New Adventures of Superboy #18 (1981)

New Adventures of Superboy #18 (June, 1981)
“Superboy’s Do-it-Yourself Doom!”
“Day of the Costume Change!”
Writers – Cary Bates & Bob Rozakis
Penciller – Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker – Dave Hunt
Colorist – Jerry Serpe
Letterer – Ben Oda
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.50

It’s been a long day in Chrisville… so let’s unwind in Smallville.

We open with Carl “Moosie” Draper sulking by the water.  He’s apparently madly in love with Lana Lang, however she only has eyes for Superboy.  He wishes that the mysterious Kator would have soundly beaten his foe to expose him for the over-rated fraud Draper believes him to be.  He chucks a few stones into the drink, and notices in the rippling reflection… Kator!  And he’s got a plan to make Moosie’s wildest dreams come true!

Elsewhere, young Clark Kent is walking home from school, and we get the quick and dirty on Kator.  Looks like via use of the Mind-Prober Ray, Superboy was able to fill in some of his memory gaps from Krypton, including those of his father Jor-El building robots… and so, Superboy created his own robotic foe as a way to keep his powers sharp by using its own independent thought to attempt to outsmart our boy.  That bot is Kator… and he first appeared the issue before this one, not that there are any helpful editorial notes or anything.

We shift to the Kent’s General Store… which makes me remember that there was, at one time, a Kent’s General Store.  Anyhoo, Ma is working the counter, and it would appear to the patrons that Pa is out sick.  In actuality, he’s… get this, seated at a table with his finger hovering over a button with which he could deactivate Kator should the bot-boy return, and get “out of hand”.  What an existence…

The next morning we join Superboy as he flies through the streets of Smallville.  He passes Moosie, who uncharacteristically smiles and waves.  He’s not really happy to see Superboy, however… he’s happy to see Kator about to (theoretically) put a whuppin’ on his arch-foe!

And a battle rages.  Kator grabs the Boy of Steel by the cape and drags him far out into space.  They struggle among the stars until Superboy realizes that his powers are fading.  Turns out Kator purposefully brought the battle into the path of a comet that had passed through a red Sun!  They’re also too far out for Superboy to successfully contact “at the button” Pa.  Uh-oh.

Thankfully, Superboy is not without his wits.  He decides to thrust himself through the path of the crimson comet… which, er… gives him his superpowers back?  Okay well, he’s also back in the proximity of a yellow Sun… somehow.  Anyhoo, from here Superboy does what he should do most of the time when dealing with a baddie… he grabs Kator and throws him into the Sun!  No foolin’.

Superboy returns home, where he gets an “I told you so” lecture from his parents.  They didn’t quite cotton to the idea of a Krypto-science-A.I. critter loitering around their fair town always looking for a fight.  Pa drops the killswitch into the garbage… which, ya know… might not be the best idea.  Just sayin’.

Elsewhere in Smallville, we rejoin our old friend Moosie.  He is following the directions of a glowing gadget given to him by Kator, into the hills.  Apparently Kator had a contingency plan… when he ceased to be, the trinket would begin to glow, and Moosie would do as it told.  The tired, sweating Carl finally comes across a cave.  Inside it is an apparatus “far out hardware” he’d been instructed to sit in.  He is, obviously, pelted by rays.

Back at the Kents, Clark is on the phone with Lana Lang… when he hears a terrible struggle.  He suits up and heads out.  He sees the Lang house now has a smoldering hole where Lana’s bedroom is, and has to use his telescopic vision to locate his gal.  He tracks her down at the athletic field behind the high school.

But, Lana’s not the only one he finds there.  No, he also finds… Kator 2.0?  Seems to be a bit heavier than last time, right?  Okay, we all know it’s Moosie Draper in the get up.  They start to fight, but Superboy’s punches are powerless.  Wouldn’tcha know it, Moosie buried some Kryptonite under the football field.  Just how is Kryptonite so plentiful anyway?

Superboy lets Moosie nail him with an uppercut to send him out of the range of the Kryptonite.  They fight into the sky, and Moosie appears to vaporize after a particularly powerful punch.  In reality, the husky Kator has phased inside Superboy, threatening to blink him out of existence… because science?  It’s not worth thinking too hard about because Superboy is able to shake him pretty quickly.

He returns home to dig the killswitch from the bin… and isn’t able to find it!  He looks up to find Moosie sitting on the Kents’ (reinforced?) dining room table.  He reveals that he knows Clark Kent is really Superboy, because it wasn’t just the powers Kator passed down, but his knowledge as well!  Seems like poor planning for Superboy to share that bit of information with a robot he is crafting with the express purpose of being his worst enemy, right?  Anyhoo… before Moosie can go any further, Pa Kent pushes the killswitch, and puts the baddie on the ground.

Superboy grabs Moosie and brings him to the Mind-Prober Ray in the basement.  He figures if running it normally fills in memories… throwing it into reverse should do the opposite.  Sure, that sounds legit.  And so, Moosie gets the Professor X special, and his mind is wiped clean.  Before we close, we learn that Moosie will grow up to become the Master Jailer!  Dun-dun-dunnnn.

Our second story begins with Lana Lang buying a bolt of fabric at the Kent General Store.  She is planning on making a new dress before they begin high school the following week.  She suggests perhaps Clark change up his look as well… maybe grow his hair out, get some “mod” clothes.  He kinda shrugs it off, because apparently his hair doesn’t grow on Earth… and he wears his normal CK outfit for certain reasons… which I don’t recall.  Well, just because Clark can’t change, doesn’t mean Superboy can’t shake things up, right?

And so, he designs a new Superboy outfit… and it’s yellow.  It’s like, really yellow.  Ma Kent sews it up just in time for a geyser to become radioactive.  Boy, it’s lucky they were watching that channel!

Anyhoo, Superboy heads out… and notices that his powers are dampened.  He feels the stinging pain when he touches the acid, and he actually sweats from the 110 degree temperatures.  He fights his way through in his weakened state, and caps the geyser with a giant stone.  Gotta mention, I can’t help but notice that the sky is very red during this bit… so maybe it’s the red Sun Earth looks to be under that is affecting his powers.  Okok, probably not.

He leaves, passing over a carnival where he sees some crooks carrying guns (and a briefcase… they’ve always got a briefcase!).  He uses his telescopic vision… which is fuzzy.  No matter, he swoops in and takes out the baddies… however, not before being shot at several times.  He can actually feel the impact of the bullets… but only on the yellow part of his costume!

He returns home with the realization that the yellow costume is reflecting the power-giving Sunlight from him… leaving him too weak to properly be Superboy.  Hmm… I’m no scientist, but I’m not sure it works that way… at least with UV rays.  Anyhoo… he hangs his new-old togs in the closet, vowing never to don them again.

Man, I love these ridiculous Superboy stories.  They’re like the perfect mix of the Silver Age and late pre-Crisis wack.

The idea that Superboy would build the robot of his own demise is pretty interesting.  It definitely doesn’t feel like something out of an 80’s book, pre-Crisis or not.  I mean, that just doesn’t sound like a good idea no matter how you slice it.

In reading these New Adventures issues, I’m actually quite surprised that Clark Kent didn’t grow up to be a hyperviolent sociopath.  I mean, it seems like in every issue there are classmates out to get him!  That’s gotta really skew a kids sense of reality, right?  Talk about an invitation to a victim complex.

Overall, this is a great series with which you can sorta (and I mean no disrespect here) turn your brain off and just enjoy yourself.  I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to take a break from contemporary “think too hard” comics where every nuance and story beat needs to be addressed and analyzed… by some nitwit on a blog… ahem.  This series is yet to be collected or made available digitally, so if you’re down for a romp through sorta-1950’s Smallville, you’re gonna have to be down for a romp through the bins.

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