Bizarro Back Issues: Superboy Becomes a Super-Man (With Sex) (1977)
As much as I tend to enjoy Superboy stories for their sheer kookiness, I’ve never really been a big fan of the concept. For the most part, they tend to just be standard Superman stories with Metropolis swapped out for Smallville and a slightly different girl with an alliterative name giving him a headache. Occasionally, though, they do provide something new, showing a part of Superman’s past that does reveal something about his character.
You know, like that time a robot from space helped Superboy lose his virginity and then fight a sasquatch.Originally published in 1977’s DC Super-Stars Giant #12, “Don’t Call Me Superboy” is pretty well known among people who spend a lot of time reading weird old comics, and it definitely chronicles a pretty major turning point in Clark Kent’s life. It was written by CA favorite Cary Bates with art by the legendary team of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, because really, if anyone should’ve been there for one of the definitive moments of the Teen of Steel’s life, it’s them.
And you know, It’s tempting to say that it finally provided an answer for a question nobody was asking, but I’ve been on the Internet long enough to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there had to be people wondering about this, even back then. They just didn’t have Fanfiction.net to explore it and maybe add in a few Sonic the Hedgehog characters for good measure.
I have to say, though, it’s pretty interesting that for the cover, they went with Superboy punching out a sasquatch. Under normal circumstances, that’s a pretty strong image, but for this story? It’s not even the third most compelling thing that happens here. Though admittedly, they probably had a good reason for not just going ahead and drawing Superboy gettin’ his bone on and sending it out to drugstores and newsstands across America.
Instead, our story opens in the skies above Smallville, where Clark and Jimmy Olsen are flying back from a Daily Planet assignment, with Jimmy straight up turning into a cartoon wolf at the sight of a sexy stewardess:
Jimmy’s reaction may seem a little over the top, but when you consider that his on-again/off-again girlfriend Lucy Lane is a stewardess and that he puts up with her despite the fact that she’s the most hateful shrew in the history of comics, it becomes pretty clear that Bates is just establishing that Jimmy has a type.
Also: Check out Swanderson’s wiggle lines as she walks away. That may actually be my favorite thing about this comic.
But alas, the wiggling of a flight attendant does nothing for Clark, who is lost in thought as he peers down at Smallville using his super-vision, and kicks off a flashback to the days of Superboy. It’s springtime in Smallville, and a young man’s fancy has turned to love, to the point where Clark can only eat fourteen pancakes for breakfast. The reason: A new girl in town who has captured his attention.
Unfortunately, when Clark tries to get her attention by getting Lana to pass a note, a flying saucer shows up and starts blowing up statues with laser beams.
Ain’t that always the way?
Clark is quick to jump into action as Superboy and tries to identify the saucer, only to find that it’s made of a metal that “repels x-ray beams.” He does, however, learn that it’s powered by cosmic rays, and thus, he has no choice but to launch into one of the most scientifically dubious super-feats I have ever seen:
That’s right, everybody: He compresses the ozone layer into a solid crust around a spaceship to block its cosmic ray engine. That’s science.
Once that’s done, he busts right through the hull, only to be greeted with a sinister “It’s been a long time,” before the whole thing explodes with a big enough boom to stun even the invulnerable Superboy. Obviously, whoever’s in charge of this ship is a serious customer, one of Superboy’s deadliest foes.
Folks, we are dealing with… The Super-Teacher From Krypton!
That may require a bit of explanation.
See, this story is actually a sequel to an Edmond Hamilton / John Sikela classic that first ran twenty years earlier in Adventure Comics #240. In that comic, it was revealed that on Krypton, people were so smart that they had to use robot teachers — because that makes sense, right? — and that Jor-El built one of his own with the intention of sending it to Earth to help with Clark’s education. Which, in all honesty, is a way better plan than making Clark spend 12 years on an acid trip with Marlon Brando’s spectral floating head.
Of course, it didn’t quite work out like that. Jor-El never had time to build the full-size rocket that he was planning on loading the Super-Teacher along with himself and Lara, and since he’d already wasted his spare rocket on the family dog, Clark made the journey to Earth alone. But, in the kind of amazing coincidence that happened on pretty much every page in a comic from the ’50s, the Super-Teacher manages to both survive the destruction of Krypton and somehow manage to drift across the endless depths of space to crash land on Earth 12 years later. Once he’s there, he puts Clark through his paces, evaluating him under penalty of, I don’t know, the Ghost of Jor-El being mad at him if he doesn’t stop being Superboy.
Clark passes, naturally, and the Super-Teacher promptly vanishes for two decades, returning here when Clark is on, and I quote, “the edge of manhood” for an entirely different kind of evaluation.
And it all starts at the Smallville High dance:
Incidentally, the fact that someone in a Superboy comic is being told off for getting handsy is my second-favorite thing about this comic.
But while the groping is cut short across the dance floor, Clark is dancing with Lana, and in one of his ultimate dick moves, he asks her while they are slow dancing together if she passed his note to Misty and whether or not it got any results. To be fair, though, Lana’s response is “you’re crazy if you think the most popular girl in school is going to take you seriously!” But Clark’s ego prevails as we’re introduced to this young lady who has captivated our hero:
So yeah, if you were wondering where Superman learned to be a jerk, it was apparently taught after third period math at Smallville High.
While they’re dancing, the Super-Teacher strikes, revealing Clark’s secret in front of the entire dance and provoking a fight, but it turns out to all be an illusion projected directly into Clark’s mind. Because, you know, he’s a telepathic robot. Obviously.
What isn’t an illusion, however, is Clark’s growing crush on Misty. It’s so intense, in fact, that after the dance, they end up going back to her place and… discussing her interest in the science of graphology?
That’s right, everybody: Thanks to a mash note, Misty has discovered Clark’s secret identity.
It’s worth noting that she claims that she was the only person who could’ve possibly sussed all this out since “no one else in Smallville has an IQ of 220,” conveniently forgetting that, you know, Lex Luthor lives there too. But regardless, smart is sexy for one Clark Kent, so go ahead and cue up the Marvin Gaye:
And lest you think that’s just a passionate embrace that cuts away for the sake of prudence, here’s the very next panel:
“All-Night Patrols” indeed.
For Clark and Misty, the next few days are full of smooching under rainbows and making people wonder what the popular new girl is doing with nerdy Clark Kent. But then, tragedy strikes.
Tragedy… in the form of sasquatch.
It seems a contingent of local bigfeet has escaped from the circus after being captured in the nearby woods. Superboy rounds them up easily enough, but then feels bad about consigning them to a fate in the sideshow, so he also arranges for them to go free by blowing them to the woods with his super-breath.
Yeah, that’s right: Superboy blows three Sasquatches to the woods.
Once he’s there, though, it’s revealed that this was yet another test from the Super-Teacher, to test how he would make “God-like decisions.” Because that’s what the choice to free three sasquatches from the circus was: a God-like decision.
While Superboy is standing in the woods, probably trying to decide whether he should attempt to explain the concept of God to a robot that has clearly gone maverick on him, Misty runs out to the woods. Unfortunately for her, this spooks the Bigfoots something fierce, and she ends up taking a rock to the head:
Needless to say, Clark flips out, as having one’s girlfriend sasquatch-murdered is a pretty powerful emotional trigger even for the most stoic among us. But when it comes down to it, he can’t bring himself to take revenge on the missing link:
But — and we all should’ve been expecting this by now — it turns out that that was yet another of the Super-Teacher’s tests. But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no.
This entire story was a test, apparently designed to see how Superboy would fare if he fell in love with a human girl, which was set up by the Super Teacher straight up kidnapping “Misty” from her hometown, brainwashing her, and using her as a pawn for weeks, even going as far as orchestrating a sasquatch kidnapping.
What I’m getting at here is that Super-Teacher is a f***ing a**hole.
But wait, we still have time for one more twist:
The Wiggly Stewardess! She was Misty all along!!
Thus, Superboy passes the insane heartbreaking tests of his dad’s f***ed-up maniac robot, so he gets to keep being Superboy. But he is no longer Superboy, my friends. After the events of this story, he has become a Superman.