Wednesday, July 12, 2017

0034: The Crayola 64 Beats The New52

1966 was an interesting year for Superboy. Jerry Siegel returned to scripting him briefly (after writing for Marvel under pseudonyms) and 14 year old Jim Shooter became the regular scripter for Legion Of Super-Heroes stories in "Adventure Comics", finally ending the practice of filling out the issues with Superboy reprints, running full-length LSH stories instead. Most significantly, Filmation brought an animated "Superboy" to television as a series of 6-7 minute shorts meant to alternate with cartoons of adult DC heroes like Superman, Aquaman and Batman (that's right, Aquaman had a show named after him but Flash and Green Lantern did not; they did get three shorts apiece, as did Atom, Hawkman, JLA and Teen Titans and they alternated with Aquaman stories just as Superboy alternated with Superman). A large batch was produced in 1966 and smaller batches in 1967 and 1968, when the schedules could be completed with reruns from the first season. The fourth season was entirely reruns.

By the end of the first season in 1967, this coloring book was produced by Whitman Publishing Company with "Drawings by Jason Studios". The back cover has identical art with the text "Superboy Coloring Book" and the Whitman logo. It is missing the price and stock number (seen here in the upper right corner) and, curiously, it's also missing the words "Authorized Edition" that appear under the word "Book" on the front. The contents were 96 pages of (naturally) black-and-white drawings of characters from the cartoons, including plenty of Ma and Pa Kent and Lana Lang so that kids won't wear down their blue crayons to a nub before they get through the book.

Also in 1966, Andy Warhol was known to have shot a film he called "Superboy" which he never released. There are promotional stills that have circulated featuring known Factory regulars Mary Woronov and International Velvet (not a drag queen, by the way) posing with an unidentified shirtless blond surfer. How they found a surfer in New York, I don't know. How they lured him into a repurposed factory building full of women with Adam's apples in an enormous, then-dirty city like New York and convinced him to pose shirtless..., well, I'd really like to know how anybody would do that because that's some real salesman-of-the-year stuff right there. I don't suppose the page on the right is a little tip-of-the-hat to Warhol's efforts?

Superboy remained wonderful for a few years, at least. As the 1960's ended, the Legion lost their lead in "Adventure Comics" to Supergirl, who had been a back-up feature in "Action Comics" prior to that. The LSH became a back-up in "Superboy" until the early 70's when, after the cartoon was cancelled, LSH became the lead and it was retitled "Superboy and the Legion Of Super-Heroes" (on the cover, anyway; the indicia would remain "Superboy" for years). Often he became a barely speaking supporting character in his own book. Before the DC implosion in 1978 there was an effort to give him some sort of a vehicle by making him the new lead in "Adventure Comics" and giving the old series over to LSH completely, effectively switching places from a decade earlier. After the Implosion things got even more convoluted. Superboy was given a new series outside of DCU continuity while still being a part of the Silver/Bronze Age Superman's past. He was also the subject of the first DC direct market-only comic in December 1979. But it all became moot after Crisis On Infinite Earths gave Superman a new history without Superboy. Or so we thought. There must be something about putting a teen-age boy in tights that fuels constant demands for his return. There's also the prospect for some of vicariously reliving their teens with invulnerability. I just wish he could show a little more invulnerability to acidification.

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Previously on "Sieve Eye Care"...