Tyler Hoechlin's Superman is great; he's just not the Superman whom Informant wants to see. Informant has an extremely particular vision of Superman based on the 1986 John Byrne reboot and the SMALLVILLE series. Prior to 1986, Superman was the alien inheritor of the legacy of Krypton's culture and technology who disguised himself as Clark Kent for what looked like a bizarre sociological experiment.
Given that Informant threw a fit over one line of dialogue where Hoechlin's Superman referred to English as "your language," I think it's safe to say he wouldn't enjoy this version of Superman.
Pre-1970, there wasn't a lot of thought put into WHY Superman pretended to be Clark beyond (a) positioning himself at the Daily Planet to catch news of emergencies that needed Superman and (b) giving Superman a vulnerable human persona so readers could relate to him. Elliot S! Maggin, the primary Superman writer of the 1970s, took the view that Superman enjoyed living as Clark the way cosplayers enjoy dressing up as Superman; Superman found civilian life thrilling. But there were a lot of challenges with this character and that led to the 1986 reboot.
The 1986 reboot Superman determinedly does *not* see himself as Kal-El of Krypton, son of Jor-El. He thinks of himself as Clark Kent, son of Jonathan and Martha. The reboot goes so far as to say Kryptonians don't have sex but harvest sperm and eggs to be formulated in a mechanical "matrix" which only completed 'birthing' Clark after the pod landed in Kansas. Clark only discovers his Kryptonian origins at age 36 from a holographic Jor-El. "I may have been conceived out there in the depths of space," says Clark, "but I was born when the rocket opened on Earth, in America."
He respects his Kryptonian heritage and the hologram uploads a vast databank of Kryptonian knowledge into his brain, but this character is distinctly Clark Kent with Superman being his disguise. This version was certainly a much stronger *character* in contrast to the complex, alien, unknowable Superman before 1986. Since the reboot, every film and TV adaptation has gravitated to the Kansas farmboy version.
But it is untrue to claim that Clark of Kansas is only acceptable version of this character. The original was good enough for 48 years and created a media empire that continues to this day. Both versions of the character have their advantages and disadvantages. At times, Informant blowing a gasket over Superman being presented as a strange visitor from another world reminds me of John Rhys-Davies having a tantrum over not seeing himself in how Arturo is written.
Tyler Hoechlin's Superman is neither lacking in strength nor devoid of presence -- he just isn't strong or present in the ways that Informant wants, but all of Superman's actors have had their strengths and weaknesses.
Christopher Reeve played the alien Superman and he exuded warmth, charisma and he had the physicality to convince you that he was flying instead of dangling from wires, but his Clark was such a bundle of comical mannerisms that it made him seem sociopathic and self-torturing in his desire to live as a belittled incompetent who annoyed the people around him. Any time Reeve's Superman or Clark interact with anybody -- Lois, Jimmy, Perry, strangers -- there's a situational falseness that isn't part of Reeve's performance.
This culminated in KILL BILL II: the villain remarked that Clark Kent's clumsy unassertiveness looked like Superman's contemptuous critique of all human beings. This leaves one wondering why Superman bothers to protect us at all. It is the primary weakness of the pre-1986 Superman and why the reboot reversed nearly all of these characteristics.
Dean Cain's Clark Kent was the 1986 Clark. Cain had a superhuman grace, charm and politeness that was truthful, allowing this Clark to have emotional arcs and actual relationships. However, his Superman was awkward. To differentiate Clark from Superman, Cain's Superman was simply Clark with Cain suppressing all his natural mannerisms and clearly feeling awkward and silly in his costume.
It's noticeable that Cain's Clark is a full-bodied performance while his Superman never quite knows how tall to stand or how to move with the cape or where to hold his hands. Thankfully, Superman was at most a cameo role in a show where Clark was the leading man. And this is the main failing of the post-1986 Superman: there is no distinction between Clark Kent and Superman, undermining the plausibility of Clark going unrecognized and failing to create any meaningful conflict involving Superman's dual-identity because, in terms of characterization, he doesn't have one.
Tom Welling was unusual in that Welling isn't much of an actor. Welling played himself onscreen and his Clark exuded Tom's own warmth, care and kindness matched with Tom's incredible physical presence. As a male model and amateur athlete, Welling had Reeve's ability to convey superhuman powers through his natural body language. Welling is the sort of person who spends his free time going to toy stores, buying out their inventory and sitting quietly in his living room wrapping them one-by-one and then driving them to various children's charities before Christmas. Welling reportedly earned no salary on the SMALLVILLE series finale, redistributing his pay to offer Michael Rosenbaum a bigger paycheque to win him for two days of filming.
Welling's personality was perfectly in sync with his character (although not always with the writing which made Clark seem selfish and indifferent). He also did a great job with performing the withdrawn and solitary Clark Kent in contrast to his Red Kryptonite affected persona and his alternate universe double, both of whom had a swaggering, dominant physicality that the usual Clark didn't.
When watching him onscreen in Seasons 1, 8, 9 and 10, the truth of his performance overcomes his weaknesses as a performer -- which are many. His perfect screen presence is marred by a lack of technical ability as an actor. His enunciation can be awkward such as his inability to pronounce "vigilante." His reactions to events and other actors are muted. He performs poorly with post-filming special effects; note his blankness when conversing with onscreen doubles and see that Tom cannot pretend he isn't looking at a tennis ball on a string.
Over time, this was finessed into his Clark being a thoughtful, low-key personality and it added a beautiful gentleness to his persona as he supersped into burning buildings, gunfights and car wrecks. Tom Welling and the SMALLVILLE special effects team made saving people look exciting and awe-inspiring and conveyed Clark's power and compassion.
And this is where the Brandon Routh Superman crashed hard. SUPERMAN RETURNS has no combat; Superman spends the film saving people just like Clark on SMALLVILLE, but SUPERMAN RETURNS directed in such a dull, unexciting fashion that there's almost no visceral intensity aside from the plane crash. Brandon Routh, as directed, was asked to play Superman and Clark Kent as the same low-key, quiet personality, much like Welling, but with far less scripting.
In fact, Routh was so underwritten in SUPERMAN RETURNS that it's hard to understand why this Clark Kent works at a newspaper (can't he get news of emergencies on a smartphone?) or even bothers with a civilian identity (the only person Clark has a relationship with is his mother). While Routh has the physicality to convince that he's superhuman, it's noticeable that where Reeve and Welling could shift between personas, Routh needs the blue contact lenses, S-curl hairstyle, costume and wire effects to be Superman. In SUPERMAN RETURNS, Routh might as well be a CG animatic considering how little personality the script provided him to perform. Routh's Superman is a blank slate.
In contrast, Henry Cavill in MAN OF STEEL is filled with personality, arguably personality enough for five separate movies. He's the teenager itching to flee his small town; he's the wandering nomad keeping his distance from others; he's the guilt-tormented son who let his father die; he's the humble inheritor to the legacy of Jor-El; he's the god who surrenders to humanity in order to defend them. Kal-El of Krypton, Clark Kent of Kansas and Superman the superhero are different combinations of all these personas, but Cavill is quite definitive that he is from Kansas.
The 1986 incarnation of Superman began shifting towards this multi-faceted identity in 2000 as Superman began to explore his Kryptonian heritage more while identifying as American. The change cemented fully in 2006 with writers Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns fully committing to the multi-identity situation. This version of Superman is less likely to default to American culture and seeks to balance his alien and human heritage. This led to a brief arc where Superman renounced his American citizenship and Informant had that nervous breakdown with him shrieking pre-MAN OF STEEL that Henry Cavill couldn't possibly play Superman because Cavill was a foreigner.
It was a dark time for SLIDERS fandom. I like to think we made it through, and now we come to Tyler Hoechlin. Hoechlin is playing a very different Superman from the previous actors. Reeve, Welling, Routh and Cavill were all struggling to shoulder their responsibilities, but Hoechlin's Superman has a decade of experience and found his bliss.
He isn't juggling two legacies; he's settled into both. He isn't working through his identity confusion around Lois; they're a very happy couple. He isn't nervous about his relationships; he works closely with scientists to share Kryptonian technology with humanity but holds the DEO at a distance because they want to be ready to kill him. He keeps watch on Kara but keeps his distance with texts and instant messaging because he doesn't want to be a helicopter parent.
The result is a Superman who is at the end of his character arc with his demons vanquished and his conflicts resolved. Even when disgruntled with the DEO, Hoechlin's Superman is all civility and graciousness, making sure to shake hands and thank DEO staff for all their hard work. Hoechlin's Superman isn't designed for internal conflict or personal struggle, not because he's incapable of it, but because he's a supporting character who is Kara's role model.
This problem with this Superman, if you could even call it a problem, is that he can't sustain an ongoing TV series because he has resolved all his issues. But Hoechlin's Superman isn't meant to be a series lead anyway. His greatest superpower might be his superhuman relaxation. He has the effortless calm that would come with being bulletproof.
This is the most laid-back version of Superman ever onscreen. A Superman who has reconciled his dual origins isn't going to hit the notes that Informant prefers for this character.
The parts of Superman's legend to which Informant has a deep connection are not the only parts of Superman that exist. And it's not a crime that Tyler Hoechlin's Superman isn't Informant's Superman. It's not a weakness. It's not a flaw. Hoechlin's Superman is the perfect Superman for this SUPERGIRL series.
What it comes down to, really, is that Informant sees Superman as a self-portrait. The farm and the American heritage and the parents seem to be vital factors for him, and if he doesn't see himself in Superman, then it's not Superman to him. And I might not see my Superman in certain adaptations, but I would take it a step behind Informant's intensity.
So many writers and actors have written for and performed as this character and each one will have a very different take on the same source material. Zack Snyder, J. Michael Straczynski, Joss Whedon, Ali Adler, Jeph Loeb, Mark Waid, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and more each created their own individual Superman. Between them all, Superman has been an angsty teen, a loving father figure, a meatloaf addict, a vegetarian, a tormented soul, a cheery wisecracker, a hard-boiled reporter, a nervous milquetoast, a down-to-earth human and an unrelatable alien. Nobody should draw a box around any one incarnation as the only one that works.
My favourite incarnation is the Red Blue Blur of SMALLVILLE's eighth season and I would say this version is completely unworkable and should never be perpetuated in subsequent adaptations. My least favourite is Frank Miller's, although Clark in Seasons 2- 7 of SMALLVILLE is also pretty bad.
Weirdly, I don't even put Tyler Hoechlin on my list of favourite Supermans because he's quite distinctly *Supergirl's* Superman and he's best compared to Melissa Benoist rather than other Superman actors.