Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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 mid-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.
The Modern Age 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. 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.
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 "super" 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 YJ as it is to previous Titans books. In this series it has been revealed to him that the true human donor to his genetic makeup was the world's greatest villain, Lex Luthor, and Superman has entrusted Krypto the Superdog into his care.
Originally, he was simply called 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; a younger cousin of Clark.
Adaptations in other media
- The Adventures of Superboy (1961) television series (though only a pilot was produced)
- Superboy (1966) film by Andy Warhol
- The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure (1967-1968) animated television series which featured Superboy among other characters
- Superboy (1988-1992) television series starring John Haymes Newton (1988-1989) and Gerard Christopher (1989-1992), and Stacy Haiduk as Lana Lang
- Smallville (2001-present) television series starring Tom Welling (though not actually a "Superboy" series, this series stars a teenaged Clark Kent)
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