We are truly living in a golden age of superhero television.
When Arrow arrived on The CW in 2012, it was a natural extension of that network’s relationship with DC Comics. Smallville had just finished its 10-season run in 2011, after all, and it wasn’t surprising to see the network return to the proverbial superhero well.
But not even the most optimistic comic book fan could have predicted the success that followed. Not only did Arrow become a hit, it became the bedrock upon which The CW and DC built an interconnected universe of shows. First came Arrow, then The Flash in 2013. That was followed by Legends of Tomorrow last season, and now Supergirl has joined the fun for her second season (and first on The CW).
Supergirl made an immediate impact on the network thanks in no small part to a guest appearance from her famous cousin, Superman. Now that he has returned to Metropolis after his two-episode stint, Supergirl has her spotlight back, and rightfully so. But The CW’s DC Universe continues to grow, and what better way to continue that growth than by giving the Last Son of Krypton his very own show? Here are 15 Reasons We Need A Superman Spin-Off.
15. Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman
There was certainly some consternation in the fan community when The CW announced Superman’s impending appearance on Supergirl. It’s never easy to sell an actor as the most iconic superhero of them all; what if he’s not up to the role? What if he is completely overshadowed by those who have worn the cape before?
Almost immediately, Tyler Hoechlin dispelled those fears. From the moment his Superman appeared alongside Melissa Benoist’s Kara, it was clear he had a handle on the character. Soaring in to help his cousin save a falling spacecraft, Hoechlin’s Kal-El immediately displays the confidence, charm and optimism that is a hallmark of all the best Superman characterizations. His Superman revels in his ability to save the day, and seems to be having a lot of fun teaming up with his cousin for the first time.
Lest he be considered one-note, Hoechlin’s guest appearance also allowed him to show a tougher side, both in his disagreement with J’onn J’onzz over the DEO’s use of kryptonite and his anger when Metallo attacks Metropolis.
14. Hoechlin’s Clark Kent
Of course, one of the key challenges in playing Superman is the dual aspect of the role; an actor must convincingly portray both the incredibly powerful superhero as well as his often bumbling alter ego, Clark Kent. Inevitably some actors excel more at one than the other, but occasionally one manages to nail both.
After just two episodes of Supergirl, it looks like Hoechlin may just be that rare performer who instinctively understands both sides of the character. As great as his Superman is, it could be argued that his Clark Kent is even better. In his dealings with his old friend James Olsen and the obviously smitten Cat Grant, he displays an effortless cool and comfort in his skin that is refreshing. He’s also he’s got the dorky, bumbling charm down, but it doesn’t overwhelm the character or turn it into a caricature. Hoechlin plays a Clark that seems to be as happy being a reporter as he is being Superman, a key balance to strike, especially if he has to carry his own show one day.
13. It’s Been A While
When was the last time Superman actually had his own TV show? The answer might seem obvious; Smallville ran for 10 seasons and was immensely popular. Yet, that show was famous for its “no tights, no flights” mandate. Tom Welling’s Clark Kent flew just a couple of times during the series, and was only glimpsed in the iconic suit in the final moments of the series finale (and then, only barely).
You have to go back to the 1990’s and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman to find the last time a fully formed Superman flew on television. That was a popular show for its time, lasting four seasons and making household names (for a time) of Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. But that show was more interested in the titular relationship than the titanic struggles of a God living among men, and it leaned heavily into the Clark Kent/Daily Planet element of the character.
12. Classic roles, new takes
Comic books are filled with beloved characters, many of which have been brought to life in film and/or television, though there are still plenty that haven’t yet received such treatment.
As noted earlier, it’s no easy task to find the right actor to play Superman, but they managed it with Hoechlin. If he gets his own show, there will be a whole new set of casting challenges to conquer. Who will take on the iconic role of Lex Luthor, Superman’s nemesis (who is currently behind bars, as established on Supergirl)?. We have been gifted with great Luthor performances from actors like Gene Hackman, Michael Rosenbaum and, most recently, Jesse Eisenberg. A new Superman show would certainly have a place for Luthor in it, and it’d be interesting to see a new actor take on the role.
Then there’s Clark’s true love, Lois Lane; Supergirl established that they are very much an item. Like Luthor, Lois has been ably portrayed more than once, from Margot Kidder and Amy Adams on the big screen to Teri Hatcher and Erica Durance on the small one. Who could be next to embody the famous reporter?
11. Heavy lifting is done
The CW and its DC shows have laid substantial groundwork over the last few years. With Arrow in its fifth season, The Flash in its third and Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl entering their second, the comic book world has been well established. Viewers of the hit shows have been introduced to concepts as wide ranging as the League of Assassins and the Speed Force. We’ve spent time in Star City, National City and Central City, while other famous locales like Metropolis, Gotham City and Bludhaven have been name dropped or even visited briefly.
Superheroes as ubiquitous as Supergirl and The Flash have been fleshed out, while lesser known characters like The Huntress and Clock King have also been seen in live action. A fair portion of the gigantic DC universe has found its way onto our TV screens in recent years, and audiences have proven their willingness to engage with it on a deeper level than ever before.
The end result is that, for once, Superman doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting. A new Superman show would not be burdened with a lot of world building, because the other shows have already done it for him.
10. Special effects can match him
The science of special effects has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few decades, especially on the big screen. The smaller budgets inherent in television production have made that growth slower on network and cable, but TV effects are quickly catching up to their film counterparts, thanks in no small part to shows like The CW’s DC offerings. The effects now seen weekly on Supergirl are often as good as anything you would have seen at the box office a few years ago, if not yet quite on par with today’s big budget films.
Supergirl’s flight or The Flash’s speed may not be as impressive as what we saw in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Captain America: Civil War, but they’re still quite good. Both shows have proven that you can showcase fantastic superpowers on a TV budget without breaking the bank or breaking the audience’s suspension of disbelief. There’s no reason a Superman show couldn’t do the same.
9. Move Over Marvel
Marvel isn’t exactly a slouch on the TV front either, although most of its success has come on Netflix, where Daredevil, Jessica Jones and now Luke Cage have met with critical acclaim. With Iron Fist, The Punisher and The Defenders still to come, that winning streak is likely to remain intact. On the network side, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is going strong in its fourth season, though ABC disappointingly cut off Agent Carter after just two.
So while Marvel can claim Netflix dominance over pretty much everybody, DC could teach them a few things about network success. The CW may as well be called the DC Network at this point, but beyond S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel hasn’t made a similar claim over its own network.
8. Long-form storytelling
As great as movies are, TV’s advantage will always be its ability to tell compelling stories over a longer period of time. Even the best movie only has two or three hours to work with, while a typical network show will give you anywhere from 12 to 24 hours of entertainment every season. That length allows for character development and plotting that simply can’t be done in a film.
In a way, that weekly episode format is very much like the typical comic book publishing schedule. Avid readers will grab their favorite books off the shelves once a month to find out where the story will go next, just like viewers will watch their TV (or laptop, or smart phone, or tablet) to find out what’s next for their favorite characters.
Think of Oliver Queen’s two-season rivalry with Slade Wilson, or The Flash battling Zoom for months, and then imagine what a Superman show could accomplish. The scripts are practically already written; just go to a comic store and grab a copy of For Tomorrow or All-Star Superman!
7. Death and Reign
Superman may be dead on the big screen, but fans already know he’ll be back in time for Justice League. It’s unlikely his absence and return will be adequately covered in just one movie; as previously noted, that’s the disadvantage of film.
On TV, however, Superman’s death and resurrection could be a compelling story told over the course of multiple seasons. It would probably be best to hold off on this story until the show has found its footing, but after three or four years, why not end a season with Superman’s cataclysmic battle with Doomsday? That would set the stage for the following season to be inspired by Reign of the Supermen, as four distinct entities rise in Metropolis with designs on claiming Superman’s mantle. Comic book fans know how that would turn out, with not every new hero being what he seems, and before long Metropolis would be crying out for the return of the one true Man Of Steel. By that point Hoechlin would have enjoyed a long break and be ready to return to the role with renewed vigor.
6. Big Bads
Buffy the Vampire Slayer may not have originated the concept of each season of a show having its own overarching villain, but it certainly popularized it. Smallville occasionally used a similar model, especially in later seasons when villains like Doomsday, Zod and Darkseid drove the story forward. The CW’s latest DC offerings have been no different. Consider Arrow, with Slade Wilson, Ra’s Al Ghul and Damien Darhk all menacing Star City, one season at a time. The Flash battled Reverse Flash, then Zoom, and is now contending with Dr. Alchemy. The Legends of Tomorrow spent their first season facing off with the immortal Vandal Savage.
A Superman show would certainly benefit from using a similar formula. A first season could feature lesser villains sent after Superman by the jailed Lex Luthor, while subsequent seasons could see larger threats like Brainiac, Darkseid and Doomsday wreak havoc in Superman/Clark’s life. These season-long story arcs would, again, be a lot like the comic book storylines fans know so well; Superman’s conflict with each villain intensifying week in and week out before the final showdown at the end of the year.
5. Crossover potential
What’s the point of building up an interconnected universe if you’re not going to use it? There are lots of ways Superman could be integrated with The CW’s existing superheroes; a journey Supergirl will first need to take for herself.
But if Superman does get his own series on The CW, it will only be a matter of time before he’s being visited by some of the network’s other heavy hitters. Supergirl would probably be first up, which is only fair. As we saw during his guest appearance, some threats call for the combined might of two Kryptonian heroes.
His cousin is far from the only other hero who could visit him in Metropolis. Seeing Hoechlin’s Clark Kent bounce off of Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen, or trade barbs with Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen, would be a lot of fun. Of course, crossovers go both ways, and it would be equally as interesting to see the Man Of Steel make appearances on Arrow and The Flash, perhaps with the goal of putting a certain team together?
Superman has been a fairly polarizing guy lately.
It’s not an opinion shared by everyone, but a lot of comic book fans don’t like how the character is currently being portrayed on the big screen. Henry Cavill’s performances in Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman (not to mention the films themselves) have been met with appreciation and distaste alike. Sure, no one take on a beloved character will satisfy everyone – even The Dark Knight has its detractors – but even DC and Warner Brothers have acknowledged the disdain directed at their latest films, and seem to be taking steps to address fan complaints by adjusting upcoming films like Wonder Woman and Justice League.
Some fans may never come to enjoy Cavill’s Superman, and for them, Hoechlin’s take on the character may be just the thing. His Superman already seems to embody all of the optimism and hope that many fans see missing in Cavill’s performance, so why not give him a TV show of his own? Fans of Cavill’s take can enjoy the movies, fans of Hoechlin’s can enjoy the show, and fans of both will be in Superman nirvana.
3. The Multiverse
Marvel Studios has taken pains to bring all of their live action offerings under one proverbial roof, but not DC. Though fans of Grant Gustin, Stephen Amell and their shows were hoping to see those actors join Cavill and Ben Affleck on the big screen, DC and Warner Brothers have made it clear that won’t be happening. DC’s movies and television shows exist in different universes, as do their animated offerings, as do their comic books. Comic book fans know exactly what the multiverse is, and that’s what DC is presenting to its fans.
There are undoubtedly some advantages in doing things the Marvel way, but the DC approach can work too, and arguably might be even better for fans. Why limit us to just one take on each iconic character when we can have two, or more? If you enjoy Ezra Miller as The Flash in Justice League, that doesn’t take anything away from Gustin’s performance on his show. Comic book fans long ago proved their ability to identify with and appreciate multiple takes on their beloved characters, whether from different creative teams on the same book or “Elseworlds” tales like Red Son and Flashpoint. And if we’re in a DC multiverse, of course there should be more than one version of Superman. He is their oldest and arguably most famous character, so if one Superman has movies, why can’t another Superman have a TV show?
2. Batman Returns?
Back when Smallville was on the air, fans were always hoping to see a young Bruce Wayne appear on the show. Superman was in his formative stages, so why not Batman too? Alas, it wasn’t to be, with rumors persisting that filmmaker Christopher Nolan (whose Dark Knight films were released throughout Smallville’s run) was adamant that no other live action takes on Batman be developed alongside his films.
Whatever the reason, it was certainly disappointing. As noted, comic book fans have no problem discerning between different versions of their favorite characters. They do it every week at their local comic book store, after all.
Batman hasn’t had a live action show to call his own since Adam West wore the cowl fifty years ago, which is simply unacceptable. The breadth of Batman’s history rivals that of Superman, and there are countless stories that could be adapted for the small screen. Just like with Superman, it’s as simple as looking at the comics; Year One, The Long Halloween, Hush, The Court of Owls, the list goes on. Yes, Gotham is taking elements of the Batman story for its own use, but there is room for that ‘prequel’ story and a full-blown Batman TV show. Let us enjoy a Batman show alongside Ben Affleck’s big screen work.
1. He’s Superman!
Why do we need a Superman TV show? Because he’s Superman! What more needs to be said? He is the centerpiece of the DC Universe, the oldest and most celebrated of their characters. As long as there is a DC presence on network television, it’s only right that Superman be a large part of it.
The CW did the right thing starting out with a lesser known character in Green Arrow. That strategy allowed them to build a universe without the burden of lofty expectations (in much the same way as Marvel launched their cinematic universe with Iron Man).
Now that the universe is established, the time is right to bring the big guns out, and the Man of Steel is the biggest. Placing the world’s best known superhero at the center of their network strategy is a no-brainer for The CW, and will only strengthen their already booming DC business.
Line up Superman next to Supergirl, Green Arrow, The Flash, the Legends of Tomorrow and maybe (some day) Batman, and you have a network that no comic book fan will ever stop watching.