The following article is another one submitted to use by Max Byrne. You may remember him from our recent “Confessions Of A DC Geek” article and his great article on DC Villains. Max is a massive DC fan – Check his YouTube vids out and see for yourself, great collection of items.
Anyway, again, our thanks to Max (Twitter: @maxybyrne), please enjoy this great article – John.
In an era where even the most casual of DC Comics fans are utterly spoilt for choice when it comes to live action TV shows to enjoy, with options ranging from the CW “Arrowverse” shows (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends Of Tomorrow and Black Lightning) to more standalone prequel shows such as Gotham and more recently, Krypton, it is easy to forget a time not that long ago where fans did not have such a huge selection to consume. Instead of the multiple nights a week menu on offer now, back in 2001 it was a very different story indeed. Prior to this time there had been various shows that come and gone, ranging from the extremely successful Lois and Clark – The New Adventures of Superman and the cancelled after one season first attempt at The Flash, to practically forgotten about shows that ran for more than a single season, such as Swamp Thing and Superboy. A show launched in October 2001 that was destined to run for 10 seasons, a lifetime in the cutthroat world of cancellations, finishing on its own terms when they hold told their story from start to finish. A show that crossed through multiple story arcs whilst maintaining its overall plan. A show that was undoubtedly responsible for laying the path that all today’s shows now follow. That show was Smallville – the story of Clark Kent’s path from boy to Superman. Without Smallville, there would be no DC TV Universe as we know it. As I will explain below, there are several key reasons why this show should always be respected and revered.
No Flights, No Tights
This was always the mantra of the show producers. They wanted to tell the story of Clark Kent, not Superman. Superman had been portrayed several times before the show ran, so save for a couple of tantalising glimpses into the future (and the very last episode of the show, which I will come back to later), viewers never got to see the Superman costume, never got to see Clark fly and never got to see him as the finished article. It humanised the character, showing that he could be flawed and that perfection was something that would come with experience. This Clark Kent was coming to terms with his powers, with his Kryptonian heritage and with his destiny. There were times were he didn’t want to embrace it, craving a normal life that he knew he could never really have.The show did a great job of taking Clark from a Kansas High School kid to Daily Planet reporter over its decade on the air, giving him an arc and actual development over the years, something that is often lacking in other long running shows.
The principal characters were excellently cast. Tom Welling obviously physically looked the part of Clark Kent, but his portrayal was executed just right. His performances were understated, capturing the heroic, morally correct elements of the character just right, but also allowing for moments of pain and vulnerability, in the wake of the death of Jonathan Kent and his guilt over it. Michael Rosenbaum’s portrayal of Lex Luthor was, in my opinion, the best on screen Luthor to date. More menacing than Hackman, more understated than Spacey and less nuts than Eisenberg! He truly gave a sense of Luthor’s internal struggle between wanting to be a good man and gradually inching towards the dark side as his true nature consumed him. All supporting roles were well cast too, but as the two lynchpins of the show, those two really carried the load to perfection.
Paying Homage To The Past
The show always managed to throw in fan-servicing cameos from actors of Superman past. Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher, Marc McClure, Terence Stamp and Helen Slater all popped in various guises, which were great treats for franchise fans. In particular the role of Reeve as Dr Virgil Swann was a really poignant moment, as his character is the one to fully show Clark the true meaning of his Kryptonian roots. It is a quite wonderful scene, a passing of the torch between the two actors, with just a hint of the classic film score in the background.
Justice League and More!
As long as you discredit the ill-fated TV pilot in 1997 that can be found online (don’t bother, it’s painful), then Smallville gave the world its first live action portrayal of the Justice League in the episode “Justice”, which was part of season six. The significance of this cannot be understated, as it was the first time this kind of team up was shown in this way, way before the Marvel and DC Universe films that dominate the cinema screens today. Clark formed an allegiance with Green Arrow, Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash, pooling their abilities to destroy a Luthor facility. Highly recommended viewing! In addition to these characters, so many key DC characters appeared over the course of the series, ranging from one episode cameos to multi-season principal roles. JLA aside, we were also treated to the JSA, Legion of Superheroes, Martian Manhunter, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle and Black Canary. Iconic villains also were heavily featured, such as Darkseid, Doomsday, Zod, Brainiac, Metallo and Bizarro. So many of these were first time portrayals onscreen. There is an absolute treasure trove of DC Universe characters to enjoy and spot in the 217 episodes, both big and small.
A Truly Satisfying Finale
I have always maintained that the 2 hour series finale of Smallville is still the finest piece of television I have seen to this day. So often TV shows don’t give the viewers a satisfying conclusion, but there were very dissenting voices in this case. Within the 2 hours, they managed to not only wrap up the show, but bring the characters right up to the incarnations that they occupy in the modern continuity. Clark becomes Superman, harnesses the power of flight, saves the world and finally put on the costume! For those that haven’t seen it, look for the last scene on YouTube, it is perfect. The moment that Clark finally realises the power within him as a jaw dropping moment too, as it pulls footage from the previous 9 seasons to show that everything that has gone before was all supposed to lead up to this one moment, this one confrontation with Darkseid.
Smallville is a show that will always have a fan base, as fans that were too young at the time of its original run are discovering it and enjoying it for the first time. It would be something special if it could be brought back for a limited run revival, as so many other classic TV shows have done recently. It could easily work as a Superman show, standing on its own apart from all others.
And so, again, our many thanks to Max for a cracking article force reading on our website, I’m sure you’ll all agree that it is another cracking read. Please keep an eye out as you may see more from him in the future.
Please, go follow Max on Twitter ( @maxybyrne ), he’s always up for DC chat and such a top bloke.