Before the Arrowverse and its interpretations of various DC Comics heroes and villains, The CW had Smallville. The 10-year long series followed Clark Kent’s (Tom Welling) path to becoming Superman as well as Lex Luthor’s (Michael Rosenbaum) journey to becoming the iconic antagonist for the Man of Steel. But over the course of the Superman prequel drama, we saw the introduction of several characters from the DC Universe.
It was during the fifth season where the creative minds behind Smallville began to play more with the DC sandbox where various Justice League characters, as well as DC baddies, came to life. With so many villains brought in over the seasons, it’s time to rank the 10 best ones.
Darkseid became the show’s final big bad in the tenth season that was Clark’s last step before he could become Superman. The Darkseid that the writers introduced was more based on the Final Crisis interpretation where he relied more on possessing people’s bodies rather than having a physical form of his own.
This allowed the tenth season to rely more on his prophets with Granny Goodness (Christine Willes), Desaad (Steve Byers) and Gordon Godfrey (Michael Daingerfield.) Even though we never got a physical Darkseid – most likely because of budget, - the Smallville version worked to most degree. The power he had throughout the season made up for his physical absence.
The eighth season introduced one of the famous Superman baddies when Chris Gauthier came in as Winslow Schott a.k.a. Toyman. Through a clever backstory that would also pit Winslow against Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley), this was one of the best villains they brought in from DC. Gauthier’s performance, along with the writing, made Smallville’s Toyman someone you wanted to see more of.
Toyman has that balance of being horrific while also somehow making it a bit humorous. The penultimate episode in the final season put Toyman to excellent use before the series came to an end.
Smallville had its fair share of giving fans alternative versions of Clark, including a few evil ones. One of them was Clark’s doppelganger from Earth-2 as the DC drama introduced the Multiverse concept in the final season. In the episodes “Luthor” and “Kent,” we see how Clark would have turned out if Lionel Luthor (John Glover) had found him rather than the Kents. In this universe, he is the vicious Ultraman and everything that Earth-1 Clark isn’t. While we only saw him for two episodes, his final appearance was memorable as our Clark attempted on giving his doppelgänger a chance at redemption on Earth-2.
It was only a matter of time before Smallville introduced Metallo. In the ninth season, Brian Austin Green came in to play John Corben, who would later become the iconic cyborg. The production work on Metallo’s visual look was a big deal back when the show aired and that deserves praise in itself.
The setup of having Corben clash with Clark as the Blur was compelling in that he wasn’t born evil, but allowed a personal tragedy to drive him towards darkness. While he only appeared in three episodes, Metallo still stands out as one of the better baddies on the show.
Even though he hadn’t become Superman yet, it didn’t stop Smallville from bringing in the creature that is famous for killing the Man of Tomorrow. The eighth season introduced Davis Bloome (Sam Witwer) who was also from Krypton but born for a single purpose: killing Kal-El. Depicted as General Zod and Faora’s child, Doomsday was a result of genetic engineering that would become Davis’ Kryptonian side. When he was only genetic matter, his parents attached him to Kal-El’s ship that would take them both to Earth as Krypton exploded.
While taking some liberties with the character, the writers still stayed true to what Doomsday is as they also added more depth. When it comes to Doomsday from a visual standpoint, a lot of praise goes to the production workers on the show. Rather than rely too much on CGI, a physical suit was made for a stunt performer to wear and in the finished product, it looked fantastic.
One of the other evil Clarks that Welling got to portray was Bizarro. While the writers didn’t go with the comic version of Bizarro, they found a clever way to do their version of him. In this version, he is a dangerous wraith from the Phantom Zone who was one of the escapees when Clark broke out of his father’s prison in the sixth season. In the season finale that year, he was the final wraith that Clark had to capture and send back to the Phantom Zone.
But it was easier said than done as the wraith was able to steal Clark’s DNA, making him look like Clark, as well as get all of his powers. Rather than being weakened by Kryptonite, the sun was what would hurt him, hence why he had his Bizarro face every now and then. This was a creative and solid way of the series while also giving Clark another formidable foe.
4 Lionel Luthor (Earth-2)
One of the best characters in the entire series is Lionel Luthor (John Glover) who served as one of Smallville’s most complex players, thanks to Glover's outstanding performance for over seven years. Starting out as an antagonist, Lionel would slowly get redeemed in the later seasons as Lex grew more towards the dark side. The later part of season seven became the end of Lionel as Lex pushed his own father to his death which was unforgettable. While this Lionel had a compelling complexity, his Earth-2 doppelgänger was full-on evil.
In this universe, he took Clark in after landing on Earth and raised the Last Son of Krypton who ended up on a dark path. Aside from all the trouble he caused, once he came to Earth-1, it was his final act that became the most memorable aspect about him. After having allowed Ultraman to kill his Lex on Earth-2, Lionel ends up making a deal with Darkseid to resurrect his son on Earth-1. But it came at a price as Lionel gave up his heart to Lex while allowing Darkseid to take over his body so he could fight Clark. We all know how that ended.
3 General Zod
Smallville took an interesting journey when it came to introducing General Zod. The character was fully fleshed out in the ninth season when a clone version of him was introduced, played by Callum Blue. This is one of the deepest versions of the character where viewers got to really explore the character and his complexity. While he got defeated, the final season brought him back in a cool way where the Zod clone merged with his phantom in the Phantom Zone, bringing it full circle.
James Marsters became the first actor to ever play Brainiac in live-action and despite not looking like the comic version, it didn’t take away the great work he did. As Clark began to connect more with his Kryptonian heritage, Brainiac became a recurring foe in his life and complicated things for the Boy of Steel more than once. The more he appeared, the more you wanted to see of him. Eventually, he was stopped thanks to Clark and the Legion of Super-Heroes who took him to the future to reboot him into Brainiac 5. But his time as Brainiac was absolutely delicious and fun to watch.
1 Lex Luthor
Despite the many foes in Superman’s life, there will never be anyone like Lex Luthor and Smallville was just as much about him as it was about Clark. For seven years Rosenbaum took viewers deep into Lex as a character more than any other TV or film version had ever done. Combined with compelling writing and consistently solid performances by Rosenbaum, Lex is without the best DC villain in the series. Despite his destination, you’d understand where this Lex was coming from and how he ended up becoming the man he is today.