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Friday, 18 March 2011

Smallville heroes - the non affiliates

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 is the second in a series of posts on Smallville's characters cast of heroes, villains and sidekicks, and the original characters that inspired them.  Today, the non affiliates!

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.  Often, they are older.  Here we go.

Ahh, Supergirl, one of my personal favourite heroes.  Kara Zor-El on Smallville is older than Clark, more capable, more well adjusted to her powers, and can fly.  Kara Zor-El in the comics is younger and much less experienced as a hero.  In the comics, Clark is her mentor.  Other than that, their origin stories are pretty similar.  To read more about Kara, start with her introduction into the DC Universe, reviewed here.  That post also includes a recommended reading order.

There has been another character who has carried the name Supergirl, this is Linda Danvers.  Linda is not Kryptonian but did wear the S shield (and wore it well).  You can read more about her here.  In Smallville, Kara used the name Linda Danvers as a pseudonym.

Lois Lane - the love of Superman's life and an ace journalist.  It's been a pleasure watching their romance unfold on screen.  In the comics it took slightly longer, with the two of them only getting together in the late 1980s.  You can read about their wedding in Superman: The Wedding Album found here on Amazon, currently at a rather expensive price.  I would recommend searching ebay for cheaper copies.

The other book that showcases Lois is Superman: Unconventional Warfare, reviewed here as part of our Valentines celebrations.  That book also has a guest appearance by Mr Mzyzxptlk, who in the comics is an imp from the 5th dimension.  More on him in a later post.  For what it's worth, I think Erica Durance portrayed Lois excellently and pretty accurately to the comics.
(Artwork from Life is Thrilling.  I don't know the artist, if anyone can tell me, I'd be grateful).

After Lois, there comes our other favourite alien - the Martian Manhunter, aka, J'onn J'onzz.  Lone survivor of Mars, when J'onn was first created he appeared fairly similar to Superman, but with the addition of shape shifting and invisibility powers.  He came to earth and decided to become a detective.  In the comics world, he had no role in mentoring Superman, but was instead an equal peer to the Man of Steel.  I was very gratified to see that they had a black actor playing J'onn on Smallville, but alas, in the comics when he presents as human he has pretty much always been white.  Smallville J'onn is far more serious than DCU J'onn (although they are both VERY fond of Oreos).

As for books featuring everyone's favourite Martian, there have been precious few focusing on him.  JLA Year One is a good read (and a good introduction to the original DC Universe heroes).  The New Frontier is an excellent out of continuity book and Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare features him quite prominently.

Booster Gold.  Aah, Booster.  I understand he will be debuting Smallville in season 10.  I have no idea what they will do with him, but in the comics, he is an ex-football player from the future.  When he lost his sports career (through fixing a match) he became disillusioned, stole some time travelling technology and journeyed back to our time.  He's constantly trying to get rich and he will endorse and advertise anything.  He's lovable, but a bit of a prat.  Read about him in Booster Gold vol 1: 52 Pick up, Booster Gold vol 2: Blue and Gold, Booster Gold Vol 3: Reality Lost, Booster Gold Vol 4: Day of Death, Booster Gold: The Tomorrow Memory and Booster Gold: Past Imperfect.  I feel that the cover for Past Imperfect really encapsulates Booster's personality.  Expect lots of time travel in these books.

Zatanna is another favourite on Smallville, and someone else I think they got really really right.  The actress is gorgeous and got Zee (as we nerdgirls call her) down really well.  Zatanna is a magician and she uses logomancy to perform her spells - i.e. she speaks words backwards.  She's been rather important in recent DCU History and there have been a few books which feature her prominently.  She had a major part to play in Identity Crisis, but I wouldn't really want new readers to be introduced to Zee from that storyline, as I don't think it did her justice.  Instead, I would point you towards JLA: Zatanna's Search, an old story from the 70s that is a bit dated now, but introduced Zatanna to the DCU.  Beware: it may seem a bit silly and childish for modern tastes.

You could also read Reign in Hell - a story about a war in hell, into which all the magic users of the world gets drawn into.  It sounds like a bad heavy metal concept album.  It's actually very very good.  Lastly, Zatanna finally got her own series last year, and the first 6 issues are being collected into the Mistress of Magic trade, released 9th March 2011.

The Wonder Twins are Zan and Jayna - escaped slaves of an alien overlord.  Their powers are activated by touching (fistbumping) each other and saying "Wonder Twins powers, activate!".  Zan can transform water in any state.  Jayna can transform into any animal, mythological or real.  They aren't used in a lot of modern comics, and I don't think they have major role sin any trade collections.  However, you can find them in Young Justice issues #49–51, (get an introduction to the Young Justice team here) and the Extreme Justice mini series of the 1990s.

I was quite interested to see the season 9 episode where a child became the hero Warrior Angel.  The Warrior Angel character does not exist in the DC comic universe, but the idea seemed to be directly moulded around the Captain Marvel concept, where a little boy says a  magic word and transforms into an adult hero.  For more on this, see Superman/Shazam: First Thunder.

To find out about other Smallville related books, click the Smallville label below this post .


  1. As far as J'onn is concerned, Martian Manhunter: American Secrets series (1992), Martian Manhunter: The Others Among Us (2007), and Vol.2 of Martian Manhunter (1998) by Ostrander/Mandrake has been a lot of fun as well... there's a guide to Martian Manhunter, including list of published works at CosmicTeams.Com
    ps. JLA: Year 1 came in the mail today, Girl- thanks, I'm really excited to read it :)

  2. Did you like JLA year 1?

    Thansk for the Martian Manhunter tips!

  3. YES- i just finished JLA yr.1
    it was a fun ride... REALLY interested in some more JLA...

  4. I re-read it not long ago^^
    So much fun!

    I would say, JLA Incarnations would be a nice "sequel" but it hasn't been collected in TPB from DC yet...(but it could still happen).
    It's the story of the League itself, more than the characters, through the various roster changes and whatnots.

    Also, a more concrete sequel, focusing on two characters only, Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold, would be a nice follow-up. It's from the same creative team!