THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN/LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN
THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN George Reeves, Noel Neil, Jack Larson, John Hamilton
LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher, K Callan, Eddie Jones, Jerry Hardin, Terence Knox, Terry Kiser, Lane Davies
Clark – “Please, just a minute, you said Superman? Seem to have heard of him before somewhere. Who is Superman?” Perry – “Great Cesar’s ghost!”
What makes a man a Superman? If you think it's got something to do with having a set of incredible powers you'd be wrong. It's also not got anything to do with a flashy cape, a tight fitting costume or even a spit curl. No, it's something a little deeper...something from within. Two TV shows, The Adventures Of Superman and Lois & Clark, were hugely successful series', that approached the Superman mythology from two different viewpoints, yet always kept in mind the vulnerability at the heart of the hero. Superman may have been more powerful than a locomotive, but deep down he shared an emotional connection to the people he surrounded himself with and that was the key to understanding who he was.
In The Adventures Of Superman, George Reeves' Superman went through a bit of an identity crisis in the classic episode Panic In The Sky; after a collision with a meteor left him with amnesia. His connection to Superman was locked deep inside, but as Lois (Neil), Jimmy (Larson) and Perry (Hamilton) attempted to remind the reporter that he was Clark Kent, he struggled to understand who he was supposed to be. This was because for him Clark was really his disguise and he was trying to remember the fake part of his life as the spectre of Superman haunted him. He found a number of spare Superman costumes in his closet and in a brilliant stand-out moment Clark unbuttoned his shirt and exposed the ‘S’ symbol almost in view of Jimmy Olsen because he had no idea the suit was under his clothes. It wasn't until, in his frustrated state, he broke a table and unleashed the power within him that he finally remembered who he was and he removed the glasses to once again become Superman! George Reeves brought a vulnerability to his performance as a bewildered Clark Kent and proved that his greatest threat was simply not being able to understand himself.
In Lois & Clark, Dean Cain’s Superman was an extension of his power and was not the man who he choose to be; so when he became powerless due to Kryptonite exposure in The Green, Green Glow of Home, he found it difficult to adjust. He could become the ‘normal’ Clark that he had always wanted to be, but he had become so used to being super-powered, that normal for him was being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Lois & Clark was a more light-hearted and fun interpretation of the Superman story, that explained that Clark had grown up as a human and Superman was what he could do, rather than who he really was. His Kryptonian heritage was touched upon from time to time, but always with an eye to his place on Earth. This meant that the introduction of elements like Kryptonite reinforced the alien aspect to Clark's identity, which made him vulnerable because he was an outsider. He had powers that he had to hide, but he also had emotional attachments to his family and friends, who could never quite understand what he was experiencing as someone who didn't quite fit in. When the episode's villainous Jason Trask (Knox) started moving his way through Smallville to get to the Kryptonite it was a threat to Clark, not because of what the rock could do, but because Trask was taking over Clark's personal space. The Kryptonite was private to Clark because it only effected him and it was also a piece of his home planet, Krypton; which also made it a piece of who he was.
Both shows never strayed far from what made Superman a compelling character and took the main focus of a super-powered being and combined them with a human element. Episodic television allowed for a more humanised character that audiences could identify with, especially when dealing with a god-like character such as Superman, but also allowed for a greater scope when looking at what made him tick. Having amazing special effects or super-hearing doesn't create a Superman; what's needed is an enormous heart and a heck of a lot of vulnerability. Both The Adventures of Superman and Lois & Clark knew that, and that's why if you ever truely want to know what makes a Superman, then those shows were perfect templates for creating a Man of Steel.
THIS MAN...THIS SUPERMAN: A guide to the classics
PANIC IN THE SKY (1953) Screenplay: Jackson Gillis Directed by: Thomas Carr
With an asteroid headed for Earth, Superman rushed into space to knock it off course. He flew directly towards the offending rock but the resulting impact caused a massive explosion, that slowed the asteroid down but hurtled the hero back to Earth. Upon arrival Superman changed into Clark Kent and in a disoriented state managed to hitch a ride back to Metropolis. Upon returning to his apartment it was clear that he was not quite himself and was suffering from amnesia. Meanwhile the asteroid continued to cause problems around the world, but no one had seen or heard from Superman. There appeared no way in which to stop the asteroid, so it was up to Clark to uncover his connection to the Man Of Steel in time to save the Earth from total annihilation.
THE GREEN, GREEN GLOW OF HOME (1993) Written by: Bryce Zabel Directed by: Les Landau
Smallville resident Wayne Irig (Hardin) approached Jonathan Kent (Jones) with a strange glowing green rock which he found on his property. He explained that he had sent a sample of the rock away for analysis and shortly after a group of mysterious men arrived asking questions. Jonathan agreed to keep hold of the rock and soon Lois (Hatcher) and Clark (Cain) were in Smallville investigating. Shortly after Irig dissappeared. Jonathan took Clark out to the barn to show him the mysterious rock and Clark suddenly collapsed. Exposure to the rock caused Clark to lose his abilities and he was faced with the prospect of never being Superman again. Clark’s problem got worse when he discovered that Jason Trask (Knox), head of Bureau 39, was looking for the rock in the hope that it would be the key to killing Superman. Trask would stop at nothing to obtain the Kryptonite and Clark had no choice but to face him; even if he no longer had any of his powers!
And because that's never enough...
DUAL IDENTITY: Going beyond - A guide to two more classics
SUPERMAN IN EXILE (1953) Screenplay: Jackson Gillis Directed by: Thomas Carr
In a restricted area, a secret test with the power of 100 atom bombs known as Project X was being performed. Overseeing the project Professor Adams struggled to keep it under control and so Superman (Reeves) arrived and sealed the chamber containing Project X. He prevented a meltdown but his body absorbed all the radiation in the room making him lethal to anyone around him and so Superman left Metropolis and headed to the mountains. With no hero to keep Metropolis safe, crime rates increased and a group of crooks kidnapped Lois Lane (Neil) as extra insurance against any intervention from Superman. With Lois in danger Superman had to find a way to draw the radioactivity out of his body to save the plucky reporter.
- The radiation had no physical effect on Superman, but if someone became hurt as a result, Superman would never have recovered from the guilt of taking a life. He headed to the mountains to find solace, knowing that through seclusion he provided himself with time to unlock a cure to his predicament. As he looked down on his city he glowed in the night-sky, he was a shadow of his former self and his future looked uncertain.
TEMPUS FUGITIVE (1995) Written by: Jack Weinstein & Lee Hutson Directed by: James Bagdonas
Science-fiction writer H.G Wells (Kiser) arrived at the Daily Planet explaining to Lois and Clark that he had travelled through time and needed their help. He was returning to his own time period with a man from the future called Tempus (Davies) and had run out of gold, which he used to power his time machine. Lois was sceptical, but when Wells informed Clark that he knew he was really Superman, Clark agreed to help him out. Tempus had an ulterior motive for agreeing to time travel with the writer and aimed to return to Smallville in the year 1966 to kill Clark as a baby. He revealed his plan to Lois and then hijacked the time machine, but before it disappeared, Wells changed the destination to 1866. So Lois and Clark built their own time machine using plans left by Wells and followed the pair back through time. Along the way Tempus crossed paths with Lois and revealed to her that Clark Kent was really Superman. Frustrated and upset with Clark, Lois put aside her anger in order to help save baby Kal-el from Tempus and prevent the death of Superman.
- Tempus explained that Lois was just as much an important part of Superman’s story as the Man of Steel himself. Superman and Lois’ descendents created a utopian future and their union made a lasting legacy which transcended the ages to shape the world for the better. It was the reason for Tempus’ hatred of the Man Of Tomorrow, as he had been forced to live in a world where risk and danger had been ruled out.
HEADLINES: *Superman only appeared in the pre-titles sequence of Green, Green Glow Of Home. The rest of the episode featured Clark Kent.
*Panic In The Sky was remade for Lois & Clark with the episode All Shook Up.
*After Lois & Clark, Teri Hatcher found success with the television show, Desperate Housewives. Her mother in the series was played by Lesley Ann Warren, who auditioned for the role of Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie (1978) and later played Lois in a televised adaptation of the stage musical ‘It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman’. Dana Delany, the voice of Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series & Justice League also appeared in Desperate Housewives, as Katherine Mayfair a rival to Hatcher.
*Dean Cain appeared in the television show Smallville, as the character Dr Curtis Knox. He joined Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Terrance Stamp and Marc McClure from the Superman films, who had all appeared on the series.
*When Lois & Clark first aired in the UK on BBC1 it was known as The New Adventures Of Superman, as ‘Lois & Clark’ was dropped from the title, so not to confuse UK audiences.
*Jack Larson who played Jimmy Olsen in The Adventures of Superman, appeared in the season three episode of Lois & Clark, Brutal Youth, as an old aged Jimmy Olsen. Larson also appeared as a bar tender in Superman Returns (2006).
*Season one of Lois & Clark featured an Inspector Henderson, a name check to the recurring character who appeared in The Adventures Of Superman, played by Robert Shayne.
*Phyllis Coates who played Lois Lane during season one of The Adventures Of Superman, appeared in the season one finale of Lois & Clark, as Lois’ mother, Ellen Lane.
*Noel Neil, who played Lois Lane through seasons 2 to 6 of The Adventures Of Superman made a brief appearance in Superman Returns (2006) as the heiress who left all her wealth to Lex Luthor. Neil also appeared in the expanded edition of Superman: The Movie as Lois Lane's mother, when the young reporter saw a teenage Clark Kent run past her train.
*Kryptonite made its first appearance in Lois & Clark during The Green, Green Glow Of Home and would go on to appear in other forms during the series run, including a bullet, a virus, a lipstick and a set of prison bars. Red Kryptonite was later introduced into the series which didn’t weaken Superman physically, but produced different results when he came into contact with it. Kryptonite was introduced during season 2 of The Adventures Of Superman. Although it was barely used it was mentioned in Panic In The Sky.
*The Adventures Of Superman ran for 6 seasons, but never returned for a 7th season due to the death of its star, George Reeves. Lois & Clark ran for 4 seasons, but despite ending on a cliff-hanger, falling ratings resulted in the show not returning for a 5th season to resolve the storyline.