Saturday, January 24, 2015

TOS: Superboy #86

Superboy #86
Cover Date January 1961
On sale November 22, 1960
Cover Art by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye
Editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewed by Metropolis Kid

Like most of the Superman related titles that DC was publishing at this time in the Silver Age, such as Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane, an issue of Superboy typically featured three different 6-10 page stories. In issue #86, the story that snagged the cover feature "The Army of Living Kryptonite Men!" guest-starred Lightning Lad. This was the third and final feature of the issue. The second story, "The Boy Who Betrayed Clark Kent" by Leo Dorfman and George Papp is also notable as it features the first appearance of Pete Ross, who would serve as Superboy's childhood best friend and even become an honorary Legionnaire!

"The Army of the Kryptonite Men" was written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, with art by George Papp. If you don't have a copy of the original issue, never fear, it has been reprinted in a number of places, including Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 1, Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 1, the Superman vs. Lex Luthor trade paperback, as well as Adventure Comics #492 (last issue pre-digest), and 80 Page Giant #11.

The story opens in the Kent residence with Superboy and Pa Kent discussing the important roles that three different people, all with the initials L.L., play in Superboy's life (Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, and Lightning Lad). Meanwhile, Lex Luthor is putting to use the latest of his devious inventions, the Mind-Helmet, which gives him the power to manipulate and "bring to life" inanimate stone. Luthor then uses this new found ability to lure Superboy to an asteroid orbiting the earth, where Luthor is able to project the powers of his Mind-Helmet onto kryptonite fragments, turning them into kryptonite soldiers. At Luthor's command, the kryptonite soldiers quickly begin pummeling Superboy. Seeing that his master is in peril, Krypto comes to Superboy's aid, only to also fall victim to Luthor's sinister army. Luthor orders the kryptonite stones to disassemble and bury Superboy and Krypto in a kryptonite tomb.

Feeling that victory is assured, Luthor ventures away from his Super-Telescope Scanner to gloat in a mirror. As he does, the Legion of Super-Heroes see Superboy's lethal predicament from the 30th Century via their Time-Viewer. Since interfering with the past is apparently no big deal, Lightning Lad ventures back in time to the 20th Century and blasts away the kryptonite tomb, saving Superboy and Krypto. The three of them then fly to earth and destroy Lex Luthor's evil machine before Lightning Lad heads back to the future. Standing amongst the rubble of his laboratory, Luthor postulates that if there is a Legion of Super-Heroes in the future, that must mean that there is also a Legion of Super-Villains....the end!?

Closing Thoughts:
The story is actually the best of the 3 tales in this issue, and all things considered, not that bad. It incorporates a lot of the Silver Age science that was pretty common in the Super-Titles and other DC superhero books at the time. Of course Lex Luthor falls into the over-confident trap that he always does; you always wonder how someone so smart can continuously do so many dumb things, but with it being a tale of Superman when he was a boy, you know that Superboy can never be in any real danger, that comes with the premise of the book. The art is solid and well rendered, but there isn't anything too eye catching or revolutionary going on with it. It basically looks like most DC superhero books at the time, using the standard 6 square panels per page layout. All that aside, it is still quite a fun little read, and it marks the first time that the Legion of Super-Heroes appear in a book without menacing Superboy.

As mentioned above, there are a number of places that this story has been reprinted. Due to the historical significance of this issue marking the first appearance of Pete Ross, this one fetches a little more on the back issue market, but you could still probably track down a VG-FN copy of the original issue for under $15 on eBay.

1 comment:

  1. I have just discovered that "The Boy who Betrayed Clark Kent" is one of those "twice told tales". Superboy 47 from March 1956 introduced Billy Todd in a story called "Clark Kent's Best Pal". The story has a lot of elements that found their way into the Pete Ross intro story, including Clark being "rescued" from a bully, Ma Kent inviting the kid to dinner and him collecting Superboy measurements. (He was doing it to build a scale model of "future Smallville" to give to Clark.