by Robert Gillis 7/2010

What was so special about the silver age of comic books? Read about it HERE
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Superboy was the lead feature in Adventure Comics in the mid-1950s, and each story usually featured him teaching a mean bully a lesson, getting kids to work together, organizing a community anti-litter club, or some other thinly disguised 1950s era PSA, all the while Lana Lang would follow him around saying, “I know you’re Clark Kent.”

Here are some classic, “epitome of the Silver Age,” Superboy panels from that era…

From Adventure Comics #195, 1953: …So Lana finds out that a super-hero boy from Mars (cleverly named “Mars Boy”) is on Earth and overhears Superboy use the lad’s real name (which I believe is “Klaatu barada nikto.”) Anyway, this is a year before J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter debuted, and back then, Mars was exactly like Earth, with people and cities and the Ice Capades and everything. Anyway, Lana approaches the EXTRATERRESTRIAL who has a DANGEROUS EXTRATERRESTRIAL CRIMINAL in custody IN A CAVE. She knows NOTHING about Martian culture, customs, laws, galactic politics, or the abilities of either Martian (or what weapons they might be carrying), but tells “Mars Boy” that unless he does her bidding (which will include making her a dress and picking flowers, I kid you not!), she’ll reveal his secret identity to the DANGEROUS EXTRATERRESTRIAL CRIMINAL. Who cares if “Mars Boy” has a family or friends that would be put in danger? Who cares if it would end his crime-fighting career or somehow compromise his life on Mars, or create an interplanetary incident? Nope, what’s important here is that Lana gets what she wants through felonious actions (blackmail/extortion). What I’d really like to see: “Mars Boy” uses his heat vision to vaporize Lana saying, “Sorry, on Mars, blackmail is punishable by death.” ZAP!

Next we have this gem from Adventure Comics #205:

Way to help keep a secret, Ma and Pa! Jonathan, Martha and Superboy, the only people on Earth who know Clark is Superboy, find another rocket on the Kent farm, (what, do they have a landing strip there or something?!) and there’s Martha, needlessly blurting out, “Why, it’s just like the last time — when Superboy came here from the planet Krypton!” to, again, the only people on Earth who already know the whole story. Then Pa chirps in helpfully with, “Yes — And we adopted him and named him Clark Kent!” Why are they saying this? Man, it’s not like this is the first time any of them are hearing the story. Who even talks like this? What I’d really like to see is Lana Lang poking her head out the next-door window and saying, “Ah-ha! I knew it!” No, strike that – what I’d REALLY like to see is Superboy look at his foster parents and say, “Who the hell are you talking to? We’re all here! Are you trying to blow my secret wide open or should we just take out an ad in the Daily Planet? Sheesh!”

Also, look at the final panel. Kral (who understands the Earth people because EVERYONE in the universe speaks English) says he is from Titan, a moon of Jupiter. Um, sorry dude, but Titan is a moon of SATURN, and Superboy knows this, because Saturn Girl, from the Legion of Super-Heroes, is from Titan and um, her name is SATURN girl. Look, I know we’re talking about a character that can fly and shoot fire from his eyes, but c’mon, this is Astronomy 101.

Here’s another cover where the Kents pull the same “scream out the secret identity” crap:


Our next yarn features a panel from Adventure Comics #204 that should never have got past the comic code authority (or the editors):

…So in this comic book, a teenage prankster yells at the police officer that he’s a killer and he’s throwing a bomb. But as Superboy races in to smother the weapon, ha, ha, it’s just a squishy pumpkin. Wow, you gave us all a good scare, you meany! “Aren’t you ashamed?” asked Superboy.   You’re telling me the cop doesn’t have enough to throw this kid’s ass in jail?  Please!

Now let’s look at this in a real world situation, shall we? If a kid did this today, a) he wouldn’t be arrested for threatening murder, b) nor would he stand trial for domestic terrorism or possessing a hoax device/WMD, c) nor would he go to prison. And why not? Because d) None of the above; the cop would whip out his service weapon and drop the little shit, and the only thing the Internal Affairs follow-up report would say would be, “Justifiable use of deadly force.” Today’s lesson: Don’t threaten anyone with fake weapons, kids. It can make you all sorts of dead. Man, what a stupid, stupid, stupid thing to publish in a comic book aimed at children. At least commercials today say, “Do not attempt.”

Finally, from the same issue, Clark responds to a SCREECH from Lana! Gosh, what terrible thing has happened to her?

Yes, here’s another example of the real-world unimaginable, horrific dilemmas teenagers of the mid-1950s faced. Korea? Nope? The Cold War? Nope. McCarthyism? Nope. Polio? Nope. It’s… {Wait for it} THE LABELS ON THE CANS CAME OFF AND LANA DOESN’T KNOW WHAT’S IN WHICH CAN. The horror, the horror. Oh, the humanity! How will she ever resolve this unsolvable crisis? Don’t cry, Lana! Hey, here’s a radical idea: Maybe she could OPEN THE DAMNED CANS!

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