Superman Homepage reporter Michael Moreno watched the panel for the “Superman and Lois” TV series, which was made available on demand on Saturday, September 12 in the WatchVerse section of DC FanDome, and filed this report:
Jim Lee, who is Creative Officer at DC Comics hosted the 2020 “Superman and Lois” Panel at DC FanDome on Saturday, September 12. Panelists included Todd Helbing (writer and executive producer for the “Superman and Lois” series), Tyler Hoechlin (Superman/Clark Kent), and Elizabeth Tulloch (Lois Lane).
Jim: Yes. So let’s just jump into it. I’ve got a lot of questions. I’ve got my own personal questions as a huge fan of the show, and of the characters, and I believe some fans are gonna ask some questions. And you guys might be asking each other some questions. Everyone will get a participation medal at best.
Superman was obviously the first superhero and had some amazing TV shows over the years. As a kid, I watched the George Reeves black-and-white Superman, where he jumped out of a window onto a mattress on the other side. And obviously there’ve been shows since then.
Todd, can you talk a little bit about how this show is different from previous incarnations, adaptations – what you’ll be doing differently that hasn’t been done before. Just kind of tease it out a bit. I know that you can’t share too much right now.
Todd: The main way that we’re gonna make this a little different is that Clark and Lois are married in this version. And they’re not only married, they have 2 teenage boys.
Todd: Yes, teenage boys.
Jim: You look too young to have teenage kids.
Todd: Yeah, well, we lead into that because Clark Kent doesn’t really age that much.
Tyler: You gotta look close (points to his chin). The greys are coming in. They’re there, don’t worry, They’re there.
Todd: Tyler’s been shaving; he’s been clean shaven for a week now. Yeah, I think as a father who happens to have 2 boys, that felt like a really great way to bring in some personal experience and just to tell really a story that is as grounded as it can possibly be to have Superman in it. And, as a couple, we really get to lean into Clark and Lois’s not being Superman or most famous journalists in the world but as parents. What is that like to have jobs like that (which a lot of people can relate to nowadays)?… A lot of families that have 2 working parents, all the complexities, difficulties that come with having jobs like that, and then with 2 boy… So we wanted to present 2 kids that had completely different skill sets, and how do you deal with that as parents?
Jim: And I don’t know if you’re comfortable revealing this just yet, but there’s a reason Clark and Lois moved back to Smallville. That’s a big piece of it.
Todd: Yeah, I’m not gonna give the reason yet, but the story of Superman has taken place in Metropolis for very long. Obviously there was the Smallville series. But I came from a small town in the Midwest, and the town that I grew up in had a business leave. That sort of affected everybody in the town, and the town started to slowly dry up. And it felt very current with recent years after 2008. We wanted to tell a story where you have the parents, after this tragic event happens, move back to Smallville and really find that it is easier to raise kids maybe in a place where life isn’t so hectic as it is in Metropolis.
Jim: I have a really nerdy question. So, at the end of “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, they basically brought Superman and Lois into Earth Prime with all the other characters. What role is that going to play in your future telling, your future storytelling?
Todd: Well, for all the fans that watched, at the beginning of the last crossover, Clark and Lois had a little infant boy named Jonathan. And the worlds merged, everything gets rewritten. And at the end of the crossover, Lois is calling Clark saying that he has to get home because there’s a problem with the boys. So we took “Crisis” as an opportunity to really age up and change things for them as parents. Age up the boys, create 2 boys, fraternal twins, and make them teenagers, when things get really complicated for parents. So I think that “Crisis” in general really gave us an opportunity to start with a blank slate and tell a story in a way that we couldn’t have otherwise.
Jim: Tyler and Bitsie, how do you guys feel? Before, you’re Superman, you’re the ultimate hero, right? Lois Lane, you’re the ultimate most famous journalist in all the world, right? And now you’re parents to these kids. The judging that will be going on in terms of your parenting styles! It’s a whole different dimension. Not only do you have to be amazing superheroes, amazing journalists, that have to uphold their ethics and fight for truth on top of it, you now have 2 teenage boys who are running amuck in a small town… Is there stuff that you can draw upon to help tell this story from your own childhood or your extended family?
Bitsie (Elizabeth): Well, I am a Mom, I have a 17-month-old and I feel like she’s already judging me on a daily basis. So I’m just kind of used to it. She’s a big fan of my husband now, in particular. She’s definitely a Daddy’s girl. But I do think that one of the things, especially about Lois, is that she doesn’t really compromise her sense of self or her goals. And so one thing that she butts up against – and obviously Superman does, too – is being really dedicated to our careers, our jobs, because we are doing this for “good” and we believe in what we’re doing. And Lois wants to change the world with words, and Superman does it with his powers. But how much is that alienating our kids, and how good can you really be at your job if you have 2 teenage boys who are hormonal and who each have very disparate needs? So I think that’s part of what, for me anyway, was really compelling. And it was so exciting when I found out that it was going to be older kids, like teenagers, because it is so complicated, and they are going to be going through a lot. I’ve read 2 scripts now, and I find that the storyline with the sons is really, really compelling.
Jim: (laughs) It definitely gets harder as they get older.
Tyler: I don’t have the direct experience of parenting yet. I have 6 nieces and nephews now. My older brother and sister have gone ahead and taken care of that for my Mom and Dad. So I’ve been seeing it through the “Uncle” lens and watching them grow up. But just the idea, I think, noticing my Dad, how often he was gone at work – he’s a doctor and works at the emergency room and had a private practice – balancing that and having 4 kids at home. To see him do that, and be older now, and realizing how much time is taken up by working towards a career, by providing and doing those things. Even for myself, it’s been a perspective shift for me to look back at how he was able to do that. And so those are things that I will be drawing on just to see how you’re able to wear both hats in that situation, to be a good parent and to be a working parent. It’s a tricky situation… no small feat.
Jim: So, Tyler, do you feel that extra level of pressure? I would imagine that just playing Superman in general, you have to embody all these virtuous aspects. I’m sure people come up to you all the time and call you “Superman”. I assume, when you got that call, did your life change? Well, I guess after the first episode airs, it changes. Can you talk a little bit about that kind of change in your career and life?
Tyler: I think it’s just there’s a heightened awareness. I think of one moment that always stands out … We were on the set – I’ve been on sets before where there’s fans around, and they want to meet the actors – but to be there and to be in the Superman suit, and to have a parent bring their 5 or 6-year-old up and say “Hey, can they meet Superman?”. That’s where you realize that, at that point, they [the parents] may know who you are – the actor. But to the kids, you’re just Superman – you’re wearing the suit, that’s all they know. That’s the thing that changes the most, the awareness that when you are around kids – and that’s what so great about this character and what I love about it – is that what he stands for really just grabs onto such an impressionable audience – these kids that look at him as a hero and all of the things that he stands for. It does get me really excited about getting to play this character.
Jim: I don’t know whether you guys were fans of DC Comics or Superman and Lois before you guys got these assignments. I assume that you’ve been to Comic-Con now. Bitsie, you were talking about how your heart starts pumping before they call your name and you go out on that panel. Can you share some thoughts about Comic-Con or some stories about Comic-Con, and interacting with the passionate fan base (that are here watching us on line)?
Bitsie: I remember the first time that we did Comic-Con for “Grimm”, because “Grimm” premiered in the fall of 2011. They showed the whole pilot, because it hadn’t aired yet. People kind of didn’t know who we were. That was my favorite year because we able to walk around and interact with people. I always enjoyed it – it was a very long day. But I remember my favorite time was the first time, when we were able to get into it with people.
Tyler: Yeah, it’s just a different experience. I think that when you meet somebody who’s a fan of a different show, it’s a completely different experience than when you meet someone who’s a fan of Superman. I think that a lot of it has to do with the legacy of it as well. It goes back so far. It’s the longstanding tradition of this character and what he means. It might mean one thing to the 5-year-old that you’re meeting, but to their Dad or to their Mom (who also knew the character when they were 5 and are still a fan), it’s such a wide range of impressions that have been made over the decades. It’s just a different kind of experience.
Jim: I would think that Superman feels particularly conflicted. Obviously, he has the responsibilities to his family, the woman he loves, the children he’s trying to raise, but also he’s owned these. He belongs to the world right? He’s the world’s champion. And the demand, a need for that type of character in the world, takes him away from his family, right? So he’s got to be extremely conflicted, in his personal responsibilities to his family, and then this other responsibility to really kind of “help lead the world to be a better place”. Right?
Tyler: I feel like there’s an interesting thing going on, and it’s not just like it’s a brand new situation. But, just over the years, it’s been this thing where what we do in our professional lives, and our work lives, does require so much more. And I think that that’s something about Superman – it’s that there is so much needed of him. It’s “when do you turn it off”? When is it OK to turn it off? When is enough, enough? Because you do have other things in your life that might be, in a different way – it’s not as macro, it might be more micro – does it make it any less important? These are the people that count on you for something that only you can fulfill within that structure of the family. So it is. It’s one of the things I’m most excited about – you know, diving into in this show – is, as a parent, how do you balance that need of something that you spent your young adult years and the rest of your adult life before you were a parent, putting all your effort into? How do you know how and when to scale that back to put that time into the family? So it’s a unique challenge I’m sure everyone faces going through that. So I’m excited to at least to tap into that part of it.
Jim: So, on top of this challenge between, you know, this personal challenge between Clark and Lois and their family, Todd, can you talk a little about, as they go to Smallville, the other elements of the other members of the supporting cast of Superman that kind of want to activate and bring into the fold? We were talking about, the other day, about how love triangles are really important in the Superman mythology, starting with the first, which is Superman and Lois and Clark, right before Lois figured out his secret identity.
Todd: Yeah, well, I think it’s fun, too, when they go back, that Lana Lang is there. You know? Lana was Clark’s first love, and I think it’s an interesting dynamic. As an adult, how do you deal with that relationship, you know? It can’t be Superman. And we don’t want Clark ever having an affair on Lois. There’s not that situation. That’s never going to happen. He’s as good as they get.
Bitsie: But she should know that. You know what I mean?
Todd: It’s also like we don’t want Lois and Lana brawling, but that dynamic, as an adult, is really interesting to us, you know. Those feelings are impossible to ignore. And I think that that’s a real thing for some people, especially when kids are involved. And then to see her husband and her kids and that dynamic. There were a couple of people, a couple of characters that we invented, Kyle Cushing, her husband, and Sarah Cushing who, it’s sort of wrapped up with the boys, and then they have their own love triangle. And then a character that I think is interesting is General Lane, Lois’s father, and his relationship with the two of them. You know, how he sees Superman – he’s a very military guy – so he sort of looks at Superman like his soldier. And so his relationship with Lois is a little fraught, because of the way that he took his job when he was a parent versus the way that Clark is doing his job. So all that messiness is really fun.
Jim: It’s not just about the ultimate super hero and Lois Lane leading a family, and those kind of challenges and responsibilities, there’s true superhero action as well. It’s more than just a show about this new usual nuclear family stuck in a small town and then having to figure out those issues. It is, at its heart, a show about superheroes and super villains, too.
Todd: Yeah, so I think, look there’s a lot of set pieces, there’s a lot of heroics. But to us, what’s just as interesting is when Superman goes out and saves the day, or when he’s fighting a villain, or he’s stopping a nuclear reactor from exploding, Lois is out there hunting a different sort of villain and using her superpowers to be just as effective, and you see them as a team, kind of this unstoppable force which is a lot of fun to play.
(At this Point in the panel, Jim instructs Tyler, Bitsie, and Todd on how to draw a Superman symbol.)
Jim: So Todd, we have some fan questions. What Superman story stood out the most to you, and that made you want to play these characters? Was there a seminal moment where you were first introduced to the Superman mythology, that made you a Superman or Lois or DC fan?
Bitsie: You know, it’s funny. It’s not that there is one particular moment. I’ve never seen the TV shows, I’ve seen snippets of it, but I’ve never seen… I worked with Erica Durance last year, and she was amazing. I love her, but I haven’t seen “Smallville”. I have seen the Christopher Reeve films with Margot Kidder, and I love them so much, and I think that one of the things that I found that was really memorable was she didn’t know who he was. But at some level, did she? There was something about the way I felt like Margot Kidder played it, or maybe I’m projecting, where it feels like they are such a good couple and they love each other so much, that she just kind of “gets” him. I just remember moments where she was kind of looking at him quizzically, and I’m like, “Wait! Does she know?” Or does she sort of understand something about him, and who he is, and what he represents. And like, you know, going back to what I was saying earlier on, I think part of the reason Lois is the perfect woman for Clark is that she “gets” why Superman is so important, for the world. And she is happy to make the sacrifice as far as one-on-one time and family time as a result.
Tyler: For me I’d say it’s kind of the same thing. It wasn’t a particular story. Really, for me, what it was, was when I went and met with Greg originally to do a couple of episodes of “Supergirl” in the first place. You know, I sat and watched the first season of “Supergirl”… I think it hit me at the right time in life, and I think there was an environment at the time that felt like we needed a little bit of hope, we needed a little bit of optimism. And I feel like I had also just been coming out of a cynical phase of life. I went through those years and tried to see the world through that lens, and I didn’t enjoy it very much. So for me it was just kind of seeing that show and seeing that I think I felt as if that it was a chance for me to jump into something hopeful, and optimistic. I think, what also goes along with the reality of the situation of where we are today, is that you do need hope that we will get on the other side of it, and we will find a way through it. So I kind of credit that to that first season of “Supergirl” and watching those guys.
Todd: All right, guys. A couple fan questions. Start first with “Who are the Superman and Lois in your own lives and how do your Superman and Lois influence your portrayal of your respective characters in this universe?”
Bitsie: I would say for what influences me playing Lois Lane, especially playing Lois Lane right now – at a moment in history where the profession of journalism is a little bit under siege – is just every journalist ever who is busting their butt right now, and coming under heavy fire from both sides, and a lot of scrutiny and everything. And the fact that they are still showing up and doing their jobs.
Tyler: Yeah, I second that. I second that with you. I think that anyone who strives to tell the truth in the face of whatever consequences that holds, I think that those are some of the most incredible and respectable people. I think Lois falls into that category. For me, anyone can be Superman. I think what makes Superman, Superman to me in my eyes, is someone who without fail chooses to do the right thing and all the good that they can do. And that’s really what it is. And whether that’s saving one person from crossing the street, saving a falling sky scraper – as Superman would do – that saves everyone in a building… it’s the quality of the effort in the work, not the quantity. It’s not how huge they are, it’s how impactful they are to one person.
Bitsie: So Tyler Hoechlin, two questions: “What was it like putting on the suit for the first time?”And the second half of the question is
“Are we going to see Superman get a new suit in this new version?”
Tyler: I… Yes, I think that putting the suit on for the first time, everything about this, there’s been so many times where there’s been this surreal moment. But I think putting on the suit for the first time, that was the most surreal moment. Just because any other time you would be wearing that suit would probably be on Halloween, and that’s about it. Otherwise, I don’t know why you’re putting it on, or why you would have it on in the first place. So I think putting it on, and actually seeing it and realizing, this is not just for a day, we’re going to shoot this. We’re going to tell a story that involves this character. I don’t think that it has sunk in, and if it hasn’t, it probably never will to some weird degree. But I think being the one wearing it, as opposed to seeing someone else in it, is a different experience.
Bitsie: The symbol itself is so incredibly iconic, I remember when I first started shooting on the show, and it was ElseWorlds, and there was this scene with Oliver and the Flash. And Grant Gustin and I both were, like, we couldn’t keep it together… when you’re wearing a plaid shirt, and you rip it open, and it’s the “S”. We probably had to do that scene quite a few times, because of everyone’s reaction, And Lois should be used to this, and even I was like…
Tyler: That was a really funny day on set. But that scene, I remember that, and when we did it, and I ripped the shirt open. This is when I said, “It’s different,” I think, when you’re here doing it, as opposed to watching someone else do that, or being in that. Cause when I do it, there’s almost a moment of “it’s been done before”, and you know what it means. So you’re like, is the way I’m doing it weird?
Tyler: Does it look right? I don’t really know. I remember Grant on that take. There was the push in it. Thank God, the camera pushed in on it, and it dawned just into the “S” by the time he did this from when I ripped the shirt open, I just remember Grant going (gasp!) on screen, this audible inhale.
Tyler: It was the funniest thing.
Bitsie: Are we going to see a new suit?
Tyler: Are we going to see a new suit? Ah, Todd? Are we going to see a new suit?
Todd: So, OK I’ll take the heat for this one. You know it’s like, originally, for this one, you came on for the crossovers, and that suit just wasn’t built to sustain a series. And, I think, just in everything that we were talking about earlier, you know, it gave us this fresh slate. Yeah, let’s make a new suit. So, um, there’s gonna be a really bad ••• Superman suit in the show. That I’m pretty excited about.
Bitsie: I’m excited, too.
Jim: So there you have it, guys! I just want to thank Todd, and Tyler, and Bitsie for participating in this panel, talking about “Superman and Lois”. And for humoring me at drawing the Superman shield. It was really lovely seeing you guys work outside your comfort zones, bringing artistic creative abilities to the floor, and we look forward to seeing the show debut on The CW next year.
Todd: Thanks so much, Jim
Tyler: Thanks a lot
Bitsie: Thanks, Jim