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Why Superman: The Animated Series' Clancy Brown Was 'A Little Intimidated' To Talk Lex Luthor With Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum

Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor in Smallville
(Image credit: The CW)

In the early 2000s, there were two main ways you could catch Lex Luthor on screen. Following his time on Superman: The Animated Series, Clancy Brown reprised his version of  Luthor on Justice League, while in live-action, Michael Rosenbaum played a younger version of the character in Smallville. Rosenbaum also participated in Justice League as the voice of The Flash, but despite the series sharing two Lex Luthor actors, they didn’t share notes about their respective performances of Superman’s arch-nemesis.

To commemorate Superman: The Animated Series’ Blu-ray release, I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Clancy Brown about his time working on that show and his return for Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. With Justice League and Smallville having both premiered in 2001, I asked Brown whether he and Michael Rosenbaum ever talked any Lex Luthor shop together, and this was his response:

No, no, no. I was a little intimidated since he was doing the live-action version. He was doing the real actor version. But he was so good, he’s such a charming guy. And he’s a really good actor. And Smallville didn’t really have that much in common with Superman: The Animated Series. It just didn’t. It was a completely different take, and it was a brilliant take in its own right. They had the right actors in it, it was fun to watch. But Rosenbaum was a great Flash, we did 'The Great Brain Robbery.' That was a lot of fun, we got to mimic each other, which was just terrific.

So because Clancy Brown and Michael Rosenbaum’s respective versions of Lex Luthor were so different from one another, the former didn’t feel the need to compare his Luthor to the latter’s from Smallville. He has a point; while Brown’s Luthor was in full-blown supervillain mode in the DCAU, Rosenbaum’s Luthor started off as a friend to Tom Welling’s Clark Kent in Smallville’s early years, though he would embark down the villainous path in later seasons. Regardless, Brown liked what Rosenbaum did with the Luthor role, and Rosenbaum expressed admiration for Brown’s Luthor when the two spoke last year on Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum.

As for “The Great Brain Robbery,” the Justice League Unlimited episode that saw Lex Luthor and Flash been body-swapped, Clancy Brown added later in our conversation that it’s one of his favorite Luthor-related storylines in the DCAU. He specifically highlighted the moment when Luthor-in-Flash’s-body takes off the Scarlet Speedster’s mask in front of a mirror to learn his secret identity, only to say, “I have no idea who this is.” Brown’s last outing as Luthor was in the 2018 video game Lego DC Super-Villains, while Rosenbaum reprised his Luthor in Smallville’s series finale back in 2011. He had been approached to also take part in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event, but turned it down.

For those of you interested in re-visiting Superman: The Animated Series, or perhaps even want to watch it for the first time, the Blu-ray collection comes out tomorrow, October 26. You can also stream the series on HBO Max.

Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.