Superman’s a tough character to write. As others have pointed out over the years, the man who can do anything is challenged by nothing. And that’s boring.
The usual tack writers take when they want to do a Superman story is to take away his powers, often through some kind of deus ex machina on the part of a villain. “Repulse” is no different. Lex Luthor is fed up with the big blue boy scout, and he uses a wacky science gizmo to make him a little less super.
However, the Justice League Action crew managed to find a unique angle that takes away Superman’s ability to be a hero, without tampering with his actual powers.
We open as he shows up for a date with Diana (Wonder Woman), in the guise of Clark Kent. These scenes showcase Superman’s connection with humanity, both by introducing him as Clark and by sending him on a very human ritual.
It’s a good contrast with his forced disconnection from humanity later on.
Superman has dated Wonder Woman before, most notably in Kingdom Come. Lois was dead in that comic, though. His excuse of “She sees right through me” is a little flimsy here.
As they chow down on some garlic risotto and wine, both are clearly having a good time. They banter a bit about Lois Lane and Steve Trevor, and seem to agree that dating a fellow hero is much better. The couple seems all set to have a little smooch without a care in the world for their significant others.
It’s worth noting that neither of these characters is human. The idea that superheroes are gods, far above human concerns, is a common theme in DC comics. Superman is so powerful that it’s a miracle he cares for people at all. Wonder Woman is literally a demigoddess, the daughter of Zeus.
Just as they’re about to lock lips, Clark hears a siren outside and runs out. A new villain is on the loose, and the police can’t do a thing about it.
Superman and Wonder Woman arrive on the scene, followed closely by Hawkman.
The purple energy dude politely gives the heroes a few moments for their witty banter, then introduces himself as Repulse.
Repulse carries a strong repulsive field that handily knocks away all three heroes. Wonder Woman gets tangled up in her own lasso, truth-telling powers and all.
Superman sidesteps the situation by cutting a hole in the ground underneath Repulse’s feet. During the ensuing sewer chase, Supes manages to scoop up some of the goop that makes up Repulse. That destroys the whole suit, revealing the villain to be Lex Luthor.
He’s off to jail, and all is well.
Wonder Woman and Superman start flirting again, leading to possibly the best line of the series.
Just as they’re about to (finally) kiss, Superman turns into Repulse. The purple goop covers his costume, the energy shield springs up, and nobody can get near him.
It’s a lot stronger on Superman than it was on Lex, and Superman quickly ends up flying away.
Knocking down a passenger jet on his way up is a great touch, especially his look of helplessness as the other two heroes handle the situation.
With Superman off in space, Diana and Hawkman pay Luthor a visit in his cell.
The lasso does its thing, and Luthor reveals that the goop is a swarm of nanobots. The energy field they generate will grow exponentially, and can only be defeated by draining its energy. And it’s as powerful as the sun.
So, the pair grabs Lex and heads off to a black hole.
Apparently, they’ve clued in Superman already, as he shows up and heads into the black hole. It’s works for a few minutes, and the black hole seems to be sucking the nanobots off of Superman.
Then Luthor sneaks off, steals a space fighter, and starts shooting at Superman. He can’t harm Superman, but Luthor hopes to push him into the black hole.
Both men briefly get sucked into the event horizon, and Wonder Woman ends up pulling them out with the lasso.
Lex goes to jail, and Diana and Clark go back to the restaurant.
They do not kiss.
Fun Quotes in “Play Date”
This Justice League Action episode takes much of its tone from sitcoms and romantic comedies. The heroes are cracking wise so much, even while fighting, that it practically sounds like an episode of Friends.
- Hawkman: “Mind if I crash your date?” Superman: “Uh, date? Ha-ha!”
- Hawkman: “Wonder Woman, are you ok?” Wonder Woman: “Hardly! I’m tied in my own lasso, I didn’t get to eat any cannoli for desert, and I still haven’t gotten that kiss!” Hawkman: “Uhh…”
- Hawkman: “Super PDA is the worst.”
- Wonder Woman: “What’s the meaning of this, static man?” Repulse: “You must have me confused with someone else. I am known as Repulse.” Superman: “Due to your winning personality, no doubt.”
- Wonder Woman: “We still have time for dessert.” Superman: “I hear they make an amazing cannoli.” “Wonder Woman: That’s not the dessert I was referring to.” Superman: “Oh!”
Voice actor James Woods, best known in animation as Hades in Disney’s Hercules. And as himself in Family Guy, of course. He’s an award-winning actor with hundreds of live action and voice roles under his belt since 1971.
Info & Trivia
- Although this version of Repulse turned out to be Lex Luthor in disguise, the show took the idea from an obscure comic character.
- The real Repulse is a member of the group Workforce. He’s a hero in the “Legion of Super-Heroes” timeline of the year 3000. Repulse’s costume bears no resemblance to Lex’s purple goop suit, but he does hold power over magnetic fields.
- “Oh joy, the spandex patrol is here.”
- “Can’t touch me!”
- “I’m rubber and you’re…” Superman: “About to beat you!”
Voice actor James Woods again, of course.
Info & Trivia
- As everyone knows, Lex Luthor is Superman’s nemesis.
- This version of the character seems to be less rich, based on his quip about selling black hole-powered vacuum cleaners to become a billionaire.
- He’s also quite a bit more manic than previous DCAU iterations. The twitchy style and tendency to crack jokes is likely taken from Jesse Eisenberg’s take on the character in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
- Oh hilarious, man of steel. You should’ve been the man of standup!
- Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m teaching a spin class.
- It’s the vacuum cleaner that never needs emptying. Hmm, if I could sell these on Earth I’d be a billionaire.
- Watch it, I’ve got delicate skin! I’m a redhead, you know!