A Tribute to the of

Apparently it's a jungle out there.  Once again the sabers are rattling and the attorneys are being retained, this time over the rights to the character of Superboy:


I know that commerce and the almighty dollar tend to trump most things in this world of ours, but geez; can't we all just get along?

Fortunately, friends, you can rely on us here at The Silver Lantern to help you enjoy the comics and stories of yesteryear, free of worry and it seems to me an opportune time to review a classic Superboy story, so without further ado may I present another of "The Adventures of Superman When He Was a Boy."  This time around I've selected a rather special edition:  It's Superboy #100 from October of 1962 and features the Jerry Seigel penned story "Ma and Pa Kent's Incredible Delusion!"

The splash page rendered by Curt Swan & George Klein is a virtual duplicate of the cover by Curt Swan & John Forte, with the Kent's decked out in the garb of Jor-El and Lara and seemingly believing they are the departed Kryptonian parents of Kal-El whom we know better as Superman or in this case Superboy and they are urging him to make his escape to Earth via the "rocket."  Superboy is playing along in order to preserve their apparent mental frailty.

Things begin with the Boy of Steel on patrol in the South Seas where he arrives just in time to save some ships from a nearby volcanic island that has abruptly exploded, sending lava flying everywhere.  Following this duty he flies home to the outskirts of Smallville to join his adopted parents at their summer cottage.

Upon his arrival, he is startled to see Ma and Pa Kent racing toward him, dressed as his Kryptonian parents and urging him to get into the experimental rocket ship to avoid the imminent explosion of Krypton.  Superboy thinks back to when this scene took place in reality when he was a baby, but this rusty sewer pipe is no rocket built by Jor-El and he listens in further stunned silence as the Kent's tell him to always remember their love for him and the memories they made at places like Jewel Mountain and Fire Falls on Krypton.  Superboy's mind races furiously wondering how they could know of these places on his home world.  He challenges them on it, suggesting that if it's a joke it's in very poor taste, but his foster parents admonish him not to speak so disrespectfully to them, Jor-El and Lara.

Taking another tack, he leads them into the cottage to try and show them a little evidence, with a pair of figurines of the Kent's that he'd fashioned and presented to them, bearing their names on the bases.  Non-plussed, the couple says he'd made them to confuse them.

Still puzzled, the Boy of Steel heads for a wooded area where a secret tunnel to the Kent basement is located.  Once inside a hidden room of the house, he discovers that the costumes of his Kryptonian parents are missing from the wax likenesses of them.  He also picks up a book entitled "My Life on Krypton" that is a journal of sorts and says that another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.  He believes they know of Jewel Mountain and Fire Falls from his memoirs, courtesy of his power of total recall.  He remains baffled, however, as to how their delusional condition came to be and more importantly what he can do to help them.  Investigations of his space trophies and nearby elements reveal nothing that could have affected them.  Our hero decides to use his super vision to peruse the psychology section of the Smallville library when he comes across this bit of wisdom:  "If someone is suffering a sudden mental delusion, humor them until a doctor can treat them!  Pretend you believe them, so they won't get enraged and become violent!"  He decides to do just that and realizes that he cannot take them to a doctor any time soon or his secret identity would be in jeopardy.

He returns to speak with the Kent's and says his earlier reaction was simply a joke and that he has an idea that can save them all.  He elaborates that he knows where there's a rocket ship large enough to accommodate them all, built by an engineer in Krypton City and he flies off to retrieve it.

No sooner is the Boy of Steel out of sight, though, and then the two figures remove the masks from their heads revealing Dr. Xadu and Erndine, two criminals from Krypton who have managed to escape from the Phantom Zone.  Ironically it was the very concussion from the volcanic explosion that caused the temporary rift in the Phantom Zone that afforded their escape.  Like all natives of Krypton, the moment they were under the influence of Earth's yellow sun they gained the same super-powers as Kal-El and immediately began planning a way to dispose of Superboy.  First off, they captured the Kent's and sealed them inside a cave with huge boulders.  Now with their disguises they continue with the next phase.

While the villains plot, Superboy is busily constructing the rocket ship, using materials from an abandoned foreign legion military post in the Sahara desert.  He also takes the opportunity to rearrange the post itself into a replica of a Kryptonian city.  Once his task is completed, he flies back to the cottage, but to his dismay Ma and Pa Kent have vanished.  He speeds back to the Kent General Store in Smallville to discover them in their usual garb.  Superboy tells Jor-El and Lara that they must fly away from Krypton before it explodes, but they ask why he's addressing them as such.  Speedily changing his garb back to that of Clark Kent he says that he was just joking (C'mon, is that the best you can do for an excuse?) and is secretly relieved that they seem to have recovered from their delusion.  He soon busies himself by waiting on customers, many of whom are seeking relief from the hottest day of the year, perspiring profusely and ordering cold soft drinks.

A little later when the customers have left a radio bulletin informs them of a fire at a fireworks factory in a neighboring town.  Clark switches to the familiar red and blue uniform to offer aid.  After he leaves, the masks are again doffed and Dr. Xadu and Erndine gloat that they've again fooled Kal-El and that they will confuse him and then remove him.

Superboy flies to the rescue at the factory, extinguishing the menacing blaze with a puff of super breath and then returns to Smallville only to once again find his foster parents in the costumes of Jor-El and Lara.  They query him as to whether he was able to find the larger space ship.  He groans inwardly and then scoops them up telling them that everything is in readiness for their escape.

Upon their arrival at the faux city, Superboy activates an earthquake machine he'd placed underground to simulate the destructive forces that demolished Krypton.  They board the ship and blast off.  Once into outer space, Superboy looks into a monitor and tells them that Krypton has exploded, sending deadly chunks of Kryptonite flying, but that he took the precaution of coating the ship in protective lead which won't allow the rays to penetrate.  The ship orbits for several hours before it lands near Smallville and once the trio debarks Superboy assists his foster parents with another puff of super breath to help them "fly."  The Kryptonian criminals can, of course, fly of their own accord, but continue to keep up the deception.  As they come back to Earth, "Jor-El" announces that the notorious criminal Jax-Ur has escaped from the Phantom Zone and he'll need the punishment ray to send him back.  Superboy thinks to himself that the ray is hidden at the bottom of the sea but perhaps he should go ahead and retrieve it in order to continue humoring his delusional parents.  Before he does so, though, he happens to observe a nearby pond that has evaporated as a result of the recent terrific heat spell.  Noting that and the scorched grass triggers something in the Boy of Steel's mind and he suddenly knows that these are not really the Kent's.

Glancing over at the pair, his x-ray vision confirms their true likenesses beneath the masks.  He recognizes them as Phantom Zone refugees, courtesy of a prior sighting through a special viewer.  Things begin to fall into place as he deduces that they want the punishment ray to exile him to the Phantom Zone.  The vital clue was that they were failing to perspire during the recent heat wave, indicating that they were super beings like him.

Soon he's placed them back on the ship with the explanation that the punishment ray is hidden atop the highest mountain on the planet Exon.  They instruct him to wait behind on Earth and keep an eye out for Jax-Ur.  After blast-off the cunning criminals gloat that once they've obtained the punishment ray they'll use it on Superboy and then rule the Earth.

Back on the surface, Superboy used his super-hearing to eavesdrop and gained a vital clue as to the whereabouts of Jonathan and Martha Kent and speeds off to free them from their prison.  He quickly briefs them on what has transpired and Ma Kent says that once they discover the ruse they'll return, bent on revenge.  Two to one odds don't favor the Boy of Steel, either.  Superboy replies that they're in for a rude awakening on Exon.

Shift scenes to the ship where the duo is about to land.  Erndine comments that she'd like to see Superboy at that moment, but the lead shielding on the ship prohibits her x-ray vision.

Upon landing, they discover they've been duped when they emerge to a red sun.  Superboy is monitoring them via his telescopic vision and reports to the Kent's that the ship has exploded before they can re-board, though no reason is given.  The Kryptonian criminals lament that they were better off in the Phantom Zone than exiled on this strange planet inhabited with weird creatures where they are the only humans.

Back on Earth, Pa Kent comments that they couldn't see the red sun because of the lead shielding and Superboy further explains that the monitor only showed images in black and white.

So, justice is served, the menace of Dr. Xadu and Erndine is neutralized and it's another happy ending in Smallville.

There is a second story in this issue entitled "The Day Pete Ross Became a Robot!" that even includes an appearance by some of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but I'll put that story aside for now.  On either side of that story are some special 100th anniversary souvenir features that bear mention.  They include miniature reproduction covers of Superman #1 from June of 1939 and Superboy #1 from March of 1949.  The two pages in the center of the magazine contain a map of Krypton.  The two pages following the second story depict "How the Super-Family Came to Earth from Krypton" and the flip side is a black and white reproduction of page 2 of the first Superman story.  It doesn't appear to be from Action #1, so I'm presuming it's from Superman #1. Editor Mort Weisinger included some very nifty bonuses in this 100th issue.

The Superboy stories from this era were often kind of light weight and more than likely included (gasp!) a great risk that Superboy's secret identity would be uncovered, but like some of the other fare of the day to include the Robby Reed Dial H for Hero series, the Metal Men, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, they were good clean fun.  While not as sophisticated as some of the contemporaries of the Silver Age, they certainly had their place.  The additional features of this story were a real plus, too, so I'll give this one a rating of 9 on the 10-point scale.

As always we appreciate your patronage and feedback and invite you to share your thoughts, questions and comments at my trusty e-mail: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you in a couple of weeks with the next installment and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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