Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"
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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Saturday, June 26, 2004
Happy birthday, Eddie Isabella.
My son turns 16 today and he is truly one of the greatest joys of my life. He's a good-hearted, good-natured kid with an unerring sense of fairness. He's a fun and funny kid who makes activities of all kinds that much better.
I love talking with him. I love watching him play baseball. I love watching movies and television shows with him. He's a great kid and I know he'll be an equally great man.
Not a day goes by that I don't thank God for him.
In honor of my Eddie, today's column is a showcase of classic SUPERBOY covers from the 1950s and 1960s. As usual, I have added my own comments to the proceedings.
I hope you enjoy this special edition of TOT.
Here I am, filled with love for my son, and the first cover I think of is this example of psychological cruelty, a trademark of Superman comics edited by Mort Weisinger.
The cover of SUPERBOY #75 [September, 1959] was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. All three Superboy stories were written by Otto Binder, but "The Punishment of Superboy" is the one I can never forget.
Superboy starts acting up. Ma and Pa Kent try to discipline him, but his powers negate their every attempt. In one case, when they forbid Clark to go to the drive-in movies with them, he simply uses his super-vision and super-hearing to enjoy the film from his bedroom. What can they do?
They stage an elaborate argument over Clark's bad behavior and storm out of their Smallville home in search of their respective divorce lawyers. Superboy blames himself for their "divorce" and starts getting all sorry and tearful. Once the kid is sufficiently miserable, they come back...explaining that they couldn't think of any other way to punish him.
Incredibly, this abusive manipulation actually works. Clark never strays from the straight-and-narrow again, save for the times when red kryptonite would make him do bad things.
You know...a less upright young man would have played the Red K card frequently.
"It was Red K that made me look into Lana's room with my x-ray vision. Honest!"
John Sikela pencilled and inked this gem of a tale. They just don't make comics like this anymore.
In researching today's column, I was amazed to learn there had been an earlier cover of Pa Kent spanking Superboy. SUPERBOY #55 [March, 1957] featured "The Secret of Smallville High" by Binder, Swan, and, possibly, inker John Fischetti. Whitney Ellsworth was the editor of record, the cover itself was by the Swan/Kaye team, and that's all I know about the story.
I'm assuming SUPERBOY #55 sold well enough that the spanking theme was repeated two years later. I wish I had a transcript of the meeting where this was decided.
"I'm telling you, Morty, the kids love seeing Superboy getting spanked. It reminds them of how their own loving fathers beat the crap out of them."
When he wasn't dishing out corporal punishment, Pa Kent spent a lot of time teaching his adopted son how to use his super-powers. SUPERBOY #69 [December, 1958] cover-featured "How Superboy Learned to Fly" by Binder and Sikela. They also wrote and drew "The Secret of Superboy's Spectacles" in #70 [January, 1959]. Both covers are by the Swan/Kaye team. Ellsworth was the editor of record.
The Kents were as proud of their son as I am of mine. Witness the cover of ADVENTURE COMICS #235 [April, 1957], another terrific image by Swan and Kaye.
"The Confession of Superboy" was written by Binder and drawn by Sikela. Ellsworth was the editor of record.
Ma and Pa Kent's understandable pride in their son didn't come without the occasional peril. They were frequently endangered and even impersonated by aliens and villains.
"The Stolen Identities" by Binder and artist George Papp first ran in ADVENTURE COMICS #270 [March, 1960]. They also collaborated on "Clark Kent's Super-Father" for #289 [October, 1961], in which Kryptonian criminal Jax-Ur impersonated Pa. Both covers were drawn by Swan and Kaye; both comics were edited by Weisinger.
Digression. It just now occurs to me that, as a kid, I always thought of Superboy's parents as Ma and Pa Kent and never as Martha and Jonathan Kent. It's exactly the opposite these days, largely due to the SMALLVILLE television series.
Pa Kent gaining super-powers was a regular theme in the 1960s. I could easily put together a mini-gallery of just those covers and undoubtedly will one of these days.
Family meals were big around the Kent household in those pre-fast food explosion days of the 1950s and 1960s. This is another recurrent theme that would probably good for a mini-gallery of its own, but I'll settle for just three today.
SUPERBOY #36 [October, 1954] featured "Superboy's Sister" by an unidentified writer and artist Sikela. The cover was pencilled by Swan, but the inker is unidentified at this time.
SUPERBOY #59 [September, 1957] put a twist on the theme with "Superboy's Underground Exile." The tale was written by an as-yet-unidentified writer and drawn by Al Plastino, who also pencilled and inked the cover. Ellsworth was the editor of record for both these issues.
ADVENTURE COMICS #297 [June, 1962] found the Kents on a picnic with "Lana Lang, Superboy's Sister," a story likely written by Bill Finger. The cover was by Swan and inker George Klein, the interior story was drawn by Papp, and the editor was Weisinger.
The Kents "adopted" Lana Lang more than once over the years, but they were always taking in kids. I could and will do an entire cover gallery of the other super-sons and daughters, but, for now, here's one of the best known.
ADVENTURE COMICS #278 [November, 1960] brought us "Supergirl in Smallville" by Binder and Plastino. The cover was drawn by Swan and an unidentified inker. Weisinger was the editor.
One more for the road, an odd cover I couldn't resist running her even though I've never read the story and have no idea what the heck is going on there.
"The Poorest Family in Smallville" headlined ADVENTURE COMICS #244 [January, 1958]. The cover was by Swan and Kaye with Sikela doing the interior artwork on the story. Comics historian Martin O'Hearn identifies the writer as Alvin Schwartz, whose insightful and thought-provoking columns can be found right here at the World Famous Comics website.
Today's TOT could not have been produced without some of the most amazing resources in online comics fandom. THE GRAND COMICS DATABASE continues to be an invaluable source for covers, credits, and just about everything else a columnist needs to know. You can and should visit it at:
Newly discovered by me are the ADVENTURE COMICS COVER GALLERY, which can be found at...
...and the SUPERBOY COVER GALLERY:
You should visit both of these two. They are good for hours of fun or, as my Sainted Wife Barbara might put, "sitting on your behind and not doing anything productive."
She loves me, but, alas, being neither comics fan nor beloved columnist, she doesn't always get it.
Finally, I have to thank my friend, the late Rich Morrissey. Many years ago, he sent me the list of comics writer author credits created by him and Martin O'Hearn. It's a miracle the list hasn't disintegrated considering how many times I've consulted it since I received it. Rich also introduced me to Alvin Schwartz and that's a meeting that has enriched my life many times over.
Happy birthday, Eddie Isabella.
You're the best son a father could want.
And, to the rest of you...
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back thursday with more stuff.
<< 06/25/2004 | 06/26/2004 | 07/01/2004 >>
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THE "TONY" SCALE
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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