SUPER-Stars (Part 7): Geoff Johns talks Superboy in "Teen Titans"

Wed, April 7th, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

This ain't your Daddy's Superboy. Heck, he might not even be the Superboy that many returning comic book fans remember. But under the guidance of DC Comics' "Teen Titans" writer Geoff Johns, the new Superboy (first seen a decade ago in the "Reign of The Supermen" storyline) has seen a definite resurgence in popularity. With the exciting events surrounding the Teen of Steel, CBR News' Superman Celebration squad caught up with California Kid Geoff Johns and his role in "Teen Titans."

"He's a central figure, right up there with Robin," says Johns of Superboy's role in the team full of many "jr" members. "But Superboy's more of our homegrown jock, a tough kid who's maturing a bit but like everyone else, still trying to find his way. The greatest thing about these young characters is that their future is wide open, and it's about what direction they're going to go in -- getting on the wrong path often and trying to find the right one. To me Superboy embodies this literally for us. We don't want him to be a junior boy scout -- we want him to get in trouble, to make bad decisions to learn what the good ones are. And the whole time he's thinking 'Superman never made a mistake. Why do I make so many?'"

Now this Superboy isn't a young Clark Kent… in a way. Johns was happy to bring readers up to speed on "The Kid's" origin. "Superboy was created by Cadmus Labs in an attempt to clone Superman. Unable to grasp the details of Kryptonian D.N.A. they altered human D.N.A. and mixed it in with what they could of Kryptonian. The results were Superboy. A being genetically designed to resemble Superman in every way. Unfortunately, he "escaped" before he could be fully grown. Superboy is now living with the Kents in Smallville, under the guise of Clark's cousin Conner. He recently learned the human donor was Lex Luthor. How and why have yet to be revealed.

"Superboy is brash, a little cocky at times, enthusiastic and occasionally very serious -- especially when it comes to exploring his purpose."

"Teen Titans" #10, Page 8
Now the obvious CK in Superboy's real name may be cute to fans, but Johns explains he chose it because, "We liked the name. It was better than Clancy Kent. And it was a play of off the Kryptonian name Superman gave him -- Kon-El."

While he may be seen by some readers as "Superman Jr," Superboy is a distinct character in the mind of Johns, who has written Superman on many occasions and with quite some acclaim, and explains, "Superboy is much different, and that is obvious. He's still relatively new to all of this, he puts immense pressure on his own shoulders. His views of how Superman is and how he thinks are skewed. Superboy thinks Superman is perfect. This guy who doesn't have a single bad thought in his head. No one's like that. And Conner's going to have to learn to accept that he has faults. But his faults are going to be a hell of a lot more challenging than most."

In writer Peter David's "Young Justice" series, a precursor of sorts to "Teen Titans," Superboy and Wonder Girl were established as being somewhat of an item, albeit with the repressed feelings of teenagers their age. "I can't tell you where it's going because that's part of the story, but Superboy has always been attracted to girls -- any pretty girl," says Johns. "Wonder Girl to me, is the first girl his own age that he really respects and admires and likes not because she's beautiful but because she's strong, caring and confident."

Further adding his own twist to the relationship of the younger "World's Finest" (the older ones considered to be Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman), Superboy's best friend is Robin and Johns' own experience with his brother- who co-writes stories with Johns on occasion- was a big influence on how he portrayed these two best friends. "Sure. But it's going to continue to evolve. I think Robin and Superboy are the cornerstone dynamic for Teen Titans and despite what's going on with Robin right now, or in conjunction with it, that will become even more apparent. Superboy relies on Robin a lot, he's the only other Titan that knows the truth about his genetics, and yet he still only knows Tim's [Drake, Robin's current identity] first name."

"Teen Titans" #10, Page 9
While Johns has loved working on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in various tales, he freely admits to having more creative freedom with their partners. "That's obvious, of course. The changes we're putting the kids through, the stories they're dealing with, they're all just going on through. We don't have a checklist to hit due to outside media influence -- even with the prominence of Cyborg, Starfire, Raven and Beast Boy in the cartoon, we're pretty free to move these characters in any direction we want. Additionally, no one has their own book as of now, so we can develop and change the characters within 'Teen Titans.' It's a luxury we have over in 'JSA' as well."

To many readers, it seems like Superboy's story in "Titans" focuses more on maturity and his place in the world more so than any of the other characters. There's an irony to some as it is believed Superman is a very grounded person, but Johns isn't sure he sees that. "Maybe, but if you think Superman's grounded then...I don't know, I don't think that's necessarily the case with Superman. He's well adjusted, obviously, but he's still got issues. He just deals with them privately -- he doesn't talk to Superboy when he feels like an outsider or if he's over-burdened by all of this pressure. For me, Superboy never sees that side of Superman and that adds extra weight to his shoulders. He should be able to handle anything and nothing should bother him, but that's not the case with anyone -- even Superman."

Another side of Superman that hasn't been seen is the reaction to Conner's genes- something that has been kept a secret from The Man Of Steel. "It'll be developing as we go," explains Johns of the storyline. "It's all been planned out since Day One, as to the how's, why's and where it all connects with everything else Superboy has gone through. The clues are there, since his first appearance. It's going to be a big story, it's going to involve more than just the Titans."

 
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