SMALLVILLE: Connecting to the DC Universe - A Look Back

SMALLVILLE: Connecting to the DC Universe - A Look Back

For fans, part of the excitement of Smallville was Clark Kent's encounters with members of what would eventually become the Justice League. What follows is a never-posted look back at Smallville’s connection with the bigger DC Universe.

This piece is being presented as it was originally written during Smallville's sixth season.

Written by and © Edward Gross

Year-by-year Clark Kent has been on a journey to fulfill his ultimate destiny as Superman. Along the way, his television vehicle, Smallville, has been embracing the character’s roots and the DC Universe itself as a means of layering the mythos and helping Clark in his evolution.

Although throwing aside comic continuity en route to doing so, the show has successfully integrated touchstone Superman elements such as the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Brainiac (not to mention series regulars Lex Luthor and Lana Lang), and “guest stars” from DC, including the Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, and, in particular, season six’s Green Arrow.

“The use of DC elements are often gifts to the deep geek fans,” says executive producer Darren Swimmer. “Even for viewers who don’t get the references, I think it adds some dimension to the show and allows us to get away from the Krypto-freaks. Often Al Gough and Miles Millar have characters that they want to bring in. Other times we will come up with a character and then find a similar one in the DC universe and merge them. DC is very generous with what we can use. Rarely do they give us guidelines to maintain a character’s mythology. More often obstacles come in the form of movies in development, in which case the usage of characters becomes more closely watched. In addition, we have a policy of not mixing Batman characters with the Superman characters for obvious reasons.”

Notes executive producer Brian Peterson, “There are several major characters who are off limits to us. Everyone wants the worlds of these characters to be as real and as congruent as possible. It’s understandable that DC or Warner Bros. wouldn’t want two separate entities developing simultaneous mythology for the same character.”

One thing that has been consistent across the board is the fact that any superhero characters that do appear on Smallville from the comics, goes through some form of “tweaking” prior to their appearance.

Justice3“First there’s the look,” Swimmer points out. “In keeping with the ‘no tights’ credo of Smallville, most of the DC characters will get a makeover. In addition, we often pare down the complicated mythos of the visiting characters. Many of these DC characters existed in dozens of incarnations and there are often several different flavors of them. We usually go with what is most appropriate for the show, and almost always pare down their complicated powers and traits. For example, we avoided the use of Martian Manhunter’s shape-shifting skills for the sake of streamlining and clarity.”

Peterson points out, “We’ve always had to add our own spin to each new DC character or piece of mythology. When that character falls into place, it’s a matter of making sure that we are consistent with what is happening in the graphic novel world and the feature film world. Sometimes we have to totally re-envision the look and attitude of something like a different color of Kryptonite or a character, but our new version is always born from the same inspiration as any previous versions.”


Amazingly, it’s been Green Arrow/Oliver Queen that has had the most impact, bringing Smallville as close to a Superman-Batman dynamic as it will ever get.

Emphasizes departing executive producer Steven S. DeKnight, “At one point we were talking about bringing on either Green Arrow or Green Lantern. Green Lantern was a cool idea, but his power ring would have required massive CGI work, so ultimately he just wasn’t feasible. Not to say Hal Jordan will never make an appearance, but perhaps it’ll be in his early pilot days before he slides on the ring. Once we decided on Green Arrow, the jitters set in. Bringing the character to life could have veered into a bad Men In Tights place, but our costume designer put together a brilliant interpretation of his comic book outfit, and I thought it turned out fantastic. As for his character, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow added a much needed counterpoint to Clark’s nascent heroics. Green Arrow continually pushed Clark to see the bigger picture, to look beyond his own backyard. And by the end of season, the two heroes came to respect each other’s point of view. Clark saw his future through the eyes of Green Arrow, and even accepted the idea of being part of a larger hero community.

“The integration of Green Arrow provided a great way to humanize the show and depict a hero who is a human being as opposed to someone with powers, thus inspiring Clark in a way that no other character has done so before on this show,” concurs executive producer Todd Slavin. “What it’s done is made Clark an active participant rather than reactive, which he has been throughout this series – and we all know Superman is an active hero. So Oliver Queen brought in a whole sense of justice, that it’s every citizen’s responsibility to kind of go in and tackle injustice in the world. I think that shook Clark up and has propelled him toward his future destiny.”

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Filed Under "Superman" 1/22/2013 Source: Voices From Krypton
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EdGross - 1/22/2013, 10:58 AM
There were certainly a lot of screw-ups - including the series finale - but so much of the show was great fun to watch.
Rothwilder - 1/22/2013, 11:00 AM
Ed, your articles are always great. Post more sometime.
EdGross - 1/22/2013, 11:07 AM
Thanks, Rothwilder.
SUPERSHADOWBAT - 1/22/2013, 11:22 AM
Great article Ed. Smallville, while not the perfect or definitive version of the Superman mythos was fun to watch. I loved the way they did integrate other DC universe heroes and characters into the show. Kudos Ed.
Pooh - 1/22/2013, 11:24 AM
Smallville had plenty of great, original characters. But most of these characters didn't stick around for a second episode. Many were killed off. I think some very talented Canadian actors started out on Smallville.

EdGross - 1/22/2013, 11:29 AM
Definitely accomplished a lot and, with the exception of the radio show, was the longest-running incarnation of Superman.

As to the finale my problem is that the last season had an awful lot of filler, and the finale felt completely rushed, the reasons for doing so defying explanation. Definitely water under the bridge at this point, though.
Pooh - 1/22/2013, 11:30 AM
Here is a list of some popular female actresses who were on Smallville:
BackwardGalaxy - 1/22/2013, 11:36 AM
I will never understand how this show survived 10 seasons. The writing was soooooo bad.
edwardshiro - 1/22/2013, 11:37 AM
And waiting for: Amazon/Wonder Woman.

EdGross - 1/22/2013, 12:00 PM
I think they're also doing a good job with Arrow, and I'm very curious to see if they can pull off Amazon.
EdGross - 1/22/2013, 12:30 PM
I couldn't agree more: Smallville's Lex and Lois are definitely the best.

And Mera's hot, too.
EdGross - 1/22/2013, 12:36 PM
Talontd - 1/22/2013, 12:43 PM
Thanks @Ed, always love your articles :)
EdGross - 1/22/2013, 12:44 PM
Absolutely. One thing I wish they had done with that relationship - and it's something I actually shared with Michael Rosenbaum back in, I believe, season four, was a need for Lex and Clark to be seen actually BEING best friends; hiking, playing catch, going to a bar.. SOMETHING that would have made them seem that much tighter, so that when they began to splinter apart it would have that much more meaning.
EdGross - 1/22/2013, 12:45 PM
Thanks, Talontd.
Rothwilder - 1/22/2013, 1:00 PM
Yeah Lex definately made the show. Sucks Rosenbaum is not in more stuff. I really want him to bein the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

I still remember watching the Smallville premier, and his acting NAILED it.
KNIGHT3000 - 1/22/2013, 1:10 PM

Smallville knew how to represent
KNIGHT3000 - 1/22/2013, 1:12 PM
I am a comic guy 1st, but I wouldn't even know about this site if it wasn't for the fact that I been hunting SMALLVILLE spoilers for those 10 years...
Facade - 1/22/2013, 1:30 PM
Miss the show!
wearethewalkingdead9 - 1/22/2013, 1:39 PM
forgot blue beetle and booster gold, the wonder twins, "superboy" if you want to call that pathetic actor superboy
EdGross - 1/22/2013, 1:49 PM
It's nice to see some positive memories of the show - it seems that every time it's mentioned, it's pretty much bashed.
LEEE777 - 1/22/2013, 2:04 PM
My positive memories are season 1 to 7 @ ED

Damn gold they was...

8 to 10 seasons - no comment tho :p

Yeah ARROW is awesome!!!
localman22 - 1/22/2013, 2:23 PM
Smallville is being re-played on TNT in the early morning, so I have been recording it and watching at more reasonable hours. Yes, the show had its faults in terms of writing, budget limits and excessive teenage angst. But it had a lot of great stuff, too.

I agree that Lex and Lois were, by FAR, the best representations of the characters. One of my favorite moments in the show was when Clark finally told Lois that he was "the blur." (I never liked the designation of "the blur" though.) It is too bad that Rosenbaum got tired of having to shave his head and left the show . . . the last season could have been much, much better with several episodes devoted to the re-emergence of Lex.

I thought Smallville did a really nice job with several of the DC Characters. Supergirl had a great look. Zatana was perfect. I really liked Hawkman and Dr. Fate. And they did a nice job of making Green Arrow a major part of the show.

Some things were a little disappointing -- I never liked their verson of Zod, Doomsday and, of course, Darkseid. I thought Clark should have gone with the Glasses much, much earlier. And the last season had too many "filler" episodes while the last episode was way too rushed.

Overall, it was a fun version of the formation of Superman. I would have enjoyed seeing Welling actually play Superman for an episode or two, but I accept that the entire concept of the show was to end the show when he became Superman.
MJPETTY7 - 1/22/2013, 2:36 PM
Great series. Had it's hick-ups, but I really enjoyed it. Loving Season 11!!!
EdGross - 1/22/2013, 2:41 PM
Leee777, you're alive!!!!!!!!

lc - 1/22/2013, 3:25 PM
Lol @Ed Guess what so am i ...
Pooh - 1/22/2013, 3:57 PM
@Nomis, There were a lot of great Lex episodes. 'Descent' was not one of them though.
Pooh - 1/22/2013, 4:03 PM
'Asylum' was a good episode with Lex.
mgeoff88 - 1/22/2013, 8:12 PM
I love Smallville! And watching the show actually got me back into comics.
ManofSteelo - 1/23/2013, 8:24 AM
Great article find; epic FAIL of a show.

Season 11 comic isn't bad, though. Go figure.
voxen - 1/23/2013, 12:30 PM
One thing I could never understand was they never introduced the Flash but impulse instead. That was a shot in the foot in my opionion because They could have introduced a Barry Allen as a Cop/Flash and could have been a mentor to Clark or at least good friend but they went with Bart instead didnt like that. My favorite cameos were the Justice Society they treated those characters perfectly from the actors they picked to the costumes they wore to how they wrote them in. I also loved Booster Gold and how they handled him as well. As for the Best adaption of Lex Luthor I would completly agree but my favorite Lois is still Teri Hatcher she seemed like more of the job driven reporter yet aproachable woman, Lois is supposed to be. Smallviles Lois wasn't job driven enough for me and there was something about Teri Hatchers way of playing the role I prefered.
Pooh - 1/23/2013, 1:57 PM
@voxen, Maybe you're on to something, but I thought Smallville's Impulse was pretty awesome.

My favorite Lois was Margot Kidder.

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