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.

Oh yeah, there was that Superman/Batman movie…

I just realized that back when I first watched the Superman/Batman movie (The 7th of April 2016), I sent my thoughts to Marq as I was watching. I have now copied them and paste them below, typos and all, devoid of any context. Just rest assured that Marq didn’t know what I was talking about either. I went in fully knowing the movie’s reputation and about the Martha scene and stuff. I may refer back to these thoughts in a future Superman Thoughts post, but mostly this is just for posterity:

Is there any reason that Bruce’s employee “Jack” who gets blown up isn’t a version of Lucious Fox? I’m not saying that woud be better necessarily, but it seems like it might have been an easier way to play up the importance of the death to the audience of the last few Batman movies.

18 Months Later. One of those time skips that are always ruining comics from what I hear.

There’s no way this archaeologist or whatever is going to be Lana’s father is there?

I’m going to assume Lois is in the bathtub because it shows us how close she and Clark are. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Okay, this is where I’m starting to feel old already. I already don’t know what’s going on. Lois says the people at the hearing are saying something, Clark cuts her off saying he doesn’t care what they’re saying. I genuinely don’t know what they’re saying. Are they unhappy because Superman saved her? Because the terrorists got killed by those motorcycle guys? I’m not sure who is unhappy or why.

Batman brands people? Wasn’t that the schtick of one of the old pulp heroes? Nightraven or something?

Alfred’s really drilling the hatred of Superman into Bruce. Is this movie actually Alfred vs Superman?

So Lex Sr. grew up in East Germany?

At least the movie seems to be okay with using the name Superman, unlike Man of Steel with that damn cough joke I still don’t understand.

Wait, it’s only 18 months from the last movie and there’s already a statue of Superman? He really must have stepped up his game between movies.

Why did Lex just put a candy in a guy’s mouth? I tried to give him a chance, but I’m going to agree with the others who said this version of Lex is not great.

“Superman acted like some rogue combatant to rescue her” is the official problem the government has with Superman? I still don’t get it. Are they just upset that he doesn’t work for them, or are they saying Superman shot all those people? They do know that guns would be pretty unnecessary for him to use, right?

Affleck is one of the three actors I am most frequently compared to, and probably the handsomest of the three.

Gotham and Metropolis are across a harbour from one another? I think there are some Silver Age comics with that setup. But why, then, are they so acting like the heroes are so attached to their particular cities, then? Batman doesn’t fight crime if running water gets in his way? Superman won’t fly across the harbour to put out a fire?

I’m sure if wheelchair guy were being set up to be Metallo, I would have heard of it alredy, so I am sure he is not.

The action scene where Batman fights Superman soldiers and bug guys is absolutely free of quick cuts and shaky cam. I almost feel like someone listened after my opinion of the first movie.

The superheroes acting like jerks and the frequent dreams are more similarities to the Silver Age.

“He is not our enemy,” Alfred says. So, did I misunderstand what Alfred was saying earlier? Going back to check, Earlier Alfred said “Everything’s changed. Men fall from the sky. The gods hurl thunderbolts. Innocents die. That’s how it starts, sir. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness. That turns good men cruel.” All said while showing images of Superman. I dunno.

Wilhelm Scream. Maybe they are willing to try to have fun? I mean, Wilhelm Screams are lame, but they’re also not super serious.

This car chase scene is pretty coherent as well. Are my memories of how bad the action was in Man of Steel flawed?

Oh, nobody told me the fight was over the fact Superman busted up the Batmobile. He deserves what he gets.

Seems like making a tracking device that blinks on the end that you’re trying to track is just begging for it to get noticed by the person you’re tracking.

“Does he act by our will, or his alone?” Okay, so I guess the whole problem is their uncertainty about his motives.

“The desert was a set-up. Someone wanted Superman to look guilty.” Oh, so they do think Superman shot all those people? Surely Lex could faked heat vision or something?

Ah, Lex’s skinny assistant is Mercy. Nice touch, I guess.

Well, at least they can’t say the movie doesn’t foreshadow its jars of urine.

Also, I guess Mercy is dead.

“All this time, I’ve been living my life the way my father saw it.” “Superman was never real. Just the dream of a farmer from Kansas” No! Jonathan Kent specifically told you to not help people because it would put you at risk! That’s the thing I most hated about the first movie!

So Pa Kent is in the movie after all (dream, I assume). Okay, scene over and he has not offended me. I’ll accept this Pa Kent appearance without complaint.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lois Lane falling from a great height it one of the least suspensful things ever, so I am glad this one didn’t drag it out. He was there almost instantly.

And then the movie takes a break while Wonder Woman browses commercials for upcoming DC movies.

“If I wanted it, you’d be dead already.” The truest fact about Batman/Superman fights.

Luckily, we flash back to Bruce’s origin again. I had forgotten what had happened there.

Is there a reason that Kryptonian/Human mix is stronger than both instead of somewhere in between?

I hope that the R-rated version of the movie just gives Doomsday some junk.

Okay, Doomsday does get some bony protusions. I’m not big on him flying and heat-visioning, but it does fit this origin.

Bruce to Clark regarding Wonder Woman: “I thought she was with you.” You literally emailed her Bruce. Like two hours ago.

I think Wonder Woman just smiled! I don’t think superheroes are allowed to do that here!

See, if I were Clark, I might have, like, thrown the spear, or maybe even given it to Wonder Woman. I’ll just blame it on being a heat of the moment thing, though.

And here’s my problem with these movies, I don’t care that Clark is dead right now. I have no attachment to him. This version of Superman has barely had a consisteny personality for me to attach myself to. I guess I’m supposed to just transpose my existing feelings for the character onto this version, but I can’t do that. This Clark was never got past the cipher stage for me. This would probably have been helped if there had been a second movie, one that showed Superman becoming the beacon of virtue Lex claimed he was. One that showed why people were willing to build a statue to him. One that had ANY scenes of his relationship with Lois at all. One with Bibbo. Just because.

They shave Lex’s head. That’s something, I guess.

One thing this funeral is missing is mobsters attacking Jimmy Olsen while about three dozen superheroes are about ten feet away. Those were truly the smarted mobsters ever.”

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.

Prankin’ it up with the ol’ Prankster

The Prankster is one of Superman’s longest-appearing regular supervillains. I don’t think he gets a lot of respect from fans, but he’s also “made it” into the pantheon of Superman characters. He’s not one who I feel I need to fight for his inclusion. He’ll continue to show up because he’s tradition.

One of the more recent takes on this character, one I like, is that he’s the guy that other criminals will hire to annoy Superman as a distraction while they do other crimes. That’s a good way to go, because it gives him a lot of freedom to do wacky things. He’s also good for just doing his own crimes, in nice standalone stories with a little twist at the end. And he also gets to team up with the Toyman a lot, which is also fun.

But if I were writing a Superman story right now and wanted the Prankster in there, I’d probably have him go up against the “Truth” aspect of what makes Superman tick. The Prankster could have a vendetta against the Daily Planet and try to harm their credibility with some elaborately staged Fake News pranks and they’d have to step up and prove the worth of journalism. I think that, in this age of the erosion of truth, the Prankster has a relevant role he could play.