The two-part season opener of (“Independence Day” and “Fireworks”) was an adaptation of Superboy’s origin. The original 1950s Superboy was just Superman as a boy, but the modern Superboy didn’t appear until after Superman was killed by the monster Doomsday. Project Cadmus saw an opening to create their own clone of Superman and to announce him to the world as the original returned to life. Their plans were discovered by a group called the Newsboy Legion (clones of the Guardian’s original 1940s sidekicks) who freed the clone before he was fully mature. Thus the new clone had the body of a teenager, but he also lacked the mind control conditioning that Cadmus had wanted to insert.
The real Superman ultimately returned from the dead (that happens a lot in the DC Universe) and the cloned “Superboy” stuck around as a new character. The Young Justice “pilot” follows Superboy’s origin pretty closely, but substitutes Young Justice for the Newsboy Legion. In the comic books Young Justice formed after they helped a girl called the Secret escape from a government laboratory. So you can see how both origin stories have been woven together. The comic-book Superboy was a half-clone of Superman – they couldn’t extrapolate his entire DNA sequence so grafted the half they could decipher onto a human base. This base was originally believed to be Director Westfield (Desmond’s analogue), but was eventually revealed to be Lex Luthor.
Superboy’s bio for the online game Brawl of Justice describes him as “Project Cadmus created Superboy using DNA stolen from Superman. With super-strength, super-speed, and near-invulnerability, Superboy has plenty of raw power, but he also has an explosive temper.” Cartoon Network’s Young Justice site listed his powers as “Super-strength. Infra-red vision. Leaps tall buildings” – a reference to Superman’s original ability to jump vast distances rather than actually fly (a development that didn’t occur until his first outing in animation). The same bio notes that Superboy is “brooding and shy”, but possesses an “explosive temper” and is “untrained.”
- Both Superboy and Superman are voiced by Nolan North. Nolan also pulled dual duty on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths when he voiced Green Lantern and Power Ring.
- Superboy’s white solar suit in the pilot is needed to power his abilities because he’s never been allowed above ground to absorb direct solar radiation. Its colour references the glowing white costumes from the Krypton segment of Superman: The Movie.
Cadmus Labs, under Doctor Mark Desmond, had already created an entire menagerie of genetically engineered geneomorphs to serve the Lab’s shadowy Board of Directors. Yet Project-Kr, buried 52 levels underground, was to be their most audacious cloning project yet. They created a clone of Superman using stolen DNA and force grew it to adolescence in weeks rather than years. To all appearances their clone appeared 16-years-old, but was actually only 16-weeks old. Knowledge, training, and programming were downloaded into the growing clone’s brain by a trio of telepathic gene-gnomes while a special solar suit fuelled his growing cells with a constant supply of solar radiation.
Dubbilex, a gene-elf created by Cadmus, grew increasingly alarmed by Desmond’s cavalier attitude towards his geneomorph brethren and started a fire in Cadmus’s above ground offices designed to attract the attention of the Justice League. However, the League were already occupied on another case and it was actually three of their sidekicks – Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Robin – who responded to the fire. Through telepathic prompting and accidental “sightings” of himself Dubbilex secretly guided the trio through Cadmus’s underground laboratories to the Project- Kr suite (“Independence Day”).
The sidekicks liberated “The Weapon”, Cadmus’s Superboy, from his pod, but they couldn’t immediately liberate him from his loyalty to Desmond. He captured them and turned them over to Desmond. When asked if he knew what he was Superboy told the sidekicks that:
I am the Superboy, a geneomorph. A clone made from the DNA of the Superman, created to replace him should be perish, to destroy him should he turn from the Light.
Aqualad managed to reach Superboy’s better side by asking him “Superboy, you live. That gives you the right to follow your own path: as a weapon or a person. The choice is yours, but ask yourself ‘what would Superman do?’”Superboy then rebelled against his creators and liberated the captured sidekicks. Following Dubbilex’s direction they escaped to the surface and defeated the desperate Desmond who had transformed himself into the Blockbuster.
The entire Justice League met Superboy and the sidekicks as they pulled themselves from the rubble of Cadmus. To Superboy’s disappointment Superman was remote. The Man of Steel appeared overwhelmed to discover that he had a clone – in effect a teenage son – and excused himself at the first possible opportunity (“Fireworks”). Superboy’s first few days of liberty were not easy. Kid Flash had invited Superboy to say with him and his parents in Central City whilst the Batman considered what to do with the new teen team. Superboy was still fixated on Superman and bought an entire rack of identical black Superman t-shirts when forced to buy new clothing to replace his tattered solar suit. (Young Justice (vol. 2) #0 (March 2011)).
Batman decided that Superboy, the three sidekicks, and Miss Martian were to form Young Justice, a new team designed to operate covertly in places where the Justice League’s presence would draw too much attention. They would operate out of the Cave in Mount Justice (the League’s original headquarters). Superboy moved out of Kid Flash’s parents place and into the Cave full time. He shared the space with Miss Martian (Megan), but it took time for them to get use to each other. He over reacted to Megan’s friendly attempt to talk to him telepathically and he had to be talked into apologising by Aqualad. Megan soon developed a crush on Superboy despite his initially aggressive behaviour (“Welcome to Happy Harbor”, “Drop-Zone”)
Powers and Abilities
Superboy was cloned from DNA stolen from Superman. Like other kryptonians he gains superpowers under Earth’s yellow Sun including super strength, speed, and invulnerability. He also possesses superhearing and the ability to see in the infrared. However, Superboy has yet to develop Superman’s full suite of powers – missing are Superman’s ability to fly and and his heat vision.