Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another Reason For The List

As my cartoon watching continues largely unabated, I took in one of my favorite episodes of Superman: The Animated Series today, an episode entitled “The Late Mr. Kent.”
The story revolves around Clark finding proof that a man who’s about to be executed was innocent, which leads the real killer to try to eliminate Clark. Of course it doesn’t work, but circumstance are such that Clark can’t reveal that he survived the attempt without revealing that he’s Superman.
Working with Lois, Superman reveals that the real killer was a corrupt cop who framed the man on death row, a convenient turn of events allows for Clark to turn up alive, and the corrupt cop is himself sentenced to death.
At the end of the episode, we see the cop in the gas chamber as he asks a question that’s probably been repeating in his head over and over: how did Kent survive the car bomb?
Then we have the light bulb moment as he says aloud, though no one can hear him, “He’s Superman!” just as the executioner throws the lever to release the gas.
There’s rather a lot more to the episode, which is told with a voiceover narration in a style reminiscent of classic crime dramas, but the essential and defining moment that makes it one of my favorite episodes is that final scene.
Apart from that, what I really like about the episode is the opening scene in which we see a small memorial service with various members of the Daily Planet staff in attendance, and as we move back we see Superman in the distance, which becomes puzzling once we learn that the person being memorialized is none other than Clark Kent! But how can this be? If Superman is Clark Kent, and is clearly alive, how can Clark be dead?
In watching this opening sequence one can envision the kind of classic Silver Age cover that might have accompanied a story like this in the comics (assuming that said “one”is me, or someone similarly familiar with comics, at any rate).
In fact, I can’t imagine that there wasn’t a cover similar to what I’m imagining somewhere along the line, something featuring Lois and Jimmy in funereal garb standing in front of a headstone that says “RIP Clark Kent” lamenting the loss of their colleague and friend, while Superman stands behind a monument with a thought bubble summarizing his dilemma: that he’s alive, but can’t let anyone know, lest they discover his secret.
There has to have been a cover like that somewhere along the line in the last 68 years.
At any rate, there’s a scene in the episode in which Superman and Lois are in Clark’s apartment looking for clues as to who might have killed him when Lois discovers that Clark’s computer has been stolen and that his phone had been bugged. She also discovers a bomb that’s about to go off.
Superman whisks her out to safety in the nick of time, flying her across the street and dropping her off on a balcony while he turns back to deal with the fire.
Now here’s the actual point of all this.
Among the many, many reasons why I think it’s a shame that there is no such person as Superman in real life we now need to add “Because he will never randomly deposit a beautiful, short-skirted investigative reporter on my balcony.”

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