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- This article details Superboy's history in the Modern Age comic books (1985-2011 continuity). For the current continuity, see the Biography section of the Superboy article.
Superboy's origins start with Project: Superman, which is the Superman cloning project originally intended to recreate the Man of Steel. Due to the inability to replicate and stabilize Kryptonian DNA, the clones of Superman degenerate after a short period of time. Upon Superman's death, the project is reinstated in secrecy in conjunction with Lex Luthor and Cadmus Labs to replace the fallen hero. After 12 documented attempts at cloning a Superman, human DNA (secretly that of Project head Paul Westfield, later retconned as being from Lex Luthor) is partially used to stabilize the Kryptonian DNA. The result is Superboy, the first successful clone of Superman.
Reign of the Supermen
In his first appearance, the Newsboy Legion assist Superboy in escaping from Cadmus. His artificial aging process halted, Superboy leaves Cadmus as a teenaged boy of about 16 with implanted knowledge corresponding to that of any boy his age.
Upon his arrival in Metropolis (comics), Superboy calls himself "Superman" and has no other identity. He tells anyone who will listen that he is a clone of Superman.
He first reveals this to Lois Lane, but it is Tana Moon who breaks the story live on WGBS. The Cyborg Superman, Eradicator (comics), and "Man of Steel" John Henry Irons make their first appearances Shortly thereafter the "real" Superman returns. Superboy joins him, Supergirl, John Henry Irons, Green Lantern, and the Eradicator (comics) in a successful assault on "Engine City", built on the ruins of Coast City.
Following the cyborg's defeat, Superboy is convinced that the returning Kal-El is the real Superman.
After Superman's return to Metropolis, Superboy is informed that he had been created from human DNA only and was genetically engineered to both look like Superman and mimic his major powers by way of telekinesis.
At this time, Superman is served a cease and desist order to stop using the "Superman" trademark, which registered after his death to Superboy (at one stage it is suggested that Superman change his name to "Supreme".
They agree to share the trademark, if some proceeds go to charity. Now nameless, Superman tells him his actions have earned him the name "Superboy". At first reluctantly, Superboy accepts the new name and decides to go on a "Superboy World Tour". He gets as far as Hawaii before deciding to stay there.
A Superboy series debuted in 1994 and lasted for 100 issues, ending in 2002. In it, Superboy settles in Hawaii with a supporting cast consisting of his sleazy agent Rex Leech, Rex's daughter Roxy, the being from the genetically engineered race at Cadmus called "DNAliens" known as Dubbilex, TV reporter Tana Moon, and Bibbo Bibbowski's white puppy named Kryptonian. Early in the series, it is revealed that Superboy is cloned from Cadmus' unscrupulous Senior Director Paul Westfield, who had been killed by mad scientist Dabney Donovan. Karl Kesel was the writer for the majority of the first 30 issues, introducing many new villains. These include Sidearm, B.E.M., Silversword, and King Shark.
Superboy begins the series acting immature (writer Karl Kesel often compared the character to Peter Pan), however, by the end, he has significantly matured. Superboy almost dies when he, along with the majority of Cadmus' clones, are infected by the Clone Virus. After that story, Superboy and the Suicide Squad team up to take out the lair of the Silicon Dragons, an infamous Pacific crime syndicate who maintain a base of operations at the bottom of the ocean.
In another storyline, Superboy is legally required to attend school because he is a minor. He attends public school, but is later expelled and Dubbilex telepathically tutors Superboy after the school is severely damaged in a battle.
Another storyline involved Knockout (comics), a thrill-seeking former Female Fury on the planet Apokolips, who fled while in training. After teaming up several times with Superboy, Knockout becomes his full time partner. They take down Killer Frost, the Technician, and Silversword. The Furies would later arrive to capture Knockout. As a result, a huge battle breaks out, with the local police involved. A police officer is killed in the fight, and an investigation concludes that Knockout herself had struck down the officer. At first, Superboy refuses to believe that Knockout is guilty, and goes on the run with her as an outlaw until she kills again in front of him, forcing Superboy to apprehend her.
Superboy also plays a critical role in saving the life of Legion of Super-Heroes member Lar Gand (who was called "Valor" in this story). When Lar Gand/Valor; a Daxamite, is suffering from lead poisoning, he loses his memory and is manipulated into fighting for entertainment by a corrupt businessman. Lar Gand and Superboy are drawn into a fight under false pretenses. Realizing that Lar Gand is dying, Superboy, with the aid of Knockout, brings him to S.T.A.R. Labs for treatment. But with Lar Gand close to death and no clue as to how to cure him, Superboy puts Lar Gand in a Stasis Zone. The Stasis Zone operates similar to the Phantom Zone; where Lar Gand is kept for 1000 years, until he is freed and cured by The Legion of Super-Heroes. In gratitude for saving Lar Gand's life the Legion makes Superboy an honorary member and give him a Legion flight ring.
Ron Marz's run featured an organization called the Agenda attempting to capture Superboy and use his DNA to create a clone army. The Agenda use an operative named Amanda Spence to capture Superboy and subsequently created the clone named Match (DC Comics). Match is an upgraded clone of Superboy who is smarter and seemed to have a greater understanding of the abilities Superboy had. After a battle in the Agenda's headquarters, Superboy through sheer will defeats Match, the Agenda, and destroys its clone army. But the Agenda reveal it has infected Superboy with a deadly virus. The virus causes his cellular structure to breakdown, and Superboy is rushed back to Cadmus again, where an emergency transfusion of Roxy's blood stabilizes him and, unfortunately, locks him permanently at the age of 15-16. The news devastates Superboy, since he had always dreamt of growing up to replace Superman when the latter retired.
The cast soon disbands with Tana Moon breaking off her relationship with Superboy. She leaves Hawaii on a business trip. A humiliated Superboy disappears along the Pacific Ocean. Dubbilex returns to Cadmus, and Roxy leaves Hawaii in search of her fugitive father. In issue #50, Superboy is crushed to find that his friends have all left Hawaii. He returns to Cadmus, and becomes a field operative, teaming up with Dubbilex and Guardian (DC Comics).
Superboy finally got a real name when he and Superman visit a virtual reality Kryptonian. Later on, Superman gives him the Kryptonian name Kon-El, telling him that he considers Superboy family.
Superboy in Hypertime
Superboy is one of the first DC Comics characters to explore Hypertime in the "Hypertension" story arc (Superboy #60-64, 1999). A fatally injured Superboy arrives from an alternate reality, wearing a device known as a hyperjacket. This alternate Superboy with his last breath, tells Kon-El that Black Zero is coming to take over their reality. Kon-El, with the approval of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, takes it upon himself to investigate this other Superboy's claims and murder. Kon-El then uses the hyperjacket and straps himself to a nuclear bomb to power it. He is thrown into various different realities before his hyperjacket destroys itself due to lack of a proper power source to fuel it. Superboy ends up on the pre-Crisis Earth One and reunites with the Kal-El Superboy whom he had met in Superboy #8 (1994). Kon-El spends some time with Kal-El, Kryptonian, Ma and Pa Kent until the villain of the story reveals himself by capturing Krypto. The villain makes short work of both Superboys. After Kon-El himself is captured, the villain is discovered to be an alternate version of Superboy. This version of Kon-El has reached full adulthood and has named himself Black Zero after the terrorist group on Krypton that fought for clone rights. He seems to have Kryptonian powers as well as highly skilled tactile telekinesis. Black Zero, with the help of his Guardian clones, Paul Westfield and Metron (comics), manage to capture and imprison dozens of Superboys across Hypertime. With the help of the Challengers of the Unknown, a reformed alternate version of Knockout and dozens of alternate Superboys (billed as the "Legion of Superboys" on the cover of Superboy #61), Kon-El manages to stop Black Zero. At the end of the story it is unclear if Black Zero is dead or lost in Hypertime. Superboy and The Challengers of the Unknown use a ship given to them by a Metron to travel home out of Hypertime. During Kon-El's stay with the original Superboy (Kal-El), he learns that Superman is Clark Kent. The idea that his closest "relative" had kept this from him leads to a bad feeling between them, but it soon passes.
When the Agenda takes over Cadmus, they use the villains Simyan and Mokkari to create a clone army and turned the lab into the "Evil Factory." With the help of some allies, Superboy manages to regain control of Cadmus, battling his doppelgänger Match (DC Comics) along the way. When Tana Moon returns, she is brutally murdered by Amanda Spence, Paul Westfield's daughter, who holds Superboy responsible for his death.
During the Sins of Youth storyline, correcting the anomaly preventing Superboy from aging is attempted. The members of Young Justice are aged to adults by Klarion the Witch Boy, while the Justice League is turned into kids. At first, Superboy is the only one who did not have his age altered, and he became ill. Since he cannot age, his body fought with the magic manipulation trying to age him. Eventually, he becomes an adult as well. During this time, Superboy confronts Amanda Spence. Wonder Girl encourages him not to kill her. Seemingly ignoring her advice, he slams Spence towards the ground at a high rate of speed. At the last moment, he stops, declaring that Spence should live with the memory of how she could have lost her life.
During this story arc, the adult Superboy tells a rejuvenated Superman (now about Kon-El's normal age) that he knows his secret identity. After Klarion is blackmailed into reversing the effects, Superboy is restored back to his permanent, unchanging age, but he is rendered powerless. Superman manages to help Superboy through his grief of never being able to grow older or become the new Superman; stating that there are some things in life that one does not expect to happen.
When an alien slaver arrives, Superboy is forced to rely on his wits and some gadgets to succeed against the enemy before his powers are restored at the last minute. During the Our Worlds at War crossover, Superboy fights Amanda Spence, now an insane cyborg, for the last time, and Cadmus is destroyed.
At the end of his series, Superboy gets an apartment in Metropolis (comics), working as the Building superintendent to make an income for himself and make a living. Superboy is later taken in by Superman's parents Ma and Pa Kent. Superman also sets up Superboy with a civilian identity. He became "Conner Kent", cousin to Clark Kent. Feeling that Superboy might feel lonely in Smallville, Superman entrusts Kryptonian the Superdog into Superboy's care.
Superboy is a founding member of Peter David's Young Justice, as well as the most recent version of the Teen Titans, which is as much a sequel to Young Justice as it is to previous Titans books. Following the apparent death of Donna Troy, the Titans reform with Superboy and former Young Justice members Robin, Impulse, Wonder Girl, along with Titans veterans Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy.
Superboy and Wonder Girl's relationship is developed throughout Young Justice and Teen Titans. At first, Wonder Girl's infatuation with Superboy is unnoticed. In the final issue of Young Justice, both Wonder Girl and Superboy reveal they have feelings for each other. During their first date, Superboy is forcibly sucked through a time portal to the 30th century.
When Superboy reappears, he is wearing the classic Superboy outfit (with a Legion belt buckle). It appears to Cassie as though he was only away for a couple seconds, but Superboy has spent five months in the 31st century with the Legion of Super-Heroes fighting the Fatal Five-Hundred. He returns to enlist the help of the Titans, bringing them to the future where they help the Legion to victory.
On the return trip home, they accidentally arrive ten years in the future instead of the present. The Teen Titans meet adult versions of themselves. Superboy finds that he is now Superman, Tim is Batman, Cassie is Wonder Woman and Bart is the Flash. In this alternate future, Conner has greater control of his powers, Cassie chooses him over Captain Marvel Jr., Lex Luthor is his mentor/father figure and the Titans are "freakin' bad guys".
They discuss the possibility of breaking up the team when they get back to the present, but Cyborg 2.0 tells them that the future developed the way it did because the team was not together during the "Crisis".
During Teen Titans, it is revealed that Superboy's human DNA is not from Paul Westfield, as it was originally believed, but from the supervillain Lex Luthor. Luthor reveals that the reason he had donated his DNA to help create Superboy is to generate a sleeper agent that he could use to destroy Superman.
He had been intimately involved with Project: Man of Tomorrow (a.k.a. Project: Lionel and Experiment 13), and he had implanted verbal commands into Superboy under Cadmus director Paul Westfield's nose.
Brainiac (comics) and Luthor lead an attack against the young heroes of the Teen Titans and the Outsiders using a brainwashed Superboy.
Conner manages to shake off the implanted mental command and return to his friends, but not before breaking Robin's arm and savagely beating his own girlfriend, Wonder Girl.
Afterwards, Conner takes a leave of absence from the Titans and secludes himself in the Kents' home. He is unsure as to whether or not, being a clone, he even has a soul. There, Raven shows him that he had a young soul that was stronger than his inner demons and steadily growing.
The Death of Superboy / Infinite Crisis
In the DC Comics' Limited series Infinite Crisis, the other-dimensional Superboy-Prime watches Conner during his seclusion in Smallville. Resentful of Conner, who seemingly has the perfect life, Superboy-Prime attacks him, telling him that he should be his replacement.
This vastly more powerful Superboy pulverizes Conner, badly injuring him, until the Teen Titans, Doom Patrol, and Justice Society of America join the fray, leading to a climactic battle where various Flashes pull Superboy Prime into the Speed Force.
The battle against Superboy-Prime overtaxes Conner's body. His body begins to fall apart to the point that even JSA physician Doctor Mid-Nite cannot aid him. Knowing that Lex Luthor wants to keep Superboy alive as much as the Titans do, Robin leads Speedy, Wonder Girl, and Beast Boy to find a cure, while Raven keeps watch over him.
The Titans succeed, and they immediately administer the cure to Conner, who makes a complete recovery; however, Luthor informs Robin it will only work that one time.
In the Teen Titans Annual, Wonder Girl volunteers to look after Conner as he recovers while the other Titans are called away to organize the relief effort in a decimated Blüdhaven, since her powers are slowly vanishing due to events in Wonder Woman and Infinite Crisis. Conner awakens, and he and Wonder Girl spend time alone, reminiscing and longing for "simpler times".
Thinking this may be their last night together, they have sex in the Kent barn. The two of them are later discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Luthor gives Conner the means to find Alexander Luthor, a sliver of the crystalline construct that Alexander is using to monitor reality. Conner and Nightwing bond as they make their way north to Alexander's fortress. Superboy, Nightwing and Wonder Girl infiltrate Alexander Luthor's base and work together to foil his plans. They free Martian Manhunter, Power Girl, and the rest of Luthor's captives, but the tide of the battle turns with the return of Superboy-Prime.
Superboy-Prime makes short work of many of the heroes until an enraged Conner attacks him. Conner and Superboy-Prime battle intensely, with Superboy-Prime crushing Conner's right hand in the battle. Conner charges him, sending both of them headlong into Alexander Luthor's multiverse tower.
The machine explodes, re-merging the worlds and apparently foiling Alexander Luthor's plans for good. Superboy, fatally injured from the explosion, lies dying in the arms of Wonder Girl. When Cassie tells him that he had saved the Earth, Conner replies, "I know, Cass. Isn't it cool?" Moments later, he dies. Batman, Wonder Woman, Kal-El, and Kal-L arrive, too late to save Conner's life. Later, Superman mourns Conner's death while cradling his body.
Conner is currently buried in an unmarked grave in Metropolis, alongside the bodies of Kal-L (the Earth-Two Superman) and his wife Lois Lane-Kent.
In 52, although Conner is dead, he is not forgotten. Following Superboy's death, Wonder Girl leads a memorial broadcast over the Internet, and she and hundreds of others pay their final respects to Conner in a traditional Kryptonian way. It is revealed that the mourners are part of a resurrection cult supposedly based on Kryptonian theology, which Wonder Girl and Ralph Dibny refer to as the "Cult of Conner". Dibny hypothesizes that the cult and Wonder Girl are responsible for defacing the tombstone of his wife Sue Dibny with an inverted Superman insignia, the Kryptonian symbol for hope. When placed upside down, the symbol stands for resurrection. Wonder Girl later encounters the strange, enigmatic hero called Supernova. Cassie introduces herself but is confused that he doesn't recognize her. When Supernova flies away, she calls him "Kon-El."
Three weeks later, surveillance footage is shown to Lex Luthor by an enthusiastic scientist who assumes that Kon-El is still alive. Luthor dismisses this belief, convinced that Supernova is not Kon-El but Superman. In week 37, it is revealed that Supernova is not Conner but in fact Booster Gold.
In Week 51, Batman and Robin return from their journey across the globe. When the heroes appear at Superboy's memorial on the first anniversary of his death, Robin is wearing a new costume using colors of black and red from Superboy's last uniform. Wonder Girl also changes her costume to honor Superboy as well, wearing a Golden Age Wonder Woman-themed t-shirt and denim jeans. Superboy Memorial statues are erected in Metropolis (comics) next to Superman's statue and outside of Titans Tower. One year later, Lex Luthor still mourns Conner's death as he considers him his own son. Meanwhile, unknown to his teammates or even Superman, Robin is attempting secretly to recreate Superboy using DNA from Superman and Luthor. Robin has a glass case memorial to Conner, which contains Conner's last costume, the jeans and S-shield T-shirt, similar to the memorial Batman keeps for the second Robin, Jason Todd. Supergirl took another one of his other T-shirts from the Kent farm and gave it to Wonder Girl.
Robin suggests Raven may be able to resurrect Superboy, as she has done recently for Jericho (comics). However, Raven reveals that she cannot, because she believes Kon-El's soul has already moved on to another plane of existence.
- Main Article: Superboy's Return
It is revealed in issue 4 of this miniseries that Superboy's body has been kept through the centuries, up till the Legion era in the same Kryptonian Regeneration Chamber that brought Superman back to life, following his death at the hands of Doomsday. During the course of the issue, the legion is able to feed the machine what it needs to restore Kon-El's body to life.