Growing up as a young comic book collector in the mid 1990s, there were few people to talk to about comics. This was just as the internet was becoming public, but still quite a ways off before I would gain access to it in 1998. Out of a group of peers, there were three or four other known people who read comic books, but the majority opted for the likes of Spider-Man, the X-Men and Spawn; arguably far more popular to a then pre-teen than this editorialists favourite, Superman. Superman, despite the sales spike caused by the “Death of Superman” storyline, was decidedly uncool, which in a way made the character all the more special. A close friend took to liking Superboy as an alternative to Superman, and started collecting that title. This was in late 1994 or early 1995, so the Post-Crisis Superboy was still only a couple years old at this point, one driven home by the fact he still had no other name than Superboy!
Co-creators Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett were the stewards of this new Superboy for the first three or so years, giving us a number of characters, concepts and storylines that continue to be favourites to this day. This curated list, honours that, and mostly focuses on the first Kesel/Grummett run from 1993-1996. Some decent concepts came after that, and some questionable characterizations, but for anyone wanting to see this character in his original interpretation, these stories do it:
Adventures of Superman (Volume 1) 501
The first appearance of the Post-Crisis Superboy. Clone of the recently deceased Superman, he is one of four mysterious pretenders that have appeared in Metropolis. This single issue within the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline from 1993 nearly acts as a backdoor pilot to what the Kid’s first series would be. The majority of the elements, from Tana Moon, Roxy and Rex Leech and even the introduction of a new Krypto, would be established in this funny, fast paced, yet still thoughtful single issue.
Superboy: Trouble in Paradise TPB
This collection from a couple years ago collects roughly the first year of Superboy’s solo series under Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett. The majority of characters Superboy would interact with throughout their run are introduced, including King Shark, for fans of that particular character. The majority of the collection is done by Tom Grummett, but the odd fill-in still manages to fit-in with the overall youthful tone of the book. This is Superboy just his first steps out as an independent being, and that’s eventually going to have ramifications on him and those around him.
Superboy/Robin: World’s Finest Three
This two issue prestigious format mini-series is one that slips under the radar of most comic book fans, yet should not be overlooked. Co-written between Karl Kesel and Chuck Dixon, this story features the first meeting and team-up between Superboy and the third Robin, Tim Drake. Comic book fans have for years, taken for granted the friendship that developed between the Boy of Steel and the Boy Wonder, but it was one that did not occur in either of their solo series.
Facing off against Metallo and Poison Ivy, it is your typical superhero crossover fair, but still enjoyable, and even if the story does not grab you, the Tom Grummett artwork will surely make up for it!
Superboy (Volume 4) Annual 2 (November 1995)
Superboy (Volume 4) 0 gave early glimpses into Superboy’s origin back in 1994 (and is collected in Superboy: Trouble in Paradise TPB), but it is this 1995 “Year One” branded annual that gives readers more detail into the first days of Superboy’s existence. Readers finally learn of the human donor to Superboy’s creation (only to later be retconned in an unforgivable way by another writer), Cadmus is revealed to be operating after being presumed destroyed, and this half origin/half birthday tale gives the reader some rather poignant moments of a teenager already unsure of his place in the world, facing new revelations about his identity.
While Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett would return to the title a second time a few years later, their wackier take during their follow-up was not embraced by the entire fandom, and they left shortly after; closing out a lot characters and arcs that they had first developed in the process. Subsequent writers would not do the character particular justice, and by the end of the 2000s the Superboy most of us had been introduced was mostly gone; a complicated set of retcons and mischaracterization ultimately resulted in the character really losing its shine. There is hope that this list might remind the reader of a time when the Metropolis Kid took on the legacy of Superboy, and made it something truly unique.