Monday, May 3, 2010

Rekindling a lost love...(SMS-Save My Superboy!)

For the past few days I have been fanning the flames of my passion for a television show. Sad, isn't it? Not for me! I was ecstatic to find that a YT user was posting episodes of a television show, that because of ridiculous ownership lawsuits, cannot seem to find the light of day on DVD past season 1. I'm talking about the Adventures of Superboy. The Superboy series was developed for television by executive producers Ilya & Alexander Salkind, better known as the producers and creative force behind the first three Superman movies with Christopher Reeve and the 1984 Supergirl movie with Helen Slater.
Because making fan-videos and fan-fiction is my greatest hobby, I created some new fan-videos for Superboy. The well had run dry on Voyagers for a bit. Every so often I'll focus on a certain thing in my Voyagers fandom, for the last four months it has been the website maintenance and most recently, fan-fiction. You can watch these later-finish reading! :D

Superboy was the first show that sparked my childish imagination, I mean, who didn't already love Superman and Christopher Reeve's portrayal of the man of steel? Or even the fifties George Reeves version that enthralled a whole generation of baby boomers. My father was one of them. I became aware of Superboy when it first aired in 1988.

I was a highly imaginative eight-year old gal, and I just loved the show. A year later I loved it even more when Gerard Christopher took over the role of the 'Boy of Steel.' The first actor, John Haymes Newton, (Below left) was talented in his own right, but to me he just didn't quite fit the role of the boy of steel.  He was handsome too, but I never got the sense that he was Superboy. His performance came off overly stoic to the point of being wooden. He was actually more relaxed and genial as Clark Kent. I often say the same thing about Dean Cain from Lois and Clark. His Superman portrayal to me was overly boyish and often too smug.

 
In the 2nd season Gerard had the nerdiest portrayal of Clark Kent I had ever seen, but it was so endearing and very funny.  He knew how to play Clark tongue in cheek, and got down the dynamics of the Christopher Reeve performance. However, Gerard added his own humorous nuances that I can fully appreciate watching now as an adult.

 Gerard was a student of Superman lore who had clearly studied the performances of preceding Superman actors - he quickly became a fan-favorite as Superboy. As a result of his own enthusiasm and prior experience, he eventually became both a producer and a contributing writer to the show.  His fan background brought something extra to the series and it consistently placed among the top ten syndicated programs.

Pic of Clark Kent working at the Bureau of Extra-Normal Matters-Not so nerdy in seasons 3 & 4, but just as likable. I love Clark Kent as much as Superboy.
Superboy had a strong regular cast. Stacey Haiduk, the series 'veteran,' played Lana Lang. She is a  beautiful actress and she truly fit the role physically and emotionally as the character was created in the comic book. Lana Lang was the long suffering best friend of Clark Kent from Smallville, with a deep love and awe for Superboy. She was as conflicted and adventurous as any Lois Lane in her own right. I always preferred Lana to Lois. Lana was the first female TV character that I came to admire...not to mention she had beautiful hairstyles, curly or straight, long or bobbed. I don't think she ever wore the same hairstyle more than twice. Elaine from Seinfeld she certainly wasn't.
Stacey Haiduk confused over Superboy, from season 1.

Clark's funny, business-scheming roomate (For Superboy memorabilia!) in season 2 was Andy McCallister, he was played by actor Ian Mitchell Smith. Smith had a small string of eighties hits, including Weird Science and The Chocolate War. He has long since retired from acting to become a College professor. Smith's Andy played well off Gerard's Clark with the right amount of exasperation and wry amusement at Clark's supposed geekiness. Despite the three very different personalities, you really believed this was a strong trio of friends.

Then of course there's all the Super-Villains! Let's start with Sherman Howard as the maniacal and vicious Lex Luthor. Howard took over the role starting in season 2. The fact that he aged fifteen-twenty years was explained in a dark episode called 'With this ring, I thee wed.' Lex had killed a millionaire industrialist and stole his identity so he could kill Superboy with a new heat-seeking missle. He also found time to kidnap and emotionally cripple Lana Lang, by forcing her to marry him. (Good thing Superboy didn't forever hold his peace!) It was all in a day's work for Luthor and it was only just the beginning. Sherman Howard had this unstoppable manic energy in the role. I found it a treat in many episodes to see him play Lex out of his element, or even as the good guy. Particularly in the popular 'Portal' episodes and one of my favorites, 'Body Swap.' Where Lex and Superboy have a freaky Friday reaction to a shady scientist's experiment. (Despite the baldness, Lex on the show usually wore 'wigs.')
 Lex wouldn't be complete without his number one gal and emotional punching bag, Darla. She was played to witty and ditzy perfection by actress Tracy Lewis. Darla was given a chance to strut her stuff in her own episode, 'Darla goes ballistic.' Where for once she had all the smarts after drinking one of Lex's brain enhancing serums.


There was also the seriously talented Barry Meyers as Bizarro, Superboy's white chipped and confused carbon copy. Bizarro was created in a science experiment gone awry. Superboy stepped in front of a duplicator machine during a lightning storm to protect the scientist, Professor Peterson. (George Chakiris, he played Bernardo in West Side Story!) Bizarro appeared many times in the series, his stories were so involved they needed two parts. Bizarro teamed up with Lex Luthor in 'Bride of Bizarro', where Lex steals the duplicator machine. In a later episode he has a chance to be 'normal' in a tear-jerking episode called 'To be human.' Bizarro looked truly frightening, and had enough menace to make you run from him, but ultimately you felt sorry for him. Being a part of Superboy, he had strong feelings, a decent heart, and all he wants am love.


 Oh GC, how I loved thee! (As my old notebooks with hearts and arrows would have attested to the initials!) Gerard was my biggest 'celeb' crush all throughout elementary and Junior High, and none of the other little girls could understand it. He was 'too old' for them. (He was about 30 years old when he snagged the role in 1989. But I wasn't into teenage heartthrobs. I liked 'Mature' guys.) My peers just never watched Superboy. Maybe the boys did, but for some reason I never asked. I rarely found any mention of Gerard in any of the silly teen mags I used to read either. But now I see there are a few articles out there. Check them out. 

My little folder of 'hot guys' at 11-14 was void of Gerry. That steamed me. Oh well, he wasn't Michael J. Fox or even Kirk Cameron. (Remember those 'hotties' and cuties of the day, all the 'pin-ups' and magazine covers?) The majority of them weren't even in my folders.

Before Superboy, Gerry only had a handful of 80's movies way above my age level, soap operas, and afterward he did a guest spot here and there, including Melrose Place and the action pack Bandit television movies and a tongue-in-cheek soap called Sunset Beach. Not to be overlooked is his last role to date, as part of an ensemble cast in a heartwarming circus family film from 1999 called, 'The first of May.' 

I truly feel that Superboy was his pride and joy and his career as an actor didn't make up his entire life. Like the main man of this blog, Jon-Erik Hexum, Gerry pursued a whirlwind of athletic interests (And like Jon-Erik, had the sculpted physique to prove it, yowza!) He partook in notable business ventures and causes that he involves himself in today. 

The man was truly a hero. I get giddy when I read about real life heroes, hence my favorite section in the Readers Digest is 'Drama in real life.' This is a blurb from Gerard's website.

In December of 1979 in New York City, while a passenger, Gerard stopped a bus in the middle of the street to help a woman who was struggling with a mugger to keep her handbag. As Gerard ran from the bus and approached the mugger he slashed the woman in the neck and Gerard tackled him wrestling the knife away. Fortunately, the woman recovered and the mugger went to jail. About six months later, on an August afternoon in New York, Gerard spotted a necklace thief and made chase through busy rush hour sidewalk traffic, tackled the thief and waited for police to arrive. This incident which occurred just days before the Democratic National Convention; was reported in newspapers around the country and Gerard was given an award for heroism by the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The 20 year old hero gets his award for bravery. Talk about a superman!

I found GC to be a soft-spoken and sensitive actor. His portrayal of Superboy/Clark Kent was the most empathetic and compassionate I've ever seen from any of the guys who 'donned the tights'. But it wasn't without a nerve of steel. Not to mention his Clark was hilarious early on, giving the Christopher Reeve version his own spin. And season 3 and 4 Clark Kent made me love suspenders on a guy!..Though admittedly, no one looked quite like Gerard in them. I can say it..he totally rocked the suspenders. His truly mild-mannered Clark Kent was like the forerunner of the 'cool nerds' that are heroically taking the lead on television today. 
Seeing Superboy walk into the room...or...smash his way through made me cheer, but it also had this quixotic, calming effect too. My big hero has saved the day again! Lana Lang put it best in the episode 'Obituary for a Superhero.' 

It was amazing how Superboy that powerful could be so gentle. And that's exactly what I felt watching Gerard's performance. Gerard's version of Superboy made you believe in everything the character stood for. With what I read from his articles from his interviews, and those who had the chance to meet him in person, he's an extremely nice and down to earth guy, amiable, friendly...in a word..amazing. He certainly looks it too. Now what more could you ask for of Superboy? I can tell that Gerard is truly humbled and enthused to have played a part in the grand Superman legend and his enthusiasm to this day is highly contagious. I wish him the best success in all his endeavors.

I guess part of my fascination is also the fact that he's from NYC-Bronx. I've found more cousins! Jon-Erik being the other from New Jersey. ;P

A small tidbit-Gerard Christopher tried out for the role of Superman on the later series, 'Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman.' The casting people really liked him and were ready to sign him until they asked if he ever played Superman before. Well, that blew the deal out of the water and he didn't get the role. I would have rabidly watched L&C had he been cast.

 
I've learned since my early teens that some obsessions, i.e.Voyagers!...you keep to yourself, and, if you're fortunate to find them, amongst the real fans. Sadly, I never found big Superboy fans. In 1988 there was no such thing as the Internet, and as well as the series did in its 4 year run, nobody in Brooklyn seemed to hear of it! What's a girl to do? Move on and find other shows to love, and new crushes that of course, nobody ever heard of either. Or so you think! 
 But, I have to say, Phineas Bogg (Above right) and Superboy (Guess who below!) are hands down my absolute favorite TV heroes...and I think my two favorite men ever on tv...well, they are in a top ten category and make up 1 & 2.

Is Superboy dated? Somewhat in the aesthetics. You want to see a late eighties fashion explosion? Just watch. Is it cheesy to a certain degree? Certainly! But I'll take Ritz crackers and wine with that cheese and call it a night. Campy? Not as much as you might think, it's not without charm and it wasn't played for too many laughs. Watching it as an adult, I will venture to say that Superboy was more superior than any other Superman revision today. Despite being filmed on a large studio in Orlando, Florida and limited effects (They did the best with what they could!) you really felt like Superboy existed and he could fly. Nearly all the effects were on par with the Christopher Reeve films...some even better. You can see the influences of Superboy on series like Lois and Clark, Smallville, and even the X-Files.

Watching this colorful series is exactly the experience it should be-Overrun with outlandish and menacing villains and plots, it's a virtual comic book come to life! Superboy encountered any kind of super-threat you could imagine, from plain old crooks and hopelessly deranged individuals, to other-worldly beings, Androids, robots, and yeah, even wizards, vampires, werewolves, and the devil himself. But he always prevailed, no matter the challenge, to vanquish evil.
For those who are spoiled and conditioned by today's moody, angst ridden, reluctant-anti-Superheroes-It wasn't Shakespeare, it was Superboy! It was the early 90's! Have a little fun! My take on the character? Superboy is a forthright young man. He doesn't wallow in his problems, and he rises to the occasion to do what he has to do with barely a complaint. He has a good, honest heart and strong values. These heroic and almost Christ-like virtues are seen less and less in the modern day superheroes. The very idea of a guy like Superman in today's cynical world has become a running joke to the new generation of comic book/superhero fans and that is very sad.
Many shows these days just try too hard, and take themselves way too seriously when they obviously shouldn't be. Not that you can't get a good dramatic and emotional plot now and then. You certainly do. Shows that have the proverbial 'tongue in cheek' feeling have a grand potential to be everything and anything, hitting all the right dramatic marks and laughs, and I love them. My top 4 favorites in that vein-Voyagers!, Superboy, The Incredible Hulk, and Chuck.

Campy and cheesy? The same was said for Voyagers! But don't we just adore it anyway?
 Voyagers! was aimed at children, Superboy...well, I'd say it may have struggled to find an audience, so I'll pick young Adults. In the latter seasons it grew darker, noirish, and Lana and Clark along with the main villains like Lex, Darla, and Metallo, were given more depth and room for character growth. This is thanks in part to the success of the Tim Burton Batman films of the decade. One thing I always wished was that it was an hour long series. It could have gotten the character development and thicker plots it deserved. But, it was what it was, and I still enjoyed it. If a storyline needed an hour? Tune in next week!

Superboy was set for 2 additional seasons before trouble came in the form of copyright Kryptonite and killed it with legal liens and wrangling. Even though there are explanations on the web, I'll never quite understand it and most other fans don't either, but the battle continues. Let's hope that in the end, Superboy will win!

I can go on and on, but I shall humbly leave it to the experts. Just as you turn to my Voyagers Guidebook for all things Voyagers!, there are some awesome and informative sites out there to spark new, and in my case, renewed interest in the Boy of Steel. It's great to know that Superboy is not pushed into the Phantom Zone! (A dreadful dimension where people of a Kryptonian persuasion are banished and utterly powerless.)

Here are the best-
Superboy Theater
Superboy Homepage
Superboy on SupermanTV

The Adventures of Superboy

Watch Some Superboy online! Seasons 2-4 now available.

Okay, one final request my friends, and one of the reasons for this blog. I realize most of you may not have seen the series, but it would be great if you could sign the online petitions to get it put on DVD. These things do work. I know if enough fan interest is generated, it can be rewarded. I never thought Voyagers would be released on DVD, and lo and behold! A year after I created my website, it was. Not that I did anything to spur it on-I had no petitions, just fan love that prompted others to come out of the Voyagers woodwork and show their support as well. The timing was right–25 years. It has been 21 years since Superboy season 2 came out. And as I mentioned at the outset, only the first season had it's official release.

13 comments:

  1. I certainly heard of it, but never got the chance to watch it. You couldn't get TV on your computer then, and I didn't have a working TV, so I totally missed out. Have to check it out.

    Gotcha beat on the "obscure TV" crush department. Try being interested in action-adventure when you're a girl in the 1960s. I was 12 or 13 and really into Speed Racer...to the point that I actually got interested in REAL racing and got every book on cars and car repair I could get my hands on. It just Wasn't Done for a girl to have such interests back then...so needless to say when the other girls overheard what I was talking about with some of the boys, my life became sheer h-e-double-toothpicks. I first discovered the Internet in 1995, when I was at the library doing some research for the rewrite/update of a sci-fi story I had written. Remembering that someone had recently told me - i.e., if you can think of it, you can probably find it on the Internet - I tried searching for a show I was really into at the time...A sci-fi cartoon called "Biker Mice from Mars." When I found a fan site for it, it was like the sun had just come out. All hail the Internet! ;D

    ---Jake

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  2. Hey, you're like me, discovering the internet in the mid-nineties...crushing on cartoons (Yes, I totally did, Gargoyles and Batman the Animated Series to name a few.) At that time in my life I was aspiring to animation, and then after a Batman phase, I wanted to be something like a Social Worker..bringing justice. Ehh, nothing panned out, but that's okay.
    The mid-nineties is when I discovered more about JEH. I believe that to be true, anything is on the internet these days, though a lot of it is muck and mire. Still, if you're using it for fandoms, it's AWESOME. You truly can find anything. It's fun to be a part of that obscurity club, with the Voyagers site. lol.

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  3. I have never heard of this show , but it sounds better than some of the stuff that passes for good television today. I find some of the shows way too violent to watch. I was a big fan of the old Emergency series and had a crush on Randy Mantooth. I think the internet is great , because I was able to discover Jon-Erik again and I found out that there were others like me who were big fans of his and loved Voyagers! Sp eaking of Batman I liked the old Batman from the 1960's EmilyW

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  4. Wow, I'm so glad to have found another girl like me. Yes, the Superboy TV Series is a real treasure. It came with all the same magic that the comic books had, and during one of the best decades in our modern era: 1980's! The show may appear cheesy by today's standards, but seriously, back then some of the things that were being done on Superboy were very advanced. They didn't have computers to do their FX work for them. I will always be found of my Superboy memories. When I was a child I had grown up with the Salkind-produced Superman movies so when I read an article about the new Superboy TV Series at the ripe young age of 17 years old I was so excited. My room was filled with Superman items, Christopher Reeve posters and comic books (as well as Star Wars). I bought loads of VHS tapes and decided that I was going to record each and every episode. In which case, I did. My friends all tolerated it and actually my best friend at the time, Shannon, would watch it with me. She seemed to enjoy it too. I was working at a movie theater at the time, so I would request Saturday nights off and work during the matinee showings just to record the latest Superboy episode. It's nice to hear other testimonies about Superboy fandom on the web.

    Great website, by the way. Now if only we could convince WB to release Superboy seasons 2, 3, and 4 onto DVD!

    Best wishes,
    Rennie (Superboy Theater)

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  5. Hi Emily! Thanks for the comment. I've been hearing a lot about this 'Emergency!' series and now I'm gonna have to check it out. :D i liked the Batman TV series of the sixties, but I'd be so curious to see how they would make it on tv today. It needs to be done again.

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  6. I have to disagree with you on the '60s Batman show. They took an excellent, and serious, detective story and turned it into pure hokum. I was 12 when it aired, and even at that age I hated it. It was the era of camp, and more good shows were ruined by that trend than anything else. I never understood what everyone saw in it; IMO, it stank!

    ---Jake

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  7. LOL! Jake, I have to agree with you, I didn't like what they did to my other favorite hero, but I laughed at the campiness. I only liked it for the novelty.

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  8. Odd that Emily's comment isn't here yet; I got an e-mail saying that it had been posted. She agrees with you that JEH would have made a good Batman...though he said on one interview that he had already turned down offers to play superheroes, since the idea totally turned him off. He preferred to play ordinary people doing extraordinary things...like Phineas Bogg and Mac Harper.

    Now a role I can see him in is...Hold onto your sides, Ginger...CASEY! Imagine him playing that growly, withdrawn guy...with a heart of pure mush! I can just see the fun the writers would have had with him dealing with Chuck...or Morgan! LOL

    ---Jake

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  9. Hey Jake! Emily posted on the latest blog, it's a picture of Jon as Superman! LOL. I know Jon didn't like Superheroes, and I really don't blame him with the quality of the shows and movies up until that point. Bleach! Superboy actually raised the bar for all future superhero shows to come. It was the first of a good kind.
    OHMYGOODNESS! I remember when Chuck first came out I thought of Jon older and grizzled as Agent Casey too!! That would have been a blast to see.

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  10. I remember that handbag incident and I remember Superboy but never saw it. I think he's even hotter in his 50s! Wow!

    Stacey Haiduk has been stalking me lately or something. I just saw her in a movie called Perfect Strangers (a Danielle Steel adaptation) which was made in the 90s. She stuck out to me because at that time, she had black hair and her blue eyes made her look like Lynda Carter. Then I just saw her last month on Lifetime in a movie called The Sitter, THEN a couple of weeks ago I saw this kind of hardened looking woman who looked like this actress on the Young and the Restless and it was her! She's had some major work done and lost all that softness to her face... She's been on my mind lately, so it was so funny to see her here. She's a good actress...

    I had many obscure crushes in my day (and still) as well as cartoon lusts. For me it's Race Bannon from Johnny Quest. Yowza. So. Hot.

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  11. LOL. Thanks for commenting Amanda. So, what do you remember about the Handbag incident? Inquiring minds need to know! lol. I was hoping to trace back and find some old articles on it. I'm such a geek that way.
    I remember the movie Perfect Strangers.Stacy had a few guest spots and series in the 90's when she had dark hair, like in SeaQuest DSV. She has the black hair again now on the soaps, but I prefer her in the red, it does soften her. I didn't think she had any work done, she looks the same to me, just a little older and probably more gaunt. She did lose the roundness to her face, but she always had high angular cheekbones. Maybe a very slight eyelift? She was only 19 when Superboy first aired in 88. If it's done right, or just a pinch, you never can tell these days, could be botox, lol.
    Cartoon crushes! I had those too, hehee. I remember Race Bannon! I liked the updated version in the newer Johnny Quest series from the 90's lol. I always loved Batman from the Animated series, and Goliath, from Gargoyles, hahaa.

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  12. All I remember about the handbag incident was that while he was playing Superboy, there was a news story on it. I thought at the time it was a current story, only now do I realize it was something the news discovered after he got famous. Still, it's very cool. I lived in Vegas so maybe you can add that to your googling and find an article or something... I just remember thinking, "The hero is an actual hero!"

    I'll believe you on Stacy because I want to believe she's just aged a bit, but her look seems so severe now. I LOVED her in Perfect Strangers. She got to be married to Darren McGavin and make out with Robert Urich. What a world! :)

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  13. Wow. Besides my mom and sister, I didn't realize anyone else was a fan of this show. I'm a John girl (John Haymes Newton). I was about 11 when
    Superboy first aired and I was hooked. I have been a John fan since day 1. I have had contact with him as well as met him on a couple of occassions. He's so down to earth. I turned my fan site into a blog. I update it when time permits. http://johnnewtonhq.blogspot.com

    Stacy Haiduk is just full of awesomeness. She's gorgeous and kind. I do hope to see more of her work and I'm still annoyed that Days Of Our Lives dropped her. Ugh.

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You smart kids give me a pain…
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