Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Classics - Superboy #165

From the viewpoint of modern storytelling, I understand why DC had to eliminate the original concept of Superboy.

In his first version the hero was Clark Kent as a teen, fighting crime, intergalactic menaces and the occasional natural disaster while being raised by Ma and Pa Kent on a farm in Smallville.

These were stories I loved as a kid. They were loaded with imagination and affection.

There was nothing realistic about Clark's childhood - he had a secret hideout, robot duplicates, and was continually challenged to protect his secret identity from the detective work by his sorta-girlfriend Lana Lang.

The art was clean and professional, well seated in the classic DC style (which aspired to be Curt Swan, basically).

I always enjoyed these collections - occasional "Giant" issues featuring reprints of old stories. As was typical for DC, no writer or artist credits are provided - heck, they don't even tell us where these stories were originally published. But that doesn't make them any less enjoyable.

This issue (published in 1970) focuses on some of Superboy's "Red Letter" days - adventures that were happy or surprisingly tragic, including Krypto's first appearance on Earth (with a surprising ending), the day Superboy was accidentally trapped in the Phantom Zone, the beginning of the Lana Lang - Lois Lane feud, Superboy's first encounter with kryptonite, and the day Ma and Pa Kent died. (Really!)

There are moments of real joy as Superboy realizes Krypto was his childhood pet on Krypton, and real tragedy as his parents face their final moments. We think of these early tales as being cruder than today's efforts, but they were certainly effective and touching.

DC did away with this version of Superman for the simple reason that there was no way Clark Kent could have a secret identity if he'd been a public hero in the tiny town of Smallville.

Nothing against the new version of the character - a never-aging clone of Superman - because he's had some great adventures during his long career, and the "New 52" version seems to be doing just fine.

But I'll always have a warm spot in my heart for the original "Adventures of Superman as a Boy."

And no, the TV show Smallville doesn't count.

Grade: B+


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