A Brief Super-Rant

I've been watching "Look, Up In The Sky," a two-hour documentary on Superman as a cultural icon, for several days now.

I'm watching it in short increments with my son. We don't watch a lot of television - no, really, I watch most of it after he goes to bed. But his favorite television show is SMALLVILLE, one of his favorite movies is SUPERMAN, and he is utterly beside himself about the new SUPERMAN movie. I predict by the time the hype is over, he'll be after me to redecorate his room from its current Mickey Mouse theme to reflect the Man of Steel.

And after all, there are few icons so appropriate. Superman has gone through his ups and downs (notably George Reeves' suicide and the debacle that was SUPERMAN IV), but has remained remarkably whole and untouched by the seventy-odd years he's been flying about our popular culture.

When Christopher Reeve stood before us and declared he was there to fight for truth, justice and the American way, only Lois laughs. Only Reeve could have said that line, and made us believe it. Poor Brandon Routh. He has very large red boots to fill.

But that wasn't what infuriated me tonight. I was watching a bit more of the documentary and it got to the section on SMALLVILLE. Now, I love SMALLVILLE. It's one of my guilty pleasures, and not just because all the men are hot. (Seriously. Even Papa Kent and Lionel Luther are smokin'. How is that possible?) It's cheesy, contrived and overwrought with teen-drama nonsense. And I don't care, because it's FUN. It's fun in ways that older, better-written, better-acted and more intelligent series have forgotten how to be.

I have never minded that SMALLVILLE essentially ignores the canon of Superman as established in the comics. After all, Superman's canon has changed more times than DC can change inkwells. They've restarted their entire universe - twice - killed Superman and brought him back. Sometimes Superman is the savior of Earth in a decidedly Messianic role, especially as reflected in the Mario Puzo script for the 1978 movie. Sometimes in the comics, he was sent by an evil Jor-El to conquer Earth. Or so I've been told. I'm not enough of a geek to have read ALL of them. I do, however, have friends that geeky, who will be happy to correct me in my multiple errors.

I was happy to see in the documentary that the decision to make Clark Kent and Lex Luther boyhood friends was not entirely outside of canon, either. Apparently that originated in an ancient episode of the Superboy comic. That should stave off some of the "revisionist history" grumblers. Besides, it makes so much sense for Clark and Lex to begin as friends. (Or, if you believe the slashfic writers, lovers. I ain't goin' there.) Who do you hate more than the one who was once your closest ally?


I was watching the documentary and reminding myself to stop it before it gets to the parts about SUPERMAN RETURNS, because my son will want to watch that part. The two creators of SMALLVILLE were talking about the casting for SMALLVILLE.

These two men had the colossal gall to state that they were interviewing Annette O'Toole for the role of Mama Kent, and had no idea she had been in SUPERMAN III. As Lana Lang.

Now, I could understand it if they didn't know she had, say, pencilled an issue of the comic book. Or was a big fan. But she was the FEMALE LEAD in one of only FOUR modern-day movies about the hero central to their series. The only woman to play Lana Lang, on whom they intended to base a ridiculous percentage of their series.

I'd like to think they could have found time to watch SUPERMAN III. They didn't have to like it. Most of us didn't. But watch it. And perhaps look at the resume of the FAMOUS ACTRESS they were considering casting in their show. Perhaps they would have noticed SUPERMAN in big letters on her filmography.

To make matters worse, poor Annette is laughing as she talks about that interview, and she knew all sorts of Krypto-Trivia that the creators didn't know.

I always assumed SMALLVILLE was a labor of love from long-time fans. If I know more about SUPERMAN history than they do - as in, I knew Annette O'Toole played Lana Lang, duh - then why the hell were they making the series?

Ah, disillusionment. But I needen't have worried. Because there was Christopher Reeve again, inspiring in a cape and in a wheelchair, reminding us that true supermen don't need to fly - or even to walk. The Big Blue Boy Scout is coming back, and little boys wait excitedly for their hero - for the brave man who stands between little boys and danger, for the father who is always kind, friendly and protects them from all the scary things in the world. For the father who never speaks in anger or dismisses them with a cold shoulder, and never, ever leaves.

For all the little boys, and the rest of us who could use a hero, I hope Superman really is back. If only because when my son looks at him and believes, so will I. If only for a moment.