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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Smallville: the Villains

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

Today, the villains!

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.

Let's start with the big villains.  Take Doomsday, a rampaging monster from prehistoric Krypton.  He's incredibly powerful and when he woke up in midwestern America one day no one could stop him.  All the JLA tried, but to no avail.  Superman continued the fight against this creature and eventually defeated him, unfortunately, Superman also lost his life in the process.  These events are chronicled in The Death of Superman book.  As you can probably guess, Superman got better, and if you want to read about how he returned, you can buy The Return of Superman book.  Or an omnibus edition collecting both stories, with some extras thrown in for good measure.  Warning: these books feature Superman with a mullet, this is not for the faint hearted ;).

Another big player in season 10 is Darkseid.  A member of the New Gods, Darkseid presides over the hellish world of Apokolips.  Immensely powerful, he is one of the most dangerous characters in the DCU.  There have been many many stories about Darkseid, his Female Furies (elite warriors trained by Granny Goodness), his son Kalibak and his follower Desaad.  To choose one accessible to new readers, I would recommend Superman/Batman: Supergirl or Mr Miracle.  Alternatively you can read Final Crisis (discussed here), although I have my doubts about how accessible Final Crisis is.

General Zod had a lot of interesting plots in Smallville - some of the earlier season's stories were inspired by the Christopher Reeve films, and happily, the comics have recently become more closely tied to these films.  In turn, Zod's role in season 9 of Smallville echoed some recent comics.  if you liked the military aspects of Season 9 Smallville, and the Kryptonians vs the humans developments, you would do well to try the World of New Krypton stories, and then War of the Supermen.  These books were part of a big crossover event, known collectively as New Krypton.  A full list of the books along with recommended reading is detailed here.  These stories also feature General Sam Lane (Lois' father), Lucy Lane (Lois sister) and Brainiac.

Brainiac is a super intelligent villain.  He is probably most famous for shrinking the Kryptonian city, Kandor, and putting it in a glass bottle.  This shrunken city was a continual course of grief for Superman, as he could never enlarge it.  However, in Superman: Brainiac the city is regrown and the citizens freed.  This book led directly into the New Krypton saga mentioned above.
Note: There have been other characters with the name Brainiac, most notably in the Legion of Superheroes book (see a later post for more information).

Maxwell Lord started in the comics world as a sort of manager to the 1980s JLA, then called Justice League International.  He was a bit slimy, but mostly a good sort.  You can read about this friendly (ish)  incarnation in Justice League International volume 1 (and currently republished up to volume 6) and Formerly Known as the Justice League.  Smallvilles version of Maxwell Lord is far less benevolent, and he has telepathic, mind control powers.  This is in line with more recent comic depictions of him, and if it is this portrayal you are interested in may I recommend Superman: Sacrifice, Wonder Woman: Mission's End and The Omac Project.  Sacrifice is one of my favourite books and there are certain scenes in it that never fail to move me.  These books take place in the run up to a Dc Universe event - Infinite Crisis.  You can read about Infinite Crisis, how it to ties in to other DC 'Crisis' event and what they mean here.

The Silver Banshee is another favourite of mine.  Like her Smallville counterpart, Siobhan McDougal is a Scottish woman, who was granted the powers of the Banshee after a ritual to gain power and status in her clan went wrong.  If Siobhan screams your name, you die.  Unlike the Smallville version, comics Banshee doesn't pass from person to person, and she doesn't hate men.  She recently appeared in the Supergirl comic and those issues have been collected into a trade: Supergirl: Death and the Family.

Another big player in the Superman mythos is Bizarro.  He's a sort of inverted Superman.  He speaks in opposite, has a cracked demeanour that will be recognisable to Smallville fans, and comes from a cube shaped
world that is the opposite of our earth.  He doesn't like Superman, yet he also idoloises him, so much so that eh filled Bizarroworld with replicas of people and things from Superman's life.  So there's a BizarroLois, BizarroJimmy, BizarroDailyPlanet and more. The most recent (and good) take on

Bizzaro can be found in Superman: Escape from Bizarro World.  A Bizarro version of Supergirl, named Bizarrogirl, recently debuted in the Supergirl monthly comics (from issue 53 to 57), but these have not yet been collected into a trade.

The current Toyman is Winslow Schott, he's a criminal toy-making mastermind who makes very effective and deadly toys to aid in his crimes.  You can read about him in World's Finest.

Maxima is an alien princess from the planet Almerac.  She came to Earth in search of a mate, believing that Superman would make a fine sperm donor.  Superman of course refused her advances, this of course angered Maxima.  Nevertheless, she later found herself allied with the Justice League of America and appeared in some JLA and Extreme Justice titles.  To my knowledge none of these have been collected into trade.  Maxima has strength, stamina, a range of psychic powers, but no magic kiss.

Milton Fine started life as a side show 'mentalist' - that is, he worked in a circus, and gave shows demonstrating his mental powers.  He was taken over by the consciousness of Brainiac, who then manipulated his psychic powers to cause Superman harm.  To my knowledge, Milton Fine was a relatively minor character in the Superman mythos, who existed to serve as a portal for the Post-Crisis Brainiac to enter into Superman's life.

Morgan Edge is a TV presenter who runs a show called Edge of Reason, where he tends to criticise the Superman family.  In the 19080s he used to run Intergang, a big criminal network.  He's not a nice man.  You can read about him in the New Krypton books, here.  He's not a big character, but he is nonetheless important to the story.

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

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm- really liked Superman: Brainiac AND Last Son, speaking of Zod & B.