We begin, as all things do, with the end. All beginnings are endings, and all endings are beginnings; the beginning is the end of what came before, and the end is the beginning of what comes after. Both are just words for change.
So is “apocalypse.”
This is the moment at which the DCAU is born in fire, the Harlequin’s changing of the stage to something brighter and more fun. Recall what I said more than two years of weekly posts ago: the DCAU is not the DCAU until it has two series in it, anymore than an event which has only happened once can be annual.
Batman: The Animated Series, then, is the “what came before” that ends here. Note how dark Krypton is in those brief first seconds of the Superman: The Animated Series opening. The House of El is dimly lit, the night sky visible through its enormous windows. The rocket launches, and we see that Krypton is surrounded by darkness, just before it explodes into light.
But Superman’s pod outruns that light; it is still dark when the Kents find him. And then, as the music accelerates from its tentative, mournful beginnings to a stirring Shirley Walker piece that evokes John Williams’ classic Superman theme without imitating it, we see the light return, surrounding a teen Clark Kent as he runs and leaps into his future as Superman.
Light is the source of Superman’s power, the light shining from the fires Harley Quinn lit. Up until this point, Batman: The Animated Series existed in darkness, literally: it was famously drawn in light colors on black backgrounds, the reverse of standard animation practice. Superman: The Animated Series, however, uses the traditional method of drawing in black and color on white backgrounds. It is literally a brighter, sunnier show, as befits a character who derives his power from “Earth’s yellow sun.”
There are more ways in which this is a more traditional opening than BTAS. That opening was a short film, a self-contained story presented straightforwardly, albeit without dialogue. STAS’ opening is also a story, but it is one told in clips and snippets of things to come. Kal-El is launched from his dying world–the dying darkness of BTAS–into a bright new world, raised by loving human parents, then emerges as Superman. He meets Lois and Jimmy, Lex Luthor and other villains, journeys across the world and into space, but ultimately returns to Metropolis. As in BTAS’ original opening, the name of the show is never actually said, but the S-shield that flares from Superman’s chest to fill the screen in the final shot accomplishes the same purpose–it is as synonymous with Superman as the word itself.
Over the course of exploring the ideaspace around BTAS, we have uncovered three conceptual pillars and one central question to this project. The pillars are the apocalypse, the protector fantasy, and trauma; the question is whether it is possible to reconcile the first two, to create a superhero who fulfills the positive aspects of the protector fantasy without bringing in its dark side, who can allow positive change while protecting against negative.
We still don’t know the answer to that question. But now we have light to look for it by. We have apocalypse–the source of our light. We have the protector fantasy–there’s a reason Superman’s symbol is a shield.
And as for trauma, well…
Current status of the Patreon:
- Latest Near-Apocalypse article ($2+/mo patrons can view): What’s up with (My Girl)
- Latest video ($5+/mo patrons can view): Vlog Review: Gravity Falls S2E5
- Latest Milestone: $100/mo: Monthly bonus vlogs!
- Next Milestone: $150/mo ($49 away!): Second monthly bonus vlog!
I was hoping to get it done before this post, but I’ve got too many things going on at once, namely end-of-month Patreon obligations month, rewrites on the next book, and a convention in three days. So… expect significant site maintenance next week sometime, including updating the menus to actually reflect the last two years of posts.