There’s a myth that major comic characters have only thrived by putting forth the illusion of change, and iconic characters have to remain static and unchanging in order to keep bringing in new generations of fans. But Superman didn’t become the world’s greatest Super Hero by standing still. Like the rest of his fellow heroes, the Man of Steel was revitalized by 2011's New 52. Clark Kent’s youth was restored and he was a man of the people before becoming a god among men, showing a great hero at the start of his story. But like every good story, a new beginning had to come at the end. As the New 52 came to a close, the young Clark died in Superman #52, surrounded by his friends and colleagues. But before he passed, the young Superman met his older counterpart, and he felt secure that the other Man of Steel would continue his legacy...
Who was this older Superman? As revealed in Convergence: Superman #1, he was none other than the post-Crisis Superman that fans had been following since 1986. He and his wife, Lois Lane, survived 2011's Flashpoint event intact. At the time, Lois was pregnant with their son, Jonathan. Together, they survived yet another crucible and traveled back in time to the first Crisis at the end of Convergence #8. Their story could have ended there, but they wound up living out their lives nine years in the past of the New 52.
2015's Superman: Lois and Clark followed the adventures of the previous Man of Steel. More importantly, it fully introduced readers to Jonathan Kent. This allowed readers to see Superman as a father for the first time. It also gave fans a new way to experience the Superman mythos through the eyes of his son. Jonathan didn’t become a hero overnight, nor was he immediately aware of who his dad really was. During the series, Jonathan learned the truth about his family heritage and his powers began to emerge. In Superman: Lois and Clark #8, Jonathan was given his first costume and his new codename: Superboy.
Superman's True Sidekick
DC kicked off the new Rebirth era with 2016's Superman #1, which further developed the new dynamic between father and son. For the first time, Superman had a true sidekick. Jonathan was Superman’s Robin, though Clark has a much gentler approach than Batman. Jonathan became an audience surrogate, especially for younger readers. Superman had shared his adventures with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen for decades. But having Jonathan by his side was different. It gave Superman someone who could really be a partner in that corner of his life.
But the life of a Super Hero is dangerous and Jonathan wasn’t immune to making mistakes. When Jonathan’s heat vision manifested itself, he accidentally killed the family cat and had to deal with the emotional fallout from taking a life. Those growing pains were necessary, and Jonathan learned from his grievous error. When the Eradicator came into their lives, both Clark and Jonathan had to fight it. Jonathan acquitted himself so well that Clark introduced him as Superboy to both Batman and Wonder Woman in Superman #6 (2016).
Rise of the Super Sons
About a decade prior to that, Batman also became a dad, when Damian Wayne entered his life as the new Robin. For the first time in modern comics history, the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight were both fathers. Naturally, this meant that their sons would meet. Jonathan and Damian didn’t initially get along, when they crossed paths for the first time in Superman #10. But together, they were able to save the lives of their famous fathers in Superman #11.
Slowly but surely, Jonathan and Damian became friends and allies. That led to a delightful scene in Superman #20, in which Lois insisted that the visiting Batman and Robin join them for pie inside of the house rather than lurking in the barn. The shared experience of having children actually brought Superman and Batman closer together. In 2017, Jonathan co-headlined his own series, Super Sons, alongside Damian. This helped them step outside of the shadows of their fathers while further developing their unique bond. They both have immense legacies to live up to, but they’re still kids at heart. This year, their shared stories continued in Adventures of the Super Sons.
The Never-Ending Battle
Because the death of the New 52 Superman was somewhat ambiguous, there was still a lingering possibility that the younger Man of Steel could return and undo the newfound Superman and Superboy connection. The “Superman Reborn” crossover event (starting in Superman #18) allowed DC to allay those fears by bringing back the New 52 Superman and Lois and merging them with their older counterparts. That meant that Superman and son were here to stay, and it strengthened their ties to the new continuity.
More recently, Jonathan has returned to Earth as a teenager in the current run of Superman and Action Comics. Lois and Clark may have missed some of Jonathan’s formative years, but they’re still his parents. Now, they have to raise an older Jonathan and help him find his way in the world as both a hero and a young man.
Clark Kent’s never-ending battle to do good was enriched by his son. Because being a father (and a mother) is the real never-ending battle. That’s a challenge the Kent family will always face together. As fans and readers, we get to watch that story unfold every month.