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Smallville turns 20 | Remember Superman’s Youth Series

A ten-year series kicked off a dynasty of comic book adaptations on the CW

Until 2001, the adaptations related to Superman’s ownership were lukewarm at best. In 1993, there was the unexpected romantic comedy phenomenon Lois & Clark whose focus was precisely on the relationship of the iconic couple. In 1996, Superman debuted: The Animated Series created by crack Bruce TimmPaul DiniAlan Burnett, who by then were already recognized by audiences for their memorable work with Batman: The Animated Series.

With full focus on the protagonist, the animation did a remarkable job of showcasing his origins and motivations for being a hero, while continuing the tradition of his adaptations by not dwelling so much on the teenage period. in the town of Smallville, an extremely important phase situation for the Superman because it is there that he begins to understand that his actions have a considerable impact on the environment around him and that his character is shaped around this take of conscience.

So going back to the early 2000s, there was no point in producing something focused on building Clark Kent as a hero, let alone as a teenager. The character played much more as part of a larger cast of characters (see his animated series had connections to the DC Universe) than as a solo protagonist for a live action production; but there was something like that planned for Batman.

“Lois & Clark” was, until then, the character’s biggest live-action success on television

Producer TollinRobbins’ idea was to create a program that focused on being a teenager from Bruce Wayne until he became the Justice of Gotham, but the idea was rejected by Warner Brothers, who not only had a very strong position. rigid towards any adaptation of the character outside of film as and had previously planned to do something similar (first with Darren Aronofsky’s first year, which was canceled, and then with Batman Begins).

With the project dead before it even got executed, TollinRobbins had to readjust the plan, they wouldn’t give up on the juvenile approach, but now they needed a new character to fit the proposal. It wasn’t long before the president of Warner Bros. Television reached out to producer duo Alfred Gough and Miles Millar with a proposal for a series focused on Clark Kent.

In a 2001 interview titled KryptonSite’s First Interview with Smallville Executive Producer Alfred Gough, author Craig Byrne directs one of the first times one of the show’s runners went public with the idea. Gough then explains how the project became in your hands. “We got a call from Peter Roth, President of Warner Bros. TV and he said he wanted to produce a show about a young Clark Kent. We were intrigued but also with reservations. We weren’t interested in doing Superboy, but something cooler and more character-focused … We wanted our Clark Kent to have angst and nervousness without losing the essence of what he was. would become.

The producers’ goal was to create a version of young Clark Kent who had diapers

In the same interview, the creator is asked what the call was to produce something about Superman’s youth. “He is one of those characters who left an indelible mark on popular culture. The fact that great superheroes like Batman and Superman have lasted so long is because they can be reinterpreted for each generation … We love the idea of ​​introducing Superman to a new generation. The fact that he’s not wearing the costume in Smallville gives us a chance to explore Superman’s human side. This is what really attracted us ”.

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As with virtually any production whose source material is from a comic book, Gough and Millar had not only a miniseries available to serve as a base, but also one of the character’s best stories. The premise of Superman: Four Seasons, written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale, is exactly the same as in the series; each season represents a moment of maturation for Clark Kent, with the first two volumes taking place entirely in Smallville.

Due to the close connection established between Four Seasons, the series inevitably forms a trio of main characters with greater concentration: Clark Kent, Lana Lang, and Lex Luthor (the one not present in the Smallville arc of HQ aforementioned but who already had a childhood friendship with Clark established in other stories). Therefore, the search for these actors should be very specific and match each person’s personality.

The similarity of approach to the character shared by “Four Seasons” and “Smallville” is remarkable.

As Gough said in the aforementioned interview, the trio’s first name to be confirmed was that of actress Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang, in what he called the automatic choice when she performed the test. In order for Michael Rosenbaum to be chosen as Lex Luthor, his charisma and charm were taken into great consideration. As for Tom Welling, it took longer. To choose its lead actor, the production had to see more than a hundred actors in person or via video, but it was the mixture of chivalry with force, according to Welling’s showrunner that was decisive.

The show premiered on October 16, 2001 on former The WB (now CW) with an audience rating of 8.40 million viewers. Of all ten seasons, the second was the most significant; the first episode reached 8.70 million and the last episode reached the expressive mark of 9.12 million viewers, making it the season with the highest number of viewers.

Smallville is also famous for the legacy left after the series ended, most notable being the unofficial restructuring of The CW to produce the highest number of comic adaptations of DC Comics. The most immediate example is obviously the Arrow series, but the entire universe of the other series it is inserted into, called the Arrowverse, probably wouldn’t, or not so widely, exist if the CW hadn’t managed to run Smallville.

Creation of Arrowverse is proof that “Smallville” left a legacy on The CW

Another element that has also become almost absolute for fans is the Lex Luthor version of the series treated as the definitive character. Indeed, until 2001, it was the version of Gene Hackman for the Superman films of Christopher Reeve which appeared most often in memory. While this version fits into a movie classic it lacks more depth on who this Lex is besides a maniac (it’s not for nothing that this version is quite compared to Lex’s mad scientist from Golden age).

The Rosenbaum version of the series, on the other hand, had a long work of personality building, which gained a lot with John Glover’s constant involvement as Lionel Luthor, not only having the time that the scripts shy away from. fall into the trap of turning Lex into an evil scientist or businessman. At the end of the series, we understand why this individual has become the enemy of a hero like Superman (who is first of all a great friend of his).

Unanimous among fans, Michael Rosenbaum’s version considered the ultimate Lex Luthor

And, finally, Smallville had a little legacy in the comics as well with a miniseries that served as the eleventh season. Starting from where the original work ended, the comics show the start of Clark’s career as Superman, as well as meeting classic enemies who had not appeared on the series before. Recently, there has also been speculation about an animation in production adapting these post-ending stories in the series, but there is nothing official.

Smallville was a series that, like few others, knew how to interact with the times when it was made. From the expansive soundtrack with songs that were successful in the early 2000s to the choice of costumes for young actors, this is the type of program that identifies the period in which it was produced without ever becoming dated (case similar with the 1996 thriller Pânico). This is undoubtedly one of the reasons that this series is so loved by those who grew up with it and, motivated by it, they have come to know more about the stories of the Last Child of Krypton.

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