Superfriends vs. Justice League

When a child first sees a cool new superhero, the first question is usually “What does he do?”

This is a fitting query regarding characters of action, but it is no way to structure a TV show. And yet, it is seemingly how the producers approached the structure of Superfriends. In contrast, the producers of Justice League took the “What does he do?” question for granted and instead asked the far more important question “Who is he?” The characters in Justice League are individuals with points of view, motivations and personalities, the characters in Superfriends are merely agglomerations of abilities.

The cape is not the man, and this, I opine, is the basis of why Justice League will be treasured for generations to come while Superfriends will always be regarded as a camp classic fit only for the simple.

In Superfriends, Batman has a computer and a cave full of gadgets, Wonder Woman has a magic rope and an invisible plane, Green Lantern has a magic ring, Flash is fast, Superman has his multitudinous powers, Aquaman talks to fish. Those are all fine attributes, but they do not, in and of themselves, constitute character. If all that mattered was the number of powers, Martian Manhunter would be a more popular superhero than Superman. What the producers of Superfriends chose to do is give all their heroes the exact same personality, whether they are the Last Son of Krypton, the Dark Knight, the Amazon Princess or The Guy Who Talks to Fish. The heroes of Superfriends are uniformly game, brave, chipper, chatty, easily startled and, paradoxically, unflappable. No sooner do they exclaim “Great Krypton/Hera/Gotham/Neptune!” than they pull some improbable solution out of the air and calmly implement it (as Seanbaby mentions, this solution often involves “spinning around” the bad guy/explosion/missile/lava/monster/lava-monster until the spinning affects it somehow).  This conceptual blunder, not the dumb plots or the cheap animation, is why Superfriends is so reviled.  Television can soar on dumb plots and cheap animation, it cannot survive without characters.  This is why episodes of Superfriends feel so shallow, repetitive and lame; there are seven main characters and they all think and act exactly the same way.  Think about it: Hanna-Barbera actually gave the members of the Justice League less personality than they gave to the members of the Mystery Gang.

Because their protagonists have no personalities (or, if you like, they all have roughly the same personalities as Batman and Robin do on the Adam West Batman show, the source of Superfriends‘ most likely inspiration) there is no dramatic tension in the scripts.  That means that the writers must come up with ever-more-improbable, ever-more-lame, ever-more-fantastic, ever-more-bizarre plots of exhausting, spiraling action to put their heroes and their various abilities through their paces.  These plots can be wonderful diversions, but they do not constitute drama.

The producers of Justice League, coming from the success of their Batman and Superman animated series’, understood from the beginning that it actually doesn’t matter what a superhero’s abilities are; what matters is who the superhero is

Take Green Lantern.  The beauty of Green Lantern is not that his ring can make anything happen, it’s that his ring can make anything happen within the bounds of his imagination and that that magic is limited to the force of his will-power.  Green Lantern is not about a magic ring, it is about Imagination and Will.  If the wearer is a dullard, he makes a very poor Green Lantern indeed, and his ring is useless if one can wear down his will.  (The creator of Green Lantern borrowed the magic-ring idea from Arabian Nights; the first Green Lantern’s name was originally to be Alan Ladd, off of Aladdin.)  Green Lantern’s appeal lies not in his ring, the ring is a tool, like a badge or a gun; Green Lantern’s appeal lies in the personality of the man/woman/space-creature wearing the ring.  Like a western or police drama, it’s doesn’t matter that one carries a badge, what matters is who carries the badge.  One can be a great policeman, a corrupt policeman, a shy policeman, an incompetent policeman, a sly policeman, a duplicitous policeman.  The same principle applies to doctors, lawyers, detectives and space explorers, to name only the most prevalent of TV professions.  And yet, in the minds of the producers of Superfriends, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, Jim Rockford and Barnaby Jones are all the exact same person.

In Justice League, what was important to the producers about Wonder Woman is not that she’s super-strong or has a magic rope, but that she’s a princess who has led a coddled, innocent, priviledged life apart from man’s world.  The strength and the rope are tools that happen to be sitting around, useful in fighting alien menaces, but the point is that her naive personality and optimistic attitude give rise to drama as she clashes not with bad guys but with Batman’s scowling cynicism or Hawkgirl’s brazen forthrightness (favorite Hawkgirl line: “Less talking, more hitting!”).  The producers of Justice League didn’t get around to mentioning that WW’s lasso is a lie-detector until the third season, and even then it was total surprise to WW.  What makes Flash work in Justice League is not that he’s fast but that he’s a careless goofball.  What makes Batman work is not that he’s a brilliant detective but that he’s bitter, remote and scornful.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, what makes Martian Manhunter a different character from Superman is not his powers but his soul.  The characters in Justice League aren’t a bunch of superheroes, they are a bunch of people who happen to have super-powers.  This seems like an obvious distinction to make, and has been in the comics since their inception, but it never occurred to the producers of Superfriends.

When any seven people are thrown into a high-stakes, high-pressure situation, drama inevitably occurs.  While the plot contrivances of Justice League are more carefully, logically and elegantly presented than those of Superfriends, they are not more interesting or believable.  A talking gorilla, an evil computer or an alien overlord are of the same narrative value whether they are designed by Alex Toth or Bruce Timm.  What keeps Justice League alive is the drama that arises from the clash of personalities responding to the crisis.
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Sam’s corner

Martian Manhunter, his wife and child, drawn by Sam (5), from looking at his Justice League action figures.

“I’m trying to really look!” he exclaimed in the middle of his work.

Justice League part 3 — the Martian Manhunter

left: the Man of Steel.  right: creepy green loser.

Superman: super-strength, super hearing, super breath.  Telescopic sight, X-ray vision, heat vision.  Can fly and travel at super speeds.
Martian Manhunter: super-strength, super breath, heat vision, can fly.  In addition, can read minds, communicate with spirits, walk through walls, change his shape.

Superman: the last surviving member of his race, the only living Kryptonian (except for Supergirl, Krypto, Streaky the Supercat, Comet the Superhorse, Beppo the Supermonkey and the entire city of Kandor — Jesus, did anybody but Superman’s parents die when Krypton blew up?).  An alien on Earth, doomed to a life of loneliness, except for Lois Lane and the billions of people who adore him.
Martian Manhunter: the last surviving member of his race, the only living Martian.  An alien on Earth, doomed to a life of loneliness.

Superman: invulnerable, except to an ultra-rare metal.
Martian Manhunter: invulnerable, except to not-rare-at-all fire.

On paper, Martian Manhunter is the more powerful figure, much more powerful than Superman and possessing a richer internal and emotional life.  And yet everyone follows Superman as a natural leader, while Martian Manhunter is the creepy guy who always stands in the back of the group photo.  Why?

In the comics, Martian Manhunter has his back-of-the-bus position simply because of seniority.  Superman had been around for twenty years before Martian Manhunter showed up, and while MM might come in handy blowing out a forest fire or lifting up a bus, the Justice League in the ’60s couldn’t find much use for his talents.  It took Bruce Timm and Co. to not only bring Martian Manhunter to life but to make him the most soulful, introspective and interesting member of the team.

The most obvious difference between Superman and Martian Manhunter, of course, is their looks.  They’re both tall (MM is actually a good six inches taller than Supes) but Superman is white and handsome with a lantern jaw and a cleft chin, gimlet eyes, oodles of charisma and a charming spitcurl while Martian Manhunter is green, sepulchural, bald, sullen, beetle-browed and red-eyed.

But apart from the looks thing, why is it that Superman leads the Justice League around the world, punches robots, melts buildings and spaceships, destroys alien menaces and makes speeches to governmental bodies about the wise use of power, while MM can be found, every day, chained to a desk at the Watchtower, administering shift-changes and delegating task-work?  Why does Martian Manhunter get no respect?

I think it has something to do with when their respective planets were destroyed.  Superman was a baby when his father blasted him off of Krypton; he has no memory of it.  All he knows is his his home planet was great and his parents loved him enough to give him a new lease on life, on a planet where he would be worshipped like a god.  Martian Manhunter, on the other hand, was already married with a child when Mars was destroyed by an alien invasion.  Superman has nothing but fond memories of his home, MM watched his wife and child murdered and his civilization destroyed before his eyes.

It’s broken him.  He can’t just fly around smashing things because he’s seen too much flying around and smashing things in his life.  It’s turned him into a scold and a gloomy gus.  He’s always staring out windows and chastising the other members for being too quick with the violence.  This sometimes makes him a wet blanket and a stick in the mud as he intones about the lessons he learned in seeing his home destroyed (in one issue of the comic, Flash, upon hearing the umpteenth iteration of MM’s origin story, finally sighs and says “Were all the Martians as whiny as you?”).

Then there’s the fire thing.  The fire thing is lame.  A shape-changing, building-lifting superhero should not be afraid of fire.

Maybe the fire thing has made MM gunshy.  Maybe, despite his awesome powers, he’s happier in his administrative position, high above the Earth, unlikely to be caught in the clutches of a supervillain who might have, say, a book of matches and a pile of oily rags.  MM stays in the Watchtower to avoid the embarrassment of a headline like “JUSTICE LEAGUE TRIUMPHS!  Martian Manhunter felled by kid with Zippo.

Then there’s the self-hate thing.  MM failed his family, his civilization and his planet.  In his mind he will never be free of his survivor guilt.  Maybe that’s why he chooses to look like a tall, green creepy guy.  I mean, keep in mind, the way we see MM is not how he sees himself.  MM, in his “natural state,” looks like this:

That’s right — the creepy-green-guy look is how MM changes his appearance so as to look normal and not creep people out too much.  He could look like Brad Pitt if he wanted to, but the MM look is what he chose.  (In case he’s not creepy enough for you, keep in mind that the cape, trunks and pirate boots are all artificial; that is to say, MM is actually always naked.  So when, say, Hawkgirl stands around the Watchtower with MM, she’s aware on some level that she’s standing next to, you know, a naked shape-changing Martian.)

But, point is, he has chosen to look the way he does.  He has chosen to creep people out, to stay on the fringes of the group; his choice of look throws up a barrier to anyone who might get too close to him.  Compare MM, moping around in his artificial creepy-guy state, with X-Men‘s Mystique, who prefers to strut around in her blue scaly state and only uses her shape-shifting powers to rob an armored car or bust a guy out of prison (there is the famous exchange between Nightcrawler and Mystique in X2: Nightcrawler asks “If you can change the way you look, why don’t you?” and Mystique sniffs “Because I shouldn’t have to.”)  MM is not proud of the way he “naturally” looks, but at the same time he refuses to look “normal.”  He shifts from “repulsive-looking” to “differently repulsive-looking.”  It’s as though a Jew were to flee Poland and change his name from Greenberg to Lopez in order to sound “less Jewish.”  That’s a level of self-disgust I’m not sure children should even be exposed to.

Then there’s the mind-reading thing, which, truth be told, is a burden to MM as much as it is an asset, and something he only uses when he really needs to.  Otherwise, he is exposed to what everyone around him is really thinking, both about him and about the world.  Martian Manhunter couldn’t live like Clark Kent, live a normal life with a job and friends and a love-interest.  Because the natural, everyday masks that people wear don’t work for him.  How could he be married if every time his wife kissed him good morning he could feel her resentment towards him or her subtle yearnings for the man next door?  How could he go to work and carry on a job if he knew what petty, self-involved, disgusting thoughts were bubbling under the surface of the most mundane of everyday transactions?
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Justice League part 2 — Green Lantern is a job

Left to right: Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Arkkis Chummuck — all entirely different people.

I was in New York recently, having dinner after a show (as one does) with some friends.  At the table were the Magazine Editor, the Famous Actor, the Rock Star and the Primatologist.  Conversation turned to Justice League.  (Conversation has, no doubt, been edited to be more self-serving.)

TODD.  My son has turned me into a geek.
PRIMATOLOGIST.  (apres spit-take) Turned you into one?!
TODD.  Hey, before Sam started watching Justice League, I had never heard of Arkkis Chummuck.  Now I know who Arkkis Chummuck is.
ACTOR.  Who is Arkkis Chummuck?
TODD.  Arkkis Chummuck is a Green Lantern that Hal Jordan was teamed up with for a while.  Arkkis is from a planet of werewolf-looking creatures who practice cannabalism.  And Hal Jordan kind of held Arkkis Chummuck at arm’s length, thinking that he was some kind of a savage for his cannibalistic ways.  But as we get to know Arkkis and his culture, we come to learn that there are deep, spiritual aspects to their practices that Hal simply didn’t bother to think about because of Arkkis’s appearance and habits.  So Hal —
EDITOR.  Wait — what do you mean he’s “teamed up” with Arkkis Chummuck?
TODD.  Hal Jordan is only one Green Lantern.  The Green Lantern Corps, you see, is based on a planet called Oa, where the the Oans have the magic Power Battery, which happens to look like a green lantern.  And that’s where the Green Lantern Corps is based.  Hal Jordan is only one of, I think, 36,000 Green Lanterns, and each Green Lantern polices a certain zone of the universe.  Hal Jordan was only the Green Lantern of the zone that includes Earth, since that’s where the intelligent life is in our sector of the universe.  If you —
ROCK STAR.  And who is the “Jon Stewart” guy?
TODD.  He —
ACTOR.  There’s a Green Lantern named Jon Stewart?!
TODD.  He — yes, he spells it with the “h” —
EDITOR.  I wonder if Jon Stewart named himself after —
TODD.  John Stewart was an “angry black guy” living in Detroit in the late sixties, and Hal Jordan got teamed up with him —
PRIMATOLOGIST.  Wait, why did Earth get two Green Lanterns?
TODD.  John Stewart was being trained as Hal Jordan’s backup.  And in the Justice League cartoon, John is still from a bad neighborhood in Detroit but they made him a marine —
ACTOR.  Wait, so “Green Lantern” isn’t a guy
TODD.  No, although there is a Green Lantern named Guy Gardner, redhead with a bowl haircut who nobody likes —
ROCK STAR.  And isn’t one like a cartoonist or something?
TODD.  That’s Kyle Rayner —
ACTOR.  — “Green Lantern” is a, an office.  A position.
TODD.  That’s exactly right.  “Green Lantern” is a job.  So when people say they don’t like Green Lantern, it’s like saying they don’t —
EDITOR.  I had no idea —
PRIMATOLOGIST.  Are there any female Green Lanterns?
TODD.  Are there?  Why, one of the most important Green Lanterns is Katma Tui, a dark-red-skinned alien who trained John Stewart —
ROCK STAR.  But the whole thing with the, you know, the color yellow —
TODD.  Ah, yes.  But, according to one story, you see, the power ring is not vulnerable to the color yellow — rather, the Guardians merely tell Green Lantern that his ring has a flaw, because otherwise he would eventually be driven mad with power.  But the important thing is, people, they — all these Green Lanterns are entirely different people.  Hal Jordan is a test pilot and John Stewart is a marine and Kyle Rayner is a cartoonist and they’ve all been given this responsibility and they all respond differently to the job.  It’s like the word “Policeman.”  You have all kinds of different policemen and all kinds of different stories you can tell about policemen.  You have Hill Street Blues and Dirty Harry.  Or “Lawyer.”  Or “Doctor.”  So that’s why Green Lantern, a character I’d never even thought about, suddenly has become, I don’t know, vital and interesting to me, just that one twist — Batman is a guy, Superman is a guy, but Green Lantern is a job.  And I think he’s the only one who is a job, I —
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Justice League (part I)

The Justice Lords would like a word with you.

My son has turned me into a geek.

I never read comic books as a kid. I think the first comic book I ever read was Watchmen in 1985. I read Dark Knight Returns after Tim Burton’s Batman movie came out. I didn’t start reading comics until Joel Silver asked me to work on the Wonder Woman movie in 1999.  Even then, it was all “just research.” It was more fun than reading Dickens (mostly), but I never considered it a pursuit in and of itself.

My son has changed all of that.

He loves superheroes. He can’t get enough of them. When he wakes up, his first thought is about someone he needs to look up on Wikipedia so that he can draw a picture of them. The Marvel splash-panel I posted last week is only one of dozens of superhero drawings that lie scattered in heaps around the house. His walls, floor and shelves are plastered and stacked high with drawings and figurines. (Strangely, every time I’ve tried to interest him in an actual poster showing the same superheroes, he’s never interested; they never “look right” to him.)

Part of it, I know, is related to his interest in dinosaurs, which recently reached its saturation point. That is, like the dinosaur world, the superhero world comprises another world of tiny pieces of information for his rapidly-expanding mind to categorize. In dinosaurs, you have plant-eaters and predators, in superheroes, you have good guys and bad guys. Among plant-eaters you have long-necks and short-necks, among predators you have therapods and oviraptors; among good guys you have metahumans and “regular guys in costumes,” among bad guys you have aliens and robots. And all combinations of the above. (His interest in dinosaurs supplanted his interest in trains, which occupied the first half of his life.)

So a conversation between us will go something like this:

S. Dad, what do you know about Magneto?
D. Magneto can control metal with his mind.
S. Is he a good guy or a bad guy?
D. Magneto is a bad guy.
S. And does he have superpowers or is he a regular guy in a costume?
D. He has superpowers. He can control metal with his mind.
S. Yeah, but he’s not super-strong, and he doesn’t have, like, heat vision or anything.
D. Yeah, but he can control metal with his mind. That’s his super-power.
S. But how did he get like that?
D. He was born like that. He’s a mutant. That’s the difference between X-Men and The Avengers. The X-Men were all born with their powers, the Avengers are all regular people who had accidents.
S. But what about Wolverine?
D. Wolverine is an X-Man.
S. But he’s in the Avengers! And so is Storm!
(one trip to the Marvel Encyclopedia later)
D. Okay, but Wolverine and Storm were in the X-Men first.
S. And is Elektra a good guy or a bad guy?
D. Elektra is kind of like Catwoman. Sometimes she’s a good guy and sometimes she’s a bad guy — it kind of depends on where you happen to be standing at the moment.

And so on.

(Of the many differences between DC and Marvel, one of the most striking, from an “adult trying to explain comic book heroes to a child who can’t read yet” point-of-view anyway, is that the lines of good and bad are drawn much more clearly in the DC universe; in Marvel, characters are zipping back and forth over the line all the time. How do I explain that the Punisher, who slaughters people with guns, is a good guy, while Batman, who despises guns and never kills anyone, is also a good guy? Or for that matter, how do I explain that the Hulk is a good guy, when no one, not even the Hulk, thinks he’s a good guy? And how do I explain how the media in Spider-Man’s world shapes the public’s perception of him, making a good guy look bad?)

Anyway, long story short, there’s this show, Justice League, that a year or so ago just hit my son like a truck.

I can’t explain it. He liked the Bruce Timm Batman show, but it was always a little too scary for him. He liked the Bruce Timm Superman show, but the plots were a little too complex for him (typical conversation: Sam: Who’s that? Dad: That’s Lex Luthor. Sam: Is he the bad guy? Dad: He’s the bad guy. Sam: Then why isn’t Superman fighting him?). But Justice League hit him just right. Something about the family dynamics of the group, Superman and Batman and Flash and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl all in the same show, bouncing off each other and having their own adventures, somehow that clicked in his brain in a way that the individual heroes’ shows did not.  The complications, which I would have thought would have made the show more difficult to follow, instead gave him more to feast on.

Now then: none of this means that I’ve been watching all these shows with him.  Normally, these shows exist as something for Sam to watch while mom and dad get to spend 23 minutes having a conversation or eating dinner.  But one night a few weeks ago, I called my wife to dinner and she didn’t come.  Ten minutes later she wandered up from the TV room as though in a daze and said “I’m sorry, I got caught up in Justice League.”  And I made a sound like Scooby-Doo does when he’s confused, and when after everyone went to bed I stayed up to see what the hell was so interesting about this episode of Justice League.

Check this out: the episode (it’s a two-parter) is called “A Better World.”

The show begins like this: Lex Luthor has somehow become president and is, apparently, about to destroy the world.  Superman busts through White House security and confronts him in the Oval Office.  Lex sneers at him and says “Go ahead, arrest me, put me in jail, I’ll just get out again, I always do, you’ll never be rid of me, you know that,” and Superman sighs and says “Yeah, you’re right,” and kills him.  Just kills him.  Just turns on his heat vision and zaps him, right there in the Oval Office.  And Luthor falls over in a heap.  Because Superman could totally do that, you know.  Who would stop him?  No one can stop him.  Why didn’t he do it a long time ago?

And Superman just stands there over Luthor’s body.  There’s no triumph or release, just grim silence.  And Wonder Woman comes in and sees the dead body and says “…Oh. (beat) Well, I guess it had to happen at some point.”  And the crisis is over, poof, all the world’s problems are solved.

Fade out.  Roll titles.

Cut to: two years later, and the Justice League has all new uniforms, a new name (The Justice Lords) and they never leave the Watchtower (that’s their spaceship), because they never have to, because there is no crime.  There is no crime because, as we come to find out, the Justice League has lobotomized all the criminals.  We visit Arkham Asylum and find Joker and Poison Ivy and Two-Face and everyone else cheerful, model prisoners, milling around the grounds like pleasant, happy zombies.  Gotham City is so clean and bright it looks like Metropolis.  There’s an incredible scene where Justice Lord Superman is battling Doomsday (whom, aficianados will know, once killed Superman in the comics) and, just as Doomsday is about to go into his “MWAH HA HA” victory laugh, Justice Lord Superman zaps him in the forehead and we watch his brains melt down the sides of his face and Doomsday gets a queer, disconnected, disappointed look in his eyes as he slumps to the ground, still alive but no longer dangerous; somehow, it never occurred to him that Superman possessed the power to lobotomize him.

With no crime to fight, Justice Lord Batman has turned to science and has made an important discovery: he’s stumbled across a parallel dimension, where the normal, regular old Justice League with their colorful costumes and bickering ways are still wasting their time, struggling through a world filled with supervillains.  The Justice Lords take pity on the poor old alternate-dimension Justice League (who we realize, in time, are our dimension’s Justice League; that is, the whole first part of the show is taking place in an alternate dimension and the protagonists don’t enter until the beginning of Act II) and, in a gesture of kindness, kidnap them and take them prisoner so that they can clean up the other dimension too.  And so Act III has the Justice League taking on the Justice Lords, which, you can imagine, is difficult because they are, in fact, the exact same people, only a teeny bit more ruthless.  And on the one hand, you don’t like the Justice Lords because of that ruthlessness, and on the other hand, it’s like — well, how come the Justice League took this long to get their act together?  And the tension is unbearable because, as the title suggests, the Justice Lords have truly made their world better, and the Justice League is actually fighting to make it more chaotic and dangerous.

Bizarre enough?  It gets better.  To solve the problem of the Justice Lord Superman, whom no one can subdue, the Justice League must turn to Lex Luthor, who is still alive in this world, and who has the scientific knowledge to build a super-power-sapping device (“device” being the operative word here).  Luthor will zap the Justice Lord Superman so that the good-old Justice League can take back control of our world (or, rather, relinquish control of our world).  In exchange for his super-power-sapping device, the Justice League grants Lex a full pardon for all his past crimes and makes him a free man.

In the epilogue, we see a sobered, grateful Lex at a press conference, vowing to give up crime forever and — you knew it had to come — announcing his bid for the presidency.  And the cycle begins again.

And I’m sitting in front of the TV with my mouth hanging open.  This is a far cry from Superfriends.  In the span of a 45-minute superhero cartoon, Bruce Timm and company have just told me more about society, civilization and justice than I ever learned in a season of Law and Order.  Sure, Superman could just kill Lex.  Of course he could.  Why doesn’t he?  That would make everything better.  All it takes is the will to do so.  And that goes for all the Justice League.  Why bother negotiating with murderous thugs?  Why not just kill them?  They obviously have the power to do so.  Why put up with giggling psychopaths who have nothing to contribute to society?  Why not just kill them?  And then, dumb as it sounds, it hit me: that’s why they call it Superman’s “Never Ending Struggle for Truth and Justice.”  The whole point of the Justice League (and their real-world counteparts) is not to rid the world of crime, but to be vigilant in the fight against it.  And then I was reminded about something regarding God as well.  The DC superheroes were always modelled after the Gods, were they not?  Well here’s the answer to the great question, Why do the Gods allow evil to exist?

Okay, enough for now.  I’ve barely scratched the surface of my thoughts about this show.  There’s a three-part episode where, get this, the Justice League goes back in time to World War II, in order to…restore Adolf Hitler to power.

Suffice to say, it’s no longer Sam saying “Hey, let’s watch Justice League!”  Instead, it’s him saying “Can I watch Scooby-Doo?”  And I’m saying “No, c’mon, let’s watch Justice League!”  Now I know who all the characters are and what their backstories are (Did you know Hawkgirl was a detective on her home planet?) and what’s more, I care about them in ways I never have before.  And I will get into the reasons for that in Part II.

I leave you for the moment with what is probably my favorite moment in the series, and emblematic of its genius.  There’s a robot (AMAZO) who has the ability to imitate the powers of any superhero it sees.  If it sees the Flash, it can run at the speed of light, if it sees Green Lantern, it can fashion a magic power ring, etc.  It sees Superman, and acquires all his powers, and starts smashing stuff up.  Batman, who has no powers to acquire, is the only one capable of fighting it.  Thinking fast, he takes a lump of Kryptonite out of his pocket and lobs it at the robot, who collapses like a ragdoll and falls into the river (Batman reasoning that if AMAZO has acquired Superman’s strengths, he might also have acquired his weaknesses).

And Wonder Woman comes out from under a piece of rubble and says “So, what, you just always carry around a piece of Kryptonite with you?”  And Batman scowls and mutters “Call it insurance,” and dashes off into the night.

Because he’s seen the “Better World” episode, probably.
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