New Adventures of Superboy #1 (January, 1980)
“The Most Important Year of Superboy’s Life!”
Writer – Cary Bates
Penciller – Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker – David Hunt
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Letterer – Ben Oda
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.40
Super-short preamble today… I’m about shoulders deep in my final research paper. I’m calling it my “Chrissertation” much to the annoyance of my wife.
Onward to Superboy’s birthday! Looks awfully warm in Smallville for February 29th, don’t it?
We open as sixteen-year old Clark Kent smugly stands next to his birthday cake ready to blow out the candles. Lana asks why Clark’s cake has 17 candles on it when he’s only 16. I guess she’s never heard of “one for good luck”, eh? He isn’t sure either, and just says adding an extra candle is something Ma and Pa have done since his eighth birthday. This leads us into a flashback… to Clark’s eighth birthday, back when Ma and Pa were much… older. A helpful footnote informs us that this occurred before they were rejuvenated by some chemical.
This is right around the time that Clark made his first public appearance as Superboy… which surprised me a bit. I always thought he was an early teen, however here, he’s barely eight!
As he flies over Smallville, he notices an airplane in an apparent nosedive… and so, he heads in to help out. Turns out, this plane was barreling toward the ground on purpose… it’s the Flying Aces Stunt-Pilot Show! Man, Smallville’s got everything! Superboy takes the opportunity to do some aerial hot-doggin’ himself.
After getting his fill of oohs and ahhs, Superboy retreats. Unfortunately, he winds up in the path of a strange purple spaceship. He is struck by a beam and pulled on board. He wakes up in a room and is addressed by a pair of speakers. They promise the boy they mean him no harm… and they just want to study him. Likely story, right? Superboy’s all “screw this” and escapes with ease.
Back at the Kent home later on that evening, the family settles in for a birthday tradition… home movies! Clark is bored out of his mind… but plays along anyway, and it’s a good thing he does… because their flick is interrupted by the same alien spacecraft he’d escaped from earlier that day!
During the interruption, we learn the origin of Myla and Byrn… two survivors of a fallen race of cat-cheeked creatures. As they escaped their radiation-pummeled planet, they took a plague serum. This serum doesn’t just cure them… it activates bio-chemicals in their advanced brains which grants them immortality! The immortality was only supposed to last during the healing process, however, at this point… their brains will not allow them to age or die!
Their story continues… their craft wandered through space for several million years, until one day… they saw a tiny rocketship aimed toward the Earth. Any guesses who might have been on board?
The aliens then beam themselves into the Kent living room, where they give Superboy a bit of a sales pitch. They wish to trade in their eternal lives, by (somehow) transferring his aging factor into them… and their immortality into him. Ay yai yai. Plan B is just as dumb, and concerns giving Superboy everlasting youth… so he’ll forever be eight. Jon and Martha really ain’t keen on the thought, but Superboy kinda mulls it over.
Byrn hands Superboy a strange-looking laser syringe thing… and he takes off to weigh his options. The aliens beam their monitoring system onto the projector screen, and they watch Superboy make his decision… the extraction occurs, and it looks as though Superboy is going to be immortal!
He returns home to share the news of his decision, but they already know. The aliens thank him up and down, and before taking their leave, induces selective memory-loss on the boy so he’ll never regret his decision. Once the Kents are alone, Superboy informs his parents that everything they saw on the screen, didn’t quite happen the way it looked.
It turns out, Clark negated the extractor beam with his own heat vision… giving the impression that the aliens were no longer immortal. He then uses his telescopic vision… well, it would’ve probably been “telescopic vision” in the Silver Age, here it’s just Super-Vision… anyhoo… he uses that to take a look at Byrn and Myla… who have already started to age. The placebo is in effect.
We wrap up with Jon and Martha vowing to put an extra candle on his birthday cake every year as their “secret token of thanks” that their boy won’t be an eternal eight-year-old.
Hey, this was a fun little issue. Not sure how I feel about it for a series-launching #1, but dug it well enough.
I mentioned above that I was surprised to see Superboy “in action” at such a young age. I really thought he was a teen/pre-teen, wasn’t expecting him to be in the single-digits, age-wise. Granted, my Superboy is Kon-El, and he was always depicted to be a teenager. Might just be a bit of Superboy-transference on my end.
Another thing, and it’s silly… if I see a birthday cake with an extra candle on it… I’m thinkin’ “one for good luck” or “one to grow on”… I would never expect a huge story (featuring immortal aliens, no less) to explain it! Like I said, it’s silly… and I’m just having fun with it. Gotta wonder why Lana would ask though… or why she’d count ’em! The best case scenario, she makes it look as though Ma Kent doesn’t know how to count! Okay okay, enough candle talk.
The immortality swap deal was totally ridiculous. Gotta have brass ones to ask an eight year old if they wanna either live forever, or remain the same age forever. Luckily, they didn’t ask just any eight year old. Superboy shows he’s wise beyond his years by understanding the potential psychosomatic nature of Byrn and Myra’s immortality. Getting to the root of the “mind over matter”, he was able to end the aliens’ suffering without risking himself.
Some of the neatest stuff in this book is in the 35 Years of Superboy text piece (below, click to enlarge). I never knew that the first issue of Superboy had him (mistakenly) growing up in Metropolis! Lotsa great info here, always enjoy reading the history of characters and properties. This piece is well worth a read.
Heck, the whole package is worth reading. It’s a bit corny, sure… but for a Bronze Age approximation of Silver, this was a lot of fun. It doesn’t look like this has been collected, or made available digitally as of this writing, but shouldn’t be too terribly difficult to find, nor too spendy when ya do.
(Not the) Letters Page: