SMALLVILLE: Connecting to the DC Universe - A Look Back
This piece is being presented as it was originally written during Smallville's sixth season.
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.
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.”
ENTER GREEN ARROW
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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