The following contains spoilers for Stargirl Season 3, Episode 1, “Chapter 1: The Murder,” which debuted Wednesday, August 31 on The CW.
In the early 2000s, superhero adaptations struggled for legitimacy. Shows like the CW are still unmatched Smallville eschewed comic book staples in favor of grounding the story as much as possible. On the big screen, x-men and batman begins approached their plots with courage, darkness and no big colorful costumes. 20 years later, Stargirl: Frenemies goes in the exact opposite direction – with the CW series leaning into the campy traditions of comic book TV.
After eight live-action iterations of Batman, Adam West’s take on the character seems cartoonish and silly – but for any kid watching the 1960s series, it was serious business. Cesar Romero’s Joker, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, and the other colorful villains acted as legitimate threats to the Dynamic Duo. To the parents of the children? They were a riot of laughter. The actors imbued their performances with an exaggerated campiness that won over the audience. Everyone was laughing with Batman. In Stargirl: Frenemies, the heroes are keeping things very serious, especially Brec Bassinger’s Courtney Whitmore. But the villains are diving headlong into the campy lore that Romero, Gorshin and the others established.
At the end of Stargirl: Summer School (the Season 2 storyline), the new Justice Society of America and the Injustice Society teamed up to dispatch Eclipso. Season 3 begins with villains and heroes living side by side. It’s a fantastic place to start a story, in which the heroes uncomfortably try to resist good neighborly overtures from their former adversaries. Not everyone is happy about this, and it will definitely increase the tension.
The standout performance in the premiere comes from Eric Goins, who plays Steven Sharpe/The Gambler with over-the-top Southern gentlemanly flair through Foghorn Leghorn. In every scene, he’s almost a cartoonish caricature of a comic book villain. Yet Goins is still able to imbue his performance with subtextual layers. By the end of the episode, the audience actually feels for this literally mustache-twirling villain. Neil Hopkins and Joy Osmanski portray Sportsmaster and Tigress as both aggressively friendly and coldly dangerous. Even Kron Moore and Gilbert Glenn Brown’s Dr Bridget and James Chapel – not bad guys but bad parents – have turned to camp as they try to make up for neglecting their daughter Beth, played by Anjelika Washington .
Of Arrow through batman, the CW offered kid-friendly stories in the vein of early superhero adaptations. The costumes were more colorful and true to the comics, but tried to ground the drama as best they could. Although there are elements of fun and camp in these shows, star girl is one of the first modern projects to target that sweet spot previously occupied by the West classic Batman. Luckily, with so many live-action adaptations of superhero properties today, studios are starting to remember that these stories can be funny too. Marvel takes a look at comedy with She-Hulk: Lawyerand DC’s latest movie in theaters marked the start of a new animated universe for DC’s League of Super Pets.
Which makes Stargirl: Frenemies so amusing is how the actors playing the villains immediately start chewing up the scenery. Balancing the superhero camp with the show’s serious drama requires walking a fine line. star girl is one of the few series that can succeed.
Stargirl: Frenemies airs Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. on The CW.
. Frenemies leans on lore television comedy Campy