Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today, Superboy meets the first troll, learns the wrong lessons, and maybe enjoys taking a beating too much.

From 1981, The New Adventures of Superboy #17, "To Fight the Unbeatable Foe!" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Kurt Schaffenberger, inks by Dave Hunt.

The story opens with Superboy opening a pocket of magma, to keep it from building up pressure and causing an earthquake. He then melts, since that wasn't Superboy, but rather one of his robots: the Superboy-robot had done a good job analyzing and handling the situation, but without Superboy's invulnerable skin was in bad shape, and Superboy has to heat-vision it "out of its 'misery'!" Changing back into Clark Kent, he attends his Speech 301 class, where Carl "Moosie" Draper delivers what he thinks will be a scathing rebuttal to the Boy of Steel: How do they know if he's a good hero? What do they have to compare him against? Had Superboy even faced a super-villain at that point in his career? If the answer is no, which it is, Superboy sucks and we should all hate him, thank you and good night.

Lana Lang rips Moosie a new one afterwards: another guy jealous of Superboy and trying to tear him down. But Clark wonders if maybe there wasn't a point in there somewhere, and has an idea. Step one: use his mind-prober ray to dig up some memories of his early childhood on Krypton. (Pre-Crisis, Superboy was what, a toddler before he was launched to earth? Which doesn't explain some of that Superbaby stuff.) Watching Jor-El work on a robot (the super-teacher Jor-El built for him!) Superboy is able to vastly increase his robot-building skills, and plans a new model that will be his equal...It occurs to me Superboy could use his mind-prober ray to bask in the time he had with his parents, but nah, let's watch dad build a robot jerkhole.

The next day, at one of Smallville's seemingly weekly Superboy Days, a new caped figure arrives instead: Kator. Confronting the Boy of Steel, while the Kents and Lana worry; Moosie hopes Kator will knock Superboy down a peg or three. In fact, I wonder if his class wasn't half-full of jealous guys (and maybe the occasional girl) who hated Superboy for blocking their chances with Lana. Their largely imaginary chances, I'm sure; but looking at this through today's eyes it's easy to picture that getting ugly.

Kator seems more than a match for Superboy, who isn't too bent out of shape about it: of course he built him. While his parents are understandably upset that he's unleashed a potential menace on Smallville, just to have something to prove himself against; Superboy has thought ahead and created a fail-safe to turn off Kator, which he gives to his dad. (And which I think Kator steals the next evening...) The next day, while Clark is on a walk with Lana, Kator delivers a message--two, in fact. One to Superboy, that he'll soon be replaced; the other to Moosie, a promise that his dreams will soon come true...!

I think a good percentage of Superboy comics have a panel like that one of Clark thinking; thinking "Hmmmm...did I just make a terrible mistake?" Also, out of context, that last panel would look a lot different. I don't know why exactly Moosie assumes, if Superboy gets his ass kicked, Lana will automatically dump him and fall into Moosie's arms. I also don't have the next issue, have to keep an eye out for that; although this issue has a better cover.

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