As we continue to live in The Golden Age of Superhero Television, it’s important that we not forget Smallville made the current crop of shows possible. Its retelling of Superman’s formative years yielded guest appearances by heroes and villains from around the DC Universe that many of us never thought we would see in live action.
While it may be common knowledge that an Aquaman pilot was shot and came close to airing and there had been discussions of Laura Vandervoort’s Supergirl getting a spinoff, it had been unknown until now that another spinoff nearly came to fruition: Justice League!
Nearly a decade ago, Craig Byrne, the mind behind Kryptonsite, sat down with then producer Steven S. DeKnight when compiling information to be included in Smallville: The Official Companion Book for Season 6. During those discussions, DeKnight detailed what the ill-fated Justice League series would have been like.
“It was going to be basically Green Arrow, Cyborg, Flash, a couple of other DC characters living in Metropolis. The idea was that Oliver Queen was basically giving refuge to young people with superpowers, kind of in a Professor X kind of way, putting together this team and also trying to help out these people, like he says in ‘Justice’ about how he helped out Victor Stone and Bart and Arthur Curry.”
Having written and directed Season 6’s game-changing episode “Justice,” DeKnight definitely would have been the right man to helm the project, had it come to fruition. Apparently, that season’s finale was initially intended to be a backdoor pilot of sorts, but it ultimately set up the Clark/Bizarro rivalry to be paid off in Season 7.
“The idea with that was that Green Arrow was going to appear towards the end and help Clark with his final battle, provide him with an important piece of information. As it was in the season, we actually find out that Green Arrow and his crew of superheroes have been attacking the 33.1 installations. In ‘Prototype’ they provide the information on how to penetrate the prototype’s forcefield. But originally he was going to come back and help out, and that was going to springboard the spin-off that, ultimately, just never happened.”
But who would the show’s first big bad have been? Not surprisingly, it’s many a fan’s first choice as to who should appear in a Justice League movie – Brainiac.
“We had talked about bringing Brainiac back, quite possibly in a different form, played by a different actor. We’d kicked around some ideas for bringing him back as somebody else from the Buffyverse, which would’ve been a fun nod. We talked about bringing him back as a woman. And I wouldn’t be surprised at some point between now and the time the show wraps up that Brainiac pops back up.”
At least Brainiac did return several times before the series ended, played by a returning James Marsters and also possessing the body of Allison Mack’s Chloe Sullivan. Thanks to the Legion of Superheroes, he was ultimately reprogrammed and made a force for good, being rechristened “Brainiac 5.”
My best guess as to why this show never came about comes by looking at the year these discussions were occurring: 2007. That was the year that George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal was coming together and the red tape between film and TV divisions at WB was much stronger than it is today. In short, if the heroes are joining forces on the big screen, they aren’t going to on the small one.
As fate would have it, Miller’s film was an unfortunate casualty of the writer’s strike. Not only that, Christopher Nolan’s camp was said to not be too happy about another cinematic Batman stepping on the toes of his.
Let’s hope that Zack Snyder makes us proud when his Justice League graces cinemas on November 17, 2017.