Monday, July 26, 2010

Smallville's Clone Wars

It's been suggested, thanks to the Smallville Season 10 trailer shown at the recent San Diego Comic-Con, that Lex Luthor will return to the series as a clone. There was a sequence where a little boy is seen in a room full of (apparent) bodies in plastic tubes, saying they were his brothers. Lex already had cloned his brother Julian in Smallville season 7 (and subsequently had him murdered) so the technology was at his beck and call. He even cloned Lana (a non-living version) which she put to use when she faked her own death to escape her marriage to Lex.

Back in the 1990s just before and during the Superman Death (thanks to Doomsday) and rebirth, Lex's "son" was in charge of LuthorCorp, but there was a catch. Back in the day, Luthor was in the habit of wearing a Kryptonite ring, believing that the substance was only harmful to Kryptonians. Unfortunately, long-term exposure proves fatal to humans as well. As we all know, Lex is never without a Plan B and so, faked his death in a car accident, then had his brain and eyes removed from his original body and placed in a cloned body. Of course, the close was much, much younger than the aging Lex of the comics and, to combat his original baldness, he grew a full head of long, red hair and a beard. He pretended to be a much nicer guy than his "father" but he was still the same old Lex inside.

In Smallville season 8, Oliver Queen admits to killing Lex in an explosion because he was far too dangerous to Clark and to the rest of the world while still alive. Explosions (at least on TV and in the movies) are poor ways to make sure a person is dead because their body is (supposedly) blown into little, tiny bits and there's no real proof they didn't somehow escape at the last second. Assuming Lex didn't escape and he really did get blown up, he could have previously made arrangements that, in the event of his death, he should be cloned. His "personality" could have been preserved in typical science fiction fashion, so a "true" representation of Lex could be recreated to get his revenge against first Oliver for killing him and then against Clark for the many and varied "sins" Lex imagines Clark committed against him.

One scene briefly shown in the season 10 trailer was a sequence involving Lionel Luthor. As we saw in season 7, Lionel was murdered by Lex (he was on a killing spree that week) when Lex pushed him out of his office window at LexCorp. There was no way Lionel could have survived the fall. Lex positively IDed the body and there was no chance to make a sudden switch in mid air. But wait.

Cloning technology. Lionel was aware that Lex had cloned Julian and Lionel watched the Julian clone die right in front of him (in a murder ordered by Lex). Lionel, for all the changes he may have gone through as a result of being Jor-El's vessel, was still Lionel. He was quite capable of locating Lex's cloning lab. What if he donated some of his DNA to the cause?

Question: Is the Lionel who comes back in season 10 a clone, or did Lionel have himself cloned as a precaution much earlier, so that the murdered Lionel was the clone? In the latter case, it would mean (or could mean, depending on how many Lionel clones are around) that the original comes back, perhaps for a showdown with the Lex clone. As Jor-El's vessel, he might also return to assist in Clark's final transition to Superman.

The whole cloning thing opens up a veritable can of worms (and their clones) since you can bring back just about anyone if you had some of their DNA and a way to record their original personality and memories (this has been done just a ton of times in films, TV, and comic books). No matter who may have been killed, they could return, just to mess with everyone's head.

We know Jonathan Kent returns. Is he a ghost, a flashback, a vision in Clark's near-death experience...or a clone? If a clone, just how will Clark and particularly Martha handle it?

The only Lana clone we're aware of is one that was never given life, but if more genetic material remained, other Lana clones could be constructed. If Lana shows up in Smallville or Metropolis, who's to say if she's "live or if she's memorex". Even people who haven't died or disappeared could be cloned. Kidnap and imprison the originals, and then program the clones to do your bidding. At that point, anything's possible. Smallville could become another remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

This plot line could either be wonderfully creepy or totally ridiculous, but I'm hoping for the former. Now, without further ado, please send in the clones.

Addendum: Oh duh. I completely forgot about the Cadmus Project. If anyone's into's Cadmus.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Superboy vs. The Blur: A Brief History of a Teenage Hero

With the amazing success of the Smallville television series, chronicling young Clark Kent's early development as he approaches a career as Superman, it's easy to forget an earlier series, also depicting a teenager from the planet Krypton: Superboy (1988-1992). I was actually only aware of the first two seasons of the series and assumed it had been cancelled thereafter, but apparently, it survived in a somewhat altered form under the title "The Adventures of Superboy". So why has no one (except die hard fans) heard of this series and why did it never attain the succes of Smallville?

I have only theories, but I think they're good ones.

The Superboy series started out life as a 30-minute live action series telling the story of college student Clark Kent and his friends at fictional Shuster University set in equally fictional Siegelville, Florida. This puts Clark at about age 18 when he first puts on the costume, but despite his being legally an adult, he retains the name "Superboy" as opposed to "Superman". Clark and his childhood friend/love interest Lana Lang (played throughout the series by Stacy Haiduk), have left Smallville, Kansas and, for some unknown reason, have enrolled at a university in Florida instead of the more logical Metropolis University (probably had something to do with the fact that the series was initially filmed in Orlando, Florida).

Clark's sidekick in the first season, is T.J. White his college roommate and a photographer on the school's paper, the Shuster Herald (and Perry White's nephew). This is where Clark gets his first reporting experience, and the two manage to get into plenty of trouble together, either by themselves or with the help of Lana, requiring that Superboy come along to save them. At that time, Lex Luthor (played in the first season by Scott James Wells) is a fellow student and is only villainous to the degree that, spoiled rich kid that he is, he fixes school basketball games and tries to make Superboy look foolish.

For the most part, the first season of the series is "kid stuff" (though Lana makes the occasional appearence in a bikini which certainly grabbed a lot of adult male attention), which isn't necessarily bad, but it also wasn't necessarily something that could sustain the series.

Each successive season took on a darker tone, changing Lex into an older and more evil version of himself, now dedicated to killing Superboy by any means (to avenge the insult of Superboy making Lex bald). and allowing Bizarro, Metallo, and other traditional Superman enemies to show up. The actor playing Clark was replaced and Clark went through a few different sidekicks as events progressed. That the series lasted four seasons speaks well of it (many series don't make it that far) even though it went through a number of transformations. Its ratings were still high after season four and legal issues seem to the main reason that it died.

What about Smallville?

It was conceived as a full-hour live action series, which gives it more room to tell a story an episode at a time. It also was more tied into the movies, perhaps drawing from a broader fan base and giving it a closer connection to Christopher Reeve fans (and Reeve appeared in some of the episodes). It also incorporated longer, more entwined storylines, which tended to "hook" fans into the series for significant stretches in order to find out the resolution of the various conspiracies. Romance was also more heavily involved and many fans are rabidly devoted to different variations of couples to which Clark should belong (Clark-Lana, Clark-Chloe, Clark-Lois). Sometimes the series seems half super adventure and half super soap opera.

More and varied elements of the larger Superman universe have been incorporated such as the Justice League of America, The Legion of Superheroes, characters such as Doomsday (highly altered from the comic book version), Zod, Zantanna, and so forth. There's also the continual dynamic tension of when and how Clark will eventually realize his destiny and become Superman. It's like the Twilight movie and book series when the romantic couple forever hover at the edge of sex without ever quite consumating the relationship. The tension ends when sex happens or, in this case, when Clark puts on the costume and learns to fly.

The series could probably go beyond 10 seasons and is ending for what I imagine are two reasons.

Reason One: The producers are wise. Every Star Trek series except the original and Star Trek: Enterprise ended after the seventh season no matter how popular they were. They ended on a high note rather than wait until they sucked so bad that fans just lost interest. It's better that way, plus you can squeeze some movies out of the deal.

Reason Two: It's time for Superman to get back on the big screen. For continuity reasons, it's easier for Clark's apprenticeship as "the Blur" to end on TV so he can become Superman in the movies. Also, the fan base isn't split between two venues.

Superman, in one form or another, has been on television, practically since there has been television. No doubt he will return in some manner or fashion, but in whatever form he reappears on the small screen, he will have a tough time beating the popularity of Smallville and it's ten year run in the opening decade of the 21st Century.

Superboy vs. the Blur. In this case, the Blur won...but there's always a future.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Smallville: The Perfect Ending

I know it's a little early in the game to start talking about the final episode of Season 10 of Smallville, but I've been wondering for years how the writers would end it in such a way that the Superman legend could begin. Think about won't be easy.

In most of the classic Superman canon, Clark meets Lois, Perry, Jimmy, and Lex in adulthood when (or after) he gets a job as "a mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper". Up until this point (depending on the version of the comic book you are reviewing), Clark has never publicly used his abilities before, or at least never in a way that could possibly be connected to Clark Kent. The costume is the "mask" that lets Clark use his powers to help people while allowing Clark live an "ordinary" human life. Nobody (OK, Lois always does) makes the connection between Clark Kent and Superman.

In Smallville, all that has been turned upside down. Everyone meets and gets to know Clark years before he puts on his tights. Except on rare occasion, Clark has never worn glasses and doesn't appear to have vision problems (aside from occasionally lighting something on fire with his heat vision). Lex Luthor used to be Clark's best friend and the day Clark shows up in Metropolis wearing his famed blue, red, and yellow "fighting togs", it'll take more than bright primary colors to keep him from seeing that Superman is just Clark in a costume. No pair of glasses, no matter how nerdy, will effectively keep Lois from seeing that Clark and Superman are the same guy. No one is going to be fooled because they all know what Clark looks like too darn well.

Let's take another example: the season 7 finale. Lex learns that "The Traveler" is really Clark Kent. In his attempt to take over Clark and rule his powers, he discovers and visits the Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic. Lex has finally put a long list of clues together that started when Clark saved him from drowning in a car accident seven years ago. All of the tons and tons of weird, odd, strange, and bizarre events that have clustered around Smallville finally add up. Unless Lex gets brain damage and forgets the last decade of his life, how in the world will he ever not know that Clark Kent is Superman? Don't tell me that the WB folks will kill off Lex. They can't. It would be like Batman with no Joker or the Fantastic Four with no Doctor Doom. It just can't be done. All superheroes need arch villains to balance the equation. Lex is Clark's arch villain.

How about we consider some scenarios and forget about solving the puzzle for awhile. Yes, the Smallville writers have their hands full, but they created this mess so now they'll have to fix it.

Some questions.

  • Will Clark and Lois be in love by the final episode?

  • Will Lex show up to screw up Clark's life again with some evil scheme (and will he still know that Clark is the Traveler)?

  • Will Lana show up one more time to let us know her fate (and in the comic books, she marries Pete Ross)?

  • Will Perry White be the editor of the Daily Planet by the final episode?

  • Will Clark learn to fly before the final episode (and will the mystery of why he couldn't fly before this be revealed)?

  • Will Martha Kent still be alive at the end of the series?

  • Will Chloe still be alive at the end of the series?

  • What will be the fate of Kara/Supergirl by the end of the series?

  • Will the series end in a cliffhanger?

  • What will be the final scene in the final episode in the series?

As far as the last question goes, someone on twitter yesterday mentioned the same final scene I've always envisioned. Clark in a room/alley/other secluded place, responds to an emergency by opening up his shirt. We see the famous Superman emblem and know, as we've always known, that this is a job for Superman. Fade to black.

In other words, Smallville ends and Superman begins. A fitting ending and tribute. Of course, if Clark really did get "the costume" from his Mom at the end of season 9, that means he has to hang on to it without "officially" wearing it (yeah, he could try it on for size, just so we can have the thrill), for 22 episodes. In Clark's "dream", he's Superman in 2012 and the series ends in 2011. If the 2012 date (which matches the release date for the Superman reboot Superman: The Man of Steel) marks the first appearence of Superman in the world, then the final scene in the final episode could be Clark going into the Fortress, finally submitting to Jor-El's will and beginning his training, as Clark did in the original Superman (1978) film.

I don't have a crystal ball (or Kryptonian crystal anything) and I have no special insight or access to spoilers, so this is all just in my imagination. Consider this, though.

If it were up to you, how would you end Smallville? Comments now being accepted.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ryan Reynolds is Green Lantern?

Makes me wonder what the Hal Jordan of comic book legend would have to say. Maybe nothing so good.

Clark Kent is Not Pretty!

Message to Christopher Nolan and anyone associated with casting an actor to play Clark Kent/Superman in the Superman: Man of Steel film reboot: Clark Kent is NOT pretty! Do not cast a model in this role. Superman looks strong and tough and even when he's dressed as Clark, he doesn't look like a 12 year old choir boy.

Do the people who make these films even read the comic books...I mean the modern ones? For cryin' out loud! Clark does not look like a caricature or a goofball. Just take a look at some of the images I'm posting from the Superman comic books and see what I mean. He looks totally tough.

Compare that to the two principle actors who have played Superman on the big screen over the past 30 years. Don't get me wrong, I really like and respect Christopher Reeve's portrayal of Superman, but, especially in the original Superman (1978) film, Clark was dressed idiotically and acted worse (of course, I thought the portrayal of Lois was totally mishandled as well, but that's a separate issue).

If the idea is for Clark not to draw any possible connection between himself and Superman, he'd act like a regular guy and would excel as a reporter. He wouldn't be stumbling all over himself, at least any more than anyone else around him would. Compare how Clark is portrayed by Reeve and Routh and then revisit the images of Clark from the comics. What an incredible difference. Don't tell me you can't find an actor who can pull this off. Christopher Bale convincingly channels both Bruce Wayne and Batman (though probably the only actor who really ever has), so you can find someone who can handle the role of Clark and Superman and still not look like a character from a 1960s cartoon.

The time to "camp up" Superman is long past. If you can create a serious Batman film, you can do the same with Superman. Do not screw this up!
If you can't handle something as simple as this, all the special effects in the CGI/3D world won't be able to save your reputation with Superman fans.

Please keep that in mind.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pon Farr Victim

For anyone who considers themselves a Star Trek fan, the words "Pon Farr" conjure up the long discussed but rarely (if ever) witnessed act of emotionally and sexually repressed Vulcans getting all hot and bothered and "hitting it". The words and concept were actually created by famed science fiction author Theodore Strugeon for the Star Trek (original series) second season opener Amok Time and have since become legend.

While the Pon Farr is a fairly common occurence in the Star Trek universe now, in the mid-1960s, it must have been a bit of a chore to figure out how supposedly "emotionless" Vulcans reproduced (especially since Spock is the product of a human mother who likely had "needs"). Since Vulcan's pride themselves are not expressing emotions and having sex is a pretty emotional experience (unless you're Data doing the nasty with Tasha Yar), how was this supposed to work, and get past the rather rigid censors in control of what appeared on TV screens in 1967?

Strugeon's answer was to create a "mating instinct" in Vulcans similar to lower (Earth) life forms such as Trout. Every 7 years, Vulcan males are compelled to return to their homes and take a mate, do what's expected, supposedly impregnate her, then ignore her for the next seven years. Kind of brutal on a relationship, but these are Vulcans after all.

In childhood, the parents of a boy and girl arrange a bethrotal where the two youths are joined telepathically. At the right time, some combination of hormones flips a psychic switch and they home in on each other like minks in heat (which they pretty much are at this point). Sturgeon sort of suggests that females may be sexually active at other times, since Spock's "wife" the faithless T'Pring actually wants to hook up (or maybe already has) with a blockhead Vulcan named Stonn. While the female doesn't appear to lose control of even the slightest bit of emotion, the male, if we can use Spock as an example, absolutely goes bat shit. If he doesn't get laid in a timely fashion, he either goes toes up, probably in a very unpleasant way, or has to beat or hack something to death to get his rocks off.

I assume that a visit to the bathroom with a magazine full of photos of naked pointy earred women won't "do it", since the process is telepathic as well as biochemical. The person you mate with has to have a mind for a mild meld to work (though in T'Pring's case, maybe not much of a mind).

Fortunately, even though T'Pring tells him to get lost or at least, "fight for me, lose, and die", he is tricked into "killing" Kirk (another faked TV "death") which cools his rocket pack considerably. Spock realizes that T'Pring is a stone bitch and gives her over to Stonn, secretly knowing that she'll make his life hell on earth, uh...Vulcan, for the next century or so, and returns to the Enterprise. Finding Kirk actually alive, he just about flips out with joy (many have wondered if Spock would prefer to "Pon Farr" with the Captain) and when the whole mess is over, they all have a nice chuckle and move on to their next adventure.

Yeah, I wanted to see Arlene Martel get naked too, but such was not to be, particularly in the 1960s (see the image just above for why).

Since then, the rules for Pon Farr have changed a little. They now apply to women, if Star Trek: Enterprise and T'Pol can be believed (and apparently she can have sex on other occasions, as her relationship with "Trip" testifies. Actually, I suspect Vulcans can really mate at any time, but they are only fertile once every seven years (so your kids would all come exactly seven years apart). That explains why Spock's mother Amanda didn't go insane from the frustration of having sex with Sarek only once every seven years (unless she had other "outlets").

I mention all this because last year, I was completely blown out of my Nikes (no, not that way...I know we're talking about sex) when Spock and Uhura found a few private moments in the turbo lift to crawl all over each other. They were pretty cozy in the transporter room, too...and in front of Kirk and other people. What the heck happened in the Star Trek reboot film?

Now don't get me wrong. Spock's got great taste. Who wouldn't want to jump Zoe Saldana at any opportunity? I for one hope the romance takes a more public turn in the next film. While the audience was treated to an Uhura strip scene (at least down to her bra and panties), could we get a little more detail in the sequel?

Probably not, but I can dream.

Back to the "what happened?" question. I haven't been able to find a specific explanation (at least nothing "official"), but along with all of the other changes that came with the reboot (whatever happened to Kirk's older brother George Samuel Kirk, anyway?), Vulcan's apparently have a less restrictive libido as well. If it's common knowledge in the Star Trek reboot universe that Vulcans can get it on more or less at will the way humans can, I wonder why Kirk was so surprised to discover the Spock/Uhura relationship? Maybe, in typical Kirk style, he just couldn't understand how any woman would prefer any male other than him.

While the reboot Vulcan sex drive made for a wonderful bit of spice in the film, I still think a few words of explanation should be forthcoming in the next movie. I got the distinct impression that human/vulcan relationships weren't exactly encouraged on the now blown away home world. Sarak and Amanda seemed an anomally. Is Spock attracted to human females because his mother is (was) human, or is something else going on? Maybe Spock got his ears from his Dad but his "drives" from his Mom (and he beat Kirk to a pulp on the bridge to prove it).

Time will tell. In the next movie, should Uhura be showing a little Vulcan "baby bump"? Also, what does this mean (if anything) for the original (Leonard Nimoy) Spock who started all this business now that he's gone back in time to an alternate Star Trek universe?

Oh. I didn't make the title of this article up. Some years ago, I was at a Star Trek convention. One of the other attendees was pregnant and the t-shirt she was wearing over her impressively abundant belly was (you guessed it) Pon Farr Victim.

Addendum: Having a conversation on twitter with @CK61938 about what would happen if the Spock/Uhura love scenes were played out with the original stars, Leonard Nimoy and Nichelle Nichols with their appearances digitally changed to make them look as they did in the mid 1960s. What do you think?