Sunday, March 17, 2013

Superboy and The Silver Surfer

I think one of DC's biggest mistakes was to remove the Superboy years from Superman's history. Having him have such a long career and the world being able to watch him grow up went a long way as to explaining why Superman was held as the premier and most trusted superhero in a world where there are hundreds of super beings in operation. Plus, as I have mentioned before, the Legion of Super-Heroes have never really recovered from Superboy's removal from their history.  I guess DC is trying to make up for the the lack of time as Superboy by giving us the Jeans-and-T-Shirt-Superman in Action Comics, but it just doesn't feel the same.


Isaac said...

Wow....what a cover. I can't imagine what Supes could do that was so bad that he has to be exiled from earth. I am of the same mind as you. I hink removing Superboy from the canon that something special was lost. Don't care how good Byrne's reboot was, it just wasn't the same or as enjoyable as before. But it may have been a financial decision as the Seigel family had the copyright to that character.

Anonymous said...

id believe this more if it was superboy prime speaking of which how bout superboy prime vs prime also superman family on family fued up against incredibles or avengers or goof troop

AirDave said...

The coolest covers of the Bronze Age, or pre-Crisis, for Superboy's book had him leaving Earth going into exile for some thing he felt guilty for.

I think one of the many biggest blunders was to make Superboy a separate character.

Looking back, Crisis on Infinite Earths was unnecessary. It did much more damage than good. The Death of Superman introduced a punk Superboy. Crisis on Infinite Earths and Final Crisis introduced an evil, insulting fanboy Superboy - and more carnage.

DC needs to be more Smallville and Metropolis than Gotham City.

Blue Magic Marker said...

Ross, I have come to really appreciate your running analysis of what it is that made DC & Marvel Comics and their characters so special or successful, and the impact they have had on our culture, and also why these companies may be failing to uphold the quality they once held. You've come a long way from just writing comments of why you liked a certain superheroes to providing real cultural criticism. I actually would prefer to read much longer essays of your thoughts, if possible. Its time we got some real compositions from you about the industry in general.

Ross said...

Thanks, but I can't claim to have any special insight. It's just one fan's opinion!

Mikeyboy said...

That's right...Supermans adventures from when he was a boy...are important to the history of the character

pblfsda said...

@AirDave: I think you're confusing Final Crisis with Infinite Crisis from a couple of years earlier. That Superboy wasn't the old pre-Crisis Earth-1 Superboy anyway; he was the one created for television in the 1980's. DC created a comic for him on an Earth with no other heroes so that it could parallel the TV show. Both the comic and the show were cancelled, but he was allowed to enter continuity at the end of COIE after his Earth was destroyed. He didn't know anyone left alive, so he joined the Golden Age Clark and Lois, not realizing he'd go crazy years later.

And let's not fall into the trap of conflating COIE with either IC or FC. Not only were they published twenty years apart, but COIE cleaned up an unholy mess of mutually conflicting multiple continuities, IC created an unholy mess and FC just WAS an unholy mess. I'm sick to the gills of old farts who think the Silver Age Superman was "the original version". He was maybe the sixth or seventh reiteration of the character. Most people's warm memories of the character likely stem from the TV show, animation and beautiful Swan and Adams art. For years his editor was a certifiable sociopath who pushed plotlines grounded in cruel deceptions between people who were supposedly friends. It took Julius Schwartz and a handful of writers years to rehabilitate his reputation as character. It's no surprise that the LSH pushed Superboy out of his own book. It's a shame, but it's no surprise. By the late 1970's he reemerged as a "good old-fashioned" comic book hero everyone said they wanted (in Adventure Comics, then his own new title) but no one bought it. DC's current kids' line of titles, which draw from their animation's sensibilities, are similarly teetering on the edge of cancellation all the time despite being what everyone SAYS they miss about comics. Instead people buy the New52 stuff and rant about how much they hate it.
I'd like to think a Showcase collection of Bob Brown Superboys would fly off the shelves today, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Bob Buethe said...

@Isaac: IIRC, in the original Superboy comic that this cover was based on, Superboy exiled himself from Earth because he believed that he had lost control of his strength and accidentally crushed a young girl to death. Of course, it was all a trick by a criminal who wanted to prevent Superboy's interference.

@pblfsda: Interesting comments, but I have to make a few corrections. First, your timeline is a bit off. Though DC did produce a Superboy comic to tie in with the 1990 TV series, that wasn't Superboy-Prime. S-P debuted in DC Comics Presents 87 in 1986, reappeared in Superman 414 and the last three issues of COIE, then wasn't seen again until Infinite Crisis. Second, when you say that the Silver Age Superman was the "sixth or seventh reiteration of the character," I assume you're exaggerating for effect; if you're only talking about the comic book, it was the second, arguably third version, although there was never a clear reboot point like the COIE or the New 52. Third, that Superboy series that "no one bought" ran from 1977 to 1984, a pretty healthy run. And fourth, while I like what I've seen of the current animation-based titles, in no way is the story or art comparable to what DC produced in the '60s and '70s. They're what today's creators think what older fans say they miss about comics, but they're not getting the point.

Most of your other comments, I agree with. I do have warm memories of the TV show, Swan and Adams art, Bob Brown's Superboy, and Julie Schwartz and his staff. And I'm not buying much of DC's New 52 (two titles, to be precise) because I sampled several of them, and really do hate them.

Hurricane of Novacaine said...

When I walk into Forbidden Planet or Midtown Comics in New York City, I see a new generation of goth/hipster/occupy wall street comics enthusiasts that seem to be pleased with the New 52, Marvel Now!, Manga and what the other companies are doing. Also, I notice a LOT more women, young and old! I'm only 39, but I know that I'm NOT the demographic that DC is aiming for anymore, and thats fine. I find myself heading for the 1980s back issue boxes anyway.

pblfsda said...

@Bob Buethe: I was indeed off about the TV series' dates (but truthfully, so were you: it ran from 1988 to 1992, it didn't start in 1990). But your dates for his series are misleading. He had a feature that ran in two different anthologies from 1977 to the end of 1979; first in Adventure (sharing the book with Aqualad and then Eclipso) and then he became one of several features in Superman Family, where he appeared on the front cover twice (indicating the editors' confidence in his sales potential, not mine). That makes 14 short stories in over two years, which I didn't consider part of his full-length monthly series. That ran a respectable four-and-a-half years and was cancelled a full year before COIE. Not only was Crisis not the reason it was cancelled, but DC put out the mini-series "Secret Years" (with Rozakis, Swan and Schaffenberger) as Crisis was starting so that Silver Age fans would finally get to see Clark transitioning from college to adulthood right before closing that continuity altogether. DC didn't have to do that and lord knows it wasn't done to rope in new, younger readers as they'd hoped to do after Crisis (despite the Frank Miller covers). Yet they mostly got grief along the lines of "that dumb Crisis took all my favorite characters away!" from that dwindling demographic.

Which brings me back to the numerous iterations of Superman which preceded the Silver Age incarnation. As well as his comics sold in the Golden Age Superman was more widely experienced in other media, unlike any other super-hero, including Batman and Captain Marvel. The Superman (or Supermen) appearing in newspapers, radio programs, movie serials, television (which itself spun off from a theatrical film), animation and (I think) a novel each had variations on his back history, powers and settings. They were not a single coherent continuity. Although Weisinger never demonstrated an interest in the Blue Cheese having a memory that lasted more than 12 pages, he was likely the agent that decided to put an end to the conflicting versions of Superman in different media and changed the comics late in the Golden Age to incorporate some of the more popular ideas. The business about him flying instead of jumping had been changed much earlier, but if there had only ever been one Golden Age Superman then: Pa Kent would have stayed dead and the Superboy stories would have remained imaginary; there would never have been kryptonite; he would have worked at The Globe, not The Planet; his multiple vision and breath powers would have been less elaborate; etc. That Weisinger often claimed that those innovations were his ideas is another story, but they didn't originate in the comics-- the comics were changed to accommodate them because they proved popular in other media first. So, "sixth or seventh" is about right. By the time the TV show debuted (in 1952, late in the Golden Age and just after the JSA disappeared) its Superman closely resembled the comic, but he still became Superman as an adult. After that series ended a Superboy pilot was shot (as was "Superpup"-- Google it), but only because Reeves died while another season was due. They weren't trying to make the show conform to what was then the new SIlver Age continuity, they were trying to fulfill a contract. That's the kind of disjointed jumble many Baby Boomers misremember as being more uniformly standard than it actually was.

None of which is particularly germane to this blog. (Sorry for eating up so much real estate, Ross! I really love your covers!)

Blue Magic Marker said...

Informative! I enjoy these exchanges. I genuinely wish Ross would write essays just as long. More expositions, I say!!!!

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