Last week, fans of the cancelled television series "Smallville" received news that would have made Michael McKean cry "Great Caesar's ghost!" as DC Entertainment announced its latest comic book series: "Smallville: Season 11."
Written by former "Smallville" writer and executive story editor Bryan Q. Miller, the series will be published digitally beginning April 13 with new digital chapters released weekly thereafter. Additionally, the online chapters will be offered in a print editon, along with a "Smallville" episode guide with the first issue scheduled to be released on May 16.
As revealed in the initial announcement, "Smallville: Season 11" will pick-up where the TV series left off with Clark donning the iconic cape and taking to the skies to save Earth from Apokolips. As in the final season of the show, fan-favorite characters Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, Chloe Sullivan, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and General Lane will be among the series' featured cast.
In light of this news, CBR News spoke with Miller, who told us Chloe and Lex will have significant roles in the title, Clark's black trench coat and red jean jacket are long gone and that the writer is thrilled to be working with artist Pere Perez again after the pair's successful and popular pre-New 52 run on "Batgirl."
CBR News: Was this your pitch, or did DC approach you with the idea of taking "Smallville's" storylines beyond the television series?
Bryan Q. Miller: Many moons ago -- okay, it was actually January of last year -- Geoff Johns was in the "Smallville" offices working on his Booster break with the gang. I shot him an email shortly thereafter, asking, since there was already a really dedicated fanbase for the show, if it might be a good idea to get a comic up and running that would be an extension of the series beyond the finale. At the time, it didn't seem like something they were interested in. Nothing happened for a bit. Then I got an out-of-the-blue call -- as they usually are -- that the project was a go and asking if I was still interested. Of course I was still interested. Some more time passed, seasons came, seasons went. Then I finally got a call from Hank [Kanalz] and Ben [Abernathy], asking if I could get an outline/proposal put together for "Smallville: Season 11." I got to writing and, well, here we are.
Having worked on "Smallville" for the final three seasons, you are obviously heavily invested in the material. Is the direction of the comic book series something that was discussed in the writers' room or are you building something entirely new here?
A nugget or a kernel of an idea or a storyline that at some point drifted around the table in the room may wander into the comic from time to time, but this is very much on me. There used to be 9 to 13 of us putting these stories together. So, you know -- no pressure! That said, I'm doing everything I can to keep the look and feel of the comic as true to the spirit of the show. This isn't about re-inventing the wheel, so to speak -- it's about taking the wheel down a new stretch of road. Tons of very talented and dedicated professionals worked week in and out for a decade to make the show what it was. We won't be doing anything on the book that flies in the face of those efforts, narratively or otherwise. We also had a flash-forward to seven years later at the very end of the series. Brian and Kelly ended the show the way they wanted to, and that's still how the story ends. This is a glimpse into the first year of those seven.
Now, the series picks up where the show left off, with Clark Kent now patrolling the skies as Superman. For those unfamiliar with the series' conclusion and perhaps more interested in the comic, can you sum up how the TV series ended?
During the course of the final season, Clark realized the necessity for, and eventually crafted, the bumbling Clark Kent persona in order to hide in plain sight. In the finale, when faced with the ultimate evil that is Darkseid (and the threat of Darkseid's hell-planet, Apokolips, crashing into Earth) Clark Kent finally fully embraced his destiny as our mightiest protector to save the day. He traded in his Blur/S-shield jacket for the boots and cape and took to the skies, pushing Apokolips back out into space (and saving an Air Force One-trapped Lois in the process). Though heroic, this unfortunately put Clark and Lois' wedding on indefinite hold.
Meanwhile, a resurrected Lex Luthor (who was fully aware of Clark's heroic secret) had his mind wiped by half-sister Tess -- she died at his hand in the process.
And I'd be remiss to not mention that Chloe Sullivan and Oliver Queen tied the knot and were preparing to leave Metropolis to start a life of their own.
While you obviously don't want to give too much away at such an early stage, where do you go from here?
Season 11 is about all of our players transitioning into the next phases of their lives. Work, love, heroics and villainy all play a part in how they're settling into a very "Look! Up in the sky!" world. The season premiere, as all of ours historically have, sets up not only the plot-journey for the year, but what everyone's personal struggles will be. That isn't to say there will be tons of angst. There's only a bit of angst here and there. The goal is to make this as entertaining a read as possible, and Clark's at our center for that. He's how we'll process that information. He's Superman now. No more hiding in the shadows in a black trench coat or a red jacket. He gets to shake hands with the people he saves. He likes flying. He's transitioning from seeing his abilities as a burden to seeing them more as a job. And he loves his work.
Storytelling-wise, Season 11 episodes are -- bigger. Each episode is more like a mega-episode, or a TV movie that continues the "Smallville" saga. If you're going to buy a chapter each week, I'd like you to feel like you've gotten your money's worth by the time each mega-sode ends. If you're picking it up collected in print issues, you're going to get a substantial read every month.
Fans of the series loved when classic DC characters like the aforementioned Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, JSA and the Legion of Super-Heroes appeared on "Smallville." Are there any plans for such an introduction in Season 11?
Oh, sure. Big time. We'll get a slightly new twist on a pretty big Superman villain from the comics in the premiere (which runs the first 12 weekly chapters). After that, the second episode spends quite a bit of time introducing Superman to a very popular member of the DC family -- something tells me it will (hopefully) go over well. Beyond that, some returning allies and some new enemies, all around.
Having told stories essentially with Clark Kent for so long, how do you make" Smallville: Season 11" different then what readers would get from "Action Comics" or "Superman?"
It's in the title -- it's "Smallville." It's an ensemble piece with Clark Kent at its core. These are continuations of the characters roughly two million people a week, half a year each year, for a decade tuned in to see. If you're someone who stopped watching the show in the early years, come on back. They aren't in high school anymore. He's in the suit. Like, all over the place. You're going to get Superman action. You're going to get derring-do from Green Arrow. Lois and Clark are together -- and happy. So there's some romance there. And Chloe. And Chloe! Chloe Sullivan is here -- you won't find her anywhere else (as far as I know!).
Do you have to tread carefully moving forward as to not dovetail into Clark Kent/Superman's 70-plus year history? Or do the New 52 and the fact this is set in the "Smallville" universe allow you to move quite freely?
There are nods to elements from the DC of the past and present that are going to pop up from time to time, but the book is rolling straight out of the world of the show. So far, the only lining-up/branding hiccup has been the coloring on the Clark's hero outfit. We had the "Superman Returns" version seen briefly in the finale, and DC and I were on the same page on wanting to make the look for the book its own. We've got a new version that's a little bit old, a little bit new, a lot "Smallville." There's a very simple story reason for the change that's spelled out in the second chapter.
Will you write Clark/Superman with Tom Welling's voice, mannerisms and personality in your head?
I don't know how I could not -- it's all part of my programming at this point! Plus, the character himself is in a much better place at the start of Season 11 -- probably the best place he's been in. He's never been this comfortable in his own skin. There's a little bit of a Reeve-Supes zen that's taken hold of Smallville Clark.
As you mentioned, Oliver Queen married Chloe in the final season. What makes that relationship click and what might readers expect from the power couple moving forward?
They've never been stronger. They're also in a really good place, but understandably antsy. They're ready to move on to Star City and get their lives started -- beyond recruiting for the League. They didn't really have a chance to savor the fact that they were together and married towards the end of the series. But then (as happens when moving into that mid-20's/early 30's phase), life happens. No matter how hard they try to leave, there's always something to pull Oliver and Chloe back in.
Lois is a featured character, as well, in Season 11. How does Clark's new status as Superman affect their relationship?
Our dynamic duo are ships in the night. Lois' career is on the rise, thanks to her exclusive with the President during the Apokolips event (or "Contact" as the locals are calling it), and Clark's non-Daily Planet time is spent Supermanning. They're a couple in the big city who are trying to find time for one another as they get their "careers" started. Add to that that the general populace knows aliens exist. It doesn't spoil anything to say (as it's a page 1 reveal), that someone spotted alien slaves on the surface of Apokolips when it was in low orbit in the Finale. We're finally fine with super heroes patrolling our streets and skies, but xenophobia is now very real. The last thing Lois wants is anyone finding out Superman is from Krypton.
After leaving the series, Michael Rosenbaum returned for the final episodes. A favorite character for many, due in large part to Rosenbaum's portrayal, what role does Lex Luthor play in Season 11?
Lex might not have memory of his life before the finale, but he still has his instincts and something tells him he can't trust Superman, regardless of how much good he's doing. He watched Superman push a planet out of our orbit -- which means there's someone among us with the power to push a planet out of orbit. That doesn't sit well with Lex. He sees Superman as a potential terrestrial threat, and is deeply entrenched in the xenophobia bandwagon brought on by Contact. Lex has transitioned Luthorcorp to Lexcorp, and he's doing everything in his power to help the world protect itself from threats beyond the stars.
How excited are you to be to be working with Pere Perez again? You two certainly had great success with "Batgirl."
When Pere came in and helped me finish up my run on "Batgirl," we worked very well together, and I was itching for the opportunity to work with him again. We've got a great shorthand, and he's fast as all get-out. So, when I found out the book was a go, he was the first and only name on my list. There are just as many talky scenes as there are action scenes, and Pere's dynamite at both. He's reliable for facial expression and great with movement. I'm very happy with the work Pere's done on the premiere.
Finally, it's no secret that "Smallville" fans are a passionate group. Do you approach the challenge of writing this series with trepidation, or are you fully equipped -- and honored -- to expand this universe for the faithful?
I think it's a little bit of all three. We've got the best fans in the world, and had a wonderful and amazing combination of cast and crew. I know the show. I love the show. I know and love everyone involved, and have nothing but respect for every aspect of everything that went into it. I'm trying to do right by everyone (including our characters) in the most entertaining way possible. My hope is that people who've never read a Superman comic before (or maybe even any comic, which is probably a fair number of the show's audience) check Season 11 out, then decide to give more comics a chance -- whether they're in an app or at their local comic shop. By the same token, I hope lapsed viewers or people who have never seen the show read the book, then are inspired to take a look back at the series.
"Smallville: Season 11," by Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez, premieres digitally April 13 with the first print edition hitting stores May 16.