Superman in “The Space Refugees”

Today I’ll take a quick look at one of the six-minute Filmation Superboy cartoon shorts. The episode comes from the third season, when it was airing as part of a show called The Batman/Superman Hour, which featured short cartoons starring Clark, as a adult and as an child, as well as other DC-owned superheroes. I believe there is a continuity of production between these cartoons and the better known Super-Friends cartoons of the seventies, so if you are familiar with that show, you understand the level of animation we’ve got here.

“The Space Refugees”

SUMMARY

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In a “remote, uninhabited” valley we find two groups of inhabitants in conflict. A trio of humans with guns, led by a man named Blore, are firing upon an alien spaceship that has landed there. When Superboy and Krypto arrive to check out the commotion, they learn that the aliens are the only survivors of the planet Zerg. They came to this valley because no one lived there and it resembled their native terrain. Blore tells Superboy to get the aliens to leave, but the hero refuses. Instead, he wishes the refugees good luck and, before flying off, tells the human gang, “I suggest you don’t cause these people any more trouble.”

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But Blore and his gang want the aliens gone. They’ve hidden as stash of diamonds near where the spaceship has landed and can’t get at it while they’re there. Spying on the refugees, they learn that the aliens have a device that encourages plant growth and, by surreptitiously turning up the power, the humans cause the a chain reaction of exploding plants throughout the valley. Superboy notices the explosions and saves the day, but the refugees have no idea what caused their machine to go awry.

Having run out of ideas that are remotely subtle, Blore and the gang then try shooting at the aliens’ equipment, which drives the refugees to take cover in a nearby cave. Blore uses dynamite to collapse the entrance, trapping the aliens. Fortunately, this is noticed by Krypto, who brings Superboy back to the valley to help. The hero does indeed save the trapped refugees, in the process noticing the stash of diamonds in the cave, thus surmising the gang’s motive. Having now put the details of their scheme together, Superboy and Krypto round up the gang to face the law.

Superboy decides that the diamonds are now the property of the refugees from Zerg. They want to share the wealth with Krypto for his help, but Superboy insists the wealth would just go to the dog’s head.

Original Air Date: 19 October, 1968

SUPERMAN VS. BIGOTS?

This is a story in which a gang tries to use violence to drive off refugees, there’s no getting around that. But the criminals in this story are more explicitly motivated by their desire to get the aliens out of the picture so they can reach their stash of diamonds. Even as sci-fi allegories for race relations go, this setup is weak as far as stories of Superman fighting Bigotry, but there are still elements in there that help get the point across. For example, when the humans call the aliens things like “those foreigners.”

But there is one exchange that made me want to include the episode:

Blore: “Send them on their way, Superboy. We don’t need any aliens on Earth.”

Superboy: “That’s a lot of hogwash. These folks need a place to live. I know. I too came to Earth for refuge when my world exploded.”

I’ve said it before, but the 60s weren’t the best for Superman stories that explicitly address this stuff, so having a cartoon that stands up for refugees and reminds the audience that Clark came here as one is a win as far as I’m concerned.

STRAY THOUGHTS

  • Superboy gives the diamonds to the refugees, even going so far as to say he’ll go fill out the paperwork to officially stake a claim on the spot for them. But that treasure wasn’t a vein waiting to be mined. That was a pile of cut diamonds, presumably stolen by Blore and the gang from someone else. I’m happy the people of Zerg got a win and all, but surely someone is missing it.
  • Unlike when I’ve covered episodes of the radio show, I’ve found little written about this episode, so the spellings of Blore, Zerg, and Marsy are all my own guesses.
  • Which reminds me, I forgot to mention: near the end of the story Clark addresses one of the aliens as “Marsy” and I have to assume it is his name and we were just not shown the part where they make proper introductions. But I also have to note, if I were going to come up with a patronizing, slightly insulting name to call aliens when I don’t know their actual name, Marsy would be an option I’d consider.

GOOD DOG

I believe this is the first of these articles in which we’ve had cause to mention Krypto. For any who do not know, Krypto the Superdog is a Kryptonian dog who first appeared in Superboy’s comic and is a good dog.

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