With all the talk this month about Conner Kent – the missing character whose name showed up in Detective Comics #966 – Newsarama started thinking about whether the character might be coming back into continuity.
Dan DiDio, DC co-publisher, said fans would hear about Conner Kent “not in [his] lifetime” – a statement that should kill any hope for a return of the DC character.
But is all hope gone for a return of Conner Kent?
Now, to clarify, when we say Conner Kent, we mean the post-Crisis version of Kon-El.
Yes, there was a Kon-El in the “New 52,” and yes, he very briefly used the name Conner, but he wasn’t known by that name. And the version of Kon-El who appeared in the “New 52” had a completely different origin and personality from his original incarnation.
Neither version of Kon-El has been seen since the beginning of “Rebirth” in May 2016. Since DC has now given the name ‘Superboy’ to Superman’s son Jonathan Kent, some Conner Kent fans had given up hope that he could return.
But Newsarama isn’t counting Conner Kent out yet. In fact, we think there’s a very good chance Conner Kent is returning to the DCU – maybe not immediately, but if enough teases get enough people talking, there are good reasons to believe the character could return.
Want to know the justification for our hope? Here’s 10 reasons why we still have hope that Conner Kent will show up in the “Rebirth” DCU.
1) DC just changed Tim Drake back to (much of) his original history.
As we just mentioned, Kon-El’s origin was changed during the “New 52.” The character’s original history, reinforced during his time in Young Justice and Teen Titans, was eliminated and replaced.
Another Teen Titans character whose origin story was eliminated and replaced was Tim Drake. But “Rebirth” has restored him to his original continuity, within the pages of last month’s Detective Comics #965.
The writer of that restoration was James Tynion IV, who told Newsarama “In the ‘New 52,’ Tim Drake had a different origin – a pretty fundamentally different one – that I think a lot of fans of the character felt did not speak to the core of who Tim Drake was. … [Returning him to his original history] was a very deliberate choice. This is us bringing the spirit of ‘Rebirth’ into the comic books … we needed to ground him back in his most iconic origin, the story that really defined him for a generation of fans.”
If Tynion and DC are willing to just suddenly switch Tim Drake’s origin back to his days before the New 52 changes – without any in-story explanation for the change – why not other Teen Titans characters like Conner Kent?
2) Wally West returned – against tougher odds.
Not sure we even need to explain this one, but for the sake of clarification, let’s just point out that there are now two Flash characters in the DCU, and two Wally Wests in the DCU, and the publisher seems fine with that. The arguments that “there’s already a Superboy named Jonathan Kent” don’t matter when “Rebirth” launched by adding a character who not only had the same superhero name as another character, but literally the same name as another one.
Plus, there’s the precedent set by Wally coming into the “Rebirth” universe even when he didn’t exist as that person in the “New 52” – as well as the hints that Jay Garrick and his friends will soon follow.
3) Detective Comics and Superman both feature Conner Kent.
In this month’s Detective Comics #966, a version of Conner Kent showed up in a possible future, and the comic book specifically mentioned Conner Kent again in another scene.
One of the most powerful moments in the comic book was when Tim Drake said, “Who the hell is Conner?” It was heart-breaking for Conner fans, and there’s no doubt that Tynion understands that pain (see the writer’s above comment about Tim Drake fans).
In January 2018 solicitations, DC also revealed that the “Titans Tomorrow” version of Conner Kent would show up in Superman. In fact, he’ll be coming to the present-day DCU.
That’s a lot of love for Conner Kent.
Also, keep in mind that the current Detective Comics story is establishing a strong bond between future-Tim and future-Conner. Readers already know that characters like Wally West had to find the right “tether” to the DCU from their limbo outside the current timeline (and we’ve also learned that Jay Garrick has yet to find his tether to this world).
Could Tynion be setting up the idea that Tim Drake is Conner Kent’s tether to the DCU? Or will Tim, at the very least, be the first person he sees when he comes back to this timeline?
4) There were other prisoners, probably from other timelines, in Oz’s prison.
The “Titans Tomorrow” version of Tim Drake was transported to Oz’s out-of-time prison, and (we believe) the “Future’s End” version of Tim Drake was taken to his prison (as seen in Batman Beyond) – so what’s to say that characters from the post-Crisis timeline couldn’t have been transported there as well?
Remember, there were two shadowy figures in the same area of Oz’s prison when Tim escaped last time. And Tynion and Batman scribe Tom King have both indicated there’s more story to be told about those two. There have been a lot of guesses about the identity of those two figures, and leading among them is that they’re the post-Crisis versions of Bart Allen and Conner Kent, two characters who are greatly missed by DC fans.
That’s all conjecture, of course, but with Tim Drake opening up the prison cells when he just left the prison, he freed more than just Doomsday.
5)Tynion has promised “answers” about where Conner Kent is.
During DC’s Batman Spotlight panel at the 2017 New York Comic Con, Tynion said people keep asking him where Conner Kent is. Tynion told the audience that the answer to that question will be found in upcoming issues of Detective Comics.
It seems unlikely that Conner’s brief mention in this week’s Detective Comics is meant to “answer that question.” Tynion’s statement implies more answers to come.
6)”Superman Reborn” cleared the way for a new Conner Kent story.
Although Tim Drake’s original origin is back, he’s somehow still the character who participated in all those Batman stories and Teen Titans stories during the “New 52.” “Rebirth” has opened the door for, basically, a new version of Tim Drake that combines elements of both the post-Crisis Tim and the “New 52” Tim.
The door is also open for a new version of Conner Kent. During the “Superman Reborn” storyline, the “Death of Superman” story was returned to continuity. However, its aftermath – known as the “Reign of the Supermen” story – had changes.
One of those changes was that Conner was not part of the “Death of Superman” aftermath.
That means a new version of the character could be introduced somehow, or the old character could be morphed into a combination of the “New 52” Superboy and the original one. Either way, the slate is completely clean and ready to go.
7) Tynion has worked closely with Geoff Johns – and loves his Teen Titans run (which co-starred Conner Kent).
Tynion has acknowledged that when he was planning his current Tim Drake story for Detective Comics, DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns was part of the process.
“We were sort of talking around it. We knew the emotional role that the figure who was locked up in there with Tim needed to fill. And it was Geoff who brought the idea of the ‘Titans Tomorrow’ Tim to the table.
“But it was an immediate – like, it immediately clicked for me. That was one of the stories that really defines Tim Drake for me.
“I’ve told Geoff this a million times, but his Teen Titans run is one of the most formative comic book-reading experiences in my life. That was the book that really made me a DC Comics hardcore fan. I got into reading the rest of the line out from that core.”
You can see why Johns’ involvement is important as you consider…
8) Geoff Johns, who is the architect of “Rebirth” (and writer of Doomsday Clock) loves the original Conner Kent.
And Johns’ love for Conner Kent is not extended to the “New 52” version of the character. When “Rebirth” first launched, Johns said:
“What happened with the ‘New 52’ was that a brick wall had been built between that and everything that had happened before. … I’ll tell you a character specifically, and I’ll be candid about it: Superboy, Connor Kent.
“One of my favorite characters of all time. And I had a great time writing him in Teen Titans, and I loved writing him in his solo run [in Adventure Comics]. They reintroduced him in the ‘New 52’ and he was so different, so vastly changed, that I couldn’t connect with the book that well. The emotional tie just severed, and it didn’t sever in the way that made me angry, it was worse than that: I had apathy for it. I didn’t care anymore.”
So Conner Kent/Kon-El from before the “New 52” was one of Johns’ favorite characters, but the one during the “New 52” was not.
If that doesn’t scream “Geoff will fix Conner,” we’re not sure what will.
9) Johns didn’t want Conner Kent to die last time he was gone – and he brought him back.
In interviews, Johns bemoaned the fact that he had to kill Kon-El/Conner Kent in Infinite Crisis, the event comic Johns wrote in 2005-2006.
In fact, Johns said the main reason Superboy had to die is because it saved Nightwing from being killed off. (Nightwing was, famously, originally named by then-editor-in-chief Dan DiDio as the character who would die at the conclusion of Infinite Crisis, but Johns and some other writers didn’t support that idea.)
In the Infinite Crisis hardcover, an interview included with the book had Johns stating:
“We originally talked about killing Nightwing. That was always Dan’s plan … Dan focused on offing Nightwing, but we all felt it was just the wrong character. … Well, what other character? Not Wonder Girl. Enough women have died in the DCU. Superboy was my favorite Titan. And I literally had to offer him as a sacrificial lamb.”
A year after the character’s death, Johns stopped writing Teen Titans. The writer admitted to Newsarama at the time that the death of Superboy influenced his decision to leave the title.
“I loved the character,” Johns said of Conner Kent. “It’s like, I thought he wasn’t the smartest kid in the room, and he wasn’t the dumbest, but he just had a good heart and a good soul, and that’s why I just loved him. He was a nice, normal kid despite the crazy background, and he had so much growing to do. You know, I think if Superboy was still in the book, I’d probably still be writing it.”
Conner Kent wasn’t gone for too long before Johns was returning him to life. About two years after Johns wrote the character’s 2006 death in Infinite Crisis, he revived Conner in the pages of Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds.
And Johns told Newsarama after Conner’s rebirth that he’d actually been planning to bring Conner back since as early as 2007 – barely a year after the character’s death.
(Johns might have moved even quicker if there hadn’t been legal problems at the time with DC’s use of the name Superboy, thanks to a then-in-litigation challenge from the estate of Jerry Siegel. That case has since been resolved.)
Once Legion of 3 Worlds concluded, and Conner was added again to the DCU, Johns immediately launched a new title called Adventure Comics that starred none other than Conner Kent, making the character very much back alive and well.
10) When it comes to Conner Kent, Geoff Johns seems to get what he wants.
There’s this crazy story about Geoff Johns that kind of proves his tenacity when it comes to Conner Kent.
Back in April of 1996, DC published a letter in Superboy #26 from a young comic book-reading fan named Geoffrey Johns – years before he would even come close to working in comic books.
At the time, DC had established that Conner was a clone of Superman and … some unknown human. In his letter to the Superboy staff, Johns said:
“Now for some suggestions … I think I know who Superboy is a clone of. How about Lex Luthor? All the pieces fit, and it would have great ramifications.”
The answer DC published to Johns’ inquiry was that no, Lex Luthor was not the source of Superboy’s human DNA.
However, several years later, Johns got to launch a brand new Teen Titans comic book. And one of the first storylines in the series explored the source of Conner Kent’s human DNA. Under Johns’ pen, it was Lex Luthor.
The Conner Kent fan in Geoff Johns got what he wanted.
Add this story to the fact that Johns willingly sacrificed Conner (doing what he wanted) and got to bring the character back to life (again doing what he wanted) – it’s pretty clear that if Geoff Johns wants the original Conner Kent back, it’s going to happen.
We’re going out on a limb and guessing that the return of Conner Kent is either going to happen in the pages of Detective Comics (as Tynion insinuated) or that the teases in Detective Comics set up the moment for Doomsday Clock, which Johns is writing.
So, is Dan DiDio being serious about Conner Kent not returning in his lifetime? Or was that statement meant to mislead? We’re not sure, but there are a lot of reasons to believe there’s still hope for a Conner Kent return. Now, if we could just come up with enough reasons to expect Bart Allen’s return…