Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Gaithersburg, Maryland
The Great Smallville Rewatch/debate about Superman origins adapted into media
I'm going to be honest this is more for the people who disliked Smallville for their own reasons because either it took so long for Clark to fly and wear the Superman uniform, for some of the JL members to wear some of their iconic costumes, some of the storylines they had. I admit Smallville had plenty of flaws, irritated me at times and could have done other things better, but that is not to say it didn't do things right. But this also gives another perspective of the positive aspects Smallville had when it was on. The writer of the article made many good points (although I wouldn't exactly compare using the CGI Superman used in that final episode is even, arguably, evocative of the animated Superman from the classic 1940s Fleischer cartoons as I would compare it to the Kirk Alyn Superman serial
I honestly believe Smallville worked in the long run. It won it fair shares of awards, it got 2 spin off comics(the current one doing really successful on comixology), toy lines, a faithful fan base, two other heroes their own tv shows(one became really successful while another apparently did really well on iPod unfortunately got cut) and the fact that it is one of the longest running science fictions shows (one about a superhero, Superman nonetheless) shows it was doing something right.
Here's what Al and Miles said why the Aquaman pilot was cancelled: http://archive.is/iDjrj
iF: The WB had greenlit MERCY REEF [the series based on AQUAMAN]before the network became The CW, right?
GOUGH: If the WB were still on the air, we would be on the air. That was bizarre. The [SUPERMAN RETURNS] movie being one of those once in a lifetime things where you have a movie and television show simultaneously. Your network being cancelled being another one after your pilot has already been greenlit. That one was about the network getting cancelled and the new network had a different agenda. Suddenly you go from the favored son to the bastard stepchild.
iF: How far along in developing MERCY REEF’s first season were you?
GOUGH: They only give you [a] thirteen [episode commitment], so we certainly had the first thirteen arc’ed out and we knew the end of season one.
iF: What would have been the season ender?
GOUGH: It was basically the Ving Rhames character gets recaptured and is taken back to Atlantis.
iF: Were you going to do the same kind of stories in the way you adapted Superman for SMALLVILLE.
GOUGH: Yes, again what we learned from SMALLVILLE was to not get marred with a freak of the week thing. There were a lot of different stories to tell on land and sea. The mythology, Atlantis, would have been a small portion of it. Every fourth episode would have dealt with some of that mythology. I think it could have been very interesting that we’re destroying their society and Atlantis has sort of turned into Eco-terrorists – sending back people they've sort of reprogrammed as suicide bombers. There was an environmental angle to it that was very interesting and you could talk about politics in the way that the best of sci-fi can talk about it -- the way that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA does. It was definitely a cool show, we had a lot of good ideas for, the cast was certainly great. It was probably a bigger, epic show than SMALLVILLE.
iF: How deep did you go into the comics?
GOUGH: There was this whole ATLANTIS CHRONICLES that sort of pre-dated Orin. It was the history of Atlantis and it was fascinating. Unlike Superman, there really isn't a set core mythology for Arthur Curry. There are a couple different versions of it. We went with the most classic one, but instead of making the dad a Lighthouse keeper, we made him a Coast Guard and for story reasons, it’s another reason to bring stories to the show.
Another positive was that Smallville had 10 years developing the character unlike Man of Steel which had 2 hours/48 days where Clark had to learn multiple things at the age of 33 years old or George Reeves 1 episode or even Christopher Reeves 2-3 hour long Superman movie while in Smallville we saw Clark develop from 14 year old/freshmen to the a 25 year old confident reporter/superhero who loves being a hero/helping people, be more proactive, find happiness in his life and became a leader and we also got to see moments in other dc characters(Lois, Perry, Impulse, even the growth of the Justice League, etc) develop in ways we couldn't see in multiple 2 hours movies. Arrow is even doing the same thing only at a faster rate.
If I had to choose 3 good quotes honestly I would choose these quotes:
How long it took to tell Superman's origin :
While emphasizing again that this series was not simply a Superman origin, it would be disingenuous to suggest that, at its core, much of the appeal of the series is the dramatic tension of watching events unfold with an eye towards how we know the characters are “destined” to end up.
So while it is more than just the “origin of Superman,” it is that as well. One of the things that rather amazed me as I tracked the storyline over the course of 200-plus episodes that aired originally over the course of ten years was how the creators really did keep their eye on the prize, so to speak. Despite a lot of odd digressions and certain confusing choices (see: Season 4’s overplot involving Lana Lang and her boyfriend both being descended from rival 17th century witches), the show never strayed too far from the core idea of Clark Kent and his evolution.
Impressively, Clark’s characterization and arc are kept remarkably consistent over 200-plus episodes. There’s barely a single storyline in the entire 9,000-minute epic wherein Welling’s Clark ever loses his heroic resolve, or fails to hold to the morals and values that his parents have instilled in him, and which we associate with Superman.
For all the “subversion” discussed above, that is one thing the creators never lose sight of or mess about with: Clark Kent as a hero to admire. That’s a truly astonishing achievement, when we consider the stalker/deadbeat-dad of Singer’s 2006 movie or the dubious morality of the 2013 film Superman, and realize that some writers and directors can’t sustain a truly heroic Superman for even 120 minutes, let alone 150 hours. Indeed, this was the “no flights, no tights” motto in the first place: To focus on the inner character of Clark Kent, and be sure to get that right, as that’s the most important thing. The clothes, after all, don’t make the man.
Amazing as well is that Smallville – despite some growing pains – managed to track Superman’s origin step by step to, basically, the “traditional” status quo. Gough and Millar’s original conception was, from the accounts I’ve seen, to show a young Clark Kent, growing up in Smallville, and to end it with Clark putting on the costume and flying to his new life in Metropolis, as Superman. Instead, the series just kept on going, years after the original idea was still sustainable. The writers had no choice (short of cancelling the series) but to nudge Clark on to the next step on his path, moving him to Metropolis and eventually getting him an internship at the Daily Planet, which in turn led to a full-time job as a reporter at the Planet, etc. … And with a full six years left of storytelling time to play with after the end of Season Four (the year Clark graduates high school), the creators had the luxury to take their time on all of these developments.
It’s a weird, marvelous feeling to watch the series from its beginning, with Clark developing powers for the first time while he deals with teenage drama and football games, and eventually proceed to a Clark employed at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane and eventually hitting upon this crazy idea of wearing thick-rimmed glasses and cultivating a nerdy identity so that he can serve Metropolis as a superhero without a mask. And all the intermediate steps are taken to get Clark to that point. The sheer magnitude of the show’s narrative scope is phenomenal.
about the Easter Eggs/allusions to the Superman universe
Of course, part of tapping into a source of great mythic power is recognizing the drama inherent in altering, interrupting or in some other way subverting the myth’s most recognizable elements. As noted above, much of Smallville’s take on the Superman legend was played straight and with appropriate reverence (see, for example, the creation of the Fortress of Solitude at the end of Season 4 and beginning of Season 5). But just as often, the “classic” bits were turned on their ear.
That’s certainly nothing new, and while the argument has been made that these alterations are an example of the cliché “Hollywood” mentality of changing for change’s sake, in the case of Superman – in which certain pillars of the myth are so very ingrained in the American consciousness – I’d instead suggest that such twists on the myth are a way of enlivening and invigorating our relationship to those pillars.
This is another element that critics blasted, and certainly there were times when it became too cutesy, but I’d again argue that this way of interacting with the classic Superman iconography enlivened these aspects of the legend. The counter-argument ran that the show creators were “embarrassed” by the most intrinsic elements of the character they were adapting, but that’s a shallow line of thought. There’s a long tradition in artistic genres and media, wherein homage is paid to past greatness in seemingly irreverent, even disrespectful ways. In such cases, often the point is to reveal a new depth, a new unexpected dimension, to force the audience to see the subject in a different way, to focus on elements that aren’t usually focused on. In eliminating the costume, in deferring the use of the classic “S” shield, in limiting the “flights,” Smallville forced both its writers and its viewers to explore other dimensions of a classic myth, showing that – 70 years on – there are still new stories to tell, and new ways to tell them. (This is, of course, the very same logic that has given us dozens upon dozens of “Elseworlds” Superman comics from DC over the years … several of which number amongst the most effective Superman comics ever written.)
There’s a wonderful bit in the second episode of the series – it’s the scene that hooked me on the show, in fact, back in first run – which I still consider iconic of the way Smallville was able to repurpose and re-contextualize classic Superman tropes. Clark is at Lex Luthor’s mansion, and Lex opens up a lead box on his desk, revealing the Kryptonite within. Much to Clark’s discomfort.
The twist: The Kryptonite in this case is decorative, part of Lana Lang’s necklace. Her douchebag boyfriend lost it; Lex found it. Now he’s giving it to Clark so that Clark can give it back to her, thus winning her affections. Lex is, at this point, quite keen to be Clark’s friend, and while Clark tries to hide his physical pain, Lex is shoving Kryptonite in his face saying go ahead, take it, this will give you all the power in the relationship.
That was the moment that made me realize this show had something special: An affection for its subject but also a willingness to play with our expectations. I stuck with it for years, and – as noted at the top – eventually came back to it to finish it out on DVD. And indeed, there were more and more twists to enjoy as time went on: Like in Season 5, when Lana Lang and Martha Kent both move to Metropolis while Clark and Lois live on the Kent Farm as roommates. Or Season 8, in which Jimmy Olsen and Doomsday compete for the affection for the same woman. (No, seriously.) Or Season 9, in which Zod and his followers meet Clark for the first time, and Zod commands them, “Kneel … before Kal-El!”
and finally Superman meeting iconic Super Villains and Super heroes before he was Superman like some/most of the official comics/cannon does
It just seemed “wrong” to me at first that Clark should come into contact with so many different characters before putting on the costume and calling himself Superman. Eventually, I realized this was all perfectly valid. As comic-book fans, we’re programmed to think of superhero stories tracking in a certain sequence, with the rogues’ gallery slowly building up after the superhero first arrives on the scene, but there’s no reason that things have to work that way. (Interestingly, Scott Snyder’s new Batman origin “Year Zero” apparently employs a similar reversal of expectation, with costumed villains turning up in Gotham City before Batman does, rather than after. Critics seem to be approving of this choice generally, so it’s interesting that Smallville showed the way in this regard.)
I also came to realize eventually that the costume and cape are not as essential as I had thought to my enjoyment of the Superman character. As long as the characterization was right (which it always was on Smallville) and as long as he had all – well, most – of his superpowers, then I was perfectly happy to watch Clark Kent fight Doomsday, Zod, Metallo, the Furies and whoever else in just his street clothes.
Oddly, in pondering this point while watching, I was put in mind of the 1966 Batman, in which – almost every time a villain showed up for the very first time on the show – Batman would recognize the character and their unique M.O. We rarely saw any “first” meetings on that show. It was always a villain Batman was already familiar with, as though he already had his set of villains ready to go on the first day he put on his batsuit.
And heck, if it’s good enough for Adam West, it’s surely good enough for Tom Welling, right?
It ultimately works out as another advantage of Smallville’s extended longitudinal trajectory. Upon a concerted, contiguous viewing of all the episodes in sequence, the entire thing starts to feel downright epic: the slow building up of the mythology, the increasingly large roster of enemies, the expansion of the universe to include so many DC Universe guest-stars, etc. Again, watching this series is much akin to reading a long-running comic-book, watching the continuity grow, expand and evolve with increasing speed and complexity. As such, it’s quite possibly, and surprisingly given its less geekily ambitious early “teen soap opera” years, the most faithful adaptation of a comic-book series ever crafted – because it adapts not only the characters and concepts of a mainstream comic, but also the same sort of narrative gambits – the slow and steady world-building; the use of recurring superhero “guest stars”; the long-deferred payoffs to early established plot points.
To many comic-book fans, that particular longitudinal storytelling form is as much part of the appeal as the actual content. From that perspective, Smallville is able to deliver the goods in a much more satisfying way than any two-hour film could ever hope. (Indeed, if I were forced to name a favorite Superman film, I would probably just pick a two-part Smallville story. I think I’d go with the finale of Season 5 combined with the premiere of Season 6. There’s your perfect Superman movie, right there.)
To me Smallville was a pretty good introduction not only to Clark Kent and other characters of the DC Universe, portrayed the characters more or less pretty faithful to their comic counterparts only to adapting them to fit inside the story Smallville is telling such as why the proto JL members wore hoodies and sunglasses because Green Arrow founded the group and more or less made them in his image or as Clark grew and developed more into his proactive Superman identity the superhero world around him grew and develop(just like any other Superhero adaption in other media). I applaud for Smallville taking different elements of the Superman and DC Universe and using it to make a straight adaption. I know people has various gripes when the flaws was on the air but I got to be honest despite the various flaws there are a lot of stuff that Smallville did right and that is what the argument and article is mainly about.
This isn't so much a place to insult other versions of the live action Superman adaptions nor why they hate so and so origin but a peaceful place to talk about the article I posted as well as how well live action media portrayed Superman's origin over the years and which ideas from which origin worked for the most part. example the Superman serials was one of the most faithful origin to the pre crisis Superman origins honestly or how Superman the movie worked as Superman in origin.
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Last edited by ironman29758; 03-18-2014 at 05:24 PM.