A Tribute to the of
Hello again and welcome to the latest edition of the Silver Age Sage. We're well into the new year now and it's time to look at yet another effort from the masters at DC comics during the era we know and love so well.
As I mentioned a few reviews back (Superman #200, to be precise) the entire superhero comic theme began with Action #1 in 1938 with the debut of the Man of Steel. Although comics had been around prior to this, even the so-called Platinum Age selections don't hold a candle to this momentous milestone. If you're luckier than I am and happen to own a copy of this jewel, please e-mail me at the address below and I'll tell you where to ship it. ;-) Actually, our friends at Overstreet recently valued it as the world heavyweight comic book champ that even have a sub-category listing below the bottom "Good" rating. Depending on condition, that little bit of pulp books for between $30,000.00 and $185,000.00. Quite a testimonial to the significance of that creation, eh? I thought you'd agree.
So, the creation of Superman not only spawned the countless varieties we've enjoyed over the years, but also led to the creation of several spin-off magazines that can be lumped together into the "Superman Family" if you will. Lois Lane, at one point, had her own magazine, as did Jimmy Olsen and later issues of Action carried Supergirl, Kal's cousin. I guess it became inevitable at one point that the gaps in Superman's youth should be filled in and someone decided to launch Superboy, subtitled "The Adventures of Superman when he was a boy." Unlike pretty much all his peers, if there truly are any, Superman has always been, well, super. The often told tale of his origin begins while he's a babe in arms, shot from the doomed planet of Krypton in his own self-guided rocket to earth where the different sun and atmosphere grant him his amazing abilities. Fortunately he lands on the Kent farm somewhere in America's heartland and is raised with good ol' midwestern values while being able to mature in a small community while he learns to harness his powers. So, come along with me to Smallville where we see what Superboy is up to in issue #101 of Superboy from December of 1962 [Cover by Curt Swan & George Klein].
This particular issue holds two full stand-alone stories (try to find that in one of today's comics) beginning with "The Valhalla of Super Companions!" The splash page shows our hero on a throne being crowned, no less, by an alien who appears to be a distant cousin of the Guardians of the Universe. He's bald and blue-skinned and announces to the joyful beings surrounding the throne that "Since you have greater super-powers than any of the Super-youths gathered from scores of planets, I hereby crown you King of Thrann! Of course, it means you must remain here forever!" Superboy seems to be less than honored at this prospect as he thinks, "That means I'll never see my foster parents or Smallville again!" The story begins with Clark at his desk in Smallville High as the members of the classroom begin to fall into unconsciousness. He soon discovers that it's not limited to his classroom. The entire town of Smallville is in la-la land. He soon finds the responsible parties disembarking from a spaceship on the edge of town. They introduce themselves as citizens of the Super-World and have come specifically to find Superboy. Their sleep ray is responsible for the big Smallville Snooze and they have been observing the Boy of Steel with advanced surveillance technology. They've come to "persuade" our hero to relocate to their world. Superboy plays along in order to free his hometown from the effects of their ray. The next thing he knows, he's traveling to other worlds with his hosts to collect more heroes of other worlds. The first is a scientist who uses a formula to become Liquidman. He looks like a silhouetted puddle and inexplicably changes back to his more corporeal form by taking a counter-formula. I leave it to your imagination as to how he pulls that one off. Maybe it's kept in a sponge or something. Anyway, same story, second verse. The hosts give everyone the chloroform treatment as leverage to lure their heroes away. Next victim, Stormboy, who probably inspired Storm of Marvel's X-Men. He has control over the weather. Following his pickup, it's onto a world where the people have descended from plants and the addition of Tree-Man. He doesn't look like some refugee from the forest in the Wizard of Oz, thankfully, but I find it amusing that they're all green-skinned and bald, with pointed ears on this planet and that they all wear green trousers that stop below the knee with no other clothing. Telepathy Man can control the atoms around him to form them into whatever he wishes, mentally. Shadowman's abilities should be pretty obvious. This Super Six now await their destination.
Once the ship arrives on Thrann, the passengers are told that they will not be permitted to leave, but they are enticed with the notion that their respective weaknesses will no longer be a problem on this world. Green Kryptonite, Superboy's greatest danger, doesn't exist in that section of the universe. Telepathy Man's powers are derailed by the thoughts of evil people, which don't exist on Thrann. Stormboy is vulnerable to rainbows of all things while Liquidman, just like the Martian Manhunter, is neutralized by Fire. Tree-Man fears a particular sort of blight (naturally) while Shadowman can be affected by radium. Again, none of these elements are to be found on Thrann. The heroes' hosts then go on to explain that they'd like one of them to be their new ruler and have decided that whoever performs the mightiest super-feat will be the new king. Superboy heads for space and starts to work over an asteroid for his project. Shadowman heads for the core of Thrann to locate rare minerals. Stormboy cooks up an electrical disturbance to charge up the local power reservoir. Tree-man grows taller to help with some sky-high work and Telepathy Man makes some jewels out of thin air. Superboy, meanwhile, has created a metal castle that he puts into orbit. He also has thoughtfully created some jet-propelled flying belts so that the grounded members of Thrann can check things out. He is, of course, crowned king and he and his compadres use the orbiting castle as a headquarters, allowing them to monitor the needs of their new home world. During their time off, the heroes reminisce about things back home and Superboy's mind wanders to earth. He later notes that each of his new friends are making visits to an observatory on the surface of Thrann. The next thing you know, there appears to be a super revolt. Liquidman, Telepathy Man and the others publicly object to Superboy's position and they choose to abandon the castle and to prove their superior abilities and independence. Each idea they come up with is quickly done by Superboy in great feats of one-upmanship. At last the others declare war on Superboy and attack the castle, which goes down in flames to the horror of the people of Thrann. They hastily decide that the only solution is to send the heroes home to their respective worlds. After the decision is made, we learn that it was all staged to allow the homesick heroes to go back to their planets. The visits to the observatory were longing looks home and the scheme was hatched to lead to that end. Thus ends the first story.
Tale two, entitled "The Handsome Hound of Steel!" features Krypto the Superdog, who had a tendency to act almost as Superboy's comic relief. We, the readers, are privy to his thoughts which range from the sometimes clever to the outright juvenile. This particular story has Krypto suffering from self-esteem problems as he seeks a way to be a better looking pooch.
Crime in Smallville is limited to dog-napping in this story. Apparently the perps think that snagging a few pedigreed dogs in their disguise as ice-cream truck drivers will net them a small fortune. Uh-huh. Krypto, meanwhile, is trying to impress a French poodle with a dinosaur bone that he's found and dug up. Superboy catches him and chastises him roundly. Krypto ends up in the dumps because not only is his master peeved, but the poodle wasn't impressed either. As he mopes away he sees the dog-nappers and decides to play 'possum with a painted "Kryptonite" rock so that they'll snatch him and lead him to their hideout. They pick him up but discover the rock is only a rock so the mastermind of the gang decides to let the other canines go while tricking Krypto into helping them with a more ambitious plan. Krypto, it seems, can understand the King's English quite well, so the mobsters tell him they're working on a transformer machine that just happens to work on dogs for now. They wire Krypto up for a "test" and then have him perform a battery of super feats to check the effects prior to changing him into his chosen form of a collie. The tunnel he has thoughtfully dug leads directly under the Smallville bank.
The next day, Krypto returns for his final "treatment" and he is duped into thinking it's worked perfectly and that he's a collie instead of a mutt. As he flies off to look up the poodle again, he discovers he isn't what he thought he was and he goes back to see what the gang is really up to. His x-ray and telescopic vision show him what they're doing, so he quickly fills in the tunnel and diverts it to the police station. After his successful nudge to the scales of justice, he heads for space, still wishing he were some other type of dog. During his space romp he goes through a red cloud before returning to earth where he sees his reflection in a pool of water and 'lo and behold, he's now a Super Collie! He then realizes that the cloud he passed through must have been Red Kryptonite, the element from his home world that has unpredictable effects on Kryptonian creatures. Superboy soon returns from a mission and discovers what's happened to his pet and is also able to put two and two together. Moments later, another surprise development. Krypto is now Kryptonia, complete with pups! Holy sex change, Batman! Fortunately, the effects of Red Kryptonite are always temporary and he soon reverts to his old self, content at last to be Krypto the super dog, collie or no. So, with that "It's a Wonderful Life" type of climax, the story comes to a close.
Rating time. While these stories were both good, clean fun they sure didn't break any ground nor were they particularly imaginative, so it's a 6 this time around for some pretty average fare.
Again, I always enjoy hearing from you, so drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to share any thoughts or opinions on this or any other review I've done. As per usual, I'll return in a couple of weeks with a new installment.
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