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The ’80s Revisited: The New Adventures of Superboy #1


newadventuresofsuperboy0001The Most Important Year of Superboy’s Life!

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker: David Hunt
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Ben Oda
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January, 1980
Cover Price: $0.40

This issue only just barely makes the cut to be counted as an ’80s comic…though I am pretty sure that is a technicality, as it’s the cover date, while the publication date was likely at least a couple months earlier, the end of 1979. I actually remember this issue as one I’d managed to acquire ages ago, when I was in junior high (probably–early 1990s). I could not have told you anything about the content of the issue from memory, but on reading it, I realized I had also definitely actually READ the thing, too.

We start with a classic Julius Schwartz cover, showing us a rather absurd, dramatic scene that relates to the content of the story within…a relation that plays up some element that doesn’t seem to make much sense on the cover, but has a reasonable story explanation. In this case, Superboy is celebrating a birthday, but his parents insist he needs an extra candle…and this story promises to tell us WHY.

Of course, while we have SUPERBOY on the cover…it’s actually Clark Kent being celebrated within…which fits continuity, as they weren’t THAT open about Superboy’s identity even back then…he held the secret identity knowing enemies of Superboy wouldn’t hesitate to strike at him through those he loved–particularly his parents. Clark’s 16 birthday is here, and he’s asked about the extra candle…he doesn’t know himself why it’s used, just that his parents have added it every year since his 8th. We then get a flashback from Jonathan and Martha’s point of view as the secret is revealed to us–the readers. Two ancient aliens found their way to Earth, where after “testing” the newly-revealed Superboy (that they have searched for since crossing paths with baby Kal-El’s rocket years earlier) deem him their salvation. They accidentally made themselves immortal–something that’s become a curse–and need someone of sufficient makeup that they could SURVIVE a device that would transfer one’s ability to age into them. Yet, they mean Superboy (and Earth) no harm…so provide the 8-year-old Superboy the choice: help them, or don’t.

We see the noble boy choose to help them, using their device on himself, which means he will no longer (ever) age, giving his ability TO age to the aliens, that they might finally age and find the end of their (unnaturally-long) lives. They also impart a bit of amnesia to the young Clark so that he won’t remember his choice, and can live with the thought that his ‘immortality’ comes from being Kryptonian on earth, rather than choosing to sacrifice a part of himself. After they leave and the Kents lament their boy’s fate, Clark reveals that he noticed from what the aliens had said about their plight that it was their own minds keeping them from aging…he actually countered their device with his heat vision…granting the aliens the BELIEF that they could age, which tricked their minds into ALLOWING them to age. Meanwhile, Clark will continue to age as normal…a win/win situation. Though the amnesia kicked in and he no longer remembers the aliens or his solution/decision, his parents do–and honor their pride in him with the extra candle.

I recognize the names Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger, though I can’t particularly place them off the top of my head, as of this typing. I’m pretty sure they’re either “big names” at DC from the late-’70s/early-’80s, or on the Superman family of titles (or both). I of course recognize Julius Schwartz as the editor as mentioned above.

This issue’s story worked decently for me–I’m not thrilled with it, nor does it play much into “continuity” that I recall except the obvious references and Editor’s Notes to remind (or inform) the reader of things of note (like the elder Kents having been de-aged). Stuff like that I took at face value as a kid, and took at face value here, but the added benefit of–as an adult–now having some vague memories of reading about the stuff being referenced, since I’d originally read the issue. In and of itself, I don’t know if I “buy” Superboy as an 8-year-old…but then, some of that may simply be that I’m so far removed from that age now, where I was only several when I would have originally read this. The story is a done-in-one, with nothing of note added to an ongoing saga or anything; just another “adventure” that takes an issue and leaves things in place for the next issue.

The art is quite good, and I really like the style overall…there’s something particularly familiar to it that puts me in mind of some of these characters even into the then-current comics I read in the late-’80s. It certainly fit the story and nothing to the art drew me out or distracted me, so it definitely succeeded in doing its job.

All in all, I enjoyed the issue as what it is–a “random” one-off, done-in-one issue that just so happens to be a #1 from an age when an issue with a #1 actually had some measure of significance. This was more than worth the 25 cents I paid for it.

Additionally, there’s an ad in the issue for the then-current issue of Adventure Comics that grabbed my attention…to the point that I actually sought it out in a non-bargain back-issue bin and found/bought it. It’s possible dabbling in these older back issues lately is just that–a dabbling. At the same time, I find myself more and more interested in older comics than new, and I’m increasingly willing to buy an issue from the back issue bins where I used to hold myself strictly to the quarter-bins.

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One Response

  1. […] recently, I’ve specifically sought out an issue of Adventure Comics because of an ad for it in an issue of The New Adventures of Superboy. I bought a DC Comics Presents Annual due to some talk of the series on a podcast. I’ve […]

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