Superboy's origins start with Project: Superman, which is the Superman cloning project originally intended to recreate the Man of Steel. Due to the inability to replicate and stabilize Kryptonian DNA, the clones of Superman degenerate after a short period of time. Upon Superman's death, the project is reinstated in secrecy in conjunction with Lex Luthor and Cadmus Labs to replace the fallen hero. After 12 documented attempts at cloning a Superman, human DNA (secretly that of Project head Paul Westfield, later retconned as being from Lex Luthor) is partially used to stabilize the Kryptonian DNA. The result is Superboy, the first successful clone of Superman.
When Project Cadmus obtained Superman's body they examined it very closely and discovered that Superman had a bionetic-forcefield completely surrounding his body. This forcefield was what made Superman invulnurable, kept him from getting dirty and allowed him flight through a kind of "self-telekinesis". Project Cadmus was able to manipulate this field into Superboy's power source which was converted, of coures, into his Tactile Telekinesis as seen in Adventures of Superman#506
He first reveals this to Lois Lane, but it is Tana Moon who breaks the story live on WGBS. The Cyborg Superman, the Eradicator, and "Man of Steel" John Henry Irons make their first appearances at this time as well, the first two also claiming themselves to be "Superman."
The Cyborg Superman is revealed as a villain and ally of Mongul. Shortly thereafter the "real" Superman returns. Superboy joins him, Supergirl, Steel, Green Lantern, and the Eradicator in a successful assault on "Engine City", built on the ruins of Coast City.
Following the cyborg's defeat, Superboy is convinced that the returning Kal-El is the real Superman.
After Superman's return to Metropolis, Superboy is informed that he had been created from human DNA only and was genetically engineered to both look like Superman and mimic his major powers by way of telekinesis.
At this time, Superman is served a cease and desist order to stop using the "Superman" trademark, which registered after his death to Superboy (at one stage it is suggested that Superman change his name to "Supreme", a reference to Image Comics' Superman-like character of the same name).
They agree to share the trademark, if some proceeds go to charity. Now nameless, Superman tells him his actions have earned him the name "Superboy". At first reluctantly, Superboy accepts the new name and decides to go on a "Superboy World Tour". He gets as far as Hawaii before deciding to stay there.
Superboy begins the series acting immature (writer Karl Kesel often compared the character to Peter Pan), however, by the end, he has significantly matured. Superboy almost dies when he, along with the majority of Cadmus' clones, are infected by the Clone Virus. After that story, Superboy and the Suicide Squad team up to take out the lair of the Silicon Dragons, an infamous Pacific crime syndicate who maintain a base of operations at the bottom of the ocean.
In another storyline, Superboy is legally required to attend school because he is a minor. He attends public school, but is later expelled and Dubbilex telepathically tutors Superboy after the school is severely damaged in a battle.
Another storyline involved Knockout, a thrill-seeking former Female Fury on the planet Apokolips, who fled while in training. After teaming up several times with Superboy, Knockout becomes his full time partner. They take down Killer Frost, the Technician, and Silversword. The Furies would later arrive to capture Knockout. As a result, a huge battle breaks out, with the local police involved. A police officer is killed in the fight, and an investigation concludes that Knockout herself had struck down the officer. At first, Superboy refuses to believe that Knockout is guilty, and goes on the run with her as an outlaw until she kills again in front of him, forcing Superboy to apprehend her.
Superboy also plays a critical role in saving the life of Legion of Super-Heroes member Lar Gand (who was called "Valor" in this story). When Lar Gand/Valor; a Daxamite, is suffering from lead poisoning, he loses his memory and is manipulated into fighting for entertainment by a corrupt businessman. Lar Gand and Superboy are drawn into a fight under false pretenses. Realizing that Lar Gand is dying, Superboy, with the aid of Knockout, brings him to S.T.A.R. Labs for treatment. But with Lar Gand close to death and no clue as to how to cure him, Superboy puts Lar Gand in a Stasis Zone. The Stasis Zone, also known by its more commonly accepted name the Phantom Zone; is where Lar Gand is kept safe for 1000 years, until he is freed and cured by The Legion of Super-Heroes. In gratitude for saving Lar Gand's life the Legion makes Superboy an honorary member and give him a Legion flight ring.
Ron Marz's run featured an organization called the Agenda attempting to capture Superboy and use his DNA to create a clone army. The Agenda use an operative named Amanda Spence to capture Superboy and subsequently created the clone named Match. Match is an upgraded clone of Superboy who has vastly upgraded knowledge as well as a greater understanding of the abilities Superboy had. After a battle in the Agenda's headquarters, Superboy through sheer will defeats the inexperienced Match, the Agenda, and destroys its clone army. Soon after, Superboy's powers begin to fluctuate and he soon becomes ill. His cellular structure seemingly breakdowning, Superboy is rushed back to Cadmus. Superman, Supergirl, and Steel come to his aid and search for the cause as well a cure. Supergirl interrigates the directors of the Agenda and through such, discovers that the process used to clone Superboy actually "unzipped" his DNA, causing his body to deteriorate. An imprisioned but sympathetic Amanda Spence, as repayment for Superboy saving her life, suggests a treatment that could potientally cure the Boy of Steel. Under this suggestion, Cadmus uses Roxy, being closest to Superboy's age, as a new genetic template for his DNA to stablize him. Unfortunately as a side effect, haulting his aging process at his current biological age of 17. The news devastates Superboy, since he had always dreamt of growing up to replace Superman when the latter retired.
The cast soon disbands with Tana Moon breaking off her relationship with Superboy. She leaves Hawaii on a business trip. A humiliated Superboy disappears along the Pacific Ocean. The surrogate family, unable to find the Boy of Steel, become lost without him and go their seperate ways, Dubbilex returns to Cadmus, and Roxy leaves Hawaii in search of her fugitive father. In issue #50, a lost Superboy find his way home after months away and is crushed to find that his friends have all left Hawaii. He returns to Cadmus, and becomes a field operative, teaming up with Dubbilex and Guardian.
Superboy finally got a real name when Superman sends him to visit a virtual reality Krypton through the technology of the Fortress of Solitude. It is after this "trip" that Superman offers him the Kryptonian name Kon-El, telling him that he considers Superboy family.
When the Agenda takes over Cadmus, they use the villains Simyan and Mokkari to create a clone army and turned the lab into the "Evil Factory." With the help of some allies, Superboy manages to regain control of Cadmus, battling his doppelgänger Match along the way. When Tana Moon returns she is brutally murdered by Amanda Spence, revealed to be Paul Westfield's daughter, who instead of being grateful for Superboy saving her life, holds him responsible for Westfield's death.
During the Sins of Youth storyline, correcting the anomaly preventing Superboy from aging is attempted. The members of Young Justice are aged to adults by Klarion the Witch Boy, while the Justice League is turned into kids. At first, Superboy is the only one who did not have his age altered, and he became ill. Since he cannot age, his body fought with the magic manipulation trying to age him. Eventually, due to an unrevealed procedure, Superboy's aging process is reactivated, enabling the magic to turn him into an adult as well. During this time, Superboy confronts Amanda Spence, nearly killing her. It is Wonder Girl who seemingly talks him down from his nearly murderous rage. Then abruptly, he slams Spence towards the ground at a high rate of speed. But at the last moment, he prevents her impact, declaring that Spence should live with the memory of how she could have lost her life.
During this story arc, the adult Superboy tells a rejuvenated Superman (now about Kon-El's normal age) that he knows his secret identity. After Klarion is blackmailed into reversing the effects, Superboy is restored back to his teens, but he is rendered powerless.
When an alien slaver arrives, Superboy is forced to rely on his wits and some gadgets to succeed against the enemy before his powers are restored at the last minute. During the Our Worlds at War crossover, Superboy fights Amanda Spence, now an insane cyborg, for the last time, and Cadmus is destroyed. It is also during this period that it is suggested Superboy's tactile-telekinesis will develop into literal telekinesis, when in a rage-induced power spike, he accidentally disassemlbes every gun in Metropolis.
At the end of his series, Superboy gets an apartment in Metropolis, working as the building superintendent to make an income for himself and make a living. Superboy is later taken in by Superman's parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. Superman also sets up Superboy with a civilian identity. He became "Conner Kent", cousin to Clark Kent. Feeling that Superboy might feel lonely in Smallville, Superman entrusts Krypto the Superdog into Superboy's care.
Superboy is a founding member of Peter David's Young Justice, as well as the most recent version of the Teen Titans, which is as much a sequel to Young Justice as it is to previous Titans books. Following the apparent death of Donna Troy, the Titans reform with Superboy and former Young Justice members Robin, Impulse, Wonder Girl, along with Titans veterans Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy.
Superboy and Wonder Girl's relationship is developed throughout Young Justice and Teen Titans. At first, Wonder Girl's infatuation with Superboy is unnoticed. In the final issue of Young Justice, both Wonder Girl and Superboy reveal they have feelings for each other. During their first date, Superboy is forcibly sucked through a time portal to the 30th century.
When Superboy reappears, he is wearing the classic Superboy outfit (with a Legion belt buckle). It appears to Cassie as though he was only away for a couple seconds, but Superboy has spent five months in the 31st century with the Legion of Super-Heroes fighting the Fatal Five-Hundred. He returns to enlist the help of the Titans, bringing them to the future where they help the Legion to victory.
On the return trip home, they accidentally arrive ten years in the future instead of the present. The Teen Titans meet adult versions of themselves. Superboy finds that he is now Superman, Tim is Batman, Cassie is Wonder Woman and Bart is the Flash. In this alternate future, Conner has greater control of his powers, Cassie chooses him over Captain Marvel Jr., Lex Luthor is his mentor/father figure and the Titans are "freakin' bad guys".
They discuss the possibility of breaking up the team when they get back to the present, but Cyborg 2.0 tells them that the future developed the way it did because the team was not together during the "Crisis".
During Teen Titans, it is revealed that Superboy's human DNA is not from Paul Westfield, as it was originally believed, but from the criminal mastermind Lex Luthor. Luthor reveals that the reason he had donated his DNA to help create Superboy is to generate a sleeper agent that he could use to destroy Superman.
He had been intimately involved with Project: Man of Tomorrow (a.k.a. Project: Lionel and Experiment 13), and he had implanted verbal commands into Superboy under Cadmus director Paul Westfield's nose.
Under Luthor's influence, Superboy's power magnitude was at a level he'd never displayed on his own, suggesting in all probability that he kept his self in-check all these years for fear of the damage he was cabable of. Eventually Conner manages to shake off the implanted mental command and return to his friends, but not before devastatingly beating his team, including tearing Cyborg apart at his mechanical pieces, breaking Robin's arm and savagely beating his own girlfriend, Wonder Girl.
Afterwards, Conner takes a leave of absence from the Titans and secludes himself in the Kents' home. He is unsure as to whether or not, being a clone, he even has a soul. There, Raven shows him that he had a young soul that was stronger than his inner demons and steadily growing.
This vastly more powerful Superboy-Prime pulverizes Conner, badly injuring him, until the Teen Titans, Doom Patrol, and Justice Society of America join the fray, leading to a climactic battle where various Flashes pull Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force.
The battle against Superboy-Prime overtaxes Conner's body. His body begins to fall apart to the point that even JSA physician Doctor Mid-Nite cannot aid him. Knowing that Lex Luthor wants to keep Superboy alive as much as the Titans do, Robin leads Speedy, Wonder Girl, and Beast Boy to find a cure, while Raven keeps watch over him.
The Titans succeed, and they immediately administer the cure to Conner, who makes a complete recovery; however, Luthor informs Robin it will only work that one time.
In the Teen Titans Annual, Wonder Girl volunteers to look after Conner as he recovers while the other Titans are called away to organize the relief effort in a decimated Blüdhaven, since her powers are slowly vanishing due to events in Wonder Woman and Infinite Crisis. Conner awakens, and he and Wonder Girl spend time alone, reminiscing and longing for "simpler times".
Thinking this may be their last night together, the two consummate their relationship in the Kent barn. The two of them are later discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Luthor gives Conner the means to find Alexander Luthor, a sliver of the crystalline construct that Alexander is using to monitor reality. Superboy leaves a powerless Cassie in the care of the Kents in order to respond to a distress call from Titan's Tower in San Francisco. There he meets up with Nightwing, whom sent the call. Being the only two able to gather, Conner and Nightwing bond as they make their way north to Alexander's fortress. Superboy and Nightwing are later rejoined by a now re-powered Wonder Girl and together they infiltrate Alexander Luthor's base and foil his plans. They free Martian Manhunter, Power Girl, and the rest of Luthor's captives, but the tide of the battle turns with the return of Superboy-Prime.
Superboy-Prime makes short work of many of the heroes until an enraged Conner attacks him. Conner and Superboy-Prime battle intensely, with Superboy-Prime crushing Conner's right hand in the battle. Despite being vastly over-powered, Superboy fights bravely and defiantly manages to hold his own for a time. In a last ditch effort Conner slams into him, sending both of them headlong into Alexander Luthor's multiverse tower.
The machine explodes, re-merging the worlds and apparently foiling Alexander Luthor's plans for good. Superboy, fatally injured from the explosion, lies dying in the arms of Wonder Girl. When Cassie tells him that he had saved the Earth, Conner replies, "I know, Cass. Isn't it cool?" Moments later, he dies. Batman, Wonder Woman, Kal-El, and Kal-L arrive, too late to save Conner's life. Later, Superman mourns Conner's death while cradling his body.
Conner is currently buried in an unmarked grave in Metropolis, alongside the bodies of Kal-L (the Earth-Two Superman) and his wife Lois Lane-Kent.
In 52, although Conner is dead, he is not forgotten. Following Superboy's death, Wonder Girl leads a memorial broadcast over the Internet, and she and hundreds of others pay their final respects to Conner in a traditional Kryptonian way. It is revealed that the mourners are part of a resurrection cult supposedly based on Kryptonian theology, which Wonder Girl and Ralph Dibny refer to as the "Cult of Conner". Dibny hypothesizes that the cult and Wonder Girl are responsible for defacing the tombstone of his wife Sue Dibny with an inverted Superman insignia, the Kryptonian symbol for hope. When placed upside down, the symbol stands for resurrection. Wonder Girl later encounters the strange, enigmatic hero called Supernova. Cassie introduces herself but is confused that he doesn't recognize her. When Supernova flies away, she calls him "Kon-El."
Three weeks later, surveillance footage is shown to Lex Luthor by an enthusiastic scientist who assumes that Kon-El is still alive. Luthor dismisses this belief, convinced that Supernova is not Kon-El but Superman. In week 37, it is revealed that Supernova is not Conner but in fact Booster Gold.
In Week 51, Batman and Robin return from their journey across the globe. When the heroes appear at Superboy's memorial on the first anniversary of his death, Robin is wearing a new costume using colors of black and red from Superboy's last uniform. Wonder Girl also changes her costume to honor Superboy as well, wearing a Golden Age Wonder Woman-themed t-shirt and denim jeans. Superboy memorial statues are erected in Metropolis next to Superman's statue and outside of Titans Tower. One year later, Lex Luthor still mourns Conner's death as he considers him his own son. Meanwhile, unknown to his teammates or even Superman, Robin is attempting secretly to recreate Superboy using DNA from Superman and Luthor. Robin has a glass case memorial to Conner, which contains Conner's last costume, the jeans and S-shield T-shirt, similar to the memorial Batman keeps for the second Robin, Jason Todd. Supergirl took another one of his other T-shirts from the Kent farm and gave it to Wonder Girl.
Robin suggests Raven may be able to resurrect Superboy, as she has done recently for another deceased Titan. However, Raven reveals that she cannot, because she believes Kon-El's soul has already moved on to another plane of existence.
In the Titans Tomorrow, a possible future version of Conner Kent was introduced. This version has grown up and grown more powerful: His tactile telekinesis has increased to the point where he is able to create shields in addition to his fully developed Kryptonian powers. He has set up the Fortress of Paradise near Smallville, where Lex Luthor, his "Pa", now resides. At some point, he and Captain Marvel Jr. fought for the affection of Cassie Sandsmark, the new Wonder Woman, who chose Conner. His costume is very similar to the costume worn by Superman in the Kingdom Come mini-series and Fleischer Studios's version of the character. After the reappearance of the future Titans, a second alternate version is introduced as a clone created by Tim Drake, who was created after Conner died battling Superboy-Prime. He and the other future Titans were sent by Luthor to make sure that their future still comes to pass as well as defeat an invading army of Starros. This future clone is later shot and killed by the future Batman (Tim Drake), eliminating that version of Conner from existing. However, another alternate future is shown where Tim decides he will take the mantle of Batman from Bruce Wayne by force and joins forces with Lex Luthor and Miss Martian. Seen behind the group are clones of Conner Kent and Bart Allen as well as two unknown females.
The main disadvantage of tactile telekinesis is that it is less effective in blocking energy (including fire and the resulting heat) than it is against solids, leaving Superboy slightly more susceptible to energy-based attacks. It is also less effective against gaseous materials and liquids. However, he was shown to be able to manipulate water to create a current he could fire from himself while under water as well as deflect lava and prevent himself from being burned. Near the end of his series he was able to create an air pocket around himself enabling him to breathe in outer space. With only Tactile Telekinesis as his powers, at first, Superboy was only able to fly up to the speed of 500 mph or so. Although it has been shown that Superboy can fly up to speeds approaching mach 3. He even displayed the ability to launch objects at high velocities in excess of mach 5. He was equipped with goggles that gave him heat and X-ray vision but were destroyed after only a short time in his possession. Before his Kryptonian powers manifested; Kon-El couldn't run or move at superhuman speeds like Superman could; with only Tactile Telekinesis as his power. Kon-El finds out new ways to use his Tactile Telekinesis. Another plus to Superboy's Tactile Telekinesis is that he needs little yellow sunlight to power it. In The Final Night storyline; Earth's sun was being eaten by a Sun-Eater which severely weakened Superman but Superboy's power level remained the same.
Superboy, like Superman, derives his Kryptonian powers from the absorption of solar energy from the Earth's yellow sun. Conner, however, does not process solar energy as quickly as Superman. As a result, he cannot push himself and his powers too far; if he does so, his body starts to eat itself for energy. In the Hypertension storyline; Superboy meets his adult self from an alternate reality: Black Zero. Black Zero first plans to use an army of Doomsdays to defeat Superman. But when he is forced to eliminate the Doomsdays; Black Zero tells his men that "they were never essential to my plans". Implying that his power is equal to, or superior to those of Kal-El's. Like Superman, Superboy is also vulnerable to Kryptonite and magic.
In the Titans Tomorrow storyarc, the Kon-El Superman exhibits full Kryptonian abilities and full telekinesis with greater control of his telekinetic fields. In a fight with the future Captain Marvel, he shields himself from a magic attack, an advantage the modern Superman has never had.
Early in his series, Superboy acquires "super-goggles" from Professor Emil Hamilton after helping him. The goggles mimic most of Superman's vision powers, including heat vision, x-ray vision, and telescopic vision. The goggles are briefly lost and then used against Superboy by a technology-stealing criminal; after re-acquiring the goggles, Superboy decides to rely on his natural abilities, and destroys the goggles rather than risk them falling into the wrong hands again. During "Hyper-Tension", Superboy obtains a new jacket which lets him travel to various hyper-time lines. It destroyed itself due to the jacket not being powered properly in the very next issue of the series.
Even though DC Comics does not own the rights to the "Superboy" name, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio have stated that the decision to kill off the character had nothing to do with the court case, and that they could have just renamed the character. Following the conclusion of Infinite Crisis, Didio compared Superboy's death to Spock's death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (who was subsequently resurrected), and also that he was "as dead as Blue Beetle".
On the cover of Teen Titans #47, Match's insignia (a reverse version of Conner's) is obscured, and in Supergirl #18 (2007), Conner's "S" on his statue is covered. Almost all references to the character refer to him as "Conner".
Recently, it has appeared the legal status has been near dropped. As Superboy in his full-appearance appear in The Legion of Three Worlds #1. (2008)
The second season of the Legion of Super-Heroes television series features a future version of Superman alongside the Clark Kent versions. This second Superman, called Kell-El, is a clone of the original Superman; he's from the 41st century and was created to oppose the villainous being Imperiex. The character's personality is based on the Kon-El Superboy and Lar Gand, wearing a costume that is similar to Kon-El's second costume, worn towards the end of his series and before Young Justice was disbanded.
Although the Superboy character doesn’t appear in the Superman: Doomsday direct-to-DVD movie, elements from his history are used as a second Superman, a clone of the original, appears towards the end of the movie. Additionally, one of Lex Luthor's partially-grown Superman clones resembles Kon-El in appearance.