Last night the CW brought their version of Superman to his own show. Debuting in Supergirl, Tyler Hoechlin has already been Superman for a while in the CW DC Universe, usually referred to as the “Arrowverse” due to the Green Arrow series Arrow being the start, like how Batman: The Animated Series started the DC Animated Universe. This also brings in Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois, who has also played the character in prior shows in this continuity. That’s kind of where the problem starts however. The Arrowverse is a darker take on the DC Universe, something closer to what DiDio was doing with DC when Arrow began. It’s like building a TV universe around the 60’s Batman or the old Adventures Of Superman series. Any further show that might have come out of that would reflect those shows. Look what Batman‘s producers wanted to do with Wonder Woman.

To give the Kents the CW treatment they created a second kid, decided to move the family to Smallville, and give everything the same overcast day except when they want to emphasize something. While I can’t say the show is all bad I do have a lot of issues with it that I’ll be going more into. Suffice it to say that if the show wants to win me over they have some work to do and they’re not off to the best start. There’s a difference between being a good show and a good adaptation. One episode isn’t enough to gauge the former but you can tell the latter is all kinds of wrong. Spoilers to follow.

The episode starts out somewhat promising. Clark lands on Earth, grows up on the Kent farm, Dad dies because that’s become the norm despite Jonathan and Martha originally dying together in the comics, Clark goes to work for the Daily Planet, meets Lois, actually has the red trunks as Superman (but the black Kingdom Come surrounding the S instead of the yellow), and has kids. Superman in the flashback is the Superman we know. He saves a kid from being crushed by a car, hands the kid back his hat, and when the kid tells him his outfit is cool Superman happily admits his mom made it for him. This is the Superman I know and love.

And then it all goes away in the tidal wave of CWness that ruined Supergirl and let’s not even start on Archie Andrews and his Riverdale friends. I’m not saying that a story around an older Clark and Lois having to raise kids, one of whom has superpowers, is a bad premise. It’s the particulars that I have problems with. Superman’s modern costume loses the trunks and looks padded but gives us the proper S shield. While Jon resembles what an aged version of the comics’ Superboy that Bendis ruined, we have a new son, fraternal twin Jordan, who is so CW it hurts. The kid has social anxiety disorder and is taking medication and seeing a therapist, and you can almost imagine he’s going to become a supervillain. Only he has the powers and the actual super son from the comics doesn’t (at least not yet–Black Lighting gave one daughter powers early but gave the other one powers as well). It’s like they wanted Superman to have a darker son and turn him against his father. The seeds are already there in the pilot and while I hope they avoid that route I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. It would follow the trend.

Meanwhile Jon comes off as an afterthought, at best a red herring for the pilot as it starts to look like he’s the one with the powers. Again, this is the actual son of Superman currently in the comics and they took that from him to make mentally disturbed son of Superman without getting fans of Jon Kent even further upset about what’s happened to the current Superboy in the comics. Sorry, this cake isn’t so easy to eat.

Lois’s father Sam is all kinds of wrong. In the comics he tolerates Clark for Lois’s sake at times and hates Superman because he’s an alien powerhouse the military doesn’t control. Here he’s aware of Clark’s double identity, serving as Superman’s biggest theme in this show, his life as Superman versus his life as Clark Kent, his duty to the world versus his duty to his family. In this episode it pushes real hard towards the latter. Ma before she dies wants Clark to spend more time with his family. Lois does too. Jordan kind of needs it. Jon is the only one who seems understanding and he doesn’t even know Clark is Superman. When the accident that awakens Jordan’s powers happens and the boys learn they’re half Kryptonian he seems to accept it a bit easier, though thankfully he does freak out like his brother does because learning your half space alien, even without powers, is not something easy to deal with. The episode doesn’t outright say Clark should stop being Superman and let Supergirl do all the heroics, but it certainly is hinting at it with how they set up events.

Meanwhile you have some bald dude who isn’t being played by Jon Cryer, the Luthor of the Arrowverse, calling himself Captain Luthor, apparently an orphan from another doomed planet according to what he says when he attacks Superman, wearing a battlesuit, and making no sense what he’s doing here. This is apparently one of the mysteries going on, but the only one that affects Superman himself. The other subplots involve Jordan learning about his powers, and a continuing battle with Morgan Edge. Edge fires Clark during a series of layoffs at the Planet after buying it (well, his replacement for Perry does) and for some reasons wants to buy up farms in Smallville. Believing the family needs to get away from Metropolis, Clark and Lois decide to reopen the farm, and presumably push back given Lois’s disdain for Edge.

Meanwhile Lana isn’t married to Pete Ross like she was in the comics before the New 52 (not sure what the current situation is) but some firefighter named Kyle Cushing, who I can already tell is a stand-in for certain political perspectives. I’m not looking forward to this jerk. They have a little girl I expect to have something bad happen to because The CW, and an older daughter the boys’ age, Sophie. She’s definitely there to drag Jordan into the traditional CW teen angst. Also, not a redhead in the bunch. You couldn’t put Emmanuelle Chriqui in a wig or dye her hair or anything? She’s working in the Smallville bank and will be tied to the Edge plot as her husband is a huge fan of what he thinks Edge will do for the town, but of course it’s going to turn out to be bad. All the signs point to it.

The acting is well done, the characters on their own aren’t bad, and the CW’s been successful in their formula. It’s when their formula negatively affects beloved characters from elsewhere that I get concerned and I see all the makings of it right here. The show is visually dark, the CW’s history of moral ambiguity when it doesn’t involve a particular cause seems to be here, the characters are wrong, and I just don’t see me watching too many new episodes. It’s Superman so I want to give it a chance to impress me but I don’t expect to be doing a follow-up changing my mind. This just doesn’t feel like Superman. No matter how good your show is, if it doesn’t feel like a Superman story I’m out.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

10 responses »

  1. Crandew says:

    Great review. I’m almost scared to watch it, but I will to give it a chance. CW has ruined all the other superheroes (except Stargirl so far), so why not Superman. Will the ‘woke’ movement ever die?

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    • Stargirl started out as a show for the DC Universe streaming site, though given what they did with Titans I’m still surprised if it’s any good. I ended up missing it.

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      • Crandew says:

        I haven’t seen Titans yet, but Stargirl was surprisingly good. It was a lot more lighthearted, like the first season of The Flash. Still can’t believe how bad Flash has become, just like Arrow did.

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  2. Paul Godden says:

    Superman was always “woke”. The character has always been about equality and fairness. I wonder why this pilot has been getting a hard time from some people. The acting and cinematography in the pilot have been to a high standard, and the story so far is interesting, if not exactly “classic”. What’s wrong with Clark Kent/Superman’s eternal hopefulness dealing with a bunch of new-era conservative arseholery I wonder? Or is it because new-era conservative arseholes tend to recognize themselves, when cartoon characters are portrayed sitting around a kitchen table in a fresh, dealing-with-the-times, Superman story? This has been an excellent start for the new CW series; I’ll be watching episode two.

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    • We may have different interpretations of “woke” but I haven’t seen it in action. I’m going mostly by CW/Arroverse’s history and what little we got to see of our firefighter in the first episode. He may come off more compassionate later on but we’ll see.

      I’m not questioning the quality of the work so much as the quality of the adaptation. You can have any superhero do certain things and even by the time I was a kid Superman’s powerset has become a standard about superpowers. What makes Superman as a character different from The Sentry, the Silver Sentinel, or the Plutonian? The show can be well written and yet a poor adaptation of who the characters are and the tone of their world. That’s what I didn’t see past the flashback sequence.

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      • Paul Godden says:

        I get it… I have to admit to being a bit of a Superman fan-boy. The adaptation would have to be pretty awful for me not to love it. But I honestly like the darker world storylines too. Example – I loved Marvel’s first Civil War story arc, and I’d love to see DC pull that off with their characters in that scenario. What makes Superman different for me? He doesn’t kill, there’s always another way or choice, and when all is said and done, he does what is heroically, morally, the right thing to do. If that’s standing up to a pseudo-fascist at the kitchen table, or writing liberal editorials as a mild-mannered reporter, or facing-down the Universe’s greatest threats, I still get chills down my spine when the character is played well.

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        • I haven’t seen enough of Lana’s husband to immediately hate him. He thought Clark should have stayed and gave back to Smallville somehow instead of moving to Metropolis and that was his big sticking point. He was way too blunt and then there were a few comments that make me question (I’ve have to rewatch it to point to them) but that’s it.

          As far as darker themes, that’s fine if you like them but it’s not Superman. It’s like me wanting a lighter toned Game Of Thrones where I could root for at least one group, which from what little I know of it doesn’t exist. It would miss the whole point. That’s been my sticking point on the Galactica remake. It may be a well-told story but it isn’t the story Glen Larson created and it chose different themes. You may prefer it and there are darker stories I’ve gotten behind (my favorite movie is The NeverEnding Story and the only thing light about that movie is the ending as everything dies except the Empress) but that doesn’t make it a good adaptation of something I already enjoyed.

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        • Paul Godden says:

          That’s something else I like about these characters — we all get such different “takes” on their stories. I like to see Supernan in the darkest of places, and “shine a light” that leads and inspires others. I’ve always thought he was at his best as a character when the buck stopped there, with Him. I’ve seen my kids cry with refief at the child abuse issue in the “Grounded” story arc in the comics. No flashy panels of amazing powers, just a story of saving the day at the darkest of times. Everybody needs a Superman, and it’s that inspirational roll-model of moral heroism that always made me read the books.

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        • And if that’s what we get, fine. I’m just not convinced beyond the flashback this is what they’re going for. I’m open to being wrong but I have to be convinced.

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      • Paul Godden says:

        >> “We may have different interpretations of “woke” but I haven’t seen it in action.”

        I’m happy to run with Merriam-Webster’s definition of woke

        woke (adjective)
        https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woke

        woker; wokest
        Definition of woke (Entry 1 of 2)
        chiefly US slang
        : aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)

        But we will only succeed if we reject the growing pressure to retreat into cynicism and hopelessness. … We have a moral obligation to “stay woke,” take a stand and be active; challenging injustices and racism in our communities and fighting hatred and discrimination wherever it rises.
        — Barbara Lee

        … argued that … Brad Pitt is not only woke, but the wokest man in Hollywood … because he uses his status—and his production company Plan B—to create space for artists of color, with such films as 12 Years a Slave, Selma, and the upcoming film Moonlight.
        — Giselle Defares

        (2021-03-01)

        And I’d be quite happy if anybody thought that of me or my family. Interpretations however, can be different to definitions, and I would interpret woke to be something to be aspired to, and I would hope that it would continue to inspire people, and/or a movement, for as long as possible.

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