Tom Welling wants to clear up a widely-held misconception about his role on the WB's highly-touted new fall drama, Smallville: He will

not be playing the Man of Steel. "I'm not Superman — I'm Clark Kent, before he was Superman," the up-and-comer tells TV Guide Online. "Not many people know that."

It may seem like a silly distinction, but given Hollywood's knack for pigeonholing small screen superheroes — Adam West, Lynda Carter, Dean Cain — Welling clearly has his long-term career interests at heart. "I actually thought that at the beginning," he says of being branded Superman for life. "But, then I read the script, and there's so much to it that I'm not worried. It's quality stuff."

In fact, based on a short clip shown to advertisers last week, Smallville — which will air Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET after Gilmore Girls — has emerged as one of next season's most buzzed about shows. (An opening meteor shower sequence left the audience of jaded Madison Avenue execs spellbound.) Still, the junior Superman, er, Clark Kent, insists the advance hype isn't weighing on him like a ton of kryptonite.

"I know that there is a lot of money and a lot of time and concern invested in this by the WB, but I think it's all worthwhile," says Welling. "Why should I feel pressure? You only feel pressure if you don't think you can perform. I think this is going to perform."