Superman: TAS – S1 – Fun and Games

Characters: Clark Kent/Superman, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen
First Appearance: Winslow Schott/Toyman, Bruno Mannheim

After the three part debut which gave us a lot of characters and established three villains (Brainiac, Luthor & John Corben who will become Metallo), we slow down considerably with…. Toyman.

Something I have always appreciated about the various Timmverse cartoons is that they really tried hard to incorporate as much of the mythos into each series that they could. Everything from the best and most obscure to the more mundane. That of course means I was inevitably going to get an episode from a third stringer villain, I just did not necessarily expect it in the fourth episode of the series. In fact, I have had this recollection all along that the first non-origin episode was actually Metallo’s full on introduction, but not only was I wrong, it turns out my memory is really bad, because he does not return until the seventh episode!

There have been three Toymen throughout the years in the comic books, but this episode focusses on the original, and most known, Winslow Schott. Toyman, coincidentally is one of the few Superman villains created in the Golden Age (he debuted in 1943) that has survived to this day. While a very gimmicky villain, there is something to be said for an almost eighty-year old gimmick that still gets pulled out and used in various mediums. It also turns out that Toyman has a bit more versatility in a cartoon than another Superman villain, Prankster, who let’s be frank, suffers from being too similar to Toyman, but even less recognizable. That is not to say that Toyman’s introduction to the cartoon is not appreciated. He is a great addition to the series and this episode is not terrible, I just would have preferred a more heavy hitter type villain first.

It is also worth noting that Bruno Mannheim is introduced in this episode as well. For fans of the comic books, they will recognize him as the mob boss running Intergang on Earth for none other than…. Darkseid! Mannheim was a staple Superman villain in the 1970s to early 90s, but has been largely forgotten since then. In fact, a quick web search tells me that Mannheim is used in a lot of cartoons/series but has not been in the comic books for over a decade.

The episode itself is a pretty standard revenge plot where a character (Toyman) does some questionable things to punish someone (Mannheim) who wronged them in the past, and Superman is obviously caught in the middle. Interestingly, Lois Lane gets considerable screen time in this episode, and not as the typical damsel in distress. She is certainly awarded many heroic moments, a trend that I hope continues throughout the series as it is in line with her comic book counterpart, and it is far more empowering to see a Lois Lane who kicks ass and takes names, and is not always in need of rescue. It is a neatly compact story that focusses in purely on the main plot. No subplots, and even character appearances had to be strongly justified; we see Jimmy Olsen in a few scenes, but there’s no sign of Perry White, for example. There is a scene where we see Lois talking to Perry on the phone, but we never hear his side of the conversation.

Other noteworthy easter eggs include a police scanner message referring to a crime occurring at “Third & Shuster”, an obvious reference to Superman co-creator Joe Shuster. This is something that is done often in most mainstream comic books, and is perhaps the best known type of in-joke or easter egg. I would also surmise that aside from intentionally drawing someone from real life in a comic book, naming conventions for streets and buildings in comic book cities is the first instance of easter eggs in the medium.

This is also the first time Lois Lane refers to Clark Kent as “Smallville” (a reference to his hometown). Actually, I think it was in the pilot episodes, but it is worth noting now. If memory serves, the cartoon was the origins of the Smallville nickname (unless Teri Hatcher did in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, but I know for certain not any earlier than that point). Since then, the Smallville nickname has been used in other cartoons, live action movies and television series. It would first appear (again, if memory serves) in the comic books in 1999 once Jeph Loeb took over the Superman title as writer. This continues to demonstrate how little things from this cartoon series can and did influence the comic books.

In the end “Fun and Games” ends up being just an average episode that unfortunately suffers from poor placement in the production/release schedule of the series.

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