Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Superman: The Secret Years #1Cover date: February 1985
"Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!"
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Kurt Schaffenberger
Cover Artist: Frank Miller
Reviewed by: James Lantz
"After graduation from Smallville High School and the death of Ma and Pa Kent, Clark Kent (and Superboy) moved to Metropolis to attend college. Little has been revealed about these times... until now." - Narration on page two's splash page.
Lex Luthor is on the ledge of the window of his room at the Soames Reform School in Smallville. Thinking Luthor wants to suicide, Mister Soames, the director, attempts to talk him out of it, only to discover that the delinquent genius is using flashlight batteries and bed springs attached to his feet to make an escape. Meanwhile, Superboy must save a passenger jetliner that is flying into hostile airspace. The aircraft is carrying many of his pals from Smallville and Metro University. Missiles from enemy planes have been fired. Superboy has stopped some of them, but has failed to save those he cares for as one strikes its target. An even greater shock arrives when the Boy of Tomorrow discovers that the pilots who fired on the ship are Jonathan and Martha Kent. They tell him that he couldn't save his friends any more than he could prevent the Kents from dying. Saying that Clark doesn't deserve to wear the Superboy costume, Jonathan rips the S off his chest. Clark screams and awakens dorm room-mate Tommy Lee. He had an intense nightmare. Young Kent writes details of his dream in his diary while watching The Late Late Show. As a drunk Ducky Ginsberg enters with a beer in his hand, a news bulletin broadcasts word of Lex Luthor's evasion of justice. It looks like Superboy may not get anymore sleep tonight thanks to Luthor.
Superboy's search for Lex bears no fruit. In spite of this, a lot is happening in the Boy of Steel's life. The next morning, a timid, odd young man from Smallville named Billy Cramer is looking for Clark. His parents used to shop in the Kents' General Store. Billy is even introduced to Ducky, who is drinking beer at 10:30 in the morning. After a rather shaky, unusual chat, Billy leaves. Superboy then picks up Luthor's trail later that night at an electronics store in which the young criminal genius had robbed. However, before he can follow up on his search, the Last Son of Krypton must fly a drunk Ducky and his car around the city to prevent serious accidents from happening. Ducky is unimpressed with Superboy's heat vision burning open his beer cans. The lad is equally angry that the young Caped Wonder doesn't take kindly to his imbibing, something that has caused him to have bad grades, lose his ex-girlfriend Amy and no longer have the respect of his parents. Can Ducky realize he has a problem, or will even Superboy be unable to save him from becoming an alcoholic?
It's been a week since Lex Luthor broke into the electronics store to steal items. Clark Kent is lost in his thoughts about this when he encounters Billy Cramer. Once again, the lad seems aloof and barely says anything. Yet, Clark seems to think that Billy reminds him of himself. Later that afternoon, an inter-dorm football game is taking place. Clark's team is losing sixty-three to nothing with two minutes left to play. Steve Power, a big bruiser who hates to lose, is helping the other squad win while plowing into the opposition. Clark is chosen to take over when one player is injured. He outruns Power to dodge him while eventually scoring Dorm B's only touchdown. In spite of losing, Clark and his friends celebrate. This does not sit well with Steve Power. He's sworn to make the mild mannered student pay for making him look foolish. Clark Kent has now officially made a new enemy.
Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson has called Superboy to help with a case. A total of forty-eight thousand dollars is missing from the vaults of nine different branches of the Metro Bank. At first, President Mister Drysdale thought it was a glitch in the new computer system, but the money is no longer physically there. Each depository's machines are connected to the city telephone lines. Upon learning this, Superboy monitors incoming calls and follows electric impulses to Lex Luthor's lair. Once the young criminal genius makes his next withdrawal of funds, the Boy of Steel grabs Luthor. However, this time he won't be returning to Soames Reform School. Lex is now twenty-one, and he'll be spending time in a prison cell for his crimes thanks to Superboy.
It's Parents' Visiting Day at Metro University. This leaves Clark feeling depressed as Ma and Pa Kent are dead. As he is about to leave the dorm, Billy and his parents Fred and Alice drop by for a visit. Clark is taken aback by the fact that Billy has been writing letters saying that they do a lot of things together. This is simply not true. Yet, Clark covers Billy's stories. Later, Clark has flown to Smallville to see his parents' graves. Lewis Lang, Lana's father, thinks he sees the mild mannered student, but Clark has just voyaged back in time to relive memories of his parents from the year before he went to college. Possibly to prevent paradoxes, Superboy is just a phantom when he revisits his own past. His temporal trip only makes the Boy of Tomorrow miss his folks more. He has now returned to the present to find Ducky has been drinking and driving again. Had he arrived sooner, Superboy could have prevented the accident that has occurred. Ducky's car has hit a tree. Worse yet, his legs are crushed. Ducky Ginsberg may spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, and he may never walk again.
Story - 3: While there some things I do like about this comic, there is a lot wrong with it. Plus, Ducky's alcoholism is dealt with in a rather ham fisted manner that would only work in one of those old after-school specials. It could be a case of me just being a bit too picky, but I did, quite frankly, expect more from the first issue of Superman: The Secret Years.
Much like the recent Doctor Who Christmas special, Superman: The Secret Years #1 feels like various plot threads were thrown together in a manner that is rather scattershot. Perhaps Bob Rozakis' strength lies in shorter back-up stories because I kept getting the impression much of what I read was meant for several of those. So far, this mini-series would have functioned better as a series of shorter tales and/or a prestige format series along the lines of Superman For All Seasons. (I'll explain my reasons for the latter shortly.) Twenty-three pages just is the wrong length for Rozakis' writing style at this point in this title.
One of my biggest problems with Superman: The Secret Years #1 is that most of it feels like it should be in the second or third issue. I was unfamiliar with characters like Tommy and Ducky, and I wished for more than closing text piece with a passing reference to their appearances in previous Superman related comic books. In this way, a prestige format mini or maxi-series could have worked for Superman: The Secret Years. Those who haven't read Superman #125 and other issues could have been given a lot more information in flashbacks or the like. As it is now, Superman: The Secret Years #1 is not very reader friendly.
Clark Kent's diary really bothers me. Remember Ma Kent's scrapbook from the early days of John Byrne's Post-Crisis run? It fell into the wrong hands and eventually helped Batman figure out that Clark was Superman. It's really poor judgement on Clark's part to have a diary. Then again, it was even poorer of him to go along with Billy's lies. It seems out of character for the Boy of Steel even he did want to help someone out.
In spite of the flaws in Superman: The Secret Years #1, there are things that are fun and bring back memories of the Pre-Crisis Superman. There are tributes to the George Reeves television series mixed in with elements that would later inspire the 1988-1992 Superboy TV show. It may have slipshod storytelling, but it's still worth looking over.
Art - 4: The art is the saving grace of this issue. Combined with the splendid colors, it gives the first issue of Superman: The Secret Years a classic look that works perfectly with the Pre-Crisis Man of Steel. Frankly, I wish more visuals looked like Curt Swan's. My only problem was with Billy's mother. She looks heavily medicated in her introduction to Clark in the last three panels of page twenty. Aside from that, the images are amazing.
Cover Art - 2: As much as I like Frank Miller's work on Batman, Daredevil and Wolverine, I really am not a big fan of this cover. I honestly cannot say if it's the art or coloring that feels off to me, but it just seems to me like DC merely used Miller to sell books instead of caring about how the image is presented. It just looks downright strange.
Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews
- Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
- Action Comics #2 (July 1938)
- Action Comics #3 (August 1938)
- Action Comics #4 (September 1938)
- Action Comics #5 (October 1938)
- Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
- Action Comics #7 (December 1938)
- Superman Archives: Volume 1 (1939)
- Superman #1 (Summer 1939)
- Action Comics #8 (January 1939)
- Action Comics #9 (February 1939)
- Action Comics #10 (March 1939)
- Superman #13 (November/December 1941) - The Archer
- Superman #19 (November/December 1942) - Case of the Funny Paper Crimes
- Action Comics #60 (May 1943) - Lois Lane - Superwoman
- Superman #30 (September/October 1944) - The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk
- Action Comics #80 (January 1945) - Mr. Mxyztplk Returns
- Superman #38 (January/February 1946) - The Battle of the Atoms
- Superman #42 (September/October 1946) - The Death of Clark Kent
- Superman #45 (March/April 1947) - Lois Lane, Superwoman
- Superman #53 (July 1948) - The Origin of Superman
- Action Comics #124 (September 1948) - A Superman of Doom
- Superman #60 (December 1949/January 1950) - The Two Identities of Superman & Superman Fights the Super-Brain
- 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
- Superman #134 (January 1960) - The Super-Menace of Metropolis
- Jimmy Olsen #42 (January 1960) - The Big Superman Movie!, Perry White, Cub Reporter!, and Jimmy the Genie!
- Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) - The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
- Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) - How Luthor Met Superboy
- Jimmy Olsen #46 (July 1960) - Jimmy Olsen, Orphan
- Superman #141 (November 1960) - Superman's Return To Krypton
- Superboy #85 (December 1960) - The Impossible Mission
- Jimmy Olsen #51 (March 1961) - The Girl with Green Hair
- Jimmy Olsen #52 (April 1961) - Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man
- Superboy #89 (June 1961) - Superboy's Big Brother!
- Action Comics #279 (August 1961) - The Super-Rivals
- Superman #147 (August 1961) - The Legion of Super Villains
- Superman #149 (November 1961) - The Death of Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #57 (December 1961) - Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl
- Superman #155 (August 1962) - Superman Under the Green Sun and The Downfall of Superman
- Justice League of America #13 (August 1962) - Riddle of the Robot Justice League
- World's Finest #129 (November 1962) - Joker-Luthor, Incorporated
- Superman #158 (January 1963) - Superman in Kandor
- Superman #160 (April 1963) - The Mortal Superman
- Superman #161 (May 1963) - The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent
- Superman #162 (July 1963) - The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue
- Superman #163 (August 1963) - Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis and The Goofy Superman
- Justice League of America #21 & #22 (August/September 1963) - Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two!
- Superman #164 (October 1963) - The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman
- Superman #165 (November 1963) - The Sweetheart Superman Forgot
- Superman #166 (January 1964) - The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons
- Superman #167 (February 1964) - The Team of Luthor and Brainiac
- Superman #168 (April 1964) - Luthor - Super Hero and Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor
- Superman #169 (May 1964) - The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life
- Action Comics #314 (July 1964) - The Day Superman Became The Flash
- Justice League of America #29 & #30 (August/September 1964) - Crisis on Earth-Three! and The Most Dangerous Earth of All!
- Superman #173 (November 1964) - The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac
- Action Comics #318 (November 1964) - The Death of Luthor
- Action Comics #319 (December 1964) - The Condemned Superman
- Superman #175 (February 1965) - Clark Kent's Brother
- Superman #181 (November 1965) - The Superman of 2965
- The Legion of Super-Heroes - Archives Volume 4 (1965)
- Superman #184 (February 1966) - The Demon Under the Red Sun
- Action Comics #338 (June 1966) - Muto - Monarch of Menace
- Action Comics #339 (July 1966) - Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow
- Superman #189 (August 1966) - Krypton Lives Again
- Action Comics #346 (February 1967) - The Man Who Sold Insurance to Superman and The Case of the Superman Imposter
- Superman #194 (February 1967) - The Death of Lois Lane
- Superman #196 (May 1967) - The Star of Steel
- Superman #199 (January 1967) - Superman's Race With The Flash
- Superman #200 (October 1967) - Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
- The Flash #175 (December 1967) - Race to the End of the Universe
- Justice League of America #63 (June 1968) - Time Signs a Death Warrant for the Justice League
- Superman #211 (November 1968) - The Name of the Game is Superman!
- Superman #215 (April 1969) - Lois LaneŠ DeadŠ Yet Alive
- Superman #224 (February 1970) - Beware the Super-Genius Baby
- Action Comics #393 (October 1970) - Superman Meets Super-Houdini! and The Day Superboy Became Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970) - The Newsboy Legion
- Action Comics #394 (November 1970) - Midas of Metropolis and Requiem for a Hot Rod!
- World's Finest #198 (November 1970) - Race to Save the Universe!
- Action Comics #395 (December 1970) - The Secrets of Superman's Fortress and The Credit Card of Catastrophe
- Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) - The Mountain of Judgement!
- World's Finest #199 (December 1970) - A Race to Save Time!
- Superman #233 (January 1971) - Superman Breaks Loose!
- Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971) - The Evil Factory!
- Superman #234 (February 1971) - How to Tame a Wild Volcano
- Jimmy Olsen #136 (February 1971) - The Saga of the D.N.Aliens
- Superman #235 (March 1971) - The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp
- Superman #236 (April 1971) - Planet of the Angels and The Doomsayer
- Jimmy Olsen #137 (April 1971) - The Four-Armed Terror!
- Superman #237 (May 1971) - The Enemy of Earth
- Superman #238 (June 1971) - Menace at 1000 Degrees
- Jimmy Olsen #138 (June 1971) - The Big Boom!!
- Superman #240 (July 1971) - To Save a Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #139 (July 1971) - The Guardian Fights Again!!!
- Superman #241 (August 1971) - The Shape of Fear
- Superman #242 (September 1971) - The Ultimate Battle
- Jimmy Olsen #141 (September 1971) - Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?!?
- Jimmy Olsen #142 (October 1971) - The Man from Transilvane!
- Jimmy Olsen #143 (November 1971) - Genocide Spray
- Jimmy Olsen #144 (December 1971) - A Big Thing in a Deep Scottish Lake!
- Superman #247 (January 1972) - Must There Be A Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #145 (January 1972) - Brigadoom!
- Jimmy Olsen #146 (February 1972) - Homo-Disastrous!
- Jimmy Olsen #147 (March 1972) - A Superman in Super-Town!
- Jimmy Olsen #148 (April 1972) - Monarch of All He Subdues!
- Superman #292 (October 1975) - The Luthor Nobody Knows!
- Action Comics #458 (April 1976) - Make Me a Super-Hero! and Masquerade of the Nutty Kid!
- Action Comics #484 (June 1978) - Superman Takes a Wife!
- Superman #328 (October 1978) - Attack of the Kryptonoid
- Action Comics #489 (November 1978) - Krypton Dies Again and Where There's a Will... There's a Fray
- Superman #329 (November 1978) - I Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Me! and The Secret of the Talking Car
- Superman #330 (December 1978) - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!
- Action Comics #490 (December 1978) - No Tomorrow For Superman
- Action Comics #491 (January 1979) - A Matter of Light and Death
- Superman #331 (January 1979) - Lockup at 20,000 Feet
- Action Comics #492 (February 1979) - Superman's Secret Afterlife
- Superman #332 (February 1979) - The Eternity Cage
- Action Comics #493 (March 1979) - The Metropolis UFO Connection
- Action Comics #494 (April 1979) - The Secret of the Super S
- Action Comics #495 (May 1979) - Attack of the Ultimate Warrior
- DC Comics Presents #14 (October 1979) - Judge, Jury... and No Justice!
- The Superman Story (1979) - The Life Story of Superman
- DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) - Days of Future Past
- DC Comics Presents #67 (March 1984) - 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas
- DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984) - With One Magic Word
- Superman: The Secret Years #1 (February 1985) - Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!
- Superman: The Secret Years #2 (March 1985) - Reach Out and Touch
- Superman: The Secret Years #3 (April 1985) - Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985) - A World Full of Supermen!
- Superman: The Secret Years #4 (May 1985) - Beyond Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) - The Jungle Line
- Superman Annual #11 (1985) - For The Man Who Has Everything
- World's Finest #323 (January 1986) - Afraid of the Dark
- DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986) - Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter
- Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (September 1986) - Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?
- Showcase Presents: Superman Family - Volume 1 (October 2005)
- Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons (December 2007)
- Not Brand ECHH #7 (April 1967) - The Origin of Stuporman
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