Featured Screen Shot
Dan Turpin: Whoever it is you can bet my Aunt Patty’s pension that they’ll be going down real soon.
Angela Chen: Translation, you expect Superman to drop them in your lap like he always does.
Dan Turpin: What are you saying?
Angela Chen: What I’m saying is that your highly paid department can’t seem to bust a jaywalker without old-blue boy. [Chuckles from the other journalists]
Mannheim: Okay, I want ‘em. What’s your boss want in return?
Kanto: Nothing, for now.
Mannheim: It’s my experience that nothing can get very expensive.
Turpin: All I know is that that tank had Mannheim’s ugly mits all over it and that this department is going to collar that dog if I have to grab a leash and drag him in myself.
Synopsis "Tools of the Trade"
The peace of a sunny day in Metropolis is shattered when a massive armoured tank starts shelling the Metropolis Gold Exchange. Dan “Terrible” Turpin and Maggie Sawyer of the Special Crimes Unit (SCU) arrive on the scene, but the tank trashes their car and is impervious to their small arms fire. Lois Lane leaves Clark Kent stuck in traffic and runs to the scene on foot. Clark follows her as Superman and hauls the tank out of the Exchange. He lifts it up to roof left and drops it. Then he rips the tank’s hatch off and confronts the stunned operators. The SCU breathe a sign of relief that the tank’s been stopped, but Turpin reacts angrily when TV reporter Angela Chen implies that they were just waiting for Superman to deliver the crooks to them.
Gangster Bruno Mannheim watched the assault play out on television and was horrified by the beating that Superman gave his tank. Mannheim’s Intergang has been behind a series of similar crimes using high-tech weaponry, but he is frustrated at losing the arms race against Superman. His rant is cut short by the arrival of a mysterious stranger called Kanto. He doesn’t name his backer, but he offers Mannheim the gift of advanced weaponry. This includes the Armature, a pair of gauntlets that project a pair of massive energy-hands. Kanto demonstrates the Armature by using the energy-hands to crush a safe. He then explains that the weaponry is a “sample” and that the cost and origin of it will be explained in due time. Mannheim accepts his gift and tells his lieutenant to “Call the boys. It’s time for another job!”
Masked Intergang thugs use the Armature to collapse an elevated train track. This causes the Money Train to come crashing to a halt on the ground below. The thugs then use other items from Kanto to melt their way into the train and to disable the guard’s weapons. Intergang are still emptying out the train when Sawyer and Turpin arrive. They shoot the SCU’s car causing it to burst into flame and plunge off a ledge. The car is caught by Superman, but he then finds himself facing the thug wearing the Armature. Intergang escapes when they force Superman to save another train.
Earlier, Turpin had spied on Kanto’s demonstration, but the he vanishes when Turpin tried to follow him as he left Mannheim’s estate. Turpin had told Maggie about what he saw, but she had to warn him about breaking procedure. He is now all for bursting into Mannheim’s estate with the SCU’s own tank, but Maggie point out that they’ve still not got enough evidence for a warrant and that they are still not sure what it is they are up against. Dan is horrified that Maggie wants to officially bring Superman in on the case as this is the one case he wants to bust without superpowered help. He then hands Maggie his badge and walks away. However, Maggie isn’t too worried as it’s a stunt Dan’s fiery temper had driven him to several times before.
Later than night, Turpin scales the walls to Mannheim’s estate and starts to listen in on his conversation. However, he’s discovered and captured when Kanto appears out of strange gateway that vanishes behind him. The trussed up Turpin is there when Kanto gives Mannheim the next set of weaponry, but he still won’t name their benefactor. Maggie is worried when she can’t contact Dan so Superman over flies Mannheim’s Estate. Intergang thugs use Superman for target practise, but their smaller guns only make him angry. Another thug tries to crush him with the Armature, but Superman shows him that damage to the energy hands is transmitted back to the wearer. Turpin warns Superman about a weapon that Kanto claims will kill even the most invulnerable target. However, Mannheim ambushes them and a single blast from the new gun sends Superman flying backwards through an armoured car.
Superman efforts are completely focused on dodging the trigger happy Mannheim. He has the exhausted Man of Steel cornered when he makes a show of dialling the weapon up to full power. However, Mannheim’s shot is spoilt then he is tackled by Turpin. Superman recovers and heats the gun with his heat vision and making it too hot to hold. Superman is angry with Mannheim and scares him by making his eyes glow red. Kanto goes to leave, but Mannheim runs after him. The stranger refuses to help Mannheim any further and walks through about another glowing gateway. Mannheim sees Superman approaching and dives through the closing gateway.
As morning breaks, Angela Chen once again baits Turpin and Sawyer that this was just another case given to them by Superman. However, this time it’s Superman himself who rebuts her and tells her that he wouldn’t have survived without Turpin’s help. Meanwhile, Mannheim has arrived on Kanto’s homeworld. A hell-like alien world of lava-lakes, fortresses, and blood red skies. He demands that Kanto tell him who he works for, but recoils in horror when he’s introduced to the stone faced figure of Darkseid.
- When the Producers approached Superman as a cartoon they had to take a long look at his rogues gallery and realised that it wasn’t as colourful as Batman’s gallery. Once you get past Luthor and Metallo the villains aren’t too interesting. They reimagined some of them, but there was still a need for strong villain characters. Glen Murakami, Paul Dini, and Bruce Timm were all massive Jack Kirby fans so they decided to pull in the characters from his Jimmy Olsen run.
- It was Bruce Timm’s idea of cast Dan Turpin’s visuals as Jack Kirby.
- The writers stuck with the idea from the comic books of Maggie Sawyer being a lesbian. There are a couple of subtle nods to it in later episodes, but the issue wasn’t pushed.
- In both Superman and Batman Michael York plays a lieutenant of a major villain who doesn’t appear in person until the end of the episode. In Superman he played Kanto and introduced Darkseid.
- Part of the appeal of working on Superman was that it presented an entirely new and different science fiction milieu for the writers and artists to play with. It’s also set in broad daylight and has blue skies – something that almost never occurred on Batman. Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm relate how even on Superman they found that the show just looked better when set at night. Traditionally people have been afraid of the colour black in cartoons.
- The general style for the Superman as more streamlined than on Batman – e.g. less details in clothing (folds, bagginess). At the same time they redesigned the Batman models to make them more streamlined and easier to animate (less likely to appear lumpy). The other character designers, Shane Glines and James Tucker, are even more stylised that Bruce Timm’s house style and this began to show through. It eventually came to a head in the redesigns for the New Adventures redesigns for Batman.
- The Boom Tube effect took a lot of work.
- Bruce Timm: “Even besides the specific Fourth World shows, we again early on keyed in on Jack Kirby Tech as a way, of again, separating it from Batman. Whereas on Batman, when we had guns, we tried to make the guns look as realistic as possible, we wanted the villains to have real tommy guns and real .45s. The weaponry in this show just to make it a little bit more fantasy oriented.”
- Intergang was meant to be supplying all the villains in other episodes with high-tech weapons.
- This episode marked the start of Superman facing more powerful weapons.
This episode is written by Mark Evanier who, as well as being a notable writer of comics and television in his own right, was a biographer and assistant to Jack Kirby. In his introduction to a collected edition of the New Gods Mark Evanier recalled that,
I was honored to have worked as his [Jack Kirby's] nominal assistant at the time [he was writing New Gods], along with a buddy named Steve Sherman. That’s an enormous brag, of course, but I’m always quick to append that the writing is all Jack, all the time. I may have contributed a whopping twelve words, if that many, to the stories that follow. Their greatness is the greatest undiluted Kirby, his brain galloping in more directions that your basic comic-book page could ever possibly accommodate.
He also wrote a gorgeous coffee-table illustrated biography of Kirby called Kirby: King of Comics. It is rather fitting that Mark wrote the introduction of the Fourth World characters into the DC Animated Universe. Mark’s blog, News From ME, is usually a good read with inside comment about this projects, old cartoonists, and the television industry. His essay on how DC redrew the faces of Jack Kirby’s Superman andhis series on Cartoon Voices are good places to start.
Dan Turpin and Maggie Sawyer
The New Gods title featured a group of humans that were being studied by Darkseid because he thought they each possessed part of a formula that would allow him to dominate all intelligent life (the so called “Anti-Life Equation”). The hard-nosed cop Dan “Terrible” Turpin was one of that group. The character was revived in the 1980s when writer/artist John Byrne, who like Kirby had been headhunted from Mavel by DC, needed police officers to interact with Superman.
Byrne created the idea of the Special Crimes Unit – a specialised unit within the Metropolis police department that was set up in response to new type of crimes Superman’s presence was drawing to Metropolis. Inspector Dan Turpin was the department’s second-in-command. The leader of the SCU was a new character called Captain Maggie Sawyer. She, notably, was one of the first lesbian characters in mainstream comics. That is never commented on or refuted in the cartoon, but there is a scene in a later episode where Sawyer is recovering in hospital and her girlfriend is clearly visible at her bedside.
Dan Turpin is voiced by Joseph Bologna and Maggie Sawyer is voiced by Joanna Cassidy. Cassidy’s genre roles include Dolores, Eddy Valent’s secretary in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the replicant in Bladerunner who tries to kill Decker with a snake.
Kanto is Darkseid’s personal assassin. In this episode we see him dressed as a normal human, but his usual attire is a lot more flamboyant – a cross between Errol Flyn and a Venetian Count (see briefly in the Apokolips scene). In the comics Kanto is a noted swordsman – although he doesn’t show it in the cartoon – so its fitting that he is voiced by Michael York who played D’Artagnan in the 1970s Musketeer films. York has appeared elsewhere in the DCAU voicing Count Vertigo in Batman: The Animated Series and Ares in Justice League Unlimited. York’s most famous genre roles are probably Logan in Logan’s Run and Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers franchise. Basically, if Hollywood needs a posh English bloke they’ll probably hire Michael York.
This is actually Bruno “Ugly” Mannheim‘s second appearance in Superman. He first appeared in the episode “Fun and Games” which introduced the Toyman. Bruno Mannheim is voiced by Bruce Weitz, a.k.a. Sgt. Mike Belker from Hill Street Blues. He voiced Lock-Up in Batman The Animated Series. The two Intergang thugs, Al and Blaine, are voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson and Phil Hayes. Richardson has had made a career out of playing DC villains including Darkseid in the Shadow of Apokolips video game, General Wells in Justice League, Trigon in the Teen Titans, the Joker in The Batman, and a string of badguys in the Brave and the Bold.
For a comicbook fan it’s got to be the Darkseid reveal at the end.
Is it my imagination or does Maggie Sawyer check out Lois Lane when they first meet?
I find it interesting that Superman doesn’t say much in this episode, it’s really the Dan Turpin and Bruno Mannheim’s show. Lois Lane and Clark Kent don’t really feature prominently in this episode, but Mark Evanier uses them sparingly to periodically remind us that this is still a Superman show. Even then Clark is just a silent foil for Lois as she leaves him in the car, or he arrives late to the police briefing, or she rushes past him at the Planet. Despite that brevity it’s one of the Lois and Clark scenes – Clark’s exit via the out of order elevator shaft – that is one of the high lights of the show. Mark Evanier really captures the old sense of fun that use to inhabit the older Superman comics. Even Superman’s fights are relatively free of banter. It’s one of those episodes rather really resembles the old Fleischer cartoons. Another nice touch is a silence effect used with the Boom Tube.
Having got use to CGI vehicles in the Justice League the tank at the beginning looks rather underwhelming, but the character animation more than makes up for it. This episode is littered with little looks and expressions that could so easily have been lost – Kanto’s bemusement at Mannheim, Lois’s anger at the lift, Superman’s increasing anger at Intergang. That last one is quite noticeable – this Superman is the silent, Siegel and Shuster guy, who doesn’t say much and actually gets angry with his opponents. About the only bit that doesn’t work for me was the end with Superman addressing the press and then the saluting Turpin. It’s the resolution of the Turpin/SCU subplot, but I can’t help but think that in this one the villains are more interesting than he good guys.
|Character Site||The Captain's Justice League Homepage||Jason Kirk||4.5/5|