I was a bit leery of talking about the Man of Steel because so much has been written about Kal-El and there are so many experts on him here. But SUPERBOY? Except for his Legion appearances, very little of the Boy of Steel has been reprinted in the last thirty or so years so, perhaps, I can come up with some decent queries.

  • When did Superboy (of Earth-One) know that he was from Krypton? I know the Golden Age version but was there that moment with young Kal? He did invent a memory-prober so he could recall his life on Krypton as an infant but was there anything that prompted him to do so? In other worlds, when was the first time Krypton appeared in the Superboy features?
  • One of the quirky parts of the Silver Age Superboy stories was that he built a time telescope so he could view the future. That way he already knew that he would become Superman and learnt about the destines of BATMAN, LOIS LANE and even GREEN ARROW. He encountered an adult Luthor during his time travels. Does that seem right? Should he have that much knowledge of his future. The Legion prevented that in the 30th century yet he had free rein to do so in the 20th.
  • Obviously there was a LOT of Kryptonian/future/advanced tech in the Kent home. Remember Superboy's "Fortress" was his basement!!

Have to recharge! Be Right back!

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I felt like I was being cheated. Here I paid good money for a comic and I got one that doesn't count. 

I was the other way (as I wrote in the introduction to DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories, now on sale on eBay). I really liked Imaginary Stories, because I knew anything could happen, and it probably would. The only downer was that the stories most often ended tragically, as if Mort was saying, "Be careful what you wish for!" 

I'd rather have a story that didn't "count"--and most Super-Family stories didn't count, since nobody remembered them 10 minutes later, or else there's no explanation for how often Superman gave Jimmy alien artifacts that were dangerous--than one that was an elaborate, implausible hoax or, worse yet, a dream.

With Imaginary Stories, all bets were off, and they "counted" for that one story, just like most of the rest. And they were going to cover a lot of territory in a few pages, sometimes telling people's entire lifetime in 20 pages. They may have been overused, but they were always fun. And some of those covers were killers.

BTW, speaking of hoaxes, I'd nominate Kandor as being up there with Beppo. It was an interesting idea, and it would've been great if Superman visited it on occasion (and was transported back to Earth after a set time limit or something) to absorb wacky Kryptonian culture and visit friends.

But the constant commuting by Kandorians to help out in a crisis or to be part of a plot and then return for some strange reason stretched my credulity too far and wrecked a lot of stories for me. Wow, how could THAT happen? Oh, a Kandorian came out to create some hoax! Wow, how will Superman get out of this death trap? Don't know, because for some reason, a Kandorian DIDN'T come out to save him!

They always had *just enough* growth ray or serum or whatever for *this one* adventure--until the next time, when they seemed to be able to use it for the dumbest reasons ("Let's teach Lois a lesson!")

-- MSA

Well, I was only around 8 or 9 when I was picking up these comics and with limited funds there were only so many Super comics I was buying mixed in with everything else and just when I started to get into these comics they started to change and not for the better I thought (as writers and artists started to leave). The idea of an imaginary story was a hard concept to wrap my head around at such a young age. It would've been different if every story was imaginary in the way that every Bugs Bunny cartoon is imaginary and never takes place in the same reality but always constructs a new reality for that one cartoon. But for Superman, a kid had to learn that there was some consistent reality and then a bunch of stories that didn't fit that reality but still exploited the rules of that reality. After learning all that, understanding Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity was easy.

I still got a lot of thrills out of those imaginary stories, as they were quite good, but I was more interested in learning some of the basics of the real Superman. Usually I was learning those basics first from the imaginary stories which gave me a warped sense of Superman continuity--so you mean Brainiac isn't a good guy and Jimmy Olsen isn't married to Linda Lee?

And how do you control a super-three year old? That must have been their three greatest fears: that Clark would be discovered, that Clark would fly away and not return and that he might accidently kill them! I know that last one was never addressed but they had to be concerned!

How do you control ANY three-year-old?

How vast was Superboy's patrols? Smallville? The state? The country? The world? And was the world less protected during school hours?

As I think I said somewhere else, how did Smallville stay.....well, small? If the entire world knew there was a flying super-powerful teenager in Smallville how was it not constantly bombarded by the media, even prior to the 24-hour news cycle? I know, don't think about it.

BIZARRO (in the comics anyway)

I know I missed the first Bizarro story in Superboy #68 (OCT'58). I eventually saw it in a reprint, probably in Superman Annual #2 (1960). This is also where I first encountered Titano and Metallo. I think I did come in on the ground floor with the grown-up version of Bizarro.

THE PHANTOM ZONE

I know I had the first Phantom Zone story, which was in Adventure Comics #283 (APR'61). This was also the first appearance of General Zod, who has been revived in the Chistopher Reeve and Henry Cavill movies. Oddly, in the original comics they had him wearing a very Earth-like military peaked hat. The GCD entry for Adventure #283 calls attention to the second Kirk Alyn movie serial, Atom Man Vs. Superman (1950), having something called "The Empty Doom" and that this was an inspiration for the Phantom Zone. Can anybody do a comparison? I don't remember what I have and haven't seen of the serials.

Red Kryptonite!

I know I had (and had stolen) the first appearance of Red Kryptonite in a Superboy story. It was a cameo of sorts, in that Superboy passed by it without seeing it or knowing what it was. When first introduced I think they said that it affected him the same way Green K does, except it was stronger. Does someone know whether this was in Adventure or Superboy, and which issue? I think the next time Red K was used in a story it was the "one-of-a-kind-unpredictable" effects.

ClarkKent_DC said:

I always thought one of the things that John Byrne did right with his revamp of the Superman titles was to dispense with the notion that everybody and his brother ever thought Superman had a secret identity, and just assumed he was Superman all the time.

That said, I still want superheroes to have secret identities. But a secret identity seems more effective to me if the larger-than-life persona is so grand that nobody assumes the person isn't larger than life all the time. I mean, does anybody figure Steven Spielberg drives a cab in his spare time or Halle Berry is a waitress in a diner?

I haven't read the Byrne Superman stories. This is an intriguing idea to me. I guess we (as readers) know Hero-X has a secret identity so it's easy to assume that the general public thinks Hero-X has one. In the case of masked heroes it makes sense, otherwise why wear a mask? In the case of Superman, who has never worn a mask, why would anybody assume he had another identity?

Philip Portelli said:

I understand that and I understand why DC didn't want to give Lois superpowers. I'm just saying logically that here's the progression:

Superman loves Lois
Superman can't marry Lois because she would be vulnerable.

IIRC, Lois was always being kidnapped, at least in part because she was close to Superman. How would this be different if they were married?

IIRC, Lois was always being kidnapped, at least in part because she was close to Superman. How would this be different if they were married?

That was the flaw in the argument, as far as I could see. She was clearly close to him, and if they were married, he'd be better able to protect her by moving her into a well-protected home and being with her (rather than having to fly overhead and peek at her with his x-ray vision). Even if there was an outside chance he might marry Lana or Sally or someone else, it was obvious that hurting Lois would hurt him, so not being married may have made things worse.

OTOH, you kidnap Lois, you've got a pretty ticked off Superman, who might not pull his punch as much as he needs to. Who needs that? Why not kidnap Random Woman? Superman's going to come to her rescue too, and I'd like to think he'd do it just as fast, even if he wasn't peeping at her with his x-ray vision.

The only benefit to kidnapping Lois is if you intend to actually kill her, not just threaten to, because Superman wouldn't do anything to threaten Random Woman's life, either (keep in mind, this is SA Superman, not movie Superman). Killing Lois would certainly hurt Superman, but I don't give high odds for your criminal career after you do that.

-- MSA

The other thing is that every member of Superman's supporting cast is publicly known to be close to the Man of Steel so they're all targets!

Granted that the Daily Planet staff would probably be in danger from their work much like Commissioner Gordon or Steve Trevor but that's why there wasn't books titled Green Lantern's Pal, Pieface or The Flash's Wife, Iris Allen.

Richard said, " I know, don't think about it."

...uhhh...I think this is the answer to most questions around here. :)

Doesn't it kind of defeat the purpose of having a secret identity to protect your loved ones (one of the common reasons given for the practice), if, as most comic book heroes do, you have the exact same friends in both identities?  Wouldn't it make more sense for the heroes to have two supporting casts, one for the civilian identity, and one for their heroic one?  With Superman in particular, it seems to be pretty common knowledge that all you need to do is attack the Daily Planet or the city of Smallville to get revenge on him.

@ Dave E,

I never imagined that the secret identity was to protect your loved ones. It's to protect the superhero from being held accountable for his vigilante activities (and arguably an cool/effective way to show off :) ). And even in the case of Superman, who's "real self" is the superhero, it was more to give him a way to lead a normal life growing up, with real parents and friends and everything without anyone having any expectations about him. Arguably once he grew up he could have dropped it but obviously it proved to be a good gimmick to be mined for stories. 

Andy

I think that Superman enjoyed being Clark Kent, walking around observing humanity and telling their stories.

However I think that Superboy found being Clark a major bummer as any teen wanting to be cool would. That's why he enjoyed the 30th century so much. There he could be Superboy all the time and not deal with any "secret identity" nonsense.

Actually that does bring up a point. I'm 99% sure that the whole "Superman is really Clark Kent" thing was common knowledge in the 30th century though a couple of sites claim that the Legion had no concrete information on Superman's life and times. I'm surprised that no one made a big deal about this incredibly important historical figure walking among them. You would think historians, at least, would want to talk to him. I wonder if everyone was told to stay calm around him as to not frighten him off! ;-)

Another thing is why Legion foes thought that they had a chance of killing him. They all knew that he had to get older as Superman so they were predestined to fail!

After all, killing Superboy in the 30th century means no Superman in the 20th century and thus, probably no Earth in the 30th century either! Yikes!

There were stories that showed Superman giving up the Clark Kent identity, but I always felt he gave it up too easily. If he had always lived like that, it wouldn't be something he could just stop. This was his way of life forever. 

There were a few Superboy stories I read that played up Smallville's gothic setting--what felt like Ray Bradbury's SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. There was always an undercurrent of that and it was approached in the SMALLVILLE TV series for the first couple of seasons. But it was never really developed full on. The strongest sense of that was in the late '60s and early '70s--but I think they could have done more of that to feed in with all the horror comics that DC was doing at the time.

When I think of Canadian and American stories I've read--or how these towns are sometimes represented on the screen--there's this ambivalent attitude. Like people (big city people?) have a bad feeling about these towns--something bad is always going on there. We can't trust them.

Smallville was supposed to represent good old small town America, family values and all that--but there was always a lot of weirdness going on behind closed doors. Superboy was super-cosmopolitan--he had travelled through time and space, he was super-sophisticated--it must have been eerie for him living in this small town. In a way, as Clark Kent, he was a spy--working undercover to scope out all the weird goings on.

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