Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I Miss The Real Superboy....

by Glenn Walker
This week some of the folks here at the Legion of Super-Bloggers are talking about the death of Superboy. It really is a tragic and pivotal moment in Legion history.

But it didn't really have the effect on me that it should have, because by the time the character actually died in the comics, Superboy was already dead to me. Yeah, I know it sounds brutal, but it's true.

My introduction to Superboy was in the Filmation cartoons of the late 1960s, and Superboy was just as cool as his hype suggested. He was Superman as a boy. Imagine having Superman's powers and still being a kid! He flew around Smallville with his superdog Krypto having adventures and having fun as only a Superboy could.

When I discovered his comics, I found much the same character, only with the wonderful mythology of Krypton and the Phantom Zone added in. Superman never really bothered with that stuff, because, let's face it, he did all that stuff as a boy. Adding to that new wonderment of the character were two other factors - Superboy's meeting with future friends and heroes in the Justice League, and his adventures with the Legion of Super-Heroes. Once I met the Legion, I was sucked in forever. But I still had a place in my heart for Superboy.

When the Legion took over the lead feature in Superboy's own title, I have to admit I couldn't be happier, but still I enjoyed those brief glimpses into the old days. I remember Lana Lang wanting young Clark Kent to at least try to kiss her, and then there was that time Mon-El spent his vacation with Superboy and his foster parents in the past. It should be remembered that Mon-El was Superboy's brother in all but blood. The bond was so strong that Lar Gand took more to the name Superboy gave him than to his own real name.

That Superboy, however, drifted away for me when his own comic was renamed Legion of Super-Heroes and he left for his own time for the 'last' time. He had been, if we're being honest, on his way out earlier than that. For example, when he first met Laurel Kent, or found out about the Legion's cloning and immortality programs. It seemed to me that even the Legionnaires knew they could not keep him coming to the future after those points. Dead to me.

Sure, Superboy jumped into Adventure Comics and then his own brand new title with stories set in the 1970s, but that just didn't feel right. Superboy's adventures had always been on a sliding timeline, first in the 1930s, then the 40s, then the 50s and 60s; that seemed 'right' to me. But having the boy of steel fight a glitter rock super scoundrel named Astralad, that just didn't cut it for me. Again, dead to me.

The last Superboy adventure that felt like a "Superboy" adventure was his triumphant appearance during the Legion's "Great Darkness Saga." It felt right, and worked well, as the Legion faced their darkest hour and their mightiest and most evil foe. They called out for all reservists to aid in the battle. I know I wasn't the only one who cheered aloud when Superboy and Supergirl entered the fray against Darkseid.

Then there was the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the dreaded slow death of the Legion's origins, history, and inspiration, as well as the quiet phasing out of the "real" Superboy. To avoid the time travel complexities of having Superman side by side with "our" Superboy, a new Superboy was created, this one from Earth-Prime. Of course we all know how he turned out, so great idea, DC Comics.

After the Crisis, the powers that be finally tried to reconcile the idea that the new post-Crisis Superman was never Superboy, and John Byrne and Paul Levitz concocted the bizarre and non-sensical idea of the pocket universe and the Time Trapper's plan to… ahem… do what exactly? It was this pocket universe that Superboy died to save, with his brother Mon-El calling him by name… "Superboy…" instead of "Kal…"

I hated this story. I blame John Byrne. But again, by that time, Superboy was already dead to me several times over.

I look on the Superboy I remember with great respect and happiness, and I miss him, but it's been a long time since those couple panels in "The Great Darkness Saga," and even longer before we saw Superboy flying through the sky with Krypto.

Replacements like Superboy-Prime, Kon-El, and even Young Superman just don't cut it. I miss the real Superboy


  1. Superman as a boy is a cool idea for an elseworlds. The idea of a teenager who goes to the future to be a hero is cool too.

    But having Superman with a past as a fully-formed hero is a terrible dis-service to the Superman character's growth. The Earth-1 Superman was static and uninteresting through most of his career and had little to know character development. How could he? It all happened in Smallville. Byrne's Superman was a more interesting take on the character because he went through part of his life unsure exactly who he was and what he could do.

    1. Your point is valid, but I always thought of Superman as "the adult professional super-hero" and Superboy as "the kid making mistakes." When Byrne tried to marry these two archetypes, it often fell flat IMHO.
      That being said, I don't know if I really ever wanted a solo Superboy series. I just liked him to pop up on Legion adventures every once in awhile.

    2. I grew up with the Earth-One Superman (and Superboy) and never found either uninteresting. Also, I never thought of Superboy making mistakes all that much either. Each seemed to be fully formed, it was only when they appeared together or when compared by others, that the man outshone the boy. Of course, just my opinion.

  2. love the old sb stories and legion tales. learning about the post-86 lsh tales as a fetish. love Elliot Maggin's sb tales and the Samuel Hawkins stories. def a muddled departure boo to dc