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  1. #1
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    Default Clark before Metropolis

    I feel that this is kind of muddied a little bit. I think with Golden/Silver Age, it was neat having a Superboy in Smallville fighting crime, a friendship with Lex Luthor, initial love in Lana Lang, his time with the Legion. It all adds to the mythology of Superman. But Post-Crisis, it all gets tossed aside or shoved under the rug. Why did it need to be? Instead we get glimpses of his time in Smallville, but it needs further exploration. If he wasn't Superboy before coming to Metropolis, what was he? I feel like the Superboy stuff should be reinstated.

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    I agree it's muddled.

    A lot of the Post-Crisis stuff had a largely un-super boyhood. Byrne gave us a Clark who had a few feats as a kid but was still able to think of himself as an exceptional high school athlete and not a superpowered being. During the triangle years they referred to a broken bone (arm?) Clark got as a child. Even Jon is shown to have been relatively normal for his first ten years of life. So if Clark's powers don't really show up consistently until hios mid/late teens then his not being a Superboy makes sense.

    Pre-Crisis where his powers were apparent from the moment the Kents found him and where he was a super-strong indestructible preschooler, it is more complicated. It's hard to believe that Clark didn't either accidentally (using powers in public) or deliberately (showing off for friends) give away his secret before he was old enough to understand why a secret identity was needed. On the other hand, the idea of a kid with all that power not intervening where he could help doesn't sound like Superman to me.

    My personal take leans towards Superboy simply because I don't care for the powers being that low-key for most of his life (no childhood injuries that regular kids get). And I can't accept the idea of Clark not wanting to intervene even at a younger age if he believed he could help (fires, floods, tornados, …)

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    And I think too, with the Legion coming and asking Jon to join them, relies on the readers Silver Age Pre-Crisis reading to understand. Otherwise it just feels like some random meeting. A reader who just started reading Post-Crisis will wonder "what's the connection between Clark and the Legion?"

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    In post-Crisis the line was something like Clark went to college and got his degree in journalism, then wandered the world for a couple years before arriving at Metropolis. A few stories over the years dug into that time, but generally it was pretty vague. And generally it was really boring. The COIE reboot took all the fantastic out of Clark's youth and made him (with a couple exceptions) just like everyone other hero; a regular dude until later in life when powers show up out of nowhere. It's pedestrian, boring, over-done, and infinitely less interesting and cool than the wild and crazy shenanigans young Clark used to get into.

    Birthright had Clark earning college credits abroad but focusing on traveling the world. The story had a really great segment in Africa which set the tale up really well and established some good motivations for certain elements that inform the transition into Superman later on. Good stuff, but not a ton of exploration of Clark's "missing years."

    I agree with you about the Silver Age style Superboy stuff. But not a direct transplant; I don't think that works as well today as it did decades ago. I want Clark in the costume and using the Superboy name in the future with the Legion, and I want him having adventures and doing heroic things in the present day before he becomes Superman....but in the present day I dont want young Clark wearing the suit or using the name. I want Clark's pre-Metropolis adventures to have a certain "Smallville tv" vibe; he's helping out and doing his part and acting like a hero, but he's not in costume and he's not doing anything in the public eye.

    I like the idea that Clark has all these experiences as a young person, he meets all these incredible people, sees all these incredible places, and he spends his whole life knowing the world is a lot bigger than most people give it credit for. And he gets involved in that world, saving lives, fighting the occasional monster, traveling space and time, and eventually he decides that half the problem is that this stuff is all kept quiet. If you're not willing to arrest the evil wizard, there's no way to punish that evil wizard or contain him, and his evil gets to continue. So Clark goes public as Superman and pulls all that weirdness out into the open. I think that makes for a much more interesting origin than "I was a regular guy until I was 18, then I became a alien god-person and figured I might as well be a superhero."

    But until he becomes SuperMAN? No tights, no Superboy name. Just a young guy trying to make a difference without letting his life become a circus.
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  5. #5
    Father Son Kamehameha < Kuwagaton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CTTT View Post
    And I think too, with the Legion coming and asking Jon to join them, relies on the readers Silver Age Pre-Crisis reading to understand. Otherwise it just feels like some random meeting. A reader who just started reading Post-Crisis will wonder "what's the connection between Clark and the Legion?"

    Not really. I mean the Legion's history with Superboy was summarized early on by Byrne, it's just that we were also told that it wasn't the same Kal El as the one readers followed. I still don't think it's hard to appreciate (or find less confusing to older readers by the same token) on its own with Jon now, even if Bendis is your first Superman run.

    The difference between Superboy and many other sci fi action stories that take place at different stages of a character or through generations is that it's built backwards. It's filling in the earlier life of a character, so there are usually some plotholes inherent. Unless you dance around the raindrops, but we didn't see that pre crisis probably because that's a joyless hassle compared to the alternative. Some of the modern stories had the same basic idea as Jenette Kahn and others, making Superboy an alt reality character. Alan Davis and John Francis Moore did it well imo.

    As for not being "super" in Smallville goes, I'd say the main idea is to not undercut the impact of Superman. He's a lot less remarkable if there was some random small town version of himself doing the same stuff for decades.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kuwagaton View Post
    As for not being "super" in Smallville goes, I'd say the main idea is to not undercut the impact of Superman. He's a lot less remarkable if there was some random small town version of himself doing the same stuff for decades.
    It always struck me the other way. Superman was more impressive for having this career that stretched through his entire life. The only other character that had that type of vibe was Dick Grayson. Superman at 29 (Pre-crisis age) had been an active hero for over two decades already. Post Crisis he was less experienced than Batman by a few months and had maybe a year or so on the other JLA founders. Plus he was preceded by powerful heroes in the JSA. He was just sort of an average hero compared to be the first public hero and the one with the longest career on Earth One.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kuwagaton View Post
    Not really. I mean the Legion's history with Superboy was summarized early on by Byrne, it's just that we were also told that it wasn't the same Kal El as the one readers followed. I still don't think it's hard to appreciate (or find less confusing to older readers by the same token) on its own with Jon now, even if Bendis is your first Superman run.

    The difference between Superboy and many other sci fi action stories that take place at different stages of a character or through generations is that it's built backwards. It's filling in the earlier life of a character, so there are usually some plotholes inherent. Unless you dance around the raindrops, but we didn't see that pre crisis probably because that's a joyless hassle compared to the alternative. Some of the modern stories had the same basic idea as Jenette Kahn and others, making Superboy an alt reality character. Alan Davis and John Francis Moore did it well imo.

    As for not being "super" in Smallville goes, I'd say the main idea is to not undercut the impact of Superman. He's a lot less remarkable if there was some random small town version of himself doing the same stuff for decades.
    It's interesting you bring up the idea that Clark as Superboy was always something that was built backwards. I've been working on the theory that, when it's all said and done, he functioned as his own separate version of Clark. He was "Ultimate Superman" before "Ultimate" was a thing. The literally just degared everyone or added in an equivalent. Lois had Lana, Jimmy had Pete, Lex had his younger self. As Superboy he's already the world's greatest hero, and becoming Superman would've just been reaching legal drinking age.

    So, I find it fascinating that Post-crisis Superman either adopted or mixed in the defining aspects of pre-crisis Superboy. He got the Kents back, Lana and Pete were now a more frequent force in his life, and we get to see him navigate the start of his rivalry with Lex.

    Do you think it's at all possible that the popularity of DC's "Ultimate Superman" aka Superboy influenced the writers who grew up with it to not just make Post-crisis Superman the way he was, but to also not bat an eyelash at the idea of Superboy being a young and separate character from Clark Kent? I imagine that's why making Conner or Jon were such natural things.

    The Superboy IP has long since divorced itself from just being the prelude to Superman's adventures, right?

    That's not to say that Clark can't have adventures as a kid or young adult, but scaling them up to the degree of what Pre-crisis Superboy got up to does under cut his impact as Superman.
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    Mighty Member Tzigone's Avatar
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    It's interesting you bring up the idea that Clark as Superboy was always something that was built backwards. I've been working on the theory that, when it's all said and done, he functioned as his own separate version of Clark. He was "Ultimate Superman" before "Ultimate" was a thing. The literally just degared everyone or added in an equivalent. Lois had Lana, Jimmy had Pete, Lex had his younger self. As Superboy he's already the world's greatest hero, and becoming Superman would've just been reaching legal drinking age.
    I agree with that sentiment.

    That's not to say that Clark can't have adventures as a kid or young adult, but scaling them up to the degree of what Pre-crisis Superboy got up to does under cut his impact as Superman.
    I very much agree. More than that, there's something meta about it to me - Superman should be the first superhero. Not Superboy, not any of the Golden Age heroes where Superman only appears a generation later. Superman should get the ball rolling. He should debut at 21-26 years of age. Before that, any heroics were surreptitious. There was also no one there to give him the idea of being a costumed hero - it wasn't part of the cultural consciousness the way it is in ours. Sure, there's a Zorro, maybe, but nothing to the level of the way we think of things. And then he decided to go public - maybe because he had the idea, maybe because of a big thing that had to be public, maybe because his parents were dead and couldn't be hurt buy it. No firm on idea on how the idea emerges, but it does.

    As you perhaps can tell, I'm much fonder of the Golden Age (and yes, Post-COIE), where Superboy was not part of Superman's past, than I am of the Silver Age. Also, don't like the computerized lessons of Krypton, etc. I mean, where he grew up essentially a child of Krypton, fought Kryptonian villains from his youth, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tzigone View Post
    I very much agree. More than that, there's something meta about it to me - Superman should be the first superhero. Not Superboy, not any of the Golden Age heroes where Superman only appears a generation later. Superman should get the ball rolling. He should debut at 21-26 years of age. Before that, any heroics were surreptitious. There was also no one there to give him the idea of being a costumed hero - it wasn't part of the cultural consciousness the way it is in ours. Sure, there's a Zorro, maybe, but nothing to the level of the way we think of things. And then he decided to go public - maybe because he had the idea, maybe because of a big thing that had to be public, maybe because his parents were dead and couldn't be hurt buy it. No firm on idea on how the idea emerges, but it does.

    As you perhaps can tell, I'm much fonder of the Golden Age (and yes, Post-COIE), where Superboy was not part of Superman's past, than I am of the Silver Age. Also, don't like the computerized lessons of Krypton, etc. I mean, where he grew up essentially a child of Krypton, fought Kryptonian villains from his youth, etc.
    I'm more in the middle.

    I like Clark becoming a hero early on. The Golden Age take bothers me in that Clark has no real defining point where it makes sense for him to become Superman. He has the powers in say 1936 but has no desire to be a superhero, but suddenly in April 1938 he decides putting on a costume and helping is a good idea. It seems to me that even if he hadn't come up with the name or costume Clark should have been intervening from the time he was aware of what he could do to help.

    But I prefer the Golden Age de-emphasis on Krypton where Superman spent his early career with no idea of where he came from. Ten years of stories without knowing anything and longer before he met another Kryptonian.

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    In canon, is there a specific moment where Clark decides on what he could do to help? I'm guessing more modern stories emphasis this.

  11. #11
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    A few years into the golden age, we get pa on his deathbed essentially talking Clark into becoming Superman. Notably he mentions being on the side of the law. Different from what was basically a cold open with the original comics, not so different from other story heroes. And ironic given the common complaints about the use of Pa post crisis.

    The Secret Years from the early 80s show his transition from Superboy to Superman. Superboy himself just up and started at a very young age pre crisis, but I can't remember what I have and have read on that tbh. Maybe Action #500 explains it.

    In Man of Steel and Earth One, Clark is compelled to make a difference by a combination of his parents and life events. Post Crisis Clark traveled the world solving problems incognito, though not a lot of that has been shown. There was a neat issue of Action in the late 90s where the skyfathers address the weight of the emergence of Superman, and it was a pretty big plot in the Year One saga from 1995.

    For All Seasons used to be so highly recommended on the subject. It's still really good.

    It also felt like New 52 Superman just got up one day and decided to kick some butts, but I think Pak explored that on top of Morrison and Fisch.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post

    Birthright had Clark earning college credits abroad but focusing on traveling the world. The story had a really great segment in Africa which set the tale up really well and established some good motivations for certain elements that inform the transition into Superman later on. Good stuff, but not a ton of exploration of Clark's "missing years."
    Although it was a rewrite of the origin, it's not like that part in Africa couldn't have happened in the 1986 continuity. Same for the similar bits in Camelot Falls. If you leave wide enough gaps, like Man of Steel/World Of to the Superman series did, I think you can squeeze in enough to satisfy whoever wants a non super Superboy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Clark View Post
    It always struck me the other way. Superman was more impressive for having this career that stretched through his entire life. The only other character that had that type of vibe was Dick Grayson. Superman at 29 (Pre-crisis age) had been an active hero for over two decades already. Post Crisis he was less experienced than Batman by a few months and had maybe a year or so on the other JLA founders. Plus he was preceded by powerful heroes in the JSA. He was just sort of an average hero compared to be the first public hero and the one with the longest career on Earth One.
    I'll always think that despite loving the last 40 years, you don't need Superman to have anything that wasn't built into him. The adaptations from the radio program all the way to new movies, then origins from "silver age" guys like Morrison and Waid, did without Superboy just fine.

    Even though I feel like Superboy undercuts Superman because of the retcon thing, I have to admit that the golden age creators really didn't do much to emphasize the importance of his place in the superhero world anyway. He was the only and didn't really share a universe for a while, until after Superboy. At a point where no one seemed to care that he was first all that much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Superlad93 View Post
    It's interesting you bring up the idea that Clark as Superboy was always something that was built backwards. I've been working on the theory that, when it's all said and done, he functioned as his own separate version of Clark. He was "Ultimate Superman" before "Ultimate" was a thing. The literally just degared everyone or added in an equivalent. Lois had Lana, Jimmy had Pete, Lex had his younger self. As Superboy he's already the world's greatest hero, and becoming Superman would've just been reaching legal drinking age.

    So, I find it fascinating that Post-crisis Superman either adopted or mixed in the defining aspects of pre-crisis Superboy. He got the Kents back, Lana and Pete were now a more frequent force in his life, and we get to see him navigate the start of his rivalry with Lex.

    Do you think it's at all possible that the popularity of DC's "Ultimate Superman" aka Superboy influenced the writers who grew up with it to not just make Post-crisis Superman the way he was, but to also not bat an eyelash at the idea of Superboy being a young and separate character from Clark Kent? I imagine that's why making Conner or Jon were such natural things.

    The Superboy IP has long since divorced itself from just being the prelude to Superman's adventures, right?

    That's not to say that Clark can't have adventures as a kid or young adult, but scaling them up to the degree of what Pre-crisis Superboy got up to does under cut his impact as Superman.
    Man I wish I could go back 70 years to do some interviews. There wasn't and eight year old Doc Savage or Conan or Popeye, so what were they doing with Superman? For all the editor notes and stuff that made Superboy convoluted, how they had to explain details in relation to Superman, in so many ways it's fair to call it a separate concept. And yeah, kind of like ultimate as a revision. It certainly set the stage for the "Superyoungman" ideas Byrne had, with a less powerful and experienced version with more humanity and flaws. Some of the specifics nixed but the general idea didn't really die.

    I mentioned JF Moore before and it's funny, along those lines, how his Superboy comic (largely based on the show) was so much like Ultimate Superboy filtered through a Saturday morning cartoon. And then there was the blatant Earth One.
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  12. #12
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    I love Clark's time as Superboy. As you said, it adds to the mythology, especially with the Legion of Superheroes and how close they are linked to Clark.

    I also think it is a perfect opportunity to show Clark learning how to become the world's greatest superhero. He couldn't just put on the costume at the age of 20-something and then he is a perfect hero. That is something that has a lot of learning involved and showing him learning how to be a superhero as a teenager is a perfect way to do it in my opinion. A lot of learning, growing and maturing happens in a person's teenage years and that can be shown through the lens of learning how to be a superhero. I think this is partly why teenage superhero stories are so popular and are so great when they are done right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CTTT View Post
    In canon, is there a specific moment where Clark decides on what he could do to help? I'm guessing more modern stories emphasis this.
    I think one of the better things about the Superman story is that Kal-El choosing to become Superman was more momentum than anything, the first little montage phrases it like becoming Superman was something that had always been on his mind and the death of the Kents kind of just reinforced that feeling for him. There's not really an AH-HA! moment for the character but just gradual self discovery. Theres been attempts to loop back in an equivalent moment for Superman similar to what the death of the Waynes or death of Uncle Ben is for Batman and Spiderman respectively.

    There was the Pa Kent deathbed speech which always felt different because Pa always dies of something Clark had no control over more than anything where as the formers always feel some kind guilt or responsibility is attached to those deaths but with the later the feeling falls closer to "you can't save everyone". It's the difference between to largely normal young men having to deal with a typical aspect of human life and a teenage Hercules/Perseus having to deal with the same thing. This story line has since become Pa Kent has a heart attack which is usually just him dying.

    Then Byrne made the instance of finding out when he was of alien origin being the breaking moment which was fairly weightless and I don't think I've seen it emulated. The Ah-ha! moment is suppose to have a bit of punch to it and Byrnes sort of lacks that. It just happens and Clark leaves.

    Superman for All Seasons tries to rectify all of this by showing a Clark in his late teens saving Pa from a Tornado and having that be his moment of realization. Despite Superman for All Seasons being a good story I thought that was the weakest moment in the book. To me the instance still lacks impact or shock the way the moments in Batman and Spidermans lives do, helping with a Tornado is the Superman equivalent of opening a door. There's no risk or sacrifice involved just him doing something that's relatively easy for him the require little strain or danger.

    I don't really need Superboy but an involved young Clark Kent who has a string of adventures and tribulations on a scale similar to Superboy would help feed into the concept of momentum creating Superman rather than being centered around an event that happened to him. Superman is a product of initiative not chance.
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    If I was the Archie Goodwin of Superman's answer to BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT, the conceit of my SUPERMAN: TALL TALES OF SMALLVILLE would have first person narration by different unreliable narrators, who might be embroidering the truth. That way, you wouldn't have to consider every story as canonical and each creative team could take their own liberties.
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    Probably something like this;


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