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Monday, 21 March 2011

Smallville: The Sidekicks

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 third in of a series of posts on Smallville's characters cast of heroes, villains and sidekicks, and the original characters that inspired them.

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 has just finished Season 10.  If you choose to comment please don't put any Season 10 spoilers in!  Requests for characters are fine.

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.

Jimmy Olsen is the cub reporter and photographer at the Daily Planet.  Ginger, freckled and prone to wearing bow ties, he has long been known as Superman's pal.  He's a little goofy, but quite endearing, I suppose.  Given that he's historically been such good friends with Superman he has also got himself into a lot of trouble.  He has become Elastic Boy, had 1000 Jimmy robots and clones made of him, become a giant turtle boy, been turned into a human balloon and given ears like a mule (yes really) and gained many more super powers, too many to count.  Read about him in Superman: 3-2-1 Action.

Chloe Sullivan only recently appeared in the comics world, in Action Comics issue number 893 (November 2010).  She has been kept true to her Smallville origins and is an ex of Jimmy's as well as being an ace reporter.  She is not however one of Clark's childhood friends.  Time will tell as to how much she is used properly in the DC comics universe.

The inspiration for Chloe's technological abilities in Smallville came from Oracle, otherwise known as Barbara Gordon.  Barbara was the first Batgirl, until she was shot by the Joker, thus paralysing her legs.  She now uses a wheelchair, is a technological wizard and runs the Birds of Prey.  The Birds of Prey are an all women (mostly) team of superheroes, including Black Canary, who the other superheroes go to when they need help.  Good starting points are the trades Of Like Minds and Sensei and Student.  The art in these latter two is not great - It's by Ed Benes and he's quite focused on bum shots.  But, Gail Simone writes and she is very good at character stories.  Alternatively you can buy digital issues of here.  Of Like Minds starts at issue 60.

Pete Ross is one of Clark's childhood friends.  In Smallville he's black, in the DCU he's white.  He grew up with Clark and the two of them went to school with Lana.  Pete and Lana eventually married, had a child and are now divorced.  Pete was briefly Vice President of America (when Lex Luthor was President).  He is now living peacefully in Smallville with his and Lana's son.  For a view of Pete that might appeal to fans of Smallville, may I suggest Superman For All Seasons.  It's about Clark's move from small town Kansas boy to big city superhero and it's fabulous.

Speaking of Lana Lang, boy is her role in Smallville convuluted (and a bit of a mess, in my opinion).  In the DC comics world she's white.  She never got so angry and dark as she did in Smallville, she never got together with Lex Luthor, she never started up a foundation for meteorite infected kids.  Smallville chose to use Lana in an odd way, I think.  She's been around in the comics for decades, so picking out just one or two trades for her is difficult (same as for Pete Ross and Jimmy, actually).  I would suggest Superman For All Seasons and for a more modern approach, the more recent Supergirl books such as Supergirl: Death in the Family.

Emil Hamilton is a bit of a bumbling mad professor type, who on the whole has been a good ally to Superman.  Recently, as is the trend nowadays, he has turned bad and is out to 'get' Superman and prove him dangerous.  He is much older than the glossy good looking youth Smallville has used.

Finally we come to Krypto!  Krypto the superdog!  Canine from Krypton!  In Smallville he was a normal dog that temporarily gained super powers.  In the DC comics world he is another Kryptonian refugee (you should ignore this last son of Krypton idea, at times the DCU is teeming with displaced Kryptonians!).  Krypto wears a little red cape and is generally bad tempered.  He showed up in the Superman/Batman: Supergirl book but is more usually found hanging out with Superboy (we'll get to who Superboy is a bit later in this series).

To find out more about other Smallville characters, please click the Smallville label below this post.

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