Series / The Adventures of Superboy

A television show running from 1988 to 1992, originally titled Superboy. The series revolves around a teenage Clark Kent juggling his life between his role as a student and his heroics as Superboy, the Boy of Steel.

If it sounds like Smallville, well, it is. At least in the first season. Clark and his future arch-foe Lex Luthor attend the same journalism school, and Lana Lang appears in a supporting role. The series soon underwent a major retool, owing to a recasting of Superboy; the college setting was dropped in favor of the The Bureau for Extra-Normal Matters, where Clark and Lana help investigate paranormal and alien activities.

Despite high ratings, the series was canceled in its fourth season due to Warner Bros., who filed a lien in an effort to reclaim all Superman film and TV rights (Though Superboy was already a property of Time Warner, its distribution was handled by Viacom). Because of the number of different companies involved in its production, the show never ran again in syndication and only in the last few years has seen limited release on DVD.

This show provides examples of:

  • Alternate History: At least four episodes deal with these including one that has a Superman.
  • Actor Allusion: Jack Larson and Noel Neill (Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane from The Adventures of Superman) appear in one episode as Clark and Lana's never before seen (and never seen again) co-workers at the Bureau for Extra-Normal Matters. Upon seeing Superboy rescue a woman who jumped out of a window to commit suicide, Jack Larson's character Lou exclaims "Jeepers!", an exclamation often used by Jimmy Olsen in The Adventures of Superman. Later in the same episode, Lou confesses to stealing office supplies and says that he used to do it all the time when he worked for the newspaper.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Lex does this to Lana in "With This Ring, I Thee Kill" in order to lure Superboy into an ambush by the deadly weapon known as the "Superboy Gun".
  • California Doubling: Averted. The creators didn't bother trying to mask the fact that Superboy was filmed in Florida, instead having Clark attend the Shuster University of Florida. Superboy continued to operate in Florida even as a government intern, working out of the fictional location of Capitol City.
  • Childhood Friend: Ellen in "Troubled Waters".
  • Clip Show: There were four of them: "The Secrets of Superboy", "People Vs. Metallo", "Who Is Superboy?", and "Cat and Mouse".
  • The Collector: The strange cloud-like alien in "The Alien Solution".
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: DC Comics published nearly two dozen issues, plus a special, directly based upon the series.
  • Continuity Nod: In "The Beast and Beauty", Superboy mentions to T.J. how he saved him at the junkyard in "Back to Oblivion".
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Gerold Manfred in "The Invisible People".
  • Disappeared Dad: Lana's dad is always busy with his career, but tries his best to be there for his daughter.
  • Evil Doppelganger: Remember Jor-El and Lara looking for Superboy? They're impostors who want Superboy as a museum peace.
  • Expy: T.J. White is a photographer like Jimmy Olsen.
  • Faking the Dead: Superboy fakes his own death in "Obituary for a Superhero", expecting his would-be killer to appear and take credit for killing him. Sure enough, Lex Luthor admits to killing Superboy on live TV.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink
  • Funny Background Event: In "Luthor Unleashed", while Clark and Lana were talking about Lex, T.J. started touching his hair.
    T.J.: I'm going bald.
  • Girl of the Week: T.J. has a different girlfriend in almost every episode.
  • Great Gazoo: Mr. Mxyzptlk, of course.
  • Identity Absorption: The alien being in "The Basement", who steals the identities of others in order to survive, because it has no identity of its own.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Lex Luthor's appearance is different after the first season because he had plastic surgery to look like Warren Eckworth, a businessman whom he later murdered to take his place. Superboy later visits an Alternate Universe where the alternate Lex looks like Eckworth, apparently for different reasons.
    • The real world explanation is that it was impractical to get Scott Wells to reprise his role. There is a brilliant in-universe explanation. Alternate Lex was in an anti-Sovereign resistance. (The Sovereign was this world's version of Superboy who is a tyrannical dictator ruling the world.) Alternate Lana tells the Sovereign that she and Lex grew up with him. Alternate Lex had clear reason to change his appearance to that of Eckworth, as the Sovereign would not recognize him as his old childhood friend and thus retaliate against the Luthor family. This could be an example of Fridge Brilliance, intentional of otherwise.
  • Leitmotif: This show had leitmotifs for just about every character (Superboy, Lana, Luthor, Metallo, Neila, etc.) and place (the Bureau, Smallville, Krypton), and even Kryptonite had its own leitmotif.
  • Mafia Princess: Sara Danner, daughter of crime boss Matt Danner, in "A Kind of Princess".
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk) is this in several episodes including a first season episode in which she strips down to a bikini for the obligatory "show the sexy redhead at the pool" scene, and the second season episode "Nightmare Island", in which she spends the entire episode in a bathing suit.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In "The Beast and Beauty", a crook dresses up as Superboy, just like the crook in the Fleischer Superman short "Showdown".
    • In "The Fixer", Clark gets into a Phone Booth to change into Superboy.
    • In "Hollywood", Clark went to a store called Keystone Clothiers, and was dressed in a suit and hat. Professor Zugar was sent to 1938, the year Superman debuted. The actress Victora Letour resembles Kryptonian actress Lyra Lerrol from "Return to Krypton", whom Superman falls in love with.
    • In "Luthor Unleashed", Superboy saves Lex from a lab accident like in the original comics. The next day he wakes up to find he's bald, and like in the comics he blames Superboy for it. He now wears a wig and has a collection of them which he puts on top of his busts, like in the 1978 movie.
    • Speaking of the movie, Jor-El and Lara show up in a couple of episodes, and they looked like their movie counterparts. Jor-El even mentions the family crest (the "S" logo).
    • Part of the opening credits zoom in or fly by, much like in The Movie.
  • Nerd: In the first season, Lex Luthor has a group of nerds working for him.
  • Never My Fault: Lex Luthor blames Superboy being bald and believes everyone is against him.
  • Ninja: Lex hires one to kill Superboy in "Luthor Unleashed".
  • On the Next: Every episode ends with a short preview of the next one, which usually ends with a narrator exclaiming "...on the next Adventures of Superboy!"
  • Opening Narration: The 3rd and 4th season opening sequences started with a narrator speaking over images from past episodes flying through space. "Rocketed from a distant planet to a bold new destiny on Earth..."
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: T.J. White, aka Trevor Jenkins White
  • Robot War: In "War of the Species", the Mad Scientist who's really an android, mentioned that on his homeworld, robots were slaves until they rebelled.
  • Secret Weapon: The "Superboy Gun" featuring in the second season, which was enough to render Superboy temporarily a paraplegic.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Jonathan's old comrade during the Korean War in "The Phantom of the Third Division", who was captured and tortured. He tried to kill Jonathan, whom he blamed for his imprisonment.
  • Showdown at High Noon: In "Threesome, Part 2", Superboy has a Western-style showdown with Luthor, Metallo, and Odessa Vexman on a deserted street in Smallville, complete with an appropriate musical score.
  • Sidekick: Leo was this to Lex Luthor until Lex kills him in the premiere of the second season.
    • T.J. White was this to Clark in the first season before being Put on a Bus.
  • Skyward Scream: Lex, after he discovers he's bald and vows to destroy Superboy.
  • Society Marches On: In the episode "Hollywood", while in 1939, Clark gives a newspaper boy a dollar, causing him to exclaim "wow!"
  • Succubus: One is the villain in the episode of the same name.
  • Teen Genius: Billy Hercules in "Little Hercules".
  • The Other Darrin: Gerard Christopher replaced John Haymes Newton as the titular character after the first season. Sherman Howard replaced Scott Wells as Lex Luthor after the first season.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Though in "Bringing Down the House", Superboy seemed to be willing to kill Judd Faust for nearly torturing Lana to death, but she stopped him from going through with it.
  • íThree Amigos!: Clark, Lana, and TJ in the first season. Andy took TJ's place in the second season.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Superboy loses his memory in the third season episode "Superboy...Lost", after flying into and destroying an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
  • Wicked Toymaker: Nick Knack, who uses toys to commit crimes.
  • Witch Doctor: The Native American woman in "Birdwoman of the Swamps".