You can pretty much ignore the last paragraph.

§ June 27th, 2011 § Filed under superman § 17 Comments

I’ve talked about this before, where Frank Robbins (or the editor, I haven’t any idea) seemed determined to have Superboy stories be set in the 1930s, like in the story discussed at that link where Bonnie and Clyde menace Smallville. Or in the story I just found here, in issue #168 (September 1970) where Superboy must match wits with Nazi saboteurs in his hometown.

Assuming, as I did in the previous post, that Superboy stories take place when Clark is in his mid-teens, and that Superman stories always take place “now” (in this case, 1970), this would make Superman in his late 40s/early 50s at the very least. Which would be okay, I suppose, but seemingly contradictory to Superman’s usual portrayal as a somewhat younger man. (Not that being in one’s 40s is old, said the 42-year-old.)

“Oh no, some Superman comics may have odd continuity issues!” What a shock, I know. But I haven’t read a whole lot of the Superboy comics from this particular period of the very late ’60s/early ’70s…was this particular timeline unique to Robbins, or were other writers placing Superboy in the 1930s as well?

(You know, if DC is set on this whole “Superman is the first superhero” continuity reset that’s supposedly coming with the September relaunches, maybe they can go back to the Robbins timeline, with his teen years in the 1930s. With a 90-year-old Superman, who still looks like he’s in his 30s thanks to his alien physiology and super powers, you can still have the JSA active during WWII, and Captain Comet in the 1950s, and whatever else, and Superman would still be first. See, a perfect solution, and everyone’s happy!)

image from Superboy #168 (September 1970) by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Murphy Anderson)

17 Responses to “You can pretty much ignore the last paragraph.”

  • White Lantern Alec Holland says:

    I prefer the time-lost explanation. Clark, Bruce, Dick, Diana, Orin, and Ollie traveled back to the 1930’s and 40’s and got stuck there. No one but the JSA knew who the Golden Age versions of there heroes actually were, until the same heroes finaly went there and came back.

    Hey, it worked for Swamp Thing during his time travels!

  • Travis says:

    I remember reading an issue of Superboy when I was a kid that had a scene where Pete, Lana, and a bunch of other kids try to persuade Clark to use a hula hoop, which would place that story somewhere in the mid-to-late ’50s, I believe.

  • Chris K says:

    I’m mostly familiar with this period of Superboy from collecting the Legion back-ups that started to appear at roughly this time. I do remember that the lead story in #195 (the first appearance of ERG-1/Wildfire) had a lead story by Cary Bates called “The Rock & Roll Riddle of Smallville,” about that new-fangled music all the kids were listening to.

    So: clearly ’50s at that point, which was about 2 years after the issue you put up here. The writer has switched from Robbins to Bates, so there’s a creative change, but the art was still Brown & Anderson, so editorial (Murray Boltinoff?) probably wasn’t interested in changing the _look_ of the book at this point… (Although very shortly thereafter, it pretty much became the Legion anyway…)

  • Dave says:

    Heck, you could even have Supes go into some form of Kryptonian suspended animation for the 50s-90s (awoken by Y2K glitch!)

  • The Mutt says:

    When I was a kid in the sixties, DC comics characters always seemed like middle-aged men. Maybe it was the fedoras.

    Look at Superman as drawn by Wayne Boring or Curt Swan. He looks like he’s in his forties.

  • Erik says:

    I also remember reading some Cary Bates Superboy where the dialogue suggested the 1950s, but the cars and fashions looked more like the 1930s or 40s. So basically Superboy stories took place in “the past.”

  • White Lantern Alec Holland says:

    Speaking of Superboy chronology…

  • CW says:

    This DC relaunch is going to be one hell of a mess.

  • Shinwell Johnson says:

    I remember a one page strip appearing in DC Comics around 1971 or 1972–in the same period when Kryptonite disappeared, Morgan Edge bought the Daily Planet, and Clark Kent became a TV reporter–that explained that Superman was perpetually 29, and that all Superboy adventures took places fifteen years ago. That was the first time this rule was stated publicly, though the editors may have been using it before then.

    The Superboy stories you cite are all from before the publication of this rule. So, for all that readers of the period knew, Superboy WAS around in the 1930s.

    Incidentally, my spellchecker recognizes “Superman,” but not “Superboy.”

  • Dean Hacker says:

    If you think about it, the 1930s are probably the last time “Superboy” makes any sense. Once the mass media went from strictly radio to newsreels (and then TV), it becomes highly implausible for a young Clark Kent to maintain his secret identity in a small mid-western town. The newsreel started before the 1930s, but there were few competitors, so maybe (MAYBE) a flying boy in Kansas escaped their notice. In a post-WW2 setting, the concept was hopelessly dated.

    The latest that the Earth-1 version Superman could possibly born was 1930.

  • I’m all for the ages-differently-due-to-alien-physiology theory.

    One of the pitfalls that comics tend to fall into is trying to set stories in the “now” and using then-current bits of pop culture or history (or actual dates!), because in time, it makes it problematic.

    Oh, sure… I doubt Stan and Jack thought that Fantastic Four would be around in the year 2011 when they had the Thing trying on a BEATLES wig, but now it must have been a “Backstreet Boys” wig.
    In another 5 years it’ll have to have been a “Bieber”.

    But Superboy in the 1930’s? I’m ok with that.


  • Dorian says:

    See, a perfect solution, and everyone’s happy!

    This is comics we’re talking about, Mike. Most of the fans aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy.

  • Dave says:

    I always like the idea (and whose was it?) that everybody in Smallville knew Clark was Superboy, but were so polite that they made him think they didn’t.

  • Jeff R., says:

    The 90-year old ageless Superman is basically how Moore handled the issue of an all-eras-in-continuity Superman in Supreme. Worked well enough there…

  • Bigfriendlymike says:

    An ageless, glittery-in-the-sun, 90+ Superman falling in love with a 16-19 year old Lois Lane could be just what DC Comics needs to get new readership (teenage girls).

  • Cej says:

    And an eternally young 90+ Superman could be no-longer-married because his wife Lois is dead.

    Or he could just make a deal with the devil.

    Whatever’s easier.

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    The Captain America route could work. Instead of being in suspended animation, maybe he was roaming the galaxy, looking for Kryptonian survivors or something. The WWII super-heroes grow old and no one new comes along until after Superman returns to Earth. That’d work for me.