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Superboy is the name of several fictional characters that have been published by DC Comics, most of them youthful incarnations of Superman. These characters have also been the main characters of four ongoing Superboy comic book series published by DC.
The first, and arguably best-known, Superboy was simply Superman as a boy, acting as a superhero in Smallville, where Kal-El (Superboy's Kryptonian name) lives under his secret identity, Clark Kent. The character was featured in several series from the 1940s until the 1980s, with long runs appearing in Adventure Comics and two eponymous series, Superboy and The New Adventures of Superboy. He developed a mythos and supporting cast of his own, including foster parentsMa and Pa Kent, love interest Lana Lang, and time traveling allies the Legion of Super-Heroes.
When DC Comics rewrote much of its continuity in 1986, Superman's history was changed so that he never took a costumed identity until adulthood, erasing Superboy from the canonical history of Superman, although many aspects of the backstory created in Superboy comics, such as Clark's friendship with Lana Lang, remained. In the last few years, some additional features of Superboy's history, such as his tenure in the Legion, have also been reintroduced into the story of Superman's youth.
The character was adapted into a Superboy television series (1988–1992), which also spawned another, short-lived Superboy comic book series; and a teenage Clark Kent, secretly using his powers in heroic acts, appeared in the highly successful Smallville TV series (2001–2011), drawing to a great extent on the comic book continuity in its depiction of young Clark's life.
In 1993, DC introduced a new, modernized Superboy, a teenage clone of both Superman and Lex Luthor, also known by his Kryptonian name Kon-El and his secret identity as Clark's cousin Conner Kent. The new Superboy was featured in his own series, Superboy (volume 3), from 1994 until 2002, and in several series devoted to teenage superhero groups. He was featured in DC's relaunch of Adventure Comics and got his own series again starting in late 2010. This Superboy made his Smallville debut on Friday, March 4, 2011 in the episode "Scion." In this episode (as in the comics), Conner is a clone made up of both Lex and Clark's DNA, and has several of Superman's powers. Superboy is also featured in the animated series Young Justice that debuted in early 2011.
The original pitch for a "Superboy" character was made by Jerry Siegel (without Joe Shuster) in November 1938. The idea was turned down by Detective Comics, Inc., and the publisher again rejected a second, more detailed pitch by Siegel two years later. After the appeal of kid superheroes had been demonstrated by the success of Robin, the Boy Wonder and similar characters, Detective Comics reversed itself in late 1944 and started publishing a Superboy feature, in an effort to expand the Superman franchise by presenting a version of the character to whom younger readers could easily relate.Superboy first appeared in More Fun Comics No. 101 (1944, with a 1945 cover date). Though Joe Shuster supplied the art, the Superboy feature was published without the input or approval of Jerry Siegel, who was serving in World War II. This fact increased an already-growing rift between the publisher and Siegel and Shuster.
In early 1946, Superboy moved to Adventure Comics, where he debuted in issue No. 103 (Apr 1946) as the lead feature for the anthology comic, and he remained the headlining feature for over 200 issues. Stories in Adventure Comics treat Superboy as essentially a junior version of Superman. To that end, he wears the Superman costume and his alter ego Clark Kent wears glasses as a disguise for his civilian identity. Superboy is the superhero of Clark's hometown of Smallville and grows up under the guidance of his foster parents, Ma and Pa Kent. Superboy's adventures in Adventure Comics include the story of how he was reunited with his pet superdog, Krypto; the story of how his friend, the teenage scientist Lex Luthor, becomes his most bitter foe; and how Superboy joins the 30th-century Legion of Super-Heroes.
The popular Legion spun off from Superboy into its own feature, which debuted in Adventure Comics No. 300 (Sep 1962). The feature soon dominated the comic and forced out original Superboy features, with the last new Superboy story appearing in No. 315 (Dec 1963). Superboy continued to appear in the comic in reprinted stories and as a member of the Legion until the Legion's final issue, Adventure Comics No. 380 (May 1969).
Four years after his debut, Superboy became only the sixth DC superhero to receive his own comic book when Superboy No. 1 (Mar–Apr 1949) was published. The series became the first new DC superhero title to succeed since World War II.Superboy saw the debuts of the first Superbaby story, (about Clark's adventures as a super-powered toddler), and of Clark's two closest friends: Lana Lang, who also serves as a romantic interest for Superboy; and Pete Ross, who later discovers and helps protect Clark's secret identity. Other notable stories to appear in Superboy include the story of the first Bizarro and the first appearances of Legion of Super-Heroes members Mon-El and Ultra Boy.
After the Legion pushed new Superboy stories out of Adventure Comics in 1963, Superboy became the only comic book to feature original Superboy stories. Less than two years after the Legion itself left Adventure Comics, Superboy became the Legion's new home. Starting with Superboy No. 172 (Mar 1971), the Legion appeared as an occasional backup feature. Once again, the Legion feature proved so popular that by Superboy No. 197 (Sep 1973), the Legion had become the lead feature, and with the next issue, the title's only feature. Although from issue No. 197, the cover logo read "Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes" ("and" replaced "starring" with #222), the official title (shown in the indicia) of the comic remained Superboy until No. 231 (Sep 1977), when the comic became Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. In issue No. 259 (Jan 1980), Superboy left the Legion and his name was dropped from the title altogether, which now became simply The Legion of Super-Heroes. Though Superboy still periodically appeared in the series that once bore his name, the series remained a Legion title until its final issue, No. 354, in 1987.
After the Legion took over Superboy, the Superboy feature was nearly moribund until the late 1970s, when it appeared in two short runs, first in Adventure Comics (again) and then in Superman Family. Then, in the same month Superboy left the Legion in Legion of Super-Heroes No. 259 (Jan 1980), a new series entitled The New Adventures of Superboy debuted, with the first issue depicting Clark Kent celebrating his sixteenth birthday. Published monthly, this title lasted for 54 issues until 1984. Between issues No. 28 (Apr 1982) and No. 49 (Jan 1984), the series also featured "Dial H for Hero" as a backup.
Several months after the last issue of The New Adventures of Superboy, a four-issue miniseries was published called Superman: The Secret Years (1985), which tells the story of how Superboy becomes Superman during his junior year of college.
Shortly after the miniseries was published, Superboy's career was discarded from Superman's continuity after the 1985–1986 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths and writer John Byrne's 1986 revamp of Superman's origin, The Man of Steel. Twenty years later, following the Infinite Crisislimited series, some elements of Superboy's history were restored to the story of Superman's youth (see the Infinite Crisis subsection).
Following John Byrne's revamp of Superman, a new version of Superboy was introduced as a means of patching the Legion of Super-Heroes' continuity, which was undermined by the removal of Kal-El's Superboy career. This Superboy is said to have been created by the Time Trapper, one of the Legion's greatest enemies, when he notices that the great youthful hero they take inspiration from does not start his career until he is an adult. Wishing to preserve this history due to his own history's connection to the Legion's past, the Trapper takes a sliver of time from the ancient universe and uses it to craft a "pocket universe" in which Earth and Krypton are the only inhabited planets. Whenever the Legionnaires travel back in time, they travel to the 20th century of the Pocket Universe, not the main DC Universe. From birth until the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superboy's life is similar to the life of the original Superboy. When the universe-destroying Crisis strikes, Superboy lacks the power to save his Earth, but the Time Trapper can do so, provided Kal-El helps him capture the Legion. Superboy reluctantly agrees. After a battle with the post-Crisis Superman- during which Superman is drastically overpowered by Superboy's pre-Crisis strength while managing to keep Superboy on his toes due to his superior experience-, Superboy realizes he can't turn on his friends and instead helps the Legionnaires defeat the Trapper. Using a device the Trapper employed to stave off Earth's destruction, Superboy saves his Earth, but only at the cost of his own life. His dying act is to return the Legion to their century (and Earth), where he is later buried. Later editorial mandates that removed Superboy from the history of the Legion led to a story where the Time Trapper is apparently erased from history, wiping the Pocket Universe and that universe's Superboy from existence.
However by that time Pocket Universe itself was required for such things as the entire Superman in Exile storyline (which introduced the Eradicator) as well as the Matrix Supergirl. In fact it was later revealed that very same year that both the Time Trapper and his Pocket Universe survived Mon-El's attack and that he had been trying to use Glorith as a way to return to power only to be literally consumed by her resulting in her stepping into his role. In the Time and Time Again saga (1991) it is shown that both Superman and the Legion still remember the Pocket Universe Superboy so the editorial mandate was basically being ignored within a year.
This version of Superboy was later seen again during the events of Zero Hour. He was time-displaced in the 30th century where he saw various incarnations of The Legion of Super Heroes before being displaced again in present day Smallville where he encountered a still young and inexperienced modern day clone Superboy(Kon-El). Thinking he was somehow in his own future he was confused to see another Superboy and fought him until coming to realize that something bigger was going on. After talking it out with the modern Superboy the Pocket Universe Superboy vanished back to his proper time and reality. This Superboy was later retconned to have been the Earth-One Superboy.
Zero Hour and Hypertime
During the 1994 storyline known as Zero Hour, Kon-El, the modern Superboy, encounters a version of the original Superboy, who resurfaces due to temporal disruptions involving Hypertime. This Superboy soon seemingly vanishes, returning to his own alternate timeline.
During a later trip through Hypertime, Kon-El accidentally discovers this Superboy while finding himself in that version's reality. During this visit, Kon-El discovers that this Superboy is a young Clark Kent, and by this means realizes the Superman of his reality must therefore be an adult Clark Kent. Sometime after returning to the main DC Universe, Kon-El reveals to Superman that he now knows his secret identity.
In the aftermath of the events of Infinite Crisis, Alexander Luthor finds that Earth's history has changed once again and in particular, he notes that there are several reports of Superman's activities prior to his first appearance in Metropolis. Later comics have made some of the changes in the history of Kal-El's youth explicit. A year after Infinite Crisis, a cinematic Superman retrospective states that young Kal-El gave rise to "a rarely-glimpsed American myth—the mysterious Super-Boy." Fourteen-year old Clark Kent is depicted using his superpowers to save lives in secret, wearing no costume, only his everyday clothes, much like the Clark Kent of the Smallville TV series.
Several concepts and plot points associated with the original Superboy and Smallville have been reintroduced into post-Infinite Crisis continuity as part of Superman's earlier years. As a teenager, Clark assists stranded space traveler Mon-El, whom he first believes to be his older brother from Krypton, in a story that is similar to Mon-El's first appearance in Superboy No. 89 (1961). Krypto has been revealed as a companion to Clark in his youth. Clark also joins the Legion of Super-Heroes; Superman later recalls that "the Legion used to visit between school days. We had adventures in the future between classes." As an adult, Superman still keeps a Legion flight ring and has statues of the Legion on display in the Fortress of Solitude.
Lex Luthor's adolescence in Smallville, first as Superboy's friend and then his foe, was one of the elements of Superman's history removed by the The Man of Steel. Post-Infinite Crisis, a short biography has established that once again "Lex Luthor spent much of his teenage years in Smallville", where he meets Lana Lang, Pete Ross, and Clark Kent, who befriends him. Unlike the Superboy story, Lex does not lose his hair in a disfiguring lab accident that he blames on Clark. Rather, when he leaves Smallville "under a cloud of rumor and suspicion", he still has a full head of hair.[
These aspects of Superman's pre-1986 history have been restored, while many of the changes brought about by The Man of Steel, such as the survival of Clark's foster parents into his adulthood and his revelation to Lana about his powers, remain part of his story. Since Infinite Crisis, while Clark has been depicted as having a youthful (if somewhat secretive) career as a superhero, he has not been depicted in costume—at least in his own time. As a member of the futuristic Legion, the teenage Clark does sport a "Superman" costume, which he apparently begins wearing during his first adventure with the Legion. The Legion co-feature in the first issue of the revived Adventure Comics reveals that when Clark does join the Legion, he is known as Superboy.
The six-issue miniseries Superman: Secret Origin (2009–2010) outlines Superman's origin as it stands post-Infinite Crisis. The first two issues of this miniseries address Clark Kent's adolescence in Smallville. In these two issues, Clark is depicted as donning his costume for the first time, working in secret (and in costume) as a superhero in and around Smallville, joining the Legion of Super-Heroes as Superboy, and finding Krypto when the superdog lands on Earth. Superboy's further adventures with the Legion are featured in Adventure Comics #515–520.
In 1985, during the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, another Superboy was created. This Superboy hails from the parallel Earth known as Earth-Prime, where Superman and the other DC superheroes only exist as fictional comic book characters. Brought over from his dimension by Superman to aid in the universe-spanning battle at the heart of the Crisis, Superboy helps the Earth-Two Superman (Kal-L) defeat the Anti-Monitor, the villain who spawned the Crisis. With their home dimensions destroyed, Superboy, Superman of Earth-Two, his wife Lois Lane, and Alexander Luthor, Jr. of Earth-Three journey to a "paradise dimension". In DC's 2006 Infinite Crisis miniseries, Superboy, Alex, Kal-L and Lois are revealed to have been watching the DC Universe since they entered this "paradise". Unhappy with what they have been seeing, they decide to take action, and return to the post-Crisis DC Universe.
Superboy-Prime quickly becomes a supervillain. Feeling that this world's heroes were inferior, he feels no qualms about committing wanton acts of destruction, kidnapping, and murder. In the end, Superboy-Prime is pulled into the core of a red sun by both Superman of Earth-Two and Superman (Kal-El) of the main DC Universe. They crash land on Mogo, the Green Lantern that is a living planet. Under a red sun, their powers rapidly vanish. On Mogo, Superboy-Prime beats the Earth-Two Superman to death before he is defeated by Kal-El. The Green Lantern Corps put Superboy-Prime in a maximum-security prison on their home world of Oa and guard him round-the-clock. While incarcerated, he carves the "S"-symbol into his chest and vows to escape.
One year later, Superboy is released from his prison by the newly-formed Sinestro Corps and joins them, becoming one of their heralds and wearing a Sinestro Corps uniform beneath his Anti-Monitor inspired armor. Now calling himselfSuperman Prime, he becomes involved in the war between the Sinestro Corps and the Green Lantern Corps and later in the events of Countdown to Final Crisis. In the Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds miniseries, Prime leads an expandedLegion of Super-Villains into battle against Superman and versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes from three parallel Earths in the 31st century.
The Superboy-Prime character was the inspiration for Kurt Busiek's miniseries Superman: Secret Identity, which begins as a story about a teenage boy, named Clark Kent after the comic book character, who exists in the "real world" where there are no superheroes and discovers that he possesses powers similar to Superman's. In the first press reports about Clark's life-saving super-deeds, the press refers to Clark (whose identity is unknown) as "Superboy."
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