Monday, October 5, 2015

Legion of Super Heroes S01 E01: Man of Tomorrow

"Man of Tomorrow" was written by Amy Wolfram and directed by Ben Jones, original airdate: September 23, 2006.

Mission Monitor Board: Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Bouncing Boy, Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, young Superman

Opponents: The Fatal Five (Emerald Empress, Tharok, Mano, the Persuader, Validus)

We open, only momentarily mind you, on the Legion being battered by unseen foes. We see them long enough for Lightning Lad - brash, lightning bolt scar through his right eye, and wearing a variation of his Dave Cockrum costume, in this animated version - to ask, "Where's Superman when you need him?"


That's our cue to journey to the 21st century. Being both old and old school, I remember when Superboy's Smallville was in the 1950s, and then the 1960s, and then, groan, creak, the 1970s. No matter, for 2006 when this series was done, it could work in the 21st century, I suppose. We, along with Ma Kent, catch young Clark in the bathroom doing something he shouldn't. Get your head out of the gutter, he's not smoking, he's just testing his heat vision.

This version of Clark Kent hasn't yet become Superman, and he can't be Superboy due to legal issues, so he's trying his best to figure these powers out. He's strong, he's fast, and can see through stuff - those are easy, but heat vision and flight require just a little more finesse. What I like best about this Clark Kent, besides that he loves his mama, is his look. This is the traditional young Clark Kent from the 1950s Superboy stories and the 1966 Filmation cartoons. Collared shirt, red sweater, blue pants... it's the real Clark Kent, I love it.

As Clark prepares to leave Smallville to go to Metropolis to become a reporter, ahem, I mean copyboy, he takes in one last night out on the town, at the fair. There Clark is frustrated, holding his powers in check, trying to appear normal, but when the Ferris wheel starts to collapse, and he can't quite pull it off alone - it's enter the Legion.

Just like in the classic Adventure Comics #247, three Legionnaires have come from the future in a time bubble to recruit the young hero for their team. Instead of founders Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad however, in this version, Saturn Girl has been accompanied by Brainiac 5 and Bouncing Boy. Carefully, they invite Clark to join them in the future, promising to return him a few moments later in his present. Clark to his mother: "I'm going to the future, Ma, I'll be back in a few minutes." Ma: "Take a sweater."

Saturn Girl is the sensible one, the leader-type, wearing an approximation of her 1980s Keith Giffen costume (with matching pink eyes), voiced by Kari Wahlgren, and despite having many additional psychic powers, is pretty close to her comics counterpart. Her companions really only share color schemes with their source material however. Bouncing Boy retains his powers but dresses a bit like an overweight extreme sports guy, and Brainiac 5 is more machine than man, still smart, but a weird cross between a Transformer and the animated Cyborg from "Teen Titans."

Disappointed by the appearance of the civilian Clark as opposed to the full blown Superman, Lightning Lad does what he does best in this series, acts brashly, and scares the new recruit off. This Garth is kinda like Reggie from Archie Comics. After Clark races off blindly into 31st century New Metropolis, which the animators made brighter and more imaginative than their previous future - the Gotham of "Batman Beyond" - he finds himself coincidentally in the Superman Museum.

The images of Superman inside are reproductions of classic Wayne Boring and Curt Swan scenes, and even include one of the Aurora model kit of Superboy where he fights a space dragon. Clark is no fool. He knows this is about him, and this is his destiny. Saturn Girl finds him, comforts him and tells him of the threat they face - the Fatal Five. Mano, Validus, and the Emerald Empress are recognizable from the comics, while the Persuader is closer to his 5YL look, and this Tharok is more like the animated Brainiac 5. After hearing of the threat they face, Clark agrees to fight alongside the Legion.

On the Fatal Five's look, I have to say I definitely prefer the original Persuader costume, and the Empress with a cape. Also Validus' primate-like movements were interesting, but I have to say I hated his new grey-green skin. I also would have preferred the Tharok from the comics, and as leader. While the Legion gets pummeled by the Fatal Five, Clark returns to the Superman Museum to try on his empty costume there, wanting make his 31st century debut in style, I suppose.

The ancient Superman costume is at first ill-fitting for our super boy, but a lite creative tucking handles that quite easily, after all, didn't Kryptonian cloth have a certain elasticity pre-Crisis at least? I love that Emerald Empress likes his cape, calling it "very 21st century." Perhaps this is what inspires her cape. It was cool to see the young untrained Superman almost hold his own against the Fatal Five, and it was perfection that here he inspired the Legion in person, as well as in history.

The Fatal Five are defeated, but teleport away, to fight another day. Based on the promise of a return to his own time right after he left, young Superman elects to stay in the 31st century and join the Legion. He gets a flight ring, to help him learn that skill, and a belt insignia with the Legion L, and a new era begins!

There were a few fun Easter eggs, or Science Police Notes as we call them around these parts, in this episode. Cosmic Boy, Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy are all mentioned as being unavailable for this mission. The last was even mentioned as being on Braal, homeworld of Cosmic Boy.

Some of the alien species in 31st century Metropolis might be familiar like the folks from Barrio III and Xudar, homes of the Green Lanterns Chaselon and Tomar Re. And did you all see Booster Gold sweeping up with Skeets in the Superman Museum? It must have been some sort of time travel transfer program as Booster worked in the 25th century Space Museum.

Next: Timber Wolf!

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