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Comic Book / A Mind-Switch in Time

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As far-out as it sounds, somehow my mind alone was catapulted forward through time into my own future! I can only guess— But I somehow switched minds with myself— meaning Superman's mind is now in the Superboy body I left behind in Smallville thirteen years ago!

A Mind-Switch in Time was a Superman storyline published in 1983 and told through two titles: Superman Vol. 1 #380-382 and The New Adventures of Superboy (or Superboy Vol. 2) #38. Cary Bates and Curt Swan were the creative team assigned to the Superman title, and Paul Kupperberg and Kurt Schaffenberger were responsible for the Superboy side of the crossover.

In 1982, Superman flies into the time-barrier to carry out research on the habits of prehistoric men. However, he finds a massive tear disrupting the time-stream. Undaunted, he decides to plow his way through it.

In 1969, Superboy volunteers in Smallville's Soames Reform School during Thanksgiving Day, tries and fails to convince Lex Luthor to drop his petty grudge once again, and flies into the time-barrier to attend a Legion of Super-Heroes meeting in the 30th century. However, he finds a massive tear disrupting the time-stream. Undaunted, he decides to plow his way through it.

Against all odds, past and present Kal-El crash into each other. Since time travel physics dictate nobody can co-exist with himself at the same time, for which time-travelers become immaterial while visiting times where they already exist, both Clarks become intangible and phase into each other before being forcefully tossed back to their times of origin.

Nonetheless, their violent clash has had an unexpected result: teen and adult Clark Kent have swapped bodies.

Superboy finds himself fifteen years in the future, stuck in his older self's body, and finds himself surprised to learn about his future life: he lives in Metropolis now, he's a renowned journalist and newscaster (despite Pa and Ma's advising him to lie low), his old flame Lana Lang is his co-host but he has a romance with fellow Daily Planet co-worker Lois Lane, he has found his long-lost cousin and other Kryptonian survivors...

Superboy is adapting to his future self's life when he comes across a trouble he cannot handle: an emotion-eater called Euphor is mind-controlling Metropolis. Initially, Euphor seemed to mean well, but absorbing massive quantities of negative emotions is simultaneously increasing his power and insanity. Now Euphor has become convinced that he should take Metropolis' unhappiness — together with his free will — away for their own good, and Superman deserves to be kicked out of Metropolis for failing to fix their psychological issues. And he is willing to use brainwashed human shields to force the Man of Steel out of his own city. Superboy knows his older self would know how to handle Euphor, but he is not experienced enough to stop him.

Meanwhile in the past, Superman finds himself stuck in his teenager body, reliving the same day over and again, unable to tell anyone about being adult Clark stuck in a time loop. He cannot break the loop by going forward in time because of the disruption blocking the time stream. Clark is certain that he knows who the culprit behind his predicament is, but assuredly correct assumptions do not solve his problem; especially if he cannot act on them.

Tropes found in this storyline:

  • The '60s: The Smallville scenes are set in the late 1960s.
  • The '80s: The Metropolis segments are set in 1982.
  • Accidental Murder: Euphor sends three minions after Superboy. Superboy notices they are expending energy from their power source to keep up with him, so he flies away to force them to run out of steam. Instead of exhausting themselves, though, the three mooks push themselves until their bodies become consumed by their own powers.
  • Bank Robbery: One of the first things Superboy does when he arrives in future Metropolis is foiling a bank robbery.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A grizzly bear attacks two campers in the Smallville woods. Fortunately, Superboy arrives and shakes the bear off before sending it stumbling back into the brush.
  • Beast with a Human Face: Euphor turns one pickpocket into a man-headed green dragon.
  • Big Bad: In the present day, Euphor uses his emotion-absorbing powers to take over the city and kick Superman out. Back in the past, Lex Luthor traps Superboy into a stable time-loop to get rid of him.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: After absorbing her unhappiness and jealousy, Euphor mind-controls Lois into attacking Superman.
  • Bullying a Dragon: A biker is complaining about Superman arresting his gang when his bike suddenly gets turned into a flying bike armed with a ray cannon. He starts defacing every Superman statue he finds until he draws Superman's attention. He shoots one energy beam at Superman and becomes frightened when his blast gets shrugged off. Then, because he whined about Superman's bantering, Superman says he banters during fights to vent his annoyance at having to deal with time-wasting idiots.
  • Cross Through: The story crosses over Superman (Volume 1) and Superboy (Volume 2)
  • Continuity Nod: Lana briefly references that time she almost got married to Vartox in Superman Vol 1 #373-375.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Lex Luthor attempts to trap Superboy into a time-loop. Unfortunately for him, Superboy's mind has been accidentally swapped with his older counterpart, who is not only experienced enough to beat teen Luthor's tricks but also pissed off because of all crap future Luthor will put him through. Lex is promptly and literally beaten to the ground.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Superboy is not exactly happy when he learns that his future self is kind of a celebrity because Pa and Ma always told he should keep himself out of the public eye. And he has become a newscaster?
  • Disguised in Drag: A pickpocket caught by Superman used to disguise himself as a bag-wearing old lady.
  • Dynamic Akimbo: Superboy stands floating and smiling confidently with his hands on his hips when confronting a futuristic biker.
  • Easy Amnesia: As Superboy's mind goes back to his body, the strong shock causes him to forget his body-swapping adventure.
  • Emotion Eater: Euphor has the power to syphon off and absorb somebody else's negative emotions.
  • Evil Redhead: Red-haired Euphor gradually becomes evil after absorbing too much negative emotions.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Young Lex Luthor cannot beat Superman because the adult hero knows all his tricks, including those Lex have not come up with yet. Likewise, Superboy does not know how to beat Euphor because he lacks experience to deal with emotion eaters who use innocent meat shields.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Superboy is rather shocked to learn how much the world has changed for good and for bad since 1969: women are bolder, NASA's space program has truly taken off, and Metropolis is bigger and shinier… but it has also become plagued with corruption and crime.
  • Forced Transformation: As Euphor's powers increase, he becomes able to transform people into twisted fantasy versions of themselves. He accidentally turns one biker into a Kamen Rider-esque futuristic biker, and he later transforms a Corrupt Corporate Executive, a pickpocket, an enforcer and Lois into a space android, a man-headed dragon, a robot and a witch, respectively.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Superman's mind gets swapped with his teenage self's.
  • Get Back to the Future: As time-travelling, Superman gets stuck fifteen years in the past, and he cannot go back to his own time because something is blocking the time-stream.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: When three villains gang up on Superboy, one of them grapples with Superboy so his partner can punch him. However, Superboy whirls around so the first mook gets hurled off and collides with his partner.
  • Groin Attack: When Lois takes down a mugger, Superboy asks what she would have done if the man had managed to pull his gun out. Her answer? A swift kick to the groin.
    Superboy: Well, er... Lois, it's just that you might have been shot if I didn't happen to be flying by—!
    Lois: No problem—! I would've floored the guy with another swift kick where it hurts!
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Superman gets stuck in his past body, reliving 1969's Thanksgiving Day over and again until he figures out how he can break the loop.
  • Heroic BSoD: when Superboy learns his parents are dead, he goes back to his future self's apartment, covers his face with his hands and bursts into tears.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: Jimmy Olsen witnesses a man teetering on a ledge and a random passerby encouraging him to get on with it. Jimmy taps the second guy on his shoulder and punches the jerkass when he turns around.
  • Instant Costume Change: Superboy is taking a look around his parents' empty house when he hears the door opening behind him. Before it is fully opened, he has already changed into his Clark Kent costume.
  • Institutional Apparel: Luthor is wearing his prison greys in Soames Reform School.
  • Insurance Fraud: One of the persons turned by Euphor set fire to his failing garment business to collect the insurance. Unfortunately for him, Superman put the fire out.
    I set fire to my failing garment business, so I'd collect the insurance... but Superman came along and extinguished the blaze! It left me bankrupt!
  • Just in Time: A tower crane accidentally drops one steel girder, but Superboy catches it right before it crushes one woman and her daughter.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: During the first two chapters, the story swaps back and forth between Superman and Superboy's viewpoints.
  • Mental Time Travel: "Freaky Friday" Flip variant where Superman's mind is in his teenage self's body and vice versa.
  • Mistaken for Junkie: One cop sees one crowd gathering around a building and smiling maniacally and wonders if they have taken "Happy Pills".
  • Mundane Utility:
    • When one girder gets loose and falls, Superboy catches it, tosses it back, and uses his super-breath and heat vision to weld it in place.
    • Later he stops one car, X-Rays the vehicle and angrily suggests the driver to visit a mechanic and get the brakes repaired.
  • My Future Self and Me: Young and adult Kal-El cannot stand next to each other physically, but they see each other through the barrier blocking the time stream.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Superman and his younger self attempt to time-travel at the same time and collide with each other. Since nobody, not even Pre-Crisis Superman, can co-exist with himself at the same time, each one is tossed back to their own time.
  • No Name Given: Euphor never mentions his real name.
  • No-Sell: A biker with a grudge against Superman uses a flying super-bike to attack the Man of Steel. Superboy just smiles and stands still while withstanding his bike's energy blasts.
    Biker: Here it comes, S-Man! Let's see how much snappy patter you're poutin' after I give you both barrels!
    Superman easily tanks an energy beam
    Superboy: You know, you shouldn't knock "snappy patter"! It's a handy way for someone like me to keep up a sunny disposition when I have to take time out of a busy day to deal with someone like you! Know what I mean?
    Biker: I—I don't believe it— Not even a smudge! You just ain't human!
  • Never My Fault: One Corrupt Corporate Executive blames Superman for going bankrupted. How did he go bankrupted? His garment business was failing so he tried to burn his own company's headquarters down to commit insurance fraud, but Superman came along and extinguished the fire.
  • Only One Me Allowed Right Now: Superman and his younger self accidentally collide as travelling across the timestream. Since the same person cannot coexist with themselves, both Clarks turn intangible for one split-second before getting tossed out of the time-stream.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Lois figures out something is amiss with Superman when he runs into her and calls her "Miss Lane" and treats her as a mere acquaintance whom he barely knows.
  • Outside-the-Box Tactic: Superman is trapped into a one-day-long time-loop and cannot break it by going to the future. So, what does he do? He remembers Einstein's theory that time is a gigantic, continued loop, and goes back, back, back in time until he has circled back and emerged in the next day.
  • Pedestrian Crushes Car: Downplayed. A car is about to run over a kid, and Superboy brings it to a stop from a kick in the bumper.
  • Phlebotinum Overdose: Superman beats Euphor by feeding him his negative emotions caused by Krypton's destruction until Euphor becomes frozen into a cocoon of solid energy.
  • Power Degeneration: When people transformed by Euphor use their powers until overexerting themselves, their bodies start degrading until dissolving into pure energy.
  • Put Their Heads Together: After grabbing two bank robbers, Superboy puts them out of commission by smashing his heads together.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Lex Luthor attempts to trap Superboy into a time loop and later squash him to a pulp with a high-gravity device, unaware that adult Kal-El has become stuck in his younger body. Clark, who from his viewpoint has been putting up with Lex's death traps for over fifteen years, and now knows his ex-friend will never change and will never stop trying to murder him and hurt other people, explodes and beats Lex so hard that almost kills him.
  • Ramming Always Works: Subverted. Superman and Superboy run into a disturbance stretching across the timestream and both decide to brute forcing their way through it. They manage to ram through it, but they collide with each other.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Superman finally runs out of patience and beats Lex Luthor up while pointing how stupid and short-sighted Lex really is.
    Superman: No, we can't have trash like you cluttering the streets— or wouldn't you love to have someone trip over you and get hurt? Isn't that what you live for... Menacing innocent people with your insane gimmicks? Face it, Lex Luthor... The future would be better off without you! You're a menace! Look at your latest trick! Or did you ever stop and think what would happen to the world without a Superman to protect it? All the disasters the future holds that only I could handle? I'd be doing the world a favor by putting an end to you right now... Before you grow up to be an even greater menace!
  • Reed Richards Is Useless:
    • Averted. Professor Lewis Lang decides to take advantage of Superman's time-travel powers and requests him to ascertain the accuracy of his theories regarding the nomadic routes of Neanderthal tribes.
    • Per NASA's request, Superboy flies beyond the atmosphere and changes a space shuttle's insulating plating.
  • Rule of Perception: Euphor's emotion-eating powers have a representation visual for the reader's benefit: some kind of blue energy surrounds his target before moving to him. No character shows signs of seeing it in-universe.
  • Sadistic Choice: When Euphor sends Lois after Superboy, the Boy of Steel faces a dilemma: he cannot fight Lois, but he cannot let her attack him either because she will expend energy until self-destructing.
  • San Dimas Time: Lampshaded. Superboy is heading towards the future and Ma is worried about him being away. Pa points out he will be back within one second because he is time-travelling.
  • Sanity Slippage: Massive quantities of negative emotions take a toll on Euphor's sanity, and he goes from polite man whose desire to help people appears selfless and genuine to megalomaniac creep who brainwashes Metropolis into serving him.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Superboy is stunned when he sees adult Lana for the first time and realizes how gorgeous she has become.
  • Space Whale Aesop: If you have psychological issues, you should get real therapy instead of resorting to emotion-eaters.
  • Spectacular Spinning: When one Euphor's minion grapples with Superboy, Superboy shakes him off by rapidly whirling around.
  • Spin to Deflect Stuff: Superboy confronts two bank robbers who are armed with weapons called magma blasters which really pack a punch. Superboy resorts to spin around to deflect the beams while flying towards the crooks.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Euphor makes his entrance by talking a man out of leaping off a window, simultaneously leeching off his unhappiness to calm him down.
  • Tap on the Head: Superboy knocks a mugger out by tapping his crown with a precise gust of Super-Breath.
  • Time Travel: Superman travels to the past right when Superboy is flying towards the future and collides with his past self. Superman's mind become trapped in his teenager body and stuck in his past, and he cannot leave because Luthor has messed up with the time stream.
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble: Superboy runs into this trouble as soon as he makes an appearance to tell his parents he is going to the future for, ahem, this month meeting.
    Superboy: So long, Ma and Pa. I'm off to the [31st] century for this month's regular Legion meeting.
  • Too Dumb to Live: After running into young Lex, Superman judges that his nemesis is suicidally stupid: If Luthor had succeeded in killing him, he would have been killed by the next world-destroying entity who dropped by and could only be driven back by Superman.
  • Trapped in the Past: Superman travels to the past and gets stuck in 1969.
  • Time Loop Trap: Luthor traps Superman into a loop, forcing him to relive 1969 Thanksgiving Day over and again.
  • To the Future, and Beyond: Inverted. Superman gets trapped into a time-loop. Since he cannot break it by time-travelling to the future, he decides to test Einstein's theory that time is not linear but a full loop: he flings himself into the past and travels the entire timestream backwards until emerging one day after the time-loop.
  • Underestimating Badassery: When Lex demands to know how Superboy broke out of the time loop, Superman replies he decided to test whether Einstein was right about time working as a gigantic loop. Lex admits grudgingly he was wrong about his nemesis' head being full of air instead of brains.
    Lex Luthor: All right— So maybe there is more between your ears than cottage cheese as I always thought, Superboy—
  • Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object: Superman and Superboy fly into each other as travelling through the timestream. They wind up swapping bodies as ripping the laws of physics a new one.
  • Untrusting Community: Euphor convinces the people of Metropolis that they should kick Superman out for not fixing all of their issues.
  • We Have Reserves: Euphor's reaction to his minions getting killed by their own powers is uttering "How tragic! Oh, well— There's more where they came from!" and transforming another person.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Euphor increases his power by absorbing Metropolis' negative emotions until he is powerful enough to put the whole city under his total mind-control. Even so, he seems to believe he is really the good guy, since he privately insists that he is just helping people and Superman deserves to be kicked out of Metropolis for not removing its citizens' unhappiness.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Euphor becomes more powerful and more insane as he mass-absorbs negative emotions until he has become a crazy overlord who can give Superman a hard time.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: While in the past, Superman escapes from still another Lex Luthor's deadly trap. Nonetheless, Superman's patience at last has been exhausted, to the point he considers getting rid of young Lex "before [he grows] up to be an even greater menace", and he has to be talked down by Chief Parker. Feeling ashamed, Superman reminds himself once again he can NOT change the past.
    Superman: Wh-What came over me? I... I almost killed him...! B-but that's insane! As Superman, I know I couldn't have done it! I can't change the past... and Luthor is still alive in my time!