Superman: The Animated Series, Season 2, Episode 4: Speed Demons
This is one of those episodes in Superman: TAS that everyone remembers, and rightly so. Batman: The Animated Series had featured co-starred superheroes before, but they are either relatively obscure superheroes like Etrigan or Zatanna, or members of Batman's own supporting cast. Here Superman teams up with the Flash, another one of DC's A-lister heroes, in a plotline that harkens back deliciously to a Silver Age comic.
So the concept is simple. Superman has to race the Flash for a charity case, and we get to see the Flash of Central City, a dude whose superpower is running really fast. He's introduced as an arrogant, swaggering young punk that hits on ladies and makes immature practical jokes, and honestly a bit of a dick. All the while, Flash's old enemy the Weather Wizard makes use of the speed generated by their running to generate energy for the power source of his weather-manipulating powers.
I really wished the show went into some detail as to explain Flash's powers -- at least a truncated 'eh, science experiment and a lightning bolt gone wrong' would be fine if it doesn't deserve a full flashback. But it does open the world to a bigger world of superheroes beyond just Superman (and Batman). And while other guest star superheroes won't show up until the next season, Flash and Superman's little team up is pretty cool. Weather Wizard's a bit of a flat villain, but his history with Flash and his willingness to murder his own nebbish brother gives him a bit more depth than the likes of Jax-Ur.
Flash himself is actually probably the weakest link in this episode. While Flash is fantastic in Justice League, here he just feels like a punk. The fact that he's voiced by a different actor than Michael Rosenbaum is probably a factor as to why Flash felt so weird in this episode, but even then the dude is kind of a dick throughout the first half of the episode, before revealing that he's a pretty competent partner and superhero to Superman. The transformation felt jarring and awkwardly written -- they clearly wanted Superman and Flash to have a rivalry earlier on, only for them to respect each other in the end... but they didn't work on the middle part of this relationship too well. Still, it's a pretty small gripe and we could just brush it off as camaraderie borne of their team-up to kick Weather Wizard's ass and save sinking sailors. The action scenes in this episode are pretty decent too, and after the highly underwhelming 'Prometheon' it's a delight to watch.
DC Easter Eggs Corner:
- The plotline of this episode -- Superman and Flash running across the globe for a charity race, and then interrupted with a villain's plot, is similar to a Silver Age story featuring the two of them racing.
- Flash here isn't explicitly identified as Wally West or Barry Allen, but since Superman: TAS is in the same continuity as Justice League, it would later be revealed that this Flash is Wally.
- Weather Wizard, a.k.a. Mark Mardon, is one of the Flash's classic enemies, a thief who gains the power to control weather with a special wand. His inventor brother Clyde also shows up here -- in the comics, Clyde is killed early on, whereas in the live-action Flash TV show Clyde is actually the first Weather Wizard before Mark.