Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is DC Comics. And that’s mostly because of my undying affection for the comic book characters and stories that I grew up reading in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. So stay tuned all month to (maybe) learn a little something about 26 corners of the DC Multiverse.
Admit it, some of you thought I was going to go with Superman for S day, didn’t you? I mean… I figure I write enough about that guy on here.
Way back when, speaking of Superboy meant speaking of Superman’s adventures as a boy. These days, people might typically think about Superman’s son, Jonathan Kent (named after Clark’s adoptive father).
But when I think of Superboy, I think of the one who was introduced during the “Reign of the Supermen” storyline.
The kid who would eventually take the name Conner Kent began life in a test tube in a Cadmus laboratory. The director of Cadmus labs, an unscrupulous man named Westfield, initiated a cloning project that began by drilling under Superman’s tomb and stealing his body. The clone that they were able to create was slightly imperfect as he did not develop all of Superman’s abilities. But he was aged rapidly and released prematurely, resulting in a hot-headed teenager who did not like being called Superboy.
As he tested his limits, it was determined that he could fly and had super strength, but also had an ability that Superman did not. The comics referred to this ability as tactile telekinesis. Basically, Superboy could touch something and cause it to fall apart. Which you’d think would come in handy fighting the Cyborg Superman, right?
Anyway, Superboy moved to Hawaii once the real Superman returned to Metropolis. And then, for me, he dropped off my radar, since I never picked up any of those Superboy comics.
It wasn’t until Superboy joined a new team of Teen Titans that I really started paying attention to the character again. By this point, he had taken the name of Conner Kent and even had his own Kryptonian name, Kon-El. It was around this time that his origin was tweaked a bit to give him something of a darker edge. Instead of being an imperfect clone of Superman, it was revealed that his DNA was half Superman and half Lex Luthor, making for some interesting crises of conscience for the young hero. He developed a romantic relationship with fellow Teen Titan, Wonder Girl (AKA Cassie Sandsmark). And Robin (Tim Drake) was Conner’s best friend. Teen Titans was really good in those days, y’all.
But then Infinite Crisis happened. Superboy found himself at odds with Superboy-Prime, a character who survived the original Crisis on Infinite Earths by hanging out for the previous 20 years in a sort of pocket dimension with Lex Luthor of Earth-3 and Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2.
Sidebar: Superboy-Prime was from Earth-Prime, which was supposed to be our Earth in the real world. Clark Kent was just a regular kid who often got picked on because his name was Clark Kent. On Earth-Prime, comic books regularly told the stories of DC’s greatest super heroes. One day, Clark discovered that he really did have Superman’s powers, becoming that world’s only super hero. And then the Crisis happened, wiping his universe.
So it’s important to know that Superboy-Prime grew up reading DC Comics and had this idealized version of what his heroes’ lives should look like. From inside the pocket dimension, he could see how reality was unfolding and he didn’t like it. And he really didn’t like Conner Kent taking on the name of Superboy.
Prime was basically psychotic and went on a homicidal rampage that resulted in Conner’s death.
It should come as no shock that Conner eventually returned to life. Because comics.
Conner’s story was drastically altered when the New 52 continuity hit in 2011. It was not good. However… And I do find it a little confusing… The Conner Kent that was introduced in the 90s has recently made a return and exists right alongside the current Superboy, Jonathan Kent. I don’t know how all of that is working out.
To my knowledge, Conner has appeared in live action only on a few episodes of Smallville. But he is a key player on the Young Justice animated series. Which is a brilliant show, by the way.
So when you think of Superboy, are you thinking of Superman as a kid? Do you think of Conner, like I do? Or do you think of the latest Superboy, the son of Lois & Clark? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments!