For the first time in over 25 years, we’re going to get an actual Superman TV series. In the years since Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman went off the air, we’ve had Smallville (“no tights, no flights”), Supergirl (who needs no introduction), and Krypton (a sci-fi time travel space opera about Superman’s grandfather). But a weekly show set in Metropolis with Superman, Lois Lane, and all of the traditional Man of Steel trappings seemed like it was off the menu, despite Supergirl’s introduction of Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch as note-perfect versions of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
That’s all going to change with Superman and Lois, a new Arrowverse series from Todd Helbing, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns that will focus on the pair’s adventures as heroes, reporters, and even parents. Letting two of the best known characters in DC history co-headline a CW show is a big deal, and whether you’re dedicated Arrowverse fan or a Superman scholar who wants to jump in with this new series, there’s plenty to look forward to in this new version of the legend.
NO ORIGIN STORIES
For the first time in Arrowverse history, we won’t have to deal with a superhero learning the ropes. Superman was already well established in the world when Kara Danvers first put on her cape five seasons ago, so we’ll have a Superman who is not only comfortable in his role as a hero, but well known to the world at large. Superman’s origin story has been told more than enough times on screen anyway, and Superman and Lois gets the added bonus of coming into a world that already has its rules and superheroic history well established thanks to nearly a decade of TV storytelling.
So instead of the usual origin story fol-de-rol, we’re going to get the first live action exploration of Lois and Clark as a married couple and as parents. The former has been a staple of the comics for over 25 years, and the movies finally caught up to the idea that Lois knows the score with Clark and Superman with Man of Steel in 2013. But a long form, serialized exploration of the most famous couple in superhero history as partners and parents has never been done outside of the comics, and this is both a historic development in Superman history and a turning point in Arrowverse storytelling.
The show is called Superman and Lois, which means the greatest fictional reporter in history is going to have plenty of screen time. If you’re new to the Arrowverse, you should know that here, Lois and Clark are married with a baby. The days of everyone wondering why Lois Lane can’t see through a pair of glasses have been a thing of the past in the comics for years, and their professional partnership and domestic life was never explored better than in recent comics by writers like Dan Jurgens and Peter Tomasi. If you want to get a rough idea of what the family dynamic of this show might look like check out The Road to Rebirth: Lois and Clark, The Path of Doom, and Son of Superman.
One of the key things to remember about Lois Lane, and something the comics have done a great job of exploring in recent years, is that Lois is a better journalist than Clark Kent. That’s right, she’s better than the guy who can see through walls and hear conversations in the next building, and she does it all without powers. In the little we’ve seen of her so far, Elizabeth Tulloch seems like the Lois least interested in putting up with anybody’s shit in screen history, so expect a thoroughly convincing and tough reporter speaking truth to power while Clark worries about dealing out justice in more direct ways.
Speaking of which…
THE DAILY PLANET
If you remember Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the early-90s TV series that starred Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain in the title roles, you’ll remember how much time was spent in the Daily Planet offices. The show was originally pitched as a newsroom drama where Superman would only occasionally show up, with a romantic comedy element akin to ‘80s critical darling Moonlighting. The show that ended up on the air didn’t quite get there, although you can certainly see hints of it in the first season.
Maybe Superman and Lois can get there in ways Lois and Clark couldn’t. Since journalism is very much a part of these characters’ DNA, these stories might feel a little less artificial and obligatory than they have on Supergirl. And while key members of the Daily Planet staff are now former staffers (see Cat Grant and Jimmy Olsen thanks to Supergirl), there’s still plenty of terrific Superman supporting characters waiting to get the Arrowverse treatment, whether it’s Perry White, Ron Troupe, or resident sports dickhead Steve Lombard.
Supergirl has repeatedly proven that you can pull off convincing Kryptonian heroics on a TV budget week in and week out. And sure, there will be plenty of opportunities for aerobatic fights against alien and cybernetic menaces, but the thing that could set this show apart will be showing how The Daily Planet as a respected news organization rights everyday wrongs and fights for truth, justice, and tolerance just as relentlessly as our favorite caped cousins.
And while we’re on that subject…
TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND TOLERANCE
The CW in general and the Arrowverse in particular has never been shy about diversity and inclusion in its storytelling and messaging, and Superman and Lois is the perfect opportunity to use the most well known superhero of them all to spotlight these values. And for anyone who thinks that the political messages of these superhero shows (or genre fiction in general) is somehow a recent development, you only have to take a look at the history of Metropolis.
Superman’s earliest adventures saw him billed as the “champion of the oppressed” and he routinely took on crooked landlords, arms manufacturers, and corrupt politicians just as often as mad scientists and runaway robots. He even took on the Klan in a 1946 radio adventure (recently adapted as a terrific comic), while in the 1948 movie serial, Pa Kent instilled in young Clark the values of “truth, justice, and tolerance” (note that “the American Way” was only added to the radio show during World War II, removed at the war’s conclusion, and then reinstated for the TV show in the 1950s during the McCarthy era) In other words, the spirit of the Man of Steel and his supporting cast remains virtually unchanged since 1938, and he’ll be right at home on the CW.
Superman and Lois is going to put the pair’s role as parents squarely in the spotlight, as the logline for the show promises it will show them “deal with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society.” The conclusion of Elseworlds saw Lois and Clark headed offworld for some parental leave as Lois was expecting their first child. In the comics that child is Jonathan Samuel Kent (named after his grandfathers), who has spent most of his time on the page so far as a boy roughly 8 years of age, going on adventures with his dad and best buddy (and son of Batman) Damian Wayne. But thanks to recent time dilation and relativity shenanigans and the interference of his biological Kryptonian grandfather (don’t ask), he’s about 16 and hanging out in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes (whew…comics).
So what does all this have to do with Superman and Lois? Well, for starters, it could be significant that the pair left the planet to have their baby. By the time Superman and Lois premieres, we have to figure it will be at least two years since the events of Elseworlds. This doesn’t mean that the show has to have a half-Kryptonian toddler running around, though. Superhero and sci-fi logic (not to mention the ever-present threat of whatever continuity altering nonsense Crisis on Infinite Earths is going to bring us) could make it easy for Jon to be a more TV-appropriate age and cast a young actor who could carry the role for a number of seasons.
CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS
It’s important to remember that at the moment Superman doesn’t actually exist on the “main” Arrowverse Earth-1. Instead, Lois and Clark are over on Earth-38 with Supergirl. It’s easy to forget sometimes that Supergirl doesn’t take place in the same corner of the DC Multiverse as Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, or Batwoman, since it’s a mild hangover from the show’s one and only season on CBS when it kicked off. That will probably change in December with Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The tagline of both the original Crisis on Infinite Earths comic and the upcoming TV version is “Worlds will live, worlds will die, and nothing will ever be the same.” A key part of the original story was how the multiverse was condensed into one universe with a cohesive timeline. Don’t be surprised if one of the final results of Crisis is that Earth-38 ends up merged with Earth-1 so that Barry Allen can hang out with Kara Danvers without the need for interdimensional shenanigans. And it will also change Arrowverse history just enough to allow for the fact that Superman has been operating out in the open for longer than any other active heroes.
THE SUPERMAN COSTUME
Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman look has served its purpose. It’s modern, it fits well with the aesthetic of the broader Arrowverse, and it reflects the “not a costume, but some kind of Kryptonian ceremonial gear” thinking that has driven most interpretations of the Superman suit for nearly a decade now. But it’s probably not anyone’s favorite version of the tights.
For starters, the “no trunks” look has fallen out of fashion since the comics officially adopted it in 2011 to when it was brought to the big screen for Man of Steel in 2013, to Hoechlin’s current TV version. The problem with Hoechlin’s suit has never really been the lack of trunks, but the fact that the red belt is placed in such a way that it doesn’t really help emphasize the actor’s athletic silhouette.
But now, as DC proudly proclaimed in 2018, “the trunks are back.” The comics have embraced Superman’s most recognizable and iconic look, and perhaps it’s time that the Arrowverse does, as well. Take a look at the awesome Superman suit Brandon Routh is rocking for Crisis on Infinite Earths. Not only does it feature the red trunks, but the material seems less restrictive, and helps to show off the actor’s impressive physique. A few design tweaks to Tyler’s current costume should make all the difference in the world.
Let’s just start with Lex Luthor, since Jon Cryer recently brought us one of the best live action interpretations of the character in history over on Supergirl. Cryer’s Lex is urbane and dry-witted, with just enough manic mad scientist menace to make him well rounded. Sure, he can’t be in every episode, but make sure Lex is a recurring character so that one of the most iconic rivalries in comic book history can get plenty of screentime.
As for everyone else? Supergirl has laid a solid foundation using some of the second-tier Superman villains either as outright baddies of its own or as supporting cast fodder. And while Superman’s rogues gallery bench may not be as deep as those in Gotham or Central City, the Arrowverse has a proven track record of making all the little pieces fit and allowing previously minor characters to shine in the spotlight. Hell, they built a whole show around it with Legends of Tomorrow.
With Crisis on Infinite Earths likely to smooth over a whole bunch of messy Arrowverse and broader DC TV continuity, though, it opens up another opportunity…when it comes time to bring the original Brainiac to Metropolis, there’s simply no topping the work that Blake Ritson did on the sadly gone-too-soon Krypton.
Actually, y’know what?
Okay, fine this one is a long shot, but hear me out.
Krypton was sadly canceled after just two seasons. The show was far more than a mere prequel, bringing in elements of time travel, alternate history, and potentially drastic new futures for the characters involved. It was also a perfect encapsulation of the ethos of the Superman character with terrific production and character designs to go along with it. While it was never meant to be a prequel to the events of the Arrowverse, perhaps Crisis on Infinite Earths will allow that to happen.
The general aesthetic of Krypton would make a great fit on Superman and Lois whenever the Fortress of Solitude needs a visit or certain alien characters need to make an appearance. Krypton gave the alien elements of Superman’s heritage a lived in, space opera feel that would be a different take than what we’re used to in the Arrowverse.
And then there are the potential villains. Back in 2000, comics legend Keith Giffen wrote a treatment for a Superman movie that never made it past the talking stages, but featured Lobo as the villain. Emmett J. Scanlan just played a note-perfect Lobo on Krypton, and the thought of him throwing down with Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman for a couple of episodes is delicious.
But more importantly, no movie or TV show is ever going to top Blake Ritson’s Brainiac. The greatest Superman villain who had never been properly realized in live action until Krypton came along deserves more time in the spotlight, and could easily power an entire season of Superman and Lois. And yes, I realize we already caught a glimpse of General Zod in a hallucinatory sequence at the conclusion of Supergirl Season 2 that didn’t line up with Colin Salmon’s portrayal of everyone’s favorite space dictator, but Crisis on Infinite Earths is supposed to clear up exactly that kind of thing.
While Superman hasn’t had the best luck on the big screen recently, the character is better suited to long form, serialized storytelling anyway. Without box office pressure to up the spectacle at every turn, Superman and Lois has a chance to show TV audiences what comic fans have known and loved about comics’ greatest journalistic power couple for 80 years. And there will still be plenty of room for tights, flights, and everything in between.