By 1988 the DC comics universe had already undergone a major upheaval, as we talked about last week. The universe was rebooted, the various alternate realities merged into one…though the success of that merger is certainly questionable in a few spots. John Byrne was in charge of reintroducing Superman into this new continuity and one of his acts was to remove the idea that Superman fought villains in his teens as Superboy. The concept had been created in 1945 in an attempt to build on Superman’s success by telling stories of his teen years. I don’t know Byrne’s reasoning for dropping this like he did any other Kryptonian, though his parents would now survive to Clark’s adult years, having found a fan base through the Superboy comic and appearances in the Filmation cartoon.
After George Reeve’s death there was an attempt to create a Superboy series but it never got past the pilot, which was later adapted into an issue of the comic. It then seems odd to create a series around Clark as a teen superhero with his usual power set intact as this had been removed from continuity. I’m guessing Alexander Salkind had the same thought that the pre-DC National Comics had, to build off the success of…well, three of their movies, maybe two if you ask many fans. (Personally I liked Superman III conceptually and it was just the comedy that failed, while Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is total trash and I’m one of the few defenders of the Supergirl movie.)
The Superboy TV aired in syndication and had to work on a syndicated series budget, which is smaller than a network or a modern cable channel/streaming service, and the effects reflected that but weren’t too bad considering that restriction. The show aired for four seasons but surprisingly the intros aren’t broken down by season. You’ll see what I mean pretty quick.
I do like how the camera flies through the bridge, with the Superboy logo flying past us, and then the rest is just so plain. I’m not sure why they couldn’t use the movie theme given that the Salkinds were behind this series and the movie, but we’ll get into the crazy rights issues of this show (because of course there are crazy rights issues) at the end. The theme isn’t that bad but clearly they needed to punch it up along with the visuals, so before season one ended they redid it.
That’s a bit more like it. Seeing Superboy fly is cool and all plus “you will believe a man can fly” was the tagline of Superman: The Movie, but it’s more interesting if he’s flying while being shot at by lasers or he’s catching falling people. We also get to see more of the cast. John Haymes Newton was actually good Superboy and I don’t know why this was his only season. Everyone was trying to get in touch with their characters; that’s just how first seasons go. Newton would return to play the grown-up Superman in two animated fanfilms I’ve posted here before, Rob Pratt’s Superman Classic and Bizarro Classic, where he even got to play Bizarro, while his wife played Lois Lane.
Meanwhile Stacey Hayuk remained through the series as Lana Lang, though her big hair didn’t. In this version Clark and Lana were students as Shuster University, a nod to one of Superman’s co-creators. Lex Luthor, played in this season only by Scott James Wells, was a recurring antagonist alongside his sidekick Leo (Lex used to have his own sidekicks before the rewriting into a businessman…though I guess you could count Mercy in the DCAU) but not the only threat Superboy, Lana, and Perry White’s son T.J. (played by Jim Calvert) would run into. Then season two happened and things started to change…and some changes to me were NOT for the better.
The theme song doesn’t change but the cast does. Gerald Christopher would play our title hero for the remainder of the series and he’s a good replacement for Neuton. T.J. was out and Andy McCallister would take over in season two. No offense to Ilan Mitchell-Smith but honestly I don’t remember a thing about this character. Granted it’s been years since I’ve seen the show so this isn’t a show review but he wasn’t really memorable.
The change I really hated was to Lex Luthor. At the end of season 1 Lex loses his hair, in typical Lex fashion. This version of Lex was a genius but also a pretty boy at least in the looks department. In previous continuity it was the lost of his hair (long story…not that it helps) that turned Lex to evil, but here he was already engaging in criminal activities that couldn’t be traced back to him. It was an interesting dynamic. Well @$%$ that, let’s have Lex go insane, kill a Superboy fan who is a grown adult and get plastic surgery to assume his identity (now played by Sherman Howard, who plays this version of Lex well enough, I just don’t like this version of Lex), kills Leo to keep his secret, and then tries to woo away Lana (still a college girl while the guy he replaced was in this thirties) as part of his revenge plan on Superboy. He continued to get more insane as the series went on and frankly just felt so off he could and should have been an original villain. I just didn’t like him.
If the internet is to be believed then both of the first two seasons had two intros per season. That’s a bit weird but at least they get better. The new intro shakes off any connection to the season one intro and both have a lot more action than either season one intro, and the new one allows Lana and Andy to appear more in it, but unlike season one’s “just Superboy flying” intro I really don’t see any reason to change it. Then you have the following two seasons sharing an intro for the most part.
Maybe they figured they finally got it right? The show also is now changed to Adventures Of Superboy for whatever reason. And they couldn’t help themselves because there is an alternate intro…unless someone’s pranking me.
Not that I can find out when this one showed up. It claims to be season four but other videos claim the other one is still season four, so who knows unless you have the DVD’s (if they’re accurate). Granted it is a good set-up. The narrator goes over Clark’s history in a few seconds because the audience is at least familiar with parts of it, even if changes had been made to Superman’s history by this point. It’s easily the best version of the theme song.
This would be the last appearance of a non-clone Boy Of Steel, since Clark’s teen years were depicted without the suit every since. Odd and possibly fitting then that is when the show stopped trying to be Superman’s growing years altogether. Instead of the path leading him to become a mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper, Clark joins Lana in the Bureau For Extra-Normal Matters. Already the college was in Florida, a bit far from Kansas but possibly where the show was filmed…otherwise I have no explanation. Now the Bureau is also set in Florida. Joined by senior investigator Matt Ritter and their boss C. Dennis Jackson it was an excuse to come up with decent threats for Superboy as he was part of an investigation team that looked into…well, it’s right there in the name. Luthor would continue to be an issue and go further mad. I’m just not a fan of this. While the idea is sound, Superboy might as well be a new character at this point, not to mention that he should be going by Superman now that Clark and Lana are out of college and thus officially adults. They even started introducing Superman’s foes as far back as season one but at least Mr. Mxyzptlk makes sense given his powers, and the same for Luthor given Clark and Lex’s shared history. I can’t say the same for Bizarro or Metallo. However, do yourself a favor and ignore their version of Metallo. It’s kind of pathetic and it’s a shame that Lois & Clark would use the same costume design.
It’s funny that I should mention that show because guess which show we’re talking about in the next installment? Yes, more live-action fun, with the show that in a way caused Superman’s comic book death.