Thursday, April 06, 2006

Was that really necessary?

Second star to the left and straight on 'til morning.Spoilers Ahead!

Why'd they have to kill Superboy? I liked Superboy. Okay, I liked Blue Beetle, Max Lord, Outburst and Loser from the Supermen of America, Dr. Fate, Phantom Lady, Human Bomb, Hawkwoman, Mike the Parademon, Shazam, Jade, Pantha, Ronnie Raymond, Lord Satanus, and Ragdoll, but I really liked Superboy.

Superboy's always been an interesting character, right from his first appearance. Sure, in the month or so when DC was still trying to make you think that one of the four "impostors" was actually the real Superman, he was the next-to-least convincing of the group (and that's only because Steel never claimed to be Superman after the first issue or so), but he was still fascinating. He began his career naïve and arrogant, an attention hog and womanizer and consummate teenager. He trademarked the Superman name! He found an agent! He was immature, he was a jerk, he was a kid playing an adult, and to be frank, it was a little scary.

No, that's not Superboy-Prime in the foreground.When Superman came back, he and the kid had some words. One of those words was "Superboy," a moniker that the nameless kid had hated with a passion until that point. Coming from Superman, along with his approval, along with the legitimacy of his S-Shield, it finally seemed acceptable. Superboy headed for the sun-drenched skies of Hawai'i. He left that issue with a quote; Superman spotted it as one from Peter Pan, fitting since it was spoken by a boy-hero who didn't want to grow up. Superboy, in his mind, had been quoting Captain James Kirk, seeing himself as a swashbuckling, smooth-talking adventurer.

He got his own series, he got a girlfriend or two, a fantastic supporting cast, and a rogue's gallery. 59 issues later, he got a name: Kon-El. Superman "adopted" him as a cousin. He had grown out of his attention-whore phase and had become a successful, independent superhero in his own right. 'Twas around this time that he found out he couldn't age, and that caused him a good deal of angst; he was finally ready to grow up, to find some depth in his life, to become a "real boy."

Then his girlfriend died; he lost his powers and found his mortality. In Young Justice, he found peers and friends and love unlike what he'd had before. He reinvented himself, he became embroiled in a war and saw friends die. He had a breakdown, had a crappy seven issues under Palmiotti and Didio, and eventually ended up helping found the new Teen Titans. He traveled to the future and became part of another family. He developed a secret identity and chafed in the role of a normal human, but loved being part of a normal family. He went nuts, but found his way back again. He'd grown from arrogance and naiveté to insecurity and budding maturity, to a well-developed personality and a deep sense of responsibility.

And then he sacrificed himself to stop another Superboy, one who had never earned the name, not the way Kon did. One who had the name thrust upon 'im by circumstance and cruel parentage.

I read the spoilers; I saw the sun beginning to set in "Teen Titans Annual," but still I hoped that poor Conner Kent, the first post-Crisis Kryptonian cousin, would make it through intact. It was an irrational hope, I know, and the more I think about it, the more I understand that it had to be this way. Superboy-Prime had been gunning for this battle since day one; Superboy was portrayed as conflicted, depressed, even cowardly, while Superboy-Prime talked a big game of grand heroism and idealism, a game he ultimately lost.

Of course, the parallelism isn't lost on me. Superboy-Prime was decked out in the Anti-Monitor's armor, hoping to destroy our world and supplant his own. Just as in the first Crisis, someone with an 'S'-shield had to make that ultimate sacrifice to stop him. Except this time, the sacrifice worked; it didn't just shock Dr. Light into action.

My only question, then, is "why Superboy?" Or, more specifically, "why not Supergirl?" Sure, there's the whole battle of the Superboys, but it really seems unfair that a character who's been around for thirteen years and has had major character development, someone who has starred in four series and has a major fanbase, should die while a character who has lounged around the DCU for a couple of years with absolutely no characterization, who is mildly-creepy eye candy without any substance whatsoever, a character who has replaced a much more interesting figure with the same name, could not only continue living, not only carry her own series, but become the star of another as well. I liked Linda Danvers; Kara Zor-El has so far given me one issue of content to make me like her, and it's her most recent appearance. Why does Batman's family only continue to grow, while even Superman's core books get pruned from the tree?

The adventures of Superboy when he was a Man.The new Teen Titans issue gives me some hope. Robin's trying to clone his best friend, and I hope he succeeds. Not only would that bring back the second-best character to enter the Superman mythos in the modern era (following Steel, natch), but it would also add a new layer of confliction onto his character. Superboy rose from the ashes of Superman's death; here he would be rising from the ashes of his own. Serious questions about the nature of death, the morality of cloning, and the existence of the soul would be raised anew in the Teen of Steel, and his relationship with Tim would become necessarily strained and awkward. I hope above hopes that Tim succeeds, and I hope that it becomes fodder for interesting Superboy stories, perhaps even a much-deserved new series, for years to come.

I know Kon will return eventually. He's too good not to. Until then, as the Kid said:

"Second star to the right, and straight on till morning."

Raospeed, Conner.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post that I totally agree with. What makes his death even worse is that the recent revelation that half of Conner's DNA was Lex Luthor made him a much more interesting and dynamic character. The storytelling possibilities were endless. He's definitely more interesting than a young Superman from "our" world.