Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar revealed why the series was able to break the canon of Superman comics.
Long before the DCU existed, Smallville was one of the first television series to focus on a major comic book hero. Airing from 2001 to 2011, the series focused on Clark Kent in his teenage years and explored the events that led to him becoming Superman.
The series was always steeped in Superman lore and incorporated familiar characters like Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Jonathan and Martha Kent. However, it also took some huge liberties with its DC comics source material.
Gough and Millar, who recently revitalized another classic character in Netflix’s Wednesday, have spoken out on why Smallville was able to do this.
Why Smallville Broke Superman Canon
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Smallville creators Al Gough and Miles Millar addressed whether they’d ever want to revisit the show and what allowed them to deviate from the DC comics mythos.
While making Smallville, Gough said the team were fortunate as there was “no committee” hanging over them from DC and therefore they were able to execute their vision:
“I feel like we were very, very fortunate to do the show when we did it because we got to make the show we wanted to make, and frankly, there was no committee sitting over us telling us what we could or couldn’t do.”
According to Gough, the only caveats Smallville faced from the studio were restrictions on “certain characters:”
“I mean, we had Warner’s features, who wouldn’t give us certain characters that we wanted, but we got to make the show we wanted to make which we wouldn’t be allowed to make that show today. There were so many deviations from the canon. One generation’s heresy is the next generation’s gospel.”
Millar added that this flexibility allowed for the “whole premise of the show” to deviate from canon, using the meteor show from the pilot episode as an example:
“The whole premise of the show was not canon. The idea that Clark arrived in the meteor shower that killed people, and that Lex was there. All those things were completely new, added to the mythology of Superman.”
Millar said that in today’s world they “would not be allowed to make that show” and said the whole idea of canon is “leading to stagnation in terms of ideas:”
“But we categorically would not be allowed to make that show and make those changes today, which is a real tragedy because I think what’s amazing if you look at the history of comics and these characters, is they’re always evolving. They never stand still, and the idea that there’s a certain canon you have to [follow], it’s actually leading to stagnation in terms of the ideas. Some of it’s, there’s obviously the cat calls from fandom, which people probably listen to too much that really, really has led to self-censoring, and we were still very privileged to have had that moment where we were actually free to do whatever we wanted, and it was amazing and very liberating.”
Gough said that the duo weren’t interested in returning to the world of Smallville, particularly as the DCU is “always refreshing Superman:”
“To be honest, no. I think we told that story, and they’re always refreshing Superman. I just read last night that James Gunn’s writing a new younger Superman movie, and I’m like, “OK.”
When asked whether they have any advice for James Gunn as he attempts a young Superman film, the writers were supportive of the director saying “he knows what he’s doing:”
Gough: “I’m not giving James Gunn any advice. He doesn’t need our advice. He’s a fantastic filmmaker. He doesn’t need our advice. He knows what he’s doing.”
Could Smallville Exist in The DCU?
There’s no doubt the nature of comic book adaptations has evolved significantly since Smallville first aired.
It’s the job of studio heads like Marvel’s Kevin Feige, and newly appointed DC bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran, to craft cinematic universes like the MCU and DCEU and ensure every project aligns with their vision. In order to do that, bold decisions, like the scrapping of Henry Cavill as Superman, have to be made in order to support this idea of canon.
It’s easy to see why something like Smallville wouldn’t be made today, as both fans and executives are stringent with sticking to comic book lore. That being said, this hasn’t stopped things like Matt Reeves’ The Batman from existing outside the main cinematic universe.
While Gough and Millar have made it clear they’re not interested in returning to their Superman world, stars Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum have floated the idea of pursuing an animated Smallville sequel series.
Whether that series will ever get made under DC today, let alone be allowed to continue Smallville’s deviation from the Superman mythos is another question.