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Greatest Superman Stories Question

Do you think Superboy (the adventures of Superman when he was a teenager) stories should be included in a “75 Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told” list? Or no?

Whatever you folks vote for, I’ll go with, so let me know in the poll question below:

30 Comments

I think it depends; Kon El? I’d say no since he’s a completely different character who should get his own list. But if it’s young Clark Kent stories like his series from the 50s/60s then I’d say yes since it’s still essentially the same character. He’s just younger, they’re essentially just early Superman adventures. I think the most important distinction here is that they’re Clark Kent stories.

Look at it this way – would you make two lists for best Iceman stories, one for stories that took place when he first started out at 13(?) and another for stories that happened after he legally became a man at 18? Or maybe more fitting, would you make two lists for Wally West stories, one for Kid Flash stories and another for his Flash stories?

Right, young Clark, yes. Kon-El, no.

I think the whole list should be Superbaby stories, actually.

Let’s make it unanimous … young Clark Kent but no Kon El.

My biggest concern (and why I voted no) is that this will be used as an excuse to slip in Legion stories where he was not the focal point just because he was there. For example, The Great Darkness Saga is not what I would consider a Superman story, but if you dangle that carrot out there it will likely get votes that would have gone to a more deserving story.

There, I’ve reset the poll to make it clear that I’m talking about the Superboy who was Superman when he was younger. I figured that was clear that I wouldn’t be counting Kon-El, but now it is DEFINITELY clear.

I think Superboy stories should be a list of their own. Classics like Superboy #145, “The Fantastic Faces,” where an alien TV producer rejuvenates Ma & Pa because the viewers of his reality show “Superboy of Earth” find them too old to believable.

Or #142, “Superboy Goes Ape!” where Red K turns young Kal-El into a giant ape and Beppo the Super-Monkey into a giant Superboy…

Man, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Prior to the Crisis, Clark didn’t usually start calling himself Superman until he was about 21 years old, during his junior year of college. The “Superboy” TV series, which depicted Clark in college, actually reflected this tradition pretty well.

Should Superboy stories count? Assuming we’re only talking about Kal-El, I’m of two minds. The best Superboy stories really emphasized that Clark was still a boy (or young man) who was still learning the ropes, and not yet the wiser, more experienced Superman. Or they involved young characters or youth concerns (like juvenile delinquency) that were usually not the concern of Superman stories. They often had a bit of a teen humor comic strip flavor about them as well. Overall, they had a distinctly different flavor to them than Superman stories from the same era.

That said, they still involved Clark Kent / Kal-El. So I certainly think they’d qualify for those reasons. Separately, I’d love to see a “Best Superboy Stories” list someday, involving both versions of the character, Kal-El and Kon-El. But for now, I’d be happy to see Superboy stories included in the best Superman stories list.

The only Superboy story that was actually high enough in quality to deserve to be on the list was the one where Superboy travels back in time to stop Lincoln’s assassination, and even then only because of the sheer absurdity of it.

I suppose you could argue that the first Legion of Super-Heroes story where Superboy travels to the future and meets the Legion is enough of a classic to qualify, but that’s the only other one I could get behind.

I think what it comes down to is what’s more important – the actual character, the mantel/title, or a combination of both. For these lists, I lean with the first, I think you could make an interesting list where the only stipulation was the second, but I think people going into this will be expecting the third ie grown-up Clark Kent stories.

Definite difference of opinion here with Turd Burglar. I can think of several Superboy or Superboy/Legion stories (in which Kal-El plays a prominent, not just a supporting, role) that I’d readily nominate for a list of 75 best “Kal-El/Clark Kent” stories.

Easy Silver Age examples: First Legion encounter with Mordru, Adventure Comics #369-370, where Kal is only one of four Legionnaires to face off vs. the Legion’s greatest magical foe. A true Shooter/Swan classic that I first read when it was reprinted in the first Superboy/Legion tabloid.

Also; Superboy #68, the very first Bizarro story (though Bizarro is the real star of that story, not Superboy himself), which nicely echoes Frankenstein (the novel).

Here’s a question for everyone: If we were doing the “40 Greatest Punisher Stories” for that character’s 40th anniversary would “Punisher: The Tyger” be considered eligible?

Because that’s essentially the exact same thing. It’s about Frank Castle, but it’s him as a boy before he was called “Punisher”.

Superboy and Superman were treated very differently. I vote for Supterman only.

What about stories in “Lois Lane,” “Jimmy Olsen,” “World’s Finest,” “Justice League of America,” etc.?

Those all have adult Superman in them.

Turd Burglar–

I’m not a fan of Punisher, but in answer to your question, I’d say the answer is, yes, “Punisher: The Tyger” would probably be eligible for a “40 Best Punisher Stories” list.

The difference is that the number of stories dealing with a young Frank Castle (exclusively, as opposed to part of an origin story or a story involving flashbacks) you could count on the fingers of one hand, I suspect. So it would make little sense to exclude those stories if they were any good.

In contrast, there are several hundred Superboy (Kal-El) stories that are eligible. Superboy stories were published continuously for nearly 40 years (1945-1984), with a few dozen stories published since then that would also be eligible. You could easily generate a list of 100 candidates for the 68 best Superboy (Kal-El) stories to celebrate his first appearance.

So yeah, I can see the rationale for excluding Superboy stories, mainly because they really do have separate flavor. And the younger character has a distinctly separate publishing history. But I don’t think Superboy stories should be excluded simply because Clark is younger in those stories.

Absolutely, they should.

joe the poor speller

April 11, 2013 at 6:40 pm

superman only.

I voted no, for one simple reason: as Mike noted above, there’s a huge wealth of Superboy stories. I think the only character whose younger self has such a significant body of stories is Archie/Little Archie. There were quite a number of Wonder Tot/Wonder Girl stories for a time, but even those are tiny compared to Superboy. Hard there been, say, 30 of them, I’d say, yeah, include them.

Another complication is there was a brief period immediately after Crisis where they were treated as separate characters, with young Kal-El coming from the Pocket Universe. But that’s a minor reason compared to the earlier one.

EXCEPTION: If Superman and Superboy appear in the same story (rare, but it’s happened, such as in the adult Pete Ross storyline in DC Comics Presents), then they should be fair game for both characters, assuming the quality is there.

Les Fontenelle

April 11, 2013 at 8:17 pm

I voted “no” because Superboy’s adventures usually felt thematically different from Superman’s adventures. Superboy’s adventures were coming-of-age experiences, about first meetings with significant people and learning important lessons, often finding some pathos in foreboding the man that boy would become. On the other hand there are Superman’s adventures, where there’s no anticipation for somebody he might become because he’s as good as it gets; Superman is already supremely accomplished in every way, and operates on a higher scale than Superboy’s innocent early experiences. The themes of Superman and Superboy just aren’t the same, and the characters – despite nominally being the same “person” – are at heart about different things. The costumes and “identities” are superficial aspects; the themes separate Superman and Superboy. And that’s why I feel their stories should be considered separately.

I agree with those who voted “no.”

It was a tough call, but I went “Yes”.

Ultimately, Superboy stories are just a really, really long form version of the origin of Superman. They have a distinct tone, but it is the same character. More importantly, they are all part of the same basic story. Events in Superboy stories effected later Superman stories,

sure its the same character only younger.
superboys adventures were told on a smaller scale, but other than that they read just like silver age Superman.

I don’t mind a Superboy story or two included in the 75 Greatest Superman Stories list.

@Turd Burglar

Punisher: Born actually made the top ten for the Greatest Punisher Stories Ever, and that story was just Frank Castle in Vietnam.

Well, if you’re offering us a bunch of stories for consideration, and you feel they’re worthy of consideration, then go for it!

If people don’t agree, they won’t vote for them.

I hope that issue of Identity Crisis where Superboy Prime decapitates someone then cries that everyone made him do it makes it on the list. ;)

Aren’t Superboy and Superman even legally different characters? Anyway, I understand all the logic of saying yes, but I voted no just to avoid the distraction of them all. There are easily 100 “Superman” stories to fill the list of nominees.

Hello everyone,

Would one of my favorite stories count?

Part 1 – with Superboy: Secret of the Super-Power Failures – The New Adventures of Superboy # 5

Part 2 – with Superman: The Miraculous Return of Jonathan Kent – Action Comics # 507

All the best,

Luis Jaime

I’d be surprised if the first one shows up, but the second one is considered a minor classic so I’d imagine that it has a decent enough chance.

Christos K. Ziros

April 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Who in God’s name was Kon-El??? This is the first time I have ever come across that name in any reference to Clark “Superman” Kent! I almost wish I had been born long ago enough to have experienced the beginnings of Superman–but, then, I guess I would either be dead or near death by now. Ah, well, I’m glad my life happened when it did. What’s important to me is that I did become a Superman fan at the age of about five, when my Mother took me into a shop that sold old comics, and the first Supes I bought had the cover title, “Was it Superman, Superboy, or Superbaby?” Of course, my interest in Supie came from seeing the TV series of the ’50′s at my friends’ homes (we didn’t have our own TV at that time). Thanks to Superman and the other DC heroes as well as the Disney ‘toons and comics, my interest in drawing drew me to comics, and I myself became an artist and did a batch of homemade comics with characters I created for myself. However, I will always be thankful to Superman–Clark Kent–Kal-El!

Christos: Kon-El is the Superboy who first appeared after Superman’s “death” and who has been the lead character in most or all Superboy titles since. So same character as the “Conner Kent” version.

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