Superman story arc with Tom Welling is a mind-bending nostalgia fest and I love it

Commentary: Actors Welling and Brandon Routh returning as Superman in the Arrowverse gives me a chance to appreciate the Man of Steel anew.

Bonnie Burton
Journalist Bonnie Burton writes about movies, TV shows, comics, science and robots. She is the author of the books Live or Die: Survival Hacks, Wizarding World: Movie Magic Amazing Artifacts, The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, Draw Star Wars, Planets in Peril and more! E-mail Bonnie.
Bonnie Burton
3 min read

Actor Tom Welling reprises his Smallville Clark Kent/Superman for Arrowverse Crossover episodes.

The CW

When I was a kid, Superman won me over right away. He's caring, introspective and wants to help humanity. The superhero has been portrayed by an array of actors, and now  one of them, Smallville's Tom Welling, is reprising his Clark Kent/Superman role in The CW's upcoming Arrowverse crossover. 

The Arrowverse, for those not in The CW know, refers to DC Comics-based superhero shows that appear on the CW network: The Flash, Supergirl, and Arrow. The upcoming "Crisis on Infinite Earths" story arc is a crossover that plays out across those three franchises and features characters from those shows, including Superman. 

"Crisis on Infinite Earths" is based on the DC Comics miniseries in 1985 and 1986 that explored the idea of multiple incarnations of Superman. Welling returns as one version of Superman, but Brandon Routh, who played Superman in the 2006 movie Superman Returns is also back in the crossover. Think Into The Spider-verse, but Superman. So many Supermen! I'm feeling my Man of Steel love more than ever.

I'm excited to see how both actors will play their versions of Superman in the Arrowverse crossover, especially since their takes are so different. This casting also gives different generations a chance to appreciate anew the Man of Steel. Some fans' first introduction to Superman's story was through Welling or Routh, and seeing both actors play their versions of Superman in the same storyline will be a fun twist. (Disclosure: The CW is a joint venture between Warner Bros and CBS, parent company of CNET.) 


Actor Brandon Routh as Superman in Superman Returns (2006). 

On the Smallville series, Welling played a teen version of Clark Kent/Superman from 2001-2011. I remember watching Smallville every week wondering if his secret would be outed by his friends, or even by the young Lex Luthor played by Michael Rosenbaum

I was completely captivated by the idea that a superhero (and an alien from another planet) could go to high school without normal teens even suspecting. I grew up in Kansas, so seeing a misfit teen try to survive as a secret superhero attending a Kansas high school hit home for me. 

Routh's movie version of Superman showed the emotional side of the hero. The movie's plot has Superman return to Earth after spending five years away in space, but he discovers that the world he called his second home has changed -- and the love of his life Lois Lane (played by Kate Bosworth) has moved on. 

I loved Superman Returns, especially for its love story. Routh's performance reminded me of the late, great actor Christopher Reeve, the first Superman I experienced. Reeve played him in Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). 

Reeve's sense of humor, charm and winning smile made Superman seem gentler and friendlier than other superheroes. But I also adored the love story between Reeve's Superman and Lois Lane (played by the late Margot Kidder).


Actor Henry Cavill as Superman in Man of Steel (2013).

Warner Bros.

With the news of Welling and Routh are on board to play Superman in the Arrowverse, I'm hoping Dean Cain -- who played Superman in the series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997) -- will be up next to reprise his role. While there's no official talk of this happening, it could be another smart addition to the cast.

Actor Tyler Hoechlin has portrayed Superman in previous Arrowverse crossover episodes and will also reprise his role as Superman in "Crisis on Infinite Earths." But I wouldn't call Hoechlin the current generation's favorite Superman. That honor goes to Henry Cavill, who played Superman in the movies Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and Justice League (2017).

Cavill's grittier take on Superman won over fans, but sadly since he's decided to hang up his cape in 2018, it's hard to decide who should take on the Superman movie roles next. Until we get another actor -- The Rock? Matt Bomer? Nic Cage? Michael B. Jordan? -- to don the costume, we'll just have to be satisfied that the '90s and '00s versions of Superman will at least return on the small screen.

Arrowverse's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" debuts on The CW in December, and continues in January 2020. 

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Originally published Sept. 19.