The Revenge of Little Boy Blue – Pt. 1

{I was hoping to have this article completed

by Superman’s 80th birthday but could not finish it in time.

So, to get it out today I have split it into different posts}

Back in the day — that is the Silver Age… the Sixties — I was not much of a Superman fan, but I loved to read Superboy and Supergirl stories. These were two characters living in different times, but they were living in very similar circumstances. As a kid, I found these two to be relatable compared to Superman.

Both Superboy and Supergirl lived in isolation, away from the mainstream of DC Universe. Superboy’s circumstances were much more complicated than that of Super Girl, but she lived under some rather severe constraints. Constraints that were placed upon her by her older cousin, Superman. He had forbidden her from ever appearing in public as Supergirl. This was at least the situation from her initial appearance in 1959 and for two years following.

Action Comics #252 (May 1959)

Because Supergirl was not permitted to be seen in the here and now, she managed to get out by traveling to outer-space and to other times. On occasion, she would team-up with her older cousin and at other times she would interact with the Legion of Super-Heroes, a group of teenage superheroes from the 30th Century.

The group that Supergirl met with were originally said to be the children of the original Legion of Super-Heroes; however, in Action Comics #276 (May 1961), it is retconned that members of the Legion that Supergirl interacts with are same individuals as the friends of Superboy.

Superboy first appeared in a story titled “The Origin of Superboy” in More Fun Comics #101 (Jan 1945).

Growing up on a farm nearby the town of Smallville, Superboy lived an even more isolated life than did Supergirl. The stories told of Supergirl from 1959 to 1962 were very similar to the stories told of Superboy throughout his time. Instead of taking on criminals like their elder counterpart in Metropolis, Supergirl in Midvale and Superboy in Smallville were busy helping their friends and neighbors solve strange and dangerous situations. Theirs was a more personalized touch; even though sometimes Supergirl might have to hide behind a tree as she expelled her super breathe in an effort to save the day.

Eventually, Supergirl was released from the constraints of anonymity and in Action Comics #285 (February 1962), Superman revealed the existence of this younger cousin to the world and beyond.

Yet, Superboy remained secluded, almost frozen in time, because after all his stories were “The Adventures of Superman When He Was a Boy”. I say “almost frozen in time”, because he was able to travel from his time, approximately 15 years before the current continuity of the Silver Age, to a time 1000 years in the future.

The Legion of Super-Heroes was a fictional superhero team that first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958). For many years throughout the silver age and the bronze age of comics, the team was almost exclusively associated with the original Superboy.

Gradually, Superboy became less and less involved in the stories until there came the day that Superboy’s name was removed from the title and starting at issue #259 the series that had started as “Superboy” in 1949 and was renamed as “Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes” in 1976 became “Legion of Super-Heroes” in January 1980.

Then in 1985 came “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and issue #7 of that epic 12-issue mini-series, Supergirl died. The death of Supergirl was big deal. I recall seeing the iconic cover when I was working in a bookstore in 1985.

It was not until 30 years later, that I finally got around to reading COIE. I was prepared that somewhere within the story Supergirl dies, but what I was not prepared for was how Superboy was treated within the saga.

At first pass, I did not get what was going on, but I realize now that the writers were doing something very clever with Superboy. First was that they were acknowledging was that Superboy posed a problem for the new continuity that was being created. For one, the new Superman’s origin story now had Superman waiting until adulthood before being revealed to the world. Yet, instead of killing off Superboy like they did to Supergirl, the writer’s introduced a completely new take on Superboy – a new character who was called Superboy-Prime.

The invention of Superboy-Prime was a very clever plot device. It was a way of, one, restoring Superboy to the new continuity, establishing Superboy as a separate person and at the same time putting him away on a shelf for future storylines.

Superboy-Prime was from a parallel Earth called Earth-Prime that had no super-heroes. There, Superman and the other comic superheroes were fictional characters only seen in comic books. Earth-Prime was not a new invention; otherwise, it would have been way too over-the-top.

This parallel universe first appeared in a very clever story in The Flash #179 (May 1968). In this tale, Flash manages to accidentally travel from his Earth-1 reality into an alternate reality where “The Flash” is a fictional character who appears in comic books. In other words, he was in our world. In this story, after he was shown a copy of the comic book wherein he appears, he runs all the way from Central City to New York City and to the headquarters for DC Comics. There in the offices of the company that published comic books, Flash met the legendary (yet real) Julius Schwartz, editor of The Flash and a whole bunch of other silver-age titles. Julie, as he is known, assists Flash in constructing a “cosmic treadmill” that allows Flash to travel back to his home dimension – Earth-1.

Supergirl died in COIE #7 (October 1985), but I was missing the fact that there were cross-overs issues that contained important details concerning Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy.

In October 1985, Supergirl teamed-up Superman in DC Comics Presents #85. In this story, as the universe is falling apart, Supergirl is having ominous premonitions. This continues throughout the tale as Supergirl interacts with Batgirl, Superman, and her landlady’s daughter-turned-super-being, BlackStarr. Even after, Superman and Supergirl “restore the boundaries of the universe”, she is not able to shake these ominous feelings.

The final words of the issue read “The reason behind Supergirl’s morbid feeling becomes deathly clear in the October “Crisis on Infinite Earths” on sale now!” Basically, they are setting us up for something awful happening in COIE #7, but we now know that that was the death Supergirl.

When I first encountered Superboy-Prime in COIE #10 (January 1986), what I did not know that he had been introduced in the issue following Superman’s encounter with Supergirl, that is DC comics presents #86 (November 1985). Not knowing about these cross-overs and his origin story, made his appearance most confusing.

In one scene, Superboy just shows up to a gathering of other superheroes, saying “I’m Superboy from Earth-Prime.”

Continued in Part II