While movie-going audiences are growing accustomed to the concept of the multiverse through Spider-Man, first in the Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and now Spider-Man: No Way Home — both of which introduce the idea that superheroes and villains have various counterparts in other universes — the idea of parallel universes in comic book lore was first popularized by DC Comics. In their sixth annual crossover event, the CW’s Arrowverse sought to adapt its renowned Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline. In their televised version, the event united DC’s shared history in film and television with various cameos, including Smallville’s Tom Welling, Lucifer’s Tom Ellis, and Burt Ward — Robin to Adam West’s 1960s Batman. Even Ezra Miller, the Flash from Zack Snyder’s cinematic Justice League, came to play with an amusing interaction with the CW’s Flash, Grant Gustin.
By the conclusion of the crossover, Crisis established a new status quo across DC’s multiverse, setting up interesting twists on established storylines and characters. One result involved the CW’s Superman (Tom Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Bitsie Tulloch) finding out that they are parents of twin boys. This wrinkle in the Superman mythos was a launching pad for their own spin-off show, Superman & Lois, after their initial introduction in Supergirl’s second season. But while Crisis first aired three years ago, the consequences of the multiverse continue to have a significant impact on the Kent family in Superman & Lois, a show that takes bold twists on the caped Kryptonian.
One of the many complaints surrounding Superman as a character is that he is too much of a god — an alien that no human can relate to. However, Superman & Lois makes Clark Kent one of the CW’s most relatable superheroes, even for a Kryptonian and especially compared to billionaire Oliver Queen (Steven Amell) on Arrow and super speedster metahuman Barry Allen on The Flash. Clark and Lois are parents to Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan Kent (Alexander Garfin), both of whom are welcome additions to the Superman lore.
While the show highlights everything familiar about Lois and Clark and their iconic love story from the Daily Planet and beyond, their roles as parents separate them from previous iterations of the characters. In fact, Hoechlin’s Superman and Tulloch’s Lane are the logical next step after the CW’s previous Superman show Smallville, which chronicled Clark Kent’s high school and young adult years. Here, Clark Kent is faced with the challenges and responsibilities of parenting, without the help of his own adoptive parents of Johnathan and Martha Kent. Making Clark and Lois parents after the events of Crisis reinvigorates these decades-old characters.
While Clark and Lois take on the parental roles, Jonathan and Jordan inherit the role of teenage Kents in Smallville, but with a twist. First, Clark had been raised as an only child and, what he believed to be, the last Kryptonian. In season 1 of Superman & Lois, Jordan discovers that he has inherited his father’s Kryptonian abilities. Jordan is also diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, which makes it difficult for him to control his powers. When Clark had been a child, he often faced the same difficulties alone. But with Jonathan alongside him, Jordan has someone to confide in — even if Jonathan doesn’t have powers (yet?).
The theme of brotherhood runs deep through the show’s first season, as it is later revealed how Kal-El has a secret half-brother Tal-Rho (Adam Rayner) who’s been pretending to be a villainous billionaire, Morgan Edge. It’s a departure from the more traditional villain of General Zod as a Kryptonian seeking to supplant the human race; because they are family, the conflict becomes personal. Through both the twins and the twist with Superman’s half-brother, the show explores unique brotherly relationships around Superman as a character, which is often only reserved for his frenemy dynamic with Batman in popular media.
Additionally, the show brings an old and often forgotten Superman character back into live-action. This is mostly because John Henry Irons, aka Steel, made his live-action debut in a movie that completely neglects Superman and his related characters. In 1997’s Steel, Shaquille O’Neal plays the metal-clad superhero. In Superman & Lois, Wolé Parks takes up the role of John Henry from an alternate earth. In his world, Superman leads a group of evil Kryptonians that ultimately kill his wife, Lois Lane. Seeking revenge against the black-suited Superman, John Henry arrives in the CW’s Earth Prime with a vendetta. However, after a few brawls, John Henry is convinced that this Superman is ultimately good and joins in the fight against the evil Tal-Rho. While the show could have stayed with the idea of an evil Superman – like in Zack Snyder’s Justice League – it instead uses the multiverse to reintroduce Steel into live-action.
With the recent premiere of Season 2, it’ll be interesting to see how else Superman & Lois reinvents familiar and more obscure characters. With the cliffhanger from season 1, the show is already positioned to explore more multiversal ramifications with the arrival of John Henry and Lois’s daughter from their earth, Natalie (Taylor Buck). We had a few glimpses of John Henry and Natalie’s father-daughter relationship in the last season, but her presence now complicates the Kent family’s life in Smallville. In multiverse logic, Natalie is still Lois’s daughter and Johnathan and Jordan’s half-sister (this earth’s Lois had been pregnant with a girl before, with the intention of naming her Natalie, only to lose the baby during her pregnancy). Will the Kents welcome Natalie with open arms? Can Natalie see the goodness of this earth’s Superman and accept that her own mother is long gone?
Even in the show’s second season, Superman & Lois is still exploring the ramifications of the multiverse. Rather than tying up all loose ends after the conclusion of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the show continuously pushes the Superman mythos into new territory. The appeal of Superman & Lois has nothing to do with other major DC comics villains and superheroes showing up, which is the case with most fans’ speculation about various Marvel characters potentially appearing in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Instead, the heart of the show is the theme of family, and through the concept of the multiverse, Superman & Lois finds new and interesting ways to portray these beloved characters.
Which team would you want to join?
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