Tonight is likely to be the episode of CBS's Supergirl that's talked about more than any other since the pilot.
In addition to tackling some real-world themes (likely in an unintentional way, since they would have filmed this episode quite some time ago) like human reactions in the face of catastrophe and the question of refugees versus threatening, err, "immigrants," the episode introduced a major DC Comics superhero, and added him to the regular cast.
So, here we are, back doing our Easter egg thing. What did we see? What did we miss? Read on, and comment below.
Kara and her friends must rely on their inner strength and courage when an earthquake strikes National City. Also, Alex’s mistrust of Hank reaches a breaking point when the earthquake traps them in the DEO with Jemm (Charles Halford), a powerful alien escapee.
Less than a year after it was introduced during Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr.'s run in the comics, CBS's Supergirl has become the first piece of non-comics media to embrace the solar flare, Superman's newest power.
We actually saw the flare itself last episode, when Supergirl "emptied the tank" of her heat vision onto a rogue Red Tornado robot and found herself powerless at the end of the episode.
"She, literally, like, put so much of herself out there to defeat this person that she loses everything and she has this solar flare, so she is rendered powerless in the next episode," explained executive producer Ali Adler during a set visit we attended this week.
It was a clarification of a point made by Andrew Kreisberg, who had teased but not explicitly named the solar flare power as the cause of Supergirl's problems in tomorrow's "Human For a Day."
"it’s something that actually, it’s, sort of, new from the comics. It was a Geoff Johns idea, which was that Superman's -- or any Kryptonian‘s -- cells are, basically, suffused with solar radiation and that’s where they get their powers from and the heat vision is an expulsion of that energy," Kreisberg had said. "You could actually just, basically, run out and you would need to recharge. I was such a fan of that comic and that run and talked to Geoff and said, 'Could we do something with that?' and he was like, 'Absolutely!'"
The idea of Superman as a "living solar battery" actually goes back further than that, and was a popular description of how his powers worked in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity when John Byrne's reboot The Man of Steel tried to give real-world scientific or quasi-scientific explanations for much of what happened in the series. The solar flare power -- where Superman can basically expel all of his stored-up energy at once and then take about a day to "recharge" back to his full capacity -- was an extension of that created by Johns.
(Perhaps not surpsingly, given Johns's long history with the Green Lantern titles.)
When Kara did it, we didn't get the giant explosion, and she didn't lose consciousness -- so perhaps the solar flare works a little differently on TV than it does in the comics, or maybe it's just that Kara's works differently than Clark's, since he's been here and soaking up solar rays for quite a bit longer.
JEMM, SON OF SATURN
Aww, he's not such a bad guy!
...In the comics, I mean.
Jemm, Son of Saturn is actually a fairly benevolent prince, who is friends with Martian Manhunter. In the comics, Jemm had a long-running series and had a number of adventures, and while he did run afoul of the Superman family during the World of New Krypton arc that inspires so much of Supergirl, he's generally not been a villain.
As there are green and white martians, there are red and white Saturnians, and Jemm is one of the former, obviously. Like on Mars, the white ones tend to be more evil and aggressive. They deposed Jemm's father and forced him to flee to Earth, where he was a hero for years before being brainwashed by Lex Luthor to join the Injustice Gang.
It was in World of New Krypton that Jemm reappeared, having asserted command of all three known Saturnian races including the albino "Koolars," and the yellow-skinned "Faceless Hunters," whom he referenced in Supergirl tonight.
This one's kind of a cheat.
Charles Halford, who plays Jemm, is best known to DC fans as Chas, the taxi driver and best friend to John Constantine on Constantine.
J'ONN J'ONZZ, THE MANHUNTER FROM MARS
Tonight's episode of Supergirl has introduced the world at large (you know -- besides us comics fans) to J'Onn J'Onzz, the Martian Manhunter.
So...who is he?
After years on a Martian colony, where he was a police officer defending laws on a civil war-ridden world, J'Onn J'Onzz watched his family -- and his culture -- die before being spirited away inexplicably to Earth.
Dr. Saul Erdel, a scientist and tinkerer, had developed a transmitter machine based upon ancient Martian technology -- and it had pulled J'Onn to Earth in time to prevent him dying with his world.
The process blasted him through time as well as space, and he arrived centuries after his world had died. It was later revealed that Mars was dead when J'onn was taken, killed by a mental plague deliberately started by his brother Ma'alefa'ak.
J'Onn was a member of the Justice Experience in the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe as well as a founding member of the Justice League and its longest-running member, serving in every version of the team until the late 2000s.
One of the greatest threats he faced was an invasion of white Martians, a warlike faction of J'Onn's own people who had infiltrated Earth society for years before they struck.
In the comics, he is actually an ally of Prince Jemm of Saturn, a hero who (like everyone from his world) has Martian lineage. They did, however, briefly share a common romantic interest, which was awkward for both of them.
Of course, all of that history went out the window when the Flashpoint reboot happened in 2011. In the new DC Universe, J'Onn has always worked not with the League (he was replaced by Cyborg) but with StormWatch, an organization that secretly monitors Earth for threats and has worked behind the scenes for centuries. In some ways, his role on Supergirl is more reminiscent of this, since officially the DEO doesn't exist.
Recently, we started to get hints of the new Martian mythology, since Martian Manhunter got his own ongoing series this summer.
It just wanted to mention this one because of my love for the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, pre-Flashpoint Superman titles.
During that era, there was a Daily Planet employee named Whit. As far as I can remember, he only spoke once, but he appeared dozens of times, essentially the most "regular" extra on the Planet staff.
You can see him above. Whit was always present, but almost never spoke. According to his DC Wiki entry, he did speak up to express his regret when Clark Kent briefly left the paper for Newstime, but that's it.
So when Cat, who worked at the Planet, called Winn "Whit," I just had to wonder...!
"I COULDN'T SAVE HIM"
This scene, in which James tries to comfort Supergirl after she fails to save the man who died in the street, is a riff on one of the most common Superman storytelling tropes.
Yes, Superman is incredibly powerful. Supergirl, too. But, no, they cannot be everywhere and help everyone at once.
Ironically, in the comics, it's that reality that prevented Superman from being able to prevent Hank Henshaw from turning to evil; he couldn't reach the space shuttle Excelsior in time, and the loss of his loved ones drove Henshaw mad with hatred for Superman.
MEN OF TOMORROW
In the trailer for next week's episode of Supergirl, titled "Human For a Day," the heroine finds herself without her powers -- but still yearning to do the right thing.
That's not an unfamiliar feeling to her famous cousin, especially in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe, where he has spent a lot of his time powerless.
His current status quo involves fluctuating power levels brought on by a new power: a "super flare," which allows him to expel all of his stored-up solar energy and leaves him without powers for about a day. At the start of that storyline, writer Geoff Johns and artist John Romita, Jr., wrote a story that helped shape the post-Flashpoint Superman's relationship with Jimmy Olsen...and a scene from which seems to be recreated in the next episode of Supergirl.
In the comics, a powerless Clark and Jimmy are walking around Metropolis, Superman having just revealed his identity to Olsen, when they happen on a robbery in progress. Changing into his costume, Superman stands before the gunman and talks him down.
When Jimmy is shocked, reminding Clark how dangerous that was since he had no powers, Clark responds by asking his friend, "You think I only step in front of guns because I'm bulletproof?"
In case there was any question that the scene depicted in the trailer -- which features Supergirl standing down a gunman in similar fashion -- is a nod to the Johns/Romita run, it's worth remembering that showrunner Andrew Kreisberg recently teased in an interview that an Easter egg from Johns and Romita's "Men of Tomorrow" run was coming.
"Geoff being such a good friend of mine, I always try to sit down and read anything that he wrote, and I was really digging on his Superman run that he did with John Romita, Jr., who's one of my favorite illustrators," Kreisberg told me. "So I really loved the whole 'Men of Tomorrow' run. I thought that was a great storyline and there's a little shout-out in an upcoming episode to one of the themes in that run."
JIMMY OLSEN'S DAD
We were teased tonight with the revelation that James Olsen's father disappeared at war and never came home.
That isn't uncommon; sadly, many who go off to serve, never return. But in the comics, the story of Jimmy Olsen's father is a little more complicated than simply being killed in action.
He was a secret government agent, missing in action, and his disappearance (and the search for him) drove a lot of post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Jimmy Olsen stories, including one where he headed to an alternate dimension in search of answers.
When Supergirl shows back up again, the headlines are "SUPERGIRL RETURNS."
That's probably not really an Easter egg, but it's hard to argue that with confidence when there was a movie called Superman Returns about ten years ago...
...set in the Donner-verse, which heavily influences Supergirl.