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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Production FX work on Superboy: The TV Sereies (Article by Rennie Cowan).

Superboy was painted green by video-compositing whenever he was infected with Kryptonite.

Article by Rennie Cowan

'Superboy' was shot on a fairly small budget, much smaller than it's later adversary 'Lois and Clark', but often looked high-profile, if not, lavish. Top industry names always appeared in the credits, like Jackie Cooper (who directed several of the 1st season episodes; watch "Kryptonite Kills"). The Superboy production team consisted of several other veterans from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies like the Producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind. And the Line Producer Bob Simmonds (who served as production executive on Superman I, II, and III). And third, the FX pro Bob Harmon who "flew" Superman in the movies (did all the wire work), and repeated that task on the 'Superboy' TV series.

To give a good example of "lavish sets" just watch the third season episode "Carnival". That set was built entirely inside a Universal sound stage and made to look like it was night-time. Gerard Christopher stated to me that it was made to look like it was night and when he first walked inside for the first time to see the Carnival set he was blown away and said to himself, "Wow, this is amazing." The episode "Carnival" also contains one of the best flying shots of the series, where Gerard is on wires and flying past all the carnival tents. It was truly a spectaclar flying shot to be remembered.

The 'Superboy' writing team consisted of top DC comic book writers like Cary Bates, the Executive Story Consultant on the series, and Andrew Helfer. The FX crews did a multitude of creative flying effects during it's four year run, not to mention some impressive animation (all done on video; via, video-compositing), make-up/prosthetics by Rob Burman, and wardrobe and set design. Shooting started on the series on August 15th to meet the October 4 week series premiere in 1988. A season of episodes usually took six months to shoot. Bob Harmon's flying team did incorporate slightly different techniques for the flying and animation (the effects didn't have to be as elaborate as a feature film projected on a 70-foot screen, but thanks to video-paint-box-technology, the methods were easier, faster, and cheaper), so the effects were distinctly tailored to the size of a TV screen.

The fact that all this was being done on television didn't hinder the show at all--it was clear by the 3rd and 4th seasons that the 'Superboy' team was doing television better than anybody. If Alexander and Ilya Salkind were going out of their way to make audiences forget the painful memories of their 'Superman III' and 'Supergirl' (not to mention the non-Salkind-produced 'Superman IV: The Quest For Peace') then watching 'Superboy' sure did make up for it! The great thing about the Superboy show is there was always an ample amount of kryptonite on the set. According to Barry Meyers who played Bizarro, the pieces of kryptonite on the show was merely cheap plastic bits that were painted, and the lens on the camera is what gave it its' funky glow. Gerard Christopher kept a funny set piece and placed it in his garage at home; it was a sign that read: "Beware of Kryptonite".

There was no guarantee 'Superboy' would make it beyond the original 13 episodes ordered for the 1st season. The budgets were held down for the first half of season 1 and this is why the FX work really couldn't be exploited like they had been during the following seasons. This is very apparent as those first episodes appear to have a 'real world' documentary feel to them rather than an adaptation of a comic-book character. High-end video cameras were often used for some of the first location shooting. Those first episodes were rough around the edges, but they were natural and captured the tone of the first year of college exactly. Thde later seasons with Gerard Christopher were indeed shot on 35mm film. Gerard stated to me personally that everything he did on Superboy was shot on 35mm. He said, "I know what they shot on. I was in front of the camera everyday."

Mirroring the unfortunate circumstance with the Superman IV extra footage of Bizarro 1 and Christopher Reeve, Viacom/Paramount has destroyed all the original Superboy 35mm prints. Yes, they burned them. What survives are Ilya Salkind's three-quater inch copies of the series, and Gerard Christopher's VHS master tapes which are all being archived to DVD. Gerard Christopher is uncertain whether or not his seasons/episodes are actually sitting in Warner's vault at this present day. He stated to me, "I'm not even sure if there are copies in a vault!" Nevertheless, Warner Brothers certainly has season one archived in their vault. But as far as the later seasons are concerned, because of copyright issues (and the price) Ilya Salkind is the only one who has the best copies. And until a deal is struck between Salkind, Viacom and WB, an Official DVD release will be on the wayside for fans.

Going back to season one: instead of focusing on Superboy and his extraordinary powers, the Producers decided to lean on simple stories that would develop the three central characters of season one...Clark, T.J. White (Perry White's son), and Lana Lang. In the episode "The Foreign Exchange Student" (one of the original 13 episodes), we learn of T.J. White's first love, Natasha, who is from Russia. A simple story, not necessarily intriguing, but nevertheless it developed the T.J. White character into a likeable counterpart for young Clark kent. We really got the feeling of close friendship between these three, even more so than in season two (in which T.J White had left to work for his father's paper, and Andy McCallister became Clark's new roomate). That natural feel was something that got lost as the series became more professional and established.

By mid-season 1, Superboy was starting to gain good ratings and one can really notice this budget change in the FX, and the apparently more complex scenes that make use of multiple-camera set-ups, as the money started to roll in. But at this point, it wasn't a hit show. And being in number 28 of syndication didn't mean the show would last. Gerard Christopher stated that when he got hired Ilya asked him to go into his office and he told him, "The jobs of 120 people depend entirely on you. So consider yourself pressured." Gerard's performance did beef up the ratings on the show. In fact, Gerard worked more hours than Stacy Haiduk because he was playing two different characters. He would work double time, then in order to keep his physicque in shape, he'd work out at the gym at 11:00 PM at night.

For season one, production was primarily centered at the brand new Disney-MGM Studios facility at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. All the interiors were shot at soundstages there. Disney World amusement areas and other surrounding properties were used for the exteriors (with other locations, when needed, to take place around the Orlando area). Seasons 2, 3 and 4 were shot at Universal Studios, Florida. Superboy was the first TV series as well as the first non-Disney project of any kind to be filmed at Disney-MGM. You have to hand it to the Producers on this one, they really made use of all the MGM locations. But wasn't until Ilya moved the production to Universal Studios that the show unleashed itself. We often saw adventures taking place in the big city, Capital City, which was a metropolitian location (basically, the 'Superboy' TV show's version of Metropolis). But if you go only 10 miles from the Capital City location, just outside of the studio lot and facilities, we can see the location for the corn fields of Smallville!

Both the Disney-MGM and he Universal Lot provided many different looks to choose from--the big city look, the small-town look (for the town of Smallville), University of Central Florida (Clark's college, Shuster University), the beaches in Orlando, and bogs and swamps (for some of the more mysterious episodes, like "The Lair"). These locations were basically the "world" of the show, and often times we'd see the same alleys, buildings and landscapes appear in subsequent episodes, but dressed (disguised) differently to pose as an alternate location. For example, the alley where Superboy dropped into in "Roads Not Taken" was the same alley seen in "The Sons of Icarus". This was hardly noticable, however, because each episode was only a half-hour long. And the action would usually engage a viewer from any deep or dire inspection.

The flying shots for 'Superboy' were one of the most accomplished aspects of the production. The flying was generally done a couple of ways. Like in the Chris Reeve pictures, the Superboy actor was suspended by a large crane with small wires that he would wear on a harness. A crane would pull or move the actor to give the illusion of flight. A man above them could control the movement (right or left) by the use of a steering wheel. A wire-shot could also be performed in front of a blue screen and matte that has a background of cars or buildings. The second season episode "Brimstone" is a good example of early blue screen/matte work on the series; we see Stacy riding on the bike of a motorcycle with Philip Michael Thomas. The gracefullness of flying had a lot to do with the actor. Gerard Christopher was in great shape (physically), so he had the ability to keep his back, arms and legs straight and to arc his body in a believable manner in different motions. John Newton was in his best shape towards the end of season one; so sometimes during those first few episode he simply lost balance during landings.

It is hard to notice at times when you would see the bottom of Newton's feet stagger a bit during the landings, but in his favor, he also wanted to use a Tai Chi techniques unlike any other actor flying the cape; a different approach all-together. They often looked artistic and interesting. Gerard kept it traditional - arms straight forward; everything like Chris Reeve. Gerard, being a tri-athelete in real life, made it look easy, which it certainly was far from. According to the book "Superman vs. Hollywood" by Jake Rossen, Gerard was harassed by one of the wire-guys during the second season. The wire-guy often left him hanging to pay attention to a woman on his lap. Gerard was actually afriad of being injured with that controlling the ropes. The unsafe wire-guy was eventually replaced with someone else more dependable after Gerard made it clear that he simply would not show up unless the wire-guy was replaced.

Generally, the show's dead-lines were tight and screen time was limited because 'Superboy' was a half-hour syndicated show. Seven-and-a-half minutes of commercial time was carved into each segment, so that left us with a 22/23-minute episode to tell a single story and make it believable. Anywhere from 6-10 script pages were shot a day, which would consume anywhere from 4-6 full days of shooting for a single episode. Yet 'Superboy' did have the benefit of the easier to use, faster technology (very basic video/computer software) for all the animation, which was responsible for the wire-removal on all the flying shots. In this regard, many brave and sometimes very dangerous flying shots could be attempted. In the episode "Metallo" we see an outstanding shot where Gerard Christopher is being lowered into a stadium with nothing underneath him but hard floor.

Gerard Christopher is suspended at least 20 feet above the ground for this "wire-shot" in progress. A blue-screen was often used in conjunction with wires which were never to be seen on Superboy.

Comparing this method to the earlier Christopher Reeve films where Bob Harmon and his team had to be very inventive about hiding wires, and doing time-consuming and complicated optical/composite shots, you will rarely see wires in Superboy. In fact, there were no wires to be seen in Superboy at all. Once wire-removal had been completed on video, via simple computer/video software, the flying shots were put back onto film without the worry of matching the color and tone of the live action footage. For this reason, the wire-removal in Superboy was in fact cleaner than the Reeve Superman films. For the Reeve films, many wire shots had to rely on time consuming, frame by frame delicate wire paint-outs that an animator would hand-paint directly onto the celluloid. For 'Superboy', this long and involved frame by frame technique wasn't necessary.

All wire removal was spotless in 'Superboy' compared to the Reeve pictures, because of the high resolution compositing that video offers. So, in that regard, did Bob Harmon's flying team make audiences believe a boy could fly? Believing is an understatment! In fact, the flying shots were the best part of the show. Because wire-removal was cheaper and faster, the flying in 'Superboy' often pushed the envelope. One of longest flying shots in Superman History is said to be in the 'Superboy' episode "The Bride of Bizarro, Part II". In this particular episode, we see Superboy fly through Lex Luthor's lair (which was a very wide warehouse) for a rather lengthy amount of time (roughly ten seconds). The second longest flying shot is most likely seen in the episode "Carnival".

One of the best flying shots of the 'Superboy' series. Superboy takes a narrow flight 20-30 feet upward inbetween a winding flight of stairs. This flying shot appeared in the episode "Rebirth" Part I.

Other magnificent flying shots are seen in the episodes "Carnival" and "Werewolf". In "Carnival", Superboy is suspended about 10 feet above the ground, smoothly and gracefully gliding past several carnival-atmosphere-settings. In "Werewolf", we see Superboy glide down through a stretched and narrow hallway of an office building. In the episode "Young Dracula" Gerard Christopher is seen gliding extremely low through a very long hallway. That shot was actually not done on wires (and it looked great!). During the 3rd and 4th seasons, the flying shots became pretty daring, probably because night-time shooting had become predominate and more creative use of wires could be done. And since the wires were hardly (to never) noticeable, why not use them to the hilt? Season 3 also made use of more green screen techniques for the flying shots; and because the flying was at night, the rotoscoping on the bluescreen work looked much cleaner and realistic than if it was at day time.

John Haymes Newton flying shot with no wires to be seen.

Removing the wires by video-compositing was faster and cheaper to do, yet, why not save more time and money? It is interesting to reflect on 'Lois and Clark', a show that premiered a year after the legal debacle and lack of DC approvals on scripts for 'Superboy' by Warner Brothers (read the article about the lien here: The Death of Superboy ) and had the bigger budget, yet incorporated "cape-out", an inferior effect that opted not to show Superman flying, only flapping his cape in front of the camera! 'Superboy' aired several years earlier, yet all Bob Harmon's flying team did was very simple and cheap video-compositing on very basic video/computer software. By the 3rd and 4th seasons, the flying shots were looking very cool; enough for critics to say it rivaled the flying shots seen in the earlier Christopher Reeve 'Superman' pictures.

The Kryptonite Kid throws a wave of kryptonite-force on Superboy's body.

The process and effect of Gerard Christopher turning green when exposed to green kryptonite was not in use until the second season, when the episode "Bizarro, the thing of steel" premiered. At last, for the first time a live-action Superman character on television, or film turned green from kryptonite exposure! This was how it should have been done in the Christopher Reeve movies, actually. It's a part of the comic book lore. In the comics, Superman turns green when exposed to green K. It was only in the Superboy cartoon (which precursed the Superboy TV series) that Superboy did indeed turn green for the first time on TV. It may surprise some why Richard Donner did not use the green-effect in his Superman film. By the time Luthor was ready to dump Supes into the pool, his skin should have been a pale green tone. Perhaps it may have been too time consuming to be done on film (and expensive).

The frames of Gerard Christopher doubling over from exposure to green K were indeed painted, but by video-compositing. The end results were much faster and easier to accomplish, and it was at a higher resolution than could have been done on film at that time (which used the process of optical-compositing). Many a Superman fan for years had dreamed of seeing the Man Of Steel (or Boy, in this case) turn green. It was a more primitive FX than would be done by today's standards, to be sure, but not so primitive by the early 90's standards. However, it appeared that in order to make Superboy look like he was gradually turning green was not so easy. Superboy/Gerard Christopher doesn't gradually turn green (as should be the case with kryptonite exposure). The video-compositing effect meant it was all or nothing. Suddenly his skin is totally green. And then, once the kryptonite was taken away, his skin was instantly back to normal.

As was mentioned earlier, the FX work really couldn't be exploited until after the first season. Superboy was SERIOUSLY under budget and under staff-ed during the first season. As simple as most of the FX was to create back then, it's even simpler and cheaper to not do it at all, which was the case of Superboy's 1st season, and maybe even the reason why they didn't have Superboy turn green during season 1. Because there was no guarantee that 'Superboy' would make it beyond the first 13 episodes ordered (for the 1st season), budgets were held down. Yet the creativity increased and a very animated feel emerged into the second season, which was, I dare say, much like a dead-on interpretation of reading a comic book. The series suddenly felt like it was intuned to the true "spirit of Superman", the clothing of the villians became more out-landish and bright colors filled the sets. Even the make-up and prosthetics being created for the show were sometimes quite amazing. And probably far beyond what one would expect of a syndicted TV series. Bizarro, the imperfect duplicate of Superboy, was made to look very life-like. Even creepy. But what a pleasure it was to see a character straight from the comic books portrayed so vividly.

Bizarro dressed up as Kent-Clark.

If one took away the actors and replaced them with digital characters, the episodes of the second season could have easily been mistaken for a cartoon. We did get a glimpse of these changes during the first season, I have to add. "Alien Solution" and "Revenge of the Alien" felt very much like a second season episode...yet, I argue that something was still missing. Much to the producer's delight, Gerard Christopher was willing to do anything and everything they wanted. Gerard Christopher was enthusiastic, very physically animated and was willing to play Clark nerdy. Some say he went too far on the nerd-act. Unlike Newton who felt that Clark Kent should be vunerable instead of clumsy, he was not as physically fit and sometimes difficult to work with, according to accounts by the Salkinds. So when it was Gerard Christopher's turn to step up to the plate, he decided to play Clark Kent to the extreme. Very nerdy, and very goofy. And sometimes, very funny. Gerard Christopher did all kinds of crazy stunts to make himself look foolish, even jump on top of a slightly moving car while wearing a heavy sweater and heavy shoes in 90 degree Florida heat. He wanted to make an impression. This was his chance to be remembered for being the definitive Superboy (not unlike what Kirk Alyn was to George Reeves; the first but not the last, and not the most remembered).

The innocent feel of Richard Donner's 'Superman: The Movie' was lost well into the second picture. Likewise with the Superboy series. By the 3rd and 4th seasons, the title was changed to 'The Adventures of Superboy' and a dark and mysterious feel emerged called film noir. You'd never guess what a low budget Superboy had to judge from the results. You've got to give the devil his due. The Salkinds did a great job with the series even if they rarely spent time on the actual set. To sum up, the production work on the series was one that intended to capture the lore of the comics, and then some. There was a little bit of Batman in there, and Tales From The Crypt too. Visually, to television standards, it was years ahead of it's time. You have to appreciate how the show progressed over a 4-year period. WB's Smallville series has the luxury of computers with fast processors, and I have yet to see an episode that flows so genuinely in sync with the spirit of Superman.

The John Byrne Revamp: Deleting Superboy from DC Comics (Article by Rennie Cowan).

Article by Rennie Cowan

Superboy endured several decades of adventures in comic book publication up until 1986 when DC writer John Byrne revamped the Superman saga entirely. The "revamp" changed the backstory of the DC Universe and declared that Superboy never existed. Only Superman existed. DC would portray Superman's past in very much the same way Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie depicted Superman's past. Baby Kal-El was sent to Earth from a dying planet known as Krypton and landed on a farm in Smallville, Kansas. He was found by a childless couple, raised as Clark Kent, became a reporter at The Daily Planet and soon after made his debut as Superman. The revamp completely altered what fans had known of the Superman mythos for years; that before he was Superman, he was Superboy.

In one ironic act, Alexander and Ilya Salkind decided it was time to bring Superboy back to life. They had sold their rights to Superman (the film and televsion rights) to Cannon Films after the disappointing Superman III and the box-office failure Supergirl staring Helen Slater but still retained some prior rights to produce other "super" characters from the same world, for example, Superboy. So they didn't waste time. Shooting began on August 15th, 1988. Despite the 1986 revamp that neatly tied the DC comics with Superman: The movie, the show would be based on the pre-crisis Superboy and a short 4-issue limited comic book series that was published in 1984 titled Superman: The Secret Years. By the 2nd season, 'Superboy: The TV Series' would rank in the top ten of popular syndication, a show that was strikingly faithful to the original DC comics. In fact, it's popularity convinced DC to publish a title based on the show itself...Superboy: The Comic Book. What was the message to DC? The message was plain...there was still a market and cult following for The Boy of Steel, despite DC's elimination of the character.

SPECIAL NOTE: Byrne later said in interviews that he regretted not having given Clark a "Superboy" career, during which he and other writers could have shown him as a falliable youth still learning how to use his powers in combat. Retro Vision Magazine, issue #8. Copyright 1988. We know of course that in the coming years we would see a hit TV series titled Smallville and that the premise would be that exact concept...Clark's growing years but without the tights.

INFINITE CRISIS / FINAL CRISIS: As if one Crisis wasn't enough, DC decided to put the DC Universie into the way of another crisis. Final Crisis is a 7 issue limited series that takes place after the 51 issue DC series release Countdown to Final Crisis. Final Crisis was written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by J. G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, and Marco Rudy. In Final Crisis, all the heroes of the DC multiverse join allegiance with one another to save the existence of the 52 Earths. The DC Universe is also known as the "multiverse" which consists of 52 alternate Earths with different histories and backgrounds. Since the time of the original Crisis on Inifite Earths Superboy had become a clone of Superman named Kon-El as a result of the popular Death of Superman saga. As the infinite Earths were revealed, it was also revealed that there were more new Superboys in the multiverse. One of them was named Superboy-Prime. Superboy-Prime (who was originally a silver age type of Superboy, a good person) went psychotic and became such a menace that the Legion of Superheroes from three different worlds has to fight together to stop Prime Superboy. Superboy-Prime destroys an entire prison planet and kills off the Green Lanterns. In the multiverse, Superman, or rather, Superboy, isn't always good. Find out more about Superboy-Prime in the limited series comic book Legion of Three Worlds. Also, watch the Superboy-Prime music video on youtube. Superboy-Prime is in some regards a reflection of the evil Superboy (Sovereign) seen in Season 3 of The Superboy TV Series.

The DC Universe updated again with another crisis... Flashpoint, a paradox that changed the DC Universe and the origins and histories of the DC characters once again. Caused by The Reverse Flash, the after-effect of this particular crisis turned Superboy into what we thought was a clone developed by an anti-meta group called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. This group hunted down youths with super powers. And Superboy, now clad in what looked like a Tron-suit, was on a quest to discover himself. Later it was revealed he was the son of Lois and Superman.

Until the next crisis, Superboy has seen many changes in the DC Universe! He is no longer just Kal-El.

Superboy - The Comic Book

Article by Rennie Cowan

In Febuarary of 1989, only one year after 'Superboy: The TV series' hit the airwaves 'Superboy: The Comic Book' hit the newstands. It would be based entirely on the TV show, but would tackle all-new adventures. Its' intent:was to explore some of the unseen tales and events that a 26 half-hour episode a year could not do. It would answer vital questions about the show as well, like what was the first day at Shuster University like for Clark Kent and Lana? (Or, what happened to T.J. White after his dismiss for the second season?).

Like the TV show, 'Superboy: The Comic Book' would fill in gaps and portray Superboy in such a way that would fit in with the Superman Mythos as suggested by the Superman movie producers (Alexander and Ilya Salkind). After the first 10 issues the title to the comic book was changed to "The Adventures of Superboy" to reflect the change of the title for the TV show as well (from "Superboy" to "The Adventures of Superboy".

Above: authentic Gerard Christopher signed issue #9 of Superboy: The Comic Book.

However, just like the TV program, 'Superboy: The Comic Book' did not coincide with the current Superman titles, nor did it follow the storyline in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. It had its own origin, so one must suspend a different belief in order to enjoy the TV series as a whole or its' comic book brother. Surely, this is no chore.

'Superboy: The Comic Book' endured publication for two years, had an excellent writing staff (like Mike Carline, the Editor of the comic book) and fantastic artwork by DC comics, and eventually found its end in 1992 when the TV show wrapped. The Superboy Special was released two weeks after the final episode of the series aired ("Rites of Passage" Part II). So if you were lucky enough to witness the TV show during its' airing back in 1988-1992, or you are a newcomer to the series, then you'll love 'Superboy: The Comic Book'!

Below are all 23 front covers of all 23 issues ever released by DC comics. The last issue isn't numbered but it is a "goodbye" issue titled "Superboy Special" as mentioned above. The webmaster herself actually had a letter published in one of these issues (issue #15 to be exact) so she was a current, month to month reader.



Superboy - The TV Series Pilot

By Rennie Cowan

There are two different versions of the TV Pilot to Superboy the TV Series. The first version is the one that originally aired on November 5th, 1988 (and was the 5th episode that aired - the Pilot was not aired before the first 4 episodes). The first version of the Superboy TV Pilot is available on the Superboy season one complete DVD set which has been distributed by Warner Brothers. However, the second version which aired much later within season one, and contained new footage is not on the season one DVD set. This second version had finished FX work that was not in the original version that is not available on the DVD set we currently have for season one. The final scene of the first version was cut out for the second version in order to make room for the new footage. You can watch the two extra scenes that appear in the second version of the TV Pilot below:

"I'm called Superboy. I fight for truth, justice and the American way...." -- John Haymes Newton, 1988 'Superboy' TV Pilot

"Countdown To Nowhere" was the pilot episode for the 'Superboy' TV series. Only twenty-four minutes long (without commercials), it successfully accomplished to introduce the three leading characters of season one: Clark Kent/Superboy (John Haymes Newton), Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk), and T.J. White (Jim Calvert). All three characters were first year college students at Shuster University in Florida. It should be noted that there are two different versions (cuts) of the original 'Superboy' pilot that was aired on television back in 1988/89. Though many have this notion that the original "cut" never aired, this is simply not the case. The original "cut" (without the Shuster Herald sequences) didn't particulary air everywhere across the world; it definitely aired in California in the USA (the webmaster of this site recorded both versions onto VHS off of television - so both versions definitely aired).

The story of the original (first version) 'Superboy' Pilot (1988): The United States Government has created an experimental laser weapon (The Laser Gun) and plan a demostration at Shuster University, Florida. Many students at Shuster join together and march against it, displaying picket signs that read "No Nukes" and "No Lasers". Clark Kent, reporter for the Shuster Herald, trails behind the peace march, covering the story and tries to interview a student excercising his democratic right to protest. T.J. White (Perry White's son), photographer for the Shuster Herald, excitedly takes photos for Clark. Lana Lang joins her friends (Clark and T.J.) and criticizes them for not protesting. Clark replies, "I don't get involved in issues, I only report them."

This photo of Clark is actually from a scene in the second version of the TV Pilot.

Lana wants to get too involved, however, and we sense that she is taking the issue too seriously. Lana continues to encourage the protest and meets up with the football team. Unbeknowest to her knowledge, the football players are a group of imposters; a group of saboteurs who plan to steal the Laser Gun from Shuster University (and sell it to an arms dealer).

A Space Shuttle launch which will occur later that day at the Kennedy Space Center (in Florida) will be the distraction they need. Lana is persuaded to help the football guys into the university building, where the laser weapon is being stored, and place a picket sign right next to it. But once inside, the team (with guns blazing) attack the security guards, drop a smoke bomb, and then bust out with the Laser Gun. Lana Lang is taken hostage during the escape in a large van.

Meanwhile, back at the demonstration, Clark and T.J. realize that the main security guard at the front entrance is simply gone. Clark uses his x-ray vision to glance inside and sees smoke flowing through the halls of the university building.

He rushes inside, breaks a locked door down with his super-strength, and then swallows the smoke with his super-breath. He helps a guard to his feet and asks him what happened. The guard explains that a group of guys dressed as football players took the Laser Gun and kidnapped Lana Lang. Clark tries to get him to remember anything that they could have said that would clue him in on where they could have taken her. There was one clue; the sabotuers mentioned that they had 20 minutes to get to the "main event".

Clark rushes outside and is about to turn into Superboy until he sees far too many people standing around campus. He stomps his feet, frustrated, realizing he'll have to wait until he can attempt to save Lana. After things cool down in the escape van, the football team changes into regular clothes and Roscoe (the Leader of the saboteurs) admits that Lana will eventually be killed. But for the time being, she would be a bargaining chip if they needed one.

Back at Shuster, in Clark and T.J.'s dorm (they are roomates), Clark and T.J. try to figure out the puzzle of the so-called "main event". What could it be? The phone rings and Clark picks it up. It's Ma Kent. She asks him, "Are you thinking of becoming Superboy?" Clark replies (lowering his voice so that T.J. won't hear him), "I don't think I have a choice." He gets off the phone with Ma Kent, and only moments later, a countdown for the shuttle launch is being premiered on the TV set. Clark and T.J. exchange excited glances with one another. The main event is the space shuttle launch! They rush out of the dorm and Clark convinces T.J. to meet him there while he goes to the authorities for help.

With T.J. gone, Clark is free to leap behind a tree where he changes into Superboy! He flies up into the sky above Shuster, heading for the Kennedy Space center. The sabotuers finally reach Kennedy Air Force Base, just outside of the space center, which is their rendevous with the arms dealer. They park the van inside a hanger bay then waltz out with the Laser Gun. Roscoe drags Lana along (with an evil grin) and decides that he wants to test the laser weapon. Lana is appalled when Roscoe fires on a group of unsuspecting American soldiers! The weapon is quite effective. Roscoe breathes victoriously, "What do you works!"

In mission control, at the space center, a radar operator discovers an unidentified flying object on the blip screens. A few moments later, that same unidentified object lands near the shuttle pad. NASA authorities are told, and causiously, they approach the unidentified flying object; a young man dressed up in red and blue tights (with an "S" on his chest). "Who are you!?" Yells out one authority. Superboy folds arms like a superhero and seriously pronounces, "I'm called Superboy. I fight for truth, justice, and the American way."

A helicopter lands near the hanger at the air base (for Roscoe's rendevous). Roscoe and his gang prepare to take flight until Lana wiggles free from Roscoe's grip and runs for her life. Roscoe pursues after her and eventually tackles her to the ground. He sheepishly slaps her clear across the face. Lana screams! The scream echoes loud enough for Superboy to hear it (with his super-hearing). Superboy takes flight again, leaving the NASA authorities and they are baffled.

Lana gets strapped down to a seat inside the helicopter before the helicopter rises to the sky. After it gains high altitude, Roscoe notices a red and blue flying object approaching. Superboy reaches the helicopter and Roscoe yells, "He's after us!" Lana corrects him, "No, he's after you!" Roscoe laughs, "Not anymore." He pushes Lana out of the helicopter and she drops down through the clouds. Superboy averts his attention and swooshes out to catch her. Roscoes laughs again, believing he'd gotten rid of the flying boy.

As Lana spins in the air, Superboy gently scuttles her up into his arms. Lana's eyes widen in disbelief (and awe). She tells him: "Whoever you are, wherever you came from, thank you!" Superboy smiles and takes her softly to the ground where T.J. just happens to be waiting for Clark.

T.J. rushes up to Superboy to ask for an interview. Superboy smiles again, "Excuse me." He heads back to capture the sabotuers. T.J. asks Lana who the flying person was. Lana is still a bit awe-struck, "He said he was called...Superboy." With some serious afterthought, she adds: "He reminds me of somebody."

Superboy returns to the helicopter, but Roscoe powers up the Laser Gun and uses it against him. Superboy deflects the laser bolts with his hands. Roscoe is dumbfounded, "I don't believe this guy!" He shoots more laser bolts at Superboy but obviously, Superboy is unaffected by lasers and reaches the landing rigs of the chopper. With his super-strength, he steers the chopper downward, angling it back to the air base. Roscoe is amazed. Knowing he's been defeated, he puts down the laser weapon and raises his arms in the "I-give-up" position.

Superboy veers the chopper to the landing pad of the air base where several military authorities are waiting. The saboteurs are taken into custody. Superboy salutes a General, then heads back into the sky.

Lana and T.J. idly sit outside where Superboy had dropped off Lana earlier (waiting for Clark). Just some distance behind them, Superboy quietly flies down behind a bush and changes back into his Clark Kent clothes. He then jogs, with an awkward gate, to met up with his good friends Lana and TJ. Immediately, Lana hugs him and begins to babble on about this Superboy-guy who saved her. Lana exclaims: "Oh! He was so incredible and so unreal!" A sly grin appears on Clark's face. He looks at the camera (directly at us, the audience) and quietly adds, "I'm sure he is."


There are two versions of the 'Superboy' TV Pilot:

There are two different versions of the 'Superboy' Pilot. Let it be noted, that the SECOND VERSION IS NOT ON THE CURRENT DVD RELEASE PUT OUT BY WARNER BROTHERS in 2006. Unfortunately, the only way to view this alternate Pilot episode is by bootleg fan copies/or youtube (the net). The original version is the story you just read. It aired on November 5th of 1988. The second version was actually a repeat of the original footage from the Pilot (with the last scene cut out), that aired in early 1989. But it was a re-telling of the story (by Lana herself) with a slightly different slant. Rather than simply repeat the pilot on the air, the Producers decided to shoot two more short scenes in which Lana would lead the audience into the first story of the PIlot. The second version to me makes more sense because the original Pilot didn't air first anyway. And some of the FX was not finished, but for the second version, it was finished.

The new scenes took place at The Shuster Herald (the offices of Clark's school paper). T.J. was setting up for a photography shoot of Superboy who was due in at any moment, and ironically, Clark was going to do the interview but made up the excust of stepping out to get a cheeseburger. Clark made an excuse to leave the room and T.J. and Lana were left alone. That's when Lana reflects on the first day Superboy saved her, which leads us into the original story of the TV Pilot.

The episode title was still called "Countdown To Nowhere" and interestingly enough, about 3 extra minutes of footage was cut to fit in the two extra scenes. For the most part, it was merely a shorter version of the original Pilot. The helicopter sequences were shorter (cut tighter), and some of the music was mixed differently. An FX shot was added in with an old shot that really didn't make sense before. There was a shot of the roof-top of Clark's dormatory with the sky as a background. Obviously, in the original Pilot, it is fair to assume that the FX team didn't have the time to add Superboy into the background (as he flew away to save Lana). But in the second version, we finally get to see Superboy flying past the dorm rooftop and we realize exactly what this original shot meant.

After Superboy saved the day, the flashback ceases and we are back at The Shuster Herlad, we see Lana with a glazed look in her eyes. Superboy is ready to have his picture taken until he senses danger. He splits (leaves the photo shoot) and the next thing we know is that Clark appears in the hallway, only miliseconds after Superboy zips past the screen. Lana and T.J. tease him about missing Superboy in person (like always). Ha. Ha. So what else is new?

This is a clip from the first version of the Superboy TV Pilot. If you notice, there is a shot after Clark turns into Superboy and flies off where all you see is the empty portion of the top of a building. In version two, we actually see Superboy fly away out of the building. The FX work wasn't finished for the first version of the Superboy TV Pilot.

SPECIAL NOTE: According to the tie-in comic book "Superboy: The Comic Book' issue #1, Superboy made his first appearance on the first day of school at Shuster University. It was about an alien who lived inside of a metoerite and it had clued Superboy in on the idea (or knowledge) that he could be a lifeform from another planet as well. In the Superboy TV Series, Superboy/Clark never found out his real heritage and he didn't know he was from Krypton. This was consistent through the entire series.

SUPERBOY: THE TV SERIES (1988 - 1992) - An Alexander and Ilya Salkind Production

By Rennie Cowan

The Superboy TV series was a half-hour syndicated television series that debuted on October 8th, 1988, and after four seasons, finished on May 17, 1992. A total of 100 episodes were accumulated. It was produced by the same producers of the first three Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve as Superman: The Salkinds. The Salkinds also produced the Supergirl movie (1984).

The series was distributed by Viacom. The producers are famously known as Alexander and Ilya Salkind. The series depicted Superman in his early years as ClarkKent/ Superboy while he was attending college (at Shuster University) with his childhood friend, Lana Lang. The show was shot in Florida, USA, at Disney/MGM Studios for the first season, but for the second season (and on-going) was shot at what was called the brand new Universal Studios lot in Orlando, Florida (USA). The show was also shot on campus at the University of Central Florida and in surrounding areas when various, realistic locations were needed.

There were two Superboys who played the role of Clark Kent / Superboy during its' television heyday: John Haymes Newton and Gerard Christopher. John Haymes Newton starred in the first season and did 26 episodes. He practiced Tai Chi to prepare himself for flying techniques on Superboy and played Clark as an oridinary young 19 year old. He also used his knowledge of martial arts to fight an alien fight sequence in the episode "The Alien Solution". You can watch and enjoy his love for martial arts in the movie he did called "Desert Kickboxer" - also, be sure to watch him perform the voice of Superman in the fanmade animated 2011 short "Superman Classic". John and co-star Stacy Haiduk (Lana Lang) dated during the first season. Ilya Salkind who had been concerned over the ratings of the show decided to give the cast a complete make-over and replaced John Haymes Newton with Gerard Christopher, Scott Wells (Lex Luthor) with Sherman Howard, and Perry White's son, TJ White (played by Jim Calvert) with IIan Mitchell-Smith (Andy McAllister). After playing Superboy, John Haymes Newton moved on to work on Broadway plays, and a number of major motion pictures including "Cool as Ice" (with Vanilla Ice) and the critically acclaimed "Alive".

John has a small, loyal Superboy fanbase and some fans proclaim they liked him better than the later Christopher, however, season one felt like a TV show of its' own. Newton certainly had the drawback of the mediocre scripts of the first season. But during season two, the writing on the show improved drastically. It became far more comic-booky. Plus, pressure was put on Gerard Christopher to succeed, otherwise, there would be no show said Ilya Salkind. So top DC writers came on board, and Gerard even wrote two later episodes himself titled "Wish for Armageddon" and "Cat and Mouse" . Gerard Christopher also became the producer of the series. Naturally, Gerard had brains and good looks to; he had a degree in Business and was a tri-athelete, making him college smart and physically strong. He also appeared on the front cover of Muscle magazine.

Gerard Christopher starred in the last three seasons and is the one who is most remembered and loved for the role. He was in a total of 76 episodes. Gerard Christopher had starred in the early 1980's teen movie called "Tomboy" with Besty Russell who later appeared in a second season episode of Superboy called "Superboy...Rest in Peace". Betsy Russell played an android and went on to star in the mutually successful horror franchise "Saw". Gerard played Clark Kent as "nerdy", wonderfully in-tune with Christopher Reeves's portrayal in the movies. He was very entertaining, and Stacy Haiduk who played Lana Lang in all four seasons professed to me during a lunch outting one day that watching him play Clark used to make her die laughing.

Gerard loosened up on the "nerdiness" by the third season which, ironically, mirrored John Haymes Newton's original portrayal of the character but not fully. Gerard still did the "nerdy Clark" but only when humor took call. He wore suspenders which was not the latest fashion, but a signature of the new business-nerdy Clark. The full-on "nerdy" portrayal was missed but maybe Clark was growing up afterall. Gerard's second season Superboy costume was also completely in-tune with John Bryne's current DC Superman suit design of that time.

Lana Lang was played by the attractive, red-headed Stacy Haiduk. She was in all four seasons as Clark's best friend and romanic interest. The chemistry between Superboy and Lana appeared to deepen - Gerard and Stacy made it extremely believable and by the second season Lana would talk more and more about being in love with Superboy. By the thrid season, she was madly in love with Superboy. In the episode "Mindscape", Superboy has a nightmare about Lana loving Clark, his alter-ego. The romantic tension was at an all-time high; if you watch the two-part episodes "A Change of heart" Part 1 and 2, you will see Lana about to give up on Superboy as she gets serious with the rich mongul Adam Verell. However, Verrell turns out to be a thug like every other man in her life except for Superboy.

One of Stacy Haiduk's most remembered performances was in the episode "Neila" (playing alongside attractive guest appearance by Christine Moore as Neila). Neila tries to force Superboy to marry her or else. Lana begs Superboy, utter tears, to go with Neila and marry Neila, not her, only to save the people of Capital City. Neila was threatening Superboy to marry her or else innocent people would suffer. Lana pled to Superboy: "You have to," then said "but I'll make it easy." In that moment, Lana threw herself over a ledge in turmiol. Superboy flew down to save her like he always did. It wasn't clear if they were in a relationship by the end of the series but Superboy and Lana would most definitely kiss in various scenes. The final epside "Rites of Passage" Part II was their last screen-kiss.

Lex Luthor was played by both Scott Wells (season one) and Sherman Howard (or sometimes credited as Howard Sherman) for the remaining three seasons. Sherman Howard gave a very Joker-like performance and is the one who is most remembered for the part of Lex Luthor on the series. Fans often compare him to Gene Hackman; and some say Sherman Howard is the best Lex Luthor of any Superman/Boy movie or TV series in Superman history. He often built Lex Luthor robots, exact replicas of himself in order to fool Superboy (depicted below).

Tracy Roberts (now Tracy Lewis) played Darla, Lex Luthor's girlfriend (Lex-Girl) and romantic interest on the show. Many point out that Darla was very much in-tune with the Harley Quinn character of Batman nostalgia. Harley Quinn is Batman's girlfriend in Batman the animated series and DC comic books. Like Darla, she is his partner in crime filled with twisted and "mad love" - just like the Darla and Lex Luthor relationship of the Superboy series. Darla disappeared from Luthor's life after the two-part episode "Know Thine Enemy". Fans believe that she may have finally got fed up with Lex and left him for good. Today, Tracy Roberts is actively promoting the Superboy series at conventions around the USA.

In addition, the series had a round-up of iconic guest-stars like Joaquin Pheonix, George Lazenby, Michael J. Pollard, even to iconic comic book writers such as Mike Carlin and Cary Bates. Even the creator of Superman himself, Jerry Seigel, took a stab at writing for the series. Kevin Kiner, the music composer of such notable series as 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars', composed the music for all four seasons of the Superboy TV series (which was very synth-like). Every character had their theme music on the Superboy TV series.

Ian Mitchell-Smith who had been an early 1980's teen star for his role in the major motion picture "Weird Science" became a co-star for the second season as Clark's roomate, Andy McAllister. Andy was the comic relief of the show and though he relentlessly tried to date Lana, he settled for her friendship by the end of the second season. Andy also appeared in a cameo for season three in the episode "Special Effects" with Superboy monsters.

By season three, the show changed the name from 'Superboy' to 'The Adventures of Superboy' where the show began to look more like the movie the 'Dark Knight' and have a classic film noir feel to it. Gerard Christopher loosened up on his Clark Kent protrayal from a nerdy Clark to a more in-control Clark (but still with some nerdiness, he dressed in suspenders). Superboy also got tougher, breaking through walls was his favorite past-time. The show's major set scene of the college dormatory moved to the Bureau of Extra-Normal Matters (which became a permanent set) where both Clark and Lana worked as interns, investigating paranormal activity. This scenario very much resembled the Mulder and Scully from the 'X-Files' TV series (yet it must be noted, Superboy aired before the "X-Files" did).

Interestingly enough, each season had its own unique feel and development. Most agree that the series made dramatic improvements by the second season and far surpassed its' expectations by the third season. The demise of the series was due to a legal debacle (lien) that was filed by Warner Brothers in 1992. WB claimed they owned the rights to the Superboy character (and franchise). WB wanted to make a Superman TV series under their studio name. However, the Salkinds proclaimed they still owned Superboy. WB didn't want Superboy airing at the same time as "Lois and Clark", so DC Comics made it difficult for the Superboy series to get script approvals. Salkind filed a lawsuit against DC comics in 1993. This more or less killed what both Viacom and the Salkinds planned to do with the show. Viacom planned Superboy telemovies and even promised the fans they would get telemovies all the while "Lois and Clark" was on the air. But according to Gerard Christopher, this, WB did not want; it would have been confusing. Ilya Salkind wanted to do a season 5 and 6 and confirmed this at Wizard Con in Anaheim, and Viacom was right behind the Salkinds ready to distribute. Viacom and the Salkinds eventually agreed that the Superboy series would end with Season 4.

The Salkinds were developing Superman V while the Superboy series was still in production. It was also called Superman: The New Movie with either Christopher Reeve (who was their first choice) or Gerard Christopher as Superman in the role. Christopher Reeve was the Salkind's first choice. Even Ilya Salkind stated this himself during a panel at the 2010 Wizard Con convention. If Christopher Reeve could not fill into the red boots as Superman (as he was reluctant to do so), then Gerard Christopher would have been their man. In fact, Ilya Salkind once said regarding Gerard Christopher, "He was the only one that I didn't have to pull his leg to play the part." The Salkinds once believed that the rights to the Superman character and the Superboy characters were separate; even the courts once believed this. But according to the book "Hollywood vs. Superman" by Jake Rossen, the ruling was reversed and Superboy was WB's character once again. The battle over the rights to Superman still rages on in the courts today with the heirs of Jerry Siegel.

Because the Salkinds stopped getting approvals from DC to make further episodes, the Superboy series was pretty much dead in the water after season 4. The series ended with "Rites of Passage" Part 1 and 2 which paved the way for Superboy to become Superman. DC was being influenced by Warners and they were ready to do another Superman movie. One would expect that naturally Gerard Christopher should fill the boots of Superman. Fans of the Superboy series were not happy with Warner Brothers' jaded approach to recasting their new Superman. One would expect actors of the Superboy series to hold a grudge. Not Gerard Christopher. He told the webmaster regarding "Lois and Clark", "I would have actually watched 'Lois and Clark' if I had liked the show." Unlike the Superboy series, the ratings dwindled by the forth season. The apparent success that the Superboy TV Series had proven - that the character on television could be successful once again after George Reeves was a stepping-stone for both "Lois and Clark" and "Smallville" didn't prove the same for the end of "Lois and Clark". The Superboy series was an unfortunate ending for a well-made series. Ilya Salkind professed in an interview in the book "Age of TV Heroes" by Jason Hofius and George Khoury that the success of the Superboy series was eventually its downfall.

Shortly after season 4 of "The Adventures of Superboy" ended, in September of 1993 "Lois and Clark" the television series was produced and aired, starring Dean Cain. Gerard Christopher auditioned for the role of Superman in "Lois and Clark", and was casted. What had happened, according to Christopher, was that they were very enthusiastic about finding him; one of the producers was estatic, stood up and went crazy over finding him. He stated out loud, "We found him!" Then he looked at Gerard's headshot and asked, "Who are you?" That's when the producers discovered that Gerard had played Superboy in the TV series and suddenly, Gerard went from being their guy to being only Superboy. The "Lois and Clark" producer stated "You've done this before" and then quietly dismissed him from the room. Warner Brothers spent over $50 million dollars in development for a new Superman movie while in search of a new Superman. One has to wonder if Warner Brothers made a $50 million dollar mistake in passing off Gerard Christopher for the role, an actor who had already been well-established in the part.

Three parties have a hand to the rights of the Superboy TV series: Viacom, Ilya Salkind and Warner Brothers. The rights to season one reverted to Warner Brothers in 2006 for a one-year and half contract (to release the season one DVD set). WB has released season one onto DVD, but has been reticent about releasing seasons two, three and four, and this is not necessarily because of the legal battle over who owns the rights to Superboy (Siegel vs. Warner Brothers). It is also because all three parties have to make an agreement for distribution: WB, Ilya Salkind and Viacom. In a recent interview with Ilya Salkind at Superman Celebration 2010, he stated that Viacom would probably agree; it is all up to Warner Brothers. WB claimed the season one DVD set didn't do too well in sales. So money and profit is also a factor. The production of a Superboy DVD set (or Blu-Ray set) could be, or would be, costly to make.

An unfortunate ending for a well-made series; but the fans are currently holding a campaign to get the later seasons released onto DVD. The Superboy show was shot on 35mm film and recorded in stereo, but the original 35mm prints were destroyed by Paramount (Viacom). Stacy Haiduk told the webmaster that everything was dumped to tape, so it exists. Future DVD sets would have to be made from Ilya Salkind's BetaSP and VHS masters. Stacy Haiduk owns VHS masters of every season, and Gerard Christopher owns VHS masters of seasons 2, 3 and 4. Douglas "Barry" Meyers owns his episodes on large format tape (BetacamSP), which is better quality than the VHS masters owned by Christopher. Others involved with the series, either actors or those who worked on the set of the show own large format or VHS copies as well.

WB has every season of the Superboy series in their vaults according to Ilya Salkind who handed everything over to them to archive (not the original destroyed 35mm prints). More than likely, hi-res archival copies were made by Warner brothers of Ilya's masters as WB gave everything back to him right before the release of "Superman Returns". For more information on the show, the campaign and on the Superboy episodes that aired, explore this website and click on the episode guides posted on the sidebar. Scroll down and check out the Superboy Epi-logue which can be viewed in it's entirety on this website. In the episode guides (access them on the side bar) you can view many trailers of the series.

Gerard Christopher in a Viacom promotional photo. (photo will be placed her soon)!