This isn’t exactly a hot news item, and it’s not really an unearthed treasure from the history of television obscura, but it’s just too good not to share.
While reading John Kenneth Muir’s insanely comprehensive The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television the other day, I came across something very interesting in the episode guide for the first season of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s syndicated series The Adventures of Superboy.
The show’s 19th episode, entitled “Little Hercules” and first airing on April 15, 1989, revolved around a bullied kid named Billy Hercules who inadvertently triggers a U.S. submarine’s nuclear missile launch sequence, and obviously only Superboy can save the day. Blah blah blah, whatever. The most interesting thing about this episode, and therefore the most interesting thing to be found in the first season of The Adventures of Superboy, was the actor who played the hapless geeks who dreams of becoming Superboy just so he can show those meanies what for: Leaf Phoenix, or as he’s better known these days, Oscar-nominee Joaquin Phoenix.
You can see the video of young Joaquin thrash and bash the bullies in a taste of his Superboy guest spot here below.
The future Gladiator and Walk the Line star who recently returned from an acting sabbatical he took with the intention of starting a rap career that failed miserably (and may or may not have been a joke depending on your perspective) was only 14 years old with a handful of television and minor film credits to his name when he appeared on The Adventures of Superboy. Not long after the “Little Hercules” episode aired Phoenix would turn up in an integral supporting part in Ron Howard’s comedy-drama Parenthood and thereafter begin to be taken seriously as an actor. It wouldn’t be until his performance as a sullen teenager driven to murder for unrequited love in Gus Van Sant’s 1995 dark comedy To Die For that Joaquin Phoenix would finally emerge as a major acting talent.
It’s interesting to note that at the same time Phoenix was daydreaming of becoming Superboy his older brother River was playing a young Indiana Jones. As the tagline on the poster for 1984’s Supergirl read, “Adventure runs in the family!”