DC’s Death Of Superman was easily the biggest story in ’90s comics, leading to a surge in interest in DC’s Man of Steel. But the seminal storyline didn’t just introduce the world to mullet Superman and Steel; no, this storyline gave DC an all new, totally snotty Superboy. Rocking an undercut and leatherjacket, this Superboy was a far cry from the superpowered teen of the Golden Age, and fans couldn’t get enough of the new hero.
Superboy would go on to become one of DC’s most popular heroes in the ’90s, nabbing a solo series and leading several high profile teams. But by the mid-2000’s, Superboy’s star was in decline, and before you could say “terrible Tron costume,” Conner Kent disappeared with the conclusion of the New 52. A new Superboy stepped into the spotlight, and fans thought Kon-El would never be seen again. But rejoice ’90s comic fans: the one true Superboy has returned in Young Justice, and CBR is celebrating by taking a look back at DC’s premier super brat.
20 MAXIMUM CLONAGE
When Superman perished in battle against the insidious Doomsday, Metropolis was left searching for a new hero. Sensing an opportunity to both bring Superman back to his eager public while also ensuring this new hero would work towards their best interests, the shadowy Project Cadmus set out to create a clone of Superman. Problem was, this proved a bit too difficult, forcing Project Cadmus to get inventive.
In Superboy’s OG origin, Cadmus wasn’t able to secure DNA of Superman, so the cabal of scientists instead took a human clone and genetically altered the clone to look like the Man of Steel, tinkering with the clone to make it as close to Kryptonian physiology as possible. Ultimately, Experiment 13, as the project was dubbed, did come close to matching the Big S, but with one major hang up…
19 NOT QUITE SUPER
With no Kryptonian DNA, Project Cadmus found they couldn’t get the clone to replicate the powers of Superman. What’s a shadowy science organization to do? Why, take the clone, have it hang out next to the grave of Superman, and have it soak up some of his powers, obviously.
Cadmus found that the deceased hero emitted a bio-electric aura which, when absorbed by the clone, granted Experiment 13 “tactile telekinesis,” causing the clone to project a telekinetic field that simulated the powers of Superman. Thus, Experiment 13 gained the standard invulnerability, super strength, and flight synonymous with Supes, but in a utterly unique way. But along with the standard power set, the clone gained some strange abilities…
18 SO FRESH AND SO CLEAN
Receiving a bunch of goofy powers that are later completely forgotten about is practically a requirement for bearing that famous “S” crest. After all, Superman has lost dozens of strange abilities over the years, so it’s only appropriate that Superboy follow in the Man of Steel’s footsteps.
Back when Experiment 13 was still finding his footing as The Metropolis Kid (more on that in just a moment,) Project Cadmus was still working to determine the extent of the clone’s abilities. In a case of “not very useful, but neat,” it was found that the Teen of Steel could cover himself in a thin layer of his tactile telekinesis, which would prevent the hero’s uniform from getting dirty or ripping. As “always rocking a crisp leather jacket” wasn’t particularly useful in fighting crime, this ability was eventually forgotten and never referenced again, but remains an interesting footnote in the history of Superboy.
17 WHAT’S IN A NAME?
During the aftermath of the death of Superman, four individuals descended onto Metropolis, each claiming to be the new Superman. Among these heirs to the super-throne was Experiment 13, who had emerged from his cloning tube too early, debuting as a teenager rather than the full-grown adult Project Cadmus had intended the clone to be. But when the teen hero arrived on the scene, he didn’t opt to use his experiment title, instead opting for a new name altogether.
As people debated just what super-wannabe was the real deal, the clone began to pop up around the city, saving civilians and stopping baddies. Not knowing his name, the media quickly dubs the new arrival “The Metropolis Kid.” Eventually, Experiment 13 would declare himself to be Superman, but this early nickname would stick with the new hero for some time.
16 ALOHA SUPERBOY!
What’s a super powered teen to do when the man he was cloned from returns from the dead, leaving said super powered teen directionless and aching for a change? Why, head to Hawaii, of course!
When the Man of Steel un-kicked the bucket, Superboy suddenly found himself feeling unnecessary in Metropolis. With fellow Project Cadmus experiment Dubbilex at his side, Superboy sought out a change of pace, ending up in sunny Hawaii. Enjoying the tropical locale (compounded with finding out his former crush had relocated to Hawaii), Superboy decided to stick around, dubbing himself the Hero of the Islands.
15 TECH-NICALLY SUPER POWERED
These days, Superboy rocks a full set of Kryptonian super powers, including your standard heat vision and x-ray vision. But once upon a time, the teen hero solely relied upon his tactile telekinesis to replicate Superman’s powers, but found himself unable to utilize the Man of Steel’s full range of abilities. Thus, for a brief time, Superboy relied on a high tech visor to remedy this problem.
While living in Hawaii, Superboy met vacationing scientist Emil Hamilton, who quickly devised a solution for the hero’s power problem. Hamilton bestowed Superboy with a visor which allowed the teen hero to replicate Superman’s vision-based powers. While Superboy would rely upon the gadget for a time, the Boy of Steel was still only a kid, meaning he was prone to misplacing things. Thus, the visor would promptly be lost, and Superboy would lose his new vision powers.
14 YOUNG LOVE
Remember that Buzzcocks song “Ever Fall In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t?)”? Well, this certainly applies to one of Superboy’s more memorable flings, though we doubt the Buzzcocks were singing about falling head over heels for a super strong Female Fury from Apokolips.
The musclebound baddie known as Knockout preferred to use her immense strength to rob banks and generally mess with the law, but Superboy saw potential in the Fury. Cue a cat-and-mouse game of Superboy chasing after Knockout in an attempt to convince her to join the side of good, while Knockout would playfully flirt with the young hero, raising his hopes before returning to a life of crime. For a brief time, Knockout legitimately went straight and joined Superboy in protecting Hawaii, but when Knockout’s methods proved too brutal, Superboy was forced to turn his crush in, putting an end to this tale of young love.
13 NOT-SO-SWEET SIXTEEN
Growing older certainly has its perks, but there are plenty of people who wish they could remain forever young. While the concept of never getting wrinkles or never losing your hair might sound appealing, the fact is that never growing up would be more of a curse than a blessing, as Superboy discovered.
In Superboy Vol. 4 #40, the young hero contracts a mysterious virus that slowly begins to break Superboy’s DNA apart. With nowhere else to turn, Superboy is taken back to Project Cadmus for assistance, where scientist Amanda Spence devises a means of “re-zipping” Superboy’s DNA. The solution works and Superboy is saved, but at a terrible cost: Superboy is told he will no longer age, and will forever be 16. The issue would be reversed years later, but this problem haunted Superboy for a long time.
12 STARK RAVING BAD
Everyone likes cutting loose now and again, and that includes super heroes. The concept of throwing away your worries for a bit of partying likely sounds awfully appealing for people who spend their entire lives worrying about others. But founding an entire super team on the concept of partying turned out to be a less than stellar idea.
When Superboy meets the electrically-powered hero Sparx, he is told about Event Horizon, an intergalactic rave exclusively for the super powered. Intrigued, Superboy begins to frequent Event Horizon, eventually forming a team with his fellow partiers, fitting named The Ravers. But readers apparently weren’t interested in “24 Hour Party People but with superheroes,” and Superboy and The Ravers was canceled after a scant 19 issues, leading to the team being disbanded.
11 BAD COMPANY
Young love will often cause people to do silly things. Maybe it will make a person move across the country, or to abandon all of their friends. Or maybe it will cause you to briefly team-up with the Suicide Squad with your crush. Standard stuff. We’ve all been there.
When Amanda Waller offers Knockout amnesty for a recent heist in exchange for joining up with the Suicide Squad, Superboy catches wind of this and quickly offers his assistance to Waller’s team of killers. Joining forces with Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Sidearm, and King Shark, the ragtag group battles the criminal organization known as the Silicon Dragons. When the Dragons are defeated, Knockout promptly skips town, and Superboy is thanked for his one-off assistance by Waller, putting an end to one of Superboy’s stranger adventures.
10 ONE HECK OF A SLEEP OVER
When Young Justice debuted in 1998, the teen team quickly became one of DC’s most popular groups, running for an impressive 56 issues and soon starring in a hit TV series, which is set for a highly anticipated revival at DC Nation. But this beloved team might have one of DC’s strangest origins, and Superboy was there for the whole thing.
In Young Justice: The Secret, friends Superboy, Robin, and Impulse decide to have a sleep over at one of the Justice League’s secret subterranean bases. Collectively awakened by nightmares, the group decides to explore the base, inadvertently discovering a deactivated Red Tornado, which, after a adventure involving an. ahem, overly-endowed female villain, the group band together to form Young Justice.
9 A NAME OF HIS OWN
Superboy may put on a devil-may-care attitude, but being grown in a vat and being expected to follow in the footsteps of a complete stranger would be hard on anybody. Thankfully, over time, Superboy overcome his sordid past and came to be considered a member of the Super-family, with Superman taking the young hero under his wing. But Superboy couldn’t be “Superboy” all the time; no, even a brash teen hero needs a name, and Superman was happy to oblige.
In Superboy Vol. 4 #59, Superman brings Superboy to this Fortress of Solitude, where the Teen of Steel learns all about the history of Krypton. Explaining that he considers Superboy family, Superman offers the hero a Kryptonian name of his own: Kon-El. Superboy tearfully accepts, and Kon-El, or “Conner” as he would come to call himself in his civilian life, was born.
8 GROWING UP IS HARD TO DO
When Superboy was told by Project Cadmus that he would never age past sixteen, the scientists apparently forgot to add the caveat “Unless you were suddenly aged rapidly from a wonky spell from a C-grade villain, of course.” We’re sure this addendum totally slipped their mind, but this is exactly what happened to Superboy.
When noted trickster Klarion the Witch Boy popped up at a Young Justice press conference, the baddie busted out an aging spell, turning the present teen heroes into adults and vice versa, save for Superboy. It was found that Kon-El’s “DNA re-zipping” prevented the spell from working properly, causing the spell to begin to tear the hero apart. Superboy was rushed to Project Cadmus, the inability to age was fixed, and the spell took effect, turning Superboy into a super man. The newly aged Superboy then took the fight to Klarion, defeating the Witch Boy and saving the day, only to find himself reverted back to his original age with a whole new set of problems…
With his youth regained, Superboy was ready to get back to fighting the good fight, but the hero discovered an issue: when reverted from an adult, he had somehow lost his powers. What’s a powerless Superboy to do? Why, stock up on gadgets and get back out there, of course.
Equipped with a Legion of Super-Heroes flight ring and a special size changing shield bearing the iconic S-crest, Superboy resumed his heroic duties. Receiving training from street-level hero and noted shield enthusiast Guardian, Superboy quickly became adept at his new gadgets, only for the hero to suddenly regain his powers thanks to a concentrated blast of solar energy from an alien baddie. The experience left Kon-El with a new appreciation for his powers, and improved hand-to-hand fighting skills, making this potentially disastrous event into something of a positive.
6 IMPERFECT MATCH
After numerous health scares and near-deaths thanks to his genetic make-up, it has been thoroughly established that Superboy’s clone body isn’t the most stable. As a result, trying to make a clone from this clone probably wouldn’t be the best idea. But that didn’t stop a secret organization from attempting to do just that, leading to the creation of Match.
When a shadowy cabal of rogue scientists dubbed “The Agenda” attempted to create clones of Superboy to sell as soldiers to the highest bidders, the resulting clone was imperfect and dangerous. Dubbed “Match,” this clone of a clone possessed all of Superboy’s powers, without any of the morals or positive life experiences. Over time, Match would degrade further, becoming a Bizarro-esque monstrosity that spoke in contradictions. Match is easily one of Superboy’s most dangerous foes, and he remains a secret shame to the Teen of Steel.
5 GOATEE = EVIL
Being grown in a vat. Being told to be just like a perfect stranger. Having no real life of your own. Yeah, Superboy was dealt a rough hand, and with his dark origins, it’s a minor miracle that Kon-El didn’t go to the dark side. But there exists an alternate reality in which Superboy never was; rather, when the young hero decided to seek power and control rather than truth and justice, he became Black Zero.
Debuting in Superboy Vol. 4 #62, Black Zero hailed from a reality in which Superman never returned from the dead, allowing Experiment 13 to mature fully in the clone tank, ultimately emerging with both Kryptonian powers and his tactile telekinesis, along with a lack of empathy and a desire to rule. An immensely powerful despot who sought to conquer all realities featuring a Superboy, Kon-El was forced to join forces with Superboys across the multiverse to put Black Zero down, leaving all Superboys involved wondering just how they would have turned out if their lives had been slightly different.
4 ORIGIN, TAKE 2
Originally, Superboy, or Experiment 13 as he was known then, was said to be a simple human clone, reconstructed in such a way to match Superman, bearing no Kryptonian DNA whatsoever. But when Superboy perished in a battle with the insane Superboy-Prime, the Legion of Super-Heroes knew the teen hero was needed to stop the power mad Prime, and Braniac devised a means of reconstructing Superboy.
Off in the 31st century, a plan was set in motion to revive Superboy. Taking DNA from Superman, along with a lock of Lex Luthor’s hair, Braniac 5 combined the gene cocktail in the machine that revived Superman after his death at the hands of Doomsday. Miraculously, this combination created a new, improved Superboy, who now had actual Kryptonian powers. Superboy promptly returned to the past to help defeat Superboy-Prime, and the rest is history.
3 NIGHT OF THE LIVING SUPERBOY
Thanks to Braniac 5, Superboy was back and better than ever, but there was still a lingering question: what to do with the body of the “original” Superboy? After all, it wasn’t like Superboy-Prime had vaporized Conner; there was a corpse, and nobody quite knew what should be done with it. Thankfully, a magic ring-fueled zombie apocalypse occurred, forcing the heroes to deal with the lingering question of Superboy.
When the Black Hand sent out the Black Lantern rings, bringing deceased heroes and villains back as flesh-hungry zombies, Superboy found himself targeted by the rings as, having recently died and been resurrected, he was seen as the walking dead by the Black Lantern. Possessed by the ring, Superboy battles Supergirl, with the fight spilling into the Fortress of Solitude. Here, the original body of Superboy lay in the rebirth matrix, causing the Black Lantern ring to become confused, leaving the reborn Superboy to possess the corpse of the original Superboy. Seizing the opportunity, reborn Superboy utilizes his freeze breath to freeze the corpse with the ring, which Supergirl promptly hurls into space. Comicdom has seen some strange solutions to returning from death, but “flash-freezing your own corpse and throwing it into deep space” might be one of the strangest.
2 BACK TO HIS ROOTS
Turns out, dying in a battle with an alternate-reality Superboy and then being reborn in the 31st century from the genetic make-up of Superman’s greatest enemy can really do a number on a guy. Thus, when Kon-El returned to the past, he found himself wanting to catch his breath and embrace the Superman side of his origin and what better place to learn to be like Superman than Smallville?
Superman brought Superboy to Ma and Pa Kent, where the young hero, taking the name “Conner Kent,” began to live a normal life. During his time in the small farm town, Conner sought to better understand what made Superman “Superman,” helping those in the community and keeping a list of good deeds. Gone was the devil-may-car, leather jacket-sporting Superboy of old; this was a brand new kind of Superboy.
Despite Kon-El’s continued popularity, the character hit something of a slump in the New 52, being saddled with boring stories and uninteresting character developments. By the time DC Rebirth came along to shake things up once more, Conner Kent was nowhere to be seen, replaced by a new, younger Superboy. But you can’t keep a good super teen down, leading to Superboy’s grand return to DC.
The Brian Michael Bendis-penned Young Justice #1 not only saw the return of the fan favorite teen team, but reintroduced everyone’s favorite leather jacket-rocking superhero. While Bendis has yet to reveal just how Superboy has returned to DC continuity, fans of the Teen of Steel wait eagerly to see just what brings Conner back.
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