DCAU #156: Livewire

IN THIS ONE... A shock-jock who likes go after Superman becomes an electrical supervillain.

CREDITS: Written by Evan Dorkin (one of my favorite humor cartoonists, this Eisner winner has worked on Bill & Ted comics, Dark Horse Presents, Dork, The Eltingville Club, and Beasts of Burden) and Sarah Dyer (his spouse, creator of the Action Girl Newsletter and a comics writer in her own right); directed by Curt Geda.

REVIEW: It's the premiere and origin of Livewire, meant to be, right down to the high-pitched voice, the Superman cartoon's answer to Harley Quinn. And she's mostly a success. I say mostly, because I find her more interesting before she's bleached and weaponized by a lightning strike. As a (ooh, female) shock-jock polluting the airwaves with anti-Superman sentiment (just look at who owns the station, and smiles while listening to the show) and ambushing Lois in what should have been the Daily Planet's interview, she rocks. Though she sort of believes what she's saying, but as soon as the microphones are off, it's clear this is strictly business for her. There's a great sequence where Superman deals with extreme jeopardy, incidentally countering her unfair criticisms that kind of makes you wish Leslie Willis had been seeded into earlier episodes.

As a super-powered villain, her motivations are pretty basic - unwarranted revenge - and her power set makes her a simple energy blaster that can be overcome - no surprise - by being hit with water. I wish they'd done more with her ability to become all electronic media, as the sequence where she makes faces at the heroes on a fax machine is pretty keen. That's where her story should go next, as it's much more interesting than vengeful blasting.

Another character that makes an appearance in the episode is Bibbo, for the first time really showing fannish devotion to Superman. But there's no real origin to Superman being his fav'rit, and I wish we'd get to THAT episode already (if there is one, I can't rightly remember). Right now, he's an odd appendix to the supporting cast, merely a familiar face they haven't done anything with. There's a place for Bibbo in Superman's dynastic model, but he's just dangling on the periphery, aimless.

IN THE COMICS: Livewire was created for the show, but enjoyed enough popularity to make it into the comics (and very recently, into the Supergirl TV show). Her first mainstream DCU appearance was in Action Comics #835 (2006), though this Livewire was born with her powers and went after Superman when her radio station went country. In the New52, she's a vlogger who electrocuted herself during a stunt and became a foe of both Batgirl and Superman. She was not, however, DC's first Live Wire. The name was first used by the SW6, and then the Reboot, versions of Lightning Lad, making Leslie a precursor to the 30th-Century legacy (à la Brainiac/Brainiac 5).

SOUNDS LIKE: Livewire is voiced by Lori "Tank Girl" Petty. Leslie's producer, Sid Melkin, was played by Cam Clarke, better known as the voice of Leonardo and of Rocksteady on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Introducing a cool character somehow made less so once she gets powers, the episode nevertheless includes a stand-out scene.


American Hawkman said...

Probably worth mentioning? Her comics arc slowly redeeming her, from working with the heroes against the Auctioneer to ultimately becoming part of Superman's Supermen of America about five seconds before Flashpoint hit.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

I didn't care so much for her, but she's one of the better villains of the live-action Supergirl.

I'm partway through STAS season 2 (you're catching up alarmingly-fast), and so far there's no origin for Bibbo; in fact he kind of drops off the map.

Siskoid said...

Don't worry, I resume the comics' first year in a few days, so that'll delay me a week.

LiamKav said...

I've never quite got on with Livewire. I don't know if the feeling that I was being told "here's Superman: TAS's Harley Quinn" rubbed me up the wrong way, or I was just at the wrong age and was stupidly annoyed about stupid girls ruining my TV shows. Or it might be that I find her voice a bit annoying. We'll see if my opinion changes after I've seen her a few more times.

Bibbo is perhaps symptomatic of a general problem Superman: TAS has, which is that it doesn't do a great job with its wider supporting cast. Clark, Lois and Lex get plenty of development, but it drops off pretty sharply after that. Compare what we knew about Bullock at this point to, say, Perry. Or Jimmy, for that matter.

Siskoid said...

All excellent points. They went out of their way to build the post-Crisis cast into the show (alas Cat Grant, where are you?) and then hardly did anything with them. So Ron Troupe gives you a familiar face at the office, Hamilton is a plot device, and Bibbo is a strange presence non-comics readers might have found a bizarre recurrence.

LiamKav said...

I didn't read much 90s Superman comics, so my main thought was "are they doing a Popeye reference or something?" when I saw him.


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