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Jewish survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp,
"villain" from Superboy Season 1, Episode 3: "Back to Oblivion" (1988)
Superboy Season 1, Episode 3: "Back to Oblivion"
Airdate: 22 October 1988
Written by Fred Freiberger.
Mr. Wagner was the principle guest star and the antagonist on episode 3 of season 1 of the late 1980s live action TV series Superboy. In this episode, titled "Back to Oblivion," the character "Mr. Wagner" was played by veteran character actor Abe Vigoda.
"Mr. Wagner" is a Jewish survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was held prisoner during World War II. Mr. Wagner was experimented on by Nazis while he was held prisoner. During this time, much of his family was killed by Nazis.
15 years after the war, Mr. Wagner arrived in the United States. A Daily Planet story that Lana Lang found from that time noted Mr. Wagner's arrival, the headline noting that he was a celebrated and renowned physicist. Mr. Wagner was originally known as a kind, saintly man. He became the proprietor of a junkyard near Shuster, the college town in Florida where Lana Lang and Clark Kent attend college. Lana recalled the time that Mr. Wagner, at his own expense, towed a wrecked vehicle to the college campus as part of a demonstration of what can happen when people use the cocaine-based drug known as "crack." (The vehicle had been wrecked in a fatal accident when it was driven by a young man high on crack.)
Eventually Mr. Wagner became mentally unhinged as his mind fixated on the war, his past incarceration and the deaths of his family members. The repercussions of the Nazi experiments on him probably also contributed to his mental instability.
Mr. Wagner barricaded himself in his junkyard, which he rigged with sophisticated ad hoc defensive mechanisms. He was able to remotely control the machinery and explosives in his junk yard to trap or attack people. In this episode, Clark Kent and his friend T.J. (a fellow student reporter for the college newspaper) investigate reports of strange things at the junk yard. Another student who had gone there reported weird things there.
When T.J. and Clark go to the junk yard, Mr. Wagner tries to kill them. Originally, T.J. goes to the junk yard alone, and is almost killed when Mr. Wagner traps him in a garbage crusher. Fortunately, Clark Kent hears T.J.'s cries for help. Clark turns into Superboy and saves T.J.
Later, when T.J. relates his experience to Lana Lang and Clark Kent, Lana defends Mr. Wagner, recounting her positive experiences with him, including the time he towed the wrecked vehicle to the college campus. Lana offers to help Mr. Wagner get some food. He looks like he has eaten little in recent times and apparently never leaves his junk yard now.
When T.J. and Clark reallize that Lana went to Mr. Wagner's junk yard, they become concerned and they go there, too. Mr. Wagner has by then become convinced that Lana is his deceased granddaughter. Mr. Wagner, observing their arrival on a television monitor, believes that Clark Kent and T.J. are Nazis who have come to kill him or his family.
Mr. Wagner tries to kill both Clark Kent and T.J. Fortunately, Clark Kent's invulnerability prevents him from being killed when Mr. Wagner tries to kill him by dropping a massive amount of cement and metal junk on him. Clark Kent changes into his Superboy guise and saves T.J.
Further spooked upon seeing Superboy approaching their location, Mr. Wagner further barricades himself with Lana, his frightened prisoner. Mr. Wagner rigs the room they are hiding in with explosives that will cause the death of anyone who enters the door as well as anybody in the room, including himself and Lana. With his super-hearing, Superboy hears about the explosives because he is nearby, outside the room when Mr. Wagner explains all this to Lana. Superboy simply goes through a wall instead of going through the booby-trapped door. Mr. Wagner tries to shoot Superboy, who easily catches the bullet. A shocked and frightened Mr. Wagner collapses, as if having a heart attack. He does not die, however, and as he is taken to the hospital, it is noted that he will be okay. Clearly he will need psychiatric evaluation and care.
This episode was the only appearance of "Mr. Wagner." Although it is true that Mr. Wagner was the antagonist of the episode and thus the story's "villain," he wasn't really evil or "villainous." Mr. Wagner's reclusiveness and eventually his potentially murderous behavior was caused by his insanity and paranoia. Mr. Wagner's insanity was really a result of his concentration camp incarceration and the experiments conducted on him by the Nazis.
Ultimately, the Nazis were the real "villains" of this episode, even though there are no Nazis in this story. At the end of the episode, Clark and his friends bemoan the "hatred and persecution" that the Nazis caused and Clark Kent notes that Superboy "fights against hatred and persecution."[Timecode: 6 minutes, 6 seconds. T.J. rushes up to a building, just as Clark Kent and Lana Lang are exiting.]
T.J.: Clark, Clark! You're not gonna believe what just happened to me!
Clark Kent: I know you went off by yourself again, man. I appreciate that!
T.J.: Hey! Would you listen to me! Look... That Wagner, man, that maniac Wagner just tried to kill me!
Lana Lang: Mr. Wagner? He wouldn't even hurt a fly.
T.J.: Yeah? Well, if Superboy hadn't shown up out of nowhere I'd be dead and buried under a ton of his junk! That's a nice man?! Listen, he's really scary! He looks like a skeleton!
Lana Lang: Oh, he's overweight if anything, T.J.
T.J.: Yeah, well, if he's overweight, I'm . . . uh, a sumo wrestler!
Lana Lang: Yeah!
Clark Kent: I like that.
Lana Lang: You know, he goes out of his way to help, like when we did that-- That campaign on drug abuse. Remember the car that was totalled by Arthur . . .?
Clark Kent: Omanoff?
Lana Lang: Omanoff, yeah. When he was high on crack. It ended up in Wagner's junkyard.
T.J.: Well, so what?
Lana Lang: He towed it to the campus free of charge. We put this sign on it: "Crack Kills." Talk about effective. For weeks nobody took a hit of anything.
T.J.: That's fine, Lana. But that's ancient history. Modern times: the man is a psycho! Fine. I'm callin' the cops!
Clark Kent: Don't--
Lana Lang: You can't! T.J.!
T.J.: Oh, yeah? Well, watch me.
[T.J. walks away. Lana speaks to Clark.]
Lana Lang: Hey, um . . . What Mr. Wagner needs is a friend.
Clark Kent: Go tell that to T.J.
[Walks away from Clark, shouting after T.J. as she goes.]
Lana Lang: T.J.! Now, don't do anything stupid.
Clark Kent: I'll see you guys later.
[End of scene. In the next scene, we see Lana Lang drive up to Mr. Wagner's junkyard. She exits the car carrying a bag of groceries which she intends to give to Mr. Wagner. Mr. Wagner sees her coming and escorts her into his "command center", a makeshift room inside a building in the center of the junk yard. Lana Lang offers Mr. Wagner the food she brought. He hungrily eats a loaf of bread. Timecode: 10 minutes, 26 seconds.]
Lana Lang: How long has it been since you've had anything to eat?
Mr. Wagner: I eat what I can find.
Lana Lang: But, there's a supermarket two blocks away. Do you have money?
Mr. Wagner: I have money. But who dares to go out? They throw stones.
Lana Lang: I heard about that. Just rowdy kids.
Mr. Wagner: No, no, not kids, Lena. [Mr. Wagner thinks that Lana Lang is his granddaughter, Lena.] Grown-ups. Men, women, children. People who were once our neighbors turned on us.
Lana Lang: You're confusing me with somebody else, Mr. Wagner. My name is not "Lena." It's Lana. Lana Lang?
Mr. Wagner: Oh, my poor liebchen.[German for "sweetheart"] That's the way of the Gestapo. They brainwash . . . taking away your identity, to make nothing of a person.
[Lana Lang begins to look visibly frightened and worried. She finally realizes something is seriously wrong with Mr. Wagner.]
Lana Lang: Mr. Wagner, World War II has been over for more than forty years. There is no more Gestapo.
Mr. Wagner: That is their method!
[Mr. Wagner's face is furious. He puts his hands on the sides of Lana Lang's face. She gasps.]
Mr. Wagner: They twist minds . . . making you think of things that never happened. In their drive for power they will destroy the human race if necessary.
[Cut to outside of junk yard. Clark Kent and T.J. arrive by car. Clark Kent tells T.J. to stay put while he goes in to retrieve Lana. Then cut back to interior where Mr. Wagner and Lana Lang are. Lana tries to leave, but Mr. Wagner won't let her.]
Lana Lang: Um, I've got to go, Mr. Wagner. I've got a class that starts at three o'clock.
Mr. Wagner: No, no, no, no! I let you leave once, I will not make that mistake twice. You must stay here where I can protect you.
[An alarm sounds. Mr. Wagner looks up at his television monitor. He sees Clark Kent entering the junk yard.]
Mr. Wagner: They are here again!
Lana Lang: No, that's Clark.
Mr. Wagner: Don't worry, Lena. I will not let them get you. [Speaking into microphone that broadcasts audio via loudspeakers throughout the junk yard.] Go away or you will all die!
[T.J. hears this and, worried, gets out of the car to go help. Mr. Wagner flips a switch and junks a massive amount of junk on top of Clark.]
Mr. Wagner:[Into microphone.] You will never get my granddaughter again!
[Mr. Wagner almost blows up T.J., who is approaching the building they are in. Clark eventually escapes from the junk, changes into Superboy, and saves T.J. Before that, Lana lunges toward the door, trying to get away and also help Clark, although she thinks he is probably dead from all the junk that was dropped on him.]
Lana Lang: Clark!
Mr. Wagner: Don't worry, Lena. They'll never takes us alive.
Lana Lang: Stop it. You're killing them.
Mr. Wagner: Yes! So they won't kill us!
Lana Lang: Let me go.
Mr. Wagner: No!
Lana Lang: Please!
Mr. Wagner: No!!
[Superboy's struggle against a garbage crusher he was trapped in causes an electrical short, knocking power out in Mr. Wagner's "command post." Mr. Wagner exits the room to see what the problem is. He leaves Lana Lang locked in the room. While Mr. Wagner is gone, Lana searches for a way out. She finds an old newspaper with Mr. Wagner's photo and a story about him coming to America. The headline reads: "Noted Physicist Arrives in United States Today." Mr. Wagner finds Lana reading the newspaper. She is still trapped, but not where he left her.]
Mr. Wagner: What are you doing in here?!
Lana Lang: Mr. Wagner, look. Look at your picture. In the Daily Planet. Look. Look at the date. Fifteen years after the war.
Mr. Wagner: Have I not told you how diabolical they are? How they brainwash?
[Superboy, having rescued T.J., arrives at the building Mr. Wagner is holed up in. Superboy tears off a locked outer door. Mr. Wagner hears this.]
Mr. Wagner: My barricades. They are breaking through. They're smashing our defenses!
[Mr. Wagner wails insanely.]
Lana Lang: Mr. Wagner, listen to me. Mr. Wagner. Mr. Wagner, listen to me. Listen to the Daily Planet.
[Superboy continues tearing through layers of junk barricading the way to rescue Lena. The sounds of this are heard noisily in the room where Lena and Mr. Wagner are located.]
Mr. Wagner: Do not be afraid, Lena.
Lana Lang: I'm not afraid. And there's no reason for you to be afraid any more. [Lana reads the newspaper.] Look: "Professor Wagner is one of the survivors of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where he was the subject of inhumane medical experiments. He is to conduct a series of lectures at Metropolis University."]
[The sound of Superboy smashing through junk barricades can be heard. But in Mr. Wagner's mind, he hears the sound of Gestapo soldiers. He can hear the stomp of boots and commands being shouted in German. He hears a door opening ominously. There is a far off look on his face.]
Lana Lang: Mr. Wagner?
Mr. Wagner: We still have one way.
[Mr. Wagner rigs the door to the room to explode if somebody opens it.]
Mr. Wagner: You are safe now, Lena. If anybody comes through that door, 300 pounds of dynamite will blow up in their faces.
[Superboy is right outside the door. He hears Mr. Wagner say this.]
Lana Lang: What about us?
Mr. Wagner: We die with . . . with dignity and honor.
Lana Lang: No! We die because of a mistake! This is all a terrible mistake!
[Superboy crashes through a wall.]
Superboy: Are you all right?
[Lana Lang leaves Mr. Wagner's side and goes to Superboy, who holds the frightened but relieved young woman in his arms.]
Lana Lang: I'm fine. But Clark-- He's dead.
Superboy: No. No, he's not. He's all right.
Lana Lang: Are you sure?
[Superboy nods yes. Superboy knows that Clark Kent is all right because he is secretly Superboy! Mr. Wagner gasps for air and stumbles backward against a table. He whimpers, looking at Superboy in fear.]
Lana Lang: We gotta get some help for Mr. Wagner.
Mr. Wagner: You'll not get her!
[Mr. Wagner is holding a pistol. He aims at Superboy and fires. Superboy deflects the bullet.]
Mr. Wagner: Lena-- Lena, I-- I have failed you again.
[Mr. Wagner collapses. Superboy rushes to check Mr. Wagner's vital signs.]
Superboy: I'm sorry. There was no other way. He'll make it.
Lana Lang: He mustn't be blamed.
Superboy: Nobody should be blamed. Let's be grateful nobody was killed.
[Later, we see T.J. and Lana Lang talking outside the junk yard while an ambulance is on the scene. Clark Kent walks up, having apparently missed all the action. Paramedics wheel Mr. Wagner out of the building toward the ambulance. Mr. Wagner looks ill, confused. Lana Lang leans over to kiss his cheek.]
Lana Lang: Goodbye, Mr. Wagner.
Mr. Wagner: Do I know you?
[Lana Lang nods her head yes, smiling.]
Mr. Wagner: Oh, yes, yes . . . You're the girl. The one who wanted the wreck for your school campus.
Mr. Wagner puts his head back down on the pillow of the cart. The paramedics wheel him to the ambulance, away from Clark, Lana and T.J.]
T.J.: Poor old man. Guess the excitement was just too much for his heart.
Lana Lang: It wasn't the excitement, T.J. Just he couldn't find a place to hide from hate and persecution.
Clark Kent: Superboy fights hate and persecution.
T.J.: Yeah, but there's only one Superboy.
Clark Kent: I'll see you guys back at the dorm. I feel like walking.
[Clark Kent begins solemly walking home. But Lana Lang drives by him, offers him a ride, and he accepts. End of episode. Roll closing credits.]
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