Superboy 79, "Life On Krypton"
Originally posted 8/13/2001
by Jerry Siegel and George Papp
In January 1960, when this book probably came out, I was barely 7 years
old, 5 months into second grade, walking the 5 (long) blocks to school
by myself (though there usually was some parent at the corner of Willow
and Cedar Hill to make sure nobody got killed trying to cross this
incredibly busy street), and dealing with my very first teacher from
Hell. (Not sure I knew that word then.)
Mrs. Wilson was pleasant enough, I suppose, as long as you did
everything exactly her way and agreed with her every notion on how life
was supposed to run, but throw any sand in the gears and boy, did she
let you have it. Mrs. Wilson was a firm believer in discipline via
public ridicule. By the end of my two year stint in her regiment (she
arranged to teach me in third grade too, somehow) I'd learned never to
open my mouth in class unless I was forced to.
Because of this, many future teachers decided I was shy. I wasn't shy, I
just wasn't going to give any satisfaction to the enemy. If they wanted
my name, rank and serial number they could look it up.
Anyhow, on this particular occasion (no matter how I spell that word it
looks wrong- at least it doesn't have a red line under it.) Mom had
given my a quarter for school. I was supposed to turn that quarter over
to the dreaded martinet for something or other. But I couldn't turn it
over unless she announced she was gonna collect them. Which she didn't -
for a week! Finally, this damn quarter burning a hole in my pocket, I
raised my hand out of turn and asked her about it.
After being made to feel like a complete moron in front of everybody for
throwing off her train of thought, I went home with the quarter still
in my pocket. Now I'm in a really bad mood. I got yelled at for nothing.
I got a quarter in my pocket that nobody wants.....
Well what would you have done with it?
I went down to Vinnie's Soda Shop and bought two comic books! (and
probably a candy bar). One was Superboy 79 and the other was Detective
276 (The Return of Bat-Mite)!
Unfortunately I was a lousy sneak, and an even worse liar. I managed to
finish the Superboy before my mother caught me, but the Detective was
history before I got to it. I got yelled at again, for (in my opinion)
no reason at all, was incarcerated in my room (no problem, I was sulking
anyway) and decided that all adults were crazy and from now on I wasn't
talking to any of them ever again.
Sadly, I still don't have a copy of Detective 276, though I'm sure I've
read it at some point, but the miracle of E-bay has restored little baby
Kal-El to my hot little hands, so I can decide whether it was worth all
that long ago angst and aggravation.
We start off with one of those great Mort Weisinger covers, showing baby
Kal-El in his mother's arms, as his evil father, blasts his poor doggy
into outer space! Jor-El looks grim, Krypto looks pitiful, Lara looks
ready to kill, Jor-El's dressed in green, the rocket is yellow, Kal is
blue. There are tears all over the place. A marketing dream of a cover.
Probably sold over a quarter million copies. (Eat your heart out Paul
The story begins, like almost all Superbaby stories, in the "present".
(1932? Superboy's timeframe was never really clear back then) Superboy
has invented a mind-prober ray, designed to drag his youngest baby
memories from deep in his subconscious, so that he can dictate them to
Mom and Dad Kent and reconstruct his "Life on Krypton". Later it would
be stated that he needed this because repeated exposure to Kryptonite
had made it hard for him to remember what happened to him as a baby.
This change must have been in response to some know-it-all fan letter
that questioned this flaw in Superman's invincible "super memory." But
for now, it was just a frame work to get us into the baby story, and it
provided a neat visual of Superboy with his head stuck into a cosmic
hair dryer while Ma and Pa looked on with wrapt astonishment.
We begin with some random Kryptonian vignettes, designed to show how
wonderful life was in paradise, before the fall. Kal-El's baby crib has a
mechanical arm that will automatically catch him if he falls out. His
Kryptonian bubble pipe can blow any shaped bubbles: pyramids, cubes,
dumbbells, etc. He watches 3 dimensional TV, the home weather machine
projects a waterproof dome over the house, so Kal can play in the rain.
He has a rocket ride that looks like it belongs in an amusement park in
But mostly he seems to wander around alone (except for his doggy)
looking for someone to pay attention to him. He wanders into Jor- El's
lab and listens to his father dictate into a computer, using voice
recognition software. Jor-El predicts Krypton will soon blow up, ending
all life. Then Jor-El takes Krypto away from baby Kal and blasts the
little mutt into space, (right in front of his bawling son) and as
usual, screws up so that Krypto doesn't come back down. Traumatize the
kid for life why don't you? No wonder he's incapable of forming a normal
Lara is so pissed, she takes Kal and returns to Mother's. Mom isn't home
though, so they visit a robot show to pass the time, and Kal gets
himself locked inside one of the demonstration models. (On Earth, Mom
would be in jail for child neglect). Then they go to an amusement park
where Kal watches an underwater battle between Lightning fish and
cannonball clams. At another exhibit, he visits the planet of 100 moons
and then- wonder of wonders!- there's an exhibit showing a typical small
town on Earth, which Kryptonian scientists have viewed through their
telescopes. (Sort of like a diorama of life in primitive Africa or
caveman times you might find at Yale's Peabody Museum) The small town is
(wait for it) Smallville!
To make sure they can see it up close, children are outfitted with
rocket tubes so they can fly around the exhibit. To protect them from
the rocket exhaust they wear fireproof capes. (What protects them from
crashing into the ground and breaking their necks I have no idea.) After
flying right over Ma and Pa Kent's house (Oh, the irony!), Kal moves on
to see the atomic clock. There, scientists ridicule the notions of the
mad-scientist, Jor-El, that Krypton will soon blow up. Forgetting that
she's left the jerk, Lara rushes to Jor-El's defense. Abandoned again,
Kal sneaks away and interferes with an exhibit showing another space
rocket being launched. The new rocket, knocked off course by Kal's
meddling, hits Krypto's ship in space and sends it careening out of
After Lara's tearful reunion back home with Jor-El, he explains that
Krypto was never supposed to have been launched into space, but the
rocket's anchoring chain broke. The ever-gullible Lara forgives him,
despite the transparentness of the lie. But all's well that ends well,
as Krypto's rocket mysteriously lands back on Krypton. Kal tries to
claim credit for rescuing his dog, but of course no one believes him.
That's it kid, learn to keep your mouth shut. No one's interested in
your opinions anyway.
So the story ends, with a boy and his dog together again. Even if Mom and Dad are complete gits.
But wait a minute? Didn't Krypto actually get sent to Earth? Was Jor-El really stupid enough to try the same trick again?
Keep reading future issues and maybe ol' Uncle Mort will tell you!!!
So what did this seven-year-old think? Well I had mixed feelings. First I
was mad because it wasn't a three-part novel. I had thought Life on
Krypton worthy of at least that many pages. And the other two stories
were awful. (I still think they're awful). Second, the story appeared to
be continued. How was I ever going to get the next issue? Especially
since that one had already been destroyed? This was too much psychic
trauma for a kid to handle. (I was sort of mollified, and mystified,
when the story wasn't continued in the next issue. In fact, Life on
Krypton stories dribbled out very slowly over the next ten years. I
think there were only six of them all together).
But the story itself fascinated me, all those Kryptonian gadgets, and
that baby wandering all over the place by itself, getting into all kinds
of mischief without being punished. Heck, he even got his dog back!
What a life! Let's all move to Krypton, where it doesn't make any
difference that all the adults are crazy.
This was, I'm pretty sure, only Kal-El's second appearance as a speaking
toddler on Krypton. Up until now, it had been pretty much assumed that
ol' Supes had been a babe in arms when he was blasted into space. Now he
definitely appeared to be at least two years old.
This finally explained something that had been puzzling readers since
the early fifties. How did Superboy know he was from Krypton? There had
been that famous story in Superman 61 wherein Superman first encounters
Kryptonite and follows the meteor's trail back to Krypton and discovers
his origin for the first time, but this story in no way explained how
Superboy would know anything about the planet. Yet he clearly did,
mentioning Krypton at least as far back as Adventure 170.
Fortunately a seven-year-old who had only been reading comics for 4
years didn't have to worry about stuff like that. I was just glad
Superbaby got his doggy back.
(Update: I finally got a copy of Detective 276 and can finish my train of thought...)