A friend of mine has been slowly foraging through the early SUPERBOYS thanks to the online site READ COMICS ONLINE, and I thought I would share his insights here, though he's only up to 1956.

Many Silver Age fans will have heard that Pa and Ma Kent weren't fully realized in their earliest appearances as the Norman Rockwell oldsters we knew from that period. My friend was surprised, though, to see little if any mentions of "life on the Kent farm," particularly since that's become such a big part of Superman mythology from the sixties on. As I thought about it, I didn't remember many Silver Age stories showing teenaged Clark working on the farm, and my friend said that in the fifties he was mostly seen helping at the Kents' general store.

However, when I tried to think of SA stories involving the Kent farm, what I remembered most were Superbaby stories. I didn't go on a massive search of my SA collection, but the first Superbaby tale I came across had the Babe of Steel demolishing a scarecrow. 

So, in the minds of the SA Superboy writers, did they think of the Kents as having been farmers in their slightly younger years, but then as shifting to the general store during Clark's teenaged years? I'll bet there wasn't a specific story that laid it all out, going on what my friend told me. Over time, of course, eventually the Kents were back on the farm on and we'd see teen Clark hauling around tractors and such. But in the sixties the general store was probably the equivalent of the Daily Planet, since it kept the hero closer to the action.

On a side-note, I always think of the Superboy feature as the "poor relation" of the Weisinger clan. The stories at best were OK formula, but usually nothing to get excited about, with very rare exceptions like, "How Luthor Met Superboy." Still, it'd be interesting to see if anyone here has favorite Superboy stories of the Silver Age.

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I'd always heard that at dome point during Clark's youth the Kent's switched from farming to owning a store in town, although when that happened precisely I don't know. I'm sure someone else here has knowledge of that and will be able to give chapter and verse .

I started reading the Superman family of comics, including the Superboy tales in Adventure Comics and Superboy, in early 1958. My first Superboy comics were Adventure Comics #247(APR58) (yes, the first LOSH) and Superboy #74(JUL59) (I think). I don't remember any stories on the farm. I don't think I read this one, but Superboy #71(MAR59) has this cover.

The site dc.fandom.com/wiki/Superboy_Vol_1_71 give the following synopsis of "The Stolen Stunts of Superbaby!": (one of three stories)

"Jonathan Kent and Superboy recall the time that their next-door neighbors discovered that baby Clark had super-powers, and how a magician acquaintance of Jonathan's helped him convince them they were wrong."

This confirms that they lived in town, not on a farm.

I suspect that an editorial decision was made some time in the 50s to base the stories in Smallviile rather than on a farm, since most kids buying comics by then lived in large or small towns, not farms. It will be interesting if someone finds an actual story moving the Kents into Smallville or if they just made the switch without highlighting it.

"The Origin of Superboy's Super-Costume", from Superboy # 78 (Jan., 1960), is the earliest Silver-Age reference that I recall off the top of my head which directly states that the Kents moved from a farm to Smallville following Jonathan Kent's purchase of a general store.

To my knowledge, there was never a Silver-Age tale which discussed the events leading to and resulting in the Kents' decision to move off the farm.

As far as when the move occurred, the most that was ever pinned down, again, during the Silver Age, was that it happened sometime, but not too long, before Clark Kent started elementary school.  This was depicted in "The Story of Superman's Life", from Superman # 146 (Jul., 1961).

Continuing the mish-mash created by Uncle Mort's stories of the past, present and future,the panel posted by The Commander seems to imply that they moved to town and opened the general store just as Clark was starting school while the cover I posted from two years earlier shows him in town as a baby. Meanwhile,Ma and Pa always look the same age no matter how old Clark is.

"Meanwhile,Ma and Pa always look the same age no matter how old Clark is."

Well, until...

Richard Willis said:

Continuing the mish-mash created by Uncle Mort's stories of the past, present and future,the panel posted by The Commander seems to imply that they moved to town and opened the general store just as Clark was starting school while the cover I posted from two years earlier shows him in town as a baby. Meanwhile,Ma and Pa always look the same age no matter how old Clark is.

The Kents didn't always look the same ("The Fantastic Faces" notwithstanding) no matter how old Clark was.  Actually, their appearances during Clark's babyhood changed quite a bit.  As much as I credit Mort Weisinger for establishing a consistency to Superman's mythos, this was one area in which he was definitely asleep at the switch.

Kal-El was around two years of age when he landed on Earth; therefore, any Superbaby stories would logically be contained within roughly a two-year span.  Not enough time for Jonathan and Martha Kent to age significantly.  Yet, according to the stories, their ages and appearances were all over the map.

As you noted, Mr. Willis, in the Superbaby sequences contained in Superboy # 71 and Superman # 146, Ma and Pa Kent have their same elderly appearance as seen in the adventures of Superboy, when he was between fifteen and seventeen.  For convenience, I'll refer to them as "the Old Kents".

Now, let's look at the Silver-Age appearances of the Kents as seen while they were raising Superbaby . . . 

In "The Super-Dreams of Super-Baby", from Superboy # 59 (Sep., 1957), we see the Pa Kent of Superbaby's days as slightly thinner than his Superboy "Old Kent" incarnation, but still white haired.

In "Superbaby in Scotland Yard", Superboy # 73 (Jun., 1959), the Kents appear to be in their mid- to late thirties, with brown hair and still looking fairly trim, though Martha seems to be getting a bit matronly.

On the other hand, "The Super-Monkey from Krypton", from Superboy # 76 (Oct., 1959), shows Pa Kent looking pretty much like his portly "Old Kent" self, except for a slight darkening of his hair.

In "The Man Who Exposed Superman", Action Comics  # 288 (May, 1962), Superbaby is being raised by the Old Kents again.

"Superbaby Captures the Pumpkin Gang" in Superman # 152 (Apr., 1962), and now the Kents are trimmer and their white hair is given some black streaks to give it a salt-and-pepper look.

In "The Super-Mischief of Superbaby", from Superboy # 97 (Jun., 1962) we see the youngest-looking Kents of Clark's babyhood, yet.  They look to be in their mid-twenties.

"The Amazing Tots of Smallville", from Superboy # 102 (Jan., 1963) not only reverts Superbaby's parents to the Old Kents, it contains another contradiction to the established mythos that the Kents of baby Clark's days lived on a farm.  Here, it shows them already in their general store.

In "The Day Baby Lana Became Super", Superboy # 105 (Jun., 1963), we have the Kents looking forty-something, with them showing a bit of a spread and their hair beginning to grey.

"Smallville's War Against Superbaby", from Adventure Comics # 311 (Aug., 1963), introduces a new approach.  Baby Clark's parents are white haired, just like the teen Clark's are, but they're noticeably more slender.  Especially Martha.

In "Superbaby's Super-Pranks", from Superboy # 112 (Apr., 1964), the slender, white-haired Kents are back.  It's the first time they've been drawn the same way twice during that time period.  Perhaps, because Curt Swan was the artist.

"Superbaby's First Time-Adventure", from Superboy # 119 (Mar., 1965), annnnnddd the Old Kents are back.

The slender, white-haired Kents that Curt Swan depicted return in "Superbaby's Golden Quest", from Superboy # 120 (Apr., 1965), only this time drawn by George Papp.

"Superbaby's First Fight", Superboy # 124 (Oct., 1965), brings back the thirtyish, brown-haired Kents putting on a little weight.

"From Riches to Rags", Action Comics # 337 (May, 1966)---the Old Kents, maybe a bit younger.

"Superbaby's Search for a Pet, Superboy # 130 (Jun., 1966)---George Papp draws the fortyish Kents, again.

In "Superbaby's First Foster-Parents", from Superboy # 133 (Oct., 1966), we see the late-twenties-early thirties version of the Kents, again.  Since the tale encompasses the day they adopted baby Clark, it should be their youngest depiction.  However, they appeared that young only once before.  As I mentioned, they would not have aged noticeably over the two years or so of Clark's babyhood.

One can't even blame the different renditions of Superbaby's parents on artist discretion.  In the Superbaby stories he drew, George Papp depicted Ma and Pa Kent in at least three different ages.

One would think this sort of thing would have been covered by a model sheet, in order to be consistent in rendering the Kents of Superbaby's time.

Finding those many examples impresses me no end.

This panel makes me think it was a coloring error. The older Kent in the corner is drawn older and more flabby than the other, who had shorter, more groomed hair and a thinner face. The younger one was probably intended to have brown hair.

I never read the stories featuring the "youthenized" Kents. They never existed on "Earth-RW".

Jeff of Earth-J said:

"Meanwhile,Ma and Pa always look the same age no matter how old Clark is."

Well, until...

Excellent overview, Commander Benson. I'm not surprised the artistic depictions were all over the place. Nobody in comics back then expected anyone but the kids of the time would read the things.

I have a dim memory that maybe the farm came back in the late sixties or early seventies, which is possibly why the big-budget Superman flicks never mentioned the general store.

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