But wait, it gets worse. You’re living in the shadow of not only Superman, but also Lex Luthor — who you find out are both part of your genetic make-up.
That’s what Conner Kent, aka Kon-El, aka Superboy has to deal with on a daily basis. Some of that has been shook up with the events of “New 52,” but that in essence is still a major part of the character. Not to be confused with other Superboys like Superboy-Prime or even just the teenage flashback Superman, Superboy has some twisted parentage as being a clone made up of DNA from Superman and Lex. He’s gone through growing pains with everything from being the self-appointed Hero of Hawaii to some horrendous 90s haircuts , but he’s grown from that — and in part because of that — to become a fan-favorite when done well. From his original creation by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett out of the “Reign of Supermen” era into several long-running solo series and being members of the Teen Titans, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Young Justice and even a team called the Ravers, Superboy has had alot of stories told featuring him. So many, in fact, that it’s hard to know which ones to zero in on and which ones to forget entirely.
That’s where we come in. In this week’s Where Do I Start?, we take a critical eye to the stories of Conner Kent over the years and find five key books that give you an idea of his origin, his growing up, and just some plain great stories featuring the character. With these stories you’ll learn that he’s more than just a teenage Superman, but something different entirely.
Young Justice: Sins of Youth: Arguably the pinnacle of this turn of the century series, “Sins of the Youth” sees the primary assorted heroes of the DCU go through an age switch — the elder heroes of the JSA become infants, the JLA become teenagers and the young heroes — the Teen Titans and Young Justice — become the only responsible adults in the room. For Superboy’s part, it puts him in an interesting dynamic with him teaming with his mentor Superman who’s been digressed to become a teenager, with Conner being the mature one in the team-up. This also delves into facets of Superboy’s origin as a clone and his inability to age, but what’s even more interesting to me is what Sins of Youth sets in motion by the end by, spoiler alert, depowering him for a time and encouraging him to become a human Superboy.
Teen Titans, Vol. 1: A Kids Game: Before Geoff Johns was a big-shot at DC, he proved himself on series like Flash and Teen Titans. This collection showcases the beginning of his run from 2003 with artist Mike McKone. While Superboy’s not the lead star, these early stories put him in the forefront and deal with his twin fathers of Lex Luthor and Superman and show him and his fellow teens trying to help him, harness him and prevent him from doing something he’d regret.
Teen Titans, Vol. 5: Life And Death: This collections contains more of Geoff Johns’ excellent run on Teen Titans, but I’m pointing to this book for one specific story: a story from the 2006 Teen Titans Annual #1. This story shows Wonder Girl and Conner going back to the Kent family farm and re-bonding over memories and the potential future they have. The story isn’t all lovey-dovey as there are some fight scenes involved, but that’s not what I’m recommending it for. You know those “very special episodes” of television series? This is that, but good. Very good.
Superboy #83-88: Sadly never collected, these set of issues by writer Joe Kelly and artists Pascual Ferry and Paco Medina really taking the Superboy concept and having fun with it. If you liked Joe Kelly’s work on Amazing Spider-Man and Deadpool, then you’ll love this refreshing take on Conner and his various team-ups and face-offs within the DCU. There’s more to Kelly’s run than this, but sadly it’s weighed down by crossovers and co-writers who join in.
Superboy: Boy of Steel: For my money, this is the best Superboy story DC has done in the past ten years — and probably in my top 10 of best stories in the DCU for the past 10 years. Geoff Johns teams up with Francis Manapul and tell a reflective story that shows Conner trying to come to terms with his origins, and also touching the high points of his history and friendships with Wonder Girl and Tim Drake.