SUPERMAN: Whatever Happened To Superboy?

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Wil's a super boy.

Ah, Superboy. He's a bit of an oddity really, isn't he? The idea of Superman is such a cool one, so appealing to many a comic book loving geek, and one which transcends age groups and demographics. Yet just the thought of Superboy is so.... dare I say it.... lame? And it makes no sense as he grows up to be so awesome, but even as a kid I thought Superboy was naff. Still, naff or not, it didn't stop him making his way out of the pages of the funnies and on to our screens, but whatever did happen to the actors who portrayed Superboy? (I hear 4 of you cry) And we're talking just Superboy here, no teenage Clark Kent from the likes of Smallville or young Kal-El from the movies, the Boy of Steel only...

Johnny Rockwell
Our first Superboy hit the screen back in 1961 in The Adventures of Superboy. Well I say "hit the screen" but only a pilot episode was ever produced as the show never went to series.

Johnny Rockwell played Superboy/Clark Kent. He'd previously appeared in a minor role in the 1958 production of The 80 Yard Run starring Paul Newman, and based on Newman’s recommendation moved to New York to study acting, soon landing the role of Superboy.

After his brief moment in the tights, Rockwell appeared in a couple more productions, including a guest spot playing a sailor on McHale's Navy, before leaving acting in 1967. Soon after, Rockwell became a friend of Hugh Hefner and ended up living on and off at the Playboy Mansion from 1972 to 1978.

Nice work Johnny.

Bob Hastings
There was a reason I mentioned McHale's Navy above, as our next Superboy was best known for his portrayal of annoying suck-up Lt. Elroy Carpenter on that show. Bob Hastings provided the voice of Superboy in The Adventures of Superboy, a series of 34 six-minute cartoons produced by Filmation that were broadcast on CBS between 1966 and 1969.

Hastings carried on working right up until 2010, four years before he passed away, and as well as the Boy of Steel his impressive resume includes many a stint providing the voice of Commissioner James Gordon in Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Gotham Girls, etc etc. He also provided additional voices for the Super Friends series...

Danny Dark and Jerry Dexter
Superboy made two appearances in the Super Friends animated series. The first time he appeared he was voiced by legendary voice over artist Danny Dark in an episode titled History of Doom. Dark also pulled double duty as he provided the voice of Superman/Clark Kent in the Super Friends series as well.

You've likely heard Dark's distinctive tones, even if you don't know you have, as for nearly four decades he embedded pop culture with memorable lines in advertisements, such as for Budweiser ("This Bud's for you"), Raid Ant & Roach Killer ("Raid- Kills Bugs Dead"), StarKist Tuna ("Sorry, Charlie") and Parkay ("Parkay Margarine from Kraft. The flavor says 'butter'.") Dark's voice lived on in commercials long after his passing in 2004.

When the Boy of Steel returned to the Super Friends, in the episode Return of the Phantoms (above), he was voiced by Jerry Dexter, who made a career out of playing teenage boys and young men in television series' for Hanna-Barbera, even though he was nearly 40 when he began to do so! Dexter could also be heard as the voice of Aqualad, and Alan in Josie and the Pussycats. He retired from voice acting in 1990, and passed away in 2013.

John Haymes Newton
It's back to live action with the first Boy of Steel from the 1988 Superboy series. Classically trained John Haymes Newton landed his first on screen role as Superboy, but the producers of the show were not happy with his performance and, after he tried to renegotiate a 20% increase on his salary, decided to recast the part. The show managed to save on severance pay as, fortunately for them, Newton was arrested for a DUI, a clear violation of the 'morals clause' in his contract.

Newton went on to have a very successful career, landing recurring roles on The Untouchables, Models Inc., and Melrose Place. He also appeared in Tru Calling, Desperate Housewives, CSI: Miami and The Mentalist, plus more recently he's provided the voice for Superman in a short animated feature.

Gerard Christopher 
Newton's replacement on the Superboy series, Gerard Christopher, played the title role in seasons two through four. During his tenure on Superboy he would later also be a producer and writer on the series.

After the show ended Christopher auditioned for the part of Superman/Clark Kent in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and was chosen by the casting director. However, when the producers learned he had essentially already played the role, he was dismissed in favor of Dean Cain.

Christopher has performed in a number of telemovies, and was a guest star on daytime soap operas such as Days of Our Lives and Sunset Beach, and becomes the second ex-Superboy to turn up on Melrose Place.

Controversially, Christopher actually ended up owning the master tapes of all the episodes of Superboy that he starred in and went on to sell them on his website until Warner Brothers regained control of the property and officially released them on DVD.

Christopher's last acting credit to date was a guest part on General Hospital in 2013, playing 'Cassadine Island Guard'.

And that's what happened to the Superboys.

Whatever Happened To Young Kal-El?

Geek. Lover. Fighter. Dwarf. Follow Wil on Twitter. 

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