"At present, we consider Superman to be about 32.  Lois Lane and Lana Lang are a year or two younger."

 

 

In my last entry, I showed that, during the Silver Age, Superman editor Mort Weisinger established the ages of the Man of Steel and most of his supporting cast in a form letter mailed to lucky fans by DC.  A thirty-two-year-old Superman didn’t come as much of a surprise.  As I pointed out, several in-story references over the years corroborated it.  So, you guys were O.K. with that.

 

But the part that raised some eyebrows was DC’s insistence that Lana Lang was “a year or two younger” than the Metropolis Marvel.  This seemed to contradict a stack of Superboy stories published over the years which showed Lana sharing the same classroom as Smallville High with Clark (Superboy) Kent.  In fact, in the commentary on the last entry, Our Fearless Leader raised the issue right out of the gate.

 

“Whenever we see Clark Kent in class in high school, we generally see Lana Lang,” wrote Cap.  “Which means they’re probably in the same grade, which means they’re the same age, or close to it.”

 

And Cap’s right.  Superboy readers commonly assumed that Clark and Lana were the same age.  But there were conceivable circumstances which would plausibly put Lana in the same classroom as Clark, even though she was a year his junior.  Cap suggested a couple of them himself.

 

Theory № 1:   Lana was actually in the class behind Clark.  For example, when Clark was a high-school sophomore (10th grade), Lana was a freshman, in the 9th grade.  In secondary school, students don’t sit in the same classroom, under the same teacher, until the final bell.  They move from classroom to classroom, and subject to subject, throughout the day.

 

Most of the subjects are progressive, the next year building on the previous one, for the entire six years of secondary school (high school and junior high).  However, some, particularly electives, may be taken at any point in the student’s secondary-school pipeline.  Thus, it’s possible that Clark, in the 10th grade, and Lana, in the 9th grade, could be in the same American literature or basic French class.

 

Sort of a “Theory № 1A” occurred to me.  This was a small-town public school system in the 1930’s, deep in the Depression Era.  I considered the possibility that even though Lana was a year behind Clark, the reason they shared the same classroom was that there weren’t enough teachers on the payroll to go around.  That meant a single teacher would have to deal with students at varying levels in the same classroom.

 

 

Theory № 2:  Lana had skipped a grade.  This was plausible.  Lana was the daughter of an eminent archæologist.  As several Superboy stories remarked, Lana and her mother spent a considerable amount of time accompanying Professor Lang on his expeditions.  This would have provided Lana with a hands-on education in history, civics, sociology, and economics.  Lana was shown to be a bright girl who could have easily absorbed that knowledge.  Lana’s mother probably also provided the girl with what to-day we call “home schooling”.

 

It’s not difficult to envision that, upon the Langs’ return to Smallville, the school authorities tested Lana’s knowledge and found her smart enough to skip up to the next grade.  That would put her in the same class as Clark Kent.

 

 

 

Before I explored any further scenarios, I wanted to see if either of Cap’s two suggestions met the “Occam’s Razor” test.  They were certainly the simplest explanations, and if either one fit into Superboy’s established continuity, then there wouldn’t be need to look any further.

 

That meant digging through the old stories. 

 

The character of Lana Lang debuts in “The Girl in Superboy’s Life”, from Superboy # 10 (Sep.-Oct., 1950).  As the story depicts, the Lang family moves to Smallville and takes up residence in the house next to the Kent home.  Thus, Lana is strategically placed to become the major pest of young Clark Kent’s life.

 

But that’s not really the story that matters.  Not in this instance, anyway.  For our purposes, the best place to start is Superboy # 102 (Jan., 1963), and the tale, “The Amazing Tots of Smallville”.  In terms of age, this is Lana Lang’s earliest appearance in a DC story.  Here, she is a toddler, as are Clark Kent, Pete Ross, and Lex Luthor, also.  You’d think that a story featuring Clark and Lana at their youngest would provide significant clues as to their relative ages.  To the contrary, “The Amazing Tots of Smallville” solves nothing and, actually, creates more problems in continuity.

 

As the tale would have it, Clark and Lana, and Pete and Lex spent their curtain-climbing years together in Smallville.  But Lana’s introduction in Superboy # 10 insisted that she didn’t arrive in Smallville until she was a teen-ager, when her parents moved there.  Editor Mort Weisinger resolved this contradiction in a one-page text piece titled “The Lowdown on Lana”, appearing in Superboy # 127 (March, 1966).  Here, it was explained:

 

Soon after she started school, Lana’s parents began traveling all over the world, taking their daughter with them.  Between trips, they returned for brief stays in Smallville, their home town; but it was not until Lana was in her teens when that they came back for good.

 

Eventually, the same re-adjustment would be applied to Lex Luthor and Pete Ross since both of their Silver-Age introductions also had them moving to Smallville.  As in Lana’s case, “moving to” would become “returning to”.

 

You can’t gauge much by the physical appearances of the kids in Superboy # 102, either.  No dialogue or caption in the tale specifies their age(s).  There is a strong indicator, though, at least for Clark.  The story shows the Kents living in Smallville and operating their general store.  “The Origin of Superboy’s Super-Costume”, from Superboy # 78 (Jan., 1960), established that the Kents sold their farm, moved to Smallville, and began running their general store just before Clark entered the first grade.

 

The Kents had their store in “The Amazing Tots of Smallville”, so the youngest Clark could have been at that time---even being generous with it being “just before” the boy entered school---was five years old.  But artist Al Plastino rendered Clark and the other children in such a way that it was difficult to put them at a specific age.  Going by how Plastino drew them, the youngsters might have been five or four or even three years old.

 

So there’s no way to tell if Lana is the same age as Clark, or younger. 

 

The same problem occurs in “The Day Baby Lana Became Super”, from Superboy # 105 (Jun., 1963).  This is another tale taking place during Clark and Lana’s toddler days, but again, it has the Kents living in Smallville, meaning Clark should be around the age of five.  This time, George Papp supplies the art, but as Plastino did in the earlier tale, Papp’s renditions of Clark and Lana don’t necessarily match that of a five-year-old child.  In fact, they look younger than Plastino’s “amazing tots”.

 

 

As we move forward in the kids’ ages, we actually go back in real time, back to Superboy # 75 (Sep., 1959) and “Superboy’s First Day of School”.  This is a pleasant little account of Clark’s first day in public school.  As all parents do on this signature day, Ma and Pa Kent look on with a mixture of pride and apprehension.  Unlike most parents, however, the Kents aren’t worried about their child getting lost or losing his milk money or getting beaten up by the schoolyard bully.

 

This is the first time that young Clark will be away from their watchful eyes and under the oversight of other adults.  Without Ma and Pa there to cover for him, will their little boy successfully conceal the fact that he is a super-human?

 

It’s a cute story, and that’s why I almost missed it.  Or rather, them---two significant bits of information!

 

As would be shown so many times when they were teens, little Clark and Lana are classmates.  The first piece of hard info we get comes on page four, when we learn that Lana was six years old at the time.  Three pages later comes a second, and crucial, detail. 

 

We’re informed---in fact, the story states it twice---that Clark and Lana are in the first grade.  This means that Clark and Lana entered the public school system at the same grade at the same time.  Furthermore, six years old is age-appropriate for beginning the first grade. 

 

This shoots down Theories № 1 and 2.  There’s no need for a hiccough that puts a year-younger Lana in the same classroom as Clark.  Lana started school, alongside Clark, in the first grade and kept pace with him for the next twelve years.

 

Knowing that when Lana was sitting next to Clark in school, she was in the right grade for her age makes us look at the thing turned around . . . .

 

Was Clark in the right grade for his age?

 

 

 

Round Table member Dave Elyea was thinking along those lines when he posted:  “ . . . the form letter specified that Superman was 32, but said nothing about Clark . . . .”  That was a forehead-smacking observation for me.  Yes, Superman was thirty-two---because DC said so.  But Clark Kent’s age could very well have been as phoney as the “vaccination scar” painted on his arm.

 

Theory № 3:  Clark Kent was a year “younger” than Superboy/man.  Could there plausibly be a year’s difference between Superman’s age and Clark Kent’s “official” age?  If that was so, then it would satisfy all the circumstances set forth by “Superboy’s First Day of School”.

 

I did some research into the laws regarding abandoned children.  The regulations of each state---or, at least, the dozen or so I checked---are remarkably similar.  I got another bit of luck when it came to the development of these laws.  Most of the ones I examined dated back to the early 1930’s.  They had been amended, naturally, over the decades, but the core precepts remained the same.  Therefore, they were comparable to the legislation in place when baby Kal-El was left on the doorstep of Smallville Orphanage by the Kents.

 

That law was essentially this:  the executive authority of any agency or insititution, upon accepting the custody of a foundling child, shall report to the local registrar of vital statistics---usually, the town or county clerk---the date and place of the finding, along with the sex and race and approximate age of the child.  The registrar shall enter those facts into a “record of birth” and this shall serve as the foundling child’s birth certificate.

 

So far, so good.  And when it came to the matter of determining the child’s age---which was the thrust of my research, after all---in every case I could find, that was left to the judgement of any competent authority.

 

That seems to give us a wide-open door to tinker with Clark’s age and make him officially younger than he really was.  But I had some problems with it.

 

First, the same DC form letter which put Superman’s age at thirty-two also stated that he was two years old when he landed on Earth.  Next, throughout numerous flashback stories to baby Kal-El’s time in the orphanage, we saw physicians and nurses present.   If we want to make Clark a year younger than his true age, that means that trained medical personnel would have to mistake a two-year-old child for a one-year-old.  There are just too many physical developments that manifest between a child’s first and second year---walking and rudimentary talking, for example---for that to happen. 

 

A doctor or nurse might be off by a few months, but I found it too unlikely that baby Kal-El’s true age would be significantly greater than what was reported to the Smallville town clerk for the official record.  That makes Theory № 3 untenable.

 

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realised that Mr. Elyea’s suggestion was spot-on in shifting the perception of the problem.  If we wanted to explain how Clark Kent and a year-younger Lana Lang could be in the same grades all through their schooling, the person to look at was Clark---not Lana.

 

 

 

Dave was also on the right track in that the Superman mythos had already established an age discrepancy between Superman and Clark Kent.

 

In the letter column of World’s Finest Comics # 164 (Feb., 1967), Mort Weisinger responded to a letter from Miss Cathy Burnett, of Goshen, New York, requesting the birth dates of Superman, Batman, and Robin . . . .

 

You’ll have to get Batman and Robin’s birth dates from editor Julius Schwartz, official custodian of the Caped Crusaders’ calendar.  As for Superman, the Man of Might was born, by a strange stroke of fate, on a date in the Kryptonian year which corresponds with our Feb. 29---Leap Year Day!

 

Weisinger took advantage of the next year, 1968, being a leap year, to remind the fans of the Man of Steel’s once-every-four-years birthday in the letter columns of Action Comics # 364 (Jun., 1968) and Superman # 210 (Oct., 1968). 

Clark Kent’s birth date was established later in ’67, in response to a letter from Pat Freeman, of Whitehall, Ohio, which appeared in Superboy # 143 (Dec., 1967).  Pat wrote:  “When is Superboy’s birthday?  And when is Clark Kent’s birthday?  Certainly they must be celebrated on different days to protect the secret of his double identity.”  And Mort replied:

 

Superboy’s birthday corresponds to that rarest of Earth dates, Feb. 29.  Clark celebrates his birthday on the anniversary of the day the Kents adopted him, June 18.

 

Subsequent mentions of Clark’s birthday revised 18 June to be the day his rocket landed on Earth, rather than the day he was adopted by the Kents.  (Nb., “Unhappy Birthday to You”, Superman # 263 [Apr., 1973], et al.)  Either way, Clark Kent was, officially, almost four months younger than Superboy/man.

 

A slight difference, but a handy one.  You see, it wraps up my theory on why Clark and Lana were in the same grade in a nice, neat bow . . . .

 

Theory № 4:  Clark was one year older than Lana when they started school together.  We know from “Superboy’s First Day at School” that Lana was six years old when she started school in the first grade.  We also know from the same story that Clark Kent started school in the first grade at the same time.

 

But nowhere in “Superboy’s First Day of School” does it specify what Clark’s age was. 

 

Consider the following possible scenario:

 

Along with all the other unique abilities the Kents discovered about their new son, Jonathan and Martha also realised that little Clark possessed an increased intellect.  There would be outward signs, like the fact that he had learnt to speak in English only weeks after arriving on Earth.  And they saw him process information; somewhat inaccurately, of course, as he was only a toddler, but still with greater comprehension than Earth children of the same age.

 

Starting school was going to pose a problem.  Little Clark understood well enough that he had to conceal his super-powers from the public, but indications of his higher mentality were bound to slip out.  It might get by his classmates, but his teacher, his principal---trained educators---would notice that he was smarter than the other six-year-olds in the first grade.  So how could the Kents mask their son’s intellect?

 

Solution:  wait until little Clark was seven years old to start him in the public school system.  The Kents lived on a farm in rural 1920’s America; Clark not starting school at six could be written off as an “oversight”.  Then, in the summer of the boy’s seventh birthday, the Kents sold their farm, bought the general store, and moved into town.  As clear members of the community now, Ma and Pa Kent enrolled Clark in the school system.

 

Thus, Clark entered the first grade at the listed age of seven, not six.  Any accidental displays of above-average intelligence, the Kents hoped, would be written off as due to Clark being a year older than his peers.

 

So, when they started first grade together, Lana was six and Clark was seven, and that year’s difference maintained throughout their schooling.  Whenever we saw the teen-age Lana and Clark in the same classroom, it wasn’t that Lana was there a year before she should have been.  No, she was the correct age.  Rather, it was Clark who was a year older than most of his classmates. 

 

That keeps it consistent with DC’s insistence that Lana was “a year or two” younger than Superman.

 

 

 

Now I didn’t forget that small difference of about four months between Superman’s birthday and Clark Kent’s.  On paper, Clark is slightly younger than Superman.  In terms of everything else I’ve discussed here, that difference means nothing.  However, it does provide me with an elegant coda.

 

Taking Clark’s birthday of 18 June and presuming he started the first grade at the age of seven, then he was still seven at the end of his first-grade year (not turning eight until the summer).  Then he was eight years old throughout second grade, nine throughout the third grade, and so forth, until he graduated Smallville High School at eighteen.

 

He turns nineteen over the summer and then starts Metropolis University.  He’s nineteen throughout his freshman year and twenty years old throughout his sophomore year.  That means Clark Kent doesn’t turn twenty-one and become a legal adult until the summer after his second year of college.

 

But Kal-El of Krypton’s actual birth date was almost four months earlier.  Adjusting for that, it means that little Clark actually turned eight years old a few months before the end of his first-grade year.  And he would go up a year in age in the middle of every school year, not during the summer in between.

 

So when eighteen-year-old Clark Kent graduated from Smallville High, it was actually nineteen-year-old Kal-El who walked across the stage to receive his diploma.  Going on, Clark actually went from nineteen to twenty years old in his college freshman year and from twenty to twenty-one the following year. 

 

I started doing the math when I remembered the conclusion to one of the earliest Silver-Age Superman stories.  As it turned out, my idea that Clark Kent started school at seven years old results in one of those neat bits of serendipity. 

 

“Clark Kent’s College Days”, from Superman # 125 (Nov., 1958), takes us back to Our Hero’s sophomore year at Metropolis U.   An emergency during Clark’s physics class forces him to use his heat vision, causing the keen-witted instructor, Professor Maxwell, to suspect Clark is Superboy.

 

As the story depicts, Maxwell and Clark spend the school year playing cat-and-mouse; Maxwell laying snares to expose young Kent’s identity, Clark evading them.  Finally, Professor Maxwell manœuvres Clark into submitting to a polygraph test.  After his subject is hooked up to the machine, Professor Maxwell asks him, “Clark Kent, are you Superboy?”

 

Without hesitation, Clark responds, “I am not Superboy!” and the polygraph needle doesn’t quiver an inch.  The machine indicates that Clark is telling the truth.

 

That wasn’t because of any super-powered hanky-panky, either.  Instead, simply, at the time Professor Maxwell asked the question, Clark realised that he wasn’t a boy, anymore; he was an adult.  So, truthfully, he wasn’t Superboy; he was Superman!

 

That’s what kind of puts the cherry on top of Theory № 4.  By beginning his formal education when he was seven, and not six, it puts Clark in the position of turning twenty-one in his sophomore year of college.  And twenty-one being the legal age of adulthood in the United States at the time, it justifies his rationalisation that he is no longer Superboy, but Superman.

 

Anyway, it works for me.  What do you guys think?

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I like it!

As always, an impressive job of research, and very logical. I was actually thinking as I read that Clark would more likely come off older than an Earth kid of the same age but I hadn't applied it to the problem.

You mention Clark growing up in the 1930s, which seems right for the Silver Age--did they ever give any specific date indicators? I know some post-Silver Age stories referenced the 1950s with specific details, but I don't know about earlier stuff (other than Bonnie and Clyde once showing up).

I'd love to see someone figure out just when most of the Superboy stories were set--up until the official "floating timeline" was established around 1970, placing Superboy forever 15 years before Superman's constant "present day", the stories seemed to be all over the place, chronologically--for every story that was clearly set before Superman's 1938 debut (like the Bonnie & Clyde one), there were at least a couple that seemed to take place during the same time frame they were originally published, with cars, fashions, and even television sets that wouldn't have existed "15 years earlier", let alone before 1938.

...Could the general custom of " females are , generally , younger than the men that they have romantic relationships ~ up to ani including marriage " be at work here ????? (I haven't had time to read the Cmdr.'s whole post .)

  It's probable that your biological parents were in a situation such as that , the male being perhaps 1-4 years oldre than the female ~ I know that mine were .

Even at an early age, I wondered why Superboy/Superman has to resort to tricks when strapped to a lie detector.  It's been made clear many times that he has "super" control over his physiological systems. Indeed, he doesn't have to breathe unless he wants to.  How is a polygraph supposed to cope with that? 

I don't think it was a matter of tricking the polygraph or anything like that--it was more of Superman's code: he just doesn't lie.

So rather than physically tricking the machine, he just ensures that whatever he answers is the truth.

Don Mankowski said:

Even at an early age, I wondered why Superboy/Superman has to resort to tricks when strapped to a lie detector.  It's been made clear many times that he has "super" control over his physiological systems. Indeed, he doesn't have to breathe unless he wants to.  How is a polygraph supposed to cope with that? 

Going by how Plastino drew them, the youngsters might have been five or four or even three years old.
.
So there’s no way to tell if Lana is the same age as Clark, or younger.
.
This time, George Papp supplies the art, but as Plastino did in the earlier tale, Papp’s renditions of Clark and Lana don’t necessarily match that of a five-year-old

child. In fact, they look younger than Plastino’s “amazing tots”.

At the risk of seeming contrary, Clark is not an Earth child. He's a Kryptonian child. Do we really know what his appearance is likely to be at certain ages?

Without hesitation, Clark responds, “I am not Superboy!” and the polygraph needle doesn’t quiver an inch. The machine indicates that Clark is telling the truth.

As above, do we really know how a polygraph works on a Kryptonian? Heck, they aren't even reliable on native Earthlings.

Randy Jackson said:

I don't think it was a matter of tricking the polygraph or anything like that--it was more of Superman's code: he just doesn't lie.

Do you mean to say that back in the Silver Age Lois Lane never looked Superman in the eye and said "Admit it. You're Clark Kent!" (or vice versa). How did he handle that question without lying?

As I recall, his general strategy was to do something or other where he told the truth, but made sure the person asking the question couldn't understand his response. For instance, he might use a Super-Whisper, too loud for human ears to comprehend.  I've seen him as Superboy do various things to distract Lana from being able to comprehend his statements. Seriously, I'm reading through some Superboy stuff currently, and it's a well-known public fact that Superboy/Superman does not lie. It causes him other issues as well.

Richard Willis said:


Do you mean to say that back in the Silver Age Lois Lane never looked Superman in the eye and said "Admit it. You're Clark Kent!" (or vice versa). How did he handle that question without lying?

Randy Jackson said:

I don't think it was a matter of tricking the polygraph or anything like that--it was more of Superman's code: he just doesn't lie.


On the contrary, he lied all the time. "I was just getting some paper from the storeroom!" "Must I fight him, Lois? I'm sc- sc- scared!" "Superman told me..." etc. etc.

Superman/Superboy didn't lie. Clark Kent, on the other hand...

Luke Blanchard said:


On the contrary, he lied all the time. "I was just getting some paper from the storeroom!" "Must I fight him, Lois? I'm sc- sc- scared!" "Superman told me..." etc. etc.

I'm fairly certain that was the mind set behind the form letter's answers--clearly, the Superboy comics intended that Lana & Clark were the same age (give or take several months), and I've always believed that Lois is a year or two older than Clark, since she was already established in her career at the paper when he was first hired there.  I doubt we'll find a better explanation for Lana & Clark's relative ages than we've gotten here, and I don't have an iota of proof to back up my theory about Lois being older, so there's nothing to that but my own personal opinion.

Emerkeith Davyjack said:

...Could the general custom of " females are , generally , younger than the men that they have romantic relationships ~ up to ani including marriage " be at work here ????? (I haven't had time to read the Cmdr.'s whole post .)

  It's probable that your biological parents were in a situation such as that , the male being perhaps 1-4 years oldre than the female ~ I know that mine were .

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