Superman Smashes The Klan #1 Thoughts

I suppose I should address the fact that the first issue of Superman Smashes the Klan, a comic I’ve wanted for years, has come out.

It’s unsurprising: I loved it. It seems like we’re getting the basic beats of the radio show’s Clan of the Fiery Cross arc, but expanded and abridged to make it work in the new medium. There’s also the fact that we’re getting a Superman who is unaware of his origins and will presumably learn them during this story.

On the one hand, the changes made to the radio story seem great. Cutting a lot of the chaff and fleshing out elements that were lacking. It’s ideal. Yang is the perfect choice to write this story and the Gurihiru art is astounding.

I admit, I could do without another retelling of Superman’s origin. It’s a story I’ve heard more than enough times and I really wish we had more Superman stories that weren’t about where Superman came from. But it’s simply true that it makes sense why those details work thematically for the story being told here. Ultimately, I feel like it’ll work out.

So, in the unlikely event anyone actually sees this post, I recommend checking out the book.

Some other random thoughts:

  • Little references to greater Superman mythos stuff is obviously a hit with me. Pete Ross and Kenny Braverman and a Metropolis Monarchs penant. All good stuff. If the girl that Roberta tried to reach out to turns out to be Mary Hennig from other episodes of the radio show, I’ll be unaccountably pleased.
  • God I hope we don’t get a reference to Batman. I really want this book to prove that Superman doesn’t need references to other DC stuff to work.
  • I could (and maybe someday will) do a post about Inspector Henderson’s depictions as a white or black man. They make good use of him as a black guy here. It doesn’t feel like an arbitrary choice.
  • I was surprised to learn that the Atom-Man’s appearance (with his Kryptonite being in his chest Metallo-style rather than being in his blood) is not just a fun cameo. Actually important to the plot.

So, yes, I am eagerly awaiting the next issues.

Clan of the Fiery Cross Thoughts

For years I’ve wanted a remake or retelling of the “Clan of the Fiery Cross” serial from the Adventures of Superman radio show. In several ways I consider it a kind of ideal Superman story, so seeing it redone as a comic or animated movie with modern sensibilities appealed to me. The earliest example of me mentioning it I can find on Twitter dates from 2016 and even there I refer to how I’ve been saying it for a long time. Therefore, I’m obviously pretty excited about Gene Luen Yang’s Superman Smashes the Klan coming out next week (October 16th!) and I felt like spreading my excitement if possible.

But what can I say about “Clan of the Fiery Cross” that hasn’t been better said by others? If someone wants coherent thoughts about the creation of the story arc, I’d recommend Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan by Rick Bowers (which I believe is being made into a movie). Or, for more general information on the radio show, you could read Flights of Fancy, the Unauthorized but True Story of Radio & TV’s Adventures of Superman, by Michael J. Hayde. And just Googling would find you a lot of articles or videos on the topic. Thus, the only thing I feel qualified to add to the conversation is your basic synopses of the sixteen episodes that made up the Clan of the Fiery Cross. Here goes.

Being a radio serial, the last episode of the previous arc (“Al Vincent’s Corrupt Political Machine”) ended with some setup for this arc, but it only consisted of Jimmy Olsen mentioning that the baseball team he manages for local a local youth centre called Unity House is on a winning streak.

Episode One:
In a cab, Jimmy Olsen tells Clark Kent that his team’s success is owed to their pitcher Tommy Lee. Clark asks what happened to Chuck Riggs, the previous pitcher, and Jim says that Tommy and his family just moved to the neighbourhood. Tommy tried out for the team, was clearly the best pitcher, so he got the position. The cab drops Jimmy off at the park and Clark continues off to wherever he’s going. Jim arrives to find Tommy and Chuck getting into a fight, which he breaks up, but once practice gets going and Tommy is pitching while Chuck is at bat, things start up again. Tommy is concerned that Chuck is crowding the plate and might get hit. Chuck refuses to back off even after multiple warning from Tommy and Jim and sure enough, Chuck gets beaned. In the heat of the moment, Chuck insists that Tommy did it on purpose, refuses to shake hands and make up, gives a standard “You’ll all pay for this” speech, then storms off. Chuck gets home and finds his uncle Matt there. He tells Matt what happened and, though Chuck has cooled down and now admits the hit was probably an accident, Matt recognizes Tommy Lee by name as the son of Dr. Lee, the new bacteriologist at the Metropolis Health Department. Matt realizes that this gives him “just the angle” he’d been looking for. He tells Chuck that he’s going to take him to a meeting of “real Americans”.
-It stand out to me how little Clark Kent we see in this episode.
-Twice in this episode Chuck and his riled up fellows on the baseball team use the term “yellow” to describe Tommy, but from context it sounds like they’re using it to call him afraid. Something I noticed on this listen that I don’t think I caught before is that Tommy’s ethnicity is not explicitly referred to in this episode.

Episode Two:
Matt Riggs takes his nephew Chuck to a secretive meeting in the woods outside of Metropolis where there is a large burning cross and the crowd wears robes and pointed hoods. Matt’s own robe has a pale blue scorpion design on it, for it turns out that he is the Grand Scorpion of the Metropolis chapter of the Clan of the Fiery Cross. Matt explains to Chuck that the goal of the Clan is to ensure that America is a nation of “one race, one religion, one colour”. Matt is confused, saying “I don’t get it, America’s got all kinds of religions and colours” but Chuck scoffs at that. In his costume, the Grand Scorpion addresses the crowd and explains that he called the meeting to alert them that this attack on a “fatherless American boy” proves that their “sworn enemies” have risen up and are striking at them through their children. He then has Chuck relate the story as Matt insisted it be told, saying Tommy hit him on purpose because he’s afraid Chuck will win back the pitching position. The Grand Scorpion riles up the crowd and tells them the time has come for them to act. The next day in the baseball team’s locker room, Tommy tells Jimmy that he’s quitting the team. Someone burned a cross on his family’s lawn last night, so the Lees are leaving town. Jim goes to Clark and fills him in. Once Clark learns who Tommy’s father is, he understands what’s going on, and takes Jim to visit the Lee home.
-We still don’t get an outright statement on Tommy’s ethnicity. Jim wonders why the Clan of the Fiery Cross would target the Lees and Tommy only says “If you don’t know, I can’t tell you.” I assume this was done intentionally to get the kids in the audience to think of Tommy as a person before they got to know anything else.

Episode Three:
Clark explains to Jim that the Clan is racist and that’s why they’re targetting the Lees. Clark meets Dr. Wan Lee and insists to him that leaving now would be giving the Clan what they want. Dr. Lee agrees, and says he’d stay if it was just his life on the line, but he has to look out for his wife, son, and daughter. Anyone in Metropolis could secretly be a member of the Clan, there’s no way to be safe. After some debate, Clark is able to at least make Dr. Lee consider staying, and Tommy and Jim head off on Tommy’s bicycle to a game. Clark begins making a call to Inspector Henderson to arrange police protection of the Lees, when he notices something with his X-Ray vision. Without even taking the time to change into his Superman costume, he leaps through the window and saves the boys from a bomb that had been placed on Tommy’s bicycle. Seeing this attempt on his son’s life is the final incentive that Dr. Lee needs to stay and stand up against the racist group. When the boys show up at the game, they are being watched. A Clansman calls for reinforcements.
-It is with the meeting of Wan Lee, who speaks with a slight accent, unlike Tommy, that I think the audience is to understand that the family is Chinese. It’s said explicitly from this point on.
-For the record, I want it out there that of all incarnations of Clark Kent, the radio version is the worst at keeping his secret identity. Hardly a conversation happens in which he doesn’t slip up. “There’s nothing in that box, trust me,” he might say. “How do you know, can you see through the box? Like Superman?” someone might ask. “No, it’s not that. It’s just that I know there’s nothing in the box.” He’s so bad at it. Anyway, when Tom and Jim wonder how he saw the bomb on the bike, he just shuts them up by paying for a cab to take them to the game.

Episode Four:
At the game, Matt Riggs and some Clansmen meet with a kid from the team opposing Unity Housewho goes by “Stuffy” and whose father is a friend of Riggs, so he’s a “real American” and all that implies. Stuffy says he tried to get his team to refuse to play unless Tommy was kicked out, but the coach wouldn’t go for it. Riggs is worried that if Tommy plays it will make “our kind of people” look bad and is able to convince Stuffy to “accidentally” injure Tommy. Watching the game, Clark is talking to Jimmy only to notice Stuffy taking wild swings with his bat in such a way as it’s liable to go flying and hit Tommy. And when it does, Clark, moves so quickly that he’s a blur and saves Tommy from injury. The game goes on as planned and it comes down to Stuffy at bat and Tommy gets him out. Unity House wins. The Grand Scorpion is not happy. He wants to make sure that Tommy’s victory doesn’t make the papers and gathers his Clan’s Action Committee to give them something else to report on. The Clan is going to tar and feather Tommy Lee. One member asks “What if the boy dies?” and Matt Riggs says he has no problem with that.
-I suppose the Clansman who was worried Tommy could die wasn’t around when they planted the bicycle bomb.
-The baseball game is announced by the “Daily Planet Sports Reporter” who goes unnamed. Could this be the radio version of Steve Lombard? Of course not, that character didn’t exist yet. But also, it doesn’t matter, so I say it is.

Episode Five:
Chuck Riggs sees his uncle and the others head out to attack the Lees and follows. The Clan knock out Dr. Lee and kidnap Tommy, taking him in their truck. Chuck feels guilty about it all, so he calls the Daily Planet to get Clark Kent’s home number. In the Clan’s truck, Riggs is telling one of his men that he’ll be able to get him Dr. Lee’s job once the Lees leave town. Suddenly, Tommy escapes by leaping from the moving truck, though he breaks his arm in the process. He manages to get to a nearby river and dive in. The Clansmen assume that he’s as good as gone, so they leave Tommy to die in the river. Chuck meanwhile spends a half-hour trying to call Clark from a phone booth before an adult kicks him out for hogging the line. Clark walks into his place just in time to miss the call.
-It is clarified in the next episode that the Clan also knocked out a police officer who was watching the Lee house, so Clark was not remiss in getting that set up.

Episode Six:
Chuck tries to call Clark again and this time gets him. He anonymously tells Clark what he knows. Before long Superman is in the air, finds Tommy stuck between two rocks in the river, and brings him to the hospital. Later Clark is meeting with Tommy’s doctor, who tells him Tommy will pull through but needs rest. Tommy has been asking for his father, but Clark says Dr. Lee can’t make it because he was also injured. The doctor says Dr. Lee is a good man and he and Clark bond for a bit by calling the Clan a cowardly bunch. Later, at the Daily Planet, Perry White is in his angrily demands that they figure out who is behind the masks of the Clan. The only lead they have, though, is the boy who called about the threat to Tommy. Clark suggests they put a letter on the front page of the next day’s Planet asking the boy to come forward. Perry goes further. The letter will ask everyone in Metropolis to come forward with information and he will include a thousand dollar reward. We get an “Extry Extry” scene and then find the Clan reacting to the news. They’re not happy. The Grand Scorpion sends his men out to strike back. Later, Perry drives Clark and Jimmy to his suburban home where they find a burning cross on his lawn.
-I’d have to say that “And then he tried to call again a few minutes later after that guy left” is a weak way to resolve a cliffhanger.
-Jim mentions that in the hospital Tommy hasn’t even been complaining about what happened to him and his father, but instead apologized because he won’t be able to help the team. Laying it on a bit thick, Show, but it’s for a good cause so I guess I’ll allow it.

Episode Seven:
The fire department shows up just after the heroes. Perry is in no way frightened off by the attack, but Clark is worried. “I can’t watch over you every moment,” he says. Perry replies “You?” and Clark stammers that he means the police or whatever. When things settle down, they realize they haven’t seen Perry’s chef Poco and find him injured in the garage. He regains consciousness and tells them that he saw people setting up the burning cross and confronted them. They hit him, knocked him down, and kicked him. Perry’s anger level somehow increases again and he raises the reward for information on the Clan to five thousand. After the next day’s paper, Matt Riggs is unsurprisingly unhappy with this result. At the end of the work day Perry and Jim are leaving together, though Jim notes that Clark didn’t want them to go until he was there to keep them safe. “Do you think he’ll fire me?” Perry quips as he defies Clark’s request because he has no fear of the Clan. But as Perry drives them home, a truck runs them off the road and unloads a swarm of hooded figures who rush toward the car.
-I will clarify that Poco is an alien who speaks in terrible rhymes and works as Perry’s live-in chef because all versions of Superman, even the relatively down-to-Earth radio show, can and should be full of sci-fi weirdness. Poco is not fondly remembered by the internet, and rightly so honestly, and never got to make the transition from radio to comics that others have made (But you can rest assured that ol’ PDR knows how he’d bring him back). Still, having the childlike comic relief character savagely beaten is not an ineffective way to continue showing the Clan as bad guys.
-I should also note that Radio Perry is my favourite version of Perry White. He’s truly a crusading journalist. Still as full of anger and bluster as any other depiction of the character, but it’s a righteous anger against corruption and evil, not just empty anger about having to sell newspapers and stuff. You can see why Superman would work for this man.

Episode Eight:
The Clan capture Perry and Jimmy and take them away in their truck. Clark arrives at the Planet and asks Lois Lane where Perry and Jim are, and she tells him they’ve left. Clark calls Perry’s house and gets Poco’s nurse, who tells him that they haven’t made it there. Lois is unconcerned, echoing Perry’s belief that the Clan are too cowardly to strike against a powerful figure in the city such as Perry. They only pick on the defenseless. Superman checks the roads from the Planet to Perry’s house and finds nothing. Later, Clark is talking to Inspector Bill Henderson of the Metropolis police. Bill also thinks of the Clan as weak cowards and isn’t as worried as Clark. It’s also revealed that Bill has had his officers out trying to find the boy who called in with the tip about Tommy, but they’ve had no luck so far. The episode ends with Perry and Jimmy captive in a cave, about to be taken before the Grand Scorpion.
-Lois! Finally! But spoilers, she doesn’t get much in this entire serial. Bill had been mentioned in earlier episodes, so even though he hadn’t appeared his presence was felt, but Lois was missed.

Episode Nine:
Perry and Jimmy mouth off to the Scorpion for a while, reminding him that America is a nation built by immigrants and the Natives were there before the white people and all that stuff. The Grand Scorpion tells his men to get the tar and feathers ready, Perry still thinking they’re too cowardly to actually do it. But then one of the Clansmen reports that they don’t have any tar left. Talking to Lois, Clark decides he’s going to try his original plan again and put a letter directed specifically to the anonymous caller on the front page of the next day’s Planet. And sure enough, at breakfast the next day Chuck Riggs and his mother see the story. Mrs. Riggs thinks it’s shameful of the boy to not come forward and Chuck snaps at her. She says he’s becoming more like his uncle with “temper tantrums and brooding” and she says she has to take it from him because he’s giving them a place to live, but her son will behave better. She says that Chuck’s father would have been out in the streets trying to bring down the Clan himself. Chuck doesn’t know what to do.
-“We’re out of tar” is so unintentionally amusing to me that I wish it had been used to resolve another end-of-episode cliffhanger.

Episode Ten:
Chuck asks his mother what the boy in the letter should “hypothetically” do, and she insists that she’d ignore the risk and go to Mr. Kent with the information. But just as Chuck is resolved to do it, uncle Matt comes in and tells Chuck he’d like to talk in the garage. Matt saw the letter too and he suspects that Chuck is the boy mentioned. He threatens Chuck and tells him that they’ve got Clansmen watching his actions. So the kid abandons his thoughts of getting in touch with the Planet. Later, back at the cave, the Clan is preparing their newly acquired tar. Jimmy is able to free himself and Perry from his ropes just in time for the Grand Scorpion’s arrival. They pretend to still be tied up as the Clan leader offers one more chance for Perry to come around and give some good press to the Clan. Perry refuses, then the reporters make a break for it. In the process, Perry pulls off the Grand Scorpion’s mask and Jim recognizes him as Chuck’s uncle. Now, Riggs says, they won’t be tarred and feathered. They have to be killed. Back at the Planet, Clark and Beanie Martin are sad that they’ve still had no response to the letter, but then Clark comes up with a new idea on how to find the anonymous tipster.
-Beanie Martin, Daily Planet copyboy, is a recurring character on the show. He’s had no lasting appearances in other Superman media (just one appearance in a cartoon as far as I can recall).

Episode Eleven:
Riggs tells the gathered Clansmen that they have to kill the reporters because if they know his identity, they could track down the rest of them. The Clansmen are scared to kill someone as important as Perry White, but Riggs assures them it’s only way the Clan can survive. Clark has realized that there could be a connection to the caller and the Unity House baseball team, so he and Beanie head out to talk to the team, talking to each of the kids present in the hopes that Clark would recognize the voice. Only after failing to find the caller do they realize there is one kid not present: Chuck Riggs. But when Clark find Chuck and does recognize his voice, Chuck panics.
-It’s pretty clear by this point that Perry, Lois, and Bill are mostly right about the Clan members working below Riggs. They are cowards who would not be a threat without his leadership.

Episode Twelve:
Clark tries to convince Chuck to offer up his assistance, but the boy is still too afraid for himself until Clark offers protection from Superman himself. Clark leaves and Superman flies onto the scene. Chuck is immediately relieved and opens up and tells him about his uncle. Superman takes Chuck flying to try to find the meetingplace Chuck had visited the night he lied about Tommy. They arrive only to find it recently abandoned. It turns out that Riggs is taking Perry and Jimmy away from their hideout because he doesn’t think its safe there, given his suspicions about Chuck.
-This is the most Superman action we’ve had in the serial so far. Personally, I’ll always enjoy stories in which Clark Kent gets time to investigate as a reporter and Superman comes out as his emergency secret weapon, as it were. But I don’t think the story would work that way today.

Episode Thirteen:
Superman wraps Chuck in his cape so he can race incredibly fast while they search the woods for the Clan and their prisoners. Having found a suitable spot, Riggs gives a gun to a Clansman identified with the title of Grand Defender of the Fiery Cross and the execution is about to go down when Superman finally arrives. He saves his friends and captures the Clan Action Committee members present. Superman gathers Perry, Jimmy, Chuck, and the Clansmen into a truck and carries them to Metropolis. He turns the criminals over to the police. It’s only when Perry tries to insult Riggs that they notice that the Grand Scorpion is missing. While Superman and the police scour the countryside, Riggs has made his way across the state lines the home of Segret Wilson, Grand Imperial Mogul of the Clan of the Fiery Cross, the national leader of the group. Riggs tells Wilson that the Clan is in trouble, and the man brings him inside to talk.
-The next episode explains Riggs’s escape by saying he “made his way out through and old lead mine” which Superman could not see through.

Episode Fourteen:
Wilson is upset at Riggs for coming to his home, dragging him into the mess. He’s also angry because Superman being seen as against the Clan will cost them thousands of new members and with them over a million dollars in dues fees and robe sales and such. Riggs doesn’t care about the money, but Wilson mocks him for it. “Is it possible you actually believe all that stuff about getting rid of the foreigners?” He asks. “You’ve become drunk on the slop we put up for the suckers.” Wilson now considers Riggs a threat, so draws a gun, but Riggs overpowers Wilson and kills him. Returning to Metropolis, Riggs tries to get help from Clan members there, but is rebuffed by everyone he goes to, as they either don’t want the risk or think Riggs has gone too far. Riggs swears to take care of White and Olsen himself. Clark and Inspector Henderson find out that Riggs is back in town. Henderson still thinks Riggs is too much of a coward to do anything, but he agrees to send police to watch the homes of Perry, Jimmy, and Chuck. But it turns out Riggs has a secret entrance to his home and he sneaks in and makes his way to his nephew’s room.
-The talk between Riggs and Wilson is the real meat of the show’s argument against the Clan, showing it all for the scam it is.

Episode Fifteen:
Matt finds out that his nephew isn’t home, but his sister-in-law is. He strongarms her to learn that Chuck is at Jimmy’s house. Tying her up and leaving her in the closet so she can’t call for help, Riggs heads to Jim’s place with Lou, the one Clansman who is still reluctantly willing to work with him. Waiting for an opportunity to slip past the police guard, Riggs reads the Planet’s article about the captured Clansmen, who have told the police everything. He’s upset, but then realizes that the championship game is that afternoon and Jimmy will be managing, Chuck will be pitching, and Perry will be there to present the winning team with the prize. Everyone he’s after in one place. At the game, Henderson assures Clark that he’s got top men watching the stadium. Clark refuses to relax and his fears are justified, because Riggs is holding “a powerful long-range rifle equipped with telescopic sights” on a roof overlooking the stadium.
-It occurred to me during this one that the narrator refers to the Clan as terrorists. Wouldn’t it be nice if that was a more commonly-used description for this type of group these days.

Episode Sixteen:
Lou grows increasingly nervous as the game goes on, but Riggs wants to find the right moment. He doesn’t want to take the shot until he can get all three targets in quick succession. A nervous Clark worries and paces until he happens to see a glint of light on a nearby roof, from Rigg’s scope. That’s all he needs to spring into action. Just as Riggs has found his moment and fires at Perry, Superman leaps up to stop the bullet. Riggs takes a shot at Jim and Superman swerves to catch that bullet too. Riggs takes his third shot and Superman saves Chuck as well. “Three strikes. You’re out,” says Superman as he lands on the roof and takes Riggs and Lou to police headquarters. Later, Unity House have won the game. At the award ceremony, Chuck turns down the gold baseball he’s getting as a reward, insisting that it should go to Tommy instead. Perry says it’s a nice gesture, but unnecessary. He already had a prize made for Tommy as well.
-As is the nature of these serials, the “Clan of the Fiery Cross” has an abrupt ending to make room for the cliffhanger that leads into the next episode.

Final Thoughts:

This story arc ran from the 10th of June until the 1st of July in 1946. It was not the first time Superman and friends had opposed bigoted villains on the show (and won’t be the last), this arc even calls back to “The Hate-Monger’s Organization,” a story that ran in April and May as well as the various Nazi villains that Superman has fought. But with its realistic depiction of the Ku Klux Klan (via the analagous Clan of the Fiery Cross), and the effect it had on the real-world Klan, this is the most famous such story. For the record, if you want to listen to the story, it is currently available on Youtube here. Just be warned that, as much as I love the Superman radio show, it is about 50% advertising, recapping what has come before, wondering what will come next, and obnoxiously loud dramatic piano stings. Also, be warned that the villains in this story use explicit slurs for Chinese people.

There’s a lot of good to be said about the “Clan of the Fiery Cross” serial, but there are also problems. Foremost is the way the Lees are written out so early. Instead of being about Tommy and his family, this is Chuck Riggs’s story. I can understand why, the intention of the serial is to shame people who know Klan members, and that includes kids like Chuck who may have family members in such groups. But I feel like that could have been done while still giving the Lees more agency. Dr. Lee and Tommy only nominally get to stand up for themselves before being beaten. The story would be improved if they had more agency. And the women of the family, Tommy’s mother and sister, are only mentioned and don’t get to do anything at all. In general this story doesn’t let women do much. Lois gets about three scenes and is only there to give Clark someone to speak to atfer Jim and Perry are captured. Chuck’s mother Sarah only barely gets anything meaningful to do. And I have to throw it out there that I find it pretty unlikely that any of the Lees’ voice actors were actually Asian. There’s also the fact that the story is light on Superhero action in the way stories are these days, which is not a problem on scale with the others, but still would probably be different today.

And indeed a lot of this seems to be dealt with by Superman Smashes the Klan. It appears the story is going to use Tommy’s sister, given the name Roberta, as the main viewpoint character. The Gurihiru art of the cast I’ve used in the header includes Lois, so hopefully she’ll be more prominent. And the previews show Superman fighting with a Metallo/Atom-Man kind of villain, so there should be more action. As I predicted, a take on this with modern sensibilities looks pretty good.

I can’t go without mentioning that this story comes from the era when the show was sponsored by Kellogg’s. I have no idea what Kellogg’s Pep, the Sunshine Cereal, was actually like because it hasn’t been extant since before I was born, but the ads work. I’d love to try it.

So what of the Lee family? Did they ever make it into the comics? Well, I can only give a resounding “No, with a but” because a Tommy Lee did actually show up in the comics not as Jim’s friend, but as Clark’s college roommate. I have no idea if it was intentional or not, but I feel like it must have been. This version of Tommy also likes baseball and also has a father who works in medicine. If it isn’t intentional, it’s almost spooky.

(I have also put this writeup up on the Avocado, which is a site I like.)

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 the reason for 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 let him have his powers. Without being able to summon guns, there just 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 justifies 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’s 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 red-sun radiation-style.
  • 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. You know the drill.

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.