The Teen of Steel

This morning’s post focuses on the first Superboy 100 page issue. This one features “The World’s Greatest Young Heroes”, who are watching Supey lifting weights.

The vibrant red of Nick Cardy’s cover would “pop” on the newsstand and I love that blocky 70s logo. The composition looks awkwardly  imbalanced to me, however. Everyone featured on the cover appears inside, which is a first for this series- apart from Mal Duncan, the Teen Titan whose power appeared to be “not being a token at all”. There’s also something very effeminate about Chameleon Boy’s pose between, ahem, Kal-El’s legs. I wonder if it’s a redrawn figure? Let’s take a look behind the cover…

Clark Kent’s Super-Father: The story that opens this collection predates the debut of the Fantastic Four by one month. It’s about “jovial Jonathan Kent” apparently gaining super-powers and ordering Superboy to lead a “normal boy’s life”. Clark is an obedient son if a bit slow on the uptake: eleven pages later, he realises it’s an impostor- Kryptonian criminal Jax-Ur. (This is from the days long before Terence Stamp made General Zod the default Baddie from  Krypton.) The revelation that the Phantom Zoner gave himself away by acidentally signing his real name on  a receipt for five crates of oranges made me guffaw out loud. Charming if convoluted.

The Jigsaw Puzzle Murder: This is the only Star Spangled Kid story- outside of the Seven Soldiers of Victory in JLA Super-Specs- I’ve ever read and it’s not a winner. The gimmick is, of course, that the adult  member of this patriotic pair (ugly Irish -American stereotype Stripesy with his fussy haircut) is the sidekick. The story starts with pace and intrigue but it’s a primitive pencilling job and slathered again with unappealing inky shadows. The coded fighting manoeuvres the duo used were imitated by the Eighth Doctor and Sam Jones in mid-90s BBC Books, IIRC.

The Astounding Separated Man: The second-ever Teen Titans tale, drawn by classy, naturalistic Bruno Premiani of Doom Patrol fame. The small town setting and the surreal monster- movie menace recall DP stories but there’s the added twist of Haney’s kooky hepcat dialogue. The best-looking strip in this collection, it’s also notable as the introduction of the Donna Troy version of Wonder Girl (although nobody knows that’s who she’ll be, yet).  WG is a delightful,  breezy addition to the rather stodgy trio of boys

The Kid Eternity Hoax: Another classy, naturalistic strip but this one is oddly unsettling. The Kid has a crush on heiress Lally and summons his historical allies to prevent her being swindled and then kidnapped. Did the writer not realise he or she was penning the adventures of a boy ghost? A romance between the “poor little rich girl” and the torpedoed and bullet-riddled lad seems morbid to me! Look what happened to Myla and Invisible Kid!

Editor Bridwell obviously liked Kid Eternity and featured him in Secret Origins 4, the following year. However, the character owes a huge debt to 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Again, it might have been improving and educational but how many kids would have heard of Lord Byron or Belle Boyd, Confederate spy?

The Eight Impossible Missions: A LSH story that predates Mission: Impossible (although the first issue of Adventure I ever owned was Jim Shooter’s Taurus Gang story “Mission Diabolical” in late ’68). This is another stiff John Forte clunker, about a tedious puzzle competition for leadership presided over by yellow excresence, Proty II. At one point, the blob disguises itself as “Bizarro-Proty” for absolutely no reason I can see. This silly tale features cameos by Pete Ross and Jimmy Olsen (as Elastic Lad)- the only time I can recall seeing these two honorary members together in a strip. The only other noteworthy moment is the introduction of Spider Girl and her expanding ginger hair. Rejected Sussa Paka would go on to join the Legion of Super Villains.  I doubt if I would have become a LSH fan in the 70s with stories and art of this calibre.

Little Boy Blue: I knew next to nothing about this series but its longevity in Sensation Comics  was doubtlessly due to its simple wish-fulfillment premise: three boys, Tommy, Tubby and Toughy (surely a relative of the Newsboy Legion’s Scrapper, Patrick MacGuire) decide to fight crime as Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys.

It’s also metatextual in that Tubby is reading Wildcat’s origin in that very same issue of Sensation Comics and Tommy is inspired to make a costume from “this old lodge suit of my father’s!” District Attorney Rogers is the Mason in the Blue, apparently (A gag for West Of Scotland readers only). I was surprised how charmed I was by this strip.

The Rip Van Winkle of Smallville: A combination of hoax and romance from the Fifties, in which Kal-El  tries to shield a coma victim from realising he’s lost twenty years of his life. It’s not a very exciting story but the young Superman is a thoughtful and compassionate hero. Considering most of these stories were written in either the era of the Dead End Kids or the Juvenile Delinquent, they portray children and teenagers in a very positive light- even the Legionnaires are inquisitive and inventive in their “Impossible Missions”. No 90s bloodsplatter- stubble-and- trenchcoat anomie here; the only ponytail is on Wonder Girl.

The letter page has an elegant and sweet masthead (maybe by Curt Swan?) with Krypto fetching mail. It also appears that Swifty the Superdog’s second appearance had been scheduled for this issue but the negatives were lost; Destructo probably ate them.

Two letters are raves for the Plastic Man DC Special. ENB refers to future Plas reprints in Jimmy Olsen- did that ever happen?  I dropped Olsen when Kirby left. He also dismisses the Sixties Plas series with ” We pulled a boner that time”.

The inside back cover, again, features a key to the teen heroes, including loyal Pete Ross. The next issue, featuring Flying Heroes, was the next 100-pager (and the third) that I actually bought in the Seventies…

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners.

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