This article contains Superman & Lois episode 1 spoilers. We have a spoiler free review here.
Superman & Lois episode 1 does it all! Callbacks to the comics that go all the way back to 1938! A visual reference to the character’s very first onscreen appearance! Random and obscure nods to comics from the ’90s! Oh, and a whole bunch of love for the granddaddy of all superhero movies, 1978’s Superman: The Movie.
Basically, if you’re a Superman fan, the first episode of Superman & Lois is like a love letter to nearly every era of the comics. Here’s everything we spotted…
The Origin Story
- The fact that Kal-El is depicted as being “born” on Earth when the rocket opens seems to be something taken from both John Byrne’s Man of Steel origin story, as well as Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel film. Essentially, these versions of the Superman origin state that the rocket that brought him to Earth wasn’t just carrying him as a baby, it was carrying a gestation matrix for baby Kal-El. In other words, he never touched Kryptonian soil or breathed Kryptonian air, and the moment we see that rocket open on Earth is essentially the moment of his birth.
- The Kents driving a red pickup truck (especially when they find baby Kal-El) has echoes throughout Superman history. It was most notably deployed in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, and has been homaged in Smallville and again here, as well as in other places.
The Fleischer Superman Costume
- When we see an early appearance of Superman in action, his suit (especially the emblem) looks like the version from the Max Fleischer cartoons. It’s a nice nod to the early media days of the character.
- Incidentally, his “my mom made it for me” line was used in the pilot episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in 1993. It also speaks to a piece of Superman lore that often switches back and forth in the comics and elsewhere. For years, it was generally accepted that Clark’s costume was made by Martha Kent from the blankets that came with the rocket. In some recent interpretations (notably the Man of Steel film), it’s a piece of Kryptonian ceremonial wear of some kind, and is alien in nature.
At least we know that in this version of the story, Ma Kent made it.
Action Comics #1
- When Superman makes his early appearance wearing that cool vintage costume, he’s catching a green car and setting it down gently, an inversion of the character’s first appearance in Action Comics #1 from 1938, where he is smashing a green car to bits against the side of a rock.
- This isn’t the only Action Comics #1 nod in the episode, as on the memo board in Lois and Clark’s Metropolis home there’s a reminder to “Call Siegel and Shuster.” Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are the creators of Superman. Their phone number (on this board) is 418-193-8000. Action Comics #1 was copyrighted (and possibly published) on April 18, 1938.
- Later in the episode, the kids of Smallville are partying at “the old Shuster mine,” another shoutout to the creators. On the Superboy TV series from the ’80s, Clark and Lana attended Shuster University, as well.
Richard Donner and Superman: The Movie
Speaking of that memo board…there’s also a reminder for “Dr. Donner.” Richard Donner directed 1978’s Superman: The Movie, the first truly great superhero movie, and still considered one of the greatest of all time.
- Clark’s crack to his kids that he was the “team manager” for the football team is something of a callback to Superman: The Movie, as well, because in one of the only scenes with a teenage Clark in that film, he’s in charge of keeping the football team’s equipment in order.
- The doctor who (unsuccessfully) treats Martha Kent here is Dr. Frye. “Doc Frye” was mentioned by Martha Kent to Jonathan Kent in Donner’s Superman, warning him about his heart condition, in a bit of foreshadowing.
- Storing the old rocketship in the barn is nothing new, but it had particular significance in Superman: The Movie. It’s unclear if a teenage Clark in that film had ever fully understood/embraced his heritage until the ship “calls” to him one night and he pulls one of those strange crystals from it.
- “The sunstone crystal” that Jordan pulls out of the rocket is very much like the crystals that were embedded in the rocket that brought Kal-El to Earth in Donner’s Superman. It was the first instance in Superman lore where these crystals were such important sources of information, and it was only relatively recently that they were adopted in the comics (and that’s where they were finally named), as well.
- Clark lifts the old pickup truck to show the boys that he’s Superman. In Superman: The Movie, one of his first acts on Earth as a baby is to lift the Kent pickup truck, letting his foster parents know that he wasn’t your average little kid.
- “Stick with Lane, she’ll show you the ropes.” It’s always been a tradition in Superman lore that Lois is the more experienced (and better) reporter than Clark. But Clark’s first day on the job being paired up with Lois to show him around is another nod to Donner’s Superman.
- When Superman is chasing the mysterious “Captain Luthor” there’s several moments that feel like when Supes chases the west coast missile in Superman: The Movie, as well.
Superman III isn’t anyone’s favorite Superman movie, but there are elements of it that seem quite relevant to Superman & Lois.
- For starters, Superman III is all about Clark returning to Smallville and reconnecting with Lana Lang and seeing how things changed. That’s a big deal here, although unlike in that film, Lana and Clark don’t appear to have ever fully lost touch. But also in that film, Lana is romantically involved with a local, and while Kyle Cushing is something of a prickly character here, he’s far better than the alcoholic former Smallville High quarterback Brad Wilson from Superman III.
- The scene where Superman saves a nuclear reactor by freezing a lake and using that to cool it off is very similar to one of the best scenes from Superman III (and honestly one of the best scenes in the franchise) where Superman uses a similar trick on an overheating chemical plant.
- Incidentally (and unrelated to Superman III) later on Clark and Sam Lane (more on him in a minute) discuss a similar incident at “Oyster Creek.” Oyster Creek is a real power plant, located in New Jersey, which probably places Metropolis on the east coast in the Arrowverse. Where it should be.
The “Lombard” that Lois disparagingly refers to is Daily Planet sports columnist Steve Lombard. Lombard was a staple of Superman comics in the ’70s and ’80s, a former football player turned sportswriter who delighted in making Clark the butt of his jokes. He doesn’t appear quite as much these days.
Before Lombard worked for The Daily Planet, he was the quarterback of the Metropolis Meteors, and we get several references to that team throughout this episode, from posters in the Kent home to the boy Superman saves in the car sequence wearing a Meteors hat. And, of course, this explains why Lombard is such a good source of Meteors tickets for his co-workers.
The Death of Martha Kent
Clark at his mother’s deathbed mirrors an oft-repeated scene from the comics, where young Clark speaks to his father as he dies.
General Sam Lane has been a fixture of Superman continuity since 1959, and the idea of Lois being an army brat has been increasingly played up in recent years. Generally, Sam has usually had a more adversarial relationship with his future son-in-law than what we’re seeing here, but this is a nice change of pace, and one that will certainly make for some good storytelling opportunities down the road.
The signal device that Sam (and Lois) wield is similar to the watch worn by Jimmy Olsen. Here, it almost looks like it could have been designed by Jack Kirby, doesn’t it?
Jonathan and Jordan Kent
Young Jon Kent is a new addition to Superman lore, having only made his first appearance in 2015. There, he’s an only child, not a twin. After being a young kid for most of his time in the comics, he was recently aged up to a teenager (thanks to some space travel and relativity shenanigans). He is, of course, named after Clark’s foster father. Jordan is a new creation for the show and has no comics counterpart.
You may remember that Jon was initially an only child in the Arrowverse as well, but the reality altering effects of Crisis on Infinite Earths changed that.
Anyway, in the comics, Jon has powers. Lots of ’em.
When we first meet Jordan Kent, he’s playing the DC/Mortal Kombat crossover video game Injustice 2. That’s certainly…an interesting choice considering what the actual storyline of the Injustice games entails (it involves the Joker and a pregnant Lois Lane…as you can imagine, it doesn’t end well). Anyway, needless to say, that probably isn’t the story in the Arrowverse.
The Sequoia movie theater in Smallville during the flashbacks is showing a film called Rory’s First Kiss, which was the codename that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight filmed under. This scene, in which Jonathan Kent dies, must take place earlier than 2008, though, so it’s unlikely that Rory’s First Kiss was a Nolan production in this universe.
Jonathan Kent dying of a heart attack has happened several times, but most notably in Superman: The Movie and on Smallville.
Who is Captain Luthor?
No, he isn’t Master Chief. All his talk about how his world was destroyed would seem to indicate he’s from an Earth that didn’t make it through Crisis on Infinite Earths, though. We’ll have to wait for future episodes to see how this one pans out.
And no, this doesn’t mean this doesn’t take place on the main Arrowverse Earth or that Jon Cryer’s brilliant portrayal of Lex is no longer canon. We’ll get answers soon enough!
We wrote more about the implications of Captain Luthor here.
Overbearing and overeager Daily Planet assistant editor Sam Foswell is just like that in the comics, too. He’s made a handful of appearances since 1991.
We also hear that Ron Troupe has been fired, and he’s a dedicated member of the Superman comics supporting cast, as well.
We’ll have more on Morgan Edge in the coming weeks, as he’s set to play a major role on this show. For now, just know that he’s got a 50 year history and is one of the few supporting Superman characters created by none other than Jack Kirby. His arrival in the Arrowverse bodes big things for the future.
Miscellaneous Cool Stuff…
- There’s news footage of Superman saving a space shuttle at one point, referencing multiple comics stories, but also the first episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, once again.
- There’s a banner for the Smallville Crows in one of the bedrooms of the old Kent home. The Crows were also the football team on the Smallville TV series, so this is a neat detail.
- Superman falling to Earth after getting stabbed by the Kryptonite mirrors a moment in Superman Returns, when he’s been poisoned by the Kryptonite continent he hurls into space.
- “When your father first told me I didn’t understand either.” In 1991’s Action Comics #662, Clark finally told Lois his secret. She wasn’t exactly thrilled to learn that he had been lying to her all that time.
- Clark and Lana attended a Soul Asylum concert. Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first Gen-X Superman! But more specifically, Lana references how they got in an accident and nobody was hurt. 1990’s Adventures of Superman #474 was a flashback to a teenage Clark and friends partying and getting in an accident. It didn’t end as well as Lana’s anecdote, if my memory serves.
Spot anything I missed? Let us know in the comments!