Superboy #159 (1969)

Superboy #159 (September, 1969)
“The Day it Rained Superboys!”
Story – Frank Robbins
Pencils – Bob Brown
Inks – Wally Wood
Cover Price: $0.15

I don’t venture into comic book stores all that often these days… of late, I’ve relied on record stores and used book stores for my “finds”… it just seems less “dangerous” for me and my wallet that way.  A fella like me sometimes needs a leash in the comic shop!  Well, I found myself in the right place this weekend… one of my old haunts, Jesse James Comics.  Jesse’s shop is… fantastic.  Really such a customer-friendly shop, where one can luck into some amazing finds.  On this trip, I was shown a few boxes stuffed full of Silver Age comics… at two-bucks a pop.  Now… if that ain’t dangerous, I don’t know what is.

Anyhoo, one of the books I nabbed was this issue of Superboy… which I believe has a Neal Adams cover… and boy, what a cover it is, right?  This is certainly an issue that begs to be cracked open… and that’s just what we’re gonna do!

We open in the skies above Washington, D.C. where Superboy finds himself taking on quite a bit of heavy firepower from a fleet of biplanes.  Why in the world would anyone be trying to take out the Boy of Steel?  Well, to answer that… we need to go back in time a bit.  Perhaps to an event that occurred at the Smallville Airfield… wait, Smallville has an airfield?  Okey doke.  Anyhoo, it was there that… Superboy decided to reenact the Hindenburg disaster by using his heat vision on a zeppelin!

Just moments later Superboy made quite a menace of himself in a southern shipping lane where he, get this… dropped an iceberg into the water right in front of a ship!

At that very moment, Superboy demolished a bridge in France… and destroyed a dam in Italy.  This kid sure gets around, right?  As a matter of fact, news starts pouring in from all over the globe to report on some nefarious misdeed done by our boy in blue… but how can he be so many places at once?

If you answered with “robots”, you’ve been reading comics too long… you’d also be correct!  We shift to Martha Kent back in Smallville watching the news.  She cannot believe what she is seeing.  Moments later, Jonathan arrives home and suggests that Superboy’s robots (which had gone rogue a few issues earlier) may be the root cause of this rash of events!

In Washington, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is meeting with his advisers to discuss how to deal with the blue menace.  He has himself a “Fireside Chat” with the American people in which he declares Superboy as World Outlaw #1!

Speaking of Superboy, isn’t it about time we checked in with him?  He’s at his polar retreat oblivious to everything that’s gone down.  He is tinkering away on… wouldn’tcha know it, Superboy robots… which doesn’t do a whole lot to prove his innocence.  He sends four of them to his Smallville home, but instructs them to take different routes as to not arouse suspicion.  Unfortunately for young Clark, the World is on high-alert.  The first robot is destroyed over London, the second… Canada, the third… Tokyo, and the last… Moscow.  So much for all that, huh?  The real-deal boy o’ steel passes over Washington… which puts us right back where we started this adventure.  We check in with ground control to see that a General is being given instructions by a bald scientist with a beard and sunglasses!

The beardo suggests that Superboy is there to destroy the capital, which really gets under the General’s skin.  He then suggests the military invest in some Kryptonite… something he claims to have in large quantities.  The General brushes him off… the military’s got plenty of “K”.  The scientist blackmails the General… or so it seems.  I’m not really sure where the blackmail comes into play… all he says is it would be faster if the government uses his supply than their own.

Superboy returns to Smallville, where he saves a boy falling out of a tree.  The boy is none-too-pleased to be saved by a scuzzy outlaw!  This freaks our boy out, so he heads home to talk to his folks.  They are quite cross with the lad, Jonathon is all but convinced his son is behind all the “evil mischief” that’s been going down.  Clark pleads ignorance, and so Pa flips on the television.  Superboy learns the charges that have been levied against him… as well as Professor Ruthol’s (don’t descramble that, it ruins the surprise ending!) Kryptonite plans, and starts to cry.

Moments later with a snap of his fingers, Superboy has concocted a plan!  They will send the robot Clark Kent (hey, it’s the Silver Age!) to school, and the real-deal will hide in the trunk of Pa’s car, until they get far enough away from town where he can emerge as… Voltran the Unconquerable?!?  Oof.

Voltran flies way out into space where he bores inside a meteor which he may ride into Earth’s atmosphere and have himself one hell of an entrance.  An observatory picks up on the “alien object” and reports in to Washington.  It plummets ever closer to the Capital… but explodes before doing any damage.  The soldiers look around dumbfounded until they are introduced to their savior… Voltran!  Seems like Superboy is the type that would swat a fly with a bazooka, don’t it?

Capital Hill wastes no time putting Voltran in front of the Defense Council, where he pleads his case for taking care of the Superboy-problem.  Among the Council sits Ruthol, who immediately deduces that Voltran and Superboy are one in the same.  General Stone decides it’d be foolish to turn away the aid of Voltran.  Ruthol is quick to volunteer his services as well… though, he’s only in it to, ya know, kill Superboy.

Ruthol leads Voltran to an abandoned mine which he believes is Superboy’s lair.  Voltran approaches knowing full well that he’s headed into a trap.  Inside Voltran is faced with a half-dozen Superboy robots!  He enters into battle, punching one’s head clean off!  Unfortunately, this robot is kind of like a pinata… only instead of being filled with delicious candy, it’s filled with delicious Kryptonite!  Uh oh.  I suppose I can mention that at this point Ruthol pulls off his (fake) beard, and reveals himself to be… Lex Luthor… but c’mon, you already knew that.

Just as Lex is about to start celebrating, Superboy sneaks up behind him.  Bu-bu-but, how in the world?  Well, ya see… even though we’ve been able to read the thoughts of Voltran… he was always a Superboy robot!  The real-deal went to school as Clark Kent!  We wrap up with Superboy and Voltran taking Luthor in.  It pays not to think too hard about this…

Silver-Age comics are weird…

I mean, this was a lot of fun… but at the same time, boy did we have to tie our brains into a pretzel to follow it through.  Everything here is just so convenient, though I can’t really hold that against something “of it’s time”… it’d be like mocking VHS tapes because they have to be rewound… yeah, of course they do, it’s just the way things were.  These were written for kids… and don’t really lend themselves to analysis, and that’s okay!  In my time blogging I feel like I get lost in attempts to analyze a bit too often.  A fella could use a silly Silver-Age romp like this to recharge his “reading for fun” batteries.

My Superboy game is pretty weak… well, this Superboy anyway.  My guy is Kon-El, but at this point he’s still about a quarter-century away from even being a bit of ink.  For “Superman when he was a boy”, I’ve read a bunch of the New Adventures of Superboy, even discussed a few here… but I feel like even those were written in more of a Bronze-Age style than Silver.

In reading this I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m still not all that clear on what occurred.  I mean, I’m sure we can deduce that Lex Luthor was behind the Superboy Rogue-bots (ehh? ehh?) however I’m not sure if it was ever plainly stated.

One thing I do love about this is just how much happened… even if much of it was bonkers, it’s still great to see.  I mean, I read this earlier today… and totally thought the Voltran bits were from a different book!  Just seems so “out there”, ya know?  Like it would appear in a completely different story.  Sticking with Voltran… how nuts is it that the Kents just have access to superhero costumes?  Love silly stuff like that… reminds me of stories I’d write when I was a kid.

Overall… if you can find this gem for a song, I’d say give it a shot.  My (moderate) research finds that this has not been collected… though I might be mistaken.  It has also not been made available digitally at this time.  If you do happen across it, I wouldn’t pay more than a few bucks for it.

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Sadly, Palisades Park closed in 1971.

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