When Superman: The Animated Series Tried to Make Clark Kent Cool


Welcome to the twenty-second edition of Adventure(s) Time, where we examine an episode of a classic animated series, and an issue of its tie-in comic that shares a similar theme. This week, we're going back to an episode of Superman: The Animated Series that set out to prove Clark Kent can be every bit the hero as Superman...and an issue of Superman Adventures that also makes Clark the star.

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"The Late Mr. Kent" originally aired on November 8, 1997 as the thirty-sixth episode of Superman: The Animated Series. The episode is written by Stan Berkowitz, who scripted many DCAU episodes of this era, and directed by Kenji Hachizaki. More than any other DCAU series, Superman was reliant on Japanese animators, as the producers grew confident in the ability of the TMS-Kyokuichi Corporation to oversee the boarding and directing of scripts generated in America. While the Japanese episodes are renowned for their incredibly complex visuals, "The Late Mr. Kent" turns out to be a far more grounded story. (With several bits of action thrown in, not surprisingly.)

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Funeral For A Friend

Opening with a funeral, and the title of the show delayed until the appropriate moment, we see that Clark's coworkers have gathered for his memorial, while Superman secretly observes from a safe distance. Clearly, this will not be your standard episode of Superman. Through a voiceover, Clark recounts the unlikely events that have led to this moment.

Clark flashes back to a Daily Planet assignment on the impending execution of Ernest Walker, who swears he was framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Clark’s superhuman senses determine Walker is telling the truth. (So does this mean that it's just as impossible to lie to Superman as it is Daredevil? Usually, Superman limits the hero's collection of superpowers in order to avoid such potentially thorny issues.)

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Clark speaks to the lead investigator on the case, Detective Kurt Bowman. Bowman's adamant that Walker is guilty, and more than a little annoyed Clark is pursuing this case. That evening, taking his inspiration from the Daily Planet's last slice of pizza, Clark stumbles across a means of proving Walker's alibi. After speaking to the owner of the pizzeria nearest Walker's home, and examining their extensive archive of mid-'90s floppy discs, Clark feels confident that he can prove Walker was eating delivery pizza at the time of the murder. After calling Lois to gloat, Clark takes on a personal mission to hand-deliver the disc to the governor.

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