Following a very successful continuation of the hit TV series “Smallville” as a digital-first comic book series, DC Comics is extending “Smallville: Season 11” with brand new miniseries “Smallville: Alien.”
At the end of “Smallville: Season 11,” Superman revealed to the President — and consequently the world — that he was an alien, the last son of Krypton. Not surprisingly, this announcement was received with mixed reviews and that’s where “Smallville: Alien” picks up the story.
No doubt inspired by the real-life Chelyabinsk asteroid, a meteor has crashed in Russia and this one is carrying an intergalactic passenger. Superman, still adjusting to his new status quo, finds himself racing against Lex Luthor to Russia and finds a Monitor (and the Rocket Red Brigade) when he arrives.
With the first three chapters of the digital first comic released this week in print and the fourth chapter set to be released digitally on Friday, CBR News connected with series writer and former “Smallville” executive story editor Bryan Q. Miller, who discussed how the teachings of Pa Kent work well in today’s Twitter age, why Chloe Sullivan-Queen continues to work as a character and why introducing the Monitor to the “Smallville” mythos continues a long line of supervillain succession making the leap from DCU proper to the TV series-inspired digital first franchise.
CBR News: Bryan, the title of this miniseries is branded with the same label Superman is now has following the events of “Smallville: Season 11.” He’s an alien and the world knows it. An announcement like that no doubt comes with its detractors.
Bryan Q. Miller: Coming out as an alien and the repercussions of such an announcement has certainly always been a concern for Clark. And was always a concern for his parents too. There was an episode back in “Smallville” Season 8 called “Infamous,” which was kind of a time loop episode. At that point in his life, Clark came out and said he was an alien and things did not go very well. Due in part to that experience, he’s backed off revealing his true nature up until this point.
But also, he wasn’t mature enough in his own personal journey at that time to handle the consequences of that announcement — that polarizing announcement. He’s in a different place now. If he’s comfortable flying around in tights and a cape than he’s a little better equipped to the public reaction of him being from another planet.
“Find your center, stand your ground and say your piece.” Pa Kent gives this encouragement to young Clark in a flashback early in “Smallville: Alien” and Superman later reflects on this wisdom from his father as he listens to the world react to the news that he is an alien. We could all learn something from Pa Kent, couldn’t we?
I think it also boils down to this: “Don’t read the comments.” [Laughs] It’s very easy to get caught up in perception, especially in the Twitter Age, the trolling age. It can be very easy to get lost in the tall grass and what people are saying. And that’s especially true with what Clark is going through right now. He knew going in that revealing his identity to the President, to the world, that he is alien, that people would have a polarized reaction to it. And sometimes the negative voices sound a lot louder than the positive ones.
Over the years and seasons, you’ve told “Smallville” stories based in Smallville, Metropolis — all over the United States American cities, but “Smallville: Alien” starts in Russia. Does the location itself affect the tone/sensibility of the story or are long-held Cold War sensibilities a thing of the past?
I think it’s still there a little bit. Every now and again, we’re reminded the story is set in Russia but this is very much, more of an isolated Lex/Clark story. And hopefully, it’s like the Lex/Clark stories that people who watched the show liked. It’s the two of them isolated on the other side of the globe and the stakes get very, very high very, very quickly.
After 11 seasons of “Smallville” and 70-plus years of stories featuring Superman and Lex Luthor, how do you keep the relationship/rivalry fresh?
What we have in “Smallville: Season 11” and this miniseries, which extends Season 11 as we’ve moved past traditional numbering, is a world where after Season 10, Lex returns from quote/unquote the dead and his sister taints him with a memory loss drug so he has emerged from death into a world where there is a Superman and he has no memory of him. For this Lex and this Clark, this is one of the few times that Clark has been way out in front of Lex in terms of what he knows. And Clark tries to take control of the relationship.
But there is a danger too. There is an instinctual residue, I don’t know what else to call it, that Lex has seen this played out all before but he can’t place his finger on why or how. He just knows that he hates Superman. And he overcompensates for this hatred because he’s a god amongst men. He’s not comfortable with that because no one should have that much power. And there is something that even Lex knows is tied to his old life. There is this constant waiting game between Clark and the rest of our heroes, which is will Lex ever remember what he already knew? And if and when he does, what the hell are they going to do about it?
Clark is definitely in control of the situation for now, but there is also a danger that at any point, the dangerous version of Lex Luthor could remember everything that he knows is true about Superman and believes to be true. That is the underlying tension of this new phase of their relationship.
In “Smallville: Alien,” Lex and Clark are investigating a Monitor. Unlike Batman, Wonder Woman or even previously lesser known properties like Green Arrow or Justice Society of America, the Monitor is fairly obscure DCU reference for non-comic book readers. When introducing a concept like the Monitor, how much backstory do you feel is necessary as many of your readers, I would guess, started as fans of the TV series?
On the TV show, once you hit Season 5, which is when Brainiac showed up, that’s when the fabric of the show started to change. You had these larger arcs with bag bads that were DC villains. You had Brainiac in Season 5, we had criminals from the Phantom Zone in Season 6 and that transitioned into Bizarro. In Season 7, we had a bunch of Krypton stuff, we had Zor-El, we had Brainiac again, we went into Doomsday territory in Season 8, Zod in Season 9 and then we did a valiant attempt at Darkseid in Season 10. We had all kinds of stuff. It’s very much in the DNA of “Smallville” to spoonful of sugar larger DC villain concepts to the viewers and now the readers.
With the Monitor, what we’ve done — and this goes back to the premiere, to “Guardian,” which was, good lord, a year-and-a-half ago — is go back to the end of the first main arc to start planning it. We revisited it in “Haunted” when we showed Chloe from Earth 2. She wound up on our Earth and she died but Chloe found her memories and we saw what happened at the end of her world and there are Monitor ships in the sky so there were little bits and pieces, teases of the Monitor, for some time that we were Easter-egging for comic folk but at the same time, trying to create a larger threat that the reader can access without knowing too much.
After “Alien,” there will be a lot more and everybody will know what the Monitors are and what they do and why they do it, which is why we brought one down to Earth. We wanted Clark and Lex to get some face time.
And we get Rocket Red Brigade in “Smallville: Alien too — another killer concept.
Yes. And I won’t say how just yet but the introduction of the Rocket Red Brigade does tie into something we’ve already done during the course of “Smallville: Season 11.” There is a nice little reward for folks that have been around since Chapter 1.
Also, introducing Red Rocket Brigade gives a larger sense of the world post-“Smallville” Season 10. At the end of Season 10, Akropolis came out of the sky and Superman pushed it back into the sky with his bare hands. In the book, it’s an event we call Contact and it was a paradigm shifting event. It doesn’t just affect Smallville or Metropolis, it affects everywhere. That’s why whenever we can this season, we’re getting outside our comfort zone. We’re going to Gotham, we’re going to Africa for a story, we’re doing what we can to broaden the horizons and give the world some extra depth and I think with us in Russia, having the Rocket Red Brigade show up just helps it feel more real for everyone that is reading.
Rocket Red Brigade isn’t so big that they require their own story but you can add them as element to this larger story without having to dedicate too much page time to them. You couldn’t do that with Batman. Batman has to have his own story but with Rocket Red Brigade, they’re great characters, it’s a great concept and it also helps give Russia some realness as our heroes are over there.
You mentioned Chloe from Earth 2, but can you talk a bit about Chloe of our Earth? She’s certainly a fan-favorite from the TV series but she never really caught on in the DCU. Why does the character work and are you happy to be writing her and giving her a place to continue her growth in “Smallville: Season 11” and beyond?
There were three ages to the show: Seasons 1-4, Seasons 5-7 and Seasons 8-10. In the beginning, Chloe was very much the eyes through which the audience experienced all of the weirdness and the people with meteor powers. Your heart hurt for her when Clark wouldn’t love her back. There was a transitional period too where she was kind of Oracle-esque and became her own entity. And by the end of the show, she became Watchtower, who was a hero in her own right as she coordinated all of the heroes.
She’s a great character to work with and having her come back now in crisis, as it were, because she’s pregnant is great too. She and Oliver have stepped out of the limelight to try and raise a baby and take a turn away from danger. Chloe lost her mom at an early age to illness. Her mom was institutionalized and she didn’t really know her at all. Ollie lost his parents when he was very young too so he knows what it’s like to not have a whole family. Whether or not it’s realistic for everybody and they get dragged back into the hero world or not is another thing, but they’re at least trying to do what’s right for their baby.
You’ll see in this week’s chapter coming up, there is some yearning in her for getting back to that life she left behind but the reality is that this decision might be for the best. We’ll see some of that conflict come out. She and Lois have a side adventure as part of this story.
The first print issue of “Smallville: Season 11” dropped this week, but the first three chapters have already been released digitally. Can you bring us up to speed where we are with the weekly without spoiling too much for the print readers?
Like you said, it’s a tricky balance. What’s coming in the next three weeks of digital releases is that Batman enters the fray. He came into “Smallville” Season 11 in a big way during “Detective” and again in the Martian Manhunter arc called “Effigy,” but now there is seemingly a Superman-related hate crime that occurs in the wake of his alien announcement so Lois and Chloe saddle up to look into it and as always, things are not as easy as they would appear. They get pulled into a big Gotham adventure with Batman and Nightwing.
“Smallville: Alien” is slated for 12 digital chapters (four print issues) and as you mentioned it continues the story from “Smallville: Season 11” but it isn’t specifically tagged that way. Once this story is done, can we expect “Smallville Season 12” or is there another miniseries in the pipeline?
The cover of “Smallville: Alien” #1 states underneath the title, “Season 11 continues,” so every mini, every special from here on out is still part of “Season 11” even though it doesn’t have “Season 11” in the title. We were heading into Chapter 70. In what I believe is a very smart way to get folks into the book again, because I don’t think anyone can be blamed if they want jump into a series and not want to go back all the way to Chapter 1, we’ve started this miniseries to continue the story. Having those new #1 issues will help people greatly slide into the series. And then once they’re hooked, they can play catch-up.
Will readers ever see “Smallville Season 12?”
I am so snowblind being in Season 11 because there is still so much more to come but I know how it ends, I know when it ends and that’s the goal right now. Once we’re done, we can figure out what happens after. You don’t think about the next marathon you’re going to run while you’re still running the first one. [Laughs]
But the story continues beyond “Smallville: Alien”?
Oh yes, but I can’t say how. What I can say is that we’re introducing another big DC guest star into the “Smallville” mythos.
“Smallville: Alien” #1, by Bryan Q. Miller and featuring art by Edgar Salazar, is available now. The first three chapters are also available digitally and Chapter 4 will be released this Friday.