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One of my favorite things about Smallvile is the subtle way they incorporate and twist the existing Superman mythology with the Smallville-verse.

The Superman mythology was created in the 1930’s by Jerry Siegel, the writer, and Joe Shuster, the artist. The first comic was published in June of 1938. The original Superman reflected the Depression era that he arrived in. His early foes were bankers, and swollen, greedy, big shots. The 1954 Comics Code Authority further defined the Superman character. His responsibilities reflected community over individualism. Superman was somewhat predictable in his reaction to situations; he was always in control of himself, rarely impulsive and never irrational. Superman was also seen as a messiah, falling from heaven to protect Earth and humanity.

In 1986, DC Comics hired John Byrne to restart Superman’s adventures. Byrne took elements of the past comics, cartoons, television and movie stories and created a new version of Superman’s origins and powers. This is now the basis of the comic book adventures, and I believe it also reflects the information that I have compiled here.

Krypton was a planet doomed to destruction. A chain reaction within the planet's core caused a build-up of enormous pressures. These pressures fused the minerals inside Krypton into the new, radioactive, super-actinide element kryptonium. Scientist Jor-El had a plan to move to another planet, but had just enough time to build one small rocket. He placed his unborn son Kal-El, still within his birthing matrix, on the rocket and targeted it for Earth. The ship launched as the pressure grew to be too much for the planet's mantle to contain and Krypton exploded in a violent eruption.

Clark Kent

Kal-El traveled through hyperspace for three years until his rocket slipped quietly into the Kansas countryside, without causing any destruction. The tiny rocket was found by Jonathan Eben Kent and Martha Sarah Clark Kent. Since Jonathan was an avid sci-fi reader, he guessed that the craft was alien. Being childless, they decided to adopt him and named the child Clark, after Martha’s maiden name. His middle name has been listed as both Jerome and Joseph. His birthday is traditionally accepted as February 29th. Growing up in Smallville, Clark never knew how his parents found him.

Clark began manifesting extraordinary abilities at age 8 when he was run over by a stampeding bull and was somehow unhurt. Clark continued to demonstrate further abilities as he grew up and by the time he was 17, he was able to fly.

In his senior year Clark used his abilities to excel at a football game, and Jonathan felt it was time to reveal to Clark how he came to Earth and was found by the Kents. Clark suddenly found a certain amount of responsibility that came with his powers. That night he revealed his secret to his closest friend, Lana Lang. He left Smallville the following day and traveled the world learning about his powers, becoming better educated and secretly helping people.

After about four years Clark enrolled in the University of Metropolis and majored in journalism. Seven years after leaving Smallville, Clark witnessed a NASA space plane about to crash. When he saved the plane he also met Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane for the first time. Lois' article on Clark’s rescue of the plane called him a “Mysterious Superman", thus creating the superhero title.

Although Clark’s identity was not reveled during the rescue, the incident made him realize he needed an alter ego to protect himself and still publicly help people. His parents helped him develop a costume. He also practiced mannerisms and began wearing glasses to distinguish Clark Kent's appearance from that of Superman. This was a reverse of the standard double-identity gambit. Where alter egos tended to be sophisticated playboys (such as Batman’s millionaire Bruce Wayne), Clark Kent was modeled almost masochistically after Siegel and Shuster themselves.

Returning to Metropolis, Clark began his superhero career as Superman and his journalistic career at the Daily Planet by getting the first exclusive interview with Superman.

At 28, Clark found a crystal stored in his ship. It was an electro-psionic recording that his father had sent with him that explained his Kryptonian heritage. Because of Krypton’s fate Clark became determined to protect Earth. The kryptonite here on Earth is the result of a chunk that was attached to Clark’s ship. Lex took some of this kryptonite and had it fashioned into a ring, the exposure to the kryptonite eventually gave him cancer.

In October, 1996, Superman married Lois, mainly due to the characters getting married in the popular television show, Lois and Clark.

There are several places where the Smallville acknowledges the Byrne universe while altering it to fit a younger Clark Kent in a new paradigm. Things that don’t happen in the Byrne universe until Superman is in his twenties happen in Smallville for Clark in high school. There isn’t really a psionic crystal, however Jor-El’s consciousness seems to survive in some form. He has spoken to Clark through his ship, in the cave and the Fortress of Solitude. Jonthan has also communicated with the consciousness of Jor-El.

Clark discovers his strength and speed prior to Premier and startlingly discovers he’s indestructible when Lex runs him off a bridge. When he reveals his impervious nature to his parents they are forced to reveal his origins to him. As he grows up his powers continue to evolve and manifest.

Clark meets Lois Lane when she arrives in Smallville. She is Chloe's cousin and the daughter of a military general. She and Clark have a friendly / competitive / supportive / adversarial relationship.

Of small note, but interesting to me is that Clark initially wasn’t allowed to play football since Jonathan was afraid he'd be swept away in the game and accidentally use his powers in a way that hurts himself or someone else. Eventually in his senior year Clark was allowed to play and then quit when it became real to him that he couldn’t foresee what might happen in the heat of the game or the pressure from others to win. Also, he understood that having powers gave him an unfair advantage over the other players making it unethical for him to play.

Smallville has attempted to take the Superman character and give him depth and anguish. This time, Kal-el’s rocket ship heralds a showery maelstrom of Kryptonite debris that strikes Smallville; killing Lana’s parents along with others and altering many of the citizens of Smallville in a way that continues to wreak havoc. Lex Luthor is also caught in the path of destruction and is changed in subtle ways.

Clark’s goodness doesn't come from a stale vision we had of heroes in the 1930's and 40's. Instead, it is laced with sacrificial blood. Suddenly, his arrival is heralded by destruction, the people he saves are often in pain as an indirect result of his existence on our planet. He's no longer a simple messiah, he's a savior-destroyer. The responsibility he carries to protect humanity isn't about protecting this planet since he'd already suffered the loss of another; it's a reflection of the man Jonathan Kent taught him to be, a recompense in part for his arrival and the impact that Krypton has already had here on Earth. This awakening and accepting of his responsibility creates dimensions within the Superman character that are fascinating, and much more interesting than a cereal box hero. Superman may have began as an urban fantasy, but for a new generation he has moved into the suburban gothic.

Clark's superpowers are derived from his Kryptonian body which absorbs solar energy from Earth's yellow sun. The energy is then manifested as his superpowers. Using his powers expends this solar energy, so if Clark were to expend an excessive amount of energy he would lose power. His powers, as manifested thus far are:

  • Strength - apparently he discovered this prior to Premiere.
  • Flight - kind of, we saw him hovering over his bed as he lay dreaming one night, he seems to be able to almost fly as a form of a long jump, or high jump but he hasn't actually ascended into the sky and flown. Kal-El can fly.
  • Invulnerability - apparently, years of exposure to our yellow sun have caused Clark's Kryptonian body to become almost indestructible. This was first manifest when he was hit by Lex's Porsche and was unscathed.
  • Speed – again, this appeared before Premiere.
  • X-Ray vision - first seen after Tina robbed a bank, Clark initially had less control over this than his other powers. He can control the depth of penetration; through human skin to muscles, or all the way to the bone, or through one wall, but not another.
  • Heat vision - first seen in biology class, Clark can set things on fire by looking at them. When this first emerged it was triggered by sexual excitement.
  • Hearing –he can hear the other side of a phone conversation, or hear voices through walls with clarity and from a remarkable distance.

  • Clark’s weakness is the meteor rocks that came to Earth with Clark. There are several varieties of kryptonite: green (the traditional kryptonite), red (removes Clark’s inhibitions), black and silver.

    Lex Luthor

    Rather than the power mad criminal of the comic book stories, Smallville's Lex Luthor is a man of depth. The acquisition of depth, however, meant changing quite a few details.

    Originally, Alexander “Lex” Luthor was a mad scientist. When DC Comics hired John Byrne to recreate the Superman story he recreated Lex as a businessman rather than a scientist. In Byrne's version Lex grew up poor in Metropolis. His father was mean and drunk. Lex was a genius, but he was cruel, especially to girls. At 13 Lex had both his parents killed and used the life insurance money to create LexCorp. His only friend was Perry White, who would later become the editor of the Daily Planet.

    As an adult, Lex owned the Daily Planet. Once when Perry was away Lex seduced Perry's girlfriend, Alice Spencer. When Perry returned he resolved matters with Alice and married her. They had a son, Jerry. Alice held the secret that Jerry was actually Lex’s son.

    In the Byrne universe Lex envied Superman his powers and they became enemies when Luthor could not buy Superman, could not use or control him. This led to a lifetime of battling Superman as Lex saw himself as the man of Steel’s greatest enemy. "Great men need great challenges and he was my greatest." He despised Superman and all that he stood for. "I've built this empire by being a good judge of my enemies' motivations -- greed, jealousy, lust for power...I refuse to accept that those emotions do not exist in you". His arrogance blinds him to the connection between Clark Kent and Superman. Even though Lex maintained a façade of a generous philanthropist, despite his power hungry megalomania, he refused to believe that someone as powerful as Superman would bother to disguise himself as a mere mortal. This is a man of anger and hatred, power hungry with an insatiable desire to control everyone around him.

    Smallville has refined the character. This time his father, Lionel, is already wealthy as the powerful head of LuthorCorp. It was Lionel, who killed his parents although his motivation for doing so was unclear, at least to me. While occasionally mean, his most obvious characteristic is his lack of affection and compassion. Lex was raised in a world of high expectations and very little approval. Rather than envy Clark his powers (which Lex is unaware of) this time around he envies his family. The Kents are loving and supportive and Lex has never known a life like that. His mother, it seems, was a loving woman, but she died years ago, leaving Lex to learn to survive with his father on his own. Somehow, in Clark Kent, Lex has found someone he can trust. He sees Clark as a younger brother. Lex did have a little brother, Julian, who died as an infant. Julian made the Luthors more of a family and his death was the harbinger of Lionel's deteriorating affection and relationship with Lex since Lionel blamed Lex for Julian's death. Lex eventually staged a coup of LuthorCorp in order to convert/create LexCorp. With this his conflict with his father extended beyond their personal animosity to a competitive business adversary.

    Lex’s initial fondness for Clark’s friends seems to be nothing more than an extension of his friendship with Clark; particularly Chloe and Lana. As they operate the Talon and spend time together Lex’s affection for Lana grows and is later returned when they become a couple. Interestingly, in the Byrne universe Lana married Pete Ross.

    This Lex is actually a human being with different sides; a boy who sometimes can't stand up to his father, occasionally mysterious, quick to anger, but always in control of that anger, kind, even happy at times. And in the midst of it all, Lex is a strategist. He lives life like he's playing chess, always aware of the other pieces on the board.

    Recently I've decided that Lex is a character on a pendulum of good and evil. He starts on this really gentle swing, right in the middle, hedging ever so slightly back and forth. But the further he goes one direction, the further he ends up in the other. His father is generally what pushes him to the bad side and his loyalty to Clark and their friendship is what draws him to the good side. And the cycle continues to become more extreme every time he swings back. So that as he denounces Roger Nixon, shoots him and chooses his friendship with Clark over his curiosity and finds favor and even peace with Jonathan, his struggle with his father pulls him back to reckless acts of sabotage that leads to virtual disaster and even deeper mistrust with Jonathan. I think it should keep going back and forth, the good keeps getting better until he's a hair's breath from redemption and in a split second his whole world changes and the swing back is one step too far and he becomes the Lex Luthor of the comic books. But that's just my idea.

    Jonathan Kent

    In Superman: The Movie Jonathan Kent died from a heart attack before Clark graduated from high school. This is discrepant from the Byrne universe where in his senior year Clark used his abilities to excel at a football game, and Jonathan finally revealed to Clark how he came to Earth and was found by the Kents.

    This is one of the more interesting incorporations of the Superman mythology into Smallville (at least to me). Jonathan began having heart problems after he demanded super human power from Jor-El in order to bring red-kryptonite-Clark back from Metropolis. Although he continued to struggle with his health from time to time he was mostly restored (and I don't remember how). Jonathan finally succumbed to a heart attack in the 100th episode 'Reckoning'.

    Lana Lang

    In the Byrne universe Lana was Clark’s closest friend in high school and the person that he revealed his secret to the night he found out. Years later, Lana married Pete Ross.

    Things aren’t so simple in Smallville. Lana and Clark share a on again/off again romance that never seems to work out primarily because he won’t tell her his secret. Chloe is Clark’s best friend and discovered his secret when unbeknownst to Clark, she witnessed him using his powers. She not so secretly pines for Clark.

    Lana, however, has a bit of mythology all her own. In season 4 she had a tattoo of the Kryptonian symbol for water signifying transformation. Apparently Lana is a descendant of some French witch named Countess Margaret Isabelle Thoreaux. When Lana touched her grave in Paris a bright light erupted from the ground enveloping Lana. She woke up in her apartment with a big tattoo on her back, with no memory of the past 8 hours. Also, the tattoo wasn't done with ink. In her lifetime, Isabel was looking for the 3 stones of power. At the moment I can't remember how Lana lost her tattoo and fell out of the mythology, although I'm pretty sure it's related to Clark uniting all the stones which opened the portal to the Fortress of Solitude.

    Sources for Superman Information:
    The Superman Homepage
    The Superman Movie Page
    Vanity Fair – March 2002

    Lex Luthor information: Sean Hogan
    Superboy information: "hakavon"