Sunday, September 23, 2007

Superboy

As I've been sick the past two days, I've been thinking about Superboy. My dad used to buy comic books for me, especially when I was sick. One of the comics I remember that he got for me was Superboy #165. It was a classic 80-page Giant with several reprint stories, including "Superboy's Last Day," in which the Boy of Steel falls ill due to his first exposure to Kryptonite. Bedridden, he uses his Superboy robots to substitute for himself as they perform tasks around Smallville. I thought that if Superboy could get sick, well, why not me? I'll stay in bed like he did.

This is also the comic that inspired me to learn to read, as I've mentioned before. The reprint from Adventure #210 with Krypto's first appearance was responsible for that. I wanted to know why Krypto was leaving Earth at the end of the story and my mother suggested that I learn to read so I could find out for myself.

The character Superboy has been surrounded by controversy for quite some time now. The heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel have been suing DC because the copyright to the Superboy character has been restored to them. Siegel and his partner, Joe Shuster, had pitched Superboy to the company back in the 1940s and were rejected. Then, a few years later, DC went ahead without Siegel and Shuster and started publishing Superboy stories. Siegel and Shuster sued and won. It was determined that Superboy was a distinct character from Superman and that Siegel and Shuster owned the rights to him. They later sold the rights back to DC, but thanks to a 1976 change in copyright law, there was a limit to how long that agreement could last. As I understand it, the Siegels own Superboy again for now (Shuster had no heirs), until the courts decide if the original 1948 ruling was proper or not. There is some jurisdictional question about whether the 1948 judge was supposed to make copyright decisions or not.

The effects of this lawsuit have been evident for some time. The Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon features a young Clark Kent who goes by the name of Superman instead of Superboy. The recent release of the New Adventures of Superman cartoon does not include the Superboy cartoons that always fit between two Superman cartoons in a half-hour episode. In the DC universe, recent versions of the Superboy character have been murdered or have become murderers themselves. And now all traces of the Superboy name have disappeared from the pages of DC Comics. It's an ugly situation and it's hurting the fans.

It would be a perfect time to re-introduce the character Superboy to comic book fans. An all-ages book featuring Superman as a boy would be well-suited to kids who don't feel like they fit in, and I don't mean like that whiny Smallville TV show. They could see that a boy with power can act responsibly and do the right thing, not because he has to, but because he chooses to. That Superboy lived in a town where decency and community weren't alien terms shouldn't be lost, either. I hope this lawsuit is resolved soon. Kids could use a hero.
I drew this sketch of Superboy the other night in blue pencil and finished the pencils last night, before I lapsed back into a fever. I feel better today and my temperature is back to normal. Someone must have taken the Kryptonite away!




2 comments:

Martin said...

Jim, I too miss "Superboy". I was in the bookstore this weekend and my son noticed a HeroClix set with the Legion. I picked it up and the Superboy figure is now labeled "Young Superman". Argh! We all know it is Superboy. Stupid greedy lawsuits.

Jim McClain said...

I don't know that it's all that greedy. The heirs of Jerry Siegel had, as far as they knew, the right to terminate the agreement. If you owned an asset worth possibly worth thousands of dollars, wouldn't you work to free it from someone else's grasp?