A big part of my thinking about Superboy — the Kal-El Superboy of Earth-1, that is — involves the general public’s reaction to this flying teenager from the Midwest. If I understand Earth-1 history correctly, Superboy was its first superhero. Contrast that with the Earth-2 Justice Society heroes (Justice Socialites?), who were for the most part in their twenties and thirties when they burst on the scene; or even Marvel’s World War II-era heroes, who were around the same age. In that light, Superboy’s situation on Earth-1 was unusual, if not unique.
Put another way, it’s one thing to see adult men and women dashing around in colorful costumes, performing amazing feats — and it’s quite another to see a kid who can fly, shrug off high explosives, lift tanks, and melt them with his eyes, and realize he’s just going to get older and more powerful. Because those Superboy stories were by definition flashbacks, we know that he made it through puberty without lashing out at the world during some teenaged tantrum, but at the time the world didn’t know he wouldn’t go nuts. (And if he did, who’d stop him…?)
Don’t know how much more this bears exploring, but I’ve already gotten about half a draft of a “Doing Superboy Right” essay written. So there you go.