember II Roundup

Hey, last month I did the #JimmyOlsember thing on twitter again. But I don’t do content that isn’t ultimately intended to go on this site, so now I shall bring it back here.

2 December:

FIRE ELEMENTAL JIMMY

Some people would be fazed by being transformed into a fire elemental, but Jimmy’s on a hot streak and knows he’ll get a column out of it. (Don’t worry, his watch is fireproof.)

4 December:

PICKLE JIM

That time Jimmy got turned into a pickle he didn’t make a big deal out of it.

6 December:

FRANKENJIMMY

Jimmy is going undercover on the miniature monster planet Transilvane, to get a story but also to justify to Ron Troupe how much money he spent on neck bolts last year.

8 December:

MAYOR FRANKENJIMMY

The bad news: Jimmy’s mission to Transilvane has gone off the rails. The good news: He won the election!

10 December:

NANOCLOUD JIMMY

Well, Jimmy’s physical form has been completely devoured by tiny machines and his consciousness now resides in a cloud of nanobots. Still, he can’t miss today’s meeting, or the Chief will really get angry.

12 December:

ELASTIC LORD

Jim’s evil side has been released by a transporter accident and is now running around as a supervillain! But Lex Luthor won’t take kindly to a new crook moving in on his turf.

14 December:

MR. ACTION ARCTIC ASSAULT ACTION SUIT

I think we can all agree that the Mr. Action Arctic Assault Action variant costume is more just an excuse to sell a different action figure and will probably never actually be used.

18 December:

PUPPET JIMMY

And now Jim is a puppet who has control of one of Ron Troupe’s hands. Let’s hope this can somehow help him investigate that counterfeit toy ring.

20 December:

SPIRIT OF JUSTICE JIMMY

Mxyzptlk needs a human to represent him in court to fight all those parking tickets, so it’s a good thing he can infuse Jimmy with the Spirit of Justice.

22 December:

MUMMY BOXER JIMMY

Naturally, Jimmy isn’t allowed to participate in the Metropolis Underground Supervillain Fighting Tournament, but who anyway, this new Boxing Mummy seems to be taking the lead.

30 December:

PUMPKINHEAD JIMMY

The Wicked Warlock cursed Jimmy to become a pumpkinheaded monster! Honestly, it’s the kind of thing Jimmy doesn’t even notice anymore.

31 December:

WOLF CUB REPORTER JIMMY

Jimmy accidentally mixed some fountain of youth water into his werewolf serum. Oh well, now this literal cub reporter can get that interview with Krypto he wanted.

The DC Sibling-matic Universe

I don’t have a complex Superman Thought here, but have you ever noticed that the recent television shows in the Superman Family line have a thing for giving characters siblings that aren’t present in the source material?

In Supergirl, they gave Kara an adoptive sister named Alex. They also gave Kara’s mother a sister named Astra. They gave Jimmy a sister named Kelly. Then, over on Superman and Lois they gave Jon a brother named Jordan. And then (big ol’ spoiler here) Superman is revealed to also have a brother. Heck, even Steel is mentioned to have a sister he doesn’t have in the books, though it remains to be seen if she’s a reworking of his sister-in-law from the books or what.

It varies when this works and when it doesn’t. Some of the sibling characters are fine. But it even when it does work out it raise my hackles for one of the things that I dislike about superheroes as a genre that seems to be beloved by most others: personal stakes. Just say they’re siblings and it is supposed to matter when they are in trouble or one is revealed as a villain or whatever. It’s way easier to just tell us they have a pre-existing relationship than actually show two characters relating on screen and letting the audience see it. It isn’t always lazy, but when it is, it’s Especially Lazy.

Anyway, that’s just crankiness. What really bothers me about the need for personal stakes is that it makes it feel like the world revolves around the superhero. If the writers think that we can only have stories about the hero’s parents dying or their spouse being murdered or their friends turning evil or their headquarters being demolished, it really feels like the only thing the characters actually care about is their own bullshit. And that’s not what I want from my superheroes.

There’s a story in the comics going on these days about Clark finding out that there are some oppressed people who have a connection to Krypton, so he leaves Earth to go help them out. I just want it known that I’d be a lot more invested in a story in which Superman goes on an epic quest to rescue an oppressed people who have nothing to do with him whatsoever. That’s the Superman I like.

The Most Misused Names on Superman and Lois

The television show Superman and Lois has recently finished its first season. It’s not often I try to keep up with a piece of live-action superhero media as it comes out, but this show, and its cousin Supergirl, are obviously things I feel required to keep up on. But that’s okay, because it’s been mostly decent.

But one thing this show does that I’ve seen in too many adaptations of stuff from comics: it uses names from the source material in ways of which I do not approve.

Here’s what they did wrong (Full of Spoilers):

Captain Luthor

For the first couple episodes there is a man identified to the audience as Captain Luthor, whom we’re led to believe is the Lex Luthor of an alternate universe. Eventually, this is revealed to be false. He’s actually the John Henry Irons (aka Steel) from an alternate universe.

This is the most forgivable misuse of a name on this list, in part because I genuinely think the show’s creators named the character without knowing where the show was doing. I genuinely believe they did some rewriting and that Luthor was original what he appeared to be. I can understand wanting to change if you think something will work better, but I think they missed a storytelling opportunity here. As far as I can remember, none of the characters are ever led to believe that Irons is Lex. It’s fully a trick played on the audience, never used within the story.

Even so, the reason I find it so easy to forgive is that the Steel reveal was just great. One of the high points of the season.

Morgan Edge

The use of Morgan Edge as a name on this show is another trick played on the audience, because the character began as he’d appear in comics and went WILDLY different places.

In a way I was pleased, because I was worried that Morgan’s presence meant that they’d be bringing in Darkseid, and as I’ve said, I don’t care for Darkseid in my Superman stuff. But, as I’ve also said before, I prefer Morgan Edge when he’s just a supporting cast member who happens to be a jerk businessman, not a supervillain. That’s not what they did here either.

Nat Irons

In the show, there’s an alternate universe in which John Irons and Lois Lane had a daughter named Natalie (I don’t remember catching her surname). In the comics, John Irons has a niece named Natasha. Both go by Nat.

The thing is, I love Natasha. The existence of Natalie on this show almost certainly guarantees that Natasha will not appear. And that’s a dang shame.

Dabney Donovan

And then the worst of all these nominative crimes! They gave the name Dabney Donovan to a normal run-of-the-mill superscientist who was perfectly pleasant, cooperated with authority, and was utterly normal.

Dabney Donovan in the comics is the kind of unhinged loose cannon of science that he created a miniature planet! That had horns! And he hid it in a cemetery! And created life on it that he raised with horror movies! AND THAT IS JUST HIS FIRST APPEARANCE!

At no point should anyone involved in this show have said “We have a scientist here, we could throw in a name from the comics” and landed on Dabney Donovan. Call him Emil Hamilton if you want to phone it in. Call him Harold Vekko if you want to be more obscure. Call him Bernard Klein maybe. Call him Professor Pepperwinkle if you need to. But don’t waste Dabney Donovan on this minor character.

Look, television people. I can promise you that an appropriate name exists within the Superman franchise for anything you’ve got cooked up. I can name those characters for you. Just ask me before you cast Dabney Donovan as the kind of scientist who WOULDN’T create a horned horror planet.