Conner Kent? I don’t even know him.

I need to be clear, I do like the idea of a Superboy character who is an attempt by scientists to create a Superman of their own who then goes on to be a hero in his own right. So when a Superboy like that appeared in the wake of the famous Death of Superman story in the ’90s, well… well, I wasn’t reading the comics then. But I got around to it, and I liked the kid! And I also read the entirety of the kid’s own book, which ran for like sixty issues or something. For most of that book, his name was literally just Superboy. It certainly was not Conner Kent.

But at some point I noticed that the Internet was referring to this kid as Conner Kent. It turns out to have been revealed in some… shudder… other DC book. Certainly I don’t detest that the kid could have a name other than Superboy, I support it if that’s what he wants, but the problem is this: whatever comics did this also changed the kid’s backstory. I’ve never read this retcon-filled story, but here it is as I understand it:

The Superboy I liked was a clone of Superman, kind of. He was not a clone in the sense that they took Superman’s DNA and grew another one. Instead the Project took some base DNA (provided by Project leader Paul Westfield) and tinkered with it to give the clone the appearance of and more importantly powers that emulated those of Superman. Being non-Kryptonian, the kids powers were actually various kinds of psionics, of the kind they had learned from creating Dubbilex. This Superboy could lift things and fly, but because of telekinesis rather than alien strength. Here’s what’s cool about that: It gives Superboy powers that are similar to Superman, but different.

Maybe this was too complicated for some corporate idea of “the masses”? I don’t think so, but who am I? Maybe someone thought it would simplify things to make him just actually be a clone of Superman. And because Superboy being Superman’s clone removes Westfield from the equation they decided to go ahead throw Lex Luthor into the equation. Now this clone Superboy character is half Clark/half Luthor. I hate that.

Firstly I hate the idea that everything in Superman’s life revolves around Luthor like in that period in the early 40s when it seemed like every time a masked villain appeared he’d be unmasked as Luthor. It makes Superman’s world feel so small. You know how people say Superman doesn’t have the rogues gallery of characters like Batman or Spider-Man? Well that’s because of stuff like this (For the record, Paul Westfield’s daughter actually served as one of Superboy’s foes. She wasn’t anything especially great, but she was there). But even worse is this: this seems to have been a change made so that they could play up drama where Superboy is full of angst because half of his DNA comes from a supervillain. That bothers me. I don’t think being a “bad guy” is genetic and I don’t think we should be telling stories that suggest it is.

I don’t know if this revelation also undid the idea that Superboy has psionic-based powers or not. I expect it hasn’t, I feel like I’ve seen images of him still doing his own thing, but I haven’t bothered to check. But if it did, if he wound up being just another person with the standard Kryptonian set of abilities, well that would mean that, in every meaningful way, Conner Kent just is not the Superboy I liked. Whereas right now, he’s only 80% not the Superboy I liked.

What Is Superman’s Toy Situation?

A month or two ago I was at Walmart. Since that is something that happens most often when I am looking for a gift for my niblings, I spent a lot of time in the toy section. And, in spite of myself, the same thing happens every time I am in a toy section at a store like that: I wonder why Superman is so underrepresented.

I know I shouldn’t be bothered too much. The Superman of my mind wouldn’t want to be too represented in overpriced merchandise sold by corrupt corporations. But I also see such toys as a way to open the minds of children to the ideas that I wish were being delivered by Superman media.

Still, it doesn’t bother me that much until I see something like this:

It’s not a great picture because I just snapped it with my phone while looking for other things, but what that is is that that is Batman-branded playset featuring Batman, Superman, and Lex Luthor and named “Wayne Tower Mayhem”. I don’t know if this is referencing some specific story, and don’t get me wrong the whole thing looks like crap, but it still bugs me. We’ve got two figures for two Superman characters and a tall building theme. There are plenty of tall buildings this could have been as a Superman-branded toy. Coulda been the Daily Planet or the LexCorp building just for starts. But no, instead some toy making people said that this is Batman’s house and Batman has two jerks from Metropolis show up and ruin his night, the playset.

I get that Batman is popular and probably moves toys, but honestly I bet he’s got characters enough of his own who should be fighting on that rooftop.

There is, I have to assume, no line of Superman toys coming out. I’ve heard claims that Batman is easier to make toys of because Batman has all kinds of cool toys like batarangs and the Batmobile, but once you have a Superman toy you have everything you can get from Superman. I don’t agree with that. First of all, you’ve got all the supporting cast members and villains that could be turned into figures. Sure, people could argue that a lot of them aren’t very toyetic, but if I were in charge, I’d be trying to improve them as characters, so I could work on that too. And there’s no reason Superman and friends can’t have a bunch of cool gizmos. It’s a sci-fi franchise! Make stuff up!

Now, I don’t know anything about modern toys, but if I take this line from the Wikipedia page for TMNT toys as correct, “The premiere series included the four Turtles, Splinter, April, Shredder, Rocksteady, Bebop, and a Foot Soldier. Vehicles included the Cheapskate, Turtle Trooper, Turtle Blimp, and Foot Knucklehead” there were ten figures and four vehicles in the first line of Ninja Turtles toys. Well, I can replicate that for Superman, surely. And all the weird transformations and stuff!


  1. Superman: Obviously you need to have him. We’d need to start the run off with a pretty basic Superman figure. Accessories? How about a Phantom Zone Projector? We could make it look cool and light up or something.
  2. Lois Lane: Famously the toys in the era I grew up in would avoid the lady figures because they wouldn’t sell as well, but I’m not going without Lois.
  3. Jimmy Olsen: I figure there’s a couple ways to go with it. You could do a thing about his transforming, where he has different heads and hands and can be like a werewolf or whatever. Or maybe you do a camera thing where the camera flashes? Or it could be a viewfinder thing?
  4. Steel: He’s got a cool look and a big hammer. You need to have him.
  5. Lex Luthor: For a toy we’re probably want a Luthor in some sort of power armour, even though I think the suits look cooler. He could definitely have kryptonite as an accessory.
  6. General Zod: The other big one of Superman’s foes, we stick him in the first set.
  7. Toyman: He’s had several designs, so we’d have to figure out which would be best, but I think he’s an obvious fit for a line of figures.
  8. Metallo: Cool robot design and maybe he can open up to see his kryptonite heart? That’s something. Some glow in the dark might be cool.
  9. Bloodsport: Tons of guns are his accessories and that’s what toys were in my day.
  10. Bizarro: You get to basically reuse the Superman design with minor differences, so that’s good.

None of that is revelatory. Apart from maybe Bloodsport I assume they’ve all had toys before (and even Bloodsport probably has now that he was in that movie). I kinda wanted to delve into more obscure territory, so maybe I should’ve done this thought experiment as the second wave of toys instead. Ah well, I’m too tired to start anew right now, so let’s let that happen some other time. We still have to deal with:

  1. Supermobile: The classic Supermobile design, but I say we make it so it can transform into a “normal” car.
  2. Bizarromobile: We take the Supermobile design and make it all weird. And it transforms into a weird car. I’m in.
  3. Lexcopter: A LexCorp-branded helicopter that probably can shoot missiles.
  4. Teddy Mech: A teddy-bear-themed mech that a figure can ride in, designed for Toyman.

And I didn’t even get into playsets. Anyway, the fact I didn’t have to get into the obscure stuff I wanted proves how easy it should be. It’s clear that the reason I don’t see more Superman stuff in stores is simply because companies don’t want it there. What a shame.

If I revisit this, I’m sure I’ll get weirder with it.

Bizarro is Superman… only a little more bizarre

Here’s the one about how I prefer my Bizarro, I guess.

The thing I feel about Bizarro is that he is doing the opposite thing on purpose. It’s a choice. I don’t like it when Bizarro is some cosmically-opposite version of Superman, I prefer the term they originally used, Bizarro is an “imperfect duplicate” of Superman. He’s not “Reverse Superman” or “Mirror Superman” or something like that. He’s “Bizarro Superman”.

I’ll accept the weird power inversions, I guess. I don’t require them, but if people want him to have flame breath and cold vision or whatever, sure, that’s cute. But saying that, personality-wise, Bizarro is just backwards version of the protagonist doesn’t do it for me. It’s much more compelling to me if Bizarro came into being, wired differently (“imperfectly” by someone’s standards) than his clone-brother. He tries to get by in the world, but he just can’t get it right. Things don’t make as much sense to him as they seem to to everyone else. He would be like his more popular sibling, but it doesn’t come natural to him. And people just don’t accept him in that role. He gets frustrated, he acts out. And THEN he decides if he can’t be like Superman, he’s going to be as unlike Superman as possible.

It’s a tragedy, his rejection of Superman. It’s a shame, it’s a shonda, but it’s a choice. This gives Bizarro both more agency and more poignancy, I think. It also gives him room to think about how he wants to be Superman’s opposite, and change his mind about things. All in all, I just think it makes him more interesting.

And, for the record, I don’t think of Bizarro as a “villain”. He’s a supporting cast member whose circumstances cause him to sometimes fight Superman. Bizarro is like Superman’s younger brother who is kind of a mess. That’s what I want from him.

Superman and Luthor = Frenemies?

I’ve said a lot of things about a lot of Superman villains on this little site of mine, but I don’t think I’ve said much about his most iconic villain: Lex Luthor. I think the concept of Lex Luthor as a nemesis has reached the world at large. I’m sure I could think of some little ways to improve on Luthor’s usage as a Superman foe, but honestly, once they expanded his mad scientist role to include all the evil capitalists that Clark fought in his early days, they got what I needed from him. Maybe I’m less concerned with him being the “smartest human on Earth” (I think such superlatives are a poison to the superhero genre) and I know I like him to be a little bit goofier than many readers, but in general I think we’re getting good Luthor most of the time.

But one thing that I’ve found controversial even among Superman fans is whether or not Clark Kent and Lex Luthor should be friends who tragically became enemies? I always preferred when they weren’t.

It’s one of my least favourite things when creators think superheroes have to have personal connections to their enemies for the sake of drama. And Superman especially! Superman shouldn’t need personal connections to a problem to want to solve that problem. And anyway, Superman has too many enemies with personal connections anyway! Brainiac is a space-faring baddie who once captured a city right off of Superman’s homeworld! This time it’s personal! General Zod (and most of the Phantom Zone criminals as well) is actually from Superman’s homeworld and maybe even knew Superman’s father! This time it’s personal! It’s a crutch and I don’t care for it.

It also bugs me that Superman just happens to grow up with the kid who goes on to be one of the richest and smartest businessmen in the world? It strains credibility and makes Clark less of the everyman they wanted him to be when they made him a smalltown boy.

But it’s surprisingly popular considering how rarely it’s actually been the status quo. It came about during the Silver Age, and I am acutely aware that Silver Age concepts seem to grow back any time they are removed. A lot of the time I’m in favour of the Silver Age concepts coming back. It was also the case in the live action Superboy television show, but compared to the various movies and show’s where it hasn’t been the case, that show can’t compare. The comics did away with it in the 80s reboot, but it has swung in and out with different revisions of continuity. Of course, the biggest reason for the popularity of this setup today is the show Smallville, which was about young Clark and Lex. That show did run for a decade, so it’s got a generation of Superman fans who like the friends setup.

And I don’t know. I don’t like it, but at this point I’m kind of just accepting it. I don’t know if either of the currently-running Superman shows have Clark and Lex as former friends or not, but if they do, I’ll just accept it.

Here’s what I think we need to do to make it acceptable for Lex and Clark to have been friends: We need Superman to have other nemeses who are as important as Lex but are not This Time It’s Personals. If I accept Brainiac and Zod as being slightly personal, let’s get at least three more who have no personal connection to Clark or Superman before they met as foes. As I’ve said, the Terra-Man is a good criminal inversion of some Superman tropes, so let’s put him on the list. But also, let’s finally give the Ultra-Humanite a chance to shine. I’m sure I’ll do a post about them sometime, but yeah, they were Superman’s big foe before Luthor came alone, so let’s get that back.

Or, of course, there’s always Tal-Var.

Superman III is Cyberpunk

In a sprawling urban city, a talented hacker tries to steal from a MegaCorp, but gets caught. The company owner sways the hacker to his side with promises of wealth. Together they hijack and weaponize a satellite and, with the hacker posing as a member of the military-industrial complex, they even try to use a narcotic-based poison to bring down a crusading hero who stands in their way. During their plan to build a giant supercomputer, one of the corpos is turned into a killer cyborg. The hacker ends up leaving the MegaCorp and helping the hero.

Okay, Superman III isn’t actually cyberpunk enough to be called cyberpunk, really. But I’ve amused myself by referring to it as such before and I’ll probably do it again.

What I will say is that the hacker character in the movie, Gus Gorman, should come back. I say we keep him as close as possible to the character as seen in the movie. He’s talented with computers but has trouble making his way in a corporate world, so he does thing underhanded now and then. He probably came afoul of Superman at some point, but Superman can tell that prison isn’t a solution, so he and Gus become allies. Sometimes Gus’ll get in over his head and maybe some criminal types will want to harm Gus, so Superman can save the day. There are definitely times when Superman (or Lois or Jimmy or anyone) might need the aid of a hacker, so he can be brought in for that stuff. I’d be wary of making him a clean-cut good guy, but in a world where Superman is a champion of the oppressed, Gus would be on that list.