Mike Gold: Super-Puberty!


I was walking through Grand Central Terminal yesterday on my way to one of our more entertaining ComicMix senior staff meetings. Grand Central is my favorite place in all of New York City – the massive cathedral ceilings, the stunning pre-Great War architecture, the clean and open lanes for pedestrian traffic… It’s really very inspiring, and, indeed, I was inspired to write this particular column.

For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I started thinking about Superman’s adolescence. Oh, I was influenced by the first issue of Max Landis’s Superman: Alien American, a solid and worthy start to the mini-series. But that, in turn, reminded me of some of my favorite Superboy stories from my ancient and decrepit youth – those where Pa Kent patiently taught his son how to manage, deploy and exacerbate his Kryptonian powers.

SuperboyThose were sweet stories with which most members of its target audience could identify. Our parents were busy teaching us how to ride our bikes, build model planes and monsters, and make decisions based upon common sense and not on impulse. Learning how to fly was just one step beyond.

We already knew that young Clark would make it into adulthood, but discovering the hows and the whys was quite comforting. However, given the Comics Code Authority as well as the marketing sentiments of the time, there were areas undocumented in Superboy and in Adventure Comics.

I am speaking of the dreadful but necessary curse of puberty, and I am addressing this subject from the perspective of boys in the very early Sixties. Girls had their own crosses to bare, but neither Clark nor I are in any position to comment from experience. I’d say something like “but I can only imagine” but that would be really creepy.

Obviously, Clark would start growing hair in places previously barren of foliage. Being smart than the average bear, he would have understood this and probably feel he was becoming a man. But those are super-hormones kicking in. That would be particularly messy, and it could have been rather dangerous to his family, to the farm animals, and to the buildings on the Kent Farm property. We’re better off not knowing. For one thing, the cover shot would be against Code.

As puberty intrudes, Clark’s voice would start to change. To be specific, it would crack. I do not know what sort of impact such cracking sound would have on nearby windows, champagne glasses, eardrums… think of the Grateful Dead using a chalkboard as a heavily amplified musical instrument. Before long, his voice would settle down into a nice adult groove, but I think Clark might “keep” his pre-puberty voice for Clark and his post-puberty voice for the Man of Steel. Hey, it worked for Bud Collyer (pictured above), the first actor to play the role on radio and in the Fleisher cartoons.

He’s also go through rather amazing growth spurts that would wreck havoc with Clark’s civilian clothing and the Kent family budget. All parents go through this, but not on a Kryptonian scale. He’d shred his clothes and shoes, and probably confuse the hell out of Krypto.

Of course, if Clark was a typical American Earthling entering adolescence – and he was raised to be just that – that X-Ray vision would help him get though many a dark night. No need for him to smuggle in copies of Playboy and Caviler. But, being raised in Kansas by caring members of society, I would think that Clark would quickly understand that with great hormones comes great guilt.

At least I’d hope so.

A few years later, The Who would record “I Can See for Miles.” Well, Clark could do that already. Would his concern for his secret identity stop him from reacting to Lana Lang slipping out with Pete Ross? I doubt it.

Being of that age, Clark would quietly use his powers to turn that date into the road show for Carrie. He’d stop Pete and any other potential suitors cold. If Clark Kent were Reggie Mantle, Archie Andrews would be a priest.

Thankfully, Clark Kent is not Peter Pan. I’m sure he would endeavor to do the right thing. But, puberty is a bitch… and high school is worse. All this is in preparation for one single event.

Losing one’s virginity.

Losing one’s super-virginity.