My Son, The Boy of Steel!

Every dad is proud of his boy, but none more so than that lucky Smallville resident who calls himself the father of Superboy; that's right, I'm talking about Fred Carter.

In Adventure Comics #314 (Nov. 1963), Mort Weisinger and George Papp present the story of Fred Carter, a nice, average guy living a nice, average life in a nice, average town with his nice, average family. What he'd much prefer is something more above-average. "Amos!" he calls to his clean-cut teenage son, "Why can't you do something colorful? I don't say you have to be Superboy -- but at least go out for the football team?" Amos replies that he's much too busy with his chemistry lessons.

Mom tells Dad to give the boy a break. "He's a mental genius and that's good enough for me!" Giving up for the moment, Fred asks young Amos what he's working on currently.

I don't know, as a parent I'd be a little leery of my kid drinking a concoction he just whipped up with his chemistry set. And as a general rule, whenever someone says, "er..." in a comic book, it's a good bet they're hiding something. Anyway, Amos declines the invitation to join Fred for some outdoor sport, preferring to work on his self-made electro-magnet. Fred grabs his horseshoes and goes out to play with some of the other dads.

Normally lousy at horseshoes, Fred unexpectedly pitches both horseshoes perfectly to score a double-ringer, to the astonishment of his friends. Suddenly Superboy is spotted flying over town, carrying a huge water tank to fill a pool for some kids in the next town. One of Fred's friends decides Superboy is behind Fred's sudden prowess at horseshoes...

In the very next panel, Fred's friends relent and admit they're just joking, but an idea has been planted. When Fred gets home, he tells Amos the story and Amos deduces that the horseshoes have been magnetized by exposure to his electro-magnet, attracting them to the metal peg in the game of horseshoes and making it easier for his dad to win. He decides to keep the information to himself.

Later Fred is listening to the radio when a special announcement comes on:

You have to wonder: would residents of Smallville really say "the local bank" or wouldn't they call it by name? Did the anonymous tipster call the media as well as the bank? If they want to catch the crooks, why announce Superboy's trap? And...though you'd think I'd know by now that it's pointless to ask...where are the police in all this?

Anyway, Amos picks this very moment to announce he's going to the bank to deposit his allowance money, so Fred begins to suspect perhaps his son is Superboy, after all.

At Smallville High, Clark Kent has just learned he has to stay late at school, making it necessary for him to get a Superboy robot to substitute for him at the bank. However, a group of lumberjacks is working in the forest around the exit to his secret tunnel, so the robot is unable to leave the Kents' basement. Superboy has a sudden inspiration, deciding to enlist the aid of Amos Carter, since he "has a habit of going to the bank this time each week with his allowance!" (Okay, I don't know which is more disturbing; the fact that Superboy knows the personal habits of everyone in Smallville, or the fact that Fred knows so little about his own son).

Superboy flies to the bank with a plan:

Amos is thrilled to help. The would-be bank robbers drive by right on schedule (again, the cops can't be bothered to show up and nab them), and seeing what they think is the Boy of Steel guarding the front steps (surprise! Don't you crooks have a radio?), they decide to drive on. Lucky for Amos they're not in that 50% of crooks who always open fire on Superboy with a sub-machine gun just for the heck of it.

Superboy sends Amos a message via super-ventriloquism and tells him to take off the costume and take it home. As a reward for his help, he'll be given "a specimen of artificial green kryptonite!" Wow, a rock spray-painted green, thanks Superboy. And how weird can you get: "Thanks for helping me out, pal. He's a facsimile of something that can kill me!" Anyway, right at that moment, who should drive by to see Amos changing but his dad, who is now convinced his son is the Boy of Steel.

Back at home, Fred observes Amos chugging down another beaker of his homemade formula and decides the potion must be the source of his super-powers. "He probably invented that story about coming from Krypton as a cover-up!"

As Fred turns on the radio, another special bulletin comes through (poor Fred will never get to hear Fibber McGee!). This time the announcer pleads, "If anybody sees Superboy, tell him that the west bridge is about to collapse!" As luck would have it, Superboy is at this very moment sneaking into the Carter home to leave the promised fake Kryptonite on an end table. Hearing the broadcast appeal, he zips off to save the bridge...

Hey, it's a logical assumption, right? I mean, if Superboy doesn't live here, why would he be in our house, uninvited? Unless he's some kind of sneaky busybody who keeps tabs on people, making notes of when they go to the bank and stuff, right? And that's just crazy, haha.

At dinner that night, Fred insists on stuffing Amos with extra helpings of food, figuring he needs it after all the work he's done (as Superboy). Amos goes to bed and Fred enjoys a game of bridge with his friends...until another announcement comes on the radio (just turn that thing off, already!). This time the thwarted bank robbers have attacked an armored car.

Going to summon Amos, Fred finds him doubled over in pain. "I've got a stomach-ache, dad! I told you I was eating too much!" Amos thinks there's another explanation...

So if the "survivor of Krypton" story was made up, as Fred believes, why would Kryptonite hurt Amos? And how stupid would Superboy have to be to keep Green-K on his bedstand?

With Amos incapacitated, Fred decides to take the potion himself to fight the crooks (because that's so much easier than just taking the Kryptonite to another room). As it happens, Clark Kent is at the scene of the gun battle between police (Hey, they DO have police) and the robbers. (When the confrontation erupted, he'd been out shopping with Lana Lang). "Now let's see Superboy appear," Lana crows, "while you're right beside me!" You go, girl. What's a few human lives compared to the satisfaction of proving your suspicions?

Standing nearby, Fred swallows the formula and strides boldly into the gunfire.

Well, of course that's the only logical conclusion, right? Note that "Big Brother" Clark not only knows Amos is conducting experiments in his home, he can also identify the formula from a glimpse of a test tube several feet away, on the streets of Smallville. Incidentally, he also knows that the guy in the hat, Pete Jorgensen, is on his way to pick up take-out from Pop's Pizza, as he does every Thursday night. He and his wife, Mildred (who suffers from neuralgia in her left leg) like to eat it in the living room while listening to the radio pre-empt Gunsmoke with disaster bulletins. Then they retire to the bedroom, where Mildred is a total freak. Superboy needs to know stuff like that.

As Fred places himself between the crooks and the cops, the crowd is astonished to see him unharmed by the hail of bullets (cool, I've wanted to say "hail of bullets" ever since journalism school). No one realizes Clark is melting the bullets with heat vision from a distance, so it appears Fred is invulnerable. Fred gives the crooks a tap and Clark bowls them over with super-breath, making it appear Fred has clobbered them. Fred tells the grateful police "I can't tell you all, but I can tell you that through Superboy I received super-powers! Now, I've got to fly home!" Clark makes that possible...

Back at the Carter home, Superboy and Amos explain to Fred about the masquerade at the bank, and prove they are not the same person. Fred insists the formula must give super-powers since it worked for him. He asks for more, but Amos says, "You drank the last of the serum...and I've forgotten the mixture!" Uh-huh. So Mr Mental Genius suddenly can't remember what he put in a potion he's been drinking all week? Face it, Fred, your boy is an alcoholic, and that "chemistry set" is his still.

All that's left now is the "ironic" denouement, which we get as Fred Carter takes a walk with Jonathan Kent. "You can't imagine," says Fred, "how it feels to have Superboy for a son!" Here's where I notice that all the parents in Smallville are senior citizens. Add in cops that hide when you tip them off to crimes, banks and bridges that don't even rate names, radios that only pick up the "special bulletin" channel and an omniscient superbeing who monitors your every move, and it's no wonder the teenagers of Smallville brew up their own booze.