The lasting legacy of Smallville?

So I’m still thinking about that Smallville finale. There seems to be a split over whether it was good or not, though I notice that most enjoyed it (even if it was just for the relief that it was finally over). Several elements of Smallville are already seeping back into the comics — the introduction of Chloe Sullivan as a comic book character for example — which is a tradition that has stretched back to the cartoons in the 1940’s and the old radio shows. Superman, after all, doesn’t exist in the vaccuum of the comics, but through all the media he’s inspired.

The thrill of hearing John Williams’ score from the 1970’s movie should be proof enough of that.

So what’s Smallville’s legacy, beyond the new characters? Certainly, the barn setting is starting to become one of the hallmarks of Clark’s origins, and it’s already shown up in the Secret Origins comic. There’s the successful de-aging of Ma and Pa Kent, who were elderly folk since the Silver Age comics (even in the Superboy books) and are now portrayed as a young and fit couple. Those are great.

My favorite, though, is the change in the Lois and Clark dynamic. A commentor — I’m not sure where — mentioned that there’s a seismic change that Lois knows that Clark is Superman long before he takes the mantle. In fact, she inspires him to be Superman. And that’s a key change.

In previous iterations, Lois was basically a nuisance… something to hide from that kept Clark from being Superman. Think Superman II and how Superman had to de-power himself to be with Lois. (After which he had to mind-wipe her remembering he ever was Superman because she just… can’t … HANDLE IT!)

The best thing about Smallville? Superman isn’t Superman without Lois. She enables him to be the better man. She’s not some distraction that stops you from being a hero. She’s the reason you’re a hero in the first place.

And that’s what I loved about Smallville. The first hour of the finale was slow, sure… but when Clark read Lois’ vows on the other side of the door, you got a great sense of why she’s as much a part of him being Superman as simply the fact that he has superpowers. It’s a little sappy, but an essential step forward in the progression of Superman as a character for the 21st Century.

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