Home > B-plus, Episode Reviews, Superman: The Animated Series > Superman: The Animated Series, Episode 17 – “Speed Demons”

Superman: The Animated Series, Episode 17 – “Speed Demons”

October 22, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Speed Demons

Written By: Rich Fogel
Directed By: Toshihiko Masuda
Original Airdate September 13th, 1997
DVD: Superman: The Animated Series, Volume Two

Summary : When Superman agrees to race The Flash around the world for charity, a pair of inventors scheme to use the race to their own advantage by creating a device that controls the weather.

Featured Characters: The Flash (debut)

Debuting Characters: Weather Wizard

Background:

When asked who my favourite JLA member – heck, superhero – is, I never hesitate in saying that it’s The Flash. So be prepared for quite a biased perspective on this one.

Flash has always been something of a leading indicator for comic books – the Golden Age Flash’s debut in Flash Comics was the first of many famous DC heroes, while the Silver Age Flash was the first of Julius Schwartz’s science-fiction-influenced heroes, and the modern Flash, Wally West, was the first “teen sidekick” character to take over his mentor’s role in the 1980s. The character has a lot going for it – the red-and-gold costume (which was slightly tweaked for this appearance before reverting to a more classic look in Justice League) is one of comics’ finest, and the combination of a power that every kid would love to have with a character that’s a lot more vulnerable than Superman leads to great story potential.

Because of that history, DC has always treated Flash as only slightly below their “big three”, although there certainly have been some fluctuations in popularity. Things looked bleak for the character in the mid-1990s, after the combination of the cancellation of the TV series and a declining solo series threatened Wally with demotion back to merely being a JLA member, but along came Mark Waid, who promptly delivered one of the greatest runs in comics history and turned Flash into a title that was expected to be at the top of the heap, quality-wise, in the DCU. The Waid run ensured that when Grant Morrison re-formed the JLA, The Flash would be an assured choice for the team, and as we’ve discussed before, Morrison’s revamp led directly into Justice League.

This episode specifically relates to a race between Superman and Flash, an idea that’s been done numerous times in comic form, as the idea of seeing which of the two characters is fastest is both obvious and one that any kid would want to see.

Thoughts on the Episode:

Personal biases aside, this is the best-constructed of the hero introduction episodes of S:TAS, largely because – and this is appropriate for a Flash episode – this one doesn’t waste any time in getting the guest hero established. Flash’s cocky horndog persona needs about two seconds of flirting with Lois to get established, and the villain is more in line with a classic Batman: TAS setup (via the brotherly conflict between the Mardons) than a Superman bad guy. It is a bit of the old “Superman vs. a mad scientist” trope in feel, but done with enough of the modern S:TAS trappings that it works. Weather Wizard is a Flash rogue that’s plausible enough to trouble Superman without being too overwhelming for a mere half hour, and while this is largely an obstacle course episode – Wizard isn’t much of a physical threat – you do get enough of Superman and Flash being superheroes that it feels substantial.

The Flash didn’t really change much when he showed up in Justice League – aside from the voice (it’s Charlie Shutter, not Michael Rosenbaum), the major only change was the elimination of the weird black circle around the lightning-bolt logo. The character is really spot-on with the later Justice League characterisation, which raises this episode quite a bit in context as, unlike “In Brightest Day “ and “Fish Story”, there’s a direct line between this episode and JL.  Heck, the “obligatory bad joke” gag even makes its debut here.

It’s a good showcase for pretty much every trick Flash can pull off using his speed, and even though it must have been incredibly tough to animate an episode like this one without CG help, it looks great.

Admittedly, this story felt weird at the time largely because the contemporary comic Flash hadn’t had this personality for about ten years (Wally had settled down with future wife Linda Park by this point in Waid’s run and abandoned his bachelor persona), but given what we know about Flash from Justice League, it all fits together perfectly.

Overall Grade: B+. “Speed Demons” is a good, simple team-up episode, which is paced very much like the better episodes of JLU. It’s one of my favourite Superman episodes that doesn’t involve Luthor or Darkseid.

Random Thoughts:

  • DCAU music guru Shirley Walker’s first superhero gig was as one of the primary composers for the (unfortunately short-lived) Flash live-action TV series, and she re-uses several of her cues in this episode, most prominently when Flash first makes his appearance.
  • It’s always weird to hear a prominent JL member’s voice actor playing a different character – in this case, J’onn’s VA is the man firing the gun at the start of the race. He earlier played Aquaman, and amusingly, also played Weather Wizard in the pilot for the Justice League live-action TV series.
  • No, seriously, there was a Justice League live-action TV series pilot made in the mid-1990s.
  • I actually like the slightly darker tint that Flash’s costume has in this episode better than the flatter red of the JL version. It’s reminiscent of the TV-show-inspired suit Wally sported around this time in the comic series.

Flash Line of the Episode: “Man of Steel… feet of lead.”

Line of the Episode: “Yes I’m sure, so shut up and keep squeezing the Monkeys!” Lois delivers a quote that I’m stunned made it past the censors.

Next Time: To explore the other half of the “Brave and the Bold” comedy equation, it’s “Monkey Fun.”

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  1. JFink
    October 22, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Yeah I feel that the Wally West Flash is easily DC’s best developed character and IS my favorite DC character in general (Spidey is my overall fav, sorry). And yeah Waid’s run and then later Geoff Johns’ run pretty much was the reason why.

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