Superboy #154 (March, 1969)
“Blackout for Superboy!”
Story – Frank Robbins
Pencils – Bob Brown
Inks – Wally Wood
Letters – Ray Holloway
Cover Price: $0.12
Now, who could resist a cover like that?! Does what happens inside even have a hope of living up to that image?
Let’s find out…
We open with Superboy on his “predawn” patrol, during which he finds a troubled fisherman just about to go over one of Smallville’s numerous waterfalls… truly the town with everything! He rescues the old codger who, in turn, lambastes the Boy of Steel for nearly costing him his favorite fly rod! Ehh, can’t win ’em all. You’d think he’d be more annoyed that Superboy didn’t just save him and his boat… which is now just a pile of wet splinters. Either way, it would seem that this might be going according to the old man’s plan.
Superboy returns home to grab an hour of beauty sleep. Thanks to his super-metabolism, he can get by with just the one. I didn’t think he needed to sleep at all, but I guess he’s still a growing boy. Anyhoo, he is awakened by his alarm clock… and when he opens his eyes… it appears as though his heat-vision involuntarily kicked on!
Fearing the worst, Superboy clenches his eyes shut. After regaining his composure, he decides to give opening them another shot. When he does… he winds up melting his bed post! Could this mean that Superboy no longer has control over his amazing powers?!
Shortly after, Ma enters the room. She heard Clark’s alarm go off, and wonders why he didn’t get up. Upon surveying the damage, she lashes out at him for his “destructive impulses”… which, I mean… has Clark been anything but an angel? I mean, when he’s not being affected by Red Kryptonite or anything. Clark explains the situation, and she rushes off to grab Pa.
Clark asks his folks to guide him downstairs into his cellar-lab so he can plan his next move. Luckily, this happens to be the Silver Age, where Superboy has a closetful of robots in his likeness. If he needs to remain “voluntarily blind” for awhile, he wants to make sure nobody realizes that Superboy is missing in action. Then… he worries that his robots might be suffering the same “power control atrophy” that he is. Turns out, from the looks of it… they are!
And so… in order to not incinerate everything he looks at, from this point on, Clark (Superboy) Kent will be… blind! He fashions a pair of darkened specs out of lead… at least this way he can open his eyes. He won’t be able to see, but, at least he won’t be clenchin’. He borrows Pa’s cane (from his old leg injury), and he’s off to school. He explains that due to an injury in the lab, he mustn’t expose his eyes to the light for at least a week… which, ya know… isn’t the craziest excuse.
During class, Clark is overcome, Daredevil style, by his other senses. His heartbeat becomes the only thing he can hear, and while attempting to break his focus, Clark accidentally rips the corner off his desk! This definitely gets the attention of Lana Lang…
… thankfully, quick-thinkin’ Clark decides to (literally) suck all of the air out of the room, kayoing his classmates for a moment, while he rebuilds his desk… then, as they’re all coming to, cracks a pencil in two to explain away the noise Lana had heard. Aye yai yai.
We shift scenes to the office of Dr. Dento… you’ll never guess what he does for a living. Anyhoo, there have been a great number of fender-benders in Smallville on this day (a whole three), which is somehow due to Superboy being “off duty”. I mean, how does this town not just burn to the ground every time Clark takes a nap?! Anyhoo… it’s made plainly clear that Dr. Dento was actually the crotchety old fisherman from the beginning.
We join him on his next fishing expedition wherein he demonstrates what his favorite fly-rod can do. It can, uh… set the fish on fire as it comes out of the water. So, if you ever wanted to eat an entire fish without cleaning it, Dento is your man. He recounts what had happened that morning. Turns out, when Superboy “rescued” him, he affixed a second Superboy insignia to his outfit… through which, he could see everything that Superboy was seeing.
So… the game is up then? Dr. Dento must know that Superboy is really Clark Kent, right?! Well, not really… he just used this device to make Superboy think that his heat-vision was going out of control. Ya see, it wasn’t Superboy who melted the alarm clock… it was Dento! What an idiot.
Anyhoo… later that night, Superboy decides to call in his Super-Pet Krypto to act as his seeing-eye dog. Well, that stands to reason, right? Together they save a bridge from collapsing… however, Superboy’s shades do not go unnoticed. Superboy’s apparent blindness is front page news the next day!
Dento reads the news and is conflicted. He now must turn his attention toward getting rid of Krypto. Meanwhile, at the Kent House, they watch the news report discussing Superboy’s blindness over breakfast. This leads to Superboy picturing himself as a panhandler… from which we get our amazing cover.
After sobbing for a bit, Superboy decides… screw it, he’s gonna face this thing head-on. This gives us an amazing quote from Pa Kent. “Now you’re talking like the Son I’d have wanted… if we could have had our own!” I mean, what? What a clumsy statement.
Anyhoo, Krypto tugs on Superboy’s cape… which gives him an idea. He asks Ma for some “harmless dye”… because Krypto is going to be his seeing-eye dog in his civilian life too! Ya see, he’s doing this to throw people (well, Lana) off the scent that he really is Superboy. I’d wager that this would only strengthen their case! Oh well, what do I know?
We rejoin Dr. Dento as he puts his plan into action. He, get this, synthesizes a rod of Red Kryptonite… and hides it in a (tasty) dog bone. I’m not sure which part of that sentence was dumber.
Later that day, Dento starts terrorizing a dog. Like, seriously, he starts whipping her dog house. This, of course, brings Krypto to the yard… and he chases a heavily-padded Dento away. The tortured mutt offers Krypto the K-infused bone… and away the Boy and Dog of Steel go. Suddenly, Krypto goes nuts… and starts flying off toward space, leaving a blinded Superboy just hovering.
At this point, Superboy realizes he’s got to risk it all… and open his eyes! Naturally, nothing happens. Superboy beans Krypto with a tiny chunk of meteorite to get him to spit out the Red-K Bone… and everything’s cool.
Krypto begins sniffing around Superboy’s chest… and bites the extra “S” insignia off. They return to Dento’s yard… and haul him off to the police. Who’s gonna fill all’a Smallville’s cavities now?!
We wrap up the following morning with Lana reading the news that Superboy can see again.
Well this was a lot of fun!
It’s not often I get to read something this ridiculous… and I mean that in the best way possible. Superboy… blinded, and yet… still trying to keep up the ruse on all fronts. I mean, he was “blind” for what, a day? But he still went the whole nine yards in covering for both of his identities!
I suppose we can start dissecting this issue with what stuck out most to me. By around the third page, Dr. Dento should have been able to deduce that Superboy is actually Clark Kent. I mean, the “fly rod” was “seeing” through the “S” insignia, right? Doesn’t matter if Clark’s eyes are open or closed in that case… he should have seen Ma and Pa Kent… the Kent house… Superboy’s cellar lab… the whole thing! Instead, his sole focus is… making Superboy keep his eyes shut?!
I mean, Dento definitely saw the Superboy robots… right? Otherwise, how could he have made it appear as though they were going out of control too? While on the subject… wouldn’t Ma and Pa have seen that the beams weren’t coming out of the robot’s eyes?! Ehh, whattayagonnado?
I guess we can discuss how impractical a pair of lead specs would look… but, really… why? We’ll just accept it for what it is. We are, however, going to discuss the Red Kryptonite rod for a second. If Dr. Dento has the ability to synthesize Red-K at any time… why hasn’t he just done that?! Why didn’t he slip some Red-K into Superboy’s costume rather than the silly extra insignia? Why not keep working at it, and eventually crack the code on Green (or even Gold) Kryptonite?!
Yeah, I realize I’m poking holes in a half-century old story that was meant for kids… but, what else am I gonna do with my mornings…
With all of that said… this was a ton of fun, and looked pretty great! Hell, the cover on its own is pretty spectacular. You could definitely see how it might attract a kid’s eye from the newsstand… heck, I bought it simply based off the cover not all that long ago! That’s definitely part of the “comics magic” that is missing these days.
Overall, if you come across this one, I’d definitely recommend grabbing it. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been collected nor made available digitally at the moment… but, it’s certainly worth a bin-dive… even for the cover alone!