Despite debuting back in February, Superman & Lois, The CW’s most recent shared universe DC series, has only aired five of its fifteen episodes so far. Tonight, after an extended hiatus, the Man of Steel-inspired show returns with an intrigue-laden episode that finds Lois Lane working with the series' alt-universe Luthor. Yet, while the return of the series certainly offers its share of wide-screen action and mystery, Superman & Lois continues to put its surprisingly relatable family at the forefront.
The addition of Jonathan and Jordan Kent, the twin boys that came about as a result of the Arrowverse’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” wasn’t without its share of controversy when it was revealed. Jonathan and Jordan aren’t superheroes and don’t have immediate analogs in comic book continuity. (In current comics, Lois and Clark have a single son, who grew up away from his parents.) Also blazing new ground was Superman’s decision to move his family back to Smallville—into the very house he lived in with his human parents before putting on the cape. Yet, it’s these new elements that have made Superman & Lois feel remarkably fresh. It’s enough of a change that we truly don’t know what to expect, while still possessing the essential familiar elements needed to make the show feel like Superman.
Maintaining that balance is largely the responsibility of Executive Producer Todd Helbing, who serves as showrunner for Superman & Lois. We recently had a chance to chat with Helbing about what we can expect now that the series is back as well as why he feels the show has been so well received. In addition, we got his thoughts on comic book Easter eggs, what part of the Superman mythos you should never change and whether or not we’ll be seeing Superman & Lois crossing over with the rest of the Arrowverse.
We’ve only seen five episodes, but so far Superman & Lois really seems to have been embraced by both hardcore and casual Superman fans alike. What do you see as the secret to the show’s broad appeal?
I think it’s because at its heart, it’s a family drama, where Clark Kent is more of a character than Superman. That’s really what it is. I think any time you get too comic book heavy, you lose people. Our whole approach is if you can ground a Superman story and find a way to tell Superman stories in that format, it can resonate. I’m just really happy that people are responding to it.
You might not get too comic book heavy, but you do include a lot of Easter eggs in the episodes. Is striking a balance between those sort of comic book elements and the overall family drama structure the plan going forward?
Yeah, I love Easter eggs. I love callbacks. Any time you can do a live version of a splash page, I love doing that stuff. If you are a comic book fan and you know it, it just makes that experience a little bit more rewarding, but it doesn’t change anything for somebody that doesn’t know that. It’s just a cool set piece. So, any time we can do that and it doesn’t make somebody at home that doesn’t know it scratch their head, I think it’s worth doing.
You’ve made some real changes to Superman canon with Superman & Lois. I’m curious, what do you see as the things that have to stay consistent with Superman—the things that can’t change?
With both Superman and Lois, you just have to keep who they are at the core the same—what they stand for, what their drives are. Lois Lane has to be fearless, independent and outspoken. In our version, she needs to be a really good mother and strong partner. Clark just needs to be a good guy from a small town. He’s a simple guy. He happens to be the most powerful man in the universe, and he wants to do good and change the world, but he’s a humble guy at the end of the day. He’s as comfortable—or probably more comfortable—just being in his barn. I think if those core aspects are there, then we’ve done a good job.
I think everyone would agree that Clark Kent had a really good upbringing by his adoptive parents. On the other hand, Clark seems to be struggling when it comes to helping Jordan understand his powers. Do you think having powers himself might be making that more difficult for Clark?
What’s different is that when Clark showed up, he had his powers from day one. He was young enough that he doesn’t remember what it was like, so even if there were challenges, he doesn’t remember them. His experience was not what Jordan’s is. I don’t know if this is the best analogy, but if you’re Michael Jordan and you’re teaching basketball to your kids, how do you teach something in which you had the gifts to become the best in the world? If you’re Eddie Van Halen, how do you teach guitar to your kids? It’s that sort of scenario.
Not only that, but Jordan’s half human. He’s experiencing pain when these powers develop. When his powers are manifesting, it’s just such a different scenario. Clark can’t just apply the same lessons that his parents taught him. It’s not a one to one. On top of him now being a parent and having a different understanding of what his parents were really trying to teach him, Clark also needs to try to figure out how to speak to this kid from a different generation. I think that’s all really interesting.
What do you think Jordan’s expectations are with his powers? Does he want to be a superhero?
When they first appear, he thinks it’s going to be this easy road. All of a sudden, he’s thinking, “Man, I’m going to be Superman.” Around episode two, he has a conversation with Jonathan where he’s talking about going off to the Fortress. He’s like, “Can you imagine if I can fly?”
He has all these expectations and it’s not just going to happen for this kid. I think he kind of assumes that all of his problems are going to be gone—his anxiety is going to be gone. It just sort of heightens things in a way that he’s sort of blindsided by.
Lois Lane is currently focused on bringing down Morgan Edge. Do you think she has a plan for what she’d like to do after that? Do you think a world-renowned reporter can be happy and fulfilled in a small town like Smallville?
I don’t know if Lois Lane ever has a long-term plan. She’s one of these people that when she sees a story, she goes after it with everything that she has because there’s always going to be another story after that. What she didn’t realize in Smallville was that this was a town, like all kinds of small towns in America, where there are plenty of stories, it’s just people never think about it. It’s always New York and LA—the big cities. What she discovers is that every single person in Smallville has a pretty awesome story, and it’s up to her to seek them out. She doesn’t have to wait for the stories to come to her now, she can just go find them. I think that’s what’s going to be a little bit different.
I also can’t help but feel for Jonathan. It seems like nothing has really worked out for him since the move back to Smallville. So far, he’s been supportive, but I’m worried, is he maybe headed down a dark path?
Well, like any kid who’s had their life upended, he has some legitimate issues. I think maybe he takes them out on Clark, particularly in the first handful of episodes. But I think at his core, Jonathan’s a good guy who’s close with his brother and will always stick up for him. I don’t know if he has it in him to go dark. I think he’s just a normal kid who lashes out sometimes.
Well, let’s talk about someone who can go dark, then. Everyone’s curious about the show’s Luthor. So far, we’ve gotten glimpses of his past shedding some light on what he’s up to. When will be finding out more?
You get a little bit in this week’s episode. Lois and Luthor go into the mines together and she gets a little information that causes her to suspect that this guy isn’t being forthright. Then in episode 7, you get a huge part of his backstory. His character really comes into focus in next week’s episode.
What’s something you think will surprise people about this Luthor?
All I’ll say is just watch episode 7. The whole thing is a surprise.
Finally, where do you see Superman & Lois within the Arrowverse? Do you think we’ll ever see crossovers?
It’s really strange how this all happened because originally we were going to do a crossover with Batwoman and Covid really changed everything. Things dropped out that wouldn’t normally have dropped out if not for the pandemic. As the episodes progressed, it got harder and harder to bring up any sort of crossover without opening a can of worms, so Superman & Lois probably feels more distant than we intended.
Diggle still shows up in the show in episode 12, but honestly, we have to see how this all shakes out in Vancouver. We can’t have actors come over to sets because of the testing. It’s been a challenge for sure.
But in your mind, it is still part of the shared world?
It’s all part of the DC world, yeah.