Superman on Television

Justice League: Episode Reviews

Season 3 - Episode 3: "Kid Stuff"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Boy of Steel Engages in "Kid Stuff" and Comes Up Short.

I am finishing reviews of first season episodes of JL as I'm simultaneously reviewing the 2004 revamped series, JLU. I was pretty certain that season one's two-part "A Knight of Shadows" would be my easiest review yet. Superman isn't part of this arc, nor is there any real connection to the Man of Steel. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was one of my least favorite stories of the first season with an even more contrived than usual ending. I wasn't looking forward to sitting through it again just to tell Superman fans it's not worth seeing. That story gains slightly more significance to Superman in retrospect as the same mother and son villains return to bedevil the senior JLU members - including the Man of Steel -- in "Kid Stuff". However, I still wouldn't recommend it as both stories appear to have been written by kids.

In 2002's "A Knight of Shadows", Etrigan the Demon teamed up with the JL to stop sorceress Morgaine le Fay and her son, the permanently young Mordred, from obtaining the mythic Philosopher's Stone. Mordred hasn't appeared in comic book continuity but he's been represented in the comics by DC's Klarion the witch boy. Also eternally young, but in the comics with black hair, Klarion is usually depicted in black short pants with his demonic cat by his side. Klarion's most famous storyline is his participation in the "Sins of Youth" crossover in which the adult heroes become children and the young heroes become adults.

"Kid Stuff" is obviously an homage to the "Sins of Youth" but the biggest sin of this youth is how dull he is. The entire affair should have been much more entertaining than it actually ends up being. Most disappointing to me is how un-exciting it is to see a Superboy in costume for the first time in the animated universe (remember this Superman never was a Superboy).

This episode doesn't seem sure what its intentions are. It begins strong, introducing two animated versions of Bat-villains Blockbuster and the KGBeast (along with returning bad guys Copperhead and Cheetah). But these debuts are merely distractions that remind us how much more fun these villains are than whiny Mordred.

The de-aged Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern have some genuinely funny lines and there are some interesting nods to the DCU. For instance, the youthful John Stewart needs glasses so he uses the ring to craft eye-wear that looks suspiciously like the original mask worn by Modern Age GL (for now) Kyle Rayner. I'm not quite clear, though, if this is simply intended to be humorous or if it's some kind of derogatory statement about Kyle's somewhat dated look.

Just when you think the episode is being played for yucks, however, there's some pretty heady stuff alluded to involving the children who've been left on Earth with no parents, such as when Mordred simplistically tries to quell a baby's hunger cries by magically producing a cow. When the children find a world without adults fun, the episode is a hoot such as when Wonder Woman (that is, Wonder Girl) promises to find their parents and tell on each disorderly child. But when the children express real-world fears of being without their Moms and Dads, the episode takes on a morose and disturbing tone.

And it's never a good sign when the animators feel the need to riff on the Star Wars universe like they do when baby Etrigan shows up mid-way through the episode.

Superman doesn't make a very super boy. He's a rather dim bulb, oblivious to the feelings between Batboy and Wonder Girl. And, if GL needs glasses just like he did when he was a kid, then shouldn't Superboy have the relative strength he had as a kid? The Kryptonian Kid couldn't fly till he was close to 18 and the remainder of his powers developed during his teenage years. These natural abilities should have paralleled GL's vision issue, not to mention Batman's intelligence and detective skills (and the fact that at times, the Bat looked like he had a full-grown adult Bat-head planted on top of a Robin-sized body).

"Kid Stuff" squeezes out only two speeding bullets on the SFMWON scale. After two weeks of spot-on perfect episodes, a clunker was probably inevitable though it's even more disappointing knowing how good this series should be.

Next week it's a reunion between the two most famous ABC-TV shows with "Wonder" in their titles. That's right -- Wonder Woman teams up with DC's classically late 1960's siblings (one aggressive, the other a pacifist) Hawk and Dove, voiced by Fred Savage and Jason Hervey who played classically late 1960's siblings (one aggressive, the other a pacifist) in "The Wonder Years"

Peace out.

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