Smallville, “A Hot New Show Redefines An American Pop Legend” 20 Years Ago
Clark Kent growing up in Smallville as his powers develop before he becomes the iconic Superman. As per normal for the WB network (before it merged with UPN to become the CW), teen angst was on full display, but many elements of the comic books found their way into Smallville. However, in December 2001, Smallville had just gotten going and was being highly promoted by TV Guide in their December 8th issue. Featuring four interlocking covers by Alex Ross, the issue also included an essay about the importance of Superman by Kevin Smith, a piece focused on the cast, crew, and interview portions with Paul Levitz; the issue also had one other important Smallville element, the first Smallville comic story.
Smallville Comics, Fleshing Out the Corners, and Future
Starting with a one-shot issue in October 2002 titled Smallville: The Comic #1, Smallville Volume 1 started up in 2003 and ran bimonthly for 11 issues, lasting until the end of 2004. This first run of comics covered stories that fill in the holes of seasons 1 through 4. Smallville wouldn’t see more comic books until the series ended, and Smallville Season 11 started in April 2012, almost a decade after Smallville first started in comics. However, the first Smallville comic was not published in a DC comic (though that was almost true for different reasons when Marvel Comics wanted to publish a Smallville comic) but in the pages of TV Guide.
Obscure Comics: TV Guide #2541, Smallville: Elemental
While many don’t realize it is still being published in a physical format, for decades, TV Guide was the primary way most people knew what was on TV in the United States day to this day. Released weekly since 1953, TV Guide in 2001 was still published in a digest format weekly detailing what was on TV every day, as well as having a color section at the beginning of the magazine featuring articles and interviews. Issue #2541 was focused on Smallville, released the week Season 1 Episode 8 “Jitters” was on the air. Including the first Smallville comic with a story by show creators Alfred Gough and Mark Millar, scripted by long time DC mainstay Martin Pasko, and drawn by Terry Dodson, and inks by Rachael Dodson (during the time the two were working on the first DC comic book series for Harley Quinn).
Set during season 1, the story “Elemental” takes place as Lex Luthor is throwing a party at the Luthor mansion. Admiring Lana Lang and her Kryptonite necklace from afar, Clark Kent is pushed to talk to her by Lex. However, the conversation is brief between the two as all of a sudden, the mansion becomes extremely cold. Not bothered by the cold, Clark notices Jacob Snell outside, who seems to be the cause of the sudden chill. Blaming the Luthors for his family’s problems. In addition, Clark discovers that once again, the “green rocks” have given another teen powers.
As Clark tries to stop Jacob from destroying the mansion and the party goers, Jacob loses control, and an explosion knocks him out, causing him to become dazed and forgetful. An ambulance takes Jacob away as Lex once again notices strange things seem to happen when Clark Kent is around.
An Odd Comic Book First in TV Guide
In addition to containing the first Smallville comic, great work from the Dodsons, and covers by Alex Ross, finding a copy of this issue of TV Guide is not super hard. However, many copies have cover damage due to being “subscription” copies that had a sticker affixed to it with the address of the subscriber. A reading copy may set you back $7 to $10, though to find all four covers jumps the cost up to $25, and very good condition sets going higher. Despite only having four pages of comic book content, the Alex Ross covers, interviews, and other content make this issue a good obscure read.