When the New 52 version of Superboy was first introduced, many readers weren't sure what to think of this clone kid who didn't know if he was a good guy or a bad guy.
But over the last two-plus years, readers have started to warm up to the current Superboy, also known as Kon, because he not only evolved into a hero in his own title, Superboy, but also as a valuable new team member in Teen Titans.
Now Scott Lobdell, the writer who wrote much of Kon's story over those two years, has revealed that Kon is going to die during this month's "Krypton Returns." A new Superboy will take his place — Jon Lane Kent.
To review the identity of Jon Lane Kent — the current Superboy is a clone, and Jon is one of the sources for his DNA.
But Jon is also from the future — he's a natural son of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. In that future — which is only a possible future — Lois and Clark have a child named Jon, but they believe that he died. In reality, Jon was snatched by a villain named Harvest, who trained him to kill metahumans.
Now that the Teen Titans are thrust into the future (thanks to the events of Forever Evil), they are in a timeline where Jon Lane Kent exists — and where he has already begun killing super powered heroes.
In Teen Titans Annual #2, Jon battles Superboy, but at the end of the issue, Kon has been taken away from that timeline into the current Superman crossover event, "Krypton Returns."
If it all sounds confusing, just hold onto your seat. Lobdell says the future, villainous Jon Lane Kent will take Superboy's place without the team even realizing it. And at the same time, the old Superboy (Kon) will be making the ultimate sacrifice in "Krypton Returns."
Newsarama already talked to new Superboy writer Marv Wolfman about his plans for Jon Kent within the character's solo title. Next, we talked to Lobdell — both about "Krypton Returns," and about the death of Superboy.
Newsarama: Scott, the "Krypton Returns" crossover, where you send the Super-characters into the past of Krypton, seems to give you the chance to play in a Kryptonian playground. Was that one of the reasons you wanted to do this? To allow the Super-characters to experience Krypton (and the readers as well)?
Scott Lobdell: For sure! I had a conversation earlier with one of the head honchos at DC who asked, essentially, what possessed me to want to tell a Krypton story so "soon after" the previous Krypton story? I pointed out some 70-plus years of Krypton stories, true — but we haven't seen the New 52 Krypton!
Krypton has been many things over the years. It has been pretty much Buck Rogers-ville, and there was a time it was an emotionally sterile place.
I wanted to — and remain eager to — explore a Krypton in the New 52 where Jor-El and Lara are more than "that couple waving goodbye to their son as the planet explodes!" I want to see a Jor El who has spent years believing he was the lone voice of reason, only to discover there were more forces conspiring against him and Dru-Zod than simply entropy. I want to hang out with a Lara who was raised by the Kryptonian military who at first repulsed but later attracted to the somewhat oddball and already legendary Jor!
John and Martha Kent were a lot of things (very salt-of-the-Earth), and we know Superman got a lot of his smarts from his biological father. But where did he get that indomitable will from? I posit it came from his mother, and there are flashes within this story (and Greg Pak touched on it in Doomsday #1) where we see that part of her. Yes, she might be the intellectual equal of Jor (no mean feat), but she can also kick ass.
So any chance we get to spend on Krypton, with Superman's parents, I think provides glimpses into Superman and how the past informs the present. How can that ever be a bad thing?
Nrama: What can you tell us about how this will affect Superman?
Lobdell: Well, in the New 52, Superman is at a time when he still makes mistakes — that even the best of his intentions don't always lead to the best results. What Superman is going to learn (and it is going to be awhile before it becomes clear to him, so settle down for the long haul) is that being right and doing "the right thing" isn't always the choice.
This will become clearer to us on the last page of "Krypton Returns." But it is a decision that is going to catch up to Superman later rather than sooner.
Nrama: What about Supergirl? Does this mess with her psychologically to face all this history of Krypton?
Lobdell: Supergirl comes face to face with the ancient Kryptonian clones she's feared and loathed her entire life... and is going to discover everything she's read about them is actually true. But saving the time stream — like politics — makes for strange bedfellows. And once she's learned to embrace the enemy of her enemy...? Well, it is going to have a profound effect on some of her life choices moving forward.
Nrama: OK, then let's talk about what happens to Superboy in "Krypton Returns." You've already revealed some of it...
Lobdell: Superboy, as we all know, dies. But long live Superboy!
OK, that might seem too glib. But I will say that the idea of Superman has had many incarnations since the notion of a younger Superman was introduced. He's been young Kal-El, he's been Conner Kent and just plain Kon-El. What was Smallville if not the ongoing adventures of Superboy before he donned his cape? I think the idea behind Superboy can survive and thrive with a continuing evolution of the concept: young Superman, clone of Superman, Son of Superman? Why do we have to stay nailed down to on particular Superboy for decades at a time?
Personally, if it were up to me — and it so rarely is — I'd be just as happy exploring a Superboy who is a young black teenager in England, exposed to raw Kryptonite and given super powers. Why does "Superboy" have to be one thing? Why can't the idea of Superboy be more open to new ideas, new concepts?
Nrama: But for the last two years, you've been telling Kon's story, both in Superboy when you were writing it, and in Teen Titans. What were the thoughts behind making Jon Kent into Superboy now?
Lobdell: In the first few pages of Superboy, we introduced Kon in a cloning chamber listed as "02"... so there was always the plan to examine who was "01" — who was the entity that Superboy was cloned from?
In the previous continuity, that was Superman and Lex Luthor. But aside from the notion that "Good" and "Evil" are somehow locked into a person's DNA before they are born is rather suspect science (maybe even science fiction)... the idea is with a new Kon necessitated by the new Superman continuity, the idea was to keep the origins of Superboy's donor a mystery that would unfold over time.
This seemed to be the time to explore those mysteries.
Nrama: Won't this alter the Teen Titans team quite a bit in that title?
Lobdell: It will alter the team... but it is going to take a while, because Jon is not going to make his presence known to the Teen Titans for quite a while. As he figures out how to navigate this strange new world he's found himself in, he's happy to let the rest of the team believe he is their friend, Kon.
Nrama: OK, so where exactly does all this go down? You said something at New York Comic Con about Superman #25. Is that where the switch happens? And can you explain how, or why, it happens?
Lobdell: It happens throughout the pages of the Teen Titans Annual #2, Action Annual #2, Superboy #25 and #26, Teen Titans #25 and #26 and, arguably, Superman #25. But it very much isn't about running out and buying every issue — it is more about the story that evolves over the course of many issues.
While there is, indeed, a death of Superboy... Jon taking the role of Superboy isn't necessarily bequeathed upon him as much as it happens, and he is in a position where he has to run with what happened.
From an editorial point — why does it happen? I think in part, it is because the New 52 was partially a promise to readers: We're not always going to do exactly what you think we're going to do. We're not going to be boxed into a type of storytelling just because it has been done one way for so long. We're going to surprise you, we're going to startle you, and we're going to challenge ourselves to constantly push the envelope.
I am sure that as the story progresses, the readers will see that we've made good on those promises!
Nrama: We saw the battle between Jon Kent and Kon happen in the Teen Titans Annual #2. Can you explain how that battle relates to the death of Superboy in the "Krypton Returns" storyline — particularly the promised death in Superman #25?
Lobdell: [In] Teen Titans Annual #2, they met, fought, and as Kon was about to deliver a crushing blow — Oracle yanked him into the "Krypton Returns" story. From there, Superboy is going to be called on to sacrifice himself in Superman #25. So I guess to answer your question they are tied together chronologically.
Nrama: Is there anything you can reveal about Jon Lane Kent's character and what it's like writing him?
Lobdell: I could — but I think it is a question best suited to ask Marv Wolfman as he is the one who is writing most of Jon's appearances in Superboy onward.
Nrama: We talked to Marv a couple weeks ago. But Scott, I've got to ask you about the future of Superboy, because — as I'm sure you're aware — fans can be pretty jaded. Is it safe for them to assume that Kon will be back?
Lobdell: It is funny… I had that same conversation with an editor last week. They said "Readers aren't stupid, they know he's going to come back. They just don't know when." I said, "If readers 'know,' then it means we're not doing our job of writing new and different stories.
"Look at what people are talking about in pop culture today — The Walking Dead on television, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and the dearly departed Breaking Bad. These are stories that sucker punch us week to week, episode to episode, dispatching some of our favorite characters with zest and glee. You do not know what to expect — whether it is Lori's death in the prison or the body count from the Red Wedding, or Miss Claudette being transferred to maximum security. How exciting is that? How final? How bold to keep a promise to your audience that you're going to challenge and surprise them and be true to the bigger story and not fall back on the same tropes that have worked again and again and again?"
Will he be back? Someday maybe, but I'm not going to be the one writing that story.
Nrama: Then let's talk about what's coming up in Superman after "Krypton Returns." What kind of themes are you exploring in the Parasite story that's coming up in the title?
Lobdell: I think if you start out with the premise that "Superman always makes the right decision!," you are really denting a lot of what you can tell in a Superman story. Does he try? Certainly. That's what we love about the guy. But this notion that every decision Superman makes is going to end in a win-win scenario that is approved by everyone I think would be very stultifying.
We'll see in this issue that Superman makes a very unpopular decision in order to save Lois from the clutches of Brainiac — and he uses Parasite to do it. He realizes that all the powers that he can command are useless to save his friend — and when it becomes clear that Parasite may be her only lifeline, Superman does what he has to to help her.
I think if I was a reader I would find that as exciting a story to read and debate with all my friends at the comic book store.
Nrama: You teased awhile ago that you had plans for the "most ambitious story ever." Is that "Krypton Returns?" Or is this story just planting the seeds for something bigger?
Lobdell: To be honest? It only gets more breathtaking in its pending audacity!
Nrama: Can you give us any indication what 2014 will look like for Superman?