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‘Superboy & Superpup: The Lost Videos’ (review)

Written by Chuck Harter
Published by Bear Manor Media

 

A few years back, author Chuck Harter came out with what I consider one of the best books on a TV series ever—Mr. Novak. I reviewed that book here on this site.

Long before that, though, I reviewed Chuck’s first book on my own blog, Booksteve’s Library. That book was entitled Superboy and Superpup—the Lost Videos, and was published by the sadly now long-defunct Cult Movies magazine. It came out nearly 30 years ago but 16 years ago, I randomly pulled it off my shelf, dusted it off, and reviewed it online.

Now the always-enjoyable Bear Manor Media has dusted off Superboy and Superpup—the Lost Videos, too, and republished it exactly as it was originally.

As near as I can tell, there have been no changes, no updates. Superman expert Michael Hayde’s Introduction still refers to video cassettes when the shows come and go nowadays on YouTube and other online sources and I believe Superpup was even officially released as an extra on one of the Christopher Reeve DVD sets.

So, since the book itself has no updates, neither does my review.

This is my original blog review (slightly edited) from 2006:

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY was supposed to be producer Whitney Ellsworth’s solution to how to continue the successful ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN TV series in spite of its star’s death in 1959. This 1961 pilot starred Johnny Rockwell and was produced and directed by the same folks who did the original series. Missing, of course, were Lois, Jimmy, and Perry but in their place, you had Lana Lang and Police Chief Parker. A half season’s worth of scripts were commissioned and one was chosen to shoot. Although it never aired, modern viewings reveal it to be well acted and of good quality. 

The whole story of the aborted project, as well as the equally rare but much more bizarre SUPERPUP, can be found in the book Superboy and Superpup—the Lost Videos. Author Chuck Harter’s book offers tons of screen shots and genuinely rare behind the scenes stills from both forgotten projects along with more detail than you might think possible at this late date.

Johnny Rockwell, an acting student of Agnes Moorehead (and I read somewhere a friend of Hugh Hefner) was 23-years-old at the time and gives a suitably boy scout-ish performance as both Clark Kent and Superboy. The overall feel of the project is that of Sherriff Andy Taylor’s Mayberry invaded by gangsters and a superhero. That small town vibe was popular all over the television landscape at that time so what was the problem? Why didn’t we see several full seasons of superheroics from Rockwell, Ellsworth and friends?  

According to the book, the bottom line seems to be that it was squashed by the sponsors when they reasoned that they could continue to syndicate and profit from the George Reeves originals without having to pay for any new production.This book presents a summary and detailed information on the making of THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY pilot and Michael Hayde even found Rockwell for a great then and now picture. There’s also a detailed summary of each of the unproduced scripts for the series! The whole concept was a missed opportunity perhaps but an interesting bit of Super-trivia. 

SUPERPUP seems like such an odd concept to the modern fan but one has to remember that puppet shows, animal shows, and the like were extremely popular back then so the concept of dressing a bunch of little people up as talking animals in a fun parody of Superman most likely seemed a sure sell! As with Superboy, Harter gives this doggone pilot full coverage, complete with a “novelization” of its script as well as the requisite behind-the-scenes coverage and rarer than rare photos and info.

So there you have my original take. While the shows themselves are no longer as rare as they were in 1993 when the book first came out, accurate info about them is, and Chuck Harter provides all that and more here in abundance.

At its heart, Superboy and Superpup—the Lost Videos can and should actually be read as a book about Whitney Ellsworth, the former cartoonist turned TV producer who tried his best to carry on the franchise without simply recasting the late and probably then-irreplaceable George Reeves. His timing was just a bit off.

A few years later, another DC hero would make superheroes an “in” thing all across the globe when TV’s Batman debuted. Ellsworth returned to comics then, though, as the writer of the revived Batman newspaper strip, leaving Superboy and Superpup to be forgotten…until Chuck Harter came along.

Booksteve recommends.

 

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