Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Biggest DC Comics Characters To Show Up On Smallville

Before the ongoing craze in superhero media, "Smallville" was the main source of superheroics on television for many people in the early 2000s. Telling the story of a teenage Clark Kent (Tom Welling) as he learned to use his powers for the betterment of the world while his friends-to-enemies relationship with Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) unfolded, the series took science-fiction and comic book television to new heights for 218 episodes. In these 10 seasons, the series introduced many of DC Comics' biggest characters — definitely not all of them, but certainly a bunch — into live action, some for the very first time.

Today, we're used to seeing Superman, the Flash, Green Arrow, and Aquaman in live action, oftentimes fighting alongside one another. But back then, the thought of so many comics heroes occupying the same screen simultaneously barely seemed plausible outside of animation. "Smallville" might not have been perfect, but it did its best to tell compelling comic book-driven stories and push the boundaries of what they were able to do on TV, all while keeping Clark literally grounded for the majority of the series. There's no doubt that "Smallville" is one of the absolute best and longest-running superhero shows of all time, and its commitment to bringing these characters to the screen was more than admirable. While there are plenty of DC Comics characters that appeared on "Smallville," these are some of the biggest.


Obviously, this list must start with the Man of Steel himself. Of course, "Smallville" is all about a young Clark Kent and his struggle to mature into Superman. Over the course of the show, Clark's powers slowly develop as he goes through puberty. Meanwhile, other Kryptonians tend to arrive on the show already fully powered up. Clark's abilities are a slow burn due to the fact that he still, deep down, believes himself to be human. One thing is clear — Clark's time on Earth has helped make him into the hero that he is, and without Smallville, he wouldn't have become Superman.

While we don't see Clark as Superman for most of the show, we do get glimpses of his destiny, including visions of his cape, flashforwards in time, and even the "S"-like House of El crest itself. There's a lot that points to "Smallville" being a Superman show, even though the "no flights, no tights" rule almost always stands. In the final season, Clark begins to make his human identity into his disguise, becoming the bumbling Daily Planet reporter we all know and love from Christopher Reeve's version of Superman. Likewise, in the two-part series finale, Clark finally takes flight, wears his Superman uniform, and saves the world from an interplanetary threat caused by Darkseid himself.

Lex Luthor

In the 1978 classic "Superman," Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) describes himself as the "greatest criminal mind of our time." But on "Smallville," it takes Lex about a decade to realize he might have a greater-than-average talent for evil. The version of Lex we see on "Smallville" is a lot more sympathetic than the supervillain we're accustomed to. In fact, "Smallville" sometimes compels us to root for Lex as he battles his inner-demons and resists his fate of becoming his father. If anything, Lex is a tragic hero who eventually succumbs to his own selfishness and desires, becoming "the villain of the story," as Lex himself puts it. If "Smallville" does anything for Lex Luthor, it makes him seem relatable and sympathetic in ways other adaptations certainly do not.

While the comic book portrayal of Lex Luthor is shrewd and manipulative, Rosenbaum's Lex takes his time growing into his darker impulses while gradually starting to see Clark as his rival. Arguably, that makes a much more interesting story than one about a wealthy businessman who, for some reason, really hates Superman. Like many incarnations of the character whose early years involve him befriending Clark Kent, the Lex of "Smallville" also starts out as friends with Clark — It's ultimately the reason why he hates Superman. Although he doesn't stick around for the entirety of the series, there's a lot to love about this incarnation of Lex Luthor.

Lois Lane

The most famous reporter of all time is undoubtedly Lois Lane. Let's attribute 66% of Lois' global-recognizability to her renowned and award-winning journalism for the Daily Planet and say the remaining 33% of her fame comes from being Superman's wife. Lois is Clark's rock, grounding him to humanity when he feels too much like an alien. She's bold, brash, quick on her feet, and fiercely loyal, which is what makes Lois an easy fit for Clark. Since "Smallville" is an origin story, it takes years for Lois to grow into her role as an ace reporter and she dates other heroes before Clark, but we see the foundation of a fully evolved Lois right from her "Smallville" debut in Season 4.

Erica Durance shines as Lois Lane and gives her a complexity that few live-action incarnations — Teri Hatcher on "Lois & Clark," who plays Lois' mother on "Smallville," being one of those few — have brought to the table. In addition, "Smallville" includes a few other Lois-adjacent comic book characters — her father General Sam Lane (Michael Ironside) and sister Lucy (Peyton List).

The Kents and the Luthors

When they were cast as Jonathan and Martha Kent on "Smallville," John Schneider and Annette O'Toole were a solid handful of years younger than we're accustomed to seeing their comic book counterparts. However, despite their relative youth and good looks, they became a staple of "Smallville." Even after Jonathan died and Martha left for Washington D.C., Clark could always count on them to be in his corner — albeit not always literally — as they ushered him toward his destiny. You just can't keep Ma Kent down, and the same apparently goes double for Pa Kent.

Speaking of the comics, the iteration of Lionel Luthor (John Glover) we see on "Smallville" isn't an exact transfer from the source material, though Lex's abusive father does play a big role in some versions of his story. In "Superman: Secret Origin" by occasional "Smallville" writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank, Lionel is not the CEO of a multimillion-dollar corporation; he's an abusive and financially struggling alcoholic who Lex kills to inherit his insurance policy. Another Luthor who appears in DC Comics is Lex's sister Lena, known on "Smallville" as Tess Mercer, aka Lutessa Lena Luthor (Cassidy Freeman). Tess-slash-Lena becomes a huge part of the series, stepping up to fill the morally ambiguous void left by Rosenbaum's Lex departing the show.

Lana Lang and Pete Ross

Two famous DC Comics characters hailing from Smallville, Kansas, are Clark's childhood best friends Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) and Pete Ross (Sam Jones III), but "Smallville" changes their stories drastically. In the comics, Pete is Clark's best friend just like he is on the show. Where it deviates is comic book Pete never learns about Clark's secret identity during their high school years in Smallville. Rather, they stay in touch post-graduation, with Pete entering the political sphere as the vice president of the United States under President Lex Luthor, and eventually president after Lex's removal from office. Pete and Lana are married for a time before Pete returns to Smallville to raise their son solo. The "Smallville" interpretation is vastly different; Pete leaves the show before he can graduate or become the leader of the free world, hates Lex Luthor's guts, and helps keep Clark's secret.

Like Pete, the Lana Lang of "Smallville" is incredibly different than her comic book counterpart. For one thing, the comic book version of Lana isn't related to a 14th century witch, nor does she have kryptonite-enhanced superpowers ... well, some of the time she does, but let's not get sidetracked. Comic book Lana's is primarily known as Clark's best friend, first love, and truest confidant. On "Smallville," her role is basically split between Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) the trusty sidekick and secret-keeper, and Lana the high school love interest.

The Daily Planet Staff

The Daily Planet might be one of the most important locations in all the DC Universe. The newspaper office is where Clark Kent and Lois Lane first meet and begin their careers, and it's the home of essential supporting characters like Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and Cat Grant. Jimmy Olsen (Aaron Ashmore) is a recurring character on "Smallville" from Season 6 to Season 8 before he's killed saving his wife Chloe from Doomsday's human half, Davis Bloome (Sam Witwer). As it turns out, this Jimmy is actually Henry James Olsen, rather than the classic Jimmy we all know and love. At the end of "Doomsday," it's revealed that his younger brother is actually the true Jimmy Olsen who works with Lois and Clark at the Planet. Ashmore also plays this younger Jimmy seen in the final episode. It's a little trippy, but a lot of stuff about Jimmy Olsen gets pretty weird.  

Perry White (Michael McKean) only appears in two episodes of "Smallville," with a minor vocal cameo in the finale, but he isn't a whole lot like the editor-in-chief we know from Superman lore. He even dates Martha Kent for a bit, which wouldn't make any sense, except McKean is married to Annette O'Toole in real life. As for Cat Grant, two variations of the comic character appear on the show — Cat Grant, played by Keri Lynn Pratt, and Catherine Grant, played by Emilie Ullerup.


No Superman villain is deadlier than the biological alien computer known as Brainiac. Originally from the planet Colu and sometimes known as "The Collector of Worlds," Brainiac travels the cosmos, plucking cities out of alien civilizations, adding them to his collection, and destroying the rest of the planet. His biggest claim to fame is stealing the Kryptonian city of Kandor, although whether or not he destroys Krypton all depends on which version of his story we're talking about. While Brainiac's history and origin have been retconned a few times, one of the definitive iterations appears in Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's story arc "Superman: Brainiac," which manages to streamline Brainiac's continuity while telling a personal story.

Unlike his DC Comics' counterpart, but not too far from how he's portrayed on "Superman: The Animated Series," the "Smallville" version of Brainiac (James Marsters) is a Kryptonian artificial intelligence that's a little like the T-1000 from "Terminator 2." This Brainiac can shapeshift and has all the abilities of a natural Kryptonian without any vulnerability to Kryptonite, making him pretty hard to beat. Early on in the series, Brainiac goes by the human alias of Milton Fine — a reference to an identity he took in the comics — and was originally created by Dax-Ur (Marc McClure) and Jor-El (Julian Sands) before his corruption at the hands of General Zod (Callum Blue). Of course, the comics depict General Zod and Brainiac are classically enemies due to the latter's theft of Kandor and attempts to destroy Krypton.

Green Arrow

While today's TV audiences know the Emerald Archer best in the form of Stephen Amell, Oliver Queen showed up on "Smallville" years ahead of the grimdark early seasons of "Arrow." Played by Justin Hartley, this version of Oliver is very reminiscent of the more Robin Hood-like iteration of the character from the comics who uses his wealth and resources to fight for the little guy on the streets. The "Smallville" Oliver eventually reveals his secret identity to the world, which opens up the discussion on whether superheroes should be allowed to patrol the streets with no oversight and kind of sounds like a story from an entirely different publishing line

While the Green Arrow of "Smallville" might share some similarities with his DC Comics counterpart, there are also more than a fair number of differences. From his romance with Chloe Sullivan to his use of crossbows, this live-action counterpart sometimes feels a bit more like an ersatz Batman than he does DC's Oliver. Though we can say the same for the Oliver of "Arrow," especially during its first season. But ultimately, with his penchant for quipping and desire to see justice served, Green Arrow on "Smallville" does an excellent job of reinterpreting the DC Comics character for a modern, live-action audience while also remaining true to the optimistic and lighthearted foundation of the character, as long as the final two seasons don't count.

General Zod

Another iconic Superman villain to become a recurring antagonist on "Smallville" — sometimes as a phantom possessing Lex Luthor, or a younger clone, or his "final form" in Season 10 — General Zod is always telling people to kneel before him. Although the character is most well-known for battling Superman in 1980's "Superman II" and 2013's "Man of Steel," General Zod first appears in "Adventure Comics #283," published in 1961, and has since become a recurring staple of Superman's rogues' gallery. The mid-'00s "Superman: Last Son" arc by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, and artist Adam Kubert reinvents Zod for the modern age with Terence Stamp's stoic portrayal in "Superman II" as its creative basis.

The Zod of "Smallville" is just as cunning and vengeful as the DC Comics' Kryptonian general, making Zod one of the most dangerous adaptations of a comics character on the show. There are plenty of depictions of Zod as a planetarily-displaced warlord out for revenge, but "Smallville" offers us one of the most layered and interesting. With all due respect to Zack Snyder, are there any Zod clones in "Man of Steel?" There aren't. Arguably, there's a Zod clone in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," but if you're looking for a real-deal live-action Zod clone, "Smallville" is your best bet.  

Martian Manhunter

Although he's one of the most powerful characters in all of comic books, Martian Manhunter often plays second fiddle to other superheroes. Whether it's Superman on "Smallville," Batman on "The Batman" cartoon series, Supergirl on her own live-action series, or the rest of the Justice League in "Zack Snyder's Justice League," the Manhunter from Mars does his best to stay in the shadows. As it happens, the Martian Manhunter's history and personality lend themselves to keeping a low profile. As a gentler hero with a more reserved spirit and a keen mind for detective work, John Jones (Phil Morris) on "Smallville" perfectly embodies everything that Martian Manhunter stands for, right down his love for Oreos.

As a recurring character on "Smallville," John Jones (typically spelled "J'onn J'onzz" in other adaptations) was always a fan favorite. When he began wearing his red gun holsters across his chest — reminiscent of the red suspenders of his Golden Age costume — some old-school DC fans certainly lost their minds. Even without his powers, John Jones was a force to be reckoned with.

Justice League of America

We live in a world full of live-action superhero teams. From the MCU's big screen Avengers to the small-screen Defenders, all the way to the Arrowverse's Crisis team that's never officially called the JLA and "Zack Snyder's Justice League," there's a team out there for everybody. But back in the early 2000s, getting DC heroes together in any non-animated capacity was a tall order. "Smallville" did its best to bring the Justice League to live action, introducing them one by one in individual episodes before teaming up one of the lesser-known Flashes, Aquaman, Cyborg, and Green Arrow with Clark in the Season 6 episode "Justice."

It wouldn't be long before Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Hawkman, Stargirl, and others were added to the League's ranks. Of course, characters like Superman, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter are traditionally founding members of the JLA, which first appears in "The Brave and the Bold #28" in 1960. Other heroes like Black Canary and Cyborg have been considered founding members in various retcons such as "JLA: Year One" and "The New 52." Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Zatanna are traditional leaguers as well, with others like Impulse and Stargirl only serving on the JLA for a short time. Nevertheless, seeing these heroes unite on "Smallville" back in 2007 was an exciting precursor to the superhero-crazed world we're apart of now.


After faking us out with an imposter at the end of Season 3, "Smallville" officially introduced Superman's cousin Kara Zor-El (Laura Vandervoort) in Season 7, making her a main cast member for a year before she left to pursue her own destiny. The Kara we see on "Smallville" is not unlike modern comic book interpretations of Supergirl, such as the one from the mid-'00s "Superman/Batman" comic book series. This Kara is angry and hurting at the loss of her home world — a place that, unlike her cousin, she remembers well. This translates exceptionally well onto "Smallville," where she evolves from the Last Daughter of Krypton to the Maiden of Might we see in the final season.

As Kara journeys to discover her own identity in this new world, she doesn't always make terrific decisions in terms of who to trust, but we can't help but sympathize with her. As much as the "Supergirl" series starring Melissa Benoist accurately portrays Kara's superheroics, "Smallville" shows us how she got to that point in a way that's honorable to the source material and relatable for modern audiences.


Bizarro might be the most misunderstood and tragic member of Superman's rogues' gallery. An alternate version of Superman — sometimes a deformed clone, sometimes a construct from the fifth dimension, sometimes from another cube-shaped world entirely — this strange living inversion of the Man of Steel has shown up as a villain, an antihero, and an ally to Clark. The character's most recent TV appearance on "Superman & Lois" follows that unpredictable pattern, but "Smallville" does something entirely different with Bizarro, trading alternate Earths or dimensions for something a bit closer to home.

Bizarro first appears as an escaped Kryptonian spirit from the Phantom Zone before latching onto a piece of Clark's DNA to construct a body for itself — one with all of Clark's memories and emotions, as well as warped, revered versions of his powers. Because he's the opposite of Clark, sunlight hurts him, Kryptonite makes him stronger, and he only uses his abilities to benefit himself, rather than help others.


Known primarily as the beast that kills Superman in the infamous '90's comic event "The Death of Superman," the supervillain-monster known as Doomsday is often remembered as Superman's toughest opponent. In live-action media, he's been featured prominently in "Batman v Superman" and in the series "Krypton." However, before those arguably more faithful portrayals, Doomsday shows up as the big bad of "Smallville" Season 8 to mixed results. Perhaps taking more cues from Marvel's Hulk than DC's Doomsday, the creature operates in the human persona of Davis Bloome, who happens to be the son of General Zod and his wife Faora (Sharon Taylor).

As Davis struggles to maintain his humanity, he begins to succumb to the beast inside. Doomsday eventually breaks free from his human camouflage to wreak havoc on Metropolis. Thankfully, Clark stops him; this time, without dying in the process. Davis manages to be a monster anyway — killing Jimmy Olsen instead. Maybe turning "Doomsday" into evil Bruce Banner was a questionable decision on the part of "Smallville," but at least the costume is spot on to his comic book counterpart.

Dr. Emil Hamilton

One of Superman's most important recurring characters, Dr. Emil Hamilton is known for helping the Man of Steel through various scientific discoveries and problems throughout his run in DC Comics. Sadly, the character ends up taking a dark turn, becoming the villain Ruin and setting out to annihilate Superman's personal life. After some reality-altering events, Dr. Hamilton appears to have rejoined the side of the angels, but in DC Comics, who can say anything for sure? Thankfully, "Smallville" never turns their Emil Hamilton (Alessandro Juliani) into a supervillain. Instead, he's a trusted friend, ally, and confidant to various members of the show's iteration of the Justice League. 

The final few seasons of the series give Dr. Hamilton — not to be confused with the Dr. Steven Hamilton (Joe Morton) from the first two seasons of the show — lots to do, making him an important member of Clark's inner-circle. He helps the soon-to-be Man of Steel and his allies to heal from physical injuries, find missing super-criminals, and even helps reunite the League after they've split up post-"Doomsday." While Hamilton is often used as a human dispenser of expositional plot information, that's also his essential function in the comics a lot of the time. Plus, he manages to have a fling of sorts with Tess Mercer before her death in the series finale.

Legion of Superheroes

Hailing from the 31st century, the Legion of Superheroes are a superhero team inspired by Superman's heroics in the 21st century. These aliens all band together from their various planets and inter-planetary systems to protect the entire DC Universe. Armed with Legion flight rings and time-traveling technology, the Legion routinely travel to their past to help Superman and company make way for the future. While their appearance on "Smallville" is brief, their influence on the final few seasons of the series is pretty major. Of all the teams in the DC Universe, the Legion keeps getting the short end of the stick.

Four of the most famous legionnaires appear on "Smallville" — Cosmic Boy (Ryan Kennedy), Lightning Lad (Calum Worthy), Saturn Girl (Alexz Johnson), and Brainiac (Marsters again), who's been reformed by reprogramming and goes by Brainiac 5. They each have a role in helping Clark embrace his destiny as Superman, just like in the comics where they adventure alongside a young Clark, known as Superboy at the time. While some elements of the Legion's story are changed directly for "Smallville" — the added ability of Legion rings to include time travel, for instance — other aspects, like their knowledge of Superman's supporting cast, their incomplete historical records, and their commitment to the Man of Steel's mission are unchanged.

Justice Society of America

"Smallville" didn't just feature superheroes from the future; the show also features some from the past, namely the Justice Society of America. This superhero team first appears in All-Star Comics #3 in 1940, uniting a plethora of superheroes. The JSA were DC's primary superhero team until the 1960s, but even after that, they continued to be a recurring force to be reckoned with. The two-part "Smallville" story "Absolute Justice" event reinterprets their history with some heavy "Watchmen" influences, moving their origin up from the 1940s to the 1970s.

On "Smallville," Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Sandman, the Star-Spangled Kid, Stargirl, and a vision of Hawkgirl are the only JSA members to appear though plenty more are mentioned and referenced throughout the series. Like in the comics, Hawkman is the JSA's chairman and has led the team faithfully against their enemies. While Hawkman and Stargirl decide to re-start the JSA after meeting Clark and his allies, hoping to add younger heroes to their roster and "train the next generation," the Hawkman of "Smallville" is killed before he can do much in the way of training.

Booster Gold and Blue Beetle

As far as dynamic duos go, there are plenty of DC Comics fans out there who absolutely adore the Booster Gold-Blue Beetle partnership. Whether it's their carefree attitude or their wholesome bromance, these two heroes have had each other's backs seemingly forever. Even after Ted Kord, the original Blue Beetle, was killed, Booster Gold took Jaime Reyes, the next hero to use the Blue Beetle moniker, under his wing to help him better himself to whatever extent that's possible given Booster's questionable mentor qualifications. In "Smallville" Season 10, Booster Gold, Ted Kord, and Jaime Reyes all appear in their first official live-action outing.

While "Smallville" basically skips over Ted Kord's time as the Blue Beetle entirely, the mentor relationship between Booster Gold and Jaime Reyes remains. When we meet him, Booster is the worst, just like his comics counterpart, but he eventually steps into the responsibility of being a hero. The episode's version of Ted Kord is a scientist researching the alien scarab that gave Jaime his powers, which aligns with Ted's comic book counterpart whose expertise includes robotics and nanotechnology.

Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad

While Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad might be household names today, there was a time not too long ago where only diehard comic fans knew who these characters were. On "Smallville," Amanda Waller runs the shadowy government organization known as Checkmate, which keeps tabs on superhumans including the Justice League and General Zod's Kandorian Army. Waller and her organization are seemingly destroyed by Zod at the end of Season 9, but her super-secret task force shows up again in the final season.

The Suicide Squad on "Smallville" consists primarily of Rick Flagg, Deadshot, Plastique, and Warp, with Amanda Waller and Icicle also serving as members even though they never appear with the rest of the group. As in the comics, their motives on the show ultimately revolve around the United States' own national security, specifically from metahuman or superheroic threats. Eventually, Task Force X helps free the captive members of the Justice League from a "Matrix"-like computer program in Season 10.

The Legion of Doom

This one is a sort of "blink and you'll miss it" moment, but the Legion of Doom — known as "Marionette Ventures" on the show — make their appearance on "Smallville" in the series penultimate episode, setting up a larger universe for Superman and the JLA after the series officially ends. While the notion of the Legion of Doom originates in the '70s animated series "Challenge of the Superfriends," not in comic books, various incarnations of the Legion of Doom have made their way into DC Comics lore over the years. At least "Smallville" gives us a glimpse of its Legion before the series concludes.

On the show, the Legion consists of former "Smallville" villains Toyman, Roulette, Metallo, and the Dark Archer, while also adding DC Comics supervillains Captain Cold, Black Manta, and Solomon Grundy to their ranks. It's worth noting that other "Smallville" villains, such as Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Bizarro, Parasite, and Livewire, have been members of the Legion of Doom at certain points in DC Comics or other adaptations, though they don't appear alongside the team here. While the team admittedly doesn't do anything substantial on "Smallville," this appearance is nevertheless exciting for diehard DC Comics fans.


Possibly the most disappointing adaptation of a DC Comics character in "Smallville" is Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke (Michael Hogan). Known as an accomplished mercenary and assassin in the DC Universe, Deathstroke has been an enemy of the Teen Titans, Green Arrow, Batman, and countless other heroes over the years. While this might not be anywhere near close to DC's biggest failure, it's certainly up there as one of the worst TV adaptations of any comic book character out there.

Regardless, on "Smallville," Slade is a United States General with a healing ability. Though his battle against Hawkman is excellent, this Slade's actions, personality, and costume resemble very little of the DC Comics character. Thankfully, the CW would rectify this on their next superhero series, "Arrow," though that took place on an entirely different timeline than "Smallville." One thing's for sure — if you can't adapt a comic book character right, then why even bother? 


Another controversial "Smallville" adaptation came in the form of the DC villain Darkseid, who made his live-action debut on the CW series. While many had hoped for a big showdown between Superman and Darkseid in the finale, the show decided to focus its close on transitioning Clark into Superman, rather than an epic battle, and we can't really fault them for it. At least the "Smallville Season 11" comic books wrap things up with a little more punching.

Still, fans were kind of used to the idea of Darkseid having a body. Even if this spin on Jack Kirby's essential intergalactic megalomaniac lacks substance in the most literal possible sense, at least he still yearns for world domination and Anti-Life mind control while planning an invasion of Earth via the planet Apokolips. Incidentally, Darkseid's planet looks incredible on "Smallville," which goes to show what wonders can be accomplished on a television's special effects budget.