Monday, September 08, 2008

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No...!
It's the latest cartoon pitch for the last son of Krypton!

Last week we launched into the self-indulgent schpiel that was the beginning of our episode summaries for a hypothetical new Superman cartoon. Admittedly, references to the nature of this round of supplemental material was vague. I thought it might be fun to actually attempt to contrive a hoax scenario that suggested this stuff was coming from a manuscript accidentally abandoned at a convention by 'powers that be.'

Rather than face the potential wrath of emotionally betrayed fans, or dare to associate myself with established professionals, we're coming at it a bit more clean this time.

I imagine longtime readers will slowly be coming to recognise me as a traditionalist, albeit with an interest in strong creative directions built on logic. I believe characters are defined by their fiction and should not be unduely manipulated, yet, at the same time, I do believe in radical changes in ones world, and appreciate well measured progress.

Cartoons, like any adaptation, are a tricky business.
In covering Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe, I'm reminded how deviations in adapted material can be cause for undue confusion with the uncertain, uninitiated, and stubbornly dedicated to what they find familiar. Yet, for whatever reason, it's always an attractive prospect to craft a new version of events familiar to source material. Sometimes this happens out of necessity, or, as is the case with the mildly offensive modern 'toon, The Batman, stylistic reasons.

Inspired partly by the vibrant design of Superman-X
from the Legion cartoon [pictured top of page]; I wanted to reimagine a Superman that could design a very unique take on the DC Universe, starting with their first major superhero.
Last Son is designed with an energy and animation ethic similar to The Batman in mind, even if designs skew in a very different direction. I would almost describe the intention as MTV Superman, if only to refer to a desire to aquire a soundtrack built from popular artists, rather than original score.

I'm no artist, but maybe as we revisit our hyopthetical Superman continuity, I'll be able to communicate some ideas clearer, like a Martian Manhunter design contrived to be more alien in the superhero landscape, complimenting the distance place between he and the heroes of the series.

J'onn J'onnz - referred almost exclusively to as 'The Martian' - is a throughline to the first series of Last Son that encapsulates an approach that draws heavily from the DCU canon, but repurposes that information for a new interconnected piece designed to lend much greater weight to characters and ideas.
The prevelance of guest heroes, rather than villains, is a deliberate design that might become more evident as we elaborate on imaginary tales later in the series, such as the extension of the series one cliffhanger.
As with many ideas, the intent to clearly define the cartoon as a removed reality from the core DCU, is something that could be explored in future episodes/series. I rather like the idea of building each subsequent series around storyarcs that are derived from elements in comics. This introductory series of First Son does not have the luxury to dwell on a single idea to that extent, but amidst the intros to Krypton's history, Metropolis, and heroes in the DCU, is the developing arc of relationships with Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor.

If you missed it, you might like to flip back to the first half of the series, to better appreciate what unfolds toward the two-part season final.

== Episode Seven: Character Assassination Part 2 ==
Both Superman and Luthor begin patrolling the Metropolis skies in an effort to uncover the elusive Martian, who has used his shapeshifting abilities to blend in with humanity. Utilizing a powersuit built from Kryptonian and Metallo technology, Luthor uncovers the Martian and drives him out of the city once more.
Just as the Martian begins successfully dismantling Luthor's armor, Superman arrives to save the day, or so it seems. Superman this time finds himself unable to combat the Martian's strength, saved only at the last minute by the exposed Luthor, who uses a flamethrower in his suit's gauntlet to drive the Martian into a retreat

Superman returns to Metropolis amidst a media storm over Luthor's comments. To counteract growing mistrust and paranoia, he offers the story of his origins, and the planet Krytpon, to Lois Lane in a Daily Planet exclusive. The flashback reveals the history of Krypton that ended with a mysterious catastrophic event that destroyed the planet, leaving Superman to be it's only survivor, rescued by his father's advanced technology.

Upon release the story appears to be having a positive effect, but when Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Planet, he is shocked to find "Superman" holding the building hostage with demands they retract their story.

== Episode Eight: Character Assassination Part 3 ==
Held hostage by an impostor -- Superman, as Clark Kent, is forced to play the victim while his double threatens to destroy the building if the Planet does not print an apology for their story on his home planet.

Lois Lane takes centre stage as she attempts to act from within the building to thwart the impostor Superman's plans, which are revealed to include placing explosives throughout the building at superspeed prior to his incursion.
Lois discovers a bomb when she is shocked to find herself by the Batman, who entered the building unnoticed. Together they learn the bomb is a fake, confirming Batman's suspicion that there are no bombs at all.

Batman returns to the street to confront the impostor Superman, donning a powersuit along the way. While Batman battles the impostor in the streets, Lois frees her colleagues, revealing the false bombscare to Clark.
Slipping away in the chaos Kent jumps into action as Superman, joining a shocked Batman, who had believed the hero to have gone rogue. Together they discover the impostor to be a cyborg replica, but before they can destroy it, Lex Luthor's Special Forces arrive to do the job for them.

Batman leaves Metropolis with a little more faith in Superman, shifting his suspicions when Lex Luthor emerges in the press once more, to smear Superman's name and take credit for saving the Daily Planet from the 'undetected bombs'.

== Episode Nine: Father's Day ==
Clark returns to Smallville to spend Father's Day with his adopted parents, but soon finds himself face-to-face with his biological father, instead.
The confrontation of his life on Earth as a virtual reality simulation is only made worse when his father, Jor-El, reveals it was a military training exercise to help him infiltrate human society before conquering the planet.

Though enticed by the possibility of sharing moments with his birth parents, Superman is soon able to find his way out of the dream, and into reality, where the Martian is revealed to be employing a new attack -- telepathy!

The two alien titans clash, but when their battle endangers Ma and Pa Kent, the Martian retreats, promising in defiance of Superman's objections, that he will return for revenge on the destroyer of Mars.

== Episode Ten: A Thousand Words ==
Having returned from his weekend in Smallville late, Clark is right up against a deadline for a piece on Lex Luthor's youth in Kansas.
Super speed gives Clark the edge he needs to complete the story, but on the order of Perry White, it's the graveyard shift for he and Jimmy Olsen race to find an old photo from the basement archives.

Their first real chance to bond, Jimmy lets slip that Lois has shown glimpses of a rare personal interest in the Planet's new reporter. Clark recalls moments shared during the Impostor Robot Superman's attack on the building, and admits his own clumsy feelings.

With a little help from Jimmy, Clark makes his deadline, and sends Lois a collage of photographs pointing to a romantic rendezvous outside the city.
Though outwardly reluctant, she accepts.

== Episode Eleven: Green Part 1 ==
The Martian returns to STARlabs for the first time since his teleportation to Earth deep within the bowels of LexCORP. Using previously hidden powers of invisibility and intangibility, he lurks through the laboratory, witnessing many experiments and technologies, before his eavesdropping reveals the hospitalization of the scientist responsible for his predicament.
Disguised as a police detective, the Martian visits the critically ill Dr. Mark Erdel, whom he had injured during his escape of STARlabs. In a shock twist, it is the scientist who apologises for unwittingly plucking him through time and space. He reveals his own morals had been compromised in his desire to utilize Luthor's facilities to satisfy his scientific curiosity. He warns of the lengths Luthor will go to to obtain power from the universe.

At STARlabs, Luthor's inner sanctum is revealed to the viewer for the first time, where Luthor himself has a collection of exotic technologies. He ponders the moment of weakness he'd witnessed in Superman during his own battle with the Martian, and in doing so, begins to observe the green gem in his ring, which had been exposed during his fight, as more than a fidgeting distraction. He puts the gem under a microscope and begins researching.

Meanwhile, the cosmos appears to put on a lightshow for Clark and Lois as they enjoy their dinner date on the grassy hills outside Metropolis, but when a shooting star burns a bright green, Clark knows all is not as it seems...

== Episode Twelve: Green Part 2 ==
In the Mojave Desert the silence is broken by a falling satellite!
From the crater it leaves climbs a pink-skinned alien garbed in the black and green uniform of the Green Lantern Corps. Fatally wounded, the staggering alien orders it's ring to tap into local transmissions and accumulate data for local language and the recruitment of a new agent to the Corps.

Still disguised as a human, the Martian learns from Dr. Erdel of secret experiments that had uncovered signs of life on present-day Mars, decades after the time period the Martian was pulled from. He regrets his team's failure to create a means of returning the Martian, but informs him of an old space craft acquired from the US government. The Martian, with extreme reticence, recalls seeing something familiar in the labs.

Meanwhile, across the country, Superman does his best to follow the estimated trajectory of the shooting star he witnessed the night prior. From the skies he undertakes the task of scanning the Mojave Desert for signs of wreckage - an event not unnoticed by the fallen alien, Abin Sur.
The ring, using sophisticated technologies to assess the suitability of subjects within a massive radius, finds three potential recruits for the Corps. Superman, one of them, is deemed unsuitable because of his alien origins, but the ring isolates the nearest candidate and encases Abin Sur in a containment pod constructed from green energy, before leaving it's host.
Superman, spotting the crater, finds the pod, but is unable to penetrate it's strange energy-based structure. Reluctantly he realises the only person he knows equipped to deal with the alien is Lex Luthor, and so, flies back in the direction of Metropolis.

At the Metropolis hospital, Dr. Erdel's vital signs begin to waver, and as he suffers a heart attack, he tries to compell the Martian to understand humanity's capacity for both evil, AND good. He begs him to find value in the preservation of this self-destructive species, but before he can clarify the nature of a potentially imminent threat, he is surrounded by surgeons who do not see the now invisible Martian.

In the desert, the Green Lantern ring returns with an unconscious human housed in a green energy craft. The human is Hal Jordan -- a pilot of great courage who is deemed willful enough to possess the ring. Freed from his energy pod, Abin Sur uses his dying breath to warn Jordan of a coming threat that attacked him on Mars, forcing him to abandon his ship and endure the lethal entry of Earth's atmosphere. He compells the pilot to take up the oath of the Green Lantern and protect humanity from certain DOOM.

In Metropolis, Superman makes no effort to remain unseen as he smashes his way into LexCORP. He cuts a path to the impenetrable core of the STARlabs facility and calls desperately for Lex. Luthor emerges, but as he does, Superman suddenly begins to sweat and feel weak. Luthor decrys Superman's suitability as guardian of the human race and vows to ascened himself, introducing Superman to the crystal that will be his strength -- Kryptonite.

In the city streets, still disguised as an anonymous detective, the Martian looks to the heavens, and seeing clearer than any mere human, he observes the tiny spec of a space craft heading for Earth...

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