Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Classics - Superboy #137

   According to accounts, by the mid-'60s DC's editors couldn't understand why Marvel was so popular, and their own sales were waning.

   I think the best idea was that DC's superheroes were (mostly) involved in stories that were fairy tales, while Marvel was crafting science fiction-based stories (though I'd argue that Stan Lee and company were also making great use of soap opera elements).

   So while the Fantastic Four were fighting space gods, while Thor was fighting the master of evolution, while the Avengers were fighting indestructible robots and futuristic warlords, what was DC doing?

   As Superboy #137 from 1967 shows, they were being silly.

    It features two stories of life in Smallville. The first starts with the Kent family (Ma, Pa and Clark) apparently being killed when their car is swallowed up in an earthquake - all in full view of witnesses.

   Of course, Superboy saves them, but he can't reveal his rescue for fear of revealing his secret identity. So, naturally, they relocate to a new city, where Clark poses as a blind boy, in hopes that no one will suspect his secret identity.

   What follows is the usual attempts to perform rescues without being discovered - and eventually, finding a way to go back to their former life. It's the story equivalent of running in place.

   The second story is even sillier as the Kents find a baby on their doorstep - another orphan from Krypton. But there's a difference, as the baby suddenly ages quickly, becoming a teen, then an adult, and then an old man in short order. Can Clark stop the aging process in time?

   It sounds serious, but the true story behind the baby ends up being, well, goofy.

   If it sounds like I hated this issue, let me assure you, that's not the case at all. The stories may be light and silly, but they're also fun and sweet, and entertaining in a quaint and homey way.

   It's easy to see why this kind of story couldn't stand up to the more dramatic and action-packed tales Marvel was generating, but it's nice to think that there's also room for kindness and a lighthearted touch in comics.

   We could use a little more of that these days.

Grade: B-



Anonymous said...

The first Superboy comic I bought for myself was #119. I was just 10 years old, and that comic book was just about my speed at that age. I looked at Marvel Comics on the stands and was mystified by them. Stories seemed to go on and on and there were a lot of characters to figure out! "Current" Marvel was over my head, until I picked up issues of Marvel Collector's Item Classics and Marvel Tales. Reprinting Marvel Comics from the beginning. Now I could go back and see where these guys started. Only then did I pick up the monthly Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and begin to appreciate how great they were...and how DIFFERENT they were from the DCs I cut my eyeteeth on. In two years I went from Superboy to Spider-Man. It just took some growing up.

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

Sam, I had the same reaction the first time I ran into a "to be continued" issue at Marvel. Distribution was spotty, so there was no guarantee you'd get that next issue. But once I started reading them, I realized they were worth the gamble. Like you, I started out reading DC almost exclusively - they were perfect for young readers.