Season One, Episode Two — “The Last Son of Krypton, Part II”


© Copyright 1996-2000, DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

By Jarrod Jones. One of the biggest misconceptions about Superman is that he was born Superman. I attribute this fallacy mostly to the famous monologue Quentin Tarantino wrote for the late David Carradine in Kill Bill, Vol. 2, where Carradine pontificates on the origins of his “favorite” superhero – Superman. “What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us,” Bill gushes to his former lover, Beatrix Kiddo (played by Uma Thurman). It’s a speech that’s fun to listen to, as most indulgent Tarantino yarns can be, but it is a speech that is achingly, aggravatingly false. (And, ironically enough, it’s a speech that uses the myth of Superman to thoroughly demoralize someone, but maybe that’s fodder for another article.)

I don’t mean to hoist my glasses to the top of my nose with the “um, actuallys” here. Odds are, if you’re reading a review to an episode of Superman: The Animated Series, you already know most (if not all) of the particulars: in the Post-Crisis universe (which existed when this show was on the air) Superman was “born” on Earth and “genetically assembled” on Krypton, and in this series he was born on Krypton and sent to Earth as a toddler. But these little factoids aren’t enough to discredit Tarantino’s written monologue. Instead it’s this fundamental truth that sinks the whole damn argument: once he arrived on Earth, Kal-El — the child Tarantino confuses for Superman — went away for a long time. It wasn’t Superman who was carried out of that rocketship, it was Clark Kent.

It’s an essential facet to the Superman mythos, one that Superman: TAS handled beautifully in its second episode. In this series there would be no “Superbaby”, or even a “Superboy”. Instead we’d get to see Clark Kent grow under the loving care of Jonathan and Martha Kent. It’s through this approach that the truth about the character takes root, in spite of David Carradine’s smoky eloquence: Superman wasn’t created by genetics, but by his ability to hope, a belief that good can prevail, and the wisdom that power should never be allowed to corrupt. It is in those ideals that Clark Kent chose to become Superman, and everyone would do well to remember that he didn’t get there alone.

WHAT WORKED: There are a lot of indelible moments in the first half of the episode, but it’s in the final ten minutes where the real fun begins: Clark Kent’s meeting with Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White is barged in on by an irate Lois Lane, who spits rapid fire about the front page getting snatched out from under her. Lois is so mad that she doesn’t realize the author of the “sprouty, New Age, granola-crunching fluff piece” is right behind her until it is far too late. Once the introductions are given, Lois’ walls are up and Clark is the enemy. Seeing this angle of the characters given animated life is a refreshing nod to the John Byrne-era Superman, and Byrne’s interpretation of their rivalry not only provided potent chemistry for these line-drawn avatars, but to the live-action Lois and Clark (played by Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain) in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman. It was a brassy, sassy time to be a Superman fan, kids. I miss it dearly.

The vocal banter is provided by Dana Delany and Tim Daly, and their interpretation of Lois and Clark is one for the books (whenever I read Lois in the comics, I always hear Dana Delany’s voice). Delany’s Lois has both a tremendous presence and a palpable agency; Paul Dini and Alan Burnett’s script doesn’t depict Lane as anything but a force of nature that fought her way through the journalistic ranks to become Metropolis’ top reporter, and the actress cinches the introduction stupendously. Inversely, Tim Daly’s Clark Kent is earnest and kindly, a clipped and proper fellow with just the right amount of sarcasm and dry wit to balance out this not-so-naive hayseed from Smallville.

There are moments of real poignancy here, particularly in the beginning ten minutes of the episode where a daydreaming Clark (exuberantly voiced my Jason Marsden) begins to suspect that he is more than just “different”. His interactions with the Kents are far too brief (more on that in a minute), but it’s established that Clark’s been brought up in a good home: he leaps to rescue a family from a raging fire without a second’s consideration that his abilities might not keep him safe, and when he’s confronted with a holographic image of his Kryptonian parents (Jor-El and Lara, again voiced by Christopher McDonald and Finola Hughes), Martha is genuinely frightened for her boy. These moments may be short-lived, but their points are expressed succinctly.

WHAT DIDN’T: If the first part of Last Son Of Krypton gave Krypton a full half hour to breathe, part two suffers just a little bit by accelerating the narrative momentum. From the moment Kal-El crash lands outside Smallville, to the teenage years of Clark & Lana, to Kent’s first day on the city beat of The Daily Planet, everything we see moves by far too fast. Perhaps Last Son of Krypton would have been better served as a four-parter.


Could be Russian.  A Sputnik baby.” – Jonathan.

If it wasn’t an angel that saved her, then what was it?”  – Angela. “Friendly pigeons.” – Lois.

I apologize.  You’re not the rube hayseed that I took you for.” – Lois. “Thanks.  I think.” – Clark.

BEST MOMENT: Clark leaps a whole cornfield in a single bound. I’ve seen this episode at least a dozen times, but the “first flight” sequence — where a angry and confused Clark runs away from home so fast that he finds himself hovering above Smallville — is still an exhilarating moment to behold. The smile on his face slapped one on mine as he shouted “YES!” and shot straight up into the sky. Damn scene still gets me all goose-pimples. Comic book storytellers, take note: this is how a Superman story should feel.

EPISODE’S MVP: Clark Kent. (Come on, after that whole spiel I put you through about Tarantino? You saw this coming.) Whether he’s rubbing elbows with Lana Lang, rescuing a family from certain death, or beating Lois Lane to an exclusive, Clark is the person we root for. And it’s for more reasons other than we’re watching a show with his name in the title: once he dons his more recognizable reds and blues, the action picks up for sure, but it’s the sequences that feature his secret identity that create the real feels. In the series’ second episode, we finally get to see what really makes Superman fly, and it isn’t just Earth’s yellow sunlight.


© Copyright 1996-2000, DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.


– “Looks like the Boy Genius performed to his usual standards.” – Lana. “And so did you, Miss Lang.” – Miss Stevenson. That’s cold-blooded, lady. Maybe instead of dissing Lana in the middle of class, you get a little more proactive with the students you’re visibly failing. Yeesh.

– Perry White is voiced by George Dzundza, the man who voiced the Ventriloquist/Scarface in Batman: TAS.

– Television reporter and Lois’ professional adversary is Angela Chen, an updated avatar for the comic book character Cat Grant, The Daily Planet‘s gossip columnist and onetime girlfriend to Clark Kent.

– Lois has been calling Clark “Smallville” for years in television and comic books, but she did it for the first time in this episode.

– Your ears aren’t deceiving you: Lex Luthor is Clancy Brown and that dude with the goggles? Malcolm McDowell. But more on them soon enough.

8 out of 10

Next: The Last Son of Krypton, Part III, soon.

Before: “The Last Son of Krypton, Part I”, here.