26 June 2013

Super History of Superman: Smallville (2001-11)

Somebody saaaaaaaaaave me! From 2001-2011 over 218 episodes and 10 seasons we watched Clark Kent grow to embrace his ultimate destiny as Superman. While not all of the elements brought to screen were necessarily completely true to the comics, as an Elseword's tale Smallville was able to hit on most of high points of Superman's mythology with success - at least in most cases. And although the series began with a "no tights, no flights" mantra to maintain a more grounded approach to the character, both rules would eventually be broken.

The first few years of the series took their time to slowly introduce Superman's powers. X-ray vision, heat vision, super hearing, and eventually flight (even if Clark Kent himself took far too long to master that particular skill) were all vital steps in Clark's development. The power episodes, like Heat, were often some of the most fun as well. It was also during the first few seasons that the focus was unsurprisingly on Clark's live in Smallville - as a high school student and gentleman caller of Lana Lang.

Once most of Clark's power's had been introduced and he had graduated from high school, the series evolved by shifting focus to his life in Metropolis, hanging around the Daily Planet and getting to know Lois Lane.

One of the great relationship developments in the series was that of Lex Luthor and Clark Kent. Though the two started as friends, tragically, mistrust and deceit on both sides led to Lex also embracing his destiny as a primary nemesis of Superman. Though Lex would bow out a couple of years before the finale, his presence continued to be felt until the series end.

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Of course, Lex was not the only classic Superman villain featured on the series. While the first few seasons featured kryptonite infected freaks of the week and later seasons featured random Zoners (escapees from the Phantom Zone), by series end most of Superman's primary rogues had appeared including interpretations of Bizarro, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Toyman, Maxima, Morgan Edge, Metallo, Parasite, Faora, Plastique, Warp, Deadshot, Roulette, Granny Goodness and her Female Furies, the Suicide Squad, the JSA nemesis Icicle, and the shadowy organization Checkmate led by Amanda Waller. While General Zod appeared midway through the series, a merciless clone Major Zod carried an entire season arc as did Braniac, Doomsday, and Darkseid. Unfortunately, while most of the villains worked, even if they were not exactly true to their roots, Darkseid, the final season villain was a real misfire. 

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Even Ultraman, the Crime Syndicate version of Superman from an alternate universe got his chance in the Smallville spotlight.

Clark was not without allies and new character introductions were another highlight of the series. Over 10 years, Clark helped to establish the Justice League as he teamed with the likes of Green Arrow, Aquaman, Cyborg, Impulse, Black Canary, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, the Wonder Twins, Zatanna, Acrata, Isis, and Martian Manhunter. He also had the chance to fight side by side with the future Legion of Super-Heroes and the heroes of the Justice Society of America Dr. Fate, Hawkman, and Stargirl.

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Of course, members of the "Superman Family" were not overlooked as Kara Zor-El was introduced, eventually growing into the role of Supergirl.

Even Kon-El AKA Connor Kent the modern era Superboy was introduced. And while Krypto the Superdog never made it to Earth, homage was paid through the once super powered canine Shelby.

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While it took its time getting Clark to finally wear the Superman suit, its arguable that he became Superman long before the series end. First as the Red-Blue Blur, then just as the Blur, Superman inspired the citizens of Metropolis by fighting crime while maintaining a secret identity as the not so mild mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. The elements were all there. Still, I wish this moment had come just a little sooner.

Smallville was successful in maintaining public awareness of the Man of Steel while the film franchise spun its wheels and may live forever on as the longest running superhero series, live action or animated, on television. 

Check back next week for another chapter in The Super History of Superman.

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