Superman: The Animated Series
Season 1, Episode 6
After the success of Batman: The Animated Series, Bruce Timm took his signature style and significantly improved it for Superman: TAS. Superman has always been a more clean-cut hero than Batman, so a brighter visual style – featuring stories set mostly in the daytime – along with crisper animation and more squared-off features made sense. And it obviously worked, seeing as Warner Bros. kept the animation style intact for Batman Beyond, Justice League, and JLU. In it’s first season, Superman: TAS introduced the animated version of many, many villains from the Man of Steel’s rogue gallery, from big hitters like Lex Luthor and Metallo, to b-listers like Parasite, the featured baddy in “Feeding Time”
Rudy Jones, a.k.a. the Parasite, gets dowsed with radioactive chemicals resulting in a change in his physiology allowing him to literally drain the life force from living things. At first, he uses his ability to take revenge upon the partner who left him for dead after a heist gone wrong, but after absorbing Superman’s energy, his ego grows ten sizes as he declares himself, “the new Superman!” Parasite’s thematic narrative as an underdog given massive power is a well the writers of Superman: TAS dip into many, many times throughout the run of the series. Obviously, this comes from a comic book staple that has been used for decades.
“Feeding Time” also heavily features S.T.A.R. Labs, an organization that becomes a mainstay throughout Superman: TAS, along with characters like Dr. Emil Hamilton, the scientist that creates the anti-Kryptonite suit for Superman. Years later, Hamilton will betray Superman and the Justice League by joining Project Cadmus and working to destroy all metahumans, but before conspiracies became the norm for the DC universe, Hamilton was a true ally to Superman.
Superman is taken prisoner by Parasite and kept under S.T.A.R. Labs in an underused basement level. Rudy keeps Superman chained up and feeds on him every 12 hours to recharge and keep old Supes weak enough to stay locked up. When Jimmy finds Superman during a tour of the lab, he’s able to distract Parasite long enough for the 12 hour window to lapse, allowing Superman to regain his strength. After escaping with Jimmy and evacuating the building, Superman dons the anti-Kryptonite suit and uses a piece of Kryptonite to weaken Parasite, whose absorbed Superman powers means he’s also weak to the piece of Clark’s home world.
Sure, “Feeding Time” feels a little rushed, and Rudy Jones’ transformation from a meek janitor to a mentally unbalanced supervillain was a bit quick, but that’s how the writers had to do it. Instead of having five to eight issues to introduce new villains and/or storys, the writers and producers had 20 minutes each week to tell a self-contained story that could be wrapped up quickly.
Superman: TAS wasn’t meant to be a convoluted masterpiece of superhero cinema – it was meant to be an introduction to the Man of Steel for a new generation of kids who might have a hard time picking up issues of Superman or Action Comics at their local shop. In that goal, the series succeeds over and over, delivering stories that are clear enough for a younger audience, but also have fan service moments, more in-depth stories adapted from the comic books, and crossover episodes with The New Batman Adventures. Later on in the series, heroes like the Flash, Aquaman, and Green Lantern are introduced into DCAU canon, providing the groundwork for future projects.