In an attempt to clone Superman, Cadmus Labs combined the Kryptonian DNA of Superman with the human DNA of Lex Luthor. The impetuous clone escaped the lab and later became known as the hero, Superboy. As revealed in Adventures of Superman #500, the teenage clone comes from the Cadmus Project, although he was supposed to have reached full maturity. Instead, he only reached the age of about 15 or 16.
Shortly afterwards, Superboy was launched into his self-titled series. The first issue introduced the new setting of Hawaii, established the supporting cast and set up the tone of a humorous adventure series. Karl Kesel handled the writing chores with Tom Grummett on art – the same team that made Superboy a hit in Adventures of Superman. They remained the creative force on the book until Superboy #30.
Shortly afterwards, Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett returned to the Boy of Steel with Superboy #50. A new direction for the series was established with Superboy as an agent of Cadmus, working with the Guardian and a completely new supporting cast. Another special issue is Superboy #59, where Superman and the Kid of Steel visit a ‘virtual reality’ Krypton. At the close of the story, Superboy receives the Kryptonian name of Kon-El. Superboy faced some trials and tribulations when Tana Moon was killed and he lost his powers in Superboy #74. At the close of the second Kesel/Grummett run, Superboy’s powers were restored in Superboy #79.
See below for a detailed retrospective on the series.
Series Restrospective: Superboy v1
courtesy of http://www.supermanhomepage.com
Superman: Special Reports
Author: Sean Hogan (email@example.com)
“Don’t Ever Call Me SUPERBOY!”
The current version of Superboy first appeared in 1993, following the death of Superman. At the end of Adventures of Superman #500, after Pa Kent (who was having his own near death experience at the time) seemingly rescues Clark from the afterlife, five new contenders for the S-shield suddenly appeared. We now know those five as Cyborg, Eradicator, Steel, Superboy, and Bibbo.
Okay, so Bibbo wasn’t much of a contender — but he did his best. He also made an important contribution to Superboy’s supporting cast.
Superboy’s story begins in the secret Cadmus Project, located outside Metropolis. The Guardian and Cadmus soldiers rush to answer an alarm at the mysterious Experiment 13. Blasting open the door, they find a broken glass container — empty except for a shredded piece of Superman’s cape. Hearing a shout, the Guardian and Cadmus Director Paul Westfield find scientist Carl Packard hanging from above, with steel pipes bow-tied around him.
Packard explains that the Newsboy Legion broke “Thirteen” loose before the code words to control him could be implanted: “We have absolutely no control over him!”
As the Newsboys help the stranger escape, one of them (Tommy) offers a leather jacket, while another (Scrappy) wishes him, “good luck, Superbo–” when the youngest contender for the Superman trademark suddenly whirls around and shouts, “Don’t ever call me SUPERBOY!”
Clearly the intention in designing Superboy’s original costume is to distinguish him from the Silver Age Superboy and give him a more modern outfit. The costume includes a high collared neck, several straps around the waist, thigh, and boots, as well as oversized gloves and a leather jacket. Superboy’s first full story is in Adventures of Superman #501. From the start, and for most of Superboy’s career, his tale is told by Karl Kesel, with pencils by Tom Grummett and inks by Doug Hazlewood. Grummett and Hazlewood’s crisp and clean art highlight Kesel’s dynamic and humorous stories.
I’m not going to review the “Reign of the Supermen” stories in detail since most readers will be familiar with the tale (and for those that aren’t – make sure that you treat yourselves to the three trade paperbacks, “The Death of Superman”, “World Without A Superman”, and “The Return of Superman”, which comprise some of the best Superman stories ever told).
In short order, Kesel sets up the basic elements to the Superboy character and storylines. Superboy is presented as a hormone-driven and impulsive but good-hearted teenager with an attitude (especially to anyone calling him Superboy instead of Superman).
The Clone Of Steel
Kesel quickly has Superboy meet Superman’s supporting cast (including Lois — whom he greets with, “Wow! My death really aged you, huh, Lois?”) while introducing a new cast including Tana Moon, Rex and Roxy Leech, and even Krypto (saved from a drowning death by Bibbo). Kesel even has Superboy rent an apartment at 344 Clinton Street, Apartment 3B — left empty by the presumed death of Clark Kent.
This first issue (#501) also raises the mystery as to Superboy’s origin (is he a clone of Superman?) and powers. Although he has flight and strength powers, Superboy has no vision powers. When he smashes open the stormdrain gate to escape Cadmus, Big Words notes that Superboy’s punch left the gate practically undamaged. Although he seems invulnerable to bullets and buses, heat from fires can injure him.
Superboy’s first serious lesson is brought to him by Steel in Superman The Man Of Steel #22 (by Louise Simonson with art by Jon Bogdanove and Dennis Janke). While dodging gangland fire, Superboy doesn’t notice the Daily Planet helicopter take the hit aimed at him — killing the pilot and nearly killing Lois Lane, who is saved by Steel. Superboy learns his lesson and accepts responsibility for his actions.
Kesel introduces Superboy to another member of the Superman family in Adventures of Superman #502 as he comes face to chest with Supergirl. Between manipulations by Lex Luthor, Vincent Edge, and Rex Leech, Superboy and Supergirl are drawn into a deadly battle with a villain calling himself Stinger. To escape, Stinger destroys one of Metropolis’ bridges — killing and injuring numerous victims. Edge also arranges for Superboy to accept Leech as his manager and to corner the copyright on the Superman name and symbol. However, Edge’s manipulations cause an uneasy Tana to leave Metropolis.
The battle against the Cyborg and Mongul give Superboy the chance to show his heroism and grit as he joins the returned Superman and saves Metropolis from a deadly bomb.
At the conclusion of the death and return story arc, Kesel sets up a new direction for Superboy in Adventures of Superman #506. Superman rescues Superboy from some Cadmus DNAliens and the two, along with the Guardian, decide to return and confront the Cadmus brass to get some answers on Superboy’s origins and powers.
The Cadmus scientists explain that Superboy is not a real clone of Superman because they were unable to clone his alien, invulnerable physiology. Instead, they genetically altered a clone and “translated” the aura surrounding Superman’s body into a telekinetic field.
“That’s how you can fly or deflect any solid object the instant it touches you. You can’t deflect energy, say fire or lasers. Sorry. But you can do other things. You can extend the field and lift heavy objects … or take things apart … bend things into any shape you picture mentally.” (during this explanation, Superboy shapes a rope into a woman’s outline).
When he is told, “Still — you are the closest we came to a successful clone of Superman!”, Superboy answers, “But, bottom line — I’m not his clone, right? So — whose clone am I?” That question won’t be answered for a while, as Cadmus’ bad guy Director, Paul Westfield, bursts in to stop the session.
The rest of the issue quickly sets the new course as Dubbilex is assigned to shepherd Superboy and as Rex Leech is ‘convinced’ to return the Superman trademark back to Superman. Superman offers a compromise that, “if half the profits go to charity, you can use the symbol and the kid can call himself …
“… Superboy. I think he’s earned the name.”
Superboy’s initial reaction is hilarious. Grummett and Hazlewood draw a great shocked expression on his face (especially the mismatched eyes) as the Kid shouts, “Superboy? SUPERBOY?! That name’s a joke! It’s what I’ve been trying to live down since this whole mess started! Thanks! Thanks a lot! Thanks for nothing!”
As he bursts out of the room, Superboy tells himself, “Yes. That was very mature. Maybe … maybe I over-reacted a little.” Stopping some criminals, he tells them, “You punks must think anyone can wear this ‘S’ shield! Yeah, I’m Superboy — but I earned that name!”
Superman meets up with Superboy again and tells him of Rex’s plans for a world tour to establish the new name, adding “and, uh, if you’re not keeping your apartment, I have this friend … “.
Superboy flies off with the classic quote”second star from the right and straight on ’til morning … ” When Superman adds, “Peter Pan. How appropriate.”, Superboy replies, “Huh? What’re you talkin’ about? Captain Kirk said that!”
Hero of Hawaii
Shortly afterwards, Superboy was launched into his self-titled series. The first issue introduces the new setting of Hawaii, establishes the supporting cast and sets up the tone of humorous adventure as Superboy encounters (again and for the first time) the villain Sidearm.
Y’know, there are just some villains who cannot be taken seriously. Sidearm is one. As Superboy battles the inept villain (calling him everything but his codename – Sideswipe, Sideboard, Backside, Sidecar etc), our hero uses, for the first time, the phrase most associated with his powers”Ever hear of tactile telekinesis? Mentally moving whatever you touch … or whatever touches you? Lets you fly … lift cars … shoot sand up from the beach … take apart robot arms … Major power. Guess who’s got it?!”
Kesel sets up the major elements of his new series by introducing the supporting cast and some villains as well as showcasing the comic’s trademarks of action and humour..
Although readers had never met Sidearm before, the first issue was filled with references to their earlier meeting. Some 8 months later, in Superboy #0, we meet Sidearm again, along with Prof. Emil Hamilton (in town to work at the local STAR Labs). Superboy later reviews his origins for Prof. Hamilton. He explains that his first memory is of a cartoon show, and then Cadmus Director Westfield and Dr. Packard discussing his memory implants. Superboy adds, “And all this happened real fast! I mean, I went from single-cell to single-guy in under a week!”.
He then reviews his rescue by the Newsboy Legion, his escape and his meeting with his very first villain, Sidearm (using tentacles that make him look like Spider-Man’s pal, Doctor Octopus). Superboy #0 also has one of my favorite one-liners, as Superboy tries out various headgear for the x-ray glasses made for him by Hamilton. It’s a visual joke, so you’ll have to read the issue to understand, but the line is, “Look, bobbing in the water — it’s Super-buoy!”
Maybe it’s just me.
Original & Origin
Kesel’s first run on Superboy (up to issue #30) was well regarded and had lots of fans. Two notable stories during this period are the Zero Hour issue, Superboy #8, and the 1995 Year One themed Superboy Annual #2.
With all of the strange events happening during Zero Hour, probably the most welcome was the return of the Silver Age Superboy. A freak storm forces a plane carrying Superboy, Dubbilex, and Krypto to land outside Smallville. The original Boy of Steel materializes and helps rescue the plane. With neither Superboy aware of the other, they both head into Smallville. While the current model shows off for the locals, young Clark Kent strolls down the street to encounter all kinds of strange changes, including an adult Lana Lang. It’s a ‘fight and team up’ story with a nostalgic and tragic twist as the young hero realizes that he is the anomaly and that by his very presence is causing changes to this reality.
Standing by the Kents’ farmhouse, the Boy of Steel says goodbye to the Teen of Teek as he stops fighting the forces trying to pull him away and, with heroic sacrifice, allows himself to vanish. Superboy, after a brief introduction to Ma and Pa Kent, heads off to help save the universe from the Zero Hour crisis.
In Superboy Annual #2 (co-written by Karl and wife Barbara Kesel with pencils by David Brewer, assisted by several inkers) we finally learn the answer to Superboy’s DNA template. Superboy is summoned back to Cadmus, which has discovered the lab containing the twelve prior failed attempts to clone Superman.
The first clone, still in stasis, is accidentally released. The reason that clone had never been activated was that it had been created using a “flawed process” — the one used by Dr. Teng which created the first Bizarro. Superboy and Bizarro Superboy take the usual fight and team approach (as Bizarro returns Superboy’s punch he says, “Ha! Me understand! Me must show am worthy of name Superboy! Clever test! Me not fail!)
The scientists also find some of the original genetic material used to make the clones and some videotapes. Superboy learns that his cell-stock came from the slimy and now deceased former director of Cadmus, Paul Westfield (killed by Dabney Donovan in Superman #90 — although since Donovan salvaged an ear, it’s always possible that Westfield could reappear — no pun intended).
Superboy understandably doesn’t take the news well, but comes to terms with the revelation after a pep-talk by Superman and a surprise first birthday party thrown for him by his friends.
Although Superboy starred in solo adventures in his own title, he has also been a member of several team groups, including Team Superman, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Superboy and the Ravers, and Young Justice. Kesel reconnected Superboy to Legion lore by having him save a dying Lar Gand in Superboy #18-19.
Similar to the original pre-Crisis version, Superboy saves Lar (known pre-Crisis as Mon-el and post-Crisis as Valor and later M’Onel) from lead poisoning by sending him into a ‘stasis zone’ where he stays for the next 1,000 years until being freed and healed by the Legion. Superboy meets the Legion when they travel to his time to get information allowing them to save Lar in the story arc titled “Future Tense” (Superboy #21, Legion of Super-Heroes #74, and Legionnaires #31). This fun arc ends with the Legion giving Superboy a flight ring and granting him honorary member status.
While the series Superboy And The Ravers died as of issue #19 and topped the ‘worst Superman family title’ award towards the end of its run, it started out with great promise and had some enjoyable stories.
The opening arc in issues #1-4 is a good self-contained introduction to the series and cast with terrific art by Paul Pelletier and Dan Davis. Also great fun was the three part “Road Trip” in issues #7-9, where Superboy and his pals travel America and meet Impulse (for the first time), stop in at Guy Gardner’s Warriors club, and finally meet Superman in Metropolis.
Superboy met his other Young Justice partner, Robin, in the two-issue prestige series WF3: World’s Finest 3. When Metallo shows up in Gotham while both Batman and Superman are away, Robin puts in a call to Superboy. Superboy, expecting to meet Batman, isn’t terribly impressed by the junior partner, making remarks like, “So, I’ve only got one question — who are you?” and “Batman — impressive. But ‘boy wonder’?” When Superboy falls under the control of Poison Ivy, Robin saves the day and proves that Superboy’s physiology is sufficiently similar to Superman’s that the Kid can be harmed by Kryptonite.
Superboy, Robin & Impulse first teamed up in the two-issue prestige series, JLA: World Without Grown-Ups, which led to their ongoing Young Justice series (and for those interested, Robin and Impulse meet in the hilarious Robin + Impulse #1 special written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, and featuring great art by John Royle and Rob Leigh). Young Justice writer, Peter David, continues the humour and action found in both Superboy’s and Impulse’s series (although later mixed with serious, dramatic stories).
For those looking for an introduction to Young Justice, you can pick up the trade paperback collections, Young Justice: A League Of Their Own (collecting the first seven issues of the series) and Young Justice: Sins Of Youth (collecting the enjoyable series that reversed the ages of the youth and adult heroes of the DC Universe).
Ron Marz’ run on Superboy (issues #32-47) made a significant contribution to the ongoing saga with the five part “Meltdown” storyline, which began in Superboy #38 (with part 4 in Superboy And The Ravers #10). Superboy’s genetic structure is literally melting as a result of tampering by a group called the Agenda, which created Match, a clone of Superboy (Superboy #35-36).
The story comes to a climax in Superboy #41 when Roxy Leech volunteers to risk her life. The only way to save Superboy is to speed up the cell degeneration and then rebuild it using a donor’s template. The catch is that the donor has to undergo the same process. Since the donor must be close to Superboy’s physical age of 16, Roxy is the only compatible volunteer.
Some tense pages later, Superboy and Roxy are both back and whole and they seal their resurrection with a big kiss. The process changes the relationship between the two. Roxy explains that when she kissed Superboy, she knew things were different and that although they were now closer, it was, “as if S.B. and I are … family.” Superboy tells Tana that Roxy is, “part of me now, and I’m glad she is. But … as far as being my best babe … it’s always been you and that’s the way it’s always gonna be.”
The other news, which Superboy doesn’t take as well, is that his rejuvenated body is now frozen at the age of 16. Superboy’s dream was that one day, Superman will retire and then the grown Superboy would become the next Superman.
Once again, it’s Superman who helps the Kid come to terms with his newest change. Appearing during his electric Superman Blue phase, he reminds Superboy that life is not always predictable, “especially in our line of work”. Superman adds that his changes weren’t something he expected or wanted, but he is making the best of it. Pointing to the S on Superboy’s chest, he says that to him the symbol means, “doing your best all the time, and coming out on top. No matter what’s standing in your way.”
Marz doesn’t gloss over the change or have Superboy fully accept the loss of his dream, as Superboy says, “It’s gonna take a lot of thinking on my part, but you’re right Supes … the never ending battle goes on!”
Return Of The Creators
Shortly afterwards, the news came out that Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett were going to return to the Superboy title as of issue #50. To prepare for the new direction Karl wanted to go, his wife Barbara Kesel came aboard as guest writer to clear the existing slate.
In Superboy #49, as Roxy searches for a missing Superboy, the main cast heads off in different directions. Tana (no longer an item with Superboy) heads out for a mysterious job offer, Dubbilex is recalled to Cadmus, and Roxy leaves to help her father Rex, who is once again in some kind of trouble. The only main cast member to remain on the island is Krypto — who is left behind in the care of Superboy’s school classmate, Hillary Chang.
With the cast sent its various ways, the original Superboy creative team (minus inker Doug Hazlewood) returned with the four-part “The Last Boy On Earth” in Superboy #50-53 (with a half issue epilogue in Superboy #54). Kesel returns to humour and action with generous helpings of characters and inspirations from legendary comics creator, Jack Kirby. Even if you aren’t familiar with Kirby’s classic series, Kamandi, the fun story and wonderful art make the issues very worthwhile. However, the homages to the original “last boy on Earth”, the supporting cast and story devices are an extra treat to Kirby’s fans.
The story arc also sets up the new direction for the series with Superboy as an agent of Cadmus, working with the Guardian. The new supporting cast is quickly established in the next few issues.
Another notable issue is Superboy #59, where Superman has the Kid visit Krypton via virtual reality and gives him the Kryptonian name of Kon-El (both an obvious anagram of klone and a nod to the Silver Age Superboy’s friend, Mon-el).
The next significant story arc is the five part “Hypertension” in Superboy #60-64 (with an epilogue in Superboy #65).
Hypertime, the concept of alternate realities where everything and anything has or is happening somewhere, was introduced in the 1999 Mark Waid written specials, The Kingdom. Karl Kesel was given the task of further exploring Hypertime and starts his saga with a dying Superboy warning the JLA about a threat to all reality. Realizing that the dead youth is an alternate version of their Superboy, the JLA enlists Superboy, since only he can use the Hyperjacket that allowed the other Superboy into their universe.
Over the course of the story arc, Superboy meets alternate versions of himself, including the Zero Hour Superboy (whom he learns has the secret identity of Clark Kent) and the villainous adult clone threatening all reality who calls himself Black Zero. The combined might of the multitude of alternate Superboys saves the day, and with the help of the Challengers of the Unknown, Superboy is able to return back to his own universe. Superman finally confides his secret identity to Superboy in the Superman Jr. & Superboy Sr. issue of the Young Justice: Sins Of Youth special (collected in trade paperback).
The next story arc creates further significant changes for Superboy as the Agenda returns to take over Cadmus (“The Evil Factory” in Superboy #70-74) featuring the return and death of Superboy’s first love, Tana Moon, and the loss of Superboy’s powers. Superboy’s personal upheaval continues over the next several issues, with his powers returning in Superboy #79 as Kesel and Grummett wind down their notable second run on the title.
The Continuing Adventures?
Writer Joe Kelly took over the Superboy title starting with issue #83 with Kelly’s trademark emphasis on humour. That issue also has Superboy changing to a new costume in a desperate search to be cool after his looks are dissed by some teenage girls. The new costume is similar to the old one, with a darker red, red over the shoulders and a similarly styled jacket and red glasses.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Dan DiDio took over from Kelly starting with issue #94.
Palmiotti described his plans as “a brand-new chapter in the life of Superboy.” “Dan and my plans are to take the amazing job Joe Kelly has done with the book and take it a little more down to earth and simplify the basics of the character,” Palmiotti said. “Really go in and make #94 a great time to pick up the series if you never read it, and an even better time if you have.” Most of that issue deals with Superboy finding a new apartment. Sight gags, sitcom-style humor and a light touch permeated the new direction of the book.
However, in the end it wasn’t villains, only poor sales figures that finally did Superboy in. While Superboy’s own series ends with issue #100, you can still find him in Young Justice as well as frequent guest appearances as a member of Team Superman in the Superman titles.