From Academic Kids

Superboy is the name of two fictional characters published by DC Comics.


The Original Superboy (Kal-El)


Superboy was originally simply Superman as a boy and was essentially treated as a junior version of Superman. To that end, Superboy wore the Superman costume and his alter ego Clark Kent wore glasses as a disguise for his civilian identity. The character was created without the permission of Superman's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, a fact which increased an already-growing rift between them and the publisher, DC Comics.

Superboy first appeared in More Fun Comics #101 (1944), and the feature soon moved to Adventure Comics. In 1949 Superboy was given his own self-titled comic-book. It was at this point that a supporting cast began to grow up around the character. The only major characters to appear in the early years were Jonathan and Martha (or "Ma and Pa") Kent. The 8th issue of Superboy saw the first adventure of "Superbaby," a character which extended the "Junior Superman" concept to that of a super-powered toddler. The 10th issue of Superboy featured the first appearance of Lana Lang, a character which would become a romantic foil for both Superboy and for the grown-up Superman. In the early 1960s, Clark Kent's best friend Pete Ross and Smallville Police Chief Parker rounded out the supporting cast.

Beginning in Superboy #2, the adventures of Superboy took place in Smallville, USA, a town whose exact location was never specified in the Superboy stories, though it was usually placed close to Metropolis (Smallville was placed in Kansas a few years after the original Superboy character ceased to be published, but Smallville's location, like other fictional cities, is not permanent).

In the earliest stories, the time period in which Superboy's adventures were set was never clearly defined, with some adventures seemingly taking place in the same year the story was published (one example being a 1952 story with Lana Lang participating in a "Miss Smallville of 1952" contest). In the late 1950s, Superman comic editor Mort Weisinger decided to place all of Superboy's adventures in an early-to-mid-1930s setting (in light of Superman's first comic appearance being in 1938). In the early 1970s, the Superboy writing staff decided to "update" Superboy by setting his book on a "floating timeline," taking place perpetually 15 years or so behind whatever the then-current year was; this resulted in the 1970s stories featuring Superboy being set in the 1950s. Starting with the debut in 1980 of a new Superboy comic, the Boy of Steel's era was moved up again, to take place in the late 1960s/early 1970s.

Some of Superman's foes, such as the Phantom Zone villains, made their first appearance in Superboy stories, and some (such as Mr. Mxyzptlk) also appeared as younger versions of themselves in the Superboy stories. The most famous example of this is the young Lex Luthor. In a story purporting to reveal the origin of the enmity between Luthor and Superman, Lex Luthor was a teenage boy the same age as Superboy, and the two became best friends after Lex moved to Smallville. Superboy built a fully-stocked laboratory for Lex in order for the latter to conduct his experiments, while Lex searched for a cure for Superboy's weakness to Kryptonite. However, when a fire in Lex's lab forced Superboy to destroy an important experiment Lex was working on in order to save his life, the chemicals used caused Lex to lose all of his hair. Lex blamed Superboy for destroying his experiment and his hair loss, accusing the Boy of Steel of jealousy over his brilliance, with Lex swearing to prove to the world that he was superior to Superboy. Lex did this by trying to implement a series of scientific quality-of-life improvements for Smallville's residents; however, each invention of Lex's wound up backfiring, resulting in the needed intervention of Superboy. This series of setbacks, along with the earlier lab accident, resulted in Lex deciding to dedicate his life to destroying Superboy. Thereafter, Lex Luthor and Superboy were arch-enemies.

A Superboy story called "The Legion of Super-Heroes" in a 1958 issue of Adventure Comics featured three super-powered teenagers from the 30th century who offered Superboy membership in their super-hero club, the Legion of Super-Heroes. Although this was intended as nothing more than a one-shot tale, the characters went on to spin off into their own series in Adventure Comics beginning in 1962. In the early 1970s the Superboy comic began regularly featuring the Legion until the title was officially renamed first Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes and finally Legion of Super-Heroes in 1980, ousting Superboy from the comic altogether. It was the most successful spin-off of the Superman titles and has endured throughout various incarnations over the years.

A new series called New Adventures of Superboy ran from 1980 to 1984, and a four-issue miniseries called Superman: The Secret Years (featuring Superboy in his junior year of college, and how he changed his name to Superman) was published in 1985, after which the character of Superboy was discarded from Superman's continuity after the 1985-1986 miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths and writer John Byrne's 1986 revamp of Superman's origin.

Following Byrne's revamp, a new version of Superboy was briefly used as a means of patching the Legion of Super-Heroes' continuity, which was undermined by Byrne's removal of Superman's Superboy career. This version of Superboy was based on the pre-Crisis version, but was a resident of an alternate "pocket" universe created by Legion enemy the Time Trapper. However, this Superboy was soon killed (as seen in Legion of Super-Heroes (volume 3) #38).

The Modern Superboy (Kon-El)


A new Superboy, a clone grafted with Superman's DNA (as opposed to a younger version of Superman), was introduced in 1993. He was created by Project Cadmus to replace Superman following the Death of Superman story, and was artificially aged to mid-teens and implanted with the necessary knowledge of someone his biological age. As he is only a partial clone of Superman, he does not have all of the Man of Steel's powers, and it remains to be seen what range of powers he will ultimately develop. He is a stereotypical irreverent teenager, and in his early stories seemed at least as interested in women and licensing his image as crimefighting.

A Superboy series featuring this character lasted for 100 issues. Much of it was written by the character's creator Karl Kesel, who seemed to relish the opportunity to use as many Jack Kirby tributes as possible. The early stories saw Superboy settle in Hawaii with a supporting cast consisting of his sleazy agent Rex Leech; Rex's daughter Roxy (who later became a police officer); Dubbilex, a "DNAlien" from Project Cadmus; Tana Moon, a TV reporter obviously intended as his Lois Lane character; and Krypto, a white puppy, not to be confused with Krypto the Superdog. At around this time, it was revealed that the genetic donor Superboy was (seemingly) cloned from was Paul Westfield, the unscrupulous senior director of Cadmus, who had been killed in the meantime.

Following a visit to an island based on the Wild Lands of Kirby's post-apocalyptic strip Kamandi, Superboy found much of his supporting cast had disappeared. He rejoined Cadmus (which was under new management) and became their official trouble-shooter.

Superboy was one of the first to explore Hypertime. During this journey, he learned that Superman was Clark Kent. The fact his closest "relative" had kept this from him lead to a bit of bad feeling between them, but it soon passed.

Missing image
Superboy (volume 4) #94. Art by John McCrea.

During the Our Worlds At War crossover, Cadmus was seemingly destroyed. Superboy spent some time living in an apartment block in Metropolis, working as the superintendent to pay the rent. He has since been taken in by Superman's adopted parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent.

The character was also a member of Peter David's Young Justice, and is now in the latest version of the Teen Titans, which is as much a sequel to Young Justice as it is to previous Titans books. In this series, it has been revealed to Superboy that the true donors to his genetic makeup were Superman and the supervillain Lex Luthor. How Luthor and Superman's DNA was used to create Superboy is unknown at this time.

Recently, Superman has entrusted Krypto the Superdog into Superboy's care.

Originally, Superboy had no name besides "Superboy." Later, Superman gave him the Kryptonian name "Kon-El," to show that he considered him family. Most recently, he has adopted the secret identity of "Conner Kent," posing as a younger cousin of Clark. Superboy also appears occasionally in the Superman/Batman crossover title.

Superboy is often criticized by fans for his sullen nature; many fans believe that he is too much of a caricature of teenage rebellion.

Adaptations in other media

The Superboy character has made the transition to television and film on multiple occasions, both in live action and animated series.

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