Monday, May 17, 2010

Dames to Watch Out For: Ursa in Superman 1 and 2

Our lady of the hour, Ursa, as played by Sarah Douglas

Until very recently, the character or Ursa had never appeared in the Superman comics. If you were a kid and able to get to the movies around 1980, its likely you remember Ursa as the escaped Phantom Zone criminal, condemned to a living death for all eternity at the opening of Superman: The Movie, and who wreaked havoc on Earth in Superman II as the ruthless triggerman for the tyrannical General Zod.

Kryptonian technology is based almost entirely around hoola-hoops and klieg lights.

The character of Ursa from the film would most likely find her counterpart in Faora Hu-Ul, who did work a bit with General Zod and Jax-Ur in the comics. I kind of like when Faora appears in a back issue. She's one ruthless villain, and I imagine the DC writers (like creator Cary Bates) had fun getting to write the character.

In the first two Superman films, Ursa is played by the lovely Sarah Douglas. Douglas would go on to be featured in several projects such as Conan the Destroyer, Solarbabies, The Return of the Swamp Thing, and many TV shows. She has also loaned her voice to several superhero related animated projects, including the terrific 90's-era Superman cartoon, where she played Phantom Zone convict, Mala.

A totally different take on "She's the Sheriff"

It must have been a kick to play Zod, Ursa and Non on the sets of Superman 1 and 2 (although Jack O'Halloran who played Non clearly did not enjoy the shift when Donner was fired off Superman 2, and the producers hired Richard Lester to complete the movie). Ursa seems most taken with the newfound powers of the Phantom Zone criminals, openly delighted with the powers and the ability to raise all holy hell across North America, whether its arm-wrestling a local red neck through the table, or taking a badge off the chest of a trembling police officer and adding it to her own outfit.

Ursa reheats her letfovers from Popeyes Chicken. Always a favorite of Kryptonians.

My memories of seeing Superman: The Movie in the theater is primarily a hazy recollection of how excited I was after the movie, but I actually do remember seeing Superman II. It was unusual for a movie to feature a female villain who did much but tried to seduce a hero and/ or give the hero's love interest a hard time. True to form, during the climax, Ursa is assigned to Lois-wrangling duty (no mean feat), and is ultimately dispatched by Superman's girlfriend, who declares the mass-murderer of two planets a "pain in the neck".

While plainly evil and likely to snap your neck like a twig, one can't help but appreciate Ursa's moxie. She's clearly the stone-cold-killer of the triumvirate, and unlike Zod, seems more interested in small-scale havoc and terror than ruling anyone in particular. Yet, she makes a shiny black jumpsuit work, and she isn't afraid to throw a high kick in heels.


She's the one tossing manhole covers at Superman's breadbasket, blowing kisses that knock over cars, and calling "Sooper-Man!" before taking her best shot at The Man of Steel from her sneak attack location.

Following the events of Superman 2, her partnership with Zod a failure and her powers removed by the red radiation in the Fortress of Solitude, Ursa would join and ultimately front British-goth-punk outfit "The Banshees" under the name "Siouxsie Sioux".

Ursa considers killing every single person in the crowd for not showing her proper deference.

In 2006, former Richard Donner intern Geoff Johns took over as writer on the Superman comic "Action Comics", and wasted no time in bringing a version of Zod, Non and Ursa to the comics. The characters are based very closely upon the Superman 1 and 2 characters, with an expanded background and role in the comics.

No more shiny black jumpsuit for our space-crook

So we say huzzah for Sarah Douglas as Ursa. She set a new standard for ass-kicking villainy from here to Krypton.


Anonymous said...

Great post! Yeah, it was very unusual back then to have a female in the bad guy's gang do the dirty work. Don't forget her worst killing kicking that poor astronaut to death!

The League said...

Ha! Yeah, as a kid, I remember that kick freaking me out quite a bit. That's how I knew these were BAD bad guys.

Just a great character played well by a talented actor.