Why Superman: The Animated Series Couldn't Kneel Before Zod
G. Kendall
Welcome to the thirtieth edition of Adventure(s) Time, where we examine a beloved animated series and an issue of its tie-in comic with a similar theme. This week, following a suggestion from Gravity Falls Poland via Twitter, we look at the second season debut of Superman: The Animated Series, and a related two-parter from the Superman Adventures tie-in comic. Is it possible Kal-El isn't the Last Son of Krypton after all?
Originally airing on September 8 and 9, 1997, "Blasts From the Past" features the animated debuts of Mala and Jax-Ur, two prisoners locked inside the Phantom Zone. Written by Robert Goodman and directed by Dan Riba, the two-part "Blasts From the Past" is the first time the series brings Kryptonians into the present day, having previously relegated the alien race to Superman's backstory. The issue of Superman interacting with Kryptonians was a thorny one during this era, as DC had decreed ever since his 1980s reboot that he should remain unique as the last living Kryptonian. Course correcting from the abundant use of Kryptonian characters during the Silver Age, the more modern DC was so adamant about Superman's status as a the lone Kryptonian, even Supergirl was abandoned as a character for years (before being reborn as some form of shapeshifting protoplasm.)
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"Blasts From the Past" opens with Superman's friend Professor Hamilton discovering a hidden compartment in the ship that carried baby Kal-El to Earth. Inside that compartment is the Phantom Zone projector, a Kryptonian invention that transports prisoners into the strange void. One prisoner, Mala, declares that she's served her sentence and deserves to be free. The man responsible for sentencing her was none other than Superman's father, Jor-El, leaving his son with the burden of fulfilling his late father's responsibilities.
Deciding that Mala does deserve freedom, Superman frees her and takes Mala on as something of a sidekick. While Superman initially seems to enjoy having a companion who's his physical equal (even teaching her how our yellow sun grants Kryptonians powers), he soon discovers she's too violent and power hungry for this world. His attempt at taming her authoritarian nature backfires, when he arranges for Lois Lane to interview Mala and present her story to the world. When Lois asks Superman if Mala is his girlfriend, he makes it clear that their relationship is purely platonic, and Malaa reacts...poorly.