When Superman died at the hands of Doomsday, several government agencies swooped in to claim possession of his body. Among them was Cadmus, an agency that dealt specifically with genetic research and cloning. Desperate, Cadmus actually stole Superman’s body from his tomb. Supergirl eventually stole back the corpse, but not before Cadmus was able to obtain a few DNA samples. A few months later and Cadmus succeeded in creating their very own Superboy…until of course the clone escaped. That’s when everything changed.
Superboy is very much how Clark Kent would have turned out had he been born in the MTV generation. He doesn’t like authority, he loves the ladies, and will never pass up a chance to show off. Case in point: he gets his own reality television show, chronicling his attempts to fill the real Superman’s shoes. During one “episode,” it seems like Superboy has bitten off more than he can chew with a particularly heavy piece of debris…only to shrug the weight off: it’s only a ploy, capped with the line, “Metropolis, made ya look!” Humility isn’t this guy’s strong suit.
It also doesn’t help that Superboy has his own unique superpower: telekinesis. When Superboy is holding fifty-ton weights, he’s not actually “holding” them; instead he’s mentally levitating them. While others might suffer from standing apart from a legendary predecessor, Superboy embraces the power, fueling his already massive ego.
Things change when the real Superman returns. Feeling out of place, Superboy relinquishes his claim to the Superman mantle and heads off to parts unknown to find himself. Afterwards, Superboy is invited to the Fortress of Solitude, where Superman gives him the Kryptonian name Kon-El (and his human alias Conner Kent). Superboy is extremely grateful, as having an actual name is a piece of normalcy in an otherwise dramatic life (proving once again that we all want what we can’t have).
One turning point is the death of Tana Moon, his go-between during his reality show days. The two fluctuate between friendship and romance…until Tana’s death (itself an act of revenge designed to hurt Conner). While heartbroken, Conner emerges from the crisis a changed man, further dedicated to Superman’s mission.
Time would prove another maxim: where superheroes go, drama follows. After numerous battles involving the age-reversal of adult superheroes, Conner discovers that he’s permanently stuck in his sixteen-year-old body. This crushes the Boy of Steel, having secretly dreamed to eventually take over Superman’s duties upon adulthood.
On top of all that, Connor discovers he’s a product of two different DNA strands: Superman and Lex Luthor. Unsure of himself, he begins a list of what both “fathers” would do, constantly referring to them when he can’t make a decision.
Conner’s penultimate moment arrives in the form of Superboy-Prime, his evil parallel-universe counterpart who seeks the destruction of the entire DC Multiverse. Conner sacrifices himself to defeat Prime. In that moment, he proves himself worthy of the name Superman.
Of course, no one really dies in comic books, and eventually Conner returns to the fold. More than ever, Conner seeks to make Superman proud while simultaneously being his own man. Living up to the legacy of the world’s greatest champion is a weight that few are able to shoulder, but time and again Conner has proven that he’s more than capable of handling the burden. Personally, I can’t wait to see what Conner does next.
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