After the Salkinds mined all the cash (not to mention most of the fun) out of the Superman movie series, they wondered what to do next. After all, they still owned the rights to the "Superman Family" characters.
True, there were a couple of restrictions on what they could do next. Movies were out of the question. They'd already farmed out the Superman movie rights to Cannon Films - who'd given us the truly pathetic Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Supergirl, though I personally thought it wasn't as bad as the general consensus did, wasn't good enough on any level to warrant a sequel.
A Superman TV series wasn't in the cards, either. The Salkinds didn't own those rights, as they hadn't yet reverted from the original Adventures of Superman from the 50's
Sure, they could've done a series about the exploits of Krypto, the Superdog. But that would've been silly. Even for the Salkinds.
What they did decide on (Admit it. You were way ahead of me here, weren't you? <G>) was a series based on the college-aged Clark Kent. Superboy.
At the time, 1988, this was an interesting choice if you were a comics reader. Two years before, DC Comics had reworked Superman's history so that Clark had never had a career as Superboy. In fact, "Superman" didn't make his public debut until after Clark had moved to Metropolis. A situation that was reflected in the Salkind's own movie series.
No matter. Continuity was nice, but unimportant. The decision was made. The series would go on.
As was the case with Christopher Reeve in Superman: The Movie, the Salkinds went with an unknown actor, John Haymes Newton, in the dual role of Clark/Superboy. Unlike Reeve, Newton didn't last very long in the role.
The "why" of that early departure isn't clear. One widely-held theory (which I repeated at one time on this page) was that the producers were embarrassed by their "Superboy" racking up tickets on the streets of Orlando. As far as I can tell now, that is simply untrue.
It is true that the local paper, The Orlando Sentinel, did run a series of articles critical of the dismissal of the only ticket Newton received in Orlando. I was able to go back and read these articles myself, and while the facts may well stand up to scrutiny, the conclusions reached by the Sentinel are, to put it charitibly, questionable. (If I were to put it bluntly, I'd call that series a hatchet job. But since I don't want to be sued, I won't...)
The other theory involved, as it often does, money.
On occasion, I've been approached via e-mail by persons associated with the series (forget it, I'm not naming names...). One of these people was in a position to know something about this subject, and disputes this "issue". Reportedly, a raise was requested for Season Two, and the request was granted.
So, money wasn't an issue and a ticket wasn't an issue. Why was Newton dismissed? Not even my contact knew...
But as they say, the show must go on. and it did. Replacing Newton was another relative unknown, Gerard Christopher.
Christopher (whose real name is Jerry Dinome), brought a more traditional split to the roles of Clark and Superboy, unlike Newton, who eschewed the timidity of prior Clarks.
An interesting tidbit to me was
the fact that Christopher was 31 when he took over the part. Twelve years
older that Newton. Seven years older than Reeve was when he took the part
of Superman. Older than Dean Cain was when he
left the role
of Superman/Clark in Lois and Clark.
Oldest "SuperBOY" I've ever heard of...but I digress...
Surprisingly, recasting the Boy of Steel wasn't that big a deal. At least not to me. I'd guess not to too many other viewers either. My opinion is that Superboy wasn't the real star of this show. Lana Lang, as played by Stacy Haiduk, was. As the focus point for the audience, in that she was the ordinary human who had the most interaction with the young Kryptonian, Haiduk had probably the most difficult assignment of any player on the series. She had to relate to this unworldly character in a manner that made him believable. If Lana didn't believe in Superboy as a living, breathing person, we wouldn't either. (It also didn't hurt that she was easy on the eyes, as it were. <G>)
Not only did the hero change; so did the primary villain. In the first season, Lex Luthor was played by Scott James Wells (above left). In the second season, Lex aged himself about fifteen years and grew about six inches to look like Sherman Howard (above right). This change was easily the best of the series. The less said about Wells, the better. Howard brought much more glee - if not a little camp - to Luthor's evil deeds.
Although the series didn't conform to current comics continuity, it did go back to the comics for inspiration. Sometimes it worked, as with Bizarro. Barry Meyer's portrayal managed to evoke the pathos of the original comics Bizarro, even under all that makeup.
Sometimes it didn't, as with Mr. Mxyzptlk . Unfortunately, Michael J. Pollard, who has turned in some fine performances over the years, looked like he was phoning this one in. What a shame.
This was one of those rare series
that, though it had rough spots all along, actually showed improvement
from year to year. In the fourth and final season, one of the most memorable
moments featured the return to Super-televison of Jack
Larson and Noel
Neill. The duo, who of course played
Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane on The Adventures of Superman,
guested as staffers at the Bureau of Extranormal Matters, where Clark and
Lana were interns.
(Don't ask, it doesn't make a lick of sense to me either.)
(Above, left to right, Robert Levine, Noel Neill, Jack Larson,
Stacy Haiduk and Gerard Christopher)
No, no, no, no, no. I was telling the truth when I said the Salkinds decided against doing a series with Krypto, the Superdog. The shot above is from a 1960's cartoon which aired on CBS. Superboy was voiced by character actor Bob Hastings, who recently has had another voice role in the DC Universe, that of Commissioner Gordon on the current Batman/Superman Adventures. Though this cartoon was the first televised appearance of the Boy of Steel, it wasn't the first show ever filmed about the young hero.
That distinction went to a never-aired, rarely-seen (even on video) pilot made in 1960, starring John Rockwell. With George Reeves' untimely passing, the producers wanted to keep the Superman television franchise going. Replacing George wasn't a plan that anyone endorsed so, as would happen with the Salkinds nearly 30 years later, the decision was made to focus on the adventures of the youthful Clark Kent. Though several scripts were prepared, the pilot never sold and has been relegated to video obscurity.
(Did I mention yet who I thought was the real star of this show? <G>)
In the current animated Superman series, as in the comics, Superman had no career as Superboy. Small detail, though, if you have creators that want to write a crossover episode. Here, then, is a shot of young Clark Kent (voiced by Jason Marsden) teaming with the 30th Century Legion of Super-Heroes: Saturn Girl (Melissa Joan Hart), Cosmic Boy (Chad Lowe), and Chameleon Boy (Jason Priestly) from the episode "New Kids in Town".
With the threat to Smallville gone, the only remaining problem is Clark's newfound knowledge of his future. Not really a problem when you're a teenaged telepath. Saturn Girl's goodbye kiss (much like Christopher Reeve's in Superman II - only this one made sense...) wipes Clark's memories of the trio away.
The WB debuted a new look at Superman's formative years in October 2001 in the form of the series "Smallville". Here are the new Martha and Jonathan Kent, Annette O'Toole (the former Lana Lang from "Superman III") and John Schneider (formerly of "The Dukes of Hazzard").
Tom Welling now has the role of the young Clark Kent, in this series which intends to stick to its credo "No flights, no tights." As of this writing, one out of two isn't bad...
But seriously, after an unfortunate over-use of "meteor
rocks" (Kryptonite to you and me) as a plot device during Season One, the second season of "Smallville", though uneven at times,
was reasonably faithful to the spirit of "Superman".
Then they threw it all away with an ill-advised cliffhanger and failed third-season resolution that casts doubt on whether this super-powered teen will ever earn the right to be called "Superman".
Shame to have wasted all that potential on (bad) soap opera crap....
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This page updated March 25, 2003
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