Smallville affected a lot of people in different ways, but because of the network it ran on (the WB which ultimately became the CW) and the era it was conceived in, the show often saw itself getting generalized as “Dawson’s Creek with Kryptonite” with the show’s soapier aspects getting more attention than its superhero sensibilities. But before our modern age of connected universes, crossover events, and surprise cameos, Smallville was nicely hitting a number of big moments from the DC Universe checklist and expanding their superhero universe far beyond just the Man of Steel.
In honor of the cast of Smallville joining the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, here are some big DC Universe moments from the show.
Christopher Reeve as Dr. Virgil Swann
Season 2 Episode 17
Dr. Virgil Swann might not be a character that’s taken from comics, but he’s still a nice representation of Superman love and fan service. The casting of Christopher Reeve, the Superman from Richard Donner’s classic movie, as the mentor of sorts to the Superman-in-training is wonderful, and his last name pays tribute to one of the great Superman artists of all time, Curt Swan. He also gets to be the one that breaks it to Clark about his Kryptonian heritage.
The Flash/Superman Race
Season 4 Episode 5
The age old question of “Who’s faster, The Flash or Superman?” is finally put to task in live action, and done so delightfully. This might not be a Superman at full capacity yet, but the same can be said for The Flash (or rather, Bart Allen, as Impulse) here, too.
This event might not at all be played with the same gravitas as the other big superhero moments being looked at here, but it’s still a moment in the series that makes me smile. It hinted at the things possible on this show and more ways to have fun with outside DC elements.
Season 4 Episode 7
It’s exciting that Smallville decided to take a shot at Mr. Mxyzptlk. Smallville did great stuff with other evil DC characters, such as their portrayals of Braniac, Zod, Maxima, and plenty of others, so it’s possible that Mxyzptlk could have been done right.
Nope. Doesn’t happen.
Instead, we get a portrayal of the character so puzzling it would likely even confound Mxyzptlk himself. “Jinx” turns him into a character that’s all about gambling and manipulating odds. He’s even a bookie, for cryin’ out loud. The show distills his abilities as being able to “control the hand of luck,” making for a complete misunderstanding of the character and a bizarre direction that makes this take on him stand out even more.
Season 4 Episode 14
On Smallville the addition of Krypto felt appropriate. Sure, Clark might name the dog Shelby, but the episode in which he appears is named “Krypto” and it is still a dog with super strength that was modified by LexCorp.
You can see an even more faithful depiction of Krypto over on Titans on DC Universe right now.
The Justice League
Season 6 Episode 11 “Justice”
We finally got a Justice League movie in 2017, but lets not forget that Smallville was digging into all of this material over a decade earlier. Smallville slowly began this expansion by their heavy integration of not only Oliver Queen/Green Arrow into the show during season six. A steady stream of other superheroes began to invade the series after that, costumes and all.
More than anything it was just satisfying to see a superhero team-up finally going on in Smallville, let alone one involving a Justice League in-the-making. As cliché as walking away from explosions in slow motion are, the one that happens in “Justice” with the 33.1 Lab is as cool as Smallville gets. They even considered making a Justice League spinoff show…but the world wasn’t ready.
Season 7 Episode 1
Look, Bizarro Superman is weird. He and his world are supposed to be weird, but this is next level stuff. There’s a lot to unpack with this character, including being the issue of who’s going to play him. Do you have your Superman actor do double duty? How do you distort his appearance? And that’s just the tip of the weirdberg.
Smallville might not get into the whole Bizarro World and the headache that place can become, but they actually do a pretty damn good job with the rest of this guy. He also straight up disembowels some random innocent people. Keeping Bizarro around for a string of episodes (and across several seasons) and letting it all sink in was a wiser move than trying to cram everything about this guy into a single episode. By proxy this sees the show also dealing with the infamous Phantom Zone as well as Martian Manhunter, all of which are handled properly.
The Legion of Super-Heroes and The Justice Society of America
Season 8 Episode 11 and Season 9 Episode 11
Before Geoff Johns was steering the collective direction of the DCEU on the silver screen, he wrote two of the most important episodes of Smallville. Just the fact that the series had recruited such an important voice from DC Comics to work on the show was significant. In the comics, no story about a young Superman is complete unless he meets a team of teenagers from a thousand years in the future who took up superheroics because of Clark’s legacy as a hero. “Legion” was a fun play on that narrative.
Legends of Tomorrow season 2 introduced its own Justice Society of America, but Johns jumped into the likes of Dr. Fate and Stargirl much earlier. “Absolute Justice” itself is a two-hour special with tremendous swagger. What gives all of this even more resonance is the way in which this episode also manages to touch on Clark’s past and future in the larger scheme of the DC Universe.
With the amount of spin-offs that were being considered during its later seasons, the groundwork laid in these episodes could have been returned to in a later series and expand even further. It’s a little crazy to see the scope that Al Gough and Miles Millar were applying to Smallville. Sure, the character of Superman himself might not have been wearing the costume and going by the moniker, but practically every other element of this world was getting screentime.
The Toyman…done right!
Season 8 Episode 14
Toyman is an interesting, off kilter member from Superman’s rogues gallery. He might not be someone that everyone is clamoring to see taking on Supes, but he’s just the right sort of crazy and potentially the perfect material for something episodic like Smallville. They really knock it out of the park with this one, though.
Treating him as a brilliant, deranged ex-employee of Queen Industries, Winslow Schlott begins using his skills for evil and makes for a truly terrifying nemesis. What I love so much about Toyman in this show is that he’s more a villain for Oliver Queen than Clark Kent. His revenge plan revolves entirely around Oliver (even if it weirdly does involve Kryptonite bombs) and it’s nice to see this all going on aound Clark.
Plus, that second appearance in “Echo” where he’s actually a robot? That’s pure Toyman. It’s also worth mentioning that Toyman makes the most of his time on the show and eventually founds the Legion of Doom.
Season 9 Episode 7
Kandor is one of the more fascinating elements of Superman’s lore that adaptations don’t usually have the time to dig into. Admittedly, it’s a fairly convoluted story of vengeance and grudges between Jor-El and Zod and then there’s the whole “city shrunken by Brainiac” thing (all of which were explored masterfully on the Krypton TV series). That’s why it’s so exciting that Smallville decides to indulge in this admittedly niche territory and they actually do it some justice.
The episode not only acts as a great expansion on Jor-El’s backstory, but it’s also the turning point in the show’s ninth season regarding Clark’s relationship with Zod. Using Kandor as the spark in the antagonistic relationship between the two of them is inspired stuff.
Margot Kidder Was Almost a Villain
Okay, so this one actually didn’t happen but it was super close to going through and could have been an interesting development. In another sly injection of nostalgia, the plan around Smallville’s fourth season was to see Margot Kidder as the year’s Big Bad. I can understand the appeal of this sort of “good guy plays villain” ploy and it’s exactly the reason why so many people wanted Michael Keaton to play a villain in one of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films.
Here, the idea was to have Kidder as a constant thorn in Clark’s side through the year, but after the death of Christopher Reeve, the idea of Kidder consistently inflicting harm on Clark suddenly seemed to be in poor taste. Kidder’s role was minimized accordingly with villain duties falling on Genevieve (Jane Seymour) and Jason Teague.