“The Insect Queen of Smallville” – Superboy’s girlfriend, Lana Lang, becomes a super-hero! Now, it’s important to understand that, if you’re Kal-El / Clark Kent and it’s not yet 1970, “girlfriend” is another word for “arch-nemesis.” Like Lois Lane in his adult life, Lana exists at this point only to try and prove that mild-mannered Clark Kent is actually the last son of Krypton. Also like Lois, she’s really bad at the job, and similarly obsessed with it.
This time out, Lana happens upon a spaceman in the woods, as teenage girls in small towns in the Midwest were wont to do back in the day. Said spaceman (now we would say “extraterrestrial,” but this was literally a little, green man.) She frees him from beneath a fallen tree. In gratitude, he gives her a ring which allows her to assume the powers of any insect.
This story is too short, really. All Lana has time to do with her new powers and costumed identity (she’s one of a very few heroes who look really good in yellow, it turns out) is try to prove yet again that Clark Kent is Superboy. She fails, and hangs her costume in her closet with the wistful thought that she might become the Insect Queen again someday.
Probably this story was intended as a one-off, but the Insect Queen was to return. Lana joined the Legion later. For one of her best adventures as a Legionnaire, check out “Mordru the Merciless,” from Adventure Comics 369 and 370, reprinted DC Limited Collector’s Edition C-49, Legion of Super-Heroes Archives #8, and Showcase Presents the Legion of Super-Heroes Archives #4. This tale of heroes in hiding and a town under siege is one of the most gripping of the Legion’s adventures.
“Superbaby’s First Fight” – It seemed like a good idea at the time, since readers supported the idea of Superman as a teen, to do a series on Superman as a toddler as well. There were a lot of these, which mostly always left me wondering, “Why does Superbaby wear a cape? Weren’t capes popularized by, um, him? ” And did Mom and Dad Kent really think it was a good idea to have their two-year-old running around in a cape, since their “plans for his career as Superboy” depened on no one noticing that their baby was a little different? Don’t overthink it, I guess. This time out, Superbaby misunderstands the point of a boxing match, and tries to get involved. Hilarity ensues. (Who takes a toddler to a boxing match? I mean, apart from Mom and Dad Kent?)
The lineup for the match? “Dynamite Dick vs. Left Hooker” Hoo-boy…
“The Toughest Kid in Smallville” Here we have an honest-to-gosh imaginary story. The publicity on the covers of most Superman comics of the time would lead you to believe there was no such thing, since they branded the outlandish events on the covers of so many issues with the words, “Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!” We see what would have happened if, instead of pretending to be mild-mannered, Clark Kent had decided to throw suspicion off of himself by being the word bully in school. The most notable thing about the story is that Clark the bully doesn’t wear glasses. Interesting tip of the hat to the bully-sympathetic mentality of audiences of the times: “Tough kids would never wear glasses!”