Despite popular belief, illustrating a proper Superman story is not hard.
It has been done many times in the decades following his creation, be it on radio, or film serials and TV shows, a series of feature films, or even a campy romance-drama. Even the ‘90s animated series did the character a fair bit of justice over the course of Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League (Unlimited), and Smallville—all its story-telling flaws aside—largely succeeded in telling the story of a maturing Clark Kent.
Even well-intentioned missteps like Superman Returns more or less managed to capture the loneliness and burden or being the world’s greatest superhero.
And it helps that, for the most part, the character is usually not portrayed as a city-destroying imbecile with morons for writers who actually deserve to be sucked up a tornado as every Superman fan watches on with glee.
In a world where arguably the most iconic superhero has been depicted over a plethora of media, and by a pantheon of talents, it’s hard to imagine that the truest embodiment of the character would be on The frikkin’ CW. And it would be their second attempt at the character no less, after a decade’s worth of grounding the last son of Krypton in Smallville… well, more than half the show was in Metropolis, but that’s pretty much only scratching the surface of the absurdities in that show (and at least his mother’s name was not a climax-killing plot point).
Yet, here we are, with the most genuine portrayal of Superman having emerged from the second season premiere of Supergirl, having newly landed on The CW following a lacklustre run on CBS for its debut season.
Let’s be clear, there is nothing remarkable about Tyler Hoechlin (I am, of course, being relative, given that the Teen Wolf alum is clearly a very gorgeous man). But his wink and smile approach to Superman, coupled with his self-assured but humble Clark Kent is inarguably the closest we’ve come to seeing Superman in the flesh… discounting the fact that Christopher Reeve was the living, breathing ideology of the man of tomorrow.
Now, I’ve loved almost every iteration of Superman thus far—even in the context of the Wattpad-esque fan fiction-styled DCEU, it must be said that Henry Cavill looks the part more than any other actor ever has—but Hoechlin’s take on the character was a uniquely positioned one even when he first debuted in the red, yellow, and blue suit 4 years ago. A more experienced and confident Superman made for an audience already all too aware of his origins and humble beginnings, this Superman seemed to have been built upon the definitive writing of Mark Waid in 2003’s Superman: Birthright.
So it’s with a sense of triumph that this take on Lois and Clark have flown out of the post-Crisis Arrowverse and into their own TV show with a rather unique premise. Taking cues from 2015’s Superman: Lois and Clark 8-issue mini-series, Superman & Lois’ premise sets them in the later years of their adventures, now parents to twin teenage boys, Jonathan and Jordan.
The idea of Superman as a father instantly adds a different spin on things. Clearly this iteration of the Man of Steel is an experienced superhero and very little can actually faze him in the sense of super-powered antagonists, but as a father, he’s a little left of his field of expertise. Thankfully, Lois (being Lois) is more than capable of stepping up and fulfilling any role she encounters. Having been the bridge between Clark’s global responsibilities and humanity, she’s in her element here riding the quarry wide gap between father and sons.
While the series premiere feels a little slower than it needed to be, the 62-minute episode sets up the tone of this new phase of life for Lois and both, Clark and Superman—a new life wherein Clark can finally slow down and spend time with his family (having just lost a parent for the third time), but Superman must remain in greater contrast with the world around him.
The series also makes a few interesting creative departures from common iteration tropes. An adult Lana Lang (who is not married to Pete Ross, as she was in the comics), is married to Kyle Cushing, a fireman with a chip on his shoulder against “big city” types. Interestingly, despite the presence of proto-Lex Luthor Morgan Edge—yet another morally bankrupt wealthy weasel—it is Lana’s husband who truly fulfils the Lex Luthor archetype by being a man with the firm belief that it is only him and his fellow man that are left facing the harsh realities of everyday living, regardless of the presence of metropolitan demigods.
The moralistic counter-point offered by Kyle allows Morgan Edge to function as a rival more to Lois Lane and her unending mission for the truth, as opposed to once again treading ground of Superman challenging a billionaire. Not that Luthor has been entirely forgotten as we do see… well, that’s perhaps something you should check out for yourself.
The series also opts for Lana not knowing of Superman’s true identity. It allows for more weight to be placed on the truth with only his immediate family, and Lois’ dad, being in the loop. The decision to keep Jimmy Olsen and Kara Zor-El absent from the narrative is also a clearly conscious manoeuvre to further heighten the burden that comes with being a part of Superman’s inner circle. It allows for the unique take on Clark’s relationship with his father-in-law, General Sam Lane, who operates as his liaison to the US military while retaining a deep concern for the impact of Superman’s responsibilities on his daughter and grandsons. It’s almost reminiscent of the Hulk comics, but with a lot less postured antagonising.
While episodes 2 and 3 have picked up the pace and spent more time on allowing views to understand the more peripheral and original to series characters better, Superman & Lois has been a pleasant standout—both in terms of The CW’s usual template for superhero content, as well as past Superman adaptations.
All that said, the trap for more teenage melodrama is clearly present… it is still The CW after all. But for now, Superman & Lois is clearly the definitive adaptation of these beloved characters.