The first Superboy series featured the original Superboy, a teenage incarnation of the Man of Steel. It began publication in 1949, four years after the character's debut in More Fun Comics #101 (January 1945). The majority of the stories were set in the rural town of Smallville during the character's youth, including tales of his toddlerhood. Comics historian Les Daniels noted that "Many early Superboy stories seemed devoted to extolling the virtues of life in America's small towns, and covers made Smallville look like a dreamworld where few problems existed...Indeed, the early Superboy might fairly be called the Saturday Evening Post of comic books." The supporting cast included Superboy's adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent, his over-inquisitive classmate and neighbor Lana Lang, best friend Pete Ross who was secretly aware of Superboy's true identity as Clark Kent, Smallville Police Chief Parker, and the super-powered canine Krypto. With the exception of a teenage Lex Luthor, who was a frequent foe of the Boy of Steel, almost none of the featured villains appeared more than once. Fuzzy, the Krypto Mouse, a character who appeared in a single story in Superboy #65 (June 1958), inspired a similar character created by writer Art Baltazar in 2012. Bizarro debuted in Superboy #68 (Oct. 1958). For much of this period, DC also published Superboy tales in Adventure Comics, which began featuring the Boy of Steel regularly in issue #103 (April 1946).
The Legion of Super-Heroes starred in their own backup feature starting with #172 (March 1971). Nick Cardy was the cover artist for Superboy for issues #182-198 and 200-206. Dave Cockrum began drawing the Legion feature with issue #184 (April 1972), again increasing the team's popularity. Wildfire made his first appearance as ERG-1 in the Legion back-up feature in issue #195. With issue #197 (September 1973), the Legion became permanent co-stars, and the cover logo became "Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes" while the title of the book itself remained Superboy. Crafted by Cary Bates and Cockrum, the feature proved popular and saw such events as the wedding of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel in issue #200 (Feb 1974). Cockrum was replaced on art by Mike Grell as of issue #203 (August 1974) which featured the death of Invisible Kid. With issue #222 (Dec. 1976), the cover logo became "Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes" and the book's title itself followed with issue #231 (Sept. 1977). The character Dawnstar was introduced in issue #226 (April 1977). A backup story in issue #236 served as a lead-in to All-New Collectors' Edition #C-55 which featured the wedding of longtime Legion members Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. Writer Paul Levitz and artists James Sherman and Joe Staton crafted "Earthwar" an five-issue storyline in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #241-245 (July-Nov. 1978). A story originally scheduled to appear in DC Special Series was split apart and published in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #250-251 due to the DC Implosion. Starting with issue #259 (Jan. 1980), the title was changed to Legion of Super-Heroes (volume 2), and the Boy of Steel left the team and the book. Though Superboy later rejoined, he made only occasional appearances in the series that once bore his name, and the series remained a Legion book until its last issue, Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #354 (Dec. 1987).