Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Superboy #89

Superboy #89

Cover date: June 1961

Writer: Robert Bernstein
Penciller: George Papp
Inker: George Papp

"Superboy's Big Brother!"

Reviewed by: Justin "NotSuper" Adams

Click to enlarge

As Clark Kent and his foster parents walk home from an open house school night, Clark (secretly Superboy) spots a rocket ship entering the atmosphere. Clark quickly changes to Superboy and goes to intercept the rocket. Superboy finds the rocket and manages to put it down safely. After scanning inside the ship with his x-ray vision, he sees an unconscious passenger inside. Superboy easily tears open a hole in the ship and rescues him.

After rescuing the boy, Superboy notices a note in one of his pockets. Reading the note, he understands the language as Kryptonese... and it's from his birth father, Jor-El. The note reads, "This chart describes the space course taken by my son's rocket ship on its journey to Earth!" Superboy assumes from this note that the strange youth is in fact his older brother! As the youth recovers, Superboy sees through his shirt and notices a medallion from Jor-El and Lara. This further confirms Superboy's hypothesis.

Superboy questions the youth he believes to be his brother, only to find that the youth has no memory of who he is or where he comes from. Superboy suggests that the stranger was kept in a state of suspended animation when Krypton exploded, thus explaining his young age. Superboy tells the youth that they must be brothers, and he explains to him the fate of Krypton and how he, Kal-El, came to Earth. He assumes that his brother was also sent to Earth in a rocket sometime before the planet's demise. To further prove that they are brothers, Superboy has the youth try to do many super-feats... and he succeeds at all of them. It appears that the boy has all of Superboy's powers.

Superboy next takes his brother to his civilian house (using the secret entrance tunnel) and explains how he has chosen to have a secret identity. The youth is confused after seeing pictures of Jor-El and Lara, wondering how they could be so young when he himself must be at least eighteen years old. Superboy says he's thought about that, and he has come to the conclusion that on their own planet, Kryptonians age to adulthood much quicker. Superboy also suggests that his brother was sent into space first by Jor-El because he was his oldest son, and then, fearing that the ship was defective, he built a new prototype to send Kal-El to Earth.

After meeting with the Kents and having Jonathan and Martha Kent unofficially adopt him as their son, a name for the boy seems to be in order. Jonathan Kent creates the secret identity of "Bob Cobb" (a traveling salesman), while Superboy comes up with the name "Mon-El" to call the boy in private. Superboy comes up with the name by combining the date on which the boy was found (Monday) with their Kryptonian family name (El). The next day, Superboy's brother is introduced to the world when the two of them help save the lives of some Smallville citizens. Strangely, when Mon-El meets Krypto, the dog not only doesn't recognize him, but also seems openly hostile toward him. Superboy becomes suspicious of his "brother" when he notices that the metal from his belt is not from Krypton. Superboy decides to expose the youth to kryptonite (but will stop if Mon-El shows any signs of pain), and he discovers that the boy is completely unaffected! After witnessing this, Superboy concludes that Mon-El can't be his brother. He even begins to suspect that Mon-El is out to get him somehow.

Later, while Clark Kent is at Smallville High, he thinks about how he could easily pass all of his tests with his great intelligence. However, to avoid suspicion, he always makes sure to get 90% rather than 100%. While taking a test, Clark ponders one of the questions associated with the origin of fairy tales. The question gives an example by asking if there was a real Cinderella. Clark remembers running across the REAL Cinderella story on one of his trips to the past. Clark asks if he can get a drink of water and the teacher agrees. After leaving the class, Clark changes into Superboy and breaks the time barrier with super-speed. Superboy arrives in ancient Egypt, 4000 B.C. Clark does indeed get his drink of water, but it's from the Nile itself! While there, he notices an eagle steal a sandal from a girl bathing in the river. Before he catches the bird, he thinks back and remembers that this is the Cinderella story he came back to. He watches the bird drop the sandal in the pharaoh's palace at Memphis. The pharaoh soon finds the girl whose foot matches the sandal... her name is Rhodopis. He decides to make the beautiful young woman his queen. As he speeds back through time, Superboy thinks about how the third pyramid built at Gizeh was a tribute by the pharaoh to Rhodopis.

After the teacher finishes grading the papers, she informs Clark that he got 89%, and he would've had a perfect paper if it weren't for his Cinderella story. The teacher obviously doesn't know who Rhodopis is, and she questions Clark as to why her slipper was made of fur, and not glass. Clark simply responds, "Because it was made of fur!" Clark explains that when the ancient story was translated from French to English, the translator mistook the word "vaire" (fur) for "verre" (glass). When the teacher asks how Clark knows this, he can't think of a reply. The teacher remains skeptical and thinks Clark is putting her on. Between classes, Clark secretly helps Lana Lang with her dancing, giving her some confidence in herself.

When school ends, Clark and Lana encounter Bob Cobb (Mon-El in disguise) and he talks Lana into buying a comb. Using his powers, Mon-El sees how much change Lana has and then tells her that the brush costs exactly that much. He then removes the price sticker with super-speed. Clark jumps to the conclusion that his brother is trying to steal the girl he's in love with. Later, Superboy and Mon-El are called to stop a group of crooks from robbing a bank. The criminals are trying to use lead balls launched from a catapult to destroy the building. While Superboy takes care of one set of crooks, Mon-El suddenly becomes weak when he approaches the other set. He's unable to catch them and they manage to escape. Superboy starts to suspect that Mon-El is allied with the crooks and let them escape intentionally. After catching the crooks, Superboy comes up with a plan to expose Mon-El. Using green paint and the lead balls the criminals used on the bank, he makes them look like kryptonite. Superboy tosses them into space so that they'll land on a planetoid he's meeting Mon-El on. The two play a game of baseball with a tree trunk and boulders. They even discover a toy Jack-In-The Box (which has two heads and breathes fire) - presumably created by an alien race - and destroy the dangerous toy.

Soon, the "kryptonite meteors" (actually lead balls painted green) begin to fall on the planetoid. Superboy feigns being in pain, and soon Mon-El appears to be in pain as well. Superboy tells Mon-El to stop pretending that he's dying and reveals that the "kryptonite" is actually just painted lead balls. Yet Mon-El still seems to be in pain. Mon-El explains that although the lead has caused terrible molecular changes to his body, and has destroyed all his super-powers, it's also shocked him out of his amnesia. He explains that he's from the planet Daxam, not Krypton, and that lead affects him the same way kryptonite affects Kryptonians... except that any effects caused by it are permanent. Mon-El explains that many years ago he built a rocket ship and crash-landed on Krypton. Here, he met Superboy's father Jor-El, who repaired his ship after several weeks and gave him a map to Earth. Before he leaves, he's given a medallion by the couple. Instead of reaching Earth, he drifted in space for a long time before finally arriving.

Superboy is shocked and dismayed to discover that he's unwittingly doomed Mon-El. Mon-El tells his one time brother that he wasn't trying to steal Lana. He only wanted to make her happy because he knew Superboy liked her. Mon-El tells Superboy that his powers were the result of Daxam being very similar to Krypton in atmosphere and gravity. Refusing to allow Mon-El to die, Superboy flies away and comes back with the Phantom Zone Projector. He tells Mon-El that he can survive in the Phantom Zone until a cure is found. Mon-El agrees to this. A regretful Superboy promises to one day cure Mon-El and free him from the Zone.

4Story - 4: This story introduced the character of Mon-El (real name Lar Gand) to the DCU. As most long-time fans know, he would go on to play an important role in the Legion of Super-Heroes' history. It's amazing to me that a story so comparatively short (by today's standards) would have such a huge effect on the future of the DCU after the Crisis. Can you imagine how hard it was for writers to work Mon-El into the post-Crisis DCU when there was never a Superboy? His origin had to be changed a few times as a result.

As for the story itself, it was quite good. I enjoyed seeing Superboy interact with someone he thought was his brother, especially when they helped people and played games involving their powers. However, it did strike me as odd that Superboy would jump to so many conclusions in this story. First of all, I think he should've investigated Mon-El more before assuming that he was his brother. His reason for Mon-El appearing to be eighteen was also barely more than a guess. Of course, Superboy desperately wanting to believe that there was someone else like him out there can explain all this. He had already encountered Krypto, but he hadn't yet encountered a humanoid Kryptonian. For all he knew, they were all dead. Yet Superboy is just as willing to distrust his "brother" and is even jealous of him at points. These actions show us that despite being incredibly moral, Kal-El is still fallible and made mistakes as a teenager. Unfortunately for him, one of his mistakes nearly cost the life of a sentient being. It was certainly a grim lesson that the future Superman learned here. But I think that the situation strengthened him, and made him much more careful in the future.

Another thing I enjoyed was Superboy traveling back to ancient Egypt. While some may complain about Superboy having this power, I thought that it was handled well here. Unlike other time travel stories of the time, this one came with a bit of explanation. That impressed me.

4Art - 4: For the time, the artwork here is pretty decent. One thing that bothered me though was the lack of detail on the eyes of the characters. It doesn't take away from the story much, but a character's eyes tend to let us look into the soul of a character.

3Cover Art - 3: An average cover. It shows Superboy and Mon-El fighting the Jack-In-The-Box, which is only really a small part of the story. I think a better cover would've featured Mon-El emerging from his rocket ship (like Supergirl did in her first appearance) rather than the one used.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”




Compilation Volumes


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