Does Tom Welling Hate Superman?

For ten years, I have faithfully watched Smallville on the CW network, a period of time culminating in the series finale this past Friday. In that time, the show has been baiting viewers who tag along waiting and weeping as they anticipate catching a glimpse of the hero they expect to see—which in this case would be Tom Welling as Superman. But the show has refused to satisfy the loyal viewers and one can only wonder if perhaps the show’s star and director Tom Welling hates the man of steel.

CGI image of Welling in the Super suit.

Smallville told the story of the young Clark Kent, the mild-mannered alter-ego of the premier superhero, Superman as he grows from a high school student dealing with the usual teen angst and social issues coupled with burgeoning superpowers into the hero destiny has chosen him to be. The first couple of seasons saw young Clark learn of his strength, his speed, his x-ray vision, his heat vision and other powers as he went about saving his friends and neighbors from whatever crisis befell the town.

When the show first aired, the creative team had a simple principle, tell the story about Clark; keep the focus on the boy, not the hero. To that end, they had a mantra: “No Flights, No Tights,” referring to the red and blue uniform with the big red S and cape and the one power that most defines Superman. If the show had stopped at high school, this philosophy would have sufficed. Yet, the show suffered from its own success and it continued beyond the high school years. Once the show hit season five and Clark and his friends were facing College, the writers found it increasingly difficult to keep Clark on the ground.

The writers began developing convoluted plots that had more intrigue than action and dealt with emotional issues and artificial suspense rather than action. Even as Clark began to realize his destiny, the writers could not let him become Superman, because once that happened, the story became about Superman and not Clark. So the invented “The Blur” as a mystery man that saved people in a flash so fast that no one saw his face. This kept Clark center stage in plot development, and allowed him to act the hero he was supposed to be. This was flawed however as it was an obvious ploy to keep the show on the air while preserving the NFNT mantra.

They even introduced Supergirl who could fly as Clark was still Earthbound. In fact, the last three seasons saw so many characters flying that it was hard to understand why Clark never did. The writers even brought in other DC comics heros such as Green Arrow, Aquaman and Hawkman among many others as well as well-known villains like Toyman, Granny Goodness, Captain Cold and others. In the DC canon, Superman was well established before he dealt with these characters.

One reason for the steadfastness to the NFNT mantra was Tom Welling himself. He took over as director on the show in the fourth or fifth season and refused to consider ever putting on the suit. When it was presented to Clark in the ninth season, the first glimpse of it the viewer gets is as a reflection in Clark’s eye. No one ever sees the suit in its entirety—ever, and Tom Welling NEVER put the suit on, even in the finale. Jonathon Kent hands Clark the suit after Clark gets Jor El’s blessing to be the hero he is destined to be and Clark grabs the suit in one hand, then does the Matrix-like takeoff effect to leave the fortress of solitude. This is supposed to be a monumental moment for Clark/Superman where he dons the suit, does his heroic stance with his hands on his hips as the camera pans around him before saying up, up and away as he flies to save the Earth from Apokolyps. Did he do that? No, he just jumped up with the suit in hand and the scene flips to a wide-angle shot of the fortress and a blue streak flying out of it so fast that no detail is discernable.

The closest scene we get to seeing Superman in action is when he saves Air Force One from crashing. Superman grabs the wing of the plane and helps get it back on course and provides enough lift until the plane can fly itself again. This is also done wide angle so that Superman is a small figure lacking any detail and you couldn’t tell if it was Tom Welling or not. Of course, it was all done with CGI. We do get a shot of Clark’s reflection in the window of the plane as he waves at Lois Lane, but the only thing to be seen is Clark’s face…you cannot see Clark’s face in the suit.

CGI of the big red S.

Even in the climactic scene where Superman is pushing Apokolyps away from Earth, there is no full-frame shot of Tom Welling as Clark Kent wearing the Superman suit. The camera shows Clark’s face looking out as the danger passes and then the camera pulls back and just as he turns where you can see the suit, it fades into a hand drawn comic book frame of Superman. The final scene of the episode is Clark running to the roof of the Daily Planet to save the day once again and he loosens his tie and rips open his shirt to reveal the red S and it is CGI’d on his body.

The big question is why. Why go to these herculean efforts to avoid the suit? The NFNT attitude worked while the show was ongoing, but this was the series finale. The last show. Ostensibly, the show ends because there is no more to tell about Clark Kent in Smallville (by the way, the past three seasons have been almost exclusively set in Metropolis) and that he is ready to assume his destiny as Superman. If that is the end of the show, if the point of the show was telling Clark’s growth from adolescence to hero, then the culminating moment should have been the reveal of Superman in his suit flying to save the day. It may be cliché, but it is expected and what was there was more of a nod and a wink than a reveal. It’s like the writers, directors and producers went out of their way to keep Tom out of the suit. The only reason I can think of is that Tom Welling hates Superman.



Filed under Media, Reviews

17 responses to “Does Tom Welling Hate Superman?

  1. Michelle

    I don’t think he hates Superman. I think he doesn’t want to be typecast and fall short of filling those big shoes. 🙂


  2. Sherryl

    What an ignorant statement, Tom Welling hates superman. I would think
    as a writer you would come up with something better than that. Tom played the part very well and has his own reasons not to wear the suit. Whether or not he actually wore it, the idea was there and I am satisfied with that. The finale was fantastic and the final scene was awesome. That was good enough
    for me.


    • Perhaps, but the statement was a bit of hyperbole designed to poke fun at what I believe is a bad decision on the part of the show to drag out the show’s advancement to its predestined conclusion. Everyone who watched the show, everyone involved in the show and, really, anyone who is familiar with popular culture knew how the show would end. To drag it out and then to skimp on the reveal in the finale was simply frustrating to all fans.


  3. Karon

    Did you think that maybe they didn’t have a suit for Tom? The producer got Brandon Roth suit in the Return. Even with Brandon having on a body suit, Tom is way bigger than Brandon. There was no way Tom was getting in that suit. Smallville was about Clark Kent, not Superman. Clark Kent’s jourey is now over. Since Superman was on screen for maybe a minute, it doesn’t seem cost effective to invest a lot in a suit. So they took what they had and ran with it. I enjoyed the finale. We saw the suit and we saw Superman from a distance. We saw enough so that we all know the journey is definitely over.


    • Michelle

      Have you ever heard of CGI???? Duh!!


    • “When he [Welling] finally becomes Superman, he will be, to me, stepping into the role and becoming Christopher Reeve,” said executive producer Brian Peterson. “We really want it to end where a lot of people in the world … where their knowledge of Superman picks up. Our goal was not to create mythology but to fill in a gap of mythology.” ’nuff said


  4. Omar

    Yeah I agree with the fact that maybe he just didn’t want to fill the shoes, but the finale was good nonetheless because in some way it showed the importance of Clark Kent maturing into Superman, and the show was never high in ratings so maybe they didn’t think that there would be a need to show Welling in the sit because maybe not many people would watch the show. Their mistake I guess I would’ve like to see Welling in the real supersuit


  5. Bridge

    i love the smallville story but the most turndown is tom welling never did wore a real superman suit and show it on close up! I really like to see if the superman suit will look perfectly on him like other fans of tom who wishes to!


  6. Joe E Dangerously

    You seem to believe that actors make choices like wardrobe, production choices, etc. You are aware, are you not, that there are show runners, executives, producers, a network, and many many people who make these decisions?

    They didn’t show Supes in a big money shot with the suit for one reason. The series was about Clark Kent. Not Superman. I don’t know why this is so hard to understand. Incidentally, Tom Welling has stated in interviews that he “Would be open to” wearing the suit. It’s true. Finally, “the fans” don’t agree on anything. At all. There was nothing that wouldn’t have been disappointing to someone. This is nothing more than an ignorant rant coming out of an angry fanboy who imagined the ending and now is pissed they didn’t replicate what he imagined. You sound like an idiot. Maybe you are and maybe you’re not, but you certainly sound like one here. Bad show.


    • “Joe”
      I appreciate your taking the time to comment and I respect your right to your opinion, though I do not appreciate the tone.
      Tom was not only an actor, but also a producer and director for the show, he did have a say in what happened.
      I did not ask the question about if he hates Superman literally. It was a metaphor asking more if any of the creative team understands the impact that the character has on fans and casual viewers. There are mixed reactions to the show’s finale drawn along the lines of the hard-core “fanboys” and the casual viewership. You are correct that the ending did not please everyone and no ending probably would. I still maintain that seeing Tom in the suit would have been more universally received, however.
      By the way, while I may be a nerd, geek or what have you, I am no “fanboy” let alone an angry one.
      People seem unable to enter into any debate without resorting to personal attacks these days. That is what is really sad.


  7. Dave, I am on your side in the debate. I just finished watching season 10 on DVD, and I have to say I feel somewhat ‘cheated’ by the manner in which the suit was finally pressed into service. It was over almost before it started. In fact, the entire climax of the two part finale felt so rushed, I did a double take when the credits rolled.
    I feel that budget constraints were the most likely cause of this. Far too many major villains (Doomsday and Darkseid in particular) ended up being disposed of like used tissues. At no time did I feel that Clark wasn’t going to turn up again because the threat he was facing could possibly end or alter his life.
    Even Lex and Lionel’s return was treated with an almost flippant writing style, paying little regard to the genuine danger that the Luthor family have posed in the comics over the years.
    As a long time fan of Superman, I reconciled the inconsistencies in the characters and storylines by saying to myself that the events in Smallvile were part of a parallel Earth timeline. One where Superboy never existed, and things occurred in a far different manner to that which we know so week from comic book canon.
    Taken in that context, I enjoyed watching the series far more than I would have done if I had let the changes bug me.
    We saw the suit, and I’m sure many would have preferred it shown differently, myself included. At least they didn’t cop out entirely.


  8. RedBullSupes

    Totally agree with you Dave. There was no excuse for the producers (Tom included) not to show Tom in the full Superman suit. Im sure that there were enough Superman Returns suits left over for them to modify and fit Tom. While I liked the finale I was dissapointed the way they handled the Superman shots (from distance or CGI). I do believe Tom didn’t want to wear the suit which is a huge dissapoiontment for me as a fan after all the time I invested watching the series. The finale could’ve been handled better.


  9. Elo

    Despite all disappointments for a loyal Smallville fan,I have theories…
    One,the show is called Smallville.Smallville is the metaphorical reference to the growth of Clark Kent to Superman,simliar to Stone Age, Modern Age, etc.To keep Clark completely out of the suit would maintain association with “Smallville”, because the moment he’s in the suit,it’s Superman.Not Smallville.

    Second,there’s also this theory that Tom Welling believes himself unworthy to wear the suit.Christopher Reeve,Dean Cain,Margot Kidder.Tom Welling is nothing to those true Superman icons.At least that’s what they think he thinks.

    Third,the suit was borrowed from Superman Returns.Tom Welling is much bigger than Brandon Routh, and I don’t think producers think it necessary to refit a complete and iconic Superman suit for 5 minutes of footage in a TV Show.

    At least that’s what I think….


  10. sam

    really sad, can’t see tom for the superman’s suit in the finale….


  11. First this post is bullshit on the grounds that it says that “Tom Welling was the director of the show” while he directed a few episodes he wasn’t the show runner or only director on the show. IN FACT he was an executive producer on the show which means he might have helped with storylines, and plots, and stuff but that’s it. He had no say at all in the running of the show that was all the tv branch of the WB, and to answer all the reason why he didn’t wear the suit was simply because they didn’t want him out doing what they had planned with Man of Steel. ON TV!

    Can you picture if he does the finale wearing the suit, and it’s so epic it shits on Man of Steels “Superman” aka Henry Cavill? I mean that suit looked like an abomination to start with now add to that a Tom Welling episode in full costume for fans to bitch about “why wasn’t he cast in the movie!?” for another 10 years.

    They still bitch anyway right? But trust me it would be 100 X worse had he done an entire episode in full Superman suit. While I agree the show finale sucked due to the bad storyline, and that fact that he didn’t wear the suit bothered me also but I know why it happened, and it had nothing to do with Tom Welling, and everything to do with Man of Steel the movie.


    • I do appreciate your taking time to read the blog and reply. I encourage everyone to express their opinion. While you are entitled to your opinion, I must say that to characterize my post as “bullshit” is a bit harsh and unfounded.
      Man of steel was not even scripted at the filming of Smallville, much less any of the art direction work done. So, they had no way of judging that Tom would look better or worse in the suit than the film’s actor would. But again, it is a moot point. My assertion was tongue-in-cheek and meant to inspire discussion, which it has. Thank you for participating.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Christina

    I read on IMDb that Tom wasn’t a Superman fan and didn’t want to wear the suit.


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