Cover to Superboy vol. 4 #61 (1999) by Tom Grummett, showing Kon-El (in jacket), Kal-El (beneath Kon's right arm), and other Superboys from DC's Multiverse
|First appearance||More Fun Comics #101 (January–February 1945)|
Jerry Siegel (writer)|
Joe Shuster (art)
Superboy vol. 1 #1 (March–April 1949),|
featuring Superman inviting the readers to explore the new title
Art by Wayne Boring
|Series publication information|
|Number of issues|
Superboy is the name of several fictional superheroes appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. These characters have been featured in five Superboy comic book series, along with other series, such as Adventure Comics and various series featuring teenage superhero groups. Superboy has also appeared in various animated and live-action television series. There have been three major incarnations of the character: the young Superman; a teenaged clone named Kon-El; and the son of Superman and Lois Lane, Jonathan Kent.
The first 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, 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 parents Ma 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 the Superboy comics, such as Clark's friendship with Lana Lang, remained. In the last several years, some additional features of Superboy's history, such as his tenure in the Legion of Super-Heroes, 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 series. A teenage Clark Kent secretly using his powers in heroic acts appeared in the highly successful TV series Smallville (2001–2011).
In 1993, DC introduced a modernized Superboy, a teenage clone, ostensibly of Superman but also including human DNA. Eventually, Superboy also becomes known by a Kryptonian name, Kon-El, and as Conner Kent, his secret identity as Clark's cousin. Superboy was featured in his own eponymous series from 1994 until 2002, and in several series devoted to teenage superhero groups. Conner made his television debut on Smallville in the episode "Scion". He is also featured in the animated series Young Justice. Conner was featured in DC's relaunch of Adventure Comics in 2009, and got his own series again in November 2010, which ran until August 2011. A revised version of Kon-El, complete with a new origin, debuted in a Superboy series as part of DC's New 52 launch in September 2011.
In 2016, a new Superboy, Jonathan Samuel Kent, was introduced by DC Comics. Unlike previous versions, this Superboy is the son of Superman and Lois Lane. Since 2017, he has co-starred with Robin (Damian Wayne) in the Super Sons comic books.
- 1 Fictional character biographies
- 1.1 Kal-El
- 1.2 Post-Crisis appearances of Superboy (Kal-El)
- 1.3 Superboy-Prime
- 1.4 Kon-El
- 1.5 Jonathan Samuel Kent
- 2 Other versions
- 3 Legal status
- 4 In other media
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Fictional character biographies
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. Siegel's conception of Superboy was that of a comical prankster, and editor Mort Weisinger felt this would have cheapened Superman's image and presented a bad role model for younger readers. 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 #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.
Superboy in Adventure Comics
In early 1946, Superboy moved to Adventure Comics, where he debuted in issue #103 (April 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 #300 (Sept. 1962). The feature soon dominated the comic and forced out original Superboy features, with the last new Superboy story appearing in #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 #380 (May 1969).
Superboy (volume 1) (1949–1977)
Four years after his debut, Superboy became only the sixth DC superhero to receive his own comic book when Superboy #1 (March–April 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 #172 (March 1971), the Legion appeared as an occasional backup feature. Once again, the Legion feature proved so popular that by Superboy #197 (Sept. 1973), the Legion had become the lead feature, and with the next issue, the title's only feature. Although from issue #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 #231 (Sept. 1977), when the comic became Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. In issue #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, #354, in 1987.
The New Adventures of Superboy (1980–1984)
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 #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 #28 (Apr 1982) and #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/artist John Byrne's 1986 revamp of Superman's origin, The Man of Steel. Twenty years later, following the Infinite Crisis limited series, some elements of Superboy's history were restored to the story of Superman's youth (see the Infinite Crisis subsection).
Post-Crisis appearances of Superboy (Kal-El)
The Legion's Superboy
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 experiences, Superboy realizes he cannot 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.
Superboy (volume 2) (1989–1991)
From 1989 to 1991, DC Comics published a comic series based on the TV series Superboy (1988–1992) about a college-age Superboy. Originally entitled Superboy (volume 2) (as shown in the indicia), the cover logo read Superboy: The Comic Book from #1–10. From issue #11, the series changed its cover title (as the TV show had done) to The Adventures of Superboy (although the comic book was not officially renamed under that title until issue #18). as well as displaying a short white box next to the title (logo) which read "As Seen on TV". After 22 regular issues, the series concluded in a one-shot special published in 1992 that wrapped up adventures and stories from previous issues and depicted them as having been the daydreams of the young post-Crisis Clark Kent.
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 expanded upon Luthor's observation. 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 associated with the original Superboy and Smallville were reintroduced into post-Infinite Crisis continuity as part of Superman's earlier years. Krypto was 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."
Lex Luthor's pre-Man of Steel adolescence in Smallville was also partially restored. Post-Infinite Crisis, a short biography 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.
The six-issue miniseries Superman: Secret Origin (2009–2010) outlines Superman's origin as it stood post-Infinite Crisis, expanding on many of the items described above. In the first two issues, teenage Clark is depicted as donning his costume for the first time, working in secret (and in costume) as Superboy in and around Smallville, joining the Legion of Super-Heroes, 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".
Published two decades later in DC's 2006 Infinite Crisis miniseries, Superboy, Alex, Kal-L, and Lois are retroactively 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. 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 himself Superman 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 expanded Legion of Super-Villains into battle against Superman and versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes from three parallel Earths in the 31st century.
Superman: Secret Identity
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 superdeeds, the press refers to Clark (whose identity is unknown) as "Superboy".
In 1993, during DC Comics's Death of Superman story, a new Superboy was introduced. Unlike previous characters bearing the name, this Superboy is a clone created to replace the seemingly dead Superman, rather than simply being an adolescent Clark Kent. His initial abilities are based on a form of telekinesis (known as "tactile telekinesis") by which he could fly and simulate Superman's strength and invulnerability. Nicknamed "the Kid", Superboy is distinguished from other "Supermen" who appear after the death of Superman by his youth and brash character. Though he prefers to be called Superman during the Reign of the Supermen, after Superman returns from the dead the Kid accepts the name Superboy for himself and begins his own superhero career. He also learns that he is not a clone of Superman, but rather genetically engineered to be as Kryptonian as possible, although his genes originate from the human DNA of Paul Westfield, director of the government sector known as Project Cadmus that had created the Kid.
Superboy (volume 3) (1994–2002)
Superboy then received his own series, the third series from DC Comics simply entitled Superboy. In Superboy #1 (Feb 1994), Superboy settles in Hawaii with his supporting cast, becoming Hawaii's resident superhero for the next four years, until Superboy #48 (Feb 1998). Starting in Superboy #56 (Nov. 1998), Superboy returns "home" when he begins working for Project Cadmus, the same project that created him. In Superboy #59 (Feb. 1999), Superman gives him the Kryptonian name Kon-El and his secret identity is Josh Leslie Kent in effect making him part of the El family. After leaving Project Cadmus and living on his own for a brief time in Metropolis, in Superboy #100 (July 2002), the final issue of the series, at Superman's suggestion Kon-El goes to live with Martha and Jonathan Kent in Smallville, where he adopts a secret identity as their nephew (and Clark's cousin) Conner Kent.
In the course of his career, Kon-El becomes involved with several teen superhero groups, notably the Ravers, Young Justice, the Teen Titans, and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and he was featured in comic series devoted to these groups. Through his association with them in both Young Justice and the Teen Titans, Kon-El becomes the best friend of Robin the Boy Wonder, a close friend of Impulse (later Kid Flash), and becomes romantically involved with Wonder Girl.
Sometime before he joins the Teen Titans, Superboy learns that he had been actually created from the DNA of both Superman and a human. Though he had believed that human to be Paul Westfield, after he joins the Teen Titans he learns that the human is actually Superman's archnemesis Lex Luthor. Moreover, as the clone Superboy was developing, he was brainwashed so that Luthor could have a sleeper agent among the superhero community. When Luthor unleashes Kon-El, Superboy comes close to destroying the Teen Titans, but he manages to free himself from Luthor's control before any tragedy occurs. Shortly thereafter, Kon-El sacrifices his life to save Earth in a battle with Superboy-Prime during the Infinite Crisis. After his death, statues are erected in his honor in Metropolis and Titans Tower. Though he coerced Superboy into serving his own purposes, Luthor continues to claim that he views Kon-El as his son.
In a story published after Kon-El's death, the alternate future Titans known as the Titans Tomorrow, including an older Conner who was cloned from the original, come back in time to the present day.
Adventure Comics (volume 2) and Superboy (volume 4)
During the "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" storyline, Brainiac 5 resurrects Conner in the 31st century after arranging for him to spend 1,000 years in the Kryptonian regeneration chamber that revived Superman after his battle with Doomsday and introducing into it a hair from Lex Luthor. In the aftermath of Legion of 3 Worlds, Conner is back in the present, living with Martha Kent and Krypto in Smallville. Superboy starred in his own feature in the revival of Adventure Comics, which began publication in August 2009 (see Superboy of Steel/Adventure Comics #1–3 & #5–8). He then moved to his own comic again, with the new series starting up in late 2010 before being canceled in August 2011 at issue #11 and relaunched from issue #1 in September as part of DC Comics' relaunch of its main DC Universe properties.
Superboy (volume 5)
DC Comics relaunched Superboy with issue #1 in September 2011 as part of The New 52. The series involved major changes to the character, which includes a new origin in which he is cloned from Superman, Lois Lane, and their son Jon Lane Kent from an alternate New 52 timeline in which Jon is used by the time-traveling villain Harvest to cleanse Earth of super-powered humans. Though intended by Harvest to be a weapon against superpowered humans, Kon-El pursues a heroic career as a solo hero and a member of the Teen Titans. After Kon-El (apparently) dies in the past, saving Krypton from premature destruction, from issue #26 the series follows Jon Lane Kent, posing as Kon-El in an alternate future visited by the Teen Titans, before he arrives in the present in #30. Jon was both villain and hero in the months before the series' cancellation. The series concluded in August 2014 with issue #34, in which Jon dies heroically to save friends he has made since #30, and to restore Kon-El (who had not actually died) as the sole Superboy.
Jonathan Samuel Kent
In 2016, Jonathan Samuel Kent became the new Superboy in DC Comics. He was introduced as the son of post-Crisis Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who were reintroduced in DC continuity in the 2015 Convergence event. Jonathan "Jon" Kent was born in Convergence: Superman #2 (July 2015). After Convergence, he and his parents relocated to the New 52 universe, where the Kent family lived in secrecy for many years.
He was officially introduced as Superboy in Superman vol. 4 #6 (Nov. 2016). Jon co-stars with Damian Wayne in the DC Rebirth comic book series Super Sons as Superboy and Robin. The series began publication in February 2017 and ended its 16-issue run in May 2018. A 12-issue limited series, Adventures of the Super Sons, which debuted in August 2018, tells the boys' continuing adventures together. Jon also regularly appears in Superman and Action Comics with his parents.
Several other versions of Superboy originating from different parts of the Multiverse have also appeared in DC Comics.
- Alternate versions of Kal-El:
- Karkan: In a 1972 imaginary story, infant Kal-El lands in Africa and, like Tarzan, is found and raised by gorillas. As a teen, Karkan is found by an expedition to Africa and brought to Metropolis. When he finds that he cannot adjust to "civilized" life, Karkan returns to the jungle. Karkan also appears in the "Hypertension" story arc (1999).
- Superboy of Superboy's Legion: In this Elseworlds tale, the infant Kal-El is stranded in the Asteroid Belt, and he remains there, in stasis, until found in 2987 by R. J. Brande, a thousand years after Krypton's destruction. At the age of 14, "Kal Brande", also known as Superboy, joins Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl in forming "Superboy's Legion", later known as the Legion of Super-Heroes.
- In the Superman & Batman: Generations series of stories by John Byrne, Superman gets his start as Superboy during the 1920s.
- Alternate versions of Kon-El:
- Superboy of the Super Seven: This Elseworlds character (who resembles Kon-El) is one of the "Super Seven", a group of heroes which include Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and a Lex Luthor/Metallo hybrid, who help humans fight off "The Horde", an alien race that occupies Earth.
- Black Zero: a version of Kon-El who was grown to adulthood and lived on a world where Superman did not return from the dead. He was the main villain in "Hypertension" and the foe of the "Legion of Superboys" (below).
- Other versions:
- Kingdom Come: Superboy appears alongside Supergirl with the Legion of Super-Heroes in one panel. It is unclear whether this version is Kon-El, simply young Kal-El (via time travel) or possibly his son through Lois Lane.
- Legion of Superboys: Different versions of Superboy from throughout Hypertime, including both Kon-El and Kal-El, team up in the unofficial "Legion of Superboys" to fight Black Zero in the "Hypertension" story arc. Among these Superboys are a version of Kon-El that has taken Robin's place as Batman's partner, a Kon-El cowboy, a Kon-El knight, Karkan, Superboy One Million and a teenage clone of Supergirl from the Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl reality.
- Superboy One Million: The one millionth clone of Kon-El, he lives in the 853rd century and is a member of Justice Legions S, which consists exclusively of Superboy clones, and T, a future version of Young Justice. Also known as Superboy OMAC, an acronym for "One Millionth Actual Clone" of Kon-El, this Superboy resembles the original OMAC (One-Man Army Corps) in appearance. He was part of 1998's DC One Million crossover event and reappeared the following year in "Hypertension".
- Quetzal: In a distant future on the colony world of Aztlan, Quetzal becomes the designated heir to Superman, who occupies a semi-divine position in this Aztec-like society. Realizing that "Superman" is corrupt, Superboy leads a rebellion against him.
- Superboy (presumably the original) is one of the "ghosts" in the empty "Planet Krypton" restaurant in The Kingdom: Planet Krypton #1.
In addition, Marvel Comics' Gladiator of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard is based partly on Superboy. The Shi'ar Imperial Guard, as a whole, was created as an homage/parody of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
During an adventure in Smallville while he is still a youth, Clark Kent of All-Star Superman is aided by the time-spanning Superman Squad featuring the present Superman in disguise as the Unknown Superman, Kal Kent, and the 5th-dimension Superman. While aiding the Squad, Clark misses a chance to save the life of Jonathan Kent.
In writing about the version of Superman in his series, writer Grant Morrison said, "Ma & Pa Kent—one dead. We're going with the version where Pa Kent has died. That's the day Superboy becomes a man." Dialogue between several characters implies that young Clark is a costumed adventurer, but he is never referred to as "Superboy".
The Superboy character has been the subject of a legal battle between Time Warner, the owner of DC Comics, and the estates of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
On November 30, 1938, Siegel pitched the idea for the character of Superboy to Detective Comics (the corporate forerunner to DC Comics), but the company declined the offer. Siegel pitched the idea again in December 1940, but again the company declined to use the material. Siegel enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1943. While he was stationed overseas, Detective Comics directed Joe Shuster to draw a Superboy comic strip for publication in More Fun Comics. No notice was given to Siegel, and no consent from him was granted. Siegel sued for copyright infringement, and won. A court-appointed special referee declared the character of Superboy unique, and not derivative from the character of Superman. But appeals by both Siegel and National Comics Publication (the new name of Detective Comics) led to a consent decree in which the parties agreed that Superboy was the sole property of National Comics.
In 1969, Siegel and Shuster sought to recover their copyright to Superman, as the original 28-year copyright for the character had expired. In Siegel v. National Periodical Publications, Inc., 364 F. Supp. 1032 (S.D.N.Y. 1973), aff'd, 508 F.2d 909 (2nd Cir. 1974), the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the 1948 agreement assigned not only the original 28-year copyright term but also the 28-year copyright renewal term as well to National Periodical Publications (Detective Comics' successor).
In 1976, Congress enacted a new Copyright Act. This law extended existing copyrights for 19 years, but it also gave creators of works the right to seek to recover their copyright when the extension was up.
The Siegel claims
In 1997, Joanne Siegel (Siegel's surviving wife) and Laura Siegel Larson (Siegel's daughter) filed a notice exercising their rights to terminate DC Comics' copyright on the Superman character. The date of termination was 1999, but DC Comics provided Joanne Siegel with certain benefits that induced the parties to keep negotiating. A tolling agreement was signed to allow negotiations to keep moving.[a] The Siegels, Shusters, and DC Comics began drafting an agreement, and this agreement now referenced the Superboy character and some indicia as well. On October 19, 2001, Larson's attorney issued a letter in which he claimed that the heirs "accepted D.C. Comics offer of October 16, 2001 in respect of the 'Superman' and 'Spectre' properties." Further negotiations broke down in 2002, and the Siegel heirs filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California claiming their half of the Superboy copyright.
On March 23, 2006, Judge Ronald S.W. Lew of the District Court for the Central District of California issued a summary judgment ruling that Siegel's heirs had successfully reclaimed the copyright to the Superboy character and related indicia as of November 17, 2004. Judge Lew's decision left the parties in the unenviable situation of the Siegels owning the copyright to Superboy, but Time Warner owning the trademark—leaving neither party fully able to take advantage of their respective properties alone.
At a subsequent trial in October 2006, Time Warner (now the parent company of DC Comics) defended itself against a copyright infringement suit by the Siegels by arguing that Judge Lew's summary judgment was incorrect. In Siegel v. Time Warner, 496 F. Supp. 2d 1111 (C.D.Cal. 2007), Judge Stephen G. Larson vacated Judge Lew's summary judgment and ordered a new trial on the issues.[b] Larson's ruling did not determine whether Superboy was such a unique character that the character enjoyed its own copyright protection. He said it was up to future litigation to determine whether the differences between Superman and Superboy were trivial and did not create a copyrightable character. Attorney Jesse J. Kruger, however, noted that character reboots and retcons could create enough differences so that any future version of Superboy might avoid a claim by the Siegels.
The legal dispute affected DC Comics' treatment of the various incarnations of Superboy. In the Secret Origin of the Teen Titans back-up story (March 28, 2007) in the weekly 52 limited series, an illustration of Superboy was changed into Wonder Girl. In the Sinestro Corps War storyline in the Green Lantern titles and in the Countdown to Final Crisis limited series, the Superboy-Prime character was referred to as Superman-Prime, a development that came about in part because of the legal dispute.
On March 26, 2008, in Siegel v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 542 F. Supp. 2d 1098, 1145 (C.D. Cal. 2008), Judge Larson ruled again that the Superboy character was not a work for hire. Larson also held that the 2001 settlement documents did not constitute a contract terminating the Siegel heirs' claim to the Superman and Superboy works.[c] The Siegels regained the copyright to the Superman character, story, and indicia as they appeared in Action Comics #1 (but not prior to or after that). Judge Larson later expanded his ruling to allow the Siegel heirs to claim additional plots, Superman characters, costuming, and indicia.  This included the story of Superman's origin as a Kryptonian rocketed to Earth from a dying planet in a spaceship created by his father. DC Comics celebrated the decisions, as they restored certain retconned versions of the Superboy character to the company's use. On June 28, 2008, DC Comics Vice President and Executive Editor Dan DiDio said in reference to the Legion of Three Worlds comic at the Wizard World Chicago convention, "We've got Geoff (Johns), writer), we've got George (Pérez), artist), we've got SuperBOY Prime (yes, we can say that again)."
In January 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals returned all rights over the Superboy character and other indicia to DC Comics. The appellate court held in Larson v. Warner Bros. Entertainment, No. 11-56034, D.C. No. 2:04-cv-08400-ODW-RZ (9 Cir. January 10, 2013), that the District Court for the Central District of California erred when it said in 2008 that DC and the Siegel heirs had not reached an agreement in 2001 resolving the dispute over the copyright. The court of appeals remanded the case back to the district court with an order to find that a contract existed. Copyright attorney Dallas Kratzer said that the Ninth Circuit's ruling "rendered moot all of the other questions in this lawsuit." The Hollywood Reporter said the ruling likely precludes any further attempt by the Siegel heirs to terminate DC Comics' copyright ownership of the character, although an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is not barred. The Ninth Circuit also ruled that DC Comics could move ahead with a tortious interference lawsuit against Siegel attorney Marc Toberoff, whom DC accuses of interfering with the 2001 settlement.
On remand, the District Court for the Central District of California found that the 2001 agreement had terminated the Siegel heirs' rights to Superboy. The Siegel heirs appealed, arguing that the 2001 agreement did not cover the Superboy copyrights because the rights (at that time) were not the Siegels' to grant. They also argued that the agreement alienated their copyrights contrary to law.[d] Finally, the heirs argued that Joanne Siegel had rescinded the 2001 agreement in 2002, an action in which DC Comics had agreed. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all these arguments.
The Shuster claims
Joe Shuster died in 1992. After his death, DC Comics and his sister, Jean Shuster Peavy, entered into an agreement in which the company paid Shuster's debts, made "survivor payments" to Shuster's brother (Frank), and paid Jean $25,000 a year for the rest of her life. Jean Shuster Peavy and Frank Shuster agreed to turn over all copyright interest in Shuster's Detective Comics characters to DC Comics. The agreement also barred the Shuster family from asserting these rights in the future. The agreement did not, however, specifically mention Superman or Superboy.
In 2003, the estate of Joe Shuster estate filed suit to recover Shuster's copyright interest in Superman, Superboy, and other characters. DC Comics counter-sued, arguing the 1992 agreement barred any such claim. In 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held in DC Comics v. Pacific Pictures Corp., No. CV 10-3633 ODW (RZx), 2012 WL 4936588 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 17, 2012), that the 1992 agreement's broad, all-inclusive language was more than adequate to cover the Superman and Superboy copyrights in which Shuster had an interest. Thus, the estate was barred from seeking their termination under the Copyright Act. Whatever interest Shuster had in Superboy stayed with DC Comics. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Shuster family's appeal in October 2014, leaving the district court's ruling intact.
In other media
The Superboy character has made the transition to television on multiple occasions, both in live action and animated series.
- The Adventures of Superboy (1961): television series (though only a pilot was produced).
- The Adventures of Superboy (1966–1969): series of 34 six-minute Superboy adventures (his first animated appearances) that appeared as part of three different programs during that time, packaged with similar shorts featuring other DC Comics superheroes. He was voiced by Bob Hastings.
- Super Friends: Superboy makes two appearances in the show's run. The first one was in "History of Doom" when the Hall of Justice computer runs a tape showing Lex Luthor's origin. He was voiced by Danny Dark. His next appearance was in the short episode "Return of the Phantoms" where three Phantom Zone criminals go back in time to fight Superboy. He is saved by the arrival of Superman and Green Lantern. He was voiced by Jerry Dexter.
- Superboy (1988–1992): television series about Superboy (Clark Kent) during his college years. The series starred John Haymes Newton (1988–1989) and Gerard Christopher (1989–1992), and Stacy Haiduk as Lana Lang. The theme music and underscore were composed by Kevin Kiner. 100 episodes were produced.
- The cloned Superboy appears in the video game The Death and Return of Superman as a playable character.
- Smallville (2001–2011): television series starring Tom Welling; though not a "Superboy" series by name, this series started with a teenage Clark Kent (a freshman in High School) and features many elements originally present in the Silver Age Superboy comics. Additionally, in a first-season episode, Clark accidentally transfers his powers to a classmate named Eric Summers, who, before running amok with his newfound powers, is called "Superboy" by the local newspaper. And in a season 5 episode, Arthur Curry sarcastically refers to Clark as "Superboy". In the final season, Lucas Grabeel plays Lex Luthor's young clone, who turns out to have had half his DNA come from Clark; his hair changes from red to Clark's black hair color, and he gains Clark's Kryptonian super-powers. He eventually takes the name "Conner Kent" and wears the same black T-shirt with the red Superman emblem worn by Kon-El in the comics. In the Smallville Season 11 digital-first comics series, Conner becomes a member of the Titans, a group of young super-heroes mentored by the original Flash, Jay Garrick.
- A "young Superman" appears in the Legion of Super Heroes animated series. The original press releases stated Superboy would be featured. Due to the aforementioned legal issues, the "Superboy" character was instead referred to on the series as "Superman". This version of the character comes from the time shortly before Clark leaves Smallville for Metropolis. The second season takes place about two years after the first and features both an older Clark and a Superman clone from the 41st century named Superman X (usually addressed as Kal-el), who has alien DNA and enhanced superpowers, as Legion members.
- Kon-El appears in the Young Justice television series. Conner Kent was a clone made by Cadmus in case Superman turned or was ever defeated; it was later learned that his DNA is half-human (with Lex Luthor as his human father). At the beginning of the series, Conner seeks Superman's approval, viewing him as his father. Upon learning the identity of his human DNA donor, Luthor gives Conner a tool (named Shields) that unleashes his full Kryptonian powers but also causes him to go into a nearly blind rage. Superboy, Artemis and Miss Martian reveal to the team their connections to various villains, who had been using them to set up a trap; in Superboy's case, his connection to Lex Luthor. Revealing these secrets allowed the Team to foil the basis for the villains' blackmail, however the Team subsequently learned from Red Tornado that Vandal Savage had managed to take over the Justice League, using Starro tech. As the sidekicks fight their mentors and teachers, they subdue them long enough to put Robin's anti-virus tech in place, freeing the League from Savage's control. Superboy and Superman finally speak, and Superboy tells Superman that he chose Conner Kent as his name, which Superman (Clark Kent) approves of (even if Conner mistakenly believes that he's taken the name of Kent Nelson, the now-deceased Doctor Fate). The second season reveals that Superman has come to view him as a brother and he has broken up with his girlfriend, Miss Martian, as he disapproved of her reckless use of telepathy and her attempt to make him forget about a fight they had. Additionally, in the episode "Secrets", homage is paid to Kon-El's original appearance in the comics, when Mal Duncan wears a Halloween costume which is an exact replica of Superboy's costume.
- Superboy, credited as "Superbaby" is voiced by Grey DeLisle in the 2013 direct-to-dvd animated film, JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time.
- Sometimes, the statute of limitations may run out during negotiations. Rather than have negotiations end and the parties return to court, the parties will sign a "tolling agreement" in which they agree not to invoke the statute of limitations. This preserves the rights of the aggrieved party, but also may serve as an inducement to keep bargaining.
- Judge Larson determined that the 1947 agreement was conclusive as to matters of law, and the issues therein could not be relitigated (e.g., it met the requirements for collateral estoppel). Larson concluded that the Superboy character was not a work for hire. However, because of the way in which the character first saw light in More Fun Comics, Larson was not able to determine whether "publication" had occurred (as defined by the Copyright Act). Publication was essential to asserting copyright, and Detective Comics could not publish a character to which they lacked the rights. Larson was also unable to determine if Superboy was a joint work by both Siegel and Shuster.
- Judge Larson noted that although there was a 2001 letter from the Siegels saying they had agreed to terms offered by Time Warner, the subsequent confusion over what these terms were and the inclusion of what the Siegels claimed were new provisions not previously discussed by the parties meant that, in fact, no agreement had been reached under California law.
- 17 U.S.C. § 203(a)(5) and 17 U.S.C. § 304(c)(5) says that "Termination of the grant may be effected notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary, including an agreement to make a will or to make any future grant.")
- Indicia changed to Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes with issue #231.
- The indicia changed to Adventures of Superboy with #18.
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- Infinite Crisis #6
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