Smallville's Homage to DC Comics History

Despite Smallville's often cheesy reimagining of the Superman mythos, despite its teen-angst soap opera storylines, the television show has moments of greatness that have made me stick with it all these years.  Even though it plays loose with the continuity established over decades of Superman storylines, it manages to give fans of the comic books (and even the Christopher Reeve movies) frequent nods.  The show actually seems to respect its source material -- even as it twists that material mercilessly into a crazy alternate version of the Man of Steel's origin and early years.  Smallville's upcoming two-hour episode "Absolute Justice" is a prime example of the show's celebration of DC Comics history, and as with everything else the program has done during its multi-year run, it will likely frustrate some die-hard fans for the creative liberties it takes, while thrilling them with scenes of the classic heroes come to life.

The episode has Clark Kent come into contact with members of the Justice Society of America (or JSA), the very first superhero team.  DC Comics first introduced them in All-Star Comics in 1940 and they have been around ever since in various incarnations.  One of my favorite things about DC is its rich, multigenerational history.  The Justice Society is an excellent example of how they have kept characters from the early days still active, whether it is on the alternate universe of Earth-Two or in the Post-Crisis storyline of aged superheroes still living in a world of younger, brasher superpowered icons with different sets of principles. 

The Smallville episode will feature Dr. Fate, Stargirl, Hawkman, Sandman, and the original Green Lantern.  Their appearances are surprisingly faithful to the costumes in the comics.  (Now if only the Smallville creators would wise up and put Clark Kent in his traditional Superman costume instead of that boring black trenchcoat outfit. Read my diatribe about why Superman needs a cape.)

Comic books aren't just for kids anymore and nostalgia is a big reason for that. Fans love established continuity, even if it becomes convoluted after seven decades of stories.  I'll tune in to "Absolute Justice" with geeky joy and watch those old-time heroes come to life.  It's one of the reasons I still watch Smallville -- I'm waiting for that final shot right before the series ends when actor Tom Welling finally dons the traditional and familiar red, blue, and yellow attire that has inspired the imaginations of millions of people around the world since 1938. I hope they do it right.