A Silly Superhero Story
My Adventures with Superman: Series Premiere
How many different ways can you tell the origin of SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s.? every few years we get some new version of him, whether on the small screen, direct-to-video, or in theaters, and each time we have to get some version of his origin. A baby sent from Krypton, arriving on Earth to be raised as a good, American boy by the Kents, all before going to the big city, Metropolis, to be a reporter while, at the same time, acting as a superheroic protector. These are details we know, and yet each time we have to get some play on the idea. It seems like that's a requirement at this point.
Something I'll credit the newest animated TV addition to the Superman canon is that it doesn't spend too long on the hero's earliest days before it gets us into the real story. Yes, we get a scene of a young Clark learning he has powers, trying to get a kite out of a tree before seeing a car about to crash and suddenly speeding over to help them. It's a starling moment for him as he didn't even know he could do that, but it establishes that, in times of need, his powers will level up and he'll be able to do the super things he needs to do. This informs us of his character, his need to help, and that he'll dig deep to find new reserves to do it. That's Clark Kent, the boy scout we all know.
At the same time, though, the show knows not to linger as it has a different origin story to tell, and it's one we don't really get to see all that often. The journey is always "Clark went from Smallville to Metropolis and became a reporter." But how did he become that reporter? Why can he stand toe-to-toe with Lois Lane and be at her (award winning) level? This is his first job, working at the Daily Planet, and one would think that would take some effort to rise through the ranks. That's the story My Adventures with Superman looks to tell: Clark at the start of his career (both as a newspaper intern and as a superhero) learning the ropes as he also learns about himself. It's a fresh story and, considering how many adaptations we have had of Supes over the years, fresh is good.
Once we get into the meat of this first episode, we're introduced to Clark (Jack Quaid) on his first day as an intern at the Daily Planet. He's roommates with Jimmy Olsen (Ishmel Sahid), who is also an intern at the paper as well as a conspiracy nut who thinks aliens live among us (if only he knew the truth about his roommate). On the way to the Planet Clark runs into Lois (Alice Lee), although they don't realize they both will be working at the Planet together. Clark gabs a bunch of donuts during this meet-cute and heads off to the Planet, only to get assigned to work with senior intern Lois, and suddenly the team is together.
Lois, it should be noted, is hot on the case of stolen military tech, a story she's desperate to cover even as Perry White (Darrell Brown) refuses to let her go cover her own cases. She's just an intern so she should be handling files and helping the actual reporters. Lois, though, doesn't listen, instead grabbing Clark and Jimmy to help her with her investigations. If they can just find the thieves who stole the robots they could get a real scoop in the paper. But, of course, be careful what you wish for as you might just get it...
My Adventures with Superman is a light and fun little show. It's a cartoon that obviously is designed for a younger audience. It's "shonen-inspired" art style (as I've read it described) is cute, the kind of light anime influenced artwork that's clearly design to appeal to all ages. It's not as "kid friendly" as the likes of the DC Superhero Girls and Teen Titans Go!, but it was obviously designed with bright, happy, colorful moods in mind. For kids, but an art style their parents could enjoy as well.
Along those same lines, the characters on the show are younger than in the usual representations of the Superman Canon. Our three interns are clearly fresh out of college, if not high school, learning the ropes on their first real job. They aren't fully-fledged reporters yet, adults at the top of their field, but young adults still figuring themselves out. It's an approach that, I think, could make the characters more approachable for the desired younger audiences (at least, I'm sure that was the pitch, anyway).
Plus, they do get their own set of kid sidekicks. Early in the episode Lois introduced Clark and Jimmy to her "contacts on the street", and these end up being a set of tween paper delivery kids. These littler guys are likely much closer to the ages of the intended audience, and they get to be a set of independent, super effective informants. It's cute, and silly, to have these guys be the ones with their ears to the ground, but it does also work in the context of the show. Lois is just starting out so of course her contact would be people closer to her own age. Kids delivering papers are probably the only "contacts" she could make in her job as a paper-pushing intern. It works, even if its is a bit too twee at the same time.
I think "twee" is a good work to describe a fair bit of the humor here. When Clark wakes up on his first day of work he breaks his alarm. He struggles to turn on a faucet without breaking it. He tears his shows apart putting his feet in them. For someone that has been dealing with his powers for years (as the show illustrates) one would think he would be better at handling them now. But they wanted him to be awkward and young and this was the way to illustrate it. So we get "cute" humor that maybe goes a little to hard, a little too silly. Things like this stand out because the show otherwise has a pretty good vibe to it.
I think taking these characters and setting them at the start of their reporting career is a smart idea. We've seen Clark in Smallville. We've seen him as a successful superhero. We've seen him at many different points along his journey, but an exploration of him learning the ropes, alongside Lois and Jimmy, is a different angle not too often explored. I like how it puts all three of these up-and-coming reporters on the same level, really making them a team. It aids their power dynamic without leaving any one of them with too much control over the others (outside of Lois's naturally pushy personality).
I would also argue that, at least for the power couple at the center -- Lois and Clark -- this allows them to really see eye to eye in a way other versions couldn't manage. Lois isn't the senior reporter so Clark doesn't feel like a tag-along. Now, sure, one could argue that Lois being chief reporter meant that she had more power to bring when Clark was Superman, but that isn't necessary here. Lois proves to be quite capable in a dangerous situation, aiding the newly revealed (with his face hidden) Superman in a fight against the robots in this first episode. The show knows how to write them as people, and as heroes, and that really cements the team dynamic, making everyone very watchable.
Arguably the weakest link in the team is Jimmy because his character is very one note. This first episode he has only a few big moments, and each time it's so he can go on and on about alien conspiracies. It's lightly amusing, but not really funny, and it leaves you thinking that all he is interested in are aliens. That's his whole personality. They could flesh him out in later episodes and make him more than just this one personality trait, and I hope they do; right now, Jimmy is more annoying than entertaining.
Still, there is a lot to like here, a little misplaced humor notwithstanding. I think with a bit of time to mature and grow the writing style, this show could find the right tone for its characters. This first episode is a little rough but it shows real potential. It has a couple of stand out leads and a good setting. Now it just has to capitalize it to really make this a Superman worth watching.