Superman and Lois Episode 11 is one of the most accurate depictions of the Man of Steel mythology ever put on television.

Superman and Lois Episode 11

Suppose you just started watching Superman and Lois episode 11, “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events,” and haven’t watched the prior episodes. In that case, you might be forgiven for believing that this is the pilot episode for a whole new program about the Man of Steel.

While every Arrowverse superhero had an elaborate origin story episode, by the time we met Tyler Hoechlin as Superman and Bitsie Tulloch as Lois Lane, both characters were supposed to be well established in their worlds and occupations. The first episode of Superman and Lois reminded us that these two are so “seasoned” that they’re already parents to twin adolescents!

superman and lois

So there are still many unanswered issues concerning our main characters’ backstories, and “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” is a significant step in that direction. But it’s much more than just a “how did Lois and Clark meet/first Clark’s time in costume/Superman establishing himself in Metropolis” episode. It’s a true love letter to both of these people, and it successfully spans their whole 83-year career.

Oh, and it does all of this while still carrying the season’s primary plot along beautifully. It’s a tremendously adaptable episode, as well as a superb piece of storytelling in its own right, making the well-worn rhythms of the Superman origin tale feel fresh and current, without losing sight of what else the season has to achieve.

Adolescent Clark Kent and the Fortress of Solitude

The first of many allusions to Richard Donner’s 1978 superhero film classic, Superman, comes at the start of this episode, with young Clark trekking through the ice, lugging the sunstone, and trying to find out both his and its purpose. Clark is wearing the same red check flannel jacket that Jeff East was wearing in a comparable scenario.


The idea of Jor-El being an AI who operates the Fortress of Solitude (as well as the Fortress itself being based on a Kryptonian relic) also stems from Donner’s Superman film. That was the first time we learned that Clark had to learn about his abilities and alien background through the memories of his biological father and his people, and it’s beautifully updated here.

The Man of Steel

Clark’s first flight in the cold, with Jor-words El, ‘s echoing in his ears, well…Superman it’s Donner’s all over again. But the way it’s portrayed here, with Clark’s strong launch and shaky early seconds, feels eerily similar to a similar scene in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

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Superman Costume by Fleischer

While we did hear Superman remark, “my mom made it for me” in the first episode, we now understand why it happened. Clark’s new outfit clearly feels foreign, possibly the Kryptonian ceremonial attire alluded to in Donner’s Superman (the first location to utilize the “S” as a Kryptonian family crest), Man of Steel, and contemporary DC Comics. However, throughout the vast bulk of Superman’s comic book history, Martha has always manufactured Clark’s costume.


Superman and Lois, on the other hand, halve the difference, with Martha having fashioned Clark’s first costume…one that happens to look precisely like the first cinematic version of Superman ever: the iconic Max Fleischer animated Superman shorts, which debuted in 1941. Please watch them if you haven’t already. They’re stunning. More time with that outfit in this episode is a great delight, and it’s a fantastic example of why “less is more” when it comes to a superhero costume.

It also explains why the “S” on the original costume wouldn’t be the ideal Kryptonian sign that Clark and Supergirl wear today: Clark most likely assisted her in designing it from memory, considering the first time he saw his family crest was when the Jor-El hologram came to him in the Fortress!

Also, this may or may not have been deliberate. Still, Martha asking Clark to “go rescue the world” before his first adventure occurs in J.J. Abrams’ never-filmed Superman script, which, despite its reputation, gets things right when it gets them right. I went into a lot more depth about it here.

The First Day of Work

The episode significantly cheats by repeating footage from Superman catching the green PT cruiser and speaking with Metropolis residents. But it bears emphasizing that this is a magnificently executed tribute to the cover of Superman’s initial appearance in Action Comics #1 in 1938. But don’t you think everyone knows that?

clark kent

But now we go one step further, with the revelation that this was not a random memory, but rather Clark’s debut performance as Superman! Once again, a lovely little nod to Action #1.

It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane…

  • In a phone booth, Superman transforms back into Clark Kent. I’m not sure when Superman’s history, the “changing in a phone booth,” became such a common piece of pop-cultural mythology. It did occur in at least one of the aforementioned Fleischer Superman cartoons, on occasion in the comics, and very never in real action. In fact, Donner’s Superman featured a brief sight joke about this when Christopher Reeve’s Clark is seeking a spot to change for his first public act in costume and looks bemusedly at one of those “modern” (for 1978) non-enclosed phone booths.

A bystander remarks to Clark that Metropolis’s new hero flies “like a bird or an aircraft.” This, of course, is a reference to the famous narration popularized by The Adventures of Superman radio program (more on that in a moment) and Fleischer cartoons: “It’s a bird! That’s an aircraft! It’s…Superman!”

The Daily Planet

We don’t spend a lot of time on this program at The Daily Planet. Still, when we do, it strives to recreate the frenetic, buzzing energy that we witnessed in Donner’s Superman (wow, that comes up a lot…and for a good reason).

Also, how good is Paul Jarrett in the role of Perry White?

Lois Lane

  • Lois teaching Clark the ropes at The Daily Planet is a tradition that dates back to their first appearances. I’m going to die on this hill: Lois is a little older than Clark, but she’s also the more experienced and better reporter. Even with “all those powers” (which only the actual ones know about), she’s at least one step ahead of Clark in the reporting game.
  • The montage of Lois and Clark on the job together reminds me very little of a montage page from John Byrne and Dick Giordano’s Man of Steel #2, where Lois is attempting to hunt down Superman during his early days in Metropolis and keeps turning up immediately after he has departed.

Lois and Clark remaining late on the job, has shades of both the premiere episode of 1993’s Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Donner’s Superman’s “rooftop sequence.” It is the former that it is the first indicator of a romantic connection developing between them (and significant because up until that point in history, it was ALWAYS the case that Lois was attracted to Superman and not Clark). However, there is a touch of the latter in their fun but cautious flirting.

superman and lois

But that is further undermined by Lois’ exclusive chat with Superman. Lois has the first exclusive interview with Superman, much like in Donner’s film (there it was in private for later print publication, here it’s on TV). But, once again, Lois isn’t interested in Superman since she already loves Clark. It does away with the classic “love triangle” in which “Clark loves Lois, but Lois loves Superman, but Superman wants to be loved as Clark,” which has been a staple of the mythology for years. This isn’t always a negative thing.

Another item from that wonderful nighttime scene with Lois and Clark working late: as Clark prepares to leave, Lois asks him, “What’s your hurry?” When Lois suspected the truth about Clark in Superman II, she asked him, “What’s your hurry, Superman?”

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Atom Man

Okay, the addition of Atom Man is out of this world. The figure originally debuted on the radio show The Adventures of Superman in 1945. There, he was “Heinrich Milch” (thus the “Henry Miller” of this episode), a Nazi with Kryptonite in his bloodstream.

Another item from that wonderful nighttime scene with Lois and Clark working late: as Clark prepares to leave, Lois asks him, “What’s your hurry?” When Lois suspected the truth about Clark in Superman II, she asked him, “What’s your hurry, Superman?”

The Atom Man we meet here is based on Gene Luen’s graphic design. Superman Smashes the Klan by Yang and Gurihiru is an EXCELLENT (I can’t emphasize enough how absolutely fantastic this book is). Because Atom Man was based on the “Henry Miller” version of the character, the racist drivel spouted by tonight’s antagonist is acceptable.

Another interesting aspect of the utilization of Yang/Atom Gurihiru’s Man? Supes wears a variation of his outfit that resembles the Fleischer suit in Superman Smashes the Klan. The people on Superman and Lois know what they’re doing. Is there a nod to the movie serial version?

Like the first screen Lex Luthor, Lyle Talbot, Henry Miller seem bald and stocky in Atom Man vs. Superman. It’s like finding an Easter egg singularity!

Now FLY (do not walk) to your local comic store and get a copy of Superman Smashes the Klan, which is loosely based on a DIFFERENT story from the radio program, in what will most likely be my only mention of The Adventures of Superman radio show for tonight. Anyway, it’s fantastic, and it’s the finest Superman story in a decade or two. You may thank me afterward.

Morgan Edge, Tal-Rho, and Zeta-Rho

  • This episode continues and strengthens the “nature vs. nurture” argument that began last week with Morgan Edge. The paralleling of his trip with Clark’s is highlighted here. Clark was well-guided by Jonathan and Martha, and Jor-El simply reinforced those teachings. Still, Tal-urges Rho’s were magnified by Zeta-Rho in his desert castle. Jor-El sent his only son to save a dying planet in the hopes of helping another. Zeta-Rho dispatched his only son to resurrect a dying planet at the price of a thriving one.
  • Tal-use Rho’s of a “headband” to insert himself into Superman’s memory (and Supes has one as well) feels like a subtle allusion to the fact that headbands were the height of Kryptonian fashion the comics from the late 1940s until John Byrne’s relaunch in 1986.
  • Superman’s apparent successful “turning” at the end of the episode had better be a red herring. This show has cheated us so many times in its closing moments that I can’t see them doing anything as apparent as giving us a “bad Superman” for even one episode.

Other Interesting Kryptonian Artifacts


  • When Clark comes to Smallville and tries to meet up with Lana, two movies show in the theater: one is a Harry Potter installment, and the other is a comedy. The other is Friday Night Lights, the film that inspired the TV program that has had an unexpectedly big effect on many aspects of Superman and Lois.
  • There’s also a “Teague’s” sports goods store visible on the street for Smallville fans, presumably an homage to Jensen Ackles’ Jason Teague character from season four of that show.
  • Yes, towards the end of the episode, Lois does phone John Henry Irons. Steel is returning!
  • Clark Kent enjoys Seinfeld! It’s official! What is the significance of this? Jerry Seinfeld is a big Superman enthusiast. There was a big Superman magnet on his refrigerator in many episodes of his famous TV show (the best TV comedy of the 1990s). Wait…it generates reality issues that are going to damage my head.
  • Anyone remembers the titles of the books on Clark’s nightstand? They appear to be vintage sci-fi paperbacks, but I couldn’t be sure.
  • I didn’t see any notable names in Clark’s yearbook, but I’m getting old, and my eyesight is failing me, so if you did, please let me know in the comments!