Static Shock 036: “Toys in the Hood”
Story by John Semper Jr., Ernie Altbacker
Teleplay by John Ridley
Directed by: Another weird uncredited director
Originally Aired: May 3rd, 2003
Summary: Toyman arrives in Dakota on the trail of an old friend, but it turns out that they’re conspiring to threaten Static’s girlfriend.
Arc Notes: Static’s first meeting with Superman. Some loose ends are tied up from Toyman’s second S:TAS appearance, “Obsession.”
Guest Stars: Superman
Villains: Toyman, Darcy
This one’s a bit timely, as I’m writing the review after having flipped to Cleveland vs. Boston in the NBA playoffs (I’m still having a hard time watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs after my beloved Kings were eliminated). It turns out, the original idea for the episode was for this to feature the return of (current Cavs pivot) Shaquille O’Neal to the series, as series co-writer John Semper explains:
It was the usual combination of happenstance and circumstance – Alan Burnett wanted to have Shaquille O’Neal come on as a guest star again… I thought it would be fun to bring in Superman and have Shaq and Superman meet for the first time. That would make it a bit of history, since Shaq is such a Superman fan. This took a bit of convincing on my part, but finally Burnett seemed okay with the idea.
John Semper, interview with The World’s Finest, May 1, 2003.
However, the life of an NBA Superstar made a hookup impossible, although it wasn’t for a lack of trying:
We could never connect up with Shaq. No matter how hard we tried, he was totally unreachable during his off season. The most ironic thing was when he unexpectedly turned up at the Tower Records right next to where Warner’s Animation is located. He was buying CDs, just like any other customer. Somebody in our studio who was over there spotted him, came back and told Burnett. Burnett went racing over to see if he could find him, but Shaq had left before he got there. So, again, no Shaq.
John Semper, ibid.
After the success of the two Batman episodes, however, the Static Shock team decided to go ahead with a non-Shaq Superman appearance, and therefore tried to settle on a villain.
We’d already used Braniac in the Justice League two-parter, so he was out. The brilliant Paul Dini, whose office is right next to Burnett’s, popped in for a visit and we asked him for suggestions. He recommended Toyman. The rest is history.
John Semper, ibid.
Thoughts on the Episode:
The reason a lot of people don’t like Superman is that they think he behaves exactly like he did in this episode. This is the very definition of the “World’s Biggest Boy Scout” version of the character that annoys people so much, and watching this episode it’s easy to see why.
The shame is that this is actually a solid enough plot, following up on the S:TAS episode “Obsession.” That one (another one of my favourite non-Darkseid S:TAS stories) saw Toyman obsessed with one of Lana Lang’s models, who turned out to be one of his own creations. It was another example of the awesome creep factor of the DCAU version of Toyman, and the “living doll”, Darcy, was a nice addition to his background. Here, Darcy is brought back (in a nice plot twist that makes you say “oh, that makes sense” once you figure it out), but it’s a pretty generic body-switching plotline that’s largely comprised of some paint-by-numbers action sequences with a bit of interaction between Superman and Static in the middle.
The good plot work with Darcy is tempered somewhat by the rather poor characterization given to Toyman… or, more specifically, the bad vocal direction. Instead of the creepy voice work common in S:TAS, he just seems rather generic here, more like the Super Friends version. The sexual tension between him and Darcy is almost entirely absent; understandable, since Static Shock is a younger-skewing show, but still removing an important part of Toyman’s character.
Bruce Wayne made some appearances when Batman showed up on Static Shock, so logically Clark Kent should make an appearance along with Superman, and that presents the best part of the episode. Clark still isn’t much of a journalist, but he does get to figure out what’s going on with Virgil’s teacher and provoke a funny befuddled denial from Virgil and Gear. Plus, Clark finally gets a new suit after about five years.
While Clark doesn’t come off too badly, Superman’s just terribly written in this episode. Even though the Justice League producers acknowledged that their first-season dialogue for him was pretty awful, it was never this offensively bland. Superman just has no edge to him, and the episode as a whole suffers for it. To the episode’s credit, it does at least make a concerted effort to ensure that Static’s the focus rather than Superman, but the way Superman’s written in this one, a wet paper bag would be a more appealing co-star.
Inasmuch as the concept was decent, this one was just a miserable failure of execution.
Grade: D. Ugh. Just a bad, bad episode, but at least they tried to leverage an old storyline into something new. Don’t go out of your way to watch it.
- Every human has an electrical aura? Kryptonians too, I guess.
- In fairness, Superman’s “aura” has been established for a long time; it’s how he gets his invulnerability, as well as his vulnerability to magic and Kryptonite.
- I think this is the only time that DCAU Superman sports comic-accurate blue eyes.
- We’ll venture back to Static Shock for one more episode at the conclusion of the first season of JLU.
Line of the Episode: Yeah, like I’m going to give any of the limp dialogue in this episode that kind of credit.
Next Justice League: Grodd’s first attempt to assemble a team doesn’t go well at all in “Secret Society.”
Next Time: I’ve got a request, so it’s back to B:TAS.