In the ten seasons of Smallville, Tom Welling's Clark Kent crossed paths with many of DC Comics' lineup of superheroes, from Aquaman and Green Arrow, to Martian Manhunter and Hawkman, but in that decade, he never met the most popular of Superman's allies from the comics: Batman.
With CW's Arrow premiering this October and with Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy now concluded, is there a chance Warner Bros. will allow the series and its protagonist to join forces with The Dark Knight?
It took a few years of success of Smallville before its showrunners could really explore the universe, drawing villains and characters fans would never have expected to see in the first few seasons. Yet, Smallville co-creator Alfred Gough revealed several years ago that even though they eventually could explore quite a bit of the DC Comics universe for inspiration and characters, Wonder Woman and Batman were always off limits. In an interview with IGN, executive producer Marc Guggenheim expressed his desire to make that reality happen with his series, "at some point" in the future.
After all, we're already going to be seeing villains from the comics including Deadshot and China White as early as episode 3.
"Oh, my hope is that we can use him at some point. I think that plagued the Smallville showrunners more than it plagues us because, obviously, the Dark Knight trilogy is over. They’re not available to us yet. My hope is that they’ll be available to us at some point. That would be awesome. No question, that would be absolutely awesome. But I don’t know. That’s above my pay grade."
Batman wasn't a character Smallville could include because he was headlining their live-action film franchise, but in this day and age, would audiences be accepting of multiple versions of the character? Guggenheim believes so.
"Look at The Amazing Spider-Man. That was five years after the last Spider-Man movie. Audiences have become incredibly savvy about almost every aspect of our business. I think we actually make the mistake when we underestimate what an audience can handle. We never make a mistake when we overestimate it. I think they can totally handle it. Also, our hope is that we’ll get not just Smallville’s audience, but people who didn’t see Smallville. Smallville was certainly more comic book-y than Arrow is. So it’s a big tent. Certainly, Smallville audiences are savvy enough to know, 'Okay, our Deadshot’s different than their Deadshot.' Hopefully they’re savvy enough so that one day, I really want to have Justin Hartley on the show in a cameo, and everyone will hopefully laugh and we come up with a clever enough cameo."
A big part of the reason Smallville writer and executive story editor Bryan Q. Miller signed up for the season 11 comic book continuation of the series was that he was now allowed to used Batman. Of course, that's an entirely different medium and the books don't compete against the television series or films.
With Batman still representing the most important (and bankable) character for Warner Bros., even with Christopher Nolan apparently finished with the movies, Bruce Wayne and his cape and cowl are still going to be a major part of their film franchise going forward, especially when it comes to realizing Justice League on the big screen.
While it may seem unlikely at this point that Arrow will ever include an appearance of Batman, the series does embrace a far more realistic tone without the superpowers. If the the show is a success, and the studio changes its mind, Bruce Wayne is a character that fits in to the universe more than most, simply because he - like Oliver Queen - doesn't' rely on superpowers but instead uses his wealth to fight crime in a similar fashion.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
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