In which pre-Crisis title and issue did Superboy’s adoptive parents die? This has proved surprisingly difficult for me to pin down.
There was no one issue dealing with their death.
It was mentioned in a retelling of Superman’s origin, that’s all I recall.
In the relaunch, Action #870.
Golden Age/Silver Age - unstated, other than “during his teens.” Off-stage, definitely.
Superman 161 (May 1963) is one account. I can see the confusion in researching it since many cites for some reason name Superboy #161 instead, which coincidentally ran a story called “The Strange Death of Superboy”.
Wiki indicates that their deaths were shown as early as the retelling of Superman’s origin story in Superman #53 (1948). I recall their deaths being shown, either in retellings of the origin or flashbacks, when I read the comics in the 1950s.
It’s not clear whether you are asking about when their deaths were first shown (in Superman comics), or a specific issue of Superboy that dealt with their deaths.
Superman 53, July-August 1948, a detailed origin story of Superman, also depicted “John” and “Mary” Kent. Mary dies “offscreen”, while John on his deathbed implores Clark to become a hero, a superman. Clark adopts his superhero identity and costume in the final panel.
Legion of Super-Heroes #259 (Jan 1980) is notable. The previous issue had been titled Superboy and Legion of Super-Heroes and was the first in a two-issue story arc in which a one-off villain tries to psychologically torture various legionnaires, ending with Superboy himself and an reveal that his adoptive parents would die and how (this being public record, I guess since this, like most Legion stories, is set 1000 years in the future). The details line up with the Superman #161 story cited earlier, and this had pretty much been the canonical description of the cause of the Kents’ deaths during the Bronze Age.
Superboy is… upset, but shakes it off long enough to defeat the villain with his own psychological weakness. Saturn Girl telepathically compels Superboy to not remember the details, and to stop coming to the future for adventures with the Legion, hence his name is dropped from the title of issue 259.
The series had originally been* Superboy*. It only became Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes with issue 197.
That’s the one I remember first reading. Probably around 1970. Back in the days when we just used old fashioned trash barrels and no trash bags there was a house on my way to school where they frequently threw away small stacks of old DC comic books, which I would gleefully rescue if they were reasonably dry and clean (and they usually were, because I checked their can every day both ways).
That’s also how I was first exposed to CARtunes magazine.
Superman Vol 1 #161 and Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 2 #259 seem to be as close an account as was ever told in one story. Thanks!
Incidentally, Superman 362-363 (Aug, Sep 1981) recounts and depicts many of the details of the (silver/bronze age) Kents’ deaths when Lois Lane and Lana Lang fall victim to the same virus and Superman spends two issues trying to find the cure that eluded him as a teenager.
And while we’re on the subject, check out Action Comics 507-508 (May, June 1980) for a very well-written spin on the concept.
As a kid, I devoured Superboy comics (“Geewillikers, Superman was a kid, too!”).
And I had no problem with a white-haired Jonathan and Martha Kent. Made sense, because they were older when they found that spaceship… and made for fun stories (with a high percentage of them starring Mr. Kent acting like his Super Son).
But suddenly the executives at DC comics decided to “de-age” Clark’s parents. The reasoning was that kids couldn’t relate to old people, and Ma and Pa Kent had to look twenty years younger.
And even at a young age, I realized that those bigwigs in NYC thought their readers were idiots. (And that was the end of my personal Silver Age…)
Sups 161 is the story that I remember. I think I did see it reprinted once with the “de-aged” Kents.