Saturday, April 20, 2013

Superboy and Smallville through the years


Ending a controversy that has gone on for decades, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright has ruled that DC Comics (Warner Brothers) holds the rights to Superboy. He ruled that a 2001 agreement that the heirs to co-creator Jerome Siegel made with the studio included the rights to Superboy. The court had previous held that although the Jerry Siegel heirs attempted to “terminate” the rights to Superman in 1997, settlement talks with DC Comics in 2001 produced an enforceable agreement.  But the issue remained, was Superboy included?  In 2008, a federal judge in 2008 ruled that the Siegel’s 1997 termination notice did not include Superboy  but Wright wrote that the Siegels “undoubtedly intended” those works to be included. The judgment also included several ads that were produced in 1938.

This is an affectionate overview of the various incarnations of Superman and Superboy, the characters I grew up with. I thought it would be fun to show the different continuities the media have given us. You see, Superman has always been with us but Superboy has not.

Superman, by Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster is an American creation. He is the ultimate alien: undocumented, he came to this country and turned out to be its greatest hero. Secretly, Superman’s powers have often changed and they are linked to what America thinks of itself at any given period in history.

Before WWII Superman was tough, but not invulnerable (nothing less than a bursting shell could piece his skin); fast, but not super-fast. He was very strong, but not super strong. After WWII America saw itself as the most powerful nation, and, likewise, Superman became the most powerful person. During the Viet Nam era, as America lost a lot of its influence, Superman lost a lot of his powers, and they have continued to diminish until today.

There is a secret about Lois and Clark that has existed since their first screen appearance. They are not reporters and they don’t act like ones. They are detectives. In their two serials and all three TV shows, they don’t write about crimes, they solve them.

Strange Visitor from another Planet

Superman came to earth as a baby in Action Comics #1, June 1938, and quickly grew up to be Superman in the first few pages. There was no mention of a Superboy and the name Kent was never used in the few panels we saw his adoptive parents. 

In 1939, the new daily comic strip of Superman elaborated on his origin, showing us his Kryptonian parents - “Jor-L” and “Lora” (not Lara) - but, even here, he quickly became Superman, with no mention of the Kents. The Sunday strip released later the same year, showed only two panels with the baby from Krypton and still no name for the Kents. In fact, Ma and Pa Kent would not get the names “Jonathan and Martha” until 1948.
The origin of Superman was not presented in the Sunday section until November, 1945 by Wayne Boring.
The Kents are only called "Pa" and "Mother," but Pa Kent names the child "Clark" after Mother's family.

The Superman radio show, which premiered in 1940, had Superman coming to earth as an adult, landing on a farm in Iowa, near Centerville. There was no reference to Superboy or the Kents. He spoke English and knew his way around. It’s almost funny to listen to these shows now. Bud Collyer was the voice of Superman. Kryptonite was invented so he that he could take a vacation. That is, Superman would be exposed to Kryptonite and unable to speak, as Batman and Robin searched for him while Collyer vacationed!

The show also gave us, “Up in the sky! Look! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman! Yes, it's Superman--strange visitor from the planet Krypton who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, race a speeding bullet to its target, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice." The American way would be added in the 1950’s TV show.

On July 4, 1940, the New York World’s Fair hosted "Superman Day." There was a ceremony crowning of the "Superboy and Supergirl" of the day, and a public appearance by Superman, played by actor Ray Middleton.

The Fleischer brothers, whose animation studio gave us Betty Boop and Popeye, brought Superman to the movie screen in 17 shorts, from 1941-1943. (Technically they did 10; Paramount took over their studio and did the rest.) Nothing is shown of the planet Krypton (which has a green sun here). In fact, the animators seem to have borrowed the scene from Action Comics. The cartoon opens with a quick explanation of Superman’s journey to Earth and gets to the adult Clark Kent at the Daily Planet awfully quick. The cartoons (who also used Collyer as the voice of Superman) were the first to say, “"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!"”

The Kents had their breakthrough in an enjoyable novel published in 1942 entitled, “The Adventures of Superman.” It was written by George Lowther, with illustrations by Joe Shuster. The novel is written for youngsters, on the same reading level as the Hardy Boys. The book begins with the scene of Jor El telling the council about impending doom! This scene and the one following it, where Krypton explodes, have been brought to the screen, as of this writing, three times. For the first time, many of the details that fill in the early life of Superman are presented. The novel finally names Superman’s parents, called “Jor-El and Lara,” and their baby, “Kal-El.” After he arrives on Earth, Ma and Pa Kent - here called Eben and Sarah - are more fleshed out as they raise young Clark on their farm; in many ways it is close to the early years of the Smallville TV show, where Clark is gaining his powers, not having them when he arrived on earth. It’s mentioned here, for the first time, that Clark gets his first name from his mother’s maiden name, Sarah Clark. There is no Superboy here. When Pa Kent is on his deathbed, he tells young Clark that he is a Superman and should use his powers for good. It would still take Clark years to become Superman. For the first time the name Lang appears in Superman lore, as a “Miss Lang,” one of Clark’s teachers. The book also originates what will later be played out in the serial, Superman TV show, Lois and Clark and the 1978 movie: Clark shows up at the Daily Planet to apply for a job and he meets Lois Lane for the first time.

Enter: Superboy

Superboy (at last) appears in 1945’s “More Fun Comics” for 7 issues and then moves over to Adventure Comics. The stories according to the credits to the 2010 were done by Siegel and Shuster,  with additional writing by Don Cameron and Bill Finger, and art by John Sikela, George Roussos and Win Mortimer.

Tony Isabella writes: "In the case of Superboy, Siegel pitched the idea to DC and DC rejected it. Then, with Siegel in the service, DC decided it was a pretty good idea after all and launched it in More Fun Comics without Siegel’s involvement or prior knowledge.This reprint collection properly credits Siegel with the script for that first Superboy story. However, according to comics historian Bob Hughes, "the script is word for word from a Siegel-written Sunday newspaper version of Superman's origin except for the last two panels."

"Hughes believes DC lifted the newspaper script, had Shuster redraw it, and maybe had writer Don Cameron write the last couple panels. Hughes adds that Siegel was definitely in the service at the time this was done. The only difference between the new Superboy strip and Siegel's pitch was that the latter didn't have young Clark in a costume. Sound familiar, Smallville fans

These stories were a bit simpler than the then-current Superman stories, and were obviously made for a younger readership. Here we see Jor-El and Lara send their child to an unnamed town on Earth - Smallville is not mentioned. And, although the Kents are featured, they are never named, simply being addressed as Mother and Father. From the beginning of the series, the world knows of Superboy, who is about 12 years old. He saves people and fights bad guys. There is no Lana Lang here.

Superman Remembers His Past:

"That Old Class of Superboy's" from Superman #46, May/June 1947
Note that the yearbook Superman has does not mention Smallville, but
 instead says, "Metropolis High School"

In 1948, DC decided to continue Superboywithout Siegel and Shuster. When DC published Superboy comics in 1949, its second issue used the name Smallville for the first time. 

The Serials

Let's backtrack to the serials. Two Superman serials premiered in 1948 and 1950 respectively, and both starred Kirk Allyn and Noel Neil. These serials were really late-comers to the serial scene. Borrowing from the Lowther book, the serial shows us, on the screen for the first time, the planet Krypton. Krypton is a mountainous, volcanic planet orbiting a blue sun. Jor-El tries to convince a Kryptonian Council that their end is near.  These scenes would be 
repeated in the 1950’s Superman TV
show and enlarged for the Superman movie of 1978. Jor-El prepares his wife and sends Kal-El to Earth. The Kents are given longer screen time, but there is still no Superboy. The name Smallville is not mentioned. After the Kents adopt Kal-El, he has all of his powers and we see him use them as a child. As with the TV show and 1978 movie, there are scenes of a young Clark with his family. Each production would also have a big scene of Superman revealing himself to the world, something that could not be done if there was a Superboy. Ethan (Pa) Kent sends his son to Metropolis because his powers give him great responsibility (really). The Kents die soon after Clark leaves. At this time special effects were limited and Superman’s flying and some other feats were animated. We also see that Clark Kent is wearing “baggy” clothes of that era, “fat” glasses and a big hat that really does disguise him.

The pacing of the serial, which is about 250 minutes in total, broken down to fifteen episodes (called “chapters”) is very, very slow. Until DVDs, these serials were thought to have been lost. In fact, in Gary Grossman’s book, “Superman from Serial to Cereal” (1977), he thought that they may be lost forever to the public.

First mention of Superboy in the Comic Strip:

As I pointed out, originally the Superman comic strip had not mentioned Superboy or his adventures. That changed on January 7th, 1951, when Smallville invites Superman back for a celebration. His exploits are mentioned, but the character of Superboy is never shown. Wayne Boring did the artwork.

In the Sunday comics, June and July of 1958, Superman recalls his origin, his voyage to Earth and growing up. There is no mention of a Superboy here, so many feel that this was the last “origin” of the Golden Age Superman because the Silver Age Man of Steel did have Superboy.

First Movie! And Pilot for TV Show!

Superman’s next big screen adventure was in a movie, “Superman and The Mole Men” starring George Reeves and Phyllis Coates in 1951. The 58 minute movie, filmed in less than two weeks, showed none of Superman’s history, but served as the pilot for the famous TV show.

The TV show, premiering in September 1952, opens with scenes on Krypton similar to the Superman Serial. In fact, the entire look of the black and white years of the Superman TV show, (52 of 104 episodes), were very much like the serial, using the same production company. The first episode also includes Kal-El’s arrival on Earth. While there is no actual mention of Smallville, there is a brief visual at 17 minutes and 30 seconds of the Smallville Bus Depot.

 Here again there is no Superboy, but we do see, as we saw in the serial,  a young Clark Kent living with his parents. Clark moves to Metropolis before he ever becomes Superman. As in the comics and the serial, he meets Lois after he gets to Metropolis and reveals to the world that there is a Superman. Here and in the serial are the only places where Clark does not really learn about his Kryptonian past and why he was sent to Earth. In all other live-action features, Clark does.

The live-action Superman TV show had a very low budget, with two episodes filmed in a week. Phyllis Coates only appeared during the first season as Lois Lane. She didn’t exactly quit. It took some time for the producers to decide to do a second season, by which time she had joined the cast of another show. Noel Neil was then brought in as a replacement.

Miss Neil often commented on the fact that the censors warned them that there could be no relationship between her and Superman and they had to play it that way. Many fans thought they saw a spark, but really there wasn’t any. Times have changed, but they were more innocent back then. The end of each show had a commercial from Kellogg’s where Clark was seen eating the cereal. They were told that Lois could not appear in any of those scenes because it would imply that she stayed over for breakfast. So it was often Jimmy Olsen who had breakfast with Clark, never realizing what THAT was implying.

In June, 1959, George Reeves committed suicide, ending his life and the Superman series. I  remember that day. Every kid in America mourned.

However, still seeing a market for this kind of show and still having the sets, in 1961 the producers of the series created a pilot of “Superboy,” giving a young Kal-el his first on-screen appearance. Smallville was finally mentioned on film. Johnny Rockwell starred as Superboy and Bunny Henning played Lana Lang. It wasn't bad, but not good enough for the network or syndicators to produce. The worst pilot I have ever seen however remains the 1958 pilot of “Superpup.” This had actors dressed like dogs portraying a canine version Superman and Bark Bent.

There is an interesting flashback in an early 1960s Superman comic, where the principle of Clark’s school notes that even Superboy has to go to school and is attending his school under a secret identity. Well, that couldn't have been hard to figure out!

From Reeves to Reeve

The 1978 Superman movie, with Chris Reeve, put onto the screen a lot of plot and character points that would stay with Superman right up to the present day. Here, Smallville is placed in Kansas for the first time. For the first time Ma and Pa Kent are named on screen as Jonathan and Martha Kent. They are an older couple as portrayed in the comics and serials. We get a good sense of Clark’s life in Smallville, as well as a glimpse of Lana Lang. Clark is played by Jeff East, who had his voice later dubbed by Christopher Reeve. But there is no Superboy. This is interesting because the producers of the movie were to produce the TV show “Superboy” in 1989.

As always, Clark meets Lois after he gets to Metropolis and reveals to the world that there is a Superman. Metropolis, however, is moved around a lot. Sometimes it’s near Smallville, sometimes it’s the capital of the same State and sometimes as in the Superman movie, it’s in New York.

Previously, in the comics and on the screen, there was no real serious romance, or sex between Lois Lane and Superman. That changes here, and it changes forever, when Clark and Lois spend a night in the Fortress of Solitude.

Superman the movie and (much of) Superman II were filmed concurrently by the great director Richard Donner. The producers, however, fired Donner before he could complete Superman II. They hired Richard Lester to finish the second movie, and he added all the parts I don’t like. The next two movies were not directed by Richard Donner and add nothing new to Superman's history, with one interesting exception. In the third movie, Lana Lang is played by the beautiful Annette O’Toole, who will play his mother in the TV series, “Smallville.” In fact, the TV show Smallville will 'borrow' a lot of people who appeared in these movies.

Back to Books

Writer Elliot S. Maggin wrote two Superman novels, and he too put Smallville in Kansas. Maggin ignored the Superman movie continuity. In his first book, “The Last Son of Krypton” we are introduced to farmers, Jonathan and Martha Kent. Smallville is a small rural town, with one general store and one bank, and everyone seems to know each other. When Kal-El’s rocket lands on Earth, the story immediately jumps years into the future, to the city of Metropolis, where Superman is already known. Reminiscing, there is a brief mention of Superboy.

In his second book, "Miracle Monday," Maggin jumps back in time and shows us Thanksgiving in Smallville. The Kents have sold their farm and now run the town’s general store. Superboy is featured, complete with his super costume. He stops a bank robbery and kills the robbers, he rescues a forest ranger from a threatening wolf, and he “saves” a blind girl from a bumbling doctor and then helps restore her sight. There was no comic book “code” of honor here, Superboy, “dropped tyrants, heinous criminals and chronic speeders into volcanoes.” We see young Clark discovering his super-powers, such as his microscopic vision and we meet his friends, Lana Lang and Pete Ross.

When the Superman Comic book series “rebooted” in 1986, and Superman’s origin was retold, Kansas remained home to Smallville.

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

In 1986, DC Comics rebooted their universe and pressed the delete button on Superboy. But that didn’t stop the producers of the Superman movie from producing a syndicated show, “Superboy.” The irony, of course, is that their Superman movie didn’t have a Superboy, DC comics did. Here that is reversed. The show lasted four seasons.

Smallville isn't a player in the original Superboy series. The first year, John Haymes Newton plays Superboy and Stacy Haiduk plays Lana Lang. They both attend Siegel School of Journalism at Shuster University in Shusterville, Florida, giving tribute to Superman’s creators. Ma and Pa Kent are both still alive and appear in many episodes. The first season isn't very good. Many familiar villains show up in the 13 uneven episodes.

In the second season a better Superboy, Gerald Christopher takes over the role and the stories are better produced. They even change their Lex Luthor. Both actors, however, play Clark Kent not as a bumbling nerd, but as a three-dimensional character, developing himself and his powers. In actuality, only the Chris Reeve Clark Kent was a bungler on screen. And both Christopher and Haymes were really young Supermen, too old to be called Superboy.

 There was a technical change in the third season with the show now called “The Adventures of Superboy.” Lana and Clark have also changed venues, and are now working for “The Bureau for Extra-Normal Matters”

The producers, Viacom, Warner Bros. and the Salkinds fought over the rights, so the series has never seen reruns. Once they settled, Superboy, Season I was released on DVD.

But legal battles persisted. When the original producers of the Superman movies could not make licensing payments to Warner Brothers, they sold the rights to Superman IV to Golan Globus, while retaining the rights to Superboy, Supergirl and Superpup. However, Warner put a lien on these properties, wanting the rights to be returned. This is speculation, but many have written it was because they wanted to take the next step and return Superman to prime-time, without a competing product in syndication.

Lois and Clark

In 1993, Lois and Clark, The New Adventures of Superman, began a four year run on ABC, with a great sense of fun. And Teri Hatcher made a spectacular Lois Lane. On screen, Clark Kent was not portrayed as the nerd or boob he was often seen as in the comics. Dean Cain portrayed Clark Kent as a real person and Superman as the' put-on', not the other way around. In fact, Cain’s performance centered around Clark much more strongly than he had ever been portrayed before. In a funny way, Superman became the supporting character and Clark was the star.
Clark is now close to his foster parents, who are still alive, and he sees them often in Smallville, which is still in Kansas. This is the first time that Ma and Pa Kent will be a strong part of the adult Clark’s life. Metropolis is still near New York, however. In the serial, Ma Kent gives Clark his uniform, saying that she made it from his Kryptonian blankets. Here we see Ma Kent design and construct his uniform. Once again, Superman meets Lois as an adult.

In Lois and Clark, and later in Smallville, there is no rush to tell Superman’s Kryptonian origins. In the 16th episode entitled “foundling”, Clark learns how his parents put him into a rocket and sent him to Earth. Clark now feels his natural parents didn’t abandon him, but saved him.

Phyllis Coates plays Lois’s mother in one episode, but Beverly Garland is brought in thereafter.

Lois discovers his identity in the second season, and at its end he proposes to her. While there were many false starts, Lois and Clark finally tie the knot in the fourth season in an episode called, “Swear To God, This Time We're Not Kidding." For the first time, DC coordinated a TV episode with their comics, which also had the wedding of Superman and Lois. In the final episode of the year, Lois and Clark find a baby on their doorstep and, - apparently - a cancellation notice.

And then came Smallville

All versions of Superman borrow from their previous versions, and the Smallville TV show is no exception. What we have seen is that, often concurrently, the Superman myth takes two separate routes:

The first, seen in the original comics and Lowther’s novel, is that there was no Superboy, Clark Kent grows to manhood, slowly gaining his powers as he matures. Then he leaves the farmland of a small town in the Midwest, often called Smallville, and “premieres” as Superman in the great Metropolis. And
about this time he meets Lois Lane, Luthor and a host of villains.

The second version is that Clark gains his powers upon arrival on Earth and becomes a Superboy at age 12-15. He meets all his villains for the first time at that young age, not when he gets older. Clarks grows to manhood and moves to Metropolis, where he meets Lois Lane.

There is no Superboy in the Smallville show. Tom Welling the star, born in 1977, was 24 years old when the series premiered in 2001. Kristin Laura Kreuk, who played Lana Lang, was 19. So although they are shown attending High School, and are 15 years old, our senses tell us that they are really older than that. And that’s important because these characters, all orphans, are basically independent adults. Lana will run a business - a coffee shop, Chloe, Allison Mack, will be a reporter. They are all doing adult, grown up things.

The town of Smallville and Smallville High School become major players as most events happen here. In fact, if you are watching the shows for the first time, count the fatalities that occur at that one small high school! And no one investigates!!!

The first year was rather bumpy and the show became the “kryptonite of the week” program. Well, we knew what it was, they called it “meteor rock.” They had a lot of characters to introduce and they wanted to show viewers that they were NOT the ones they were familiar with. Jonathan and Martha Kent were much younger than we had ever seen and were involved in their son’s life and developing powers. The center of the show, and what it did best, was the developing relationship between Clark and Luthor. Lionel Luthor (John Glover) is introduced in the very first episode and becomes a regular in the second season. He is so distant from his son that we think Luthor is also an orphan. Clark and Lex start out as friends, but we know what is going to happen. We also know that any relationship with Lana will eventually fail. Chloe is the wild card; she was never in any Superman chronology, as pointed out by the Legion of Super Heroes when they came to visit.

They tease us with Superman’s continuity, starting in the first episode. Kryptonite is introduced, the “S” logo is used for Smallville. Lana, seeing that Clark is reading Nietzsche, asks “Are you man or superman?” Lana goes to her parents' gravesite and says her parents were killed when she was three years old, during the meteor shower that occurred when Kal-El’s rocket landed. This makes her a year or so older than the infant Kal-El. Also, the gravesite gives the date of her parents' deaths as 1989. Lana states she was three years old when they died, which means that in 2001, Lana is 15, still in high school but looking older. Clark would be 13-14. Luthor, by the way, states that he was 9 years old when he lost his hair in 1989, so he is then 7 years older than Clark.

The first season also establishes the ground rules, not unlike the comic, that would run throughout the series. Clark, of course, never kills anyone. There is no Superman costume and Clark doesn't fly. By the 7th season, this had become annoying. In the Superman movie, Kal-El studies with Jor-El for 12 years to discover his origin and powers, which only takes 20 minutes of screen time. Here, it takes Clark 10 years - and 200 hours of screen time - to do the same.

The second season continues mostly from the first, with Clark finding out more about Krypton and his family. This season also begins to introduce guest stars from other Superman projects (mostly the Chris Reeve movies) including Reeve, Terrance Stamp, Margot Kidder, Jeff East, Marc McClure, Teri Hatcher, Dean Cain, and so many others. We also get the first appearance of Red Kryptonite. In terms of the story, John Glover returns as Lionel Luthor and substitutes, actually, for the evil Luthor we know his son will grow up to be. There is a strong statement that Lex might have grown up to be a nice guy if he was raised by a decent family.

I was totally touched by what I consider Smallville’s greatest episode, “Rosetta,” featuring Christopher Reeve. It was a wonderful, moving and important episode that passed the torch from one generation to another. Until the last few episodes of season 10, Smallville had not used any of the John Williams movie music. Except here, they use it for Christopher Reeve. And they end it with a personal plea from both Supermen to help find a cure for the spinal injury that paralyzed Chris Reeve.

I suspect this has to do with the economics of the show, but there was a yearly exit of established characters. The first to go was Lana’s boyfriend, banished after the first season. The third season saw the exit of Pete Ross, Clark’s best friend and keeper of his secret. But rather than just deleting his character, he was kind of merged in Chloe, who became his best friend and also one of the first of many of his secret keepers. 

The most important part of the fourth and fifth season was the introduction of Lois Lane. Very different from any other major Superman continuity, Lois comes to Smallville and meets Clark before he becomes Superman. Previously, she had always met him at the Daily Planet in Metropolis. We know that they will get close, not only because of the characters' history, but because they dislike each other when they meet on screen. This is movie formula, when you know a couple will eventually find each other. In fact, while we always got a scene where Clark applies for his job, Smallville will eventually give us a scene, for the first time, of Lois applying for hers. 

Clark would finish high school but would NOT finish college, another break from most Superman continuities. Neither would Lois. How Clark and Lois, without college degrees in journalism, are considered qualified for their jobs at the Daily Planet, I’ll never know. 

The sixth season has another exit for a main character, as Jonathan Kent bites the dust in the 100th epdisode. But, don’t worry. In modern times, death is not fatal to comic book characters and Jonathan will be back. Slowly though, we can see Superman’s future. Versions of the members of the Justice League, the Flash, Green Arrow, Aquaman and later the Martian Manhunter and Black Canary, are slowly being brought in. In fact, Aquaman (Arthur Curry) asks Clark if he’d like to start a Junior Lifeguard Association. Clark responds, “I’m not ready for a JLA.” But he would be ready, in January 2009, for a visit by the Legion of Super-Heroes.

At this point it was nothing but fun to watch them play with the Superman continuities and I really enjoyed the show. Often, they would make you feel they were going a familiar way with a character or event, but then change it.

We interrupt Smallville for the next Superman Movie: Superman Returns

This is not just a bad movie, it's also a conflicting one. This movie came out at the same time as Smallville’s 5th season in 2006. It featured different actors, Brandon Routh as Superman, Kate Bosworth as Lois and Kevin Spacey as Luthor. It really wants to be Superman III from the 1978 series, erasing the terrible Superman III and IV movies. The movie doesn’t just conflict with the Smallville continuity; it destroys the relationship between Lois and Clark.  At the end of the picture, Lois is married to someone else (an X-Men, James Marsden, no less) and they are raising Clark’s child. How unsatisfying is that? 


The 7th season of Smallville was the last special season of the show. By now Clark (and Tom Welling) is an adult, and to a great extent, the Smallville part of his life - High School and the beginning of college - is over. Metropolis is calling and Clark spends more and more time there. Annette O’Toole is also gone. While I am sure this is due to budgetary reasons, Clark is shown no longer needing his doting mother. It's time to finally have Clark fly and become Superman. They do something very interesting to delay this and keep it in Smallville: They introduce the gorgeous Laura Vandervoort as Supergirl, Kal-El’s Kryptonian cousin. Miss Vandervoort is not miscast, but is mislabeled. At age 22, she is a Superwoman. While the story around Clark/Luthor and Clark/Lois is developing, Supergirl actually replaces the role of young “Clark” and Clark takes over the role of “Jonathan Kent,” supervising his cousins growth and wanting to stay in Smallville. Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the movie, appears here as Lara, Clark’s  birth mother. With Lois Lane now a regular, Aaron Ashmore joins the show as Jimmy Olsen. He becomes the love interest for Chloe, eliminating a love triangle that existed from the beginning (Clark/Lana/Chloe).

Although Lana and Clark get close in the 7th season, we know that all roads will lead to their breaking up and Lois becoming the girlfriend. Since Smallville was developing a pattern of eliminating salaries and the stars that get them, I wondered how they would make Lana depart. In season 7 Lana feels her staying in Smallville only inhibits Clark from reaching his full potential, so she leaves. The next season she gains super-powers and Kryptonite blood (you think I'm making this up?) and discovers that she can’t go near Clark Kent or keep her name in the main titles. 

Seasons 8, 9 and most of 10, often became a modern version of the previous Lois and Clark incarnation as the two developed their relationship. So I was ready for Superman.  Smallville started off as WB’s top rated show, with roughly 7-8,000,000 viewers. It's last years drew 2,500,000 viewers so the audience was mostly done with the show. 

Many characters from the DC Universe were brought in, in one form or another. We see Clark develop his “phony” Kent exterior after he visits the future, and with the Legion of Super Heroes, the future visits him. Season 10 also had so many of the previous co-stars come back for individual or several episodes. But, I just found myself waiting for the debut of Superman in Metropolis. 

Instead, for a few episodes, I got Superboy. But not the one you’d think. In a story arc that borrowed from the Superboy comics, Luthor had created a clone named Alexander. Now, get this, it was a clone of him and Clark. So Alexander (later called Conner) has Clark’s powers and Luthor’s intellect. That Clark and Lex could have a child together is disturbing and the lack of a woman here is also troubling. Tess takes over the mother role and along with Clark, sees that Conner, who grows to his teenage years in weeks, can grow past his evil side and become a good person. Clark takes Connor back to Smallville and enrolls him in Smallville High as “Conner Kent.” Now Connor is the closest thing to Superboy that this series has ever had! But did anyone notice that the school does not have parents listed for him or a next of kin or anything. They don’t have a birth certificate for gosh sakes. And after he enrolls, the series takes leave of him and we never know what happens.

 We all knew that season 10 would be the last. Through the miracle of parallel universes Lionel Luthor returns. When someone recognizes him he says, "Mr Luthor what are you doing here?" And Lionel replies, “I just wanted to see how everything works out.” Well so did I!

When things end, in the two hour final episode, it seems that by now everyone in Smallville knows that Clark is Superman! Lex Luthor returns (See! Comic Book people don’t die) and shows Clark what evil he will inspire and create. This causes Clark to realize he needs flights and tights and a big “S” on his chest. Tess Mercer meets her end at the hands of Luthor, so she does not have to appear in any Superman continuity. And, of all people, Chloe opens and ends the show, having figured it all out.  Welling wears the Superman costume from Superman Returns.  Oh, and Lois and Clark try to tie the knot, but are interrupted. The story takes us seven years into the future and they still haven’t gotten married. Why show seven years in the future? Well, Luthor becomes 35 and eligible to run for president!

Most important: The final scene takes place in the future, and DC comics still cost $2.99.

2013: Man of Steel

The movies  ignore Superboy, while the TV shows often include him. There was no Superboy in this Smallville, Kansas.  We know this town is Smallville because of the signs on the buses, water towers and Sears store. In flashbacks that featured Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) and Ma Kent (Diane Lane) we see the growth of the alien boy into the man of steel. There a few changes here too. Ma Kent does not make his costume; it is given to him by Jor-El. And, in a major flaw of the movie, Pa Kent tells Clark that he might have to let people die rather than reveal his identity. This is not the Pa Kent I knew, or wanted to know, and a major shift in the character. Later, young Clark Kent watches as his father dies in a dust storm, something all other Superboys would have prevented, no matter what the cost.

The newest Superboy, the newest Superman, does not have the humanity that once made him super.

A special thanks goes out to eagle eyed Ron Imes for spotting the Smallville Bus sign!


  1. Fascinating stuff, Barry. I've never watched Smallville, but your article was worth it for that picture of Supergirl (Laura Vandervoort) alone. Can you get me her 'phone number?

  2. Other than to use her picture there was no reason to discuss Supergirl in this blog.