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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ron Ely: Superman on Superboy

Article by Rennie Cowan

The Superboy TV Series is about Superboy, not Superman. That is an obvious overall picture of the show for anyone coming across this series for the first time. The rights issue surrounding the series prevented any usage of the Superman character. In fact, the Salkinds were not allowed to place Superman into the TV series at all, not even mention him. So Superman did not exist in this timeline of Superman lore. Well, maybe...just a tiny bit.

To clear the reason why Superman could not appear on the Superboy the TV series I personally talked to Ilya Salkind on the phone to answer some questions, Warner Brothers was gearing up for the possible production of Superman V (as early as 1988) and then they wanted their own updated Superman TV series, Lois & Clark. "They wanted Superboy out," stated Ilya Salkind, rather flatly. According to Salkind, a new Superman TV series was being developed by the end of season 3 of Superboy the TV Series. The character of Superman itself or his name could not be mentioned at all on Superboy the TV series.

By the end of season 3, the Salkinds didn't have the rights to use the Superman character or distribute it, nor did WB want them to do so. However, there was some debate over whether or not Ron Ely was credited as Superman on Superboy the TV series. No fan dub swapped around the Internet between fans over the years had ever surfaced a credit for Ely "as Superman". This would seem to prove the fact that Ron Ely was never credited as Superman, and the credit was never broadcast.

Below, view two different screen caps of the same episode with different credits for Ron Ely. One says "as Superman" whereas the other does not. Special thanks to Michael Bellina for providing the mysterious screen cap crediting Ely "as Superman".

Well this is a mystery, isn't it? When I spoke to Ilya Salkind about a fan named Michael Bellina who provided a screen cap crediting Ely "as Superman" Ilya said, despite that it came from somewhere, it would never have been broadcast anywhere in the world. "It was never broadcast," said Ilya Salkind. "It would not have gone past Viacom." Some fans have said that the "as Superman" credit was an International version of some sort, and that episodes had International versions. Ilya Salkind had more to say about this, "There was no International version. The credit list for USA was the same as Europe and the rest of the world." Ok, so straight from the horse's mouth. But, how did this happen? Was Ron Ely really credited as Superman in Superboy the TV series? And, if his credit was never broadcast then why did this copy spurn up (spurn new off-spring, Andy)? And how?

The fan who provided the screen cap stated he got the episode from Gerard Christopher back in the late 1990's when he was selling tapes off of his website for fans. The idea that it was never broadcast seems to be the case despite everyone's wish that it had been. In fact, you will not find one fan dub, an actual recording from an original airing that credits Ron Ely "as Superman". It was most likely done in the lab during post-production as a favor to an actor, either for Ely or Gerard, or it had been done prior to any screening with Viacom before being broadcast. Again, according to Salkind it would not have been passed off either way. It must have been either a gag or a hopeful proposition, but of course, Viacom would not have let it slip by.

Ilya Salkind, the Creative Executive Producer of Superboy the TV series stated that Warner Brothers absolutely would not have allowed it and that the credit list for the USA was the same for Europe and the rest of the world. So it appears it was not broadcast according to the Executive Producer of the series but nevertheless a copy of the episode Road to Hell Part 2 surfaced and it credited Ron Ely "as Superman". Lex Luthor once said, "True or false..." we all know he was Superman but only eluded to in the episode Road to Hell Part 2.

In the season 3 episode Road to Hell Part 2 the audience is taken into a parallel world where baby Kal-El's spaceship was dumped off during the 1930's (hypothetical). So in this parallel world Superboy would have been older than Gerard Christopher. Ron Ely appeared as a special guest star in this parallel universe and was the older Superboy. Below, watch the trailer for the episode.

The dialog, story and demeanor of the episode itself was very careful not to mention the word "Superman" and in fact it was only eluded to when Ron Ely spoke the dialogue, "And in that day, you won't be called Superboy anymore." Ely never wore the super-suit nor did he use his powers much beside a classic swush after telling Lex "I'm not that old" and a good punch in the jaw to Gerard Christopher. Oh, he also used his X-Ray vision but aside from this nothing spectacular. Crediting Ely as Superman would not have been allowed by Warner Brothers. And yet, the credit "Special Guest Star Ron Ely as Superman" surfaced from a copy of a master tape sold by Gerard Christopher directly off his website back in the late 1990's. It is true that the actors had access to copies of their episodes on VHS well before they aired, so a pre-broadcast version could have been in the lab's pile of tapes which the actor's took home.

So whether or not you want to call Ron Ely Superman, his credit did appear...somewhere... in the editing lab of Superboy the TV series but it was never broadcast. Ely had the curl, he had the pose but he didn't wear the super-suit and he wasn't called Superman on the show. Still, he was Superman even if he wasn't granted the title on the broadcast version of Superboy the TV series.

Ron Ely is exceptionally taller than Gerard Christopher (as tall as Christopher Reeve) but he did not appear so on the show. When I asked Ely how the both of them appeared to be the same height, Ely said that during the scene where they were walking down the street, he was walking in the gutter whereas Gerard Christopher was walking on the sidewalk. So Gerard was inches above Ely but not apparent to the camera. "There are ways," stated Ely.

Below, check out the Webmaster's signed autograph Superman action figure by Ron Ely from the Hollywood Show 2011. The toy reads Older Superboy, Ron Ely.

Below, autograph photo of Ron Ely to the Webmaster.

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