Superboy and associates, from a 1960 comic book. Artist: George Papp.


Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1944
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Almost immediately after Superman proved such a success, DC Comics trademarked the name "Superboy". It was several years before they …

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… did anything with the concept, but they did want to make sure nobody else used it. The Boy of Steel finally did appear in More Fun Comics #101 (Jan-Feb, 1945 — the same issue that contained the final appearance of The Spectre), which, since comics usually go on sale a couple of months before their cover date, actually came out near the end of 1944. He was the last successful DC superhero to be introduced during the 1940s. (The last of all, Merry, Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks, wasn't so successful.)

It's hard to say who created Superboy. Editor Jack Schiff is generally credited with the idea for the series, but the version actually printed was different from the one he proposed. The first story was credited to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of Superman — but the art, while it came from Shuster's studio, was probably not by Shuster himself; and the story was actually written by Don Cameron, as Siegel was still in the U.S. Army at the time. (When he returned and found Superboy an ongoing feature, Siegel protested, as he and Shuster had proposed Superboy in 1938; and the ensuing dispute was part of what led to the 1947 lawsuit in which the two creators tried to regain ownership of Superman.)

The Superboy who did reach print was not a sidekick or a protege of Superman. Instead, the series recounted "the adventures of Superman when he was a boy". That opened up many story possibilities, as Superboy learned to use his powers without guidance from an experienced superhero; and the stories also had a comfortable "retro" feel to them, set in a nostalgic never-land writers recalled from their own childhood years. During the 1950s and '60s, the Superboy series was used to introduce such concepts as Krypto the Superdog and Bizarro, so those story elements would seem to have already been in place when encountered by the adult Superman.

When Superboy debuted, the cover-featured stars of More Fun Comics were Henry Boltinoff's Dover & Clover, a pair of bumbling identical-twin detectives. He got at least a mention on the cover ("What was Superman like when he was a boy?") with his third outing. With his fourth, he made the first of three actual appearances on the More Fun cover (sharing it with Dover & Clover). With their March, 1946 issues, More Fun's superheroes (Aquaman, Green Arrow, Johnny Quick and Superboy) all moved to Adventure Comics, ousting all the previous Adventure residents except The Shining Knight, and leaving Dover & Clover to share the More Fun covers with Genius Jones.

For years afterward, Superboy was the main star of Adventure Comics. In addition, in 1949, he got his own comic. Both series continued through the superhero lean years of the 1950s, and well into their '60s revival. In fact, when Superboy finally did lose his slot in Adventure, it was to something even more superheroey than himself — The Legion of Super Heroes ousted him from that position in 1963.

The Legion eventually squeezed Superboy even out of his own comic, which was renamed for its new stars in 1979. Since then, he's been written right out of existence — in the current version of the DC Universe, Superman's powers didn't fully manifest themselves until his adult years, so he was never Superboy.

That didn't stop Superman movie producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind from launching a Superboy TV series on October 8, 1988, two years after the character was retconned out of existence; nor, despite many cast changes, did it stop that show from lasting four seasons for a total of 100 episodes. In fact, it didn't even stop DC from publishing a comic-book version of the show, which ran 22 issues, 1990-91.

Nor did it stop them from giving him a second TV show. Smallville, which debuted on the WB Network on October 16, 2001, depicts the Boy of Steel before he put on the Superman costume. Tom Welling plays Clark Kent, Kristin Kreuk plays Lana Lang, and Michael Rosenbaum plays Lex Luthor.

There is still a Superboy in DC Comics, but the current one isn't a younger version of Superman — in fact, other than his wearing a knock-off of Superman's costume, his relation to the Man of Steel is unclear. Nowadays, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy are pretty similar to those of most boys — ball games, hikes through the woods, and maybe the occasional hot date — because the young Clark Kent, according to the current mythos, was just a regular kid.


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