Category Archives: superboy

RIP Lou Scheimer

Lou Scheimer, the father of Filmation, and the king of American television animation for many of our childhoods, has passed away at the age of 84.

Filmation was a small animation studio, one of the few still doing animation in the United States, rather than shipping it overseas. Founded by Scheimer, Hal Sutherland, and Norm Prescott in 1962, they did some little known cartoons like “Rod Rocket.” They really caught fire when they licensed the DC Comics characters in 1966.

Beginning with “The New Adventures of Superman,” they began to expand to shorts that featured other characters like Superboy, Aquaman, Batman and Robin, and later the Justice League of America and the Teen Titans, as well as those groups’ individual members. These cartoons were, along with the 1966 “Batman” TV series on ABC, my gateway drug into comic books. My love of Aquaman, Superboy, and others sprang from early viewings.

The DC deal brought another comics company to Filmation’s offices, and Archie came to Saturday morning animation for years under their guidance. Later in the 1970s, Filmation became a major player in the animation game, producing cartoons of “The Brady Kids,” “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” and “Star Trek: The Animated Series” among many others.

Filmation delved into live-action with shows like “Isis,” “Space Academy” and Shazam.” While the studio began to get a reputation for repeating backgrounds, limited animation, recycling designs, rapid jump cuts, and using the same music over again, they had also produced some real quality programming as well.

In the 1980s Filmation produced some of its most well known shows like “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which featured, like many of the previous shows, a lesson at the end of every episode. Before closing up shop in 1989, Filmation also produced over the years some very cool versions of Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and the Lone Ranger, using then fairly new rotoscoping techniques.

With the loss of Lou Scheimer on Friday, we have lost one the legends of animation, and for me, a big chunk of my childhood. He’ll be missed.

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Bates Motel

I’ve never been big on secret origins, except when they are shorter than a sentence or two or a minute or two. Just tell us what we need to know about the character or the situation and start the story. As a matter of fact, one writer rule states that you should always start in the middle of the story – beginnings are for suckers. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho is a near perfect classic of the horror thriller genre, did we really need an ongoing prequel TV series? Why do we need A&E’s “Bates Motel”?

While it might not be the first to do such, I do blame “Smallville.” It’s the story of Superman, before he was Superman. If you’re a comics person, your first instinct is probably Superboy, and that’s really the problem with “Smallville.” All of the names are the same, but nothing else is. “Smallville” bears very little resemblance to Superboy. In the series, there is no Superboy, we see the looong journey of Clark Kent growing to manhood, and in the last moments of the last episode of the series, he finally becomes Superman. Over a decade later. Yeah, that long. And the whole time, all you really want from this show is to see him as Superman.

And that is why I hate secret origins, especially when they disguise themselves as ongoing TV series. I have to wonder, is that what “Bates Motel” will be like? Will we be waiting forever for our young protagonist Norman Bates to begin showing signs of the sociopath he is by the time the events of Psycho roll around? Will it take a decade?

The other obstacle (or perhaps it’s a good thing, for the new show at least) is the many folks who are watching who have no point of reference for Norman Bates. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s a factor. After all, believe it or not, there were teenagers watching “Smallville” who didn’t get the Superman (or Superboy) references and thought it was just a cross between “The X-Files” and “Beverly Hills 90210.” Certainly that worked. Half the audience was there for the soap opera, and half for the pseudo-superhero stuff. Perhaps “Bates Motel” might just work as a show about a gawky kid with a overbearing mother who run a creepy motel, period.

“Bates Motel” is set present day, we begin with Norman’s dad dead, and Mom rushing them away to start over again, a habit she seems to have. The two are a little bit too close, and Vera Farmiga is just as overbearing as Norma Bates, as Freddie Highmore is creepy as young Norman. She’s a bit too pretty for my tastes, even as a young Norma Bates, but her paranoid craziness fills out the rest of her character well.

On their latest ‘start over,’ they buy an old motel foreclosed on by the bank. When a even creepier neighbor starts to harass them because the motel and property had been in his family for decades, well, things escalate. He breaks in, rapes Norma, and Norman saves her, after which Mom finishes the job, killing the attacker. Don’t call the police, we’ll cover this up ourselves is Norma’s battle cry. We kinda start to get the vibe maybe Dad’s death wasn’t quite what it seemed.

As creepy as the killer and the collaborator are, Nestor Carbonell is even scarier as Sheriff Alex Romero. If you locked me in a room with the three of them, he’s the one I’d be most scared of. There are some genuinely chilling moments here, as well as some “90120” caliber teenage soap moments. There’s also a cliffhanger that is very tempting to keep me watching, but I have to wonder, will this drag on forever and take a decade to get to the point, or will it surprise me. We’ll just have to wait and see.

For a different view, be sure to check out my friend and fellow writer Marie Gilbert‘s review over at Biff Bam Pop!.