Superboy: Who is the Cloned Kryptonian?

This is a Job for Superboy

Aqualad: “Superboy, you live. That gives you the right to follow your own path. A weapon or a person, the choice is yours. But ask yourself, “What would Superman do?

Young Justice, “Fireworks” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Alarms pierce the air as a top-secret laboratory goes into lockdown. Soldiers rush to a bunker door and raise their weapons. None of them know the situation, having only heard screams that “It” is loose. A loud thud reverberates as something hits the bunker door once, twice, a third time. The door goes flying with a final blow.

A jumpsuit-clad teenager emerges through the door frame. The soldiers fire, but their bullets only damage his outfit. The teenager rushes them, breaking bones with every punch. He throws the last soldier through a door, revealing a locker room. A smile flashes across the teen’s face. He picks up a black Superman t-shirt from a locker and replaces his damaged clothes. Superboy begins searching for an exit.

There have been a lot of Superboys. The first Superboy was Superman as a teenager. The newest is Superman’s son. But between the two was Superboy, a half-human clone of Superman. So who is he? Who made him? And why? Let’s find out.

Experiment 13: Superboy’s Backstory

Superboy: [to Cyborg and Green Lantern] “Lex is so wrong. You guys are funky fresh.
Lex Luthor: [on ear-piece] “Donovan’s been letting you watch those 90’s sitcoms again, I see.”
Superboy: “Lex?
Lex Luthor: “I’m in your other ear. Reminding you to stay alert. President Dale has her eye on you. Keep her safe. By the end of the week, with a little political maneuvering, she’ll be publicly recognizing you as the one true Superman.

Reign of the Supermen

The modern Superboy debuted in Adventures of Superman #500 in 1993. He was created by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett. He was one of four replacements created after Doomsday killed Superman.

A secret organization called Cadmus obtained a sample of Superman’s DNA and planned to create a superpowered clone loyal only to them. Clone Thirteen proved lucky when the lab’s director decided to make a half-human clone. And I just realized this origin was re-used a decade later for X-23.

Cadmus began implanting information into a viable clone. Advanced technology rapidly aged him into adulthood, but sabotage awakened the clone early and allowed him to escape as a teenager. Cadmus’ programming led him to Metropolis, where he was given the nickname Superboy because of his age and powers.

Superboy realized he had to keep a high profile so Cadmus couldn’t make him disappear. He began dating a reporter named Tana Moon and briefly worked as a professional superhero for Lex Luthor. He stayed in the public eye, but gained a reputation as a showboater.

Superman eventually returned from the dead and learned about his clone. After a heart to heart at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman accepted Superboy into his family. Supes gave him the Kryptonian name Kon-El and a secret identity named Conner Kent. Life was good for Superboy but one unanswered question remained: where did his human DNA come from?

Daddy Issues: Superboy’s History

Lex Luthor:None of that is what really bothers you. Half your DNA is human. Haven’t you wondered who the donor was? Or have you just been afraid to acknowledge the obvious. Face it, son, you have much more in common with me than with Superman.

Young Justice, “Agendas” (Season 1, Episode 22)

Superboy began working with other heroes his age. He teamed up with Robin to fight a Kryptonite-powered cyborg. The duo later worked with a speedster called Impulse to fight a reality warping teenager before formally creating a team called Young Justice. Their ranks swelled with new heroes, including the ghostly Secret, archer Arrowette, and Wonder Girl, Superboy’s new love interest.

Superboy encountered Luthor again while on a Young Justice mission. Lex used a code word to turn Superboy into his mind controlled servant. Superboy also learned that Luthor was the source of his human DNA and that he was meant to be a sleeper agent.

Learning his father’s identity and being forced to attack his friends broke Superboy’s spirit. Things got worse in the event Infinite Crisis, when the evil Superboy-Prime tried to kill and replace Conner. The fight became a massacre as other heroes intervened and were torn apart by Prime.

Superboy was mortally wounded. He survived long enough to stop the main villain’s plan, but eventually succumbed to his wounds and died saving the world. 

Connor Kent was erased by DC’s Rebirth relaunch and brought back in 2019’s Young Justice.

Tactile Telekinesis: Superboy’s Powers and Personality

[the team is trying to talk down Red Arrow]
Nightwing: “You’re our friend. Just because you’re a clone with anger issues doesn’t change that.
Wally West: “Seriously. Have you met Superboy?

Young Justice, “Salvage” (Season 2, Episode 4)

Superboy’s main power is a force field that he can manipulate telekinetically. He mimics most of Superman’s powers through creative usage of the field and his telekinesis. The force field only works on things Superboy can touch, hence the term “tactile telekinesis”. Two problems: the field cannot block energy attacks and can be overwhelmed by physical force.

Superboy eventually absorbed enough sunlight to activate his Kryptonian powers. These are more powerful than his tactile telekinesis, but also less versatile. Even worse, his Kryptonian powers are much weaker than Superman’s and he has difficulty using them on command. The saving grace is that Superboy’s powers are more energy efficient, allowing him to use them longer. Make sure to take notes, this will be on the quiz.

Superboy was brash and arrogant when first introduced. He thought of himself as a rockstar and acted accordingly. Learning about the Luthor connection made Superboy sullen, moody, and angry at everyone. Or maybe he just hit puberty. It’s hard to tell with artificially-aged clones.

The Actors Who Play Superboy

Lucas Grabeel – Smallville.
Nolan North – Young Justice
Joshua Orpin – Titans

Didya Get All That?

A moody super-clone.

Superboy image courtesy DC Entertainment

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