At the end of a long day doing stuff I decided to watch some Smallville, an old favourite of mine. Weird to think that Smallville is actually old now, but that is life. I was watching series 4, episodes 9 onwards. For anyone that doens’t know, that is the series that introduces Lois Lane, puts Lionel Luther in jail up until his epiphany and the one where the rift between Clark and Lex begins to form.
Tom Welling/Michael Rosenbaum
I started considering this given how close the two were in previous series and started thinking about where the rift started. Lex’s need for a friend, one that he could truly trust, was always shadowed by his desire to be worthy of Clark’s trust in return. Unfortunately for Lex, his methodology in coping with Clark’s secret ironically is one of the things that starts the wedge. He investigates Clark, which understandably pisses off the favoured son of Krypton. That is what starts the rift, but it is not the only thing.
This rift serves to solidify differences between the two. Clark inherently sees the good in people, and only wants to help them as a result of his upbringing. He is governed by a sense of justice and fairness. Lex inherently sees the dark, even if he doesn’t like to admit it as a result of his upbringing by a cruel father, in a world that bullies and belittles the outsider. He wants to do the right thing, and this manifests as his effort to build power. We see this played out in episodes where Luthorcorp is developing weapons technology intended to protect soldiers etc. For instance a fear inducing toxin intended to immobilise which unfortunately is incredibly lethal,a sonar weapon intended to protect warships from submarines that devastates sealife and atlanteans, or the development of super-soldiers. Lex builds power to meet threats, to serve the greater good.
And this got me thinking, and I suppose there should be no surprise since there are few truly original stories about, there are similarities between this relationship and that of Tony Stark and Captain America during the Civil War arc of Marvel.
Civil War Comic Cover
Steve Rogers, raised in a time of war with an inherent distrust of bullies and a willingness to stand up for what is right even against insurmountable odds. Tony Stark, an engineer and weapons designer who learned humility after hubris, building weapons to fight the next battle. Both want to do what they think is best for people. The difference between them, again, is their methodology. Captain America is a character that inspires the good in people, or is intended to. He uses leadership and strategy to win in conflict. Tony Stark builds weapons. Though the rift between the two isn’t started by secrets and mistrust. Rather it is the desire to serve justice, or law. During the Civil War arc, meta-humans are required to register with the Government or be arrested. Stark leads the charge, hoping to control it, whilst Rogers opposes it on the grounds that the law is contrary to freedom. It makes for an interesting dynamic, and Stark makes an excellent villain (though I did hear a rumour way back when that Iron Man was meant to be the hero and Captain America, the Villain).
I think the two relationships might be distilled down to a simple statement
Good versus the Greater Good
Good being what is right, and decent, whereas the Greater Good is a tad more makiavellian and willing to make sacrifices to get to something better in the long run. I am of the position that it is a good antagonist/protagonist dynamic for a writer consider, and also the good basis for the genesis of a villain. For if the path to the greater good is littered with sacrifice, acceptable losses and collateral damage, it is a path to darkness indeed.
I have two final thoughts.
I wonder how this dynamic will play out in Captain America: Civil War
I hope they do not do a lazy version of this for Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
All the best