The Comic Book as Seen on T.V.
Superboy: The Comic Book. My first thought in revisiting these: this is the worst title for a comic book ever. No kidding it’s “the comic book”. But really thinking about it, it’s kind of a take on the title Superman The Movie (maybe even closer to Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Later issues change the name to “The Adventures of Superboy” like the television show does; it even uses the same font as the Season Three opening credits. Not to veer way off track, but I like the font quite a bit. It changed a few times over the years on The Adventures of Superman logo and this might be my favorite version of it. For some reason DC thought adding an “As Seen on T.V.” box when the title changed would help tie the book to the television show better. Makes me think of the weird aisle at the drug store.
This series was a spin-off of the Superboy television show that I wrote about recently. Making it kind of a spin-off of a spin-off, since you can look at the Superboy show as part of the Christopher Reeve movies (Salkind productions) or as a spin-off of the Superman comic books. The most interesting thing about this comic: unlike the show, it’s not bad!
Without the cheap sets, bad effects, and wooden acting the stories get a chance to shine through. They’re fun, late Bronze Age style Superboy stories that could’ve easily fit in to the Pre-Crisis universe. A big thing that helps this is the art. Most of the series is pencilled by Jim Mooney who did a ton of Supergirl in the Silver Age. This classic style helps ground the issues for me. Some of the issues are even pencilled by the legendary Curt Swan in some of his only Post-Crisis Superman work. More on that in a later column. John Moore was the writer for the first year, plus a fill in by Mark Waid, and the second year doesn’t settle on a long-term writer—there is even an issue cowritten by Gilbert Gottfried in a follow up to the episode he was on.
I read this book when it was new back in the early 90s. If my memory serves me the first issue I got was #15 which has a cover date of April 1991. The comic I consider to be the first comic in my collection was Action Comics #663 in March of 1991, so this checks out. I wonder if my mom started getting me these because she thought they would be better for an 8 year old than the main Superman books. When the book was cancelled DC gave me the opportunity to continue my subscription with another title. For some reason I chose Aquaman and to this day these are the only Aquaman books I’ve ever read. In that time period I was able to pick up the back issues of the first 14 issues, but never realized there was a special one-shot to finish the series until more recently. When I picked this up a few years ago I liked seeing the idea that they made the show and all these issues part of Clark’s imagination before starting at the Daily Planet.
After reading through these in the last week or so I thought maybe I was hard on the television show. Maybe I’m more forgiving for a comic book? Maybe some things work in a comic that don’t work live action? I tired to be more forgiving and put on the Microboy episode. Holy cow it was bad. Years earlier the comic books did a Microwave Man and even something that cheesy was so much better than Microboy. I get there is a level of suspension of disbelief that a college age person would call themselves Superboy, but I couldn’t buy for one second that someone would call themself Microboy. Even if your power was to shrink, which his of course isn’t. Plus there is a time-travel ending with the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk that is just cringe worthy.
Fun coincidence that I’m reading these again now: they’ve got covers by recent Supergirl and Superman artist Kevin Maguire. They were fun then and they are great now. Plus Superboy works in a leather jacket as well all know.