Digital Spy was among the media outlets to note that the CW network would like to find another DC superhero comic book adaptation to take the place of the (too?) long-running Smallville, which began as a series set in Superman’s home town, focusing on his adventures as Superboy…even though he wasn’t called Superboy, didn’t dress like Superboy and never even used all of his powers. Over the seasons, the show’s focus has drifted here and there, and more and more elements of the DCU appeared, but it looks like it’s finally time to call it quits and start over with something different.
Assuming CW execs and TV producers are scanning comics blogs for ideas, I thought I’d offer some suggestions. The quickest and easiest route would be to simply take a comic book with a completely TV-ready premise, a comic book series written as if it were a TV show, and go with that. Gotham Central, the 2003-2004 series about police officers in Gotham City, seems like the most television ready, as it was basically a police procedural in which Bat-villains and vigilantes occasionally guest-starred or cameoed. In other words, it’s a comic book belonging to a very popular television genre, with an element of a very popular film genre.
Greg Rucka was one of that series’ writers, and his 2003-2006 Wonder Woman run used to remind me of a TV series—which isn’t a compliment for a comic book, really. While his Wonder Woman still wore the bathing suit and did wondrous feats of derring-do, the majority of his storylines seemed to revolve around her work as an ambassador, complete with an embassy and staff. There was a lot of walk-and-talk hall scenes devoted to politics and bureacratic concerns, and even much of the mythology was given a more realistic veneer, so that when gods and goddesses interacted with Wondy or one another, they did so in human form, wearing street clothes.
But maybe what the CW liked about Smallville was that it was titled after, and originally set in, a particular piece of fantasy geography? If that’s the case, let’s look at some DCU locales as possible TV show settings, eliminating the more exotic ones as too pricey for network TV (Hawkworld, Oa, Skartaris, Atlantis) and the already-covered (Metropolis, Gotham).
Let’s see here….
BLUE VALLEY The small, Midwestern town—mostly likely situated in Nebraska—is the hometown of the original Kid Flash, teenage Wally West. Setting a superhero show there would be keeping awfully close to the Smallville formula, in terms of a having a teenage superhero with greater name recognition and adventures in his future, running around a small town in the Midwest. They’ve also fooled around with a Flash character on Smallville, and the IP could certainly use as much live-action exposure as possible, to help erase lingering memories of the TV series before the inevitable movie opens. The Flash mythology is rife with characters that span the entire history of superhero comics, so there’s a good four generations worth of Flashes to plunder villains, supporting cast-members, allies and so forth from. Maybe the best way to go would be to use Bart Allen as the Kid Flash protagonist, and have other Flashes run in and out as needed. Blue Valley was also the home of The Star-Spangled Kid/Stargirl Courtney Whitmore in the short-lived 1999 series Stars and STRIPE. She’s also appeared on Smallville, but a legacy Flash seems like a safer bet for a TV drama than a legacy Star-Spangled Kid.
DINOSAUR ISLAND This island or archipelago that time forgot—or where time went insane—was the setting of The War That Time Forgot series (which ran in anthology Star-Spangled War Stories, and was collected in a 2007 Showcase Presents volume), in which WWII GIs battled dinosaurs and other, often rather insane prehistoric monsters, robots and whatever Robert Kanigher thought up that particular month. Since the stories didn’t continue from installment to installment, it was more of a premise and setting than a single narrative, and the fact that it is superhero-free would probably make it a pretty unappealing concept for a television exec. Unless maybe they went the route of the route of the 2008 limited series by writer Bruce Jones, in which the island became the host of not only dinosaurs, but time-lost DC characters like Enemy Ace, Viking Prince, Tomahawk, G.I. Robot, and so on. A TV version could throw in more popular period characters (Sgt. Rock, Jonah Hex if his movie didn’t destroy all value in the character) or maybe a mystery man suit like Crimson Avenger or Wesley Dodds, or even a not-too-super superhero like Green Arrow or Black Canary. Television audiences like dramas set on mysterious islands where the rules of physics seem strained, right? Or are they maybe a few years too late for that?
IVY TOWN The home of Ivy University, this small college town—probably situated somewhere in New England—is also the home town of Ray “The Atom” Palmer, who taught physics there. He also dated an Ivy Town lawyer, which would open the show up to legal drama, as well as science drama, college drama and superhero drama. The Atom’s powers can be spectacular, but shrinking shouldn’t require the level of special effects that say, Green Lantern’s power ring or Plastic Man’s shape-shifting would, so he seems do-able on television. He has a rogues gallery that used to commit crimes in his hometown, even if they’re not a Batman, Flash or even Wonder Woman level collection of bad guys. The short-lived All-New Atom series, written by Gail Simone and then Rick Remender, introduced an, um, all-new Atom who also taught at Ivy University, but had a greater focus on the city as a place of high strangeness, full of mad scientist types, visiting aliens, monsters and the like. That version of the Atom also had a pretty extensive supporting cast, and I imagine a TV show centering on an Atom will likely squish the two versions together, so that Ray Palmer might date Jean Loring, but work for Ryan Choi’s boss and have all of Choi’s friends, or something like that.
OOLONG ISLAND The mysterious tropical island where all of DC’s maddest mad scientists, from Captain Marvel archenemy Dr. Sivana to one-off Dial H For Hero villains, toiled on doomsday devices for a giant, sentient evil egg would—Okay, this would probably never be turned into a TV show, in large part because there are no heroes involved, and the heroic mad scientist Will Magnus who hung out on Oolong during 52 probably isn’t read-for-TV material (The Metal Men couldn’t be done on live action television. Or, if they could, like Metamorpho and Plastic Man, they probably shouldn’t be). I mean, I would love to watch a TV show about Dr. Sivana bickering with a giant egg, but I’m not sure how big a demographic I represent.
OPAL CITY This big, East Coast city has a port, is surrounded by plains, and is probably in the state of Maryland. It was the setting of James Robinson’s critically-acclaimed 1990s series Starman, starring Jack Knight, Starman V (or VI or VII or VIII, depending on how many Starmen you want to count). Writer James Robinson made a pretty big deal out of the city, using it as a supporting character in the book, and while Jack was the title character, more often than not the book was an ensemble one, prominently featuring Jack’s family, his family’s foes (and their families), a family of city police officers, and obscure DC heroes and villains from the past and future. Given the scope of Robinson’s Starman story and how wrapped up it is in DCU continuity and trivia, it’s unlikely to ever make it into a film as is, making it better suited for television. The large cast of characters means work for a large cast of actors—and a pretty plumb role for whoever lands The Shade—and the fact that Jack and so many of the other characters eschew spandex and costumes for street clothes would spare an Opal City from things like, say, the sight of Smallville‘s Hawkman or Dr. Fate costumes.
STAR CITY Of my close personal friends, only one watches Smallville with any amount of devotion, and she assures me the show’s most appealing attribute is the hotness of Justin Hartley’s Green Arrow. So if Smallville’s ending, maybe they can spin Hartley’s GA off into his own series, set in his own city? GA’s Star City used to be a fairly generic fictional DCU city, along the lines of Central City, but it was recently made somewhat unique by the fact that villain Prometheus blew most of it up and then a huge forest suddenly grew in the crater. Obviously a TV show wouldn’t want to get into all that Cry For Justice/Blackest Night/Brightest Day business, but the basic premise of a Robin Hood-themed vigilante who lives in a modern big city that butts up against a forest seems clever and appealing. Additionally, Green Arrow has a big enough supporting cast at this point that television producers could fairly easily build up a band of modern day merry men for him over the course of a few seasons.