Sunday, April 23, 2006

CASTING COUCH OF STEEL

When I was a little kid, I thought 'The Adventures of Superman' would always be the pinnacle for TV superheroes.

What did I know? I was a little kid!

But I tossed over the Man of Steel in a single bound when 'Batman' premiered in the mid-sixties, and even though it was campy and is now dated, I still hold it as the high-water mark.

Why? The bad guys!

If you're going to create a TV show about a comic book super-hero, make sure you bring along the super-villains that made the original comic book so popular.

The closest 'The Adventures Of Superman' ever came to having the colorful and bizarre adversaries of the comic books would be the
Mole Men, maybe a robot or two.

And yet there were so many of the classic Superman villains who had already made their debut before 'The Adventures Of Superman' premiered in 1951:

Lex Luthor (Action Comics #23 - 1940)
The Prankster (Action #51 - 1942)
The Toyman (Action #64 - 1943)
Mr. Mxyzptlk (Superman #30 - 1944)

Unfortunately, other favorites didn't make their first appearance until the series had ended in 1957:

Bizarro Superman (Superboy #68 - 1958)
Brainiac (Action #242 - 1958)
Metallo (Action #252 - 1959)

But with that first group of "super-villains", they were still ordinary enough to fit within the budget of 'The Adventures of Superman'; and would have brought a dash of color even in the black-and-white productions. It's not like we were looking to bring in Darkseid and Doomsday from the future of the comic book to bust Supes upside the head... and the planet along with him.

Each of these villains could have still been molded to fit the general tone of the series as it was eventually produced, but we wouldn't have to be subjected to the site of C-List gangsters throwing their guns at Superman week after week.

As such, I wanted to present my suggestions for casting these roles within the framework of the original show; using actors of that time period who were working in the industry on a regular basis. No big stars - the budget for the show would never be able to afford them. Just a group of actors who were making their mark in Toobworld back in the mid-1950s.

LEX LUTHOR - R.G. ARMSTRONG

Not much I can say on this suggestion, and at the same time, I can't say enough. RG Armstrong is one of the best character actors to ever grace the small screen, and was still active up to the time of the 'Cybill' sitcom. I don't think a week could go by back in the fifties without him showing up as a villain; at home in modern dramas as well as at home on the range in Westerns. He would have the power and bearing to carry off the role of Superman's greatest foe.

(In later years, he got the chance to be a comic super-villain when he portrayed Pruneface in "Dick Tracy".)

MR. MXYZPTLK - BILLY CURTIS

(Billy Curtis previously appeared on 'The Adventures of Superman' as one of the
Mole Men as well as playing the lead role of "SuperPup"! And he has the best credentials for playing colorfully impish characters with his role as the Mayor of Munchkin City in 'The Wizard Of Oz'.)

THE TOYMAN

You could go two ways with the Toyman - wistful and gentle or manic and blustery. Both would be humorous, but no less deadly to either Superman or those who know him like Lois and Jimmy.

I'd prefer the blustery Billy Gilbert for the role, but if you did want to go the kinder, gentler route, another option might have been Ed Wynn.

BILLY GILBERT or ED WYNN

I'd prefer the blustery Billy Gilbert for the role, but if you did want to go the kinder, gentler route, another option might have been Ed Wynn.

THE PRANKSTER

Again, this role could go in several routes and I have three suggestions for the actor to play the role.

First off, you could have gone with a definite name in burlesque, Broadway, and the movies:
JOE E. BROWN.

Or you could save a few bucks by going for a few up-and-comers in the TV biz: either cash in on the growing popularity of kid's show host Soupy Sales, or pluck a young comic from his 'Cellar' on a local L.A. station - Johnny Carson.

SOUPY SALES or JOHNNY CARSON

As for those other super-villains who didn't come into existence until after the show went off the air, we can still play a bit o' "What If?"

METALLO - LLOYD BOCHNER

Metallo was a robotic body with a human brain encased within it, and which was covered by a flesh-like skin. Lloyd Bochner was just starting out as an actor on television and I've always felt he had that ultra-cool, emotionless, nearly Vulcan-like demeanor down pat. And as he was in his thirties during that time, he carried a well-toned physique that could have suggested a robotic body beneath his skin.

BRAINIAC - MICHAEL ANSARA

While he was busy playing Cochise on 'Broken Arrow', Ansara could have dumped the long-haired wig, dabbed on some green skin paint and played the Captor of Kandor, the city from Superman's home planet of Krypton.

BIZARRO - GEORGE REEVES

Finally, George Reeves could have been able to stretch a bit on the show by playing his mis-shapen clone, the Bizarro Superman

If you want to see artistic renderings of these characters (and plenty more!) from the pages of the various Superman comics, check out this directory of
Superman artists.

Up, up, and BCnU!
Tele-Toby

1 comment:

Corey Bond said...

Good call on the bad guys. Lack of supervillains is often the shortcoming of live action superhero adaptations, especially '70s Marvel TV shows. And the Adam West Batman series is an absolute classic, no matter how much comics fans whine about the "damage" it did to the image of comic book superheroes.