• Detective Comics #966 Asks, ‘Who the Hell is Conner Kent?’
    Oct 11, 2017

    Since the start of Rebirth, just over a year ago, there have been a handful of characters fans just can’t stop asking about. Even DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio is quick and open about listing them off in interviews and at conventions: Fans want to know about the JSA, the Legion of Super-Heroes and Conner Kent.

    The first two items on the list have been hinted at pretty heavily in Rebirth from the very beginning, with characters like Johnny Thunder and Saturn Girl making their return at the starting gun in DC Universe Rebirth #1. But Conner? Well, he’s been a different story.

    RELATED: Conner Kent’s New 52 Erasure Will Be Dealt With in Detective

    For a year and a half, the name Conner Kent never came up in any capacity in Rebirth storylines. There were no tease, no hints, no passing references. Creators on convention panels would duck and weave around questions regarding the Rebirth of the fan-favorite Superboy with playful ease. It seemed — for lack of a better word — that fans of Kon-El might be waiting forever for the return of their favorite character.

    That is, until Detective Comics #966 made it’s move.

    Who the Hell is Conner Kent?

    To say that Conner is actually “back” would be inaccurate, but it is the first time we’ve seen him on the comic page page in Rebirth, in any capacity. More specifically, we see him on a screen, during a flashback to the alternate Tim Drake’s — the one who is older and currently Batman — timeline, but he introduces himself as “Superman.”

    This is the “Titans of Tomorrow” timeline where the Teen Titans of the pre-New 52 continuity became a sort of worst case scenario Justice League. Here, Conner grew up to graduate from Superboy to Superman the same way Tim took on the mantle of Batman. However, as we learn from Tim’s narration and flashbacks, there are some distinct differences from the “Titans of Tomorrow” story we got from Johns and McKone back in their Teen Titans run in the early 2000s — namely, that this incarnation of the timeline, Tim has completely severed his ties with the Titans-turned-Justice League and is now working completely alone.

    This positions the timeline overlap in a pretty ambiguous area, meaning it’s hard to say just what, exactly, from the pre-New 52 Teen Titans is actually still on the table. However, one thing is still absolutely certain: this was a timeline where Conner and Tim were best friends.

    But Rebirth Tim doesn’t seem to know or even recall the name “Conner Kent” at all, which come come as a surprise to some fans, considering that the New 52 did include a version of Kon-El as Superboy who even ended up joining the New 52’s incarnation of the Teen Titans.

    However, it’s important to note that the New 52 version of Kon-El was not, in fact, Conner Kent — both in a literal and figurative sense. The New 52 Superboy never adopted Conner Kent as a civilian identity, which is one reason Tim may not recognize the name — but more than that, during the New 52, the two of them were never really all that close.

    With only a handful of small exceptions, Tim and Superboy’s relationship during the New 52 Teen Titans was hardly anything more than friendly rivals stuck together on a team. So, it makes sense for this version of Tim to not really know who Conner is or why he’s important…Which, of course, begs the question: why is Conner Kent important?

    Page 2: No, Really. Who the Hell is Conner Kent?

    No, Really. Who the Hell is Conner Kent?

    Tim and Conner’s friendship dates back to the mid to late 90s. Both Robin and Superboy were given solo ongoing titles alongside Impulse — a new Flash sidekick — that would occasionally intersect until eventually the three of them formed a genuine ongoing team book of their own called Young Justice in 1998.

    Young Justice functioned like a junior Teen Titans, formed from new members of the upcoming generation of sidekicks as they came up. Through it all, the team’s three founders — Tim, Conner and Bart — remained the heart and soul of the group. During this time, a heavy emphasis was put on the fact that both Tim and Conner were analogous to their mentors, Batman and Superman, despite the fact that they both had very different relationships with their respective counterparts. This was the first time a sidekick team had ever had an answer to the World’s Finest Duo in such an explicit way, since the Dick Grayson generation of Titans had had no Superman counterpart of their own.

    It was a new spin on a tried-and-true dynamic in superhero comics. Fans loved how Batman and Superman worked together, so seeing Robin and Superboy paired off felt like a puzzle piece slotting into place for many fans who had struggled with relating to the older generation of heroes. And for a younger, newer generation of fans, Tim and Conner represented the same thematic elements of the more arcane corners of DC Universe history without such a learning curve.

    Needless to say: the new duo was a hit. And they’d continue to be a hit, even as Young Justice eventually gave way to an official, new Teen Titans team through the 2000s.

    The importance of Tim and Conner’s relationship was made all the more clear following Infinite Crisis which left Conner dead and Tim in mourning — he even modified his Robin costume, getting rid of the green in favor of something strictly black and red, in honor and memory of his friend. Without Conner in the picture, Tim began to spiral out of control, lost an unbalanced, even going as far as trying to clone him to save himself the heartache.

    For many fans, moments like these not only helped solidify the idea of the Teen Titans as a unit, but also helped crystalize their conceptualization of just who these characters were. It became difficult to understand just who Tim Drake would be, had it not been for Conner Kent’s formative presence in his childhood, and vice versa.

    Which, naturally, lead to some communication breakdowns when the New 52 reboot reconfigured just how that dynamic was supposed to work — and explains just why fans have been so eager to get answers as to Conner’s whereabouts in Rebirth.

    What’s more, it also explains just why the Batman version of Tim Drake is so quick to tell Tim to make amends with Conner — and why he’s so distraught to realize that Tim doesn’t know who that is.

    What this revelation could mean for the future of Rebirth’s Tim Drake, however, is really anyone’s guess at this point. Optimistically, we could be looking at a situation similar to the return of Wally West, where a simple touch was enough to reignite the memories of his friends and reform the Titans…However, the time travel elements, and the potential cross contamination of the timelines in play here make it difficult to assume it will be that simple for Conner to be restored once and for all — and even harder to hazard any guesses as to just how much of the pre-New 52 continuity between the two of them will be restored in the end.

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