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Hate to say it, but Supergirl fans are right to hate on Tyler Hoechlin as Superman

Supergirl released the first official photo of Tyler Hoechlin as Superman, and it is… underwhelming, and that’s putting it nicely. The CW released the photo on Thursday, just days after Hoechlin appeared publicly with the Supergirl cast for the first time at Comic-Con.

In the promotional still, Hoechlin stands elbow to elbow with Supergirl Melissa Benoist, giving fans a first look at Superman and Supergirl side by side as well as the first glimpse of his new Superman suit. And if you doubted whether Hoechlin could pull off being the Man of Steel, well, this picture probably didn’t do much to reassure you. First reactions to the photo have not been good, with many fans calling into question Hoechlin’s credibility as the next Superman.

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The problem with the photo isn’t necessarily that Hoechlin doesn’t look like a Clark Kent type (though he does appear somewhat thin in the photo). Years of Teen Wolf shirtless scenes have proven he’s got abs worthy of the spandex; he’s got the dark hair, the jawline; and he even looks good in glasses. It’s also not that the suit is particularly un-Superman-like. It’s got the red and yellow seal, a red belt and, yes, awkwardly tight spandex pants. No, the problem with the first photo of Hoechlin as Superman is that it is quite possibly the most Photoshopped-looking promo photo in the history of Superman.

Looking at the picture, it’s not completely ludicrous to think that Hoechlin did not actually pose for that photo. As many fans have pointed out in comment sections and on Twitter, it seriously looks as if someone Photoshopped Hoechlin’s face onto a Superman body. His head is oddly proportioned to his physique, and his washed-out skin tone doesn’t help much either. The photo is so strange-looking even TV Guide published an article declaring the look “Super-Weird.” 

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It doesn’t help matters that there could actually be truth to observations that the photo looks fake. On Saturday, during the Supergirl panel at Comic-Con, Hoechlin admitted he had not yet put on the Superman suit, saying, “I’m really excited. I have not tried on the suit yet. That will be a moment, for sure.” Following the panel, Hoechlin admitted, “This is actually day one on the job for me,” in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Filming of Supergirl’s second season didn’t start until Monday, so assuming the photo is even real, that means Hoechlin and Benoist posed sometime between Sunday and Tuesday. Make of that what you will.

Other than the sheer strangeness of the photo, it’s also somewhat disappointing as the first promotional photo for Season 2 of Supergirl. After a lackluster Season 1 that brought the show to the brink of cancellation, Supergirl has a lot to prove with its second season. Moving from CBS to The CW will no doubt relieve a bit of the pressure, but it also puts Supergirl in the mix with hit DC shows The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. It’s no secret that Arrow and The Flash are male-driven shows (though I would argue that both those shows are only as good as their female characters), and it’s exciting to think that, with Supergirl, a female hero will finally be on equal footing with the Arrow and the Flash. And yet, the first promotional photo released by the new network isn’t a heroic portrait of Supergirl but a team photo of her and Superman. It’s disappointing that Supergirl isn’t allowed to shine on her own and without Superman this year — something Season 1 worked so hard to ensure.
Let’s be clear: As far as I am concerned, Hoechlin’s Superman is not on the same level as Benoist’s Supergirl. The show is not called Supergirl & Superman; it’s not even called The Supers or Supergirl & Company — it’s Supergirl. Supergirl is the star. She is the hero of the show, and it’s important that Superman not be allowed to overshadow her. It’s a sad fact that there is a huge lack of female superheroes; even sadder is how few leading female superheroes there are. Supergirl is almost all we’ve got at this point, and I am not willing to see that go with the arrival of Superman.

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I understand that having Superman in an early promotional picture was likely a strategic decision to attract viewers, but I worry that it could be a hint to how The CW is envisioning the future of the show. Hoechlin was officially brought on as a guest star in the first two episodes of Season 2, but the creative minds behind Supergirl have been purposely vague when asked about Hoechlin’s future with the series. Speaking to EW at Comic-Con, Hoechlin refused to answer questions about a potential series regular role, saying, “That question I will not touch.” He could be playing coy to intrigue viewers, or it’s possible that Supergirl bosses are considering making Superman a permanent fixture of National City.

As horrible as this overly airbrushed promotional photo of Superman is, the idea of Hoechlin becoming a series regular on Supergirl is even worse. Hopefully this new photo is not a sign of what’s to come.

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Image: Darren Michaels/CBS

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