Thursday, April 14, 2016

Good-bye to Superboy: The Series

With the story that began in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #258 and ended in Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #259, Superboy was effectively fired from the Legion. The group that owed its entire existence to its "lead," basically kicked him out of his own title.

Superboy as a comic-book series made its debut in March/April, 1949 as another way to sell Superman comics to the kids. Superboy didn't even appear on the cover of his first issue!

Superboy as a character made his debut in More Fun Comics #101 (Jan/Feb 1945). He lasted in that series for six issues, until it became an all-humor book. All of the characters who had been appearing in More Fun then moved over to Adventure Comics with #103 (April, 1946). This included Green Arrow & Speedy, Johnny Quick, and Aquaman.
Superboy isn't even billed on the cover of his debut appearance! 
Superboy remained as the lead, cover-featured character in Adventure Comics for more than 20 years. He only missed four issues that featured The Bizarro-World before he began sharing billing with his Legion pals. Still, he appeared on each of these covers. Then he and the Legion were kicked out by Supergirl after Adventure Comics #380 (March 1969).
The splash and last page of Superboy's debut (More Fun #101)
Superboy of those early stories was clearly a BOY. In fact, in his first Adventure Comics appearance (#103) he was celebrating his 10th birthday.
art by Superman creator Joe Shuster
So then, three years after the start of his Adventure Comics run, Superboy was granted his own title. He was in the Big Leagues now.
Similar to how Superman's stories quickly established and settled around the Daily Planet in Metropolis, Superboy's adventures quickly established the parameters of his life: Smallville, Lana Lang, Krypto, Pete Ross, and Ma & Pa Kent. The Kents made their debut with Superboy in More Fun #101, but did not really take center stage until the series moved to Adventure. Lana first appeared in Superboy #10 (Oct 1950) when the Langs moved next door to the Kents. Krypto made his debut in Adventure #210 (March 1955). Pete made his debut in Superboy #86 (Jan 1961) as "the new boy in town." After Pete learned Superboy's secret (Superboy #90, July 1961), there were basically no changes to this scenario for the next twenty years. 
Along the way, of course, as mentioned above, we were given the parallel adventures of Superboy in the future. After the Legion made its debut in 1958, it slowly but surely established enough of a fan base to warrant its own series. In Sept 1962 it was finally given the lead in Adventure Comics #300, co-billing with Superboy. Along the way it was established that Superboy was lonely and wanted some other kids to play with. So he flew into the future to be with his Legion buddies. Adventure Comics and Superboy were published at the same time, so we literally could have our cake and eat it too: if you liked Smallville Superboy you could get his own series; if you liked the future you could pick up Adventure. DC, of course, hoped you would buy both.
After Supergirl displaced the Legion series in Adventure Comics, Superboy eventually ended up hosting their back-up stories (from Superboy #172, March 1971). Within two years, the Legion again was cover-featured! The Legion gradually took over Superboy's title: first they were billed as guest-stars (Superboy "starring" the Legion #197), then they were billed as co-stars (Superboy "and" the Legion #222), then the title officially became Superboy And The Legion of Super-Heroes with #231. Finally, with #259,  Superboy was gone completely.
During the time that Superboy was getting his series co-opted by the Legion, he made several solo appearances. DC Super Stars #12 (Feb 1977) was a Silver Age throwback. Adventure Comics #454-458 (Fall 1977) was something of a "try-out" series for him. Then Superboy appeared in eight issues of the super-sized Superman Family (#191-198) (1978-1979) and his own Superboy Spectacular (1979) before finally getting his own series again, The New Adventures Of Superboy, in January, 1980.
And that series went on forever, and there was never any scandal or problems with Superboy's publishing history again. He lived happily ever after and became Superman when he turned 21. Nothing bad ever happened to him. The End.

To read Superboy's earliest adventures, some by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, pick up the first collection. To read some of Superboy's team-ups with people like Oliver Queen and Aquaboy, pick up the second collection.


  1. I've always wondered why the Legion wasn't the spin-off title starting at #1 instead of Superboy starting over again. It just didn't make sense. Then with the Legion's #300 anniversary issue, it was the Legion celebrated when it should have been Superboy. Weird marketing strategy, but at the time, as a Legion fan, I just rolled with it.

    1. I always wondered that, too. Anybody know? Maybe something to do with the legal title in the indicia? But if they were changing it, I don't know why they couldn't just change it BACK.

    2. Well, the Legion book is just directly continuing the narrative that's been in that book, while Superboy is getting a soft reboot here (having his adventures as a boy take place in the late fifties (still not quite right with him being 29 in 1980, but what are you going to do) rather than the thirties...

  2. Maybe at that point DC had more confidence in the Legion carrying a book on their own than Superboy?


  3. Back in the day, large issue number meant more than new #1s so they probably thought Superboy could carry a new #1 and the high number for LSH meant it was a proven thing so people would take a chance (it must be good, it's been around a long time!)

    1. Bingo! That was EXACTLY the reason. It was the same thing as when DC began the Barry Allen Flash series with #105, picking up from the prior Jay Garrick Flash Comics numbering. It was meant to have readers believe the book had been around awhile