Thursday, December 23, 2010

Episode #149: Superboy's New Fun Adventures!

According to Gerard Jones' book, Men Of Tomorrow, which chronicled the birth and history of the comic book industry, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superboy in the early 1940's. This was after their story, The K-Metal From Krypton, (and the subject of episode #28), was killed by their editor Mort Weisinger. He had become familiar with them from their high school years as science fiction fans, and was hired as an editor by DC Comics in 1941. Mort's relationaship with Siegel and Shuster would become more adversarial as comic book professionals.

This original Superboy differed from the version that was eventually published. Siegel and Shuster's version was a bit of a trickster who used his powers to pull practical jokes on people. The editors at DC Comics thought this was not a good use of their top superhero.

The version of Superboy we are familiar with first appeared in More Fun Comics #101, January/February 1945, published around November 21, 1944. This version was also produced by Siegel's and Shuster's Cleveland studio, and was a wholesome crimefighter, not a prankster. This part of the Golden Age of comic books saw a craze of teen sidekicks and characters, and Superboy became part of that craze. Superboy lived in a Norman Rockwell-esque idyllic middle America. Jerry Siegel was in the army at this time and was kept in touch with the studio. He might have written the original story, but Don Cameron was credited with the published story.

Siegel's and Shuster's lawsuit against DC Comics was settled in 1948, when they lost the majority of their claims in court. One of the few bright spots in their case was the fact the judge ruled that Superboy had been exploited by DC, and ordered to two sides to come to a settlement. Siegel and Shuster finally settled for around $100,000, but a lot of that money went toward attorney fees.

After Jerry Siegel's death, his widow Joanne exercised her right to terminate the grant of copyright to DC Comics, and claimed half ownership of the title and characters. A judge ruled in her favor in 2006, but that ruling was reversed on appeal in 2007. The Superboy and Superman case remains unresolved and has become a never ending battle.

Superboy appeared in More Fun Comics from issues 101 through 107, the January.Febryary 1946.This title was the very first comic book published by what would become DC Comics beginning in 1935, and would end with issue #127, November/December 1947. Superboy then flew to the pages of Adventure Comics beginning with issue #103, April 1946, through issue #455, November/December 1977 (I may have said issue #454 in the episode).

The Boy of Steel would also star in his own title with Superboy #1, March/April 1949, and had star billing through issue # 230, August 1977. The Legion Of Super-Heroes gained equal billing, when the title was renamed Superboy And The Legion Of Super-Heroes with issue #231, September 1977. Beginning with issue #259, January 1980, the Legion pushed Superboy completely off of the title. The title changed yet again to Tales Of The Legion Of Super-Heroes, beginning with issue #314, August 1984, and ended for good after issue #325, July 1985.

The first Superboy story in More Fun Comics #101, five pages long, was originally untitled, but when reprinted was given the title The Origin Of Superboy. It was edited by Jack Schiff. While either Don Cameron or Jerry Siegel wrote the story, Joe Shuster did the art. This story was reprinted in Millennium Edition (#46) More Fun Comics #101, and the hardcover Advnetures Of Superboy. It can also be read online at

As with most Superman origin stories,this one began on the planet Krypton. Scientists have studied Earth, and have theorized that, with their planet's heavier gravity, a Kryptonian would leap over Earth's tallest buildings. While Krypton's civilization was very advanced, and able to build planes capable of incredible speeds, they had not built any spaceships. Jor-El, who had worked day and night in a small model rocket, informed his wife Lara that Krypton was indeed doomed.

More groundquakes hit as Jor-El makes his way to the ruling Council. In spite of the increased natural disaters, Jor-El was unable to convince the Council to build an armada of space arks to evacuate Krypton's population. Dejected, he returned home. Lara refused to leave Jro-El's side, so they placed their infant son in the small rocket. The child barely escaped his planet's destruction, and the rocket landed safely on Earth.

The rocket was found by a passing motorist, who took the baby to an orphanage. The staff was amazed at the toddler's strenngth. He would be adopted by the Kents. As he grew, his parents were amazed by his increasing strength. They first noticed it when he brought a heavier load of firewood than a normal boy would be able to carry. Later, he was able to leap over the barn, then tall buildings. Then he was able to outrun the fastest animals in the forest.

When he began school, young Clark realized that he couldn't let people know how different he was. One day, a motorist became trapped under his car when he was changing a flat tire. His car had slipped off the jack. Two young teens were unable to budge the car, until Clark lifted the rear bumper. Then they were able to pull the man from under his car. The two boys couldn't believe Clark's strength. He brushed it off as something must have come over him. So Clark had a red and blue costume made, and Superboy was born. That way he could use his abilities without drawing attention to Clark Kent.

The following plot synopses came from Mike's Amazing World Of DC Comics at

More Fun Comics #102, March/April 1945, was published around January 23, 1945. The Superboy story was the second one in this issue, titled The Cruise Of The Jolly Roger. The seven page story was written by Don Cameron, pencilled by Joe Shuster and inked by Ira Yarbrough. Two criminals escaped prison and reached a river, where Clark Kent and some of his friends were rafting. They shot Clark and stole his raft. Clark changed into Superboy, captured the crooks and saved the boys. Superboy informed the boys that Clark was okay because the bullet missed, thus protecting his secret identity.

More Fun Comics #103, May/June 1945, was published around March 22, 1945. Superboy appeared in the issue's second story, the seven page A Modern Cave Man, written by Don Cameron, pencilled by Joe Shuster and inked by Marvin Stein. Clark and his friends were on a camping trip, when they were forced to seek shelter because of a thunderstorm. They see someone leave a cave, and the boys explore the cave. Two crooks threaten them, but Clark was able to slip away and become Superboy. The Boy of Steel found the caveman, who was revealed to be a professor who had been captured by the crooks, in an attempt to extort a chemical formula from him. Superboy captured the crooks and the Professor was able to return home.

More Fun Comics #104, July/August 1945, was published around May 22, 1945. The second, seven page story starred Superboy, titled Good Hunting. It was written by Don Cameron, pencilled by Joe Shuster and inked by Joe Sikela. Johnny Meadows and his mother faced eviction from their home on a fox farm, in an investment gone bad. Johnny hunted for the missing foxes, which I guess was the reason fro their financial strain. He discovered two men in the woods who had stolen the foxes They lead Johnny into quicksand. Superboy saved Johnny and captured the crooks, who had been hired by the owner of the fox farm that Johnny's mother had been renting from. With the return of the foxes, the Meadows were able to keep their home.

More Fun Comics  #105, September/ October 1945, published around July 19, 1945. The issue's second story starred Superboy, titled The Million Dollar Marbles Tournament. The seven page story was written by Don Cameron, pencilled by Joe Shuster and inked by Marvin Stein. Superboy was contacted by the owner of a plastics company. He wanted Superboy to recover a formula that was hidden in a tiny ball. The owner's son mistook the ball for a marble, then lost it playing marbles. Superboy's solution was to organize a marbles tournament for all the boys in town. He defeated every boy and won all the marbles, and returned the ball to the plastics factory. As Clark Kent he returned the marbles to the boys by losing to them (with no explanation how he got them from Superboy). After this second tournament, Superboy built a playground with equipment donated by the plastics company.

More Fun Comics #106, November/December 1945, published around September 20, 1945. superboy appeared in the second, seven page story of the issue. Crimes On Delivery was written by Don Cameron and drawn by Marvin Stein. Student Daffy Dilbert volunteered at the Smallville High School newspaper. Clark asked Daffy to deliver copy to the printer. Daffy added a story about a milk racket. Clark took responsibility for the mistake and went to the milk delivery company to apologize. He discovered that the racket was for real. The milkmen would rob houses during their deliveries. Superboy broke up the racket, exonerating both Daffy and Clark.

More Fun Comics #107, January/February 1946, published on November 23, 1945. Superboy appeared in the fourth story of the issue, the seven page Ordeals On Wheels, written by Don Cameron, pencilled by Joe Shuster and inked by John Sikela. Clark's classmate Billy Benton built a soapbox derby race car. During a test run Billy is almost run over by a truck, but was saved by Superboy. The Boy of Steel built a new car for Billy, who entered it into the derby. Clark had to stay in school because he had missed a History assignment. Billy crashed again, and Clark left class and, as Superboy, rescued Billy again and repaired his car. Billy raced again and won, while Clark was punished for leaving class.

Superboy's first appearance in Adventure Comics #103, April 1946 (published around February 28, 1946, was in the first story in the issue, Happy Birthday, written by Don Cameron, pencilled by Joe Shuster and inked by Marvin Stein. Clark happened to have the same birthday as Betty Marr. He decided not to have a party so that everyone could attend Betty's party (which is more than I would have done at that age, especially for a girl, at elementary school age). When Betty's father was accused of committing a crime, parents refused to allow their children to attend Betty's party. Superboy helped clear her father's reputation and ensured that Betty's birthday party was a success.

I have the Millennium Edition (#62) of Superboy #1, March/April 1949, published on January 8, 1949. The editor was Jack Schiff, and the cover was pencilled by Wayne Boring and inked by Stan Kaye. It portrayed Superman talking to a group of kids about his own youth, as he turned the cover to reveal the first page.

The first story was The Man Who Could See Tomorrow. The twelve page story was written by France E. Herron, pencilled by Joe Sikela and inked by Ed Dobrotka. Superman captured a gang of robbers, and then took a policeman, who was shot during the pursuit, to the hospital. As the Surgeon informed Superman of the officer's prognosis, a nurse informed the doctor that an ambulance had been stolen with a Dr. Vaughn inside. Superman recognized the nurse as Margo Griffiths from Smallville. Even as a young girl Margo wanted to be a nurse.

 In a flashback we saw a party at Margo's home that Clark attneded. Bandar told people's fortunes with the jewel Choe-Tuk, for entertainment purposes only of course. Bandar told Margo she would cease to exist on her 21st birthday. One of his predictions which came true was his prognostication of his own death. Superboy returned the jewel to the idol it was removed from.

After the flashback, Superman stopped the ambulance, captured the crooks and rescued Dr. Vaughn.  Margo and Dr. Vaughn decided to stop putting it off and got married. Bando's prediction came true, as Margo Griffiths ceased to exist and she became Margo Vaughn.

The second story was the ten page The Boy Vandals. It was written by Edmond Hamilton and drawn by Ed Dobrotka. Some boys vandalized the lab of a Metropolis school, and wad discovered by Clark Kent. As Superboy he followed them, and saw them release the brakes on a number of cars. The vehicles rolled into traffic and Superboy had to stop the out of control cars. Superboy moved a warning sign, so that the boys drove into an abandoned town that had been too damaged by an earthquake to be rebuilt. Superboy rescued the boys from harm as they vandalized some buidings that collapsed around them. The boys were captured by a gang who had been using the ghost town as a hideout. The crooks used the boys as hostages, as they used some stolen tanks, from Army surplus, to rob some banks. Superboy converted a locomotive engine into a magnet to capture the tanks. The boys learned their lesson.

The final story of the issue was the twelve page Superboy Meets Mighty Boy, written by William Woolfolk and drawn by George Roussos. Reuben, a farm boy, was recruited by a Mr. Atkins, who was a carnival promoter. Atkins made Reuben into the strongest boy in the world. After spending five minuts in a contraptioned that resembled an old fashioned steam box, Reuben could crush marble. Later, a girl who was tied up and left on a railroad track was saved by Reuben, who stopped an oncoming train. Clark Kent read the headline about Mighty Boy and decided to investigate, as Superboy.

Atkins challenged Superboy to a contest against Mighty Boy, who was Reuben. Mighty Boy won the contest, but then discovered that the whole contest was a hoax. He was then captured by a gang. Superboy discovered the hoax on his own and rescued Mighty Boy from the gang. The crooks, as well as Atkins, are thrown in jail. Reuben's father decided to convert the family farm into a "physical culture school".

Probably the easiest, and cheapest, way to read these first Superboy stories is to buy the hardcover Adventures Of Superboy, first published on August 17, 2010. The cover was drawn by Jack Burnley, and the art style reminds me a lot of artist Darwyn Cooke. It reprints the Superboy stories from More Fun Comics 101 - 107 and Adventure Comics 103 - 121.

Next Episode: for the third annual Superman Halloween story: Superman: War Of The Worlds!

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