In 1988, just as the world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Superman, Superman the movie producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind tapped the super well for a fifth time (Three successful Superman movies and a lukewarm Supergirl movie).
This time the Salkinds decided to focus on a different chapter in the life of Krypton’s Last Son. Hence, Superboy was born.
This was not the first time the Boy of Steel headlined a series. In 1961, shortly after the death of The Adventures of Superman‘s George Reeves, the producers made a pilot featuring Superboy, hoping the revive the popular franchise.
Unfortunately, the series never sold.
Five years later, CBS aired a Saturday Morning cartoon titled The Adventures of Superboy.
The 1988 syndicated series featured Clark Kent and childhood BFF Lana Lang as young adults, away from Smallville and attending college at Shuster University.
The first few episodes of season one were about as rough as any series could get. Shoddy effects and shoddier scripts. The cast, while pleasing to look at, did not sell the material.
Superboy was played by John Haymes Newton, a newcomer with a chiseled jaw and physique. Lana was played icy blue-eyed Stacy Haiduk. The series also featured a third regular, TJ White, the son of Daily Planet editor Perry White.
As the season pressed on, certain aspects did improve. The opening credits were less amateurish, and the flying effects stepped up. Especially the take offs and landings.
Other notable highlights were Michael J. Pollard as Mr. Mxyptlk (yes, I spelled that without having to look it up!), Stuart Whitman as Jonathan Kent and Salome Jens as Martha Kent.
By the time Season Two started to roll, John Haymes Newton was dismissed as the lead, citing creative differences. The actor (as mentioned in a previous post) would later be seen in a minor guest spot, playing opposite Lois Lane actress Teri Hatcher on Desperate Housewives.
The new Clark Kent/Superboy was played by Gerard Christopher, who seemed to embody the character as previously played by Christopher Reeve much more than Haymes Newton ever had.
Christopher’s Clark Kent returned to the clumsy nerd that, ironically had been removed from comic books at the time (along with Superboy altogether).
Also out was the TJ White character.
Haiduk remained for the duration of the series run, as had Christopher.
The final two seasons saw a distinct change in tone for the series, adopting the dark comic tone that Tim Burton‘s Batman had brought into vogue.
The series is a snapshot of it’s time. Very much a product of the 80’s with bad fashion and synth music. But it was an earnest effort to continue that movie Superman magic.
A year after Superboy (The Adventures of Superboy in it’s final seasons) ended it’s run, ABC would air Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
Rumor has it, Gerard Christopher auditioned for the role of Superman, even getting the role! Until the producers realized he was Superboy only a year earlier.
The role eventually went to Dean Cain.
With Lois & Clark in the Sunday at 8PM timeslot, NBC scheduled a Steven Spielberg produced genre series opposite it.
The series was Seaquest DSV and starred Roy Scheider of Jaws fame. Also on the series was Stacy Haiduk!
That same year, Star Trek introduced a third spin off, Deep Space Nine.
The series told the story of a space station under Federation protection from a hostile race called the Cardassians (not a coincidence. The name is a play on Kardashian).
But the real threat came a few years later when DS9 introduced the Founders, a race of shape shifters that did not trust humanoids (or “Solids“).
Series regular Odo was one of the Founders. But the female Founder who commanded the fearsome Jem’Hedar army was played by Salome Jens.
Young Clark and Lana would grace the small screen yet again. This time on The WB in the long running Smallville.
Unlike Clark Kent of Superboy, Clark Kent of Smallville would not wear the red and blue suit, or fly.
Michael J Pollard appeared multiple times on Superboy as the mischievous imp from the fifth dimension. But what few people know is he was a favorite actor of Michael J. Fox!
In fact, when Fox came to Hollywood, he could not register in the Screen Actors Guild sine there was already an actor with his name: Michael A. Fox, so he swapped out the middle initial and borrowed it from an actor he admired.
And Michael J. Fox was born!