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Unearthing Superboy

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As the Blackest Night spreads across the DC Universe, Broken Frontier unearths the histories of several of the players in the event.

SPOILER WARNING: Read no further if you’ve not had the chance to dig into your most recent Blackest Night titles…

Following the death of Superman (Superman #75, January 1993), Project Cadmus – a secret government genetic research facility – began work on creating their own Superman.  After several failed attempts to unlock the secrets of Kryptonian DNA (most notably in Superman #76, February 1993 and The Legacy of Superman, 1993), the Project seemed close to a breakthrough.  While their 13th effort was being age-accelerated, the experiment was interrupted by a group of well meaning clones, halting the new Superman’s development at approximately 16 years of age.  This “clone” of Superman escaped the Project (Adventures of Superman #500, Early June 1993) and began adventuring in Metropolis (Adventures of Superman #501, Late June 1993).  Given that several other “replacement Supermen” had appeared at the same time, the clone loudly and publicly insisted that he was the true “Superman,” although many mockingly referred to him as “Superboy” (a name he hated, although he did seem willing to accept the nickname, “The Metropolis Kid,” or “The Kid” for short).

Despite his narcissistic love of fame, “The Kid” showed potential to become a genuine hero, especially following encounters with John Henry Irons (aka Steel, an armored hero who wore Superman’s “S-shield” in tribute to his fallen hero) and the Cyborg Superman (a pretender to Superman’s legacy who murdered an entire city).  “The Kid” joined Steel, The Eradicator (yet another of the “replacement Supermen”), Green Lantern and the true Man of Steel (who had returned to life, although briefly without his powers) in thwarting the Cyborg Superman’s plans to destroy Metropolis (Superman #82, October 1993).  In the aftermath, “The Kid” finally learned more details of his past, including why his powers did not seem to always work in the same manner as Superman’s (although the Kid could fly and appear super-strong, he had none of Superman’s vision powers, his invulnerability appeared to frequently “cut-out” and mechanical devices would randomly break apart when he touched them). 

As it turned out, Kryptonian DNA proved too challenging to unlock, so the Project altered human DNA (initially believed to belong to Project Director, Paul Westfield) to replicate Superman’s powers.  Using a form of telekinesis, “The Kid” could project himself in the air (flight), repel projectiles (invulnerability), lift heavy objects (super-strength), as well as disassemble complex objects (through “tactile-telekinesis”).  His worldview shattered, “The Kid” lashed out at Superman, who calmed the young man and took him under his wing as a show of good faith.  With the support of Superman, “The Kid” reluctantly accepted the name “Superboy” and struck out to find his way in the world (Adventures of Superman #506, November 1993).  Settling in Hawaii (Superboy #1, February 1994), Superboy began carving out his own heroic legacy.  Over the years, Superboy had many adventures on his own, but also alongside the extended members of the Superman “family” (Steel, Supergirl, Eradicator and others), the extra-dimensional Ravers (Superboy and the Ravers #1-19, September 1996- March 1998), the Legion of Super-Heroes (a team from the future, inspired by Superman’s legacy) and Young Justice (a group composed of the Justice League’s protégés).  One of Superboy’s greatest moments came following a visit to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, where the Man of Steel officially accepted him into his family, bestowing on him a Kryptonian name – Kon-El (Superboy #59, February 1999).

During an adventure that spanned several parallel realities (Superboy #60-64, March-July 1999), Superboy inadvertently learned that Superman and Clark Kent (both of whom the Kid knew) were one-in-the-same.  Coupled with the temporary loss of his powers, as well as the death of a close friend, Superboy suffered a crisis of faith, believing his mentor did not truly trust him.  Eventually, Superman did reveal his dual identity to Superboy (following the 2000, Sins of Youth crossover), helping the young hero establish a civilian identity.  In Superboy #100 (July 2002), Superboy moved to Smallville, where he lived with Superman’s adoptive parents as their nephew, Conner Kent.

  

Not long after Superboy and his peers in Young Justice “graduated” into the Teen Titans (Titans/Young Justice Graduation Day #1-3, July-August 2003), Conner became romantically engaged with Cassie Sandsmark, Wonder Girl.  During their earliest adventures with the Titans (Teen Titans #1-7, September 2003-March 2004), Superboy began uncovering more details of his origins.  It turns out that the Project did successfully integrate some of Superman’s Kryptonian DNA into Conner (who begins developing Kryptonian powers such as heat-vision), but that the human component used actually came from Lex Luthor.

Conner’s concerns over carrying Luthor DNA became realized when the criminal used a hidden trigger to brainwash Superboy.  While Wonder Girl freed Superboy from Luthor’s influence (Teen Titans #24-25, July-August 2005), the experience left the young hero shaken.  He resigned from the Titans (Teen Titans #26, September 2005) and went into seclusion at the Kent farm.  Conner was not to find the peace he sought, as the extra-dimensional doppelganger of Kal-El, Superboy-Prime, tracked him to the Kent farm.  Severely unbalanced, Superboy-Prime attacked Conner, seeking to prove himself as the one true Superboy.  Conner fought valiantly against the infinitely stronger Prime, who was only defeated thanks to the combined might of all the Titans, as well as the Flash family (Teen Titans #32 and Infinite Crisis #4, March 2006).

Superboy was left in critical condition and, thanks to the seemingly unlikely aid of Lex Luthor (who had come to view Superboy as a sort of son), Superboy recovered (Robin #146-147, March-April 2006).  After sharing a brief rendezvous with Wonder Girl in which they consummated their relationship (Teen Titans Annual #1, 2006), Superboy rejoined the battle against Superboy-Prime and his partner, Alexander Luthor.  Fighting alongside Nightwing, Conner faced down not only Superboy-Prime, but also destroyed the device Alexander Luthor had created in order to remake the DC Multiverse.  While the villain’s plans were shattered, the injuries to Superboy were severe.  He held on long enough for Superman to arrive, before he died in Wonder Girl’s arms (Infinite Crisis #6, May 2006).  The young hero was memorialized with one statue in Metropolis and another at Titans Tower.

  

A period of time later, Superman journeyed to the 31st century where he teamed with the Legion of Super-Heroes against a time-displaced Superboy-Prime and the Legion of Super-Villains.  Outnumbered, the Legionnaire known as Brainiac 5 put into motion several plans to recruit allies from all throughout time and from parallel realities.  With two groups of Legionnaires operating in the 20th and 21st centuries, Conner’s body was moved from its final resting place to a Kryptonian matrix beneath the Fortress of Solitude.  There it remained for 1000 years, absorbing solar energy.   Another group gathered a follicle of Lex Luthor’s hair, and brought it to the Fortress in the 31st century.  With the matrix recombining Kal-El and Lex Luthor’s DNA, Superboy was resurrected, immediately leading the charge against Superboy-Prime.  Prime was once again defeated, and both Superman and Superboy returned to their proper places in the early 21st century (Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1-5, October 2008-September 2009).

 

Since returning to life, Conner has been re-establishing his life both in Smallville and in the superhero community (Adventure Comics #1, October 2009).  Superboy was recently drawn into the events of the Blackest Night due to an assault on Smallville by Black Lanterns Kal-L and Psycho-Pirate (Blackest Night: Superman #1-3, October-December 2009).  Conner was also part of a brigade of heroes rallied to Coast City by Barry Allen and Wally West.  Fighting the resurrected corpse forces of Nekron alongside the likes of Wonder Woman, The Titans and Superman, Superboy was a witness to the Black Hand’s raising of Bruce Wayne.  As the Black Lantern Batman generated a new set of Black Lantern rings, Nekron announced that it was he that allowed many of Earth’s heroes, including Conner, to be resurrected.  With that, one of the new Black Lantern Rings affixed itself to Kon-El’s finger, as Nekron commanded the resurrected heroes to die (Blackest Night #5, January 2010).

With that, Superboy, was inducted into the Black Lantern Corps, now compelled to aid Nekron in returning the universe to a “quiet, dark order.”

  

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