I’ll wrap up Superman month with a (hopefully) fun article. This focuses on Superman: the Animated Series. It was a pretty good show, although not to be compared to the earlier Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League/Justice League Unlimited. I will look at a very specific episode and how I always found it amusing.
If you watch much American animation, you’ll notice that male characters never punch when fighting against women. Why? Because the censors don’t wants the kids to see women being punched in the face. You can kick a woman, shoot at her, even tie her up in an abuse-able position, but for some reason, you can’t punch them. Quite selective if not hypocritical rules of chivalry, ain’t they? But these are censors we’re talking about.
The no-punching-women rule was rougher on Superman than other cartoon heroes. Most of the others have weapons or martial arts kicks they can use against a female opponent. But Superman? Fisticuffs is ordinarily about 80% of his offense. This particular Superman didn’t have Freeze Breath and only used Heat Vision as a tool, bringing that number up to 95%. Restrict him from punching and he can’t do much more than try to drag criminals to jail and hope they’re not strong enough to hurt him.
In the episode Warrior Queen, Superman meets Maxima, ruler of Almerac. It seems that her planet’s laws insist that she can marry only one who can prove to be her equal in combat. When she learns of Superman’s abilities, she goes to Earth to test him.
After some filler that’s not worth going through, Maxima finally meets Superman and makes her proposition.
Of course, Superman already has a home, a good life, and a girlfriend. So he gently refuses the offer. But like most monarchs, Maxima isn’t used to being said no to. So she decks him. Hard.
Maxima dives onto the fallen Superman, but gets thrown not through a hard object but onto the ground almost like she was flopping into bed. Stealing a page from Mario, Maxima delivers a head stomp that literally caves Supes in.
Mistakingly ignoring the evil overlord rules, Maxima walks away, assuming that Superman is beat. This gets her yanked out of the building and into the sky. But before Supes can capitalize, he’s slammed into a nearby newsvan, leaving a nasty repair bill for whichever network that owns it.
Maxima’s virtually untouched streak continues for another hit as she hops to the satellite dish that broke off the van and flings it into Superman’s chest (Supes 0, Maxima 4). I give credit where it’s due to the animators. They seem well aware that since Maxima is a close match for Supes in the less restricted comic books, Superman’s at a disadvantage with the censors on. So they don’t even use a deus ex machina to give the Man of Steel a chance. He just gets his ass kicked!
I’m wondering how much more one-sided this can be when Maxima pounces again at Supes and is shoved, her momentum carrying her hard into a girder at a construction site, denting it (Supes 1, Maxima 4). For some comic relief, an old woman in a nearby apartment notes in horror what is transpiring outside, but her husband is too immersed in his newspaper to much care (“no spying on the neighbors”).
In the meantime, Maxima plays more footsie on Superman’s chest to take them both down to the ground and tosses him into a pile of girders (Supes 1, Maxima 6). Superman whacks Maxima and ties her up with one of those girders (Supes 2, Maxima 6). Instead of following up on this, Supes backs away, preparing to defend against the next attack because he still can’t punch.
Maxima is more smitten than ever. It seems that Superman has fared the best against her of anyone. Ouch! So it’s back to hugs and proposals. Superman tries to explain that marriage in supposed to be a mutually equal partnership (old woman: “what planet is he from”), meaning that Maxima can’t force him to marry her. Maxima’s answer to that is a laser blast from her left-handed gauntlet that knocks Superman out.
For you super-inquisitive geeks out there, I’ll spare you the suspense. Maxima is betrayed from within and she, Superman, and Maxima’s top adviser are locked in a dungeon. As they escape and take the kingdom back for Maxima, Maxima goes from nearing destroying Metropolis over Superman to letting him go. Other than the way censorship dominates over the old rule that heroes never lose in animation, it’s a crappy episode. But that one fight makes it worth it. It’s well-done despite how one-sided it is and it adds a bit of credibility for the hero to lose occasionally. Plus, it’s quite amusing to see poor Superman getting f*cked over by the censors. I’d note that without them tipping the scales, I doubt that the writers would’ve had the balls to have Superman lose, let alone to a lady.