The mantle of Superman is a heavy one to bear. With nearly 80 years of history, and a legacy that stands for truth, justice and hope. Those hoping to live up to the mantle have a lot to deal with. The members of the Super Family stretch far at different points of history, with the name Superboy passing from member to member. To those training to become the man of steel, those made from him, and ultimately the heir to Superman. With titles such as Superman and Supersons currently being released from DC, it seems fitting to look back at the history of the mainstream Superboy name.
Originally introduced in More Fun Comics # 101 in 1945. The first Superboy was simply a young Clark Kent. His first appearance chronicles an 8-year-old Clark discovering his powers, and leaning that he can’t use them out in the open. Ending the issue with Clark deciding on a public identity, and designing his Superboy costume. Superboy went on to have his own ongoing series, including Superboy (1949 – 1977), and The New Adventures of Superboy (1980 – 1984). The stories chronicle the childhood adventures of Superboy, growing up in Kansas, and learning to use his powers. As well as back up features including his time with the Legion of Super-Heroes, a group of teenage superheroes from the 30th and 31st century. These stories were basically erased from continuity after the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.
There was a second Superboy series from 1989 to 1991, however this is in continuity with the Superboy television series. Lasting 22 issues. This incarnation of Superboy makes appearances in various other titles, such as Superman Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, as well as an alternate reality version in Superman Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen.
Originally claiming to be the Man of Steel himself, Kon-El made his first appearance in Adventures of Superman #500, at a time where the real Superman was dead, due to his fight with Doomsday. A genetic clone of both Superman and Lex Luther, He showed up in Metropolis, sporting a blue and red Superman leotard, two belts, high black boots, and a black leather jacket. His very design screaming 90s era comics. Kon-El fought for the right to be named the one true Superman until the day Superman returned, returning to the Cadmus institute to learn more about his origin. Eventually, he moves out of Clark Kent’s apartment, and starts his journey to find his place.
Moving to Hawaii, he starts a relationship with reporter Tana Moon. He goes on a multitude of adventures in his own book, even crossing paths with Aquaman, and Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. At times, he joins forces with the likes of Knockout, and The Ravers, before becoming a founding member of Young Justice. Alongside Robin (Tim Drake), and Impulse (Bart Allen II). Shortly after this, he is excepted by Superman as part of the family, and receives the name Conner Kent. His adventures, both solo and with the team, take him through the ‘Day of Judgement’ event, the death of Tana Moon, and Our World’s at War. With the disbanding of Young Justice, Superboy becomes a member of The New Teen Titans, and learns of his connection to Lex Luther, before dying during Infinite Crisis, at the hands of Superboy-Prime.
In the 30th Century, Conner is reborn by the Legion of Super-Heroes, and returned to the 21st Century alongside Bart Allen. Re-joining the Teen Titans, and dawning his more iconic costume of the black Superman T-shirt, and jeans combo. He takes part in The Blackest Night event, New Krypton, and eventually becomes a founding member of the Supermen of America.
This incarnation of Kon-El, became the inspiration for the fan favourite portrayal in the Young Justice animated series. As well as other animated counterparts.
New 52 Kon-El:
With the New 52, characters were re-imagined, almost from the ground up. This incarnation, while based on the previous Conner Kent, has some major differences. A clone of Jon Lane Kent, created by the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. organization, a nefarious institute, founded by Harvest. Raised in alternate reality simulations, and awoken by his caretaker and surrogate mother, Caitlin Fairchild. Superboy is cloned and raised as a weapon by N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to be used against rogue metahumans. On his first field mission, he loses control of his telekinetic powers, and separates from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. before being attacked by his targets. After running in to Supergirl, he learns of his Kryptonian history, and is given the name Kon-El by here, ‘an abomination in the House of El’. Superboy returns to N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and learns that he was the second clone created, but fails to learn more in his fight against Rose Wilson.
He takes part in The Culling event, alongside the Teen Titans and The Ravagers, teaming up with the titans, and ending up stranded on an island full of animals thought to be extinct, alongside Wonder Girl. Upon returning to New York, he is attacked by H’el, due to his status as a clone, Supergirl saves him and is taken to Superman after being badly injured. At the Fortress of Solitude, they discover that he has three strands of DNA, one human, one kryptonian, and one unidentified. To stop Superboy’s genetics breaking down any further, Superman gives him his Kryptonian battle armour, which limits his telekinetic powers to only items he touches.
He joins Supergirl in the Crucible story line, stating that he has nothing to lose. However, he is captured in an attempt to use him to start an entire clone army of Kryptonians. He and Supergirl manage to destroy the cloning facility, but Superboy returns to Earth with none of his mounting questions answered.
Born during the Convergence event, Jonathan Samuel Kent is the son of the Pre-New 52 Clark Kent and Lois Lane-Kent, and the most recent incarnation of Superboy. Born in the Batcave of Flashpoint Batman (Thomas Wayne), and delivered by Batman himself, Jon grew up in the New 52 Earth as Jon White, while his parents hide from a world that was not their own. When this Earth loses their Superman, Jon discovers the secret identity of his father, as Clark rises to take up the reigns, and protect the world he has raised his son and called home. Jon begins to discover his abilities, and starts to fight alongside his father, before falling ill. His parents rush him to this world’s Fortress of Solitude, where Jon beats his first supervillain, The Eradicator, alongside his mother, dawning Batman’s HellBat armour, and his father. Due to Jon’s mixed heritage, the nature and strength of his powers become a source of concern throughout various storylines and as he develops.
During a science experiment Jon creates for school, Jon, Superman and Krypto the dog, are transported to Dinosaur Island, where they encounter Captain William Storm of The Losers. They return home, and when Christmas roles round, Jon attempts to find the prefect Christmas tree, before needing to be rescued by Nobody and Goliath. Jon wakes up in the Batcave, discovering that Robin (Damien Wayne) has been keeping his eye on him. The two argue, before Batman and Superman show up and order the two of them to undertake a series of team work exercises, to learn to work together. Despite their fighting, they learn to work together, and form their own hap-hazard team, Super Sons.
Later, Jon is kidnapped by long time Superman villain, Mister Mxyzptlk, in the Superman Reborn event. Jon becomes the major saving point of the event, as Mxyptlk blurs realities and bring the New 52 Superman and Lois Lane in to this reality, in place of Jon’s parents. The people he knows as his parents don’t recognise him, and are simply colleagues rather than married. It’s Jon who eventually defeats Mxyzptlk, by bringing forth his real parents, and making him merge the two versions of his parents together, making a new history for all of them. One in which Jon was born in the Fortress of Solitude, in the presence of Batman and Wonder Woman. His godfather is Perry White, and they have never had to hide themselves, reclaiming the public identity of Kent.
During Black Dawn, Batman becomes concerned of the slow rate in which Jon’s powers are developing, and discovers that several members of the city they live in, are in fact alien, and aligned with Superman villain, Manchester Black. Manchester Black has been suppressing his powers for years, and upon taking out Batman, Robin, Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s Bride, Manchester takes control of Jon, unlocking his full potential, and pits him against Superman. Jon is finally able to overcome the mind control, and with the help of his lifelong friend Kathy, defeats Manchester with a blast of psychic feedback. Jon’s powers are drained, but they eventually return, along with the ability to fly.