Hair today, gone tomorrow.

§ September 26th, 2022 § Filed under lex luthor, multiverse talk, superman § 27 Comments

Yup, I’m still addressing comments left on this site from nearly two months ago. What can I tell you?

So Daniel sez

“Byrne’s first meeting of Superman and Luthor in Mos #4 was soooo much more interesting than the pre-Crisis Superboy-causes-Lex-to-lose-his-hair-in-a-lab-accident”

Now let me just step in here for just a sec and defend the “Superman makes Lex lose his hair” thing. I’m not going to say you’re wrong for your position, for reasons I’ll get into, but I think Superboy being at least partially responsible is good actually, and fits tonally with the kind of stories being told in Super-comics of the time.

We’ve all probably seen this sequence, or something like it, from Adventure Comics #271 (1960) by Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino. Lex, the local boy genius who had been fast friends with Superboy, was working in his lab (built by Superboy, in fact) to create a cure for Kryptonite for his super-pal. Suddenly Science Goes Awry and the Boy of Steel blows out the flames and smoke in the exploded lab, only to discover:

This works in the Superman books of the day in that is fits the general low rent level of almost dreamlike myth-making in the stories. Motivations and broad and simplistic, intended to be easy for children to understand. (I’m put in the mind of an early ’60s Green Lantern story where the impetus for Sinestro’s actions was that he losing out in some popularity contest with another villain and he wanted to regain the top position.)

“You did something bad to me” (well, sort of) “and now I hate you forever!” is a plain enough explanation. Plus, it was probably a surprising twist for readers to discover that adult Luthor’s baldness was tied to the actions of a young Superman. It’s all very “closed-circle” kind of stuff. And this doesn’t get into the mythological/Samson-esque implications of a loss of hair equating a loss of strength and virility.

In other words, It Was Good Enough, at least for the time. As the actual stories of Lex vs. Supes played out, it was not so much about “my beautiful curls!” but just Luthor trying to find ways to commit crimes and outwit and/or destroy Superman. So the hair thing didn’t really play that much into the enmity between the two, aside from the occasional flashback. Now, had Luthor spent all his time trying to cause Superman to lose his hair, well, that’d be another story entirely. I think there were one or two stories like that, but it wasn’t, like, Lex’s thing.

When the Superman comics entered the ’80s, it was decided to change things up just a little bit. Not Crisis on Infinite Earths-levels of changing up, that would be a couple years hence, but for Superman’s 45th anniversary in 1983, here in Action Comics #544 by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, Luthor was given all-new reasons to hate the Man of Steel.

Long story short, Lex was living on the planet Lexor, where everyone loved him, and he and Superman were fighting, Lex fired an energy beam at him with his fancy new armor, the beam bounced off Superman and hit a big doodad that was keeping Lexor’s core stable, and everything went kablooie. Lex of course blames Superman entirely, resulting in:

A more brutal origin for an age when comics were, just very slightly, beginning to get a little edgier with their storytelling…not that Superman was going to suddenly become, I don’t know, Frank Miller’s Daredevil or anything. But we were getting to the point where the more fantasy-ish “loss of hair” origin wasn’t enough in comics, where a little more grounding in reality (relatively speaking) was becoming more in vogue.

As it turned out, this New Unleashed More Dangerous Than Ever Luthor only popped up a handful of times before the aforementioned Crisis came along, and frankly things weren’t much different than before except for Luthor having his new space armor suit.

With Crisis and the accompanying sweeping 1986 reboot of the Superman line by John Byrne, all that previous Luthor stuff was cast aside, and a new relationship between the two was forged. “Introduced” in Man of Steel #4, our new Luthor is now a wealthy businessman whose successfully hides his shady side from the public (causing a lot of comparisons to Marvel’s Kingpin in the process):

And yes, he has hair. At least until Lois slings this parting shot at him after an eventful evening:

…which, hey, I don’t know, don’t be hairline-shaming my man William Frawley:

But this being the motivation for Lex to start shaving his head clean (as he appears sans hair in EDIT: his very next appearance Superman #1 – was reminded in the comments he didn’t go Full Yul ’til after the Man of Steel mini was over) is frankly just as silly as Superboy blowing Kid Lex’s hair away after a lab fire. BUT TO BE CLEAR I know this isn’t the argument at hand. Hair is removed as a motivation for Luthor’s behavior…now it’s just a small point being made about his vanity.

Luthor’s hatred of Superman comes from the Man of Tomorrow’s replacing Lex as the most powerful man in Metropolis. This is a more modern, a more…well, using the word “subtle” for anything Byrne works on is bit of a misnomer, but it is a more nuanced take on his hatred for Supes than “I lost my hair.” It rises out of the character’s personality, a change that comes from the increasing demand for the approximation of “realism” and storytelling sophistication in comics.

In a way, though, it still hearkens back to the childlike simplicity of comic character motivations of decades past: “I was the biggest guy, now someone else is bigger, and I hate him.” It probably just comes down to being more relatable…everyone’s been jealous of someone else, but very few people have experienced a friend causing their immediate and total hair loss. Unless, you know, their arch-nemesis is an evil barber or something.

As a small addendum, one of the elements of the Smallville TV show I appreciated is the fact that the meteor swarm that stuck the town, the one in which baby Kal-El’s rocket was enmeshed, was responsible for a young Lex’s baldness. Bringing back the “Superboy was kinda responsible for that” which had been missing from the other live-action adaptations…nicely played.

27 Responses to “Hair today, gone tomorrow.”

  • Chris G says:

    MAN OF STEEL #5 opens with Luthor sporting hair that wasn’t far off from, say, Frasier Crane late in the run of CHEERS. Sometime between there and SUPERMAN #1 was when Lex must have started shaving it off.

    (One thing the Superbooks have never really explored is that there were a fair number of years, in-story, where Byrne’s Superman didn’t know he was an alien, didn’t have any major supervillains other than Luthor, and spent his time fighting mundane crime and the occasional Luthor attack by proxy…)

  • Thom H. says:

    Luthor really is the best villain in all his incarnations. Even the goofy battle suit is amazing.

    I love that two panel origin from the ’60s. Apparently, the explosion also turned Lex 50 years old.

    The Lexor story is so tragic. Murdering an entire planet to motivate Luthor is a bit much.

    The post-Crisis reinvention of Lex is one of the best parts of Byrne’s run. Lex feels inferior to Superman, narcissistically decides everyone must feel the same way, and so he has to stand up to Superman for the good of humanity. Just beautiful.

  • Daniel says:

    Thanks for offering your thoughts on my comments. One of the things I find interesting in comparing the two versions of Luthor’s origin is how much children’s comics evolved in the intervening 26 years between 1960 and 1986. Until the recent hardcover collections came out in the last year or so, I probably hadn’t read the Byrne run in over 30 years. And since the Byrne reboot came out around the same time as DC’s other big (adult-leaning) reboots (TDKR, Batman: Year One, Watchmen, Blackhawk, The Longbow Hunters, Hawkworld, etc.), in my mind I had remembered those Superman stories as being much more grownup than they actually were. But in rereading them in the last year, I was struck by how clearly the stories were being aimed at kids (albeit probably intellectually precocious kids). And as children’s stories, they’re actually pretty interesting and reasonably sophisticated. Whereas the Weisenger-era Superman stories, while they have their definite charms (particularly the artwork by Wayne Boring and Dick Sprang (on World’s Finest)), I would never describe the stories themselves as sophisticated or interesting. Even as a kid (I’m a Gen-Xer), having been introduced to Superman mostly through the Christopher Reeve movies, I never really warmed to the Weisenger-era Superman stories when I would read them in reprints (e.g., Superman: From the ’30s to the ’70s). Whereas the Byrne stories (I was 13 when they were released, so definitely on the tail end of being a kid) hit me right in my wheelhouse and were a welcome deviation from the Curt Swan era (whose work always left me cold, even as a kid).

    Maybe it’s a generational thing, but again, being a Gen-Xer (e.g., divorced parents, latch-key kid with wide latitude for independence, lax parental oversight of media consumption), even as a kid I was more drawn to the reasonably more grounded, deconstructed versions of these characters than I was to the more lighthearted, innocent versions of preceding years. Which is probably why I’ve always found the darker movie adaptations of the DC characters more interesting: because they most closely align with the kinds of stories I was reading when I was a kid (and why recent-ish nostalgia-laced riffs on the Silver Age mythos (Jeph Loeb’s run in the early 2000s; Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman) did absolutely nothing for me).

    Anyway, interesting thoughts in your posting.

  • I don’t know about interviews or anything back in the day, but the local comic shop owner (first one here, opened 1989) was always talking about how the new Lex was meant to be a bit more like Gene Hackman from the Reeve films. I thought that myself, but never made a big deal out of it. I was losing my hair in my 30sand now just have a ring.
    Running a business would have made Lex balding. Then he could have invented Lexprecia and made more from that than from the Lex-Wing (or whatever it was called).

  • Sean Mageean says:

    One pre-COIE Lex Luthor(s) story that I remember as being kinda neat was DC Comics Presents Annual no. 1, “Crisis on Three Earths,” where the Luthors of Earth-One and Earth-Two team up with Ultraman from Earth-Three to attempt to defeat both versions of Superman from Earth-One and Earth-Two–and we also get the first appearance of good guy Earth-Three Lex Luthor. I think this might have been the only time that original, Golden Age (Alexei) Luthor and Silver/Bronze Age Lex Luthor ever met and teamed up, prior to COIE. Of course, a few years later, Earth-Two Alexei Luthor was executed by Brainiac during COIE.

    However, I’m curious to know if DC Comics has ever had a story arc involving a Multiversal “Council of Lex Luthors”–similar to the Council of Reed Richards over at Marvel.

    Checking out Wikipedia, here are a few interesting Luthor items:

    In Luthor’s earliest appearances, he is shown as a middle-aged man with a full head of red hair. Less than a year later however, an artistic mistake resulted in Luthor being depicted as completely bald in a newspaper strip. The original error is attributed to Leo Nowak, a studio artist who illustrated for the Superman dailies during this period. One hypothesis is that Nowak mistook Luthor for the Ultra-Humanite, a recurring mad scientist foe of Superman who, in his Golden Age incarnation, resembled a balding, elderly man. Other evidence suggests Luthor’s design was confused with that of a stockier, bald henchman in Superman #4 (Spring 1940); Luthor’s next appearance occurs in Superman #10 (May 1941), in which Nowak depicted him as significantly heavier, with visible jowls.[9] The character’s abrupt hair loss has been made reference to several times over the course of his history. In 1960, writer Jerry Siegel altered Luthor’s backstory to incorporate his hair loss into his origin.”

    Here’s something really interesting:

    “During World War II, the War Department asked for dailies of the Superman comic strip to be pulled. The strips in question were created in April 1945 and depicted Lex Luthor bombarding Superman with the radiation from a cyclotron. This violated wartime voluntary censorship guidelines meant to help conceal the Manhattan Project.”

    Re: Byrne’s Luthor:

    “Following Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-1986), DC rebooted its universe yet again, creating the “Post-Crisis” reality. In the 1986 limited series The Man of Steel, John Byrne redesigned Lex Luthor from scratch, intending to make him a villain that the 1980s would recognize: an evil corporate executive. Byrne intentionally chose to base this new depiction of Luthor on businessmen Donald Trump, Ted Turner, Howard Hughes and ‘Satan himself!’ ”

    If DC and Marvel had continued doing special event crossover publications it would have been interesting to see Battle Armor Lex Luthor battle Tony Stark Iron Man.

    As to Curt Swan’s art, it does come across as fairly bland, especially as his Bronze Age period progressed. Maybe one exception to this was during the early ’70s when Murphy Anderson was inking Swan’s art and really made it pop. Also, a few years ago I saw a reprint of the first Superman/Batman team up from Superman no. 76 (1952), which is a fairly early Swan art job, and his art style seemed robust at that stage of his career. Maybe decades of dealing with Mort Weisinger’s crap drained Swan’s enthusiasm? But also, many artist’s styles evolve and change over the decades…I always thought Irv Novick’s late Bronze Age Flash art was kinda humdrum, but his Golden Age art on both Steel Sterling and The Shield stories for MLJ Comics is very cool and kinetic in a 1940 Jack Kirby sort of way. I’ve grown to have more appreciation for Don Heck’s art as I’ve gotten older, whereas when I was a Bronze Age brat, my friends and I would bemoan Heck drawing the JLA instead of Perez. But again, going back to the notion of great inkers, look at how Tom Palmer’s inks made Don Heck’s art really shine to almost Neal Adams heights on X-Men no. 64. But back in the early ’80s it was Adams, Byrne, and Perez as the top exemplars of great comics art. As we all start to age out, I try to have more empathy for what some of these old-timer artists must have gone through once the art trends and tastes changed as Gen- Xers became the dominant comics reading/buying demographic. Although, I will probably always remain critical of Vince Colletta’s shoddy inking!

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    The post-Crisis Lex Luthor is similar to the Kingpin, but I find him more interesting than “criminal scientist” Luthor. I like that he hated Superman because the Man of Steel got him arrested over (IIRC) wreck less endangerment. Luthor thought he was above the law, and Superman brought him down to the level of a commoner. His disdain for a super-powered man stealing his thunder, making him the *2nd* most famous resident of Metropolis is also believable. Unfortunately, Luthor could rarely be caught without derailing the whole premise. Superman being unable to prove Lex was committing crime made him look ineffectual. Still, Luthor being a respected businessman but secretly a villain was a fun dynamic.

  • CP Bananas says:

    I bought Action #544 off the rack and was all in on the new battle-suit Luthor (and more robotic-looking Brainiac). I was sorry to see them not get more to do before the revamp.

    As both a Superman and a Byrne fan at the time I was always surprised how much Man of Steel left me cold. These Luthor panels bring up two things, though.

    1) Giordano’s scratchy inks were probably the worst possible complement to Byrne’s pencils.

    2) Fred Mertz? Really? As a sixteen-year-old at the time I was left deeply confused. No better way to bring Supes into the ’80s than having a twentysomething Lois Lane reference a show that went off the air in 1957!

  • Sean Mageean says:


    Thanx for the Council of Luthors link–looks like they got all the live action Lex Luthors from the Superman movie serial/ Superman/Supergirl TV shows/and Gene Hackman Luthor from Superman the Movie in there!

    If it’s never been done, I’d love to see an Earth-Two retro-Golden Age story where the Ultra-Humanite, Lex Luthor and Per Degaton team up to plan world domination and G.A. Superman and the All-Star Squadron have to thwart their plans. If they managed a cross over with Dynamite Comics — who I think still has the license to the King Features characters–they could bring Flash Gordon, the Phantom, Mandrake, and a time-displaced Prince Valiant into the mix–and add Ming the Merciless to the super-villain crew! Imagine The Phantom meeting Golden Age Batman, Prince Valiant meeting the Shining Knight; Flash Gordon meeting Hawkman and commenting on Prince Vultan and the Hawkmen of Sky City; Mandrake meeting Zatara, Sargon, Doctor Occult, Doctor Fate, The Spectre…howzabout Mandrake’s associate Lothar knocking out Luthor? I nominate Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway for the gig!

    CP Bananas:

    Agreed that the robotic looking Brainiac was a great iteration. Giordano was actually considered one of the best inkers during the ’70s over Neal Adams pencils on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow…also pretty good on Frank Brunner’s Doctor Strange pencils…and Superman vs. Muhammad Ali might be one of his finest inking jobs over Adams pencils. Probably he spread himself too thin when he became vice president/executive editor at DC but still wanted to do some inking gigs; I think that’s why Jerry Ordway took over inking COIE. I’d say Terry Austin (who was mentored by Giordano) was always Byrne’s best inker.

    I think Byrne was given too much power over post-COIE Superman–I just remember it screwing up the Legion of Super-Heroes mythos big time. However, some of Byrne’s early Action Comics stories (which went through a DC Comics Presents-type phase) were sorta fun reads, with all the guest star heroes popping up…although there’s the controversial Big Barda issue…

    I was just thinking, did DC ever explain what’s up with the Golden Age Superboy at any point? Since Superboy debuted in 1944 in More Fun Comics no. 101, he clearly was a Golden Age character at first. Then, in 1946, he’s moved over to Adventure Comics, and in 1949 Superboy gets his own comic. But I always thought that when Gardner Fox introduced the concept of Earth-Two, Earth-Two Golden Age Superman/Clark Kent was said never to have had a Superboy identity, and only became a superhero in 1938, when he first donned a Superman suit.

    So, were Golden Age Superboy stories at some point just retconned as non-canon? And that also begs the question of which issue of Adventure Comics or Superboy comics should be considered the first appearance of Earth-One Silver Age Superboy? It’s gotta be before Adventure Comics no. 247 (1958), of course, as that’s the first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Anybody have any answers?

  • Snark Shark says:

    “At least until Lois slings this parting shot at him”

    I love that line!

    Sean Mageean: “the War Department asked for dailies of the Superman comic strip to be pulled”


    “Tom Palmer”

    One of the best inkers EVER. He made everybody’s art look GREAT!

    “I will probably always remain critical of Vince Colletta’s shoddy inking!”

    As you should, as we ALL should!

    “I’d say Terry Austin (who was mentored by Giordano) was always Byrne’s best inker.”

    Agreed! They meshed well, like Frank Miller and Klaus Janson did.

    “the controversial Big Barda issue”

    I don’t think I heard the details about this!

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Snark Shark:

    You might dig this video interview with the late, great Tom Palmer from a few years ago:

    Action Comic no. 592-593 features Byrne’s questionable Big Barda/Superman story.

  • Thom H. says:

    ’60s Curt Swan was one of the best around, in my opinion, especially when he was inked by George Klein. That duo could draw a mean Legion of Super-Heroes and managed to differentiate the huge cast by face shape alone. Good stuff. I agree that Swan later got too loose and lost a lot of the tight page layouts that really made his work pop.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Thom H. :

    Well, George Perez was certainly a big Curt Swan fan.
    I would agree the George Klein was a way better inker for Swan, than, say Vince Colletta or Tex Blaisdell.
    Also,once Jim Shooter started providing layouts for his own Legion of Super-Heroes stories in Adventure Comics it certainly helped Swan’s art look less static. Personally, I prefer John Forte’s art as far as ’60s LOSH artists go, but everyone’s take on art is subjective.

  • DK says:

    Villain motivations are very hard for DC:

    -Luthor: He’s basically Trump, but actually rich.
    -Joker: Murder clown, haven’t even given him a real name for 75+ years.
    -Sinestro: Power corrupts (just this one dude, not the 10,000 others with rings)
    -Reverse Flash: Admit it, lazy AF concept. Can’t even be bothered to give him a real supervillain name.
    -Gorilla Grodd: Kill All Humans, as I am not a human and I am better than them.
    -Deathstroke: I get paid to be Evil. I have no idea why Bruce Wayne doesn’t just pay me to be good.
    -Per Degaton: This secret dies with Roy Thomas.
    -Brainiac: I am the smartest being in the universe but I want City Funko Pops for some reason.

    This is why Darkseid has legs, he’s got an eternal Macguffin just out of reach and which can be adapted to any situation. He doesn’t rob banks or waste time, dominate all free will in the universe or GTFO.

    Same with Vandal Savage, he will just out-patient everyone else. Writers can come up with the most insane elaborate plan ever and it always works for the character because they can just say “he has been working on this for three centuries”.

    DC lacks a Magneto where you say “man that guy has a POINT” or a Doctor Doom where you can say “he truly is better than the heroes, it’s a shame he is on the wrong side”.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    -Luthor: “He’s basically Trump, but actually rich.”
    Nice one! Although I’d say Glorious Godfrey equates more with Trump.

    Should Reverse Flash be renamed “Hsalf”?

    Didn’t they finally give Joker a name–unfortunately?
    I think they’re calling him “Jack White” –or something…maybe he’s a killer clown who plays killer guitar now…

    As a left handed person, I think the name “Sinestro” is “problematic” and discriminates against lefties…DC Comics needs to get on the right side of history on this one…rename the character “Traitoro” or something equally insipid. Also, sadly, Hal Jordan went to the dark side and was corrupted by power at least once in the last 35 or whatever years…when he went full Parallax.

    I actually dig Gorilla Grodd–he predates the Planet of the Apes by a few years and the logic at DC at the time he was created was that readers went bananas over Gorilla covers.

    I’ve lost track of all that’s been done with Deathstroke, but in the glory days of the New Teen Titans he seemed like an intriguing new villain–although I have my suspicions that George Perez was kinda recycling aspects of Taskmaster when he was designing Deathstroke’s costume.

    Per Degaton is a great villain because he’s always destined to lose but is locked in an absurdist perpetual Myth of Sisyphus scenario…also, he’s got a great sounding villain name. Hopefully, Roy Thomas will be with us a good long while! With all the Greatest Generation creators shuffling off this mortal coil, Roy is one of the last living links to the true Marvel Age of Comics–and was pretty much the first fan turned pro. It’s great that Marvel is letting him write an X-Men Legends book, but truly both Marvel and DC should be giving him much more work. He’s one of the greats! Here’s a link to a great recent Roy interview:

    Agreed that Darkseid and Vandal Savage are amongst the better DC villains–however, I think the creation of Scandal Savage and the name “Scandal Savage” is pretty darn goofy!

    Re: Magneto, DC actually debuted Dr. Polaris a few months before Magneto debuted over at Marvel–but I take your meaning in terms of Magneto’s motivation. Agreed that a Dr. Doom caliber villain would be good for DC.

    Instead of Doomsday and similar over the top characters with silly names, has DC ever created a foe for Superman who is half-Daxamite and half-something else? What if there were a villain who was half-Daxamite and half-Thanagarian and he didn’t have a vulnerability to lead, but he had all the Thanagarian warrior training and could match Superman in terms of abilities and strength?
    Or, riffing off The Great Darkness saga, what if there were a Daxamite villain who also had New God DNA?

  • […] going to jump ahead and address a comment from Monday’s post — DK’s, to be specific, in which he talks about the relative lack of motivation for DC’s various […]

  • Wayne Allen Sallee says:

    Sean: I’m left-handed (I have cerebral palsy on my right side but well-meaning people will ask if I was ever a righty), and Sinestro never bothered me. Now the phrase bar sinister involves a family crest that makes X a black sheep. So my name with a black bar below it. But the old Underdog TV show had a bad guy, Simon Bar Sinister, which was way cool, but I can’t imagine even many adults getting the joke. How gauche!

    Would the first appearance of the Superboy your are referring to be the Superboy comic that came out in the late 80s?

    And, not directed at you, I don’t know why we’ve never had a Brainiac film. I’d love him in pink and green-skinned, but he could easily be inside the metal ship and there could be a reason for him to wear armor or something.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    Maybe the satire didn’t come across the way I wrote it, but I was joking about the whole Sinestro name change thing (although I am, indeed, left handed)–as grievance culture/outrage seems to be a big trend in many modern comics. So, I’ll continue to Make Mine Bronze Age!

    The Superboy I was referring to is the original character who debuted in 1944 in More Fun Comics…but my point is since he debuted in 1944, he’s not a Silver Age character (because he debuted 12 years before Barry Allen Flash… so that means the first decade + of Superboy stories (depicting teenage Clark Kent) in More Fun, Adventure, and Superboy comics either
    take place on Earth-Two or else on “Earth-B” or something, because they predate the Silver Age and the whole concept of Earth-One. The paradox is that when Earth-Two was created as a concept, it was generally agreed that Earth-Two Superman/Kal-L was never a
    Superhero until he reached adulthood.

    Back to John Forte, who I mentioned earlier on, here’s a cool link to an appreciation of John Forte’s Silver Age LOSH art:

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Good news, Wayne! There was a Superman animated movie with Brainiac as the villain. I found it reasonably entertaining.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Sean Mageean, cool, thanks!

  • Wayne Allen Sallee says:

    Thelonious: Thanks for the link!

    Sean: I honestly didn’t get the satire, I thought you were poking fun at the writers here, also I think it was simply me linking it to Bar Sinister. There’s even “well, that was a left-handed comment” that doesn’t hold up well now but I heard and read often enough in college.

    I always thought any Superboy and Super-baby stories were imaginary. No idea Superboy had a strip in More Fun. John Forte was great.

    MMBA, too! Where’s my Werewolf by Night vs. Man-Wolf film???

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Here’s Wikipedia info./ backstory on pre-COIE main Superboy appearances/publication history–before all the “pocket universe Superboy” nonsense and the goofy Superboy clone/Kon-El idea and all the dross from the last 38 years.

    “Creation (1938-1944)
    In November 1938, Jerry Siegel proposed to Detective Comics that he do stories of Superman’s childhood adventures, with the character calling himself “Superboy”. Detective rejected Siegel’s pitch. In December 1940, Siegel pitched the idea again with a complete script for the first story, but Detective did not respond within the contractual six weeks. An ashcan comic was produced in 1942 in order to secure the Superboy trademark.

    In 1944, while Siegel was serving in the US Army in Hawaii, Detective Comics published a Superboy story in More Fun Comics #101, in an effort to expand the Superman franchise by presenting a version of the character to whom younger readers could easily relate. The story was partially based on the script Siegel had submitted in 1940, and was illustrated by Superman co-creator Joe Shuster. Detective had done this without informing Siegel; he learned about it in a letter from Shuster.

    More Fun Comics (1944-1945)
    The first Superboy stories were published as bimonthly features in More Fun Comics issues #101-107 (January–February 1946 cover date.) Except for the origin story by Siegel, the issues were written by Don Cameron. Art was provided primarily by Joe Shuster and inked by Ira Yarbrough, Martin Stein, and John Sikela.
    Adventure Comics (1946-1969)

    In early 1946, Superboy moved to Adventure Comics, where he debuted in issue #103 (April 1946) as the lead feature for the anthology comic, and he remained the headlining feature for over 200 issues. Notable stories appearing in Adventure Comics included the introduction of Krypto the Super-Dog; the story of how his friend, the teenage scientist Les Luthor, became his most bitter foe; and the debut of the 30th-century superhero team the Legion of Super-Heroes, initially founded as a Superboy fan club.

    The popular Legion spun off from Superboy into its own feature, which debuted in Adventure Comics #300 (Sept. 1962). The feature soon dominated the comic, with the last standalone Superboy story appearing in #315 (Dec. 1963). Superboy continued to appear in reprinted stories and as a member of the Legion until the Legion’s final issue, Adventure Comics #380 (May 1969). Throughout the 1960s, issues of Adventure Comics sold over 400,000 copies each, with a peak of over 480,000 in 1966.
    Legion of Super-Heroes (Volume 1)
    In 1973, DC Comics published Legion of Super-Heroes, a series that reprinted earlier Superboy and Legion stories from Adventure Comics. The series was published from February–August of that year, and ended after four issues.

    Superboy (1949-1976)
    Four years after his debut, Superboy became only the sixth DC superhero to receive his own comic book when Superboy #1 (March–April 1949) was published. The series became the first new DC superhero title to succeed since World War II. Superboy saw the debuts of the first Superbaby story, (about Clark’s adventures as a super-powered toddler), and of Clark’s two closest friends: Lana Lang, who also serves as a romantic interest for Superboy; and Pete Ross, who later discovers and helps protect Clark’s secret identity. Other notable stories to appear in Superboy include the story of the first Bizarro and the first appearances of Legion of Super-Heroes members Mon-El and Ultra Boy.

    Beginning with issue #197, magazine covers carried the subtitle “Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes.” Beginning with issue #222, the indicia changed to Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, with the change becoming the official title in issue #231.
    Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1976-1979)
    The series was renamed and ran as a Superboy and Legion team-up title until issue #258. In issue #259, a villain named Psycho revealed details to Clark Kent about his parents’ deaths when he caused him to crash into the Metropolis Superman Museum. (In previous stories, Superboy had avoided the museum in order to avoid learning too much about his own future.) With Saturn Girl’s prompting, Clark decided not to return to the 30th century again until adulthood. Beginning with issue #259, whose cover showed a tearful Superboy leaving the rest of the Legion, the series was retitled Legion of Super-Heroes (vol. 2) and remained a Legion comic until its final issue, #354.

    Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes
    In 1981, DC Comics published a three-part miniseries retelling the early origins of the Legion of Super-Heroes and its benefactor R.J. Brande. The limited series was written by E. Nelson Bridwell and Paul Kupperberg.

    The New Adventures of Superboy (1980-1984)
    In 1980, DC Comics published Superboy Spectacular, a one-shot that was the first comic to be distributed only to comic book stores through the direct market. The issue contained reprints and one new story by E. Nelson Bridwell and Curt Swan.
    Also in 1980, DC began publication of The New Adventures of Superboy. It ran for 54 issues.”


    Of course, COIE messed up everything big time–including Superboy, and his existence being the reason the LOSH was formed.
    However, most recently:
    “At the conclusion of the Doomsday Clock series, it was revealed that the original Superboy’s adventures and history were still intact, because the DC Comics’ original Earth-1 had been preserved as “Earth-1985.” Clark’s history as Superboy was also restored in the main DC Comics universe via the intervention of Doctor Manhattan, saving the Legion of Superheroes’ timeline.”

    But what’s never been addressed–as far as I can tell–is on which Earth the first eleven years worth (1944-1955) of published Superboy stories take place. Earth-One hadn’t been created yet, so it would seem to make sense that those stories should have been part of the Golden Age Superman’s adolescence and retroactively set on Earth-Two. But, at the same time, when Earth-Two was created by Gardner Fox, paradoxically, Superman was said to have never had a Superboy identity, as per Action Comics no. 1, where the character debuts in costume as Superman. Then again, Superman no. 46 (June 1947) actually mentions Superman being Superboy in a flashback–so, go figure! I guess those early Superboy stories could be set on Earth-B –or else all published Superboy stories from the Golden/Atomic Age up until COIE could be said to exist in the “pocket universe”–but that seems goofy.

    One thing I did find on the Key Collector app is: Superboy no. 49 (May 1956) “1st appearance of Metallo, Jor-El’s robot, in the Silver Age.” And as Barry Allen Flash first appears in Showcase no. 4 (October 1956), I guess we can guess that the first Silver Age Superboy story probably happens sometime in 1956. According to Key Collector app, Batman no. 103 (October 1956) is the first issue of Batman published during the Silver Age. So, you’ve got this deal where 1956 seems to be the beginning of Silver Age stories…but what month in 1956 seems to vary from one DC comic title to another. I think it would make sense for the 100th issues of both Batman and Superman to mark the end of the Golden Age Earth-Two adventures of the characters, and from 101 and up to mark the first Silver Age stories. Then, when Denny O’Neil takes over as writer (Superman no. 233, January 1971, and Batman no. 224, August 1970) on Superman and Batman, that could mark the Bronze Age transitions for the characters–although, arguably, Frank Robbins’ Batman stories could mark the Bronze Age transition for that character.

  • Wayne Allen Sallee says:

    Sean: I’ll be honest, I never much gave Superboy stories, short of the LSH ones, much interest. To the point that I didn’t even know if Superboy and Supergirl are the same age in LSH.

    That’s just me. But thanks for all the info.

    Interestingly enough, I have the Showcase edition of STRANGE ADVENTURES. The only volume. And the first issue is #64, which coincides with a publication date of 1955.

  • Snark Shark says:

    MAN, did Siegel & Shuster get screwed over by DC! Not that this is new news.


    LITERALLY picked that up this week for a buck!

  • Scott Rowland says:

    I’ll always prefer the Siegel Luthor origin. You didn’t get into the Samson aspect, but that is what makes the original story so resonant with me. People forget that Luthor had created life in that story and it was gone after the lab accident. Luthor’s origin essentially that Superboy emasculated him, and the lack of hair is a visual symbol of that as well as a symbolic example of Luthor being brilliant. It raises questions as to how much Siegel meant it as a metaphor for his own relationship with Superman and DC.

    By comparison, the Wolfman/Byrne origin has nothing unique to Luthor. He’s just an egotistical rich guy with no morals. Nothing makes him special, and nothing provides any real emotional tie to Superman. He’s the Miller Kingpin

    The best Luthor stories also play up the lost friendship angle — Superman knows he let Luthor down, and that’s why anything Luthor does is of such concern to Superman — he feels responsible in part.

    Granted, 99% of subsequent Luthor stories didn’t deliver on the strong foundation Siegel laid out for Luthor, but that origin story was gold.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Snark Shark:

    Yeah, LOSH no. 259 has a classic cover! I picked up a copy about seven years ago that Joe Staton had signed on the splash page.

    Of course, LOSH no. 284 is when the series starts to get really good!

    Beyond Siegel & Shuster, so many great early comics creators got screwed over…imagine if Bill Everett had retained the rights to Namor, if Carl Burgos had retained the rights to the Human Torch, if Jack Cole had retained the rights to Plastic Man, if C.C. Beck & Bill Parker had retained the rights to Captain Marvel, if Bob Montana had retained the rights to Archie Andrews, if
    Simon & Kirby had retained the right to Captain America
    and dozens of other characters…

  • Snark Shark says:


    Yeah, seriously!