Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Superboy (1960 - 1964: the Silver Age)


By Deejay Dayton
May 28, 2017 - 22:08

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Like Superman, the Superboy series during the period 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age was rife with developments. We learned far more about Krypton, and the Phantom Zone projector made its debut in the Superboy series, as did the villains Jax-Ur, Dr. Xadu and General Zod. The Legion of Super-Heroes would be frequent guest stars before graduating into their own series, the success of which pushed Superboy out of his long running spot in Adventure Comics.

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Superboy’s origin gets retold with an emphasis on Krypto in Superboy 79. This is the first story in which Superboy makes use of a Mind Prober Ray that he has created, which allows him to recall subconscious memories of his very early life on Krypton.

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We see Jor-El use the dog in a test rocket, which malfunctions, leaving the dog floating in space.  Kal-El is upset, and Lara is furious with her husband for callously using her son's pet this way.  She storms out, heading to her mother's, although the woman is not at home. So Lara takes baby Kal to a museum, where there is an exhibit on Earth.  In one of those touches that never entertains me, there are models of Ma and Pa Kent, and rocket tubes that enable Kal to fly, so there is a sequence paralleling his future life.  There is also a chronological error, as the Kent General Store is seen, even though they did not buy the store until Clark was a year old.

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A celebration of Krypton's birthday makes Lara realize her son will not live to see his first birthday unless Jor-El perfects his rocket, and she returns to her husband.  Even Krypto gets returned to Krypton at the end of the story, which is sort of odd.  It means that Jor-El had to have fired the dog off in yet another rocket before the explosion of the planet.

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Superboy uses his Mind Prober Ray again in Superboy 87 and recalls a visit to the Scarlet Jungle on Krypton.  Jor-El has tried to create a teleportation machine, and though it backfires when he experiments with it, it works well enough to send baby Kal-El to the jungle. There are a number of strange Kryptonian animals that Kal interacts with during the course of the story, but the most notable is the Thought Beast.  The creature has a sort of tv screen on its head, conveying whatever it is thinking about.  Nothing really dramatic happens.  Kal gets teleported back, and Jor-El remains oblivious to the entire event.

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One of the Thought Beasts from Krypton's Scarlet Jungle winds up on Earth in Superboy 102, having somehow survived the planet's destruction, and expose to the void of space. Superboy does what he can to try to capture the creature, who he feels sorry for.  This doesn't stop him from trying to kill it with kryptonite, but he is hesitant to turn the thing over to an alien zoo.  You might have thought it would be the other way around.

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In the end, he lures the Thought Beast to an alien world with a landscape he has fashioned to resemble the Scarlet Jungle, by wearing a screen on his head painted with a picture of it, making the Thought Beast believe he is one of the same animals.

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In Adventure Comics 313, after giving Pa Kent a Father’s Day present, Clark uses his trusty mind-probe machine to remember how the day was celebrated on Krypton. We get to see Jor-El taking baby Kal to the family tomb, with its row of statues commemorating great heroes of the El family.   Superboy seeks out the statue and in space, and wouldn’t you know it, finds it intact and floating around, along with a box of curious objects. It’s much more of a challenge to approach the poisonous statuary group than to figure out the purpose of the objects, which clearly fit into the hands of the statues.

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Superboy succeeds by covering the whole thing with lead, and we (and he) learn that the El family included a great explorer, inventors, the writer of Krypton’s constitution and a renowned architect. This statue group would appear occasionally, as would some of the men pictured.  Primarily, it would be the basis for part of the Krypton Chronicles mini-series.

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Lana Lang would appear in most of Superboy’s adventures. In Superboy 87 we find out how Lana Lang first came to suspect Clark Kent was Superboy.  As with Lana's debut story, but now in contradiction to many of her other appearances, this story has Lana and her family moving to Smallville when she was high school age. The story is largely told in a flashback, while in the present Lana is at a party at the Kent home, and in danger of opening the closet in which Superboy keeps his robots.  While Ma and Pa Kent worry about this, Clark reminisces on how Lana first started suspecting his identity, which began because Clark had no dental records, having invulnerable teeth and all. Much of this stays along the medical line, with Clark having to fake getting a tooth pulled right in front of Lana, and creates the illusion of having a vaccination scar.  A degree of action is added during a school ski trip, when Clark creates a snowman and puts his costume on it, using super-ventriloquism to make it seem like he and Superboy are in view at the same time, and then throws snowballs at super-speed to make the snowman take flight. Not a great one.

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Lana Lang learns of the existence of Lois Lane in Superboy 90. Lana is cleaning her father's lab, when she comes across a time viewer.  She sees the future of Superman, and his romance with Lois Lane.  Jealous, she decides to hunt down young Lois, and prevent her from ever meeting Superman. It would be kind of cool if Lana was trying to kill Lois or something, but instead she just wants to ruin her plans to become a journalist.  She tries messing with her report for a school paper, but that backfires, thanks to Superboy, although the hero is completely unaware of the effects of his actions. 

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He also scuppers Lana's plan to make Lois believe she has innate knowledge of animals, to lead her into a different career. Krypto ruins Lana's final plan, to make Lois think she has talent as a sculptor.  It's really a very silly story, weakened by the fact that Superboy is oblivious to it all.  As well, it's not like the story reaches a conclusion, it just sort of ends.  Lana still wants to ruin Lois' future plans.

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Lana Lang runs afoul of her father in Superboy 93. This story is, as one might expect, all about Lana Lang trying to confirm her suspicions that Clark Kent is Superboy.  Apparently her father has never known that she was trying to do this.  He finds out in this story, and is furious, insisting that her actions are likely to cause problems for the hero. 

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He almost spanks her, before deciding that she is too old for that, but does take away her record collection, bar her from between-meal snacks, and refuse to allow her to go out on dates.  He's a real tyrant. Not that his actions have any effect anyway.  Lana puts together a special kit to help her.  Lana believes that she has definite proof when she spots Clark Kent enter a cave, and Superboy fly out of it.  But when she confronts Clark, she finds Superboy there as well. 

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Certain that this must be a robot or an impersonator, she uses all the tricks in her kit, but fails completely. At the end, the reader discovers that it was Chameleon Boy, from the Legion of Super-Heroes, who came back in time and made himself look like Clark, in order to outwit Lana.

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Superboy 86 features the introduction of Pete Ross. It’s about time Clark Kent got a best friend, but is Pete Ross really on the up and up? Newly moved to Smallville, Pete is eager to make friends with Clark Kent, and goes about it very aggressively, even inviting himself over to the Kent house for dinner without asking Clark first. He does invite Clark over to his home, where he shows off his two major interests: theatre, and detective work. Pete then spends a lot of time taking Clark's measurements, fingerprints and such, while at the same time gleaning the similar information about Superboy. 

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Clark becomes very suspicious, convinced that Pete is looking for proof of his secret identity. But it all turns out far more innocent than that.  Although Pete does notice the vast amount of similarities between Clark and Superboy, he only views these as reasons that Clark should play the role of Superboy in the school play that he is creating.  And he gives Clark a framed blow-up of his fingerprint, which makes sense to the guy.  It's kind of ironic that Pete, who would later be defined by his knowledge of Superboy's identity, is connected to that secret, but so totally oblivious, in his first outing.

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In Superboy 90 Pete continues to try to be Clark's friend, but Clark feels that having Pete around will hamper him as Superboy. Pete ropes Clark Kent into a campout.  The night is rainy and stormy, and some animals break free from a zoo.  Clark stupidly decides to change into Superboy while still in the tent, and a flash of lightning reveals to Pete Superboy's secret. Pete keeps quiet about what he has seen, but begins following Superboy.  He finds the secret underground entrance to the Kent house, and the Superboy robots.  Pete proves himself a better friend than Clark could hope for, not only keeping the hero's secret, but also making a Superboy outfit for himself, to aid the hero if he ever needs it. Turns out that he needs it within a couple more pages.  Superboy sends one of his robots after some bank robbers, in order to protect his identity.  The robot gets messed up because of the magnetism of the rocks in the mine the thieves are hiding in. 

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Pete disguises himself as Superboy, and even manages to fake his powers, enough that the crooks give themselves up.  Superboy believes that his robot succeeded in his task, and is completely unaware that Pete knows his identity. It would be well over a decade before Superboy (actually Superman) finds out that Pete has known and kept his secret all this time, and his faithfulness in doing so would win Pete Ross honourary membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes.

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Krypto falls in love with an alien dog in Superboy 87. While romping around in space, Krypto finds Kolli, shot into space in a rocket by one of two warring alien races.  It's love at first sight, and Krypto frees Kolli from the test ship. He brings her to a pond, where the waters will endow her with super-powers, so that they can play in space together. 

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Kolli does gain super-powers, but also acquires the affect of draining Krypto's, so that when he is near her, he is reduced to being a normal dog.  It's almost like an O. Henry tale. The conclusion insists that Kolli will return, after the two are forced to go their separate ways, but she never did.

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Superboy rescues a dog named Swifty from an abusive master in Superboy 105, and takes a liking to the mutt, who shows himself to be very smart for a dog.  Superboy decides to give Swifty a potion that will endow him with super-powers.  Krypto watches all of this, and gets increasingly jealous. Feeling unloved, Krypto heads into space to find some other master.  He finds some human looking children, but they are terrified of him and throw rocks.  Krypto discovers that this is a planet where the people are the pets of giant dogs. Krypto returns to Earth just as Swifty's powers wear off, and to his credit, he comes to the other dog's aid. 

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Then he finds out that Superboy had intended Swifty to be a playmate for Krypto, and someone who could potentially rescue him from kryptonite, not a replacement at all. I most enjoy the final panel of the story, where Clark walks past Swifty, and ascribes the dog intelligence enough to pretend that he does not recognize Clark.

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Swifty makes his second and last appearance in issue 109. I made fun of the final panel in the first Swifty story, and Clark assuming that the dog was ignoring him to keep his identity secret, but as this story begins we find out that Swifty really was doing that. But this time a handful of Phantom Zone villains, including Jax-Ur and General Zod, get involved in the situation.  They try to use the limited degree of telepathic powers that being in the Phantom Zone endow them to control Superboy and Krypto, but fail.  Then they turn their attention to Swifty, and succeed.  They get the dog to create a formula that gives him powers, but turns him evil.  But they get Swifty to play nice, to prevent Superboy from getting suspicious. Superboy brings both Swifty and Krypto to an alien planet, in order to bring peace to their world, and Swifty outdoes Krypto every step of the way. So then Superboy brings Swifty to his pre-Fortress of Solitude, where he keeps his dangerous weapons, and robots of his friends Pete Ross and Lana Lang. 

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At this point the Phantom Zone criminals get Swifty to go into action to kill Superboy and Krypto.  A Bizarro Swifty even gets made.  The Bizarro Swifty is as good as the real Swifty is evil, and saves both Superboy and Krypto from the kryptonite trap the dog has set on them.  Superboy creates an antidote for Swifty, which removes his powers, and also creates a special collar for the dog, to prevent the Phantom Zone villains from controlling his mind again. But clearly all is not entirely forgiven, as we never see Swifty again.

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Supergirl appeared in two Superboy tales during these years.  The first, in Superboy 80, begins in the present, as Supergirl and Superman discuss how he had no super powered friends to play with when he was young.  Supergirl decides to time travel back to Smallville, and introduces herself to Superboy, explaining her origin and her relationship to her cousin. Then they just goof around for a while, playing in outer space. 

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It's a light piece, but frankly would not have been improved by adding villains or aliens or such into the mix. At the end, Supergirl becomes concerned that Superboy might inadvertently reveal her existence.  This tale takes place before Supergirl's identity was public knowledge, back when she was still a resident of Midvale Orphanage.  Superboy agrees with Supergirl's request that he travel to an alien world and inhale the fumes of a plant that will cause him to forget he ever met her.

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Supergirl’s second outing deals with the fact that she was forbidden by Superman to use her powers publicly.  He was afraid she would give away her identity, or his.  Determined to prove herself, Linda travels back in time and heads to Smallville in Adventure 278. She reveals her identity to Ma and Pa Kent, and enlists their aid in attempting to fool Clark, figuring that if she can conceal it from Superboy, Superman will have to agree she has proved herself. She does a pretty good job of it, and succeeds in fooling Superboy the first time they meet. 

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It’s pesky Lana Lang that has the suspicions, but a little aid from Krypto and Ma Kent helps Linda con her as well. Supergirl figures she has it all down pat, but I guess this makes her less cautious, and she makes a completely stupid mistake. Distressed, she heads back to her own time, concluding that she is not “ready” to be adopted.  Which is kind of awful.

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Superboy meets Lori Lemaris, the mermaid Clark would meet and fall in love with at university, in a continuity challenging tale in Adventure Comics 280. The story isn’t even very kind to her.  She is introduced as a compulsive liar, who flees Atlantis when her father tries to punish her.  When she meets Superboy, she starts in again, trying to convince him she is 2,000 years old. Although Superboy exposes her lies, he also offers to help her be able to live on land, and takes her back to Smallville, putting her in a tank while his process works. Lana Lang discovers Lori, and is consumed by jealousy, but this plotline is really to the side of the story. 

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In the end, it turns out the tank was not helping her live on land, but performing some kind of mind control that renders Lori incapable of learning. The story concludes with Lori’s father wiping everyone’s memories of the events, except, sadly, the reader. But none of that is really the most significant thing in this tale. For a while now there have been two contradictory Atlantises in the DC Universe.  The city Lori comes from, where everyone has fish tails, and the city Aquaman comes from, where they have legs. This story was the first to explain that these are two separate cities of the realm of Atlantis. 

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Because his attempts at turning young Oliver Queen into Green Arrow were such a rousing failure, Superboy decides to do it again in Adventure 275, after seeing himself working with the adult Batman in the future.  He recalls his meeting with Robin, and then who should show up to start school in Smallville but young Bruce Wayne? Bruce is immediately smitten with Lana Lang, who decides to use him as a pawn, agreeing to go to a dance with him if he can figure out Superboy’s identity. Bruce starts wearing an awful looking mask and cape, calling himself the Flying Fox, and starts aiding Superboy in his crime fighting, while all the time working to deduce his identity.

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Together they catch a few crooks, and Bruce comes to admire the hero, so much so that even though he proves Superboy is really Clark Kent, he reveals this only to Clark, keeping Lana in the dark. Superboy, in turn, shows Bruce the time viewer, and his future identity as Batman.  No need now for any bat to fly through a window! In a desperate attempt to keep continuity intact, Bruce requests to have his memory wiped of this. And you know, I kind of wish I had that machine to use on myself after reading this story.  It does, however, remain canon, and is referenced in an issue of World’s Finest.

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I already mentioned a story in which Chameleon Boy appeared, and quite a few members of the Legion of Super-Heroes would pop up in Superboy stories from this era, a number of them making their debuts.

The Superboy story in Adventure 282 is a re-write of the earlier story about Marsboy, in which Lana blackmailed him into wooing her, in order to make Superboy jealous.  Though the title proclaims that the story is about Lana and the Legion of Super-Heroes, a few of the team appear in one panel, but otherwise it’s exclusively about Lana and Star Boy. Aside from replacing Marsboy with Star Boy, little else was changed. 

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Even the scene of him making Lana a new dress is intact, as is the unattractive helmet Superboy makes for Lana to wear on the alien world. Star Boy’s origin, therefore, is basically identical to Marsboy – exposure to a comet which results in Superboy-like powers. It seems as if the writers completely forgot about Star Boy after this tale.  It would be three years before he appeared again, well into the Legion’s own series.  And though he remained Thom Kallor of Xanthu, his powers and origin would be completely different.  It would be a number of years more before the discrepancies were harmonized. Xanthu is the first home world of a Legionnaire to be shown in the comics.

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Mon-El makes his debut in Superboy 89, a story based on "Superman's Big Brother," which had appeared in Superman's own book in the early 50s. In this tale, Mon-El's rocket crashes on Earth, and the hero is found unconscious by Superboy.  There is a note next to him, written by Jor-El, which refers to sending his son to Earth.  Mon-El wakes with no memory, and Superboy makes a huge manner of leaps of logic, insisting that Mon-El must be his older brother, sent by their father, but only arriving on Earth now.  As the guy has no idea what his name is, Superboy gives him the last name of El, and the first name of Mon, because he landed on Earth on a Monday. Mon-El does have the same powers as Superboy, but is far from certain that all of Superboy's suppositions are correct.  He wonders how he could have landed on Earth so much later than Superboy, but Superboy already has another wild explanation for that, involving Jor-El creating a faster rocket for him, after sending off Mon-El. So happy is Clark to have an older brother, that he brings him to the Kent home, and they create an identity for him, Bob Cobb, a travelling salesman.

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But then, Superboy notices that the metal that Mon-El's belt buckle is made from is of an element not found on Earth or Krypton.  Moreover, Krypto does not recognize the guy.  As final proof, Clark exposes a sleeping Mon-El to kryptonite, which has no effect.  Clark then gets furious, certain that Mon-El has been lying to him. Now, let's see if this makes sense.  It was Superboy who made all the assumptions, and convinced a doubtful Mon-El that he was his Kryptonian brother.  But when he finds out he was wrong, Superboy blames Mon-El for lying.  Yup, makes perfect sense, doesn't it? The next day, as Bob Cobb, Mon-El is nice to Lana, selling her a hairbrush for cheaper than he ought to.  This is seen by Superboy as just more of his evil and cunning manipulations. So Superboy creates a fake kryptonite meteor shower to expose Mon-El.  The meteors are really lead, and when Mon-El collapses, Superboy triumphantly announces that he has exposed Mon-El's devious lies. Except he is completely wrong. 

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The lead is toxic to Mon-El, but the shock restores his memory.  He explains that he is from the planet Daxam, and landed on Krypton when his rocket had engine troubles.  He met Jor-El and Lara there, and Jor helped him with his craft, and gave him the note with directions to Earth.  Lead is fatal to Daxamites, even moreso than kryptonite to Superboy. At least Superboy feels really guilty about what he has done.  As he cannot cure Mon-El, he sends him into the Phantom Zone, so that he can stay alive, if immaterial. Mon-El will spend over a thousand years in the Phantom Zone, before being released in a Legion of Super-Heroes tale. 

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There is an awful lot of deception going on in Adventure 290.  Tom Tanner, who happens to look identical to Clark Kent, escapes from a reform school and just happens to wind up in Smallville, where everyone, including Ma and Pa Kent, assume he is Clark. So he steps into Clark’s life while Superboy meets Sun Boy just outside of town. Sun Boy had appeared as a Legion applicant in a recent appearance of the team, in which Supergirl was recruited (Action 276), and is revealed to be a member now.   His origin is told in brief, gaining his powers though an accident in his father’s lab.  At this point Sun Boy’s powers are limited to emitting light. He sends Superboy off to gather sealed containers, the contents of which will build a weapon, and Superboy goes.  But this is not the real Sun Boy, simply an imposter.  So we have two phonies in this story!

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Of the two, Tom is having the more impressive time, passing one of Lana’s tests to prove Clark is Superboy, and also making Clark look much tougher at school. Sun Boy builds his silly looking killer robot, but fails in his plans, because Superboy knew all along he was a fake.  Why?  Because he did not use the secret Legion handshake.  There never had been a secret Legion handshake before this story, and never would be again. There’s some stuff with Tom that is too complex and contrived to bother explaining, but he becomes a good person and goes off to live his life, and is never heard from again.  Nor is the Sun Boy imposter.  Of all the Legion stories that pre-date their series, I think this is the one I like least.

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Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl show up in Smallville and try to trick Superboy into freeing General Zod and Jax-Ur from the Phantom Zone in Adventure Comics 293.  Mon-El, still a resident of the Zone at this time, warns Superboy.  The Legionnaires then attack Superboy, and are revealed to be under the mental control of the Brain-Globes of Rambat. When they notice that Krypto is not vulnerable to the Brain-Globes powers, the team decides to form a battle squad of animals, and zip through time, recruiting Streaky the Super-Cat, Beppo the Super-Monkey and a Super-Horse.  This is Comet, making his first appearance. 

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He is introduced as an animal that will soon become Supergirl’s pet. The animals defeat the Brain-Globes, who flee, and are never heard from again.  Saturn Girl rewards them by officially creating the Legion of Super-Pets as an auxiliary unit of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

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My favourite Legionnaire, Ultra Boy, makes his debut in Superboy 98. He is shown to have Penetra-Vision in this story, but that is the only power referred to.  Penetra-Vision is said to be much like x-ray vision, except it works through lead as well.  But we see that it also functions like heat vision.  In many Superman stories, his heat vision is called x-ray vision, so that is likely the basis of the blending. Ultra Boy is on a mission to determine Superboy’s secret identity, and the first peron he suspects is Pete Ross. After causing a landslide in order to make Pete turn into Superboy, Ultra Boy sees the actual Superboy go into action, and interact with Pete Ross, and realizes he has made a mistake.

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Continuing his quest, Ultra Boy does spot Superboy's costume beneath Clark Kent's clothing, but also alerts Clark, who uses his x-ray vision to see that "Gary Crane" is wearing a costume beneath his clothes as well.  Superboy then thinks Ultra Boy is a villain in disguise, but when he comes to the aid of Pete Ross, locked in a lead vault, and saves his life, Superboy realizes Ultra Boy is on the up and up. Towards the end of the story, all becomes clear. 

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Ultra Boy is Jo Nah from the planet Rimbor, who gained his powers after being swallowed by a space whale.  His secret mission was part of his initiation into the Legion of Super-Heroes.  In his later Legion appearances, Ultra Boy's powers would be boosted hugely.  Instead of just Penetra-Vision, he would be ascribed to be imbued with "ultra-energy" which he can channel into having any one of Superman's powers at a time. Marla Latham is explained as the Legion's adult advisor.  He would not appear again for nearly a decade, and later continuity would make him an aide of R.J. Brande.  Ultra Boy also discovers that Pete Ross knows Superboy's secret identity, and for his ability to keep a secret, Marla presents Pete with a coin that will allow him to take part in a Legion meeting in the future. One other thing to note about this tale.  Ultra Boy's hair, which really doesn't look unusual to us, was notably long for 1962.  This was done to make him look more potentially a villain, but the style would be kept in later Legion stories.  Eventually, this would be the basis for his backstory of having a shady past and gang affiliations on Rimbor.

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Pete Ross has impersonated Superboy a couple of times, and now impersonates a Superboy robot in Superboy 100.  This time, though, it's because of Pete's own actions.  While Superboy is off in the future with the Legion of Super-Heroes, Pete sneaks back into the hero's lab, and winds up breaking his emergency robot.  When an emergency arises, he steals a flight belt, and goes into action as the robot. This proves a little more difficult than his impersonations of Superboy, as the police chief knows he ought to be dealing with one of the robots, and Pete has to hide all emotions and reactions, while still faking the super-powers. 

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Pete desperately tries to repair the real robot, but cannot. But that's ok.  Turns out the Legion were monitoring him from the future, and Ultra Boy comes back in time to fix the robot, and help Pete get away with his impersonation.

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Superboy’s final outing in Adventure comes in issue 315. The Legion of Super-Heroes had earned a series in that book which went from being the back-up to the lead, and then shoved Superboy out completely. Superboy uses a piece of red kryptonite he was previously exposed to in order to stop a cyclotron exploding, but that causes it to be able to affect him again.  Though while the red k originally shrunk him, this time it makes him gigantic. Primarily, this is a goofy little story, played for laughs with the giant Superboy. 

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Lana Lang tries to use the situation to prove the missing Clark Kent is really the giant Superboy, but Colossal Boy helps him cover his identity.  After the red k wears off, Clark appears before Lana while a disguised Colossal Boy holds up a collapsing bridge.

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An adult version of Lex Luthor had already appeared in the Superboy series, in his team up with Robin. The story in Adventure 271 ignores that, and details the first meeting between Lex and Clark, and the origin of Luthor’s hatred for Superboy.  Interestingly, the story was penned by Jerry Siegel, who had created Luthor so many years earlier. Superboy seeks out the newcomer to Smallville, but just as they meet a big kryptonite meteor falls to the ground.  Quick thinking Lex bulldozes it away, and the two become fast friends. Even as a child, Lex is a scientific genius, and is working on creating protoplasmic life.   He also develops a kryptonite antidote, but accidentally starts a fire in his lab.  Superboy extinguishes the blaze with super-breath, but accidentally destroys the life form Lex had created, and the fumes cause his hair to fall out. Still, this does not push Lex into a life of crime right away.  In fact, he spends much of the rest of the story doing good deeds, trying to become more beloved than Superboy. 

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Unfortunately, his inventions to provide year round heat and fast growing plants both backfire dramatically, and Superboy has to destroy them to save the town.  Lex winds up hated by everyone in Smallville, and blames Superboy for this as well. At the end, he attempts to kill Superboy with the kryptonite meteor that he retrieved, and taunts him with the remains of the antidote formula.  It’s super-breath to the rescue again!  Still feeling bad for Lex, Superboy does not take him to prison, but the basis for their eternal feud has been laid. This story would remain the origin of Luthor’s hatred for Superboy until the complete revision of the Superman legend in the post-Crisis universe, and young Lex would quickly become a regular character in the Superboy series.

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In Superboy 85 the hero travels back in time to try to prevent Abraham Lincoln's assassination. By pure fluke, he runs into an adult Lex Luthor, who had travelled back in time to hide from Superman.  Luthor believes that Superboy has come back in time to retrieve him, and uses red kryptonite to paralyze him, before Superboy can explain his actual mission.  Luthor then spends much of the story bragging about his genius, while we also follow Lincoln on his fateful last day.

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Only when the news comes about Lincoln being killed does Luthor realize that Superboy's time trip had nothing to do with him.  Luthor is consumed by guilt, which is rare for the villain, and flees, leaving Superboy to wait until the red kryptonite wears off, and then head back to his own time.

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Lex Luthor discovers the existence of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Superboy 86. Luthor creates a device that allows him to control kryptonite telepathically.  He takes advantage of a lead column on an asteroid that he has lured Superboy to, to gather and assemble the kryptonite into roughly human form without the hero being aware.  Then he uses his kryptonite army to pummel Superboy.  Things do not look good for the hero at all. The story makes the worst use of Lana Lang I have ever seen.  For no particular reason, she sneaks in to Lex's lab, and just randomly decides to pull a lever that cuts off the power to Lex's deep space viewer, preventing him from seeing the climax of the battle between his army and Superboy.

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Lex assumes that Superboy must have died, but in fact the Legion of Super-Heroes, who have appeared in a few Superboy tales to this point, were watching him from the future.  Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl stay in the future, but Lightning Lad comes to the present to destroy the kryptonite men, as well as Lex's machine.  Luthor does learn of the Legion's existence, and theorizes that there must be a Legion of Super-Villains as well, which sets up the introduction of that group.

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Lex Luthor gets a super-dog of his very own in Superboy 92. Luthor creates a machine that will give him super-powers, but his dog gets in the way, and receives the powers instead. Luthor is only briefly upset by this development, and decides to train his dog, Destructo, to impersonate Krypto, framing him for crimes, which works well enough that the people of Smallville turn against Superboy's dog. Krypto is none too pleased with being framed, and hunts out Destructo, and the two dogs battle.  We get to read both animals' thoughts, so neither Superboy nor Luthor is needed for these scenes. Luthor does play a part in the big ending, building a machine that steals Krypto's powers and gives them to Destructo, making him twice as powerful as he was.  But that does not stop the super-dog, as he goes to get some kryptonite, which he is now not harmed by. 

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Krypto correctly assumes that, being doubly powerful, Destructo will also be doubly vulnerable to kryptonite. Luthor, in order to save his dog, reverses the machine, even though that gives Krypto back his powers.  Superboy shows up at the very end, using the machine to strip Destructo of his powers permanently.  Except for the quick ending, I enjoy this story, and wish Destructo had made a return appearance.

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In Superboy 96 the hero comes to visit a reform school to entertain the inmates, and Lex Luthor gets the his unwitting help in creating his new device to attack him.  Despite being the root of all the problems in this story, Luthor remains imprisoned throughout the tale. He fires his ray gun at Superboy, intending to kill him, but actually winds up transferring Superboy's powers to Pete Ross. The pair discover the switch, which surprises both of them.  Pete zooms off into the secret passage into the Kent house, and grabs one of Superboy's spare costumes. 

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For the bulk of the tale, Pete acts as Superboy, as Clark grows increasingly bitter, and then suspicious, thinking that Pete is out to get him. It starts when Pete accidentally hits Clark in the head with a baseball, which Clark thinks was done intentionally.  Lana Lang gets a small role, but her latest attempts to prove Clark is Superboy fail, because Clark is no longer invulnerable. Many of the actions which Clark believes indicate that Pete has turned evil and is out to get him are explained at the end, when Pete reveals that he saw a future newspaper saying Luthor had destroyed Superboy, and intended to stand in for the hero and sacrifice himself.  In fact, the newspaper was talking about a statue.  It's a bit of a let down for the conclusion, which sees the effect of the machine wear off, and Superboy's powers restored.  But the first two thirds of the tale are fun.

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Superboy 106 pits Brainiac against Superbaby. It turns out that Brainiac's men kidnapped the infant Kal-El from Krypton, and brought him to a planet with a yellow sun, which was a particularly bad move, as it resulted in the child gaining powers. It's really a pretty silly story, and does nothing to make Brainiac look like a competent villain.  Superbaby causes all manner of havoc, and Brainiac simply decides to send him back home to Krypton.

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The young Mr. Mxyzptlk appears in Adventure in issue 306. Bored of school in the 5th Dimension, he heads to Smallville where he tricks Lana Lang, and then Superboy, into heading to his dimension while he runs wild in their hometown.

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It’s a fun little tale, which gives the reader more of a view of the 5th Dimension world than is generally seen, and puts the normally manipulative Lana in chaos she can barely comprehend.

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The Kryptonite Kid (and his evil Kryptonite Dog) debut in Superboy 83. The story opens as both Superboy (who has started sleeping in his costume) and Krypto wind up sharing the same nightmares, of being menaced by a Kryptonite Kid and his dog. The pair then show up.  The Kryptonite Kid, in this story, has the Midas-like ability to turn anything he touches into kryptonite, making him an extremely deadly foe for Superboy.  He explains his backstory, being a prisoner sent on an experimental space flight (along with an evil dog, presumably from a dog pound), which passed through a kryptonite cloud and transformed their bodies.  He then used a special machine to give them nightmares, while travelling to Earth. 

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There is really nothing that Superboy or Krypto can do to stop these two, who almost succeeding in killing the hero and his pet. It's young Mr. Mxyzptlk who saves the day, zapping the pair far away.  Superboy is mystified as to why Mxyzptlk would save him, but the imp explains that he has no desire to see Superboy dead, as his goal is to pester him. Aside from the abrupt ending, this is a decent tale, the villain and his dog are just so deadly powerful. 

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The Kryptonite Kid, and his kryptonite dog, are back in Superboy 99. Having been sent off into space at the end of his first outing against the hero, Kryptonite Kid and his dog finally make it back to Earth in this story, and once again set out to kill Superboy and Krypto.  Pete Ross helps Clark Kent out during the Kryptonite Kid's first attack, allowing the hero to keep his identity a secret.  Clark thinks this was just good luck, not realizing that Pete actively helped him, knowing his identity.  Superboy then sends a robot after the Kid, who turns the machine into kryptonite, rendering it as deadly to Sueprboy as the villain is himself. Superboy manages to trick the villain by sending a Krypto robot, made of lead. 

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The Krypto robot shoves the Kryptonite Kid's spacecraft through a cloud of red kryptonite, which makes the villain act all nice.  As Superboy had already been exposed to the red k cloud, he could not be affected a second time by the transformed Kid, who heads off on his merry way, after Superboy explains the Krypto robot trick.

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Unlike so many stories that retroactively put people and items from the Superman series into the Superboy one, Adventure Comics 283 really is the first appearance of the Phantom Zone, which would quickly become a major element throughout the Superman books. A box of deadly Kryptonian weapons lands on Earth, just outside Smallville (where else?), and Superboy discovers that it was Jor-El (who else?) who sealed them away. Superboy examines the weapons, including a disintegrator gun and an enlarging ray, but its the Phantom Zone projector that is the important one. We learn, in flashback, of Dr Xadu, the first person sentenced to the Zone for failed experiments on suspended animation, and of General Zod, who attempted to overthrow the government of Krypton with a Bizarro army.  This is the first appearance for both characters.

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Superboy then accidentally sends himself into the Phantom Zone, so we get to see how they exist as insubstantial beings who can see and hear what is going on in the real world, but cannot be perceived themselves. Superboy manages to escape by mentally causing a typewriter to work, detailing his situation, and Pa Kent uses the projector to free him.  Never again would anyone in the Zone find it so easy to affect real objects.

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Dr. Xadu returns in Superboy 100. Superboy is quite puzzled from the outset of this tale, as Ma and Pa Kent suddenly start to believe that they are Jor-El and Lara, and still on Krypton. The story plays out in this light vein for a while, with Superboy going along with the delusions, in hopes that his parents will snap back to reality.  But then the reader gets alerted that these are not really the Kents.  Dr. Xadu and Erndine are escapees from the Phantom Zone, who have kidnapped the Kents and sealed them in a cave. 

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The huge, elaborate game they are playing with Superboy is all designed to wind up having him give them a "punishment ray," which they intend to use to take him out. But Superboy catches on to the plan, because the Kents are not sweating the way they ought to under a hot sun.  Figuring out that he is really dealing with Kryptonians, he tricks them into heading for the planet Exon, which orbits a red sun, removing their powers.

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In Adventure 289 Clark, and the reader, are lead to believe that Pa Kent has gained powers as the result of exposure to an alien gem, and with two such stories in the last few years, no one was likely to be surprised, or question it. Pa Kent adopts the identity of Super-Dad, and acts quite obnoxiously towards Clark.  But then, not so different from how Pa Kent behaved in the story where he became Strongman. Ok, maybe throwing a lead bucket onto Superboy’s head is a bit much, but it almost feels like it’s being played for laughs.  Things get serious though, when Clark discovers his father stockpiling kryptonite in order to kill him.  Would Pa Kent really do this?

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No, he wouldn’t.  This is Jax-Ur, an escapee from the Phantom Zone, making his first appearance.  We learn that he was sentenced to the Zone for destroying an inhabited moon of Krypton, and Superboy sends him back there at story’s end. This is a good tale, almost a great one, except for the revelation of how Superboy figured out Pa Kent was not Pa Kent.

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There is more about the Phantom Zone in Superboy 104. The Phantom Zone projector was Jor-El's entry for admission into the Science Council.  His rival is Gra-Mo, who had created androids to do all the work for the planet.  But the android melts during the demonstration, which Gra-Mo blames Jor-El for, based on nothing at all.  Jor-El wins the big vote to join the Science Council, and Gra-Mo takes control of the robot police, sending them on a rampage. Gra-Mo gets caught, and he and his followers are the last ones shot into space in rockets.  We see the first three people to be sentenced to the Phantom Zone: Jax-Ur, Professor Vakox, and Dr. Xadu.  The first half of the story concludes with Jor-El sending Kal-El to Earth, and also shooting off the box of deadly weapons, which is how the Phantom Zone projector made it to Earth.

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The second half of the tale is set during the present day, but I find it not as interesting as the first half.  Gra-Mo's ship lands on Earth, and he and his two henchmen run wild.  Superboy tries to send them to the Phantom Zone, but magnetic interference prevents it from working. Gra-Mo invents a machine that allows him to communicate with the Phantom Zone prisoners - just the three already introduced in the story.  They advise him to make Superboy feel that he has killed someone, which will make him give up being a hero, and possibly even leave Earth.  Gra-Mo creates an android that looks like a child, disguises himself, and comes up with an entire story about a super-powered formula.  This leads to the cover image, with the boy pounding Superboy.  Superboy hits back, and the child flies into the air and dissolves.  The man claims the formula wore off, and Superboy killed his son. Superboy figures out the scam pretty fast, though he pretends to be devastated.  He acts as though he intends to leave Earth, but just delays until the magnetic interference has passed, and then sends Gra-Mo and his men into the Phantom Zone as well.

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Superboy 94 has a very entertaining story which, even though is centres on Pete Ross, does introduce a major enemy of Superman's. What would be called the Superman Revenge Squad (but in this story the Superboy Revenge Squad) are the villains of the tale, and Superboy recalls how he had earned their enmity by ending their murderous multi-planet rampage the year before. Discovering that they are looking for Superboy, and planning on wiping out his entire world, Superboy gets Ma Kent to use an amnesia machine on him, to erase his memory of being Superboy.  I should have mentioned that the Revenge Squad have a mind reading machine, which is why he resorts to this.  But then the Revenge Squad are gone from the story, which heads in an entirely different direction. 

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Although the Squad would return in a couple of years to menace Superboy again, they next pop up in Superman in a couple of months. Pete Ross discovers that Clark no longer remembers being Superboy, and so he once again adopts the hero's identity.  Ironically, Clark Kent spies on Pete changing clothes, and believes that he has learned Superboy's secret identity. The remainder of the fun little story has Pete standing in for Superboy, but using Clark to allow him to fake having Superboy's powers.  It becomes pure sit com, but not in a bad way.  By the end of the story the effects of the amnesia machine wear off, and Clark continues to have no idea what Pete has done to help him out.

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Adventure 287 begins a 2-part Superboy story, spending its time by giving an extended backstory to Dev-Em, the Knave from Krypton, in his debut appearance.  As a result, Superboy is really only a supporting character in this tale. Dev-Em and his parents live next door to Jor-El and Lara, and he is shown as a rowdy and criminally irresponsible teenager. 

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He almost runs over baby Kal and Krypto with his car, steals, vandalizes, and even breaks into Jor-El’s home.  Though it’s because of that that Dev and his parents wind up surviving the destruction of Krypton. After reading Jor-El’s notes, Dev converts a backyard bomb shelter (ah, peaceful Krypton, where families have big bomb shelters in their backyards), preparing it to block the deadly kryptonite radiation that Jor-El theorized.

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Dev-Em convinces his parents to go into suspended animation with him, but awakes before them.  He must be near Earth, because his powers have kicked in, and by using super-vision he spots Kal on Earth, receiving a trophy as Superboy, and decides to head there and get rid of him.

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The story concludes in Adventure 288. Dev-Em shows himself to be a far more manipulative foe than anyone else Superboy has faced.  He projects Superboy into the Phantom Zone, then disguises himself as the hero and does all he can to ruin his name. He behaves atrociously to Ma and Pa Kent. and goes on a destructive rampage through Smallville. Once he is convinced that everyone has turned against Superboy, he simply frees him from the Phantom Zone, leaving poor Kal to face the repercussions of Dev-Em’s actions, and takes off into the future.

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I’m really of two minds about the resolution to this tale.  Otto Binder seems to find an easy out, as red kryptonite is blamed for Superboy’s behaviour.  On the other hand, perhaps the intended message was that if a person always acts nobly and selflessly, a temporary aberration can be overlooked.

Superboy continues in the next period, 1964 – 1967 – the New Look.

Superboy: Adventure Comics 269 – 315 (Feb 60 – Dec 64)

Superboy 79 – 112 (Mar 60 – April 64)

Next up – Tommy Tomorrow!

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Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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