Smallville: The Best Characters

It’s Smallville Week here at iFanboy! We are celebrating the end of one of the most important comic book-inspired shows in the history of television by counting down some of our favorite aspects of Smallville. So check back every day for a new list! And then come back on Friday night to join us in a special live chat during the east coast airing of the two hour series finale!

We’ll have a list of top 5 guest stars tomorrow, but today we focus on the regular cast members throughout the decade.


5. Callum Blue as Zod



Smallville struggled in the wake of Michael Rosenbaum’s departure. With Clark reaching maturity and transitioning to life in Metropolis, our hero was at his strongest. He needed a worthy opponent. With the shadow of Lex Luthor a constant ambiguous presence, other villains simply didn’t pose much of a threat. Or if they did, they were so imposing that they lacked the charisma which made Clark and Lex’s relationship so compelling. Enter Callum Blue as a young and militant Zod. Here was the Superman that could have been. Here was a figure that radically transformed Clark’s understanding of his home world, of his father, and of his own identity. Blue could easily have been a young, sly Zod, but he also feels like an old soul. Someone carrying the weight of a dead world and of eons of cultural legacy that beckoned for preservation and revitalization. He wasn’t nearly as playful as Lex, but he was thoughtful and imposing. And the dark mirror the show desperately needed.

4. Allison Mack as Chloe Sullivan

The writers and producers didn’t always know how best to utilize Chloe throughout the course of the series. It might be better stated that they didn’t known how to serve her. An original creation for the series who was only recently introduced into the comics world, Chloe Sullivan wore many hats. She was Clark’s first Jimmy Olsen years before the character was introduced, further complicating her status. She was, at times, his Lois Lane, his Batman, his Star Labs, his Martian Manhunter and his Pete Ross. And for much of that time it was readily apparent that she deserved so much more. Not just in the sense of her character’s pluck and courage and devotion warranting more of Clark’s respect and attention, but in the sense that she was always a second fiddle in an orchestra she’d long outgrown. Even as other characters fell away, leaving Chloe as Clark’s oldest and dearest friend, she remained a damsel in waiting, a fact-checker, and a catch-all girl friday. She could always do better than Clark, but in the end it was his show, and she was destined to settle.


3. Erica Durance as Lois Lane




Erica Durance made Tom Welling work a little harder and sparked a kind of electricity that Kristen Kreuk’s Lana Lang could never muster. But Lois wasn’t the new Lana. It’s not even that she was the new love interest. She was the new foil. And at the best of times, she’s been the new Lex. Because, don’t kid yourself, the Clark and Lex relationship wasn’t so compelling because they hated each other. It was because they never wanted to admit they liked each other. And that’s the same here. Much can be said about the exploitative depiction of Lois on this teen drama throughout the years, and how many episodes are simply excuses to show off her curves. But in her best moments, Durance portrayed the firebrand that Lois always ought to be. She rocks this hayseed’s world and she’s also an incredibly capable, if impetuous journalist. She should always be the bravest person in Superman’s sphere, more fearless even that Batman or anyone on the JLA. This Lois embodied that completely.


2. Michael Rosenbaum and John Glover as Lex and Lionel Luthor



On his own, Rosenbaum might’ve been a bit too puckish for my liking, but paired with Lionel, the man he will ultimately become, you have one of the more interesting dynamics in the entire series. Lionel is the Lex Luthor we have come to know in countless comics. He’s the dark mirror held up to Jonathan Kent. Not that Jonathan would ever be this man, but to be a mortal human being and a father and in Smallville can mean so many different things. This, being the worst of those. Lionel’s relationship with Martha Kent was another inspired creation of the series, one that played with everything we know about good and evil and Kent and Luthor in Superman’s world. Lionel’s shifting allegiances, his attempts to murder his own son, his conversions and ailments and incarcerations, made for some of the show’s weirdest and most captivating moments. As for Lex, forget the Kryptonite freaks of the early seasons. It was Lex’s doomed friendship with Clark that made the early years as compelling as they were. As fun as that dynamic has been through, the real story is the Spy vs. Spy chess game between father and son. It was a soap opera that kept on giving.


1. John Schneider as Jonathan Kent


What does it take to become the greatest superhero the world has ever known? Simple. Godlike powers and having the Kents as your parents. A confluence of casting and a more youthful conceptualization ensured that John Schneider’s portrayal of Jonathan Kent became quintessential. This is really the youngest incarnation of Jonathan Kent we’ve seen on screen, but he’s the sagest too. He doesn’t look like Superman, but he embodies all of the virtues we’d like to see in that character once he’s gown into adulthood. This is the guy you want to see leading the Justice League and facing off against Darkseid when the darkest hour arrives. Smallville has always been about Clark’s journey to the realization that all he needs to best carry the mantle of his natural father from Krypton is to live by the code of this simple man from Earth.

Previous Lists:

Smallville: The Best Episodes




  1. I’m guessing this list is the top five characters that aren’t Clark?

    I think these are pretty spot on, not so sure about Zod. I thought there were some times where I thought he was almost cartoonish as a villain. There were a couple scenes I wish he had a mustache so he could twirl it.

    This list also reminds me that I miss Schneider as Jonathan Kent. I think you hit the reason why he was so great, he’s the type of guy you can invision leading the Justice League.

    I really need to catch up on the final season. 

  2. I was going to be annoyed with Mack’s placement, but after reading the write-up, I can see your point. And the Luthors and Jonathan at the top is absolutely correct. Too bad they were out so relatively early in the series (especially Jonathan). 

  3. I loved and hated Pa Kent dying. HIs death, much like the filmic couterpart, had the ability to push clark towards his role as the man of steel; however, his death also meant the loss of a strong character. Schnieder played Pa extremely well and glad he has made a couple appearences this season.  

  4. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @jmstump  Clark was eligible for the list. 

  5. I like this list, especially the fact that Chloe is given some credit. However Justin Hartley (Ollie Queen) gave the series a whole new lease of life giving Clark a real ally that argued back. It was like giving Smallville Clark a bruce Wayne in the only way that they could. Harley’s performance while shakey at times was far better than Blue’s.

  6. Replace Zod with Oliver Queen … Callum Blue as Zod has been a tragic joke–a whiney, impotent joke. Zod should inspire fear and  exude malevolence whenever he is onscreen. This actor/character did very little other than snivel about his lost entitlements. It was a totally unbelievable performance as far as I’m concerned.

    Justin Hartley as Green Arrow/Oliver Queen, on the other hand, has been a delightful surprise. There have been times when his narrative thread has carried the show while Welling’s Blur/Clark Kent has struggled to figure out who he is and what his destiny is meant to be. Without the stability of that plot thread, this show might have foundered. I’m not saying that Clark’s journey wasn’t important or compelling, but if that was all the show was about–that is, if the show, week in and week out, had only been about Clark/Kal-El’s perpetual navel gazing–I’m not sure it would have survived. And I hate to say this, but there are times when Welling’s performances have been downright banal while Hartley’s have stolen the show. Cast performances aren’t always richer than one-man shows, but this show’s success has always been rooted in its entire cast rather than a central actor/character.

  7. @Paul… I had fun reading this , especially liked the Jonathan Kent piece…

  8. Clois or Clana?

  9. It’s funny that I like the characters and characterization that the show has given us more than the actual episodes. 

    Great list.  I would have disallowed Lex, Lionel, and Pa, because they are too easy as choices, but, hey, it’s not my list.

  10. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @MisterJ  Your top 5 list would not include the characters you see as the best? I don’t understand the logic. Again, this is a list of the best regular characters in the show’s ensemble and does not include guest stars. 

  11. Dudes. How can you NOT include Dr. Fate! Damnnnn that was awesome to see him in the flesh.

  12. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @brassai2003  Not a regular character. Never know. Maybe he’ll turn up in the best guest stars list later this week. 

  13. Avatar photo Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I suspect that Oliver Queen would be in my wife’s top 5, but only when he’s shirtless. She tends to suddenly become enraptured when that happens.

    As to my list, I’m making my way through season 9 right now and I can’t stand Zod. It probably has more to do with my confusion as to where he and the Kandorians came from during the first several episodes of the season than with Callum Blue’s abilities. I spent whole episodes going “Wasn’t Zod already on the show as a ghost or something? I forget. And why doesn’t anyone else know what’s happening?” I’d probably stick Doomsday in the fifth slot. I liked that story.

    For me, the Lex/Lionel dynamic was my favorite part of the show so they’d be my personal number one.

  14. I always thought Lex was the best part of the show; however, besides “Lexmas” any episode with the Flash was my favorite. I’d replace Chloe with the Flash, on the list.

    With that said…you really can’t go wrong with any of Paul’s selections.

  15. @dgazzuolo  Impulse (not The Flash) was never a regular cast member.

  16. @conor  Ah, missed that line under the main banner. Oh, but I don’t care what they called him on the show, he is known to me as the Flash or Beaver (from Veronica Mars).

    With that said, he may argue his name isn’t either…Beaver’s last line on Veronic Mars: “My name is Cassidy!”

  17. I agree with everything but the #5 spot. I’d replace Zod with Aaron Ashmore as Jimmy Olsen.

  18. Pretty good analysis.  Jonathan dying was a big deal.  As much as I hated Chloe at times, her praises have to be admitted.  I think Justin Hartley has been a great addition overall.  It’s nice to see someone tell Clark the world is gray now and then.   Rosenbaum was great throughout the series and I admitted to a friend one time that Lionel was, in many ways, the most compelling character on the show.  I’d tune in to see if he’s be a villain, oracle, or sleeper agent that week.  John Glover was amazing during the show’s run.   I’m split on Durance.  She is a spitfire, but I’ve grown very tired of the conversations between her and Clark lamenting about love and sacrifice.  It seems like a big time filler actually.  I do see more chemistry with her, however, even though the camera makes her boobs the first thing we see every week.  Zod was only interesting to me when after he and Clark attempted to maintain an alliance.  The recent episode with him was pretty good.

  19. Where’s the love for Pete Ross?  That guy showed more enthusiasm yelling “Remy Zero!” at the prom than any real fan of the musician ever did.

  20. My copy of the Talon Mix is pretty worn.

  21. Who is the character between Chloe and Lex in the title picture?

  22. Thank you, Paul. That’s some of the most thoughtful and compelling writing I’ve ever read about Smallville. The Jonathan Kent section in particular really packed a punch. Keep up the good work.

  23. Avatar photo Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    @3rdRedBird  That’s Lana’s season one boyfriend who went off to war and never returned. He wasn’t mentioned a whole lot after that first season.

  24. Great list. I’d probably rate chloe a lot higher though. Or maybe rated the top four all equally. Allison Mack has been a trooper for all these years and she can hack a computer like nobody’s business.

  25. Erica Durance is simply perfection.

  26. jonathan kent?!

  27. I’d have to agree with those above that mentioned Oliver. Green Arrow’s appearance gave the show new life/direction. I’d also make an argument for Jor-El, but that may just be because I love me some Terrance Stamp.

  28. @PaulMontgomery  Wow. I probably would have excluded him if I made one or would have dropped him in place of Zod. I would generally agree that I watch the show more for the whole cast than just Tom Welling.

  29. @PaulMontgomery  No, it would not include the ‘gimmes’ or, put another way, the overly obvious. 

    I guess that my list would be about the side characters, and not all the characters.

  30. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @MisterJ  In this world there is no such thing as a gimme. 

  31. @PaulMontgomery  Fair enough, I guess our lists are from different worlds.  😉

  32. <i> It was because they never wanted to admit they liked each other. </i>

    Errr…I’m pretty sure Clark and Lex admitted they liked each other rather often.

  33. Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Diabhol  Eh, there’s an uneasiness.