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Sunday, 27 March 2011

Smallville - the other teams and some history

Anybody who has been watching Smallville over the last few years will have seen a host of DC's characters imported from the comics world to the glossy, highly polished world of Smallville.  You may be wondering about the origins of these characters, what they were like originally and how their stories changed in the leap from comic to small screen.  And that's where we come in!  This  the last in a series of five posts on Smallville's characters cast of heroes, villains and sidekicks, and the original characters that inspired them.
Today, the other teams from the Smallville universe and a little bit of comic history.

Full disclosure:  I love Smallville.  I am a huge Superman fan with a soft spot for trashy American dramas, so Smallville had me hooked from the start.  I believe it has improved a lot since it's first season and now offers more complex storylines, stronger characterisation and improved depictions of it's female characters.  Then there is of course the thrill of seeing some of my favourite characters brought to life on TV.

This post will be written from the point of view of someone who is at the end of Season 9.  If you choose to comment please don't put any Season 10 spoilers in!  Requests for characters are fine though.

All books mentioned in these posts will be reviewed, if they haven't been already.  The characters are presented and grouped according to the way they are depicted in Smallville.  You will find that the comic characters are far more complex and have a lot more backstory than that presented in Smallville.  Usually they are older.  Here we go.
Amanda Waller, Checkmate and the Suicide Squad should almost go in a category all of their own. They aren't heroes, they aren't villains and they are affiliated only to themselves. A government task force, the Suicide Squad is usually comprised of villains, and are always expendable.
Amanda Waller is tough as nails.  She has a tumblr dedicated to her and she has inspired a lot of loyalty from fans.  As one of the few black (and fat) characters in the DC Universe, she's notable for not being relegated to D list status, for being portrayed near consistently in character and for not being sexed up.  She's stared down Batman, Superman and the toughest villains in existence.  You can't beat The Wall, she will always beat you.

Pam Grier portrayed her superbly and now you can read about her and the Suicide Squad in a recently released trade, titled Suicide Squad: Trial by Fire.  This book also features Plastique, Darkseid and the Female Furies, all of whom also appear in Smallville.

One of the other superteams that the Smallville heroes came across was the JSA, or Justice Society of America.  Geoff Johns wrote the JSA episode, which was quite a coup for the programme as Johns is a very well respected comics writer.  As such, Smallville's version of the heroes is true to the comics world.  The long portrait of the original JSA was very inspiring, and they got details like Dr Fate's mask and Green Arrow and Hawkman arguing correct.  A particular favourite of mine in the episode was Courtney Whitmore, Stargirl.  I thought they got her spot on.  If you liked Courtney you can read more about her in JSA Presents: Stars and Stripes vol 1 and vol 2 (both books written by Johns, natch).  If you liked Wesley Dodds as The Sandman try reading this Sandman book we reviewed earlier.

Other books you could pick up are JSA: Ghost Stories, JSA: Black Reign, and JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice.  There's also JSA All Stars: Constellations and JSA All Stars: Glory Days which is a relatively new series.  The JSA books have been going for longer than the JLA books, so you're bound to find one to your liking.  The roster changes but mostly it keeps the old vanguard of the original Flash, original Green Lantern, Wildcat, Hourman, Dr Fate, The Sandman and all those others alluded to in the Smallville episode.

The only other team to mention is the Legion of Superheroes (LoSH).  These are teenagers from the future who have super powers and flight rings and fight crime.  The concept of the LoSH came about many years ago, when names like Lightening Lad and Saturn Girl were deemed good.  Consequently, a lot of the names now seem dated, but nevertheless there are some good stories there.  Try Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 01: Strange Visitor from Another Century first.  As you can tell from the title, Supergirl is in this book.  In the past, in other continuities, it was Superboy who was a member of the LoSh.  He inspired the first group of kids to become superheroes and protect their world.

There's just a few more things to mention.  If it's stories of a young Superman that particularly interests you, try Superman For All Seasons.

There is also a character named Superboy in current continuity, named Connor Kent, he is a clone of Lex Luthor and Superman.  You can read about him in Teen Titans: A Kids Game, or Superboy: the Boy of Steel.  If you enjoyed season 9 of Smallville, then I would encourage you to check out Bryan Q Miller's comics, for example, Batgirl: Batgirl Rising.  Miller wrote a great deal of episodes in seasons eight to ten and his love for the DC characters really showed through.  Batgirl Rising is an excellent trade, suitabel for teenagers and adults.

And that concludes our look at the comics that inspired Smallville!  For previous posts click the Smallville label below this one.

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