Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Time Travel Week- "You're not my REAL Parents!", Superman #161

If you didn't know, prior to the revisions of the 1980's - Superman's adoptive parents, Ma and Pa Kent, died before he became Superman. It's been part of his origin since he had an origin. However, in 1963, Leo Dorfman and Al Plastino decided we needed to see just how they died.

Superboy builds a yacht for Ma and Pa Kent and sends them on a Caribbean holiday. While knocking about the islands, the Kents stumble on a buried chest. The chest contains some cutlasses and pistols and a scrap from a diary, dated 1717.

Wanting to find out why the pirate was marooned, the Kents ask Superboy to take them back to 1717 so they can watch. Superboy readily agrees.

The Fourth Dimension, now color-coded and labeled for your convenience.

Arriving at the appropriate date, the Kent family learns that the pirate Peg Leg Morgan is being marooned by Blackbeard. Pa asks if they ought to help Morgan, but Superboy cautions that they mustn't interfere with history.

Superboy is discovered by Blackbeard and his crew who make him dig a hole and bury himself up to his neck below the tideline. When the water comes in, Superboy flies away ('cause that won't mess with history!). The pirates assume they're just that drunk (they probably are) and Superboy takes his folks home to their own time.

The day after their return, Ma and Pa feel ill. A doctor is called who diagnoses the Kents with "Fever Plague" a rare ailment which died out 100 years ago. There's no cure.

Superboy tries everything to cure his parents. He obtains a rare sap from a giant orchid tree and heats it in a volcano. He lets Lex Luthor attempt to cure the Kents with a "Vibro-Health Restorer" (aren't those sold at very "special" stores?) hoping that Pa Kent , who is on the parole board, will help him out. In desperation, Clark even tries sending his folks to the Phantom Zone until a cure can be found, but the Phantom Zone projector is on the fritz. The Kents just die.

In memory of Ma and Pa Kent, Superboy carves a monument to them on an asteroid right next to the monument he carved of his real parents.

You're such an ass, Clark!

In the Silver Age, Superman (and Superboy) seems to have an unhealthy fixation on his birth parents. Yeah, I know, there are several stories where he gets to visit Krypton before it exploded and meet Jor-El and Lara, but fer cryin' out loud! The Kents raised him! They gave him his moral compass and made his dumb costumes. But can Superman ever refrain from pointing out that they're not his "real" parents? No.

Of course, Superboy could have just traveled back in time and told himself not to take his adoptive parents back to 1717...

What a jerk!


  1. Or else he could have flown them into the future, to a time when a cure has been discovered. Cearly, superboy was a bittle rattled and not thinking clearly. I mean, when you stop and think about it, who transports their parents back to an island of pirates anyway? What was he thinking?

    Thanks for the astroid carving circling forever in the black, frozen emptiness of space! Great gesture and such a fitting tribute to your pretend parents, Superboy! -- Mykal

  2. Mykal-

    I had so many Superman/Superboy time travel yarns to choose from, all of them charmingly asinine. But this one stuck out, partly because of the obnoxious way he thinks "real" in bold in that panel and partly because of the sheer bloody-mindedness of anyone who would want to publish (in a comic book aimed at children, no less) a story about how Superboy's parents died meaninglessly.

  3. This caused DC some problems down the road, as well. In 1968, DC apparently decided that Superboy needed younger parents. In a typically zany Silver Age story, they showed us an alien TV producer who was airing a pilot of a Superboy show (he was secretly filming Earth). But the TV executives wanted younger parents for Superboy, so the alien managed to give them a liquid that melted the years away. In a funny twist, at the end the executives decide they'd rather have a show about a Superman, instead of Superboy.

    So years later when DC reprinted the story of Ma & Pa Kent's death, they had to have the faces redrawn to look younger.

    One other somewhat "jerky" part of the story is that Superboy is mostly upset that perhaps he caused his parent's illness by taking them into the past. But he's relieved when he realizes that they were contaminated from the pirate's chest. Never mind that he'd also taken them to the Caribbean, where they got ill. :)