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Author Topic: The importance of Superboy?  (Read 17010 times)
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TELLE
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« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2005, 03:31:23 AM »

Quote from: "forgottenhero"
The main problem with Superboy is this: if Clark/Kal has already been Superboy for several years, it makes the first appearance of Superman very un-dramatic. "Oh, so he's grown up and calls himself 'Superman' now. OK, whatever." It should be "Wow! Who's this flying guy with the cape?"


This is only effective for one issue, after which, everyone says, "Oh yeah, the flying guy with the cape," and it loses whatever novelty it had anyway.
Not to mention when the millions of other superheroes show up: where is his sense of newness or originality then?  Superboy adds to that and makes him different: he was a teenage superman before there were any supermen.  

It is also part of the myth that he goes away for several years (ie, to college to meet Lori Lemaris) before coming back as a grown-up Superman, inviting a sort of surprise and wonder response from the people who missed him or got used to Superboy (or used to thinking of Superboy as eternally young or as an urban legend).
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« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2005, 06:16:32 AM »

Quote from: "TELLE"
Quote from: "forgottenhero"
The main problem with Superboy is this: if Clark/Kal has already been Superboy for several years, it makes the first appearance of Superman very un-dramatic. "Oh, so he's grown up and calls himself 'Superman' now. OK, whatever." It should be "Wow! Who's this flying guy with the cape?"


This is only effective for one issue, after which, everyone says, "Oh yeah, the flying guy with the cape," and it loses whatever novelty it had anyway.
Not to mention when the millions of other superheroes show up: where is his sense of newness or originality then?  Superboy adds to that and makes him different: he was a teenage superman before there were any supermen.  

It is also part of the myth that he goes away for several years (ie, to college to meet Lori Lemaris) before coming back as a grown-up Superman, inviting a sort of surprise and wonder response from the people who missed him or got used to Superboy (or used to thinking of Superboy as eternally young or as an urban legend).


Actually, Superboy kept operating after moving to Metropolis for college, changing his name to Superman sometime in his junior year (with three conflicting accounts of how this happened---an early 60's story involving a lie detector and a professor, an early 70's story involving a social worker, and the 1985 "Superman: the Secret Years" miniseries, after a battle with Luthor and other events [including his relationship with Lori dissolving]).

An 80's story did show that Superboy spent a short period of time (days/weeks?) dropping out of sight from public view after moving to Metropolis (so as not to make the public suspect that Clark and Superboy were one and the same via moving to Metropolis around the same time). An amusing scene has people in Vegas taking bets on which city Superboy moved to (IIRC, Gotham City and Metropolis were even bets, while Miami and New Orleans were long-shot odds...).
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« Reply #18 on: December 04, 2005, 09:57:29 AM »

Please tell me more: I know the 80s story, and the Silver Age lie detector story, but not the other two.  It's going to take some scholarship to finesse this into the Supermanica.
 Cheesy
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« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2005, 07:54:39 PM »

Quote from: "JulianPerez"
Great Rao, you wrote that writer's guide we're talking about. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this.

Julian, thank you for asking.  I probably would not have contributed to this thread if you hadn't.

I compiled that rant a very long time ago and had pretty much completely forgotten about it.  I hadn't looked at it for the last few years until you started this thread, at which point I went back and re-read it.

Quote from: "In my 'Anti-Crisis Rant' I"
Superman was at some point Superboy.  The child is father to the man so for Superman to be the great man beneath the glasses and the timid facade, then he has to have been such a person in his most formative years.

The above paragraph about Superboy was stolen from Maggin.  His full statement was:
Quote from: "Elliot S! Maggin"
In my perception, Superman was at some point Superboy.  Child is father to the man, we all know.  If the character is going to be real, if he is ever going to be the great man beneath the glasses and the timid facade, then he has to have been such a person in his most formative years.  Anyone who remembers his own childhood at all must know this.

As far as I am concerned, Elliot is the guy who literally "wrote the book" when it comes to Superman.  He said the above, so it must be so.  I also happen to agree with it.  Mark Waid did some incredible gymnastics in Birthright to try to get around this and whether or not he pulled it off is up for debate.

My personal take:  I don't think Superboy is absolutely necessary, but I think he's a fantastic bonus.  A Superman who was Superboy can be an "A+" Superman, a complete success.  But a Superman who wasn't a Superboy can never get over "B+" or "A-". Almost perfect.  (Again, see Birthright for the best example to date of how to do this).

Much of the appeal for me with Superboy is nostalgia - "my" Superman (ie, the Bronze Age Superman) came with Superboy, and came with some fantastic Superboy stories.  The lab in the basement, the blinking signal-lamp, the secret tunnel, etc - what kid wouldn't love having any of those things?  Before I even read comic books, I had my own lab in my basement.  It's just a really cool idea.

The existence of Lana Lang and Pete Ross makes absolutely no sense without the existence of Superboy.  They serve no purpose without him and the fact that they still exist in the DCU is a result of Superboy's continuing influence, is spite of the fact that he's been erased from current continuity.

Superboy's legacy is an inseperable part of the legacy and mythology of Superman that flows throughout the Bronze Age future-history.  I love all that stuff - the tie-in with the Legion - that he inspired them, and that they in turn inspired him; Maggin's "Miracle Monday" holiday; Superman's (and Superboy's) exploits being studied and debated by future historians, galactic renown, the legends through the ages evolving into mythology, Superman's ultimate destiny as the ultimate force in the Universe, etc.

I think that many of the questions that people are asking in this thread - did other young heroes-to-be know about Superboy (of course they did - he is who inspired them!), why were there so many super-villains in Smallville, etc - are dealt with pretty will in the Sam Hawkins stories.  In particular, check out the last chapter of  Tomorrow's Lesson and all of Strange Visitor.

By removing Superboy, the sheer power of Superman's legacy is diminished.  Look at all the heroes of our legends, myths, and religions:  Hercules, Buddha, Jesus, The Muppets, etc - all of them had their first appearances as adults, and then, over time, additions about their "super-powered" childhood were inserted back into the stories.  It's a necessary part of the pattern.

Yet I really like the Golden Age approach of Superman not existing in any form until the adult Superman shows up on the scene.  Those stories are extremely powerful, primal stuff and are the character's perfect first appearance.

I think that it's possible to do both - to have your cake and eat it, too - which I'll get to in a bit.  First, I want to talk about an important distinction that hasn't been made in this thread yet:


Look at the expression on that baby's face.  That's Superman, right there!  Elliot's words can apply here just as much, if not more-so, as they do with Superboy.

One of my biggest complaints about the 1986 Superman reboot is that not only did DC do away with Superboy, they also did away with a super-powered boy or teen in any form.  The 1986 Clark Kent in the "Man of Steel" mini-series didn't get any powers at all until high school or college or somesuch thing.

But contrary to their claims of "returning to Siegel and Shuster," in actual fact it had never been like that.  Even before Superboy existed, the baby Clark always had super-powers.  Even in the first Siegel and Shuster origin.  As a boy and as a teen, up until 1986, Superboy or no Superboy, the young Clark Kent was using his powers.  It's in the George Reeves pilot, it's in the Kirk Alyn serial, it's in the comics, in the Christopher Reeve movie, it's everywhere and it's fantastic.  I believe that when DC removed this one aspect of Superman's origin, they completely emasculated him.  This was the fatal poison in the root that, either directly or indirectly, led to all the other major flaws in the Iron Age character.

One of the best changes that DC has made in the last few years, back when they were still trying to "evolve" Byrne's origin instead of just tossing it away outright, was to give the young Clark powers again.  Now, with Birthright as the canonical origin (at least, until this Wednesday),  there is no debate: There was a young Clark, with super-powers, lifting up that tractor, being a Superboy in everything but name (and costume).

This is a very faithful return to Superman's many and varied roots, I think.

So should there be a "Superboy"?  I'd love it if there were, but I don't feel as strongly about the name and costume as I used to.  However, I think it absolutely mandatory that Clark was a super-powered youth, whether or not he had that costume yet.  So right now, there was a superboy, he just wasn't called that.

As a footnote, I've mentioned this before elsewhere in this forum, and I'll mention it again here - this is one possible way to have your cake and eat it too - a re-introduction of Superboy where there isn't one:

The Legion of Super-Heroes comes back in time to 21st century Smallville, meets the young super-powered Clark Kent, brings him back with them to the 31st century.  In order to join their club, he wears the Superboy costume and takes the name.  So the 31st century, the Legion, Clark Kent, and us, all get Superboy.  This is where he practices and learns.

When Clark comes back to the 21st century, he never uses the costume or the name.  Like the existence of his powers, the existence of this "after-school club" is one of his secrets that he shares with no one except his parents.  But he alone knows first hand the grandeur of which the human race is capable, because he has seen it.

Then, after he's grown to adult-hood and made that mandatory death-bed (or graveyard) vow to his father, he makes his first public appearance (in our time) as Superman, to help lead us toward that future.


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« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2005, 07:54:39 PM »

Quote from: "TELLE"
Please tell me more: I know the 80s story, and the Silver Age lie detector story, but not the other two.  It's going to take some scholarship to finesse this into the Supermanica.
 Cheesy


The 1970 story appeared in Action Comics #393 (written by Leo Dorfman), and was called "The Day Superboy Became Superman!" It involved something about a social worker Superboy had met while at Metropolis University, who was urging him to become more socially aware (who urges him to "stop thinking like a Superboy and start thinking like a Super*man*", I think one line goes...). He changes his name at some point after she dies during a building collapse...

The 1985 four-issue miniseries "Superman: The secret Years" involved Superboy's junior year of college, including his relationship with Lori Lemaris, Clark's roommates (from the earlier "In-Between Years" series), and Luthor finally becoming an adult criminal. Art by Curt Swan, with inking by Kurt Schaffenberger (and written by Bob Rozakis). After a final major battle against Luthor, Superboy (after all he went through in the miniseries, which took place over the course of months, if not a year) decides it's time he called himself "Superman".

The editor's comments page in the "Secret Years" has Rozakis acknowledge the earlier lie detector/social worker stories of how Supes changed his name (with example panels reprinted from both), but says his story explicitly ignores both those stories (he regarded the lie detector one as just another "secret identity covering tale"). Rozakis' story also shows how Perry White finally becoming editor of the "Daily Planet" (the Earth-One George Taylor, previously seen in the story of Superboy's first day in Metropolis, is shown as retiring from editing the "Planet")... which earlier stories seem iffy on when that happened IIRC (perhaps he was really an *assistant* editor here, while still doing reporting duties...).

Re: trying to make them all fit together: Maybe all three stories happen concurrently, and by the time he fights Luthor (which takes place during summer vacation from Metro U.), he's ready to finally affirm publically *and* to himself (after mulling it over during the lie detector test) that he *should* be calling himself "Superman"?
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« Reply #21 on: December 05, 2005, 01:05:11 AM »

I like the idea of infant Kal-El gradually becoming more "super" as he grew  older, and starting out somewhat "super" to begin with, just enough so you'd barely believe that it _was_ possible for the Kents to raise him.  

I never liked Superboy because he tended to suffer from "idiot boy scout" syndrome even more often than Superman did.  I think I identified more with Luthor than Superboy in many of those stories.  It was easier for me to think of him as this totally separate character from Superman since he was often in the future and a totally different setting with the Legion which I liked more despite Superboy than because of Superboy.  For every one good Superboy story, there were tons of crappy ones, IMO.

Perhaps I'm sounding like I woke up on the wrong side of the couch (bronchitis -- bleah) so I'll shut up now.
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« Reply #22 on: December 05, 2005, 01:18:09 AM »

Quote from: "TELLE"

This is only effective for one issue


One rather important issue, no?

The only way to get around it is that there be a gap of several years between the last appearance of Superboy and the first appearance of Superman. DC never depicted it that way; in the Rosakis version, like the earlier versions, there's no gap at all.
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« Reply #23 on: December 05, 2005, 01:35:34 AM »

Quote
This is only effective for one issue, after which, everyone says, "Oh yeah, the flying guy with the cape," and it loses whatever novelty it had anyway.


Not necessarily.  It seems to me the citizens of Metropolis are pretty easily impressed and desperate for excitement of any kind.  Don't forget this city is home to a guy who actually pointed to the sky and yelled, with gob-smacked astonishment, "IT's A BIRD!!!!!!"

I tend to agree with Rao (as I often do): Superboy isn't essential to telling a good Superman story (I love the old TV show, and there was no Superboy there), but he sure is a wonderful addition to the mythos.  And removing him from continuity (1) left a hole which no new concept has come close to filling and (2) caused all sorts of problems for continuity throughout the DCU.  

I always looked up to and respected Superman, but I wanted to *live* in Smallville with Clark and Lana.  Well okay, maybe just with Lana.  Who needs the competition?
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