I’ve never watched the Superboy TV show, although Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman is one of my favorites. Sadly, the half-hour syndicated younger version isn’t as good, but those seeking light, action-oriented comic book entertainment will want to give it a look.
Gerard Christopher took over the title role in the show’s second season, so he’s not new here. What is is the title, changed from Superboy to The Adventures of Superboy, and the setting: instead of being in college, Clark Kent works for The Bureau of Extra-Normal Matters in Capitol City, which provides an excuse for him getting involved with all kinds of aliens and weirdos in both of his identities.
The first two episodes of the new season make up one story, “The Bride of Bizarro” (written by DC editors Mike Carlin and Andy Helfer), in which the chalky stone-faced Superman clone seeks a mate. I had hoped it would be a good starting point, but the show assumes you already know who Bizarro (Barry Meyers), Lex Luthor (Sherman Howard), Darla (Lex’s moll, Tracy Roberts), and Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk) are. Still, they’re easy enough to figure out (and likely already familiar to viewers). There’s more action than characterization, typical of the 1990s approach to superheroes on film. Lex is pretty over-the-top, which at least is entertaining to watch.
I’m told that this season, in comparison to the first, had some more mature and slightly darker storylines. As an example, the two-part “Roads Not Taken” (written by John Francis Moore and Stan Berkowitz) visits alternate universes to examine the nature of power and its potential for corruption. “Carnival” (by Toby Martin) is a location where the tempted lose their souls, as “Deville” (Christopher Neame) tests Superboy’s moral strength.
“Mindscape”, another by Carlin & Helfer, uses an alien being that gives Superboy nightmares to explore his fears. (Comic readers might be reminded of the Black Mercy from Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything”.) “A Day in the Double Life” (by Stan Berkowitz and Paul Stubenrauch) brings some humor, as Clark is told to keep a journal of his day by his boss, and he has to cover up his more exciting experiences. “Bodyswap” (by Paul Schiffer) is what you’d expect, with Superboy and Luthor trading identities.
“The People vs. Metallo” (Helfer and Carlin again) features that comic villain. “Mine Games”, written by Sherman Howard, who plays Luthor, traps him, Superboy, and a chunk of Kryptonite in a mine after a cave-in, where they realize they have to work together in spite of their animosity. Gerard Christopher wrote the next episode, “Wish for Armageddon”, about Superboy being mind-controlled to create disasters. The season ends with “The Road to Hell” (by Stan Berkowitz, Michael Maurer, and Matt Uitz), another two-parter and another alternate universe setup, with guest star Ron Ely as an adult Superman.
For straightforward superhero action, particularly for younger viewers who aren’t looking for subtle acting or deep motivation, this is a good choice. I imagine many Smallville viewers will also be curious to see how the character was handled twenty years ago, when he had powers *with* a costume as a young man.
The set has 26 episodes on three discs. They’re a little over 21 minutes each, so they’re fast watches, which I find helpful. (I have a lot more dramas than sitcoms on DVD, so I’m always looking for shorter shows to queue up.) The video quality can be the slightest bit fuzzy at times, but that’s to be expected, given its age, and a little goofiness fits in with the material overall. There are no extra or special features.
I’m going to hunt down the other releases, just so I can see Michael J. Pollard as Mr. Mxyzptlk (season 1, written by Denny O’Neil) and the various vampire episodes of season 2, written by Cary Bates and Ilya Salkind. Plus, in season 2, Superboy’s parents are played by George Lazenby and Britt Ekland. (The studio provided a review copy.)