When Smallville premiered, I avoided it like the plague because I was afraid that The WB would turn the Superman mythology into a silly teen soap opera. But after some urging from friends who really liked it, I caught a few episodes near the end of the first season and really liked what I saw. For quite some time after that, I became a Smallville fan and defender. Tom Welling was awesome as the young Clark Kent, and the supporting cast — Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Kreuk, John Glover, lovely Allison Mack, and Annette O’Toole and John Schneider as Clark’s adoptive parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent — was one of the best on television. When Erica Durance came on board as Lois Lane, I liked it even more (and she’s still my number one Lois Lane of all time).
As the seasons went on, the writing began to vary wildly for me. When it was good, it was good. But when it was bad, it was really, really, really bad. And when they killed off Jonathan Kent in the show’s 100th episode, I was particularly ticked off. Subsequent episodes got worse and worse, and now it’s at the point that I can’t even bear to watch the show at all and haven’t for at least a season and a half. I’ve caught a couple of episodes here and there, and every one I’ve seen only validates my decision to walk away from it. And that’s a shame, because the cast continues to do the best work it can in the face of increasingly questionable creative direction. I miss the old gang very much, but at least I’ve got the DVDs of the episodes I liked.
But throughout the course of my love/hate relationship with Smallville, I always admired and enjoyed the work of Tom Welling. His directing debut, “Fragile,” was one of my favorite episodes of the show, and Tom did an awesome job — both as an actor and a director — of creating a beautiful, brother/sister relationship between Clark and a little girl who needed his help.
Another pair of episodes — “Stray” from the first season and “Ryan” from the second — chronicled Clark’s friendship with a young boy who eventually died from cancer. (It was really heartbreaking, because Clark had to learn the hard way that even with all of his amazing powers, there are some people you just can’t save.)
I mention these three episodes because they show what an inspiration Superman is to children, and that’s one of the most important aspects of the character. It’s why I hated Bryan Singer’s infinitely shitty Superman Returns so much, for butchering that element of the Man of Steel.
But what really made Tom Welling the Superman of a new generation for me was his chemistry with Christopher Reeve in the second season episode “Rosetta,” in which Reeve played a scientist who reveals to Clark the truth of his Kryptonian heritage. And at the end of the episode, Welling joined Reeve for a public service announcement about work being done by the Christopher Reeve Foundation to help those living with paralysis and their families.
I feel like the Smallville producers are really wasting Welling’s talent these days. They still haven’t figured out how to make Clark heroic, so they bring in other heroes — like the Green Arrow in season six or Supergirl in the new season seven — to do the hero stuff while Clark gets relegated to pining over Lana Lang, who herself has been tragically degraded by the clueless producers. It’s a shame that a cast this good continues to be subjected to such weak storytelling, but alas. It is what it is.
But on August 24, things took a very interesting and very public turn when when IESB editor Robert Sanchez became so convinced that Welling was going to be cast as Superman in director George Miller’s big-screen adaptation of the Justice League comics that he went on national television — G4’s Attack of the Show — to announce not the news of Welling’s casting but the rumor of it.
You can read IESB’s original article right here. And for a guy who makes a living from his website, it seemed pretty obvious that he wouldn’t risk his reputation or his livelihood by making such a claim if he didn’t have the sources and the info to back it up.
Then things got crazy.
Superman Homepage, one of the biggest Superman fan-operated websites on the internet, struck back quickly at IESB’s claim. They contacted Smallville producer Al Gough, who told them that Welling as Superman “hasn’t happened” and “won’t happen” because Welling is contracted through to the end of the eighth season of Smallville.
Kryptonsite, the best Smallville news resource around, also contacted Gough and was told basically the same thing:
On the August 24 edition of G4TV’s Attack of the Show and IESB.net, it was reported that Tom Welling has been approached to play the Man of Steel for Warner Bros.’ big-screen movie adaptation of the Justice League of America.
This morning, we received word from Smallville’s executive producer and creator Alfred Gough that this is not the case.
“Completely false. Hasn’t been approached. He’s under contract to the show through season 8,” Gough says.
Even in the face of these speedy denials directly from a producer on Smallville, Sanchez stood by his story:
I am telling you, we have triple checked this out and all indications are that Tom Welling in fact is a go on the WB side. I rechecked with my sources and they are all still saying yes, yes Tom Welling, yes Justice League, yes production starts early next year and yes Smallville will have to work around it. Believe me, the IESB will be the first to post a retraction on a story if we are proved wrong, but right now, this is what we are hearing. We have been sitting on the Tom Welling info for almost a week and finally felt we had gathered enough back-up to post it.
What a roller coaster, right?
As it turns out, the story was far from over and still isn’t.
On September 20, Sanchez posted this article declaring that negotiations with Welling had fallen through:
Tom Welling is completely out of the running for Superman.
We first heard this from the same source that first confirmed him to us, I then confirmed it with 3 other studio sources. I am asking for an explanation but they have not been able to give me one quite yet.
What happened? I don’t know, I really don’t. He was the shoe in. I am lost for words. Why did he not sign? He was the favored pick. Was it scheduling? Was it something else? All we know is the negotiations went south. We will do some digging and try to find out why the deal didn’t go through and let you know as soon as we do.
And then things got even crazier, with rumors floating around that maybe Welling’s negotiations weren’t over after all.
(This is assuming, of course, that Welling was ever in negotiations in the first place, but it seems very likely given the number of sources involved. And again, I have no reason to doubt Robert Sanchez. Not to mention the fact that in several instances he’s waited to post news or rumors until he’s gotten confirmation from more sources.)
Newer posts by Sanchez on this thread from the IESB message board and further informed speculation found in this thread in the messages boards at CountingDown.com still maintain that Welling is in final negotiations to play Superman and that the person actually holding up the process is none other than Al Gough, who doesn’t want to lose his Smallville Clark Kent to the Justice League movie.
To stir things up even more, this website — which calls itself Justice League on Film and MUST NOT BE CONFUSED with Bill Ramey’s similarly named but differently hyphenated JusticeLeague-on-Film — talked exclusively to Al Gough and was told directly by Gough, on October 5, the following:
“This is utter bullshit. We haven’t ever been approached by anybody at Warners. This is all utter fabrication. There have been many rumors circulating over the past few weeks about Tom Welling’s involvement in the Justice League movie. I can tell you that neither Miles ,myself, nor Warner Bros Television have been approached by WB Features about this film. The last time I checked with Tom’s agent, he said they had not been contacted about this project at all. We have a very cordial relationship with both Warner Bros Features and DC Comics, and in all of our discussions over the past few weeks on Smallville business, THIS HASN’T COME UP ONCE. So, there you have it from the horse’s mouth–or ass–given some of the message board postings I’ve seen about myself!”
And yet those who continue to maintain that Welling is still in negotiations to be the Justice League Superman aren’t backing down, especially in this newer thread on Counting Down which suggests that Welling is now all but a done deal.
All of this will be settled when Warner Bros. announces the movie’s cast. And according to Variety, the studio “prefers to announce an entire cast rather than piecemeal deals.”
When will that happen? Hopefully soon, because I’m tired of waiting, wondering and worrying.
As for Tom Welling, I’d love to see him rescued from the clutches of Smallville producers who are still finding new, embarrassing ways to marginalize Clark Kent on his own show. I think he’d be an awesome big-screen Superman. Also keep in mind that Welling — who’s 30 — is much older than the Clark Kent he plays on Smallville, where he’s being directed to play a man much younger than himself. In Justice League, he’d be playing a character his own age. Give him a haircut, put him in the suit and you’d have one hell of a Superman.
The factors driving me away from the show aren’t Welling’s fault any more than the problems with Superman Returns were the fault of poor Brandon Routh, who did the best he could with a terrible script and Bryan Singer’s disgusting, tragically flawed vision of who Superman should be.
Will Justice League provide a better characterization for Superman? I guess we’ll find out the hard way if it really gets made and debuts, as Warner Bros. is reportedly hoping, in the summer of 2009.
Time will tell.
The purpose of this article has been to summarize the Welling/Superman rumor mill up until now. More updates — and hopefully official confirmations — as they happen.