The Iron Eater looks like he escaped from a Rankin/Bass holiday special.

§ December 6th, 2010 § Filed under cartoons, superman § 10 Comments

From the New Adventures of Superman DVD, featuring those cartoons from the mid-1960s, here is the first animated appearance of Brainiac:

On one hand, he’s kinda mopey looking, and doesn’t appear to be much of a threat at all. On the other…he doesn’t say a single word throughout the entire episode, which is…kinda creepy, actually. And at one point he turns himself invisible, and he just kinda winks out with no sound effects whatsoever, which is 1) pretty unusual for a cartoon of this period to show such restraint, and 2) is even more creepy.

Another thing about the cartoon is that we get a backstory for Brainiac that has nothing to do with the Brainiac backstory established at that point in the comics (a trend continued with the Krypton-based Brainiac origin from the ’90s Superman: The Animated Series show, and in Smallville). Explained in this episode, The Return of Brainiac (more on that in a second), Brainiac is a robot built by Dr. Hekla from the planet Mega. And when Brainiac is eventually destroyed (and again, more on that in a moment) it is commented that Dr. Hekla will just build another one and send it back to Earth.

Now the episode is called “The Return of Brainiac,” even though this is the first appearance of Brainiac on this DVD…can’t say for sure if this is the proper chronological order of episodes on the disc, but I was a bit amused to have my first encounter with the animated version of this character be in a show titled “The Return of….” And the backstory thrown out in dialogue appears to refer to a previous appearance, so if there is another Brainiac episode in this set (and I haven’t yet watched the second disc), the episodes were either put on these discs out of order, or the episodes were originally produced and aired out of order. Or the producers just assumed viewers already knew the character from the comics, and never bothered with an “introduction,” as such. Or they just plain threw him out there. It doesn’t matter, really…the writing on these were very much at the “well, this’ll do” quality, so explicit episode-to-episode continuity was certainly not a priority (nor should it really have been, of course).

EDIT: Sure enough, I checked the Wikipedia article and episode #33 is called “Superman Meets Brainiac.” The episode list there seems to match the episode order on the DVD, at least for the first disc, so the Brainiac intro episode is way after the “Return of” one. Still no idea if these are in the original broadcast order on the discs.

Anyway, given the very inhuman portrayal of Brainiac in the cartoon, and the continuing emphasis on his…robot-ness, I guess, this frees up Superman to just full on shoot Brainiac in the face with heat vision beams:

Oh, just let Brainiac’s smoking robot corpse sit there for a while…it’ll be fine:

One more about this cartoon…this was the first one on the disc that actually triggered a memory of my watching this show as a child. And it wasn’t Brainiac, but rather, his shrinking gun:

The gun rang a bell, as did that sparkly energy-cloud thingie. Strange things to remember, but those images stuck with me all this time.

A later episode on the disc also sparked an old childhood memory of watching the cartoon…specifically, “The Iron Eater,” featuring a critter that looked a little something…like this:

I’m not kidding. Superman totally fought this dude:

Man, how could anyone forget a mug like that?

10 Responses to “The Iron Eater looks like he escaped from a Rankin/Bass holiday special.”

  • That shot of Brainiac’s smoking robot corpse looks like it might have been a scene cut from Blue Velvet.

    Seriously, I think the placement of the shrubbery only enhances the sheer violence of the scene. My mind keeps trying to complete the picture, only to imagine something far worse.

  • CW says:

    Why have I never heard of this particular Superman series?

  • Rich Yanizeski says:

    That’s weird. I remembered the shrinking gun too! You’d think I’d remember that goofy monster.

  • C. Elam says:

    I have never seen Superman look as annoyed as he does in that last picture. It makes me wonder if he gave Brainiac a little extra heat vision just because the Iron Eater cheesed him off so much.

    I am exposing the depth of my nerdiness here, but I am assuming the Iron Eater is a wacky cartoon version of the Metal Eater from Krypton. Because after all, how visual is a monster that looks just like a hippo?

  • philip says:

    I’ve seen a lot of Filmation stuff over the years. Have I missed anything they’ve produced that is either good or shows some level of skill? Oh, I do love their stuff for its awkward, dull (recently started re-watching “The Legend of Isis”), and sloppy execution but part of me believes that even as a kid I knew it was crap.

    But it was my crap.

  • Bill D. says:

    I watched the Iron Eater episode recently, too, and had a similar reaction. He just looks so out of place, even among the rest of Filmation’s charmingly awkward animation, almost like he wandered in from a Gene Deitch Tom & Jerry short or something.

    Maybe one of Lou Scheimer’s kids drew it.

  • Donald G says:

    Philip: probably the best of Filmation’s animated stuff was the first season of their version of Flash Gordon around 1979. It did use endlessly recycled footage, as did most American tv animation of that period, but at that point, their style for heroic animation had evolved and used a lot more rotoscoping. They also lifted footage originally done for a feature animated version which was made before the Saturday morning cartoon, but debuted in prime time on NBC a few years after the Saturday morning series was canceled.

    Growing up, I was somewhat partial to their version of Tarzan, but haven’t seen it since the late seventies.

  • Mikester says:

    Donald G. – If it’s the same Flash Gordon cartoon I’m thinking of, I remember quite enjoying that show as well (though I don’t remember much about it otherwise).

  • philip says:

    I do remember the Filmation “Tarzan”. That one was quite good, if I recall. Thanks, Donald G.

  • Ed says:

    I enjoyed Filmation Tarzan for quite a while, then one week there was an episode where a blue bald-with-goatee-and-epaulets type alien dude came and put Tarzan into a machine which transferred all his “Tarzan powers” to the guy, who then got pasted into Tarzan’s standard “travelling through the jungle by swinging on vines” shot while going “Yah-hah-hah-hah! Now I can conquer the galaxy!” or something similar.

    I was hitting that stage of adolescence where one starts to get all snarky about such silliness, so I was a bit put off by it at the time, though looking back now something that ludicrous just seems kind of awesome.