Krypton: The Spooky Stories Version

Well, the show Krypton was finally cancelled, so I was finally willing to sit through it all at once. The show was not what I wanted, but I knew that going in. I considered it a chore to get through. But it wasn’t without its successes. I’d say the show’s General Zod was definitely my favourite live-action Zod to date. The special effects gave us the best looking Brainiac or Doomsday we’ve had. There is also some (maybe not enough, but some) stuff in there about how the rulers of Kryptons are jerks and there is a whole oppressed class of people who need help and that’s important for the Superman franchise. And I remember laughing at at least one or two jokes. So with that out of the way, the rest of this post will be about the stuff I didn’t like.

First of all, it suffers from the same problem Smallville did (and which I assume most prequels do) in which everything is about how big and important things in the future are. Man, I hate that. When I worked my way through Smallville (similarly a chore), I decided that my enjoyment of the show would have greatly improved if they were not ever allowed to use the word “Destiny”. If a prequel is going to work, it needs to be a story, not just be about how great the story that comes later is. With that there comes the time-travel that this show used to make sure all the characters knew how important the future was. If the show NEEDED to have a time-traveller from Earth to help the audience relate (I’m not convinced it did), I definitely would not have used a non-Superman-related DC character like Adam Strange. For me it would have been Kristin Wells, not in her Superwoman identity, but just as a researcher who maybe gets trapped there or something.

It’s also very clear that the show was trying to tap into the Game of Thrones type of scene. It had a lot of characters whose names and motivations I had trouble remembering and they’d stand around having big vaguely-British-accented conversations about the various factions vying for control of the land and their words would be dripping with hints of importance and betrayal and haughtiness. I get that that was intentional. That was what the show wanted. So they did that. But it’s definitely not the way I would have gone with it. The Krypton show as created by PDR would have been 75% less Game of Thrones and that space would have been filled up with an X-Files sort of scene.

My proposal is thus: We make Seg-El a paranormal investigator. I’m assuming we still need to base the show on Superman’s grandfather specifically, so we go with an older Seg-El, already raising a young Jor-El. This would place us closer to Krypton’s destruction. My Seg would not be a high-ranking member of the Science Guild, but his work would involve wandering the planet investigating strange seemingly-paranormal things. There are plenty of tales of weird stuff on Krypton that could be adapted to play as spooky occurrences. Things like Lar-On becomming a werewolf-style beast or Nam-Ek making an immortality serum that turns him into a monster. Before the Phantom Zone is officially discovered, it could be the cause of various phenomena. What about the Juru Wizards. The coming of Brainiac. The lost history of the Vrang invasion. The aforementioned time-travel. At least one visit from Mxyzptlk. All of this adds up to enough weirdness to sustain a paranormal investigator’s career.

And, over the course of the show, he might notice that the strange occurrences have a common thread: a chain reaction of some kind is beginning in the planet’s core. I wonder what that’s all about? Oh well, I guess we’ll never know.

Bloodsport: Superman’s Gun-Havingest Villain

Bloodsport is a relatively minor Superman villain. Actually, Bloodsport is three relatively minor Superman villains. We’re going to ignore the second Bloodsport for now (I’ll possibly do a whole post on him in the future), but the first and third are very similar, so I’ll talk about them today.

Bloodsport’s deal is that he is a militaristic type who can summon any gun he can imagine to appear in his hands. It isn’t easy being a gun-themed villain when your protagonist enemy has this whole iconic thing where he’s bulletproof. Good thing Bloodsport can whip up weird sci-fi guns.

The first Bloodsport was named Michael DuBois and the third never really got a real name. They both looked the same, being black men whose costumes were mostly just red bandana mask things. The thing is that the DuBois version of the character was written off fairly early and I suspect that part of that was that he was given an overly complicated backstory I don’t even feel like getting into right now but which limited his use in stories. The third Bloodsport took the right tack for the character: He’s just a mercenary villain who shows up now and then when such a villain is needed. If it were up to me, we’d cut the chaff and we’d have Bloodsport be Michael DuBois and he’d just be a mercenary type villain. Well guess what! That’s how the Supergirl show went with it when they had him show up! Well done, Supergirl show.

But the Supergirl show did not have him with his powers. Without being able to summon guns, there isn’t much to Bloodsport. But then, I’m not thrilled with how those powers have existed in the comics either. In his first appearance, Bloodsport’s weapons were teleported in from a stash somewhere far away (Luthor owned it, I think). In spite of DuBois’s claims above, if the weapons exist before he summons them, he can’t really summon ANY weapon he can imagine. They have to already exist. And also, that first appearance showed how Superman was easily able to counter the teleportation anyway. Bloodsport as he is doesn’t seem like much of a threat. I’ll now fix that.

First, I’d cut the teleportation angle. My Bloodsport would instead have nanotechnology coursing through his bloodstream that he can control to grow weapons at will. The first way this improves the character is that it ties into the word “Blood” appearing in his terribly generic mercenary villain name. But also this way we actually could make the claim that any weapon he can come up with on the fly. And, I gotta be honest, if we’re going to have one Superman few black villains be a gun-toting guy, we should at least have him be a skillful and imaginative designer of weapons.

Anyway, here’s some cool weapons Bloodsport could use:

  • A sniper rifle where the red light is capable of making a weak spot in a Kryptonian’s skin.
  • Like a flamethrower, but instead of fire it shoots molten lead that could harden on Superman’s face obscuring his x-ray vision.
  • Bullets full of werewolf serum that turn Jimmy Olsen into a werewolf if he gets to much as scratched.
  • A gun that fires a weighted chain to attach to victims and pull them off a roof so Superman has to abandon a chase to save them.

And so on.

More Superman Video Game Ideas

I have had Thoughts on the making of a Superman video game before, but that hasn’t stopped me from having more. In most of the games these days, you don’t get to start at your full power level. It allows for a feeling of progress as you get more powerful as you go. That’d work for a Jimmy Olsen game too (which, as I have said, would be the best game for the franchise to have right now), but I don’t feel like it’d be the best way to go with a game starring Superman.

I think it’d be important to make a person playing Superman feel powerful right from the start. I’d want players to be able to sit down and immediately start flying around Metropolis, I’d want them to be able to do so without having to play an hour to get from jumping to flight. But does that mean the game would lack a sense of progress? Well, I don’t think it has to. What if, instead of upgrading Superman, the player upgrades Metropolis?

The work you put into superheroing actually has a positive effect on the world around you? That sounds like an ideal for the genre to me. I’m thinking that, as you get your experience points or whatever you want to call them, you get to spend them on various causes and groups and such. I can already picture an interface for this being represented by charts and graphs on a Daily Planet website or something.

It could have multiple effects in the game. Maybe at the start there’s a lot of randomly generated street crime, but as you put your Experience Points into the various neighbourhoods of Metropolis, there’s less of that. Upgrade it further and there’s none. Instead of getting additional powers that help you go through areas by beating up the enemies quicker, you can just remove the annoyances altogether. And it would have to have a visual effect too. Empty lots and terrible slums would be replaced by youth centres and affordable quality housing. Litter and hateful graffiti would be replaced with nice plants and beautiful murals. Here’s a flaw to this part of the plan: You’d essentially have to have (at least) two versions of the city. One for the bad neighbourhood version and one for the good neighbourhood version. And you’d have to make the good version more appealing. It wouldn’t be easy, but it could be done.

But I also mentioned upgrading groups in the city, or at least upgrading your standing with those groups. This is harder to spitball, given that I don’t know the story of this hypothetical game, but let’s pretend we’re playing as a Superman who is still relatively new to Metropolis. Maybe early on in the game, while you’re fighting crime, the police still don’t trust you and will attempt to interfere or arrest you. That’d be annoying, right? Well, when you move up in the world you could throw some experience points at the Police and they’ll start trusting you and not interfering. Upgrade it further and maybe you could even issue orders to Police NPCs so they’ll help take out non-supervillain thugs and save innocent people while you’re fighting the bigger threats. Then there’s scientists. Metropolis seems to have a huge community of scientists. If you put points into upping your standing with the general public, maybe they’ll be more likely to help you with information during journalistic-based missions. Maybe if you put some effort into impressing the academic community they can help you by making gizmos or scanning or something. There’s plenty of options here and each type could also open up new side missions to keep things fresh.

But one option I’d want to include is putting points into gaining the favour of Lex Luthor. Doing so would actually open up new powers, with Lex agreeing to make you stronger if you work alongside him. But the catch is, spoilers for a game that will never exist: If you fully go down the Luthor upgrade branch, you get a bad ending where Luthor betrays you, kills you, and uses what he’s learned to steal your powers.

Anyway, I still think the Jimmy game is the best option given today’s technology, but this was fun to think about nonetheless.

Weaknesses are Superman’s Kryptonite

Let’s say you’re writing a Superman story and you want to make it seem like Superman is in danger. One of the most persistent complaints about the character is that “He’s too powerful!” and “He can do anything!” Basically, the idea here is that he has no weaknesses, so it’s unbelievable that he could be threatened. The thing is though, Superman has weaknesses. Hell, everybody knows he has at least one weakness. His most famous weakness is so well known that we actually use it as a term for weaknesses that anyone has. Next to saying that something is your “Achilles Heel”, saying something is your “kryptonite” is probably the most well known way of describing a weakness without just using the word “weakness”.

But if you have to work kryptonite into every story, you end up repeating yourself every month, which means things grow stale. It’s good then that kryptonite isn’t actually Superman’s only weakness. The second most often cited weakness of Superman, by those in the know anyway, would be “magic”. Now, if a stage magician were to walk up to Superman and pop a flash paper thing in his face, that wouldn’t hurt him. No, it’s “real” magic that can hurt Superman. Essentially, if something can defy the laws of physics, nobody is going to deny that that could hurt Superman. That’s handy for characters like Mr. Mxyzptlk to befuddle our hero. So that’s another weakness, but still, he’s pretty overpowered, though, right?

Well, it turns out that if someone, or something, is strong enough, they can just beat the heck out of Superman. Really. That happens a lot for such an “overpowered” character. Look at the whole Doomsday thing. You know, that time Superman was beat so badly by some alien monster that he was declared dead. That was just some alien that happened to be strong enough to take on Superman. No magic or kryptonite involved. Other such monsters can and do exist in Superman’s world. You want Superman to feel threatened in a story? Throw some monster in there. Bam, he’s threatened.

But apart from that Superman is still overpowered, right? He can fly, he can shoot lasers from his eyes, he can see through walls, and more. What kind of villains are supposed to compete with that? Well, here is where I will remind you that Superman’s gallery of villains includes about a dozen people with the exact same set of powers that he has. The Phantom Zone is full of other Kryptonians who’d just so happen to love to kill the guy. Some, like General Zod, have Superman’s powers plus the tactical skills of a military leader. Some, like Faora, have Superman’s powers plus extensive training in martial arts. Some, like Nam-Ek, have Superman’s powers plus other mutations that actually make them more powerful. Some, like Jax-Ur, have Superman’s powers plus a scientific mind that could probably come up with clever ways to use those powers like Clark regularly does. They are at least Clark’s equal in powers and they outnumber him on top of that.

Furthermore! There’s all the other supervillains with powers. Bizarro has as many powers as Superman, but with bizarre twists. Parasite can drain Superman’s own powers at a touch, weakening the hero while buffing himself. The Cyborg Superman can whip up whatever technological nonsense you want to use that week. Toyman or Prankster can design any kind of wacky scenario in which Superman is threatened by some weird doomsday device. The list goes on.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think every Superman story should be about villains. I prefer to see him in stories that aren’t about who wins fights. But let’s suppose you want to tell such a story. And you don’t want it to be one where Lois or Jimmy or Ron or even Metropolis as a whole is in danger. You want to make it seem like Superman himself is threatened by a supervillain. But you don’t want the villain to have Kryptonite, or magic, or to be particularly strong, or have any interesting powers or to create an interesting scenario. In that case, I would suggest you just make Superman say “Man, it’s strange, but I’m feeling really weak right now.”

Yeah, that would be bad writing, but it sounds to me like you’re aiming for a bad story, y’know?

We May Have Almost Had A Good Superman Cartoon

Gonna bring Superman Thoughts back for a bit, I think. Maybe not weekly, but more often. Gotta be getting something up here.

The reason for today’s Superman Thought in particular is the news that we almost got a Superman cartoon that looks like it would have been very close to what I’d want from a Superman cartoon.

As reported in this article, there was a proposed Superman Family cartoon. It would have combined Silver Age sensibilities with the diverse cast of Superman characters that have been introduced since the Silver Age. It probably would have been pure gold.