Superman: TAS – S1 – Tools of the Trade Review

Characters: Clark Kent/Superman, Lois Lane, Bruno Mannheim, Angela Chen
First Appearance: Maggie Sawyer, Dan “Terrible” Turpin, Kanto, Darkseid

Compared to the previous episode, this one is practically a Pulitzer prize winning gem. Now, something may have to do with that, considering renowned author, comics writer and historian, Mark Evanier wrote this episode. In addition to the breadth of his work, he also worked as an intern with Jack “The King” Kirby. This will become important, but first let us get to the plot for a few moments.

This is a rather standard plot structure, but Mark Evanier and the animators obviously took great care in making this episode less about the plot and more about the character interactions and the action; and there are plenty of both.

Intergang has returned to Metropolis, and Bruno Mannheim is looking for something that will give him an edge of the other mob bosses. Enter a mysterious man (Kanto) who offers Mannheim technology that would give him just that leg up he had been looking for. Kanto of course, is one of the henchmen of Darkseid, the dark lord of Apokolips. Intergang and Superman fight, and we learn that Intergang’s recent power boost may just be the beginning.

Evanier has the opportunity to introduce four characters (unless I have forgotten that Sawyer and Turpin have previously appeared), and all of them in their own ways would have a lasting impact.

Captain Maggie Sawyer and Detective Dan “Terrible” Turpin both appear, and their longstanding partnership in the comics is translated very well into the comic. They come across as a little more adversarial than in the comic books, but there is still a mutual respect there. Coincidentally, the animated models Turpin off of his creator… Jack “The King” Kirby, who also created Kanto and Darkseid, along with the other major characters of New Genesis. Kirby influences are now really beginning to show in this series, and that’s incredible consider his massive contributions to the edges of the Superman mythos, but also since his death in 1994 was not too soon before production of the series would have began (Superman co-creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel also predeceased this cartoon in 1992 and 1996 respectively).

In many regards, this episode is like a love letter to those three creators, and as such this episode slotted in near the end of the first season often slips under the radar, but is well worth a watch.

Eagle-eyed fans will notice the subway stop for “Centennial Park”. This park is an analog to NYC’s Central Park, but notable also contains the statue of Superman that served as his tomb complex during “The Death of Superman” storyline in the comics.

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