The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Conner Kent / Kon-El
Superboy is a clone made from the DNA of Superman (who was raised as a Methodist) and Lex Luthor (a Nietzschean atheist).
Superboy was being raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who were also the adoptive parents of Clark Kent, the Kryptonian infant orphan who grew up to be Superman. The Kents are Methodists, although Jonathan is not as regular a churchgoer as his wife.
Unlike Superman, Superboy was not raised by the Kents from infancy. He was created in a test tube and aged rapidly so that he essentially had no real childhood. He emerged from Cadmust Labs as a teenager, part of an experiment that Cadmus thought would provide a replacement for Superman, who at that time was thought to be deceased, the victim of Doomsday. Superboy later learned that the real power behind the experiment was Lex Luthor, who had mixed his own DNA with that of Superman's and had even introduced secret programming into Superboy's mind, so that Luthor could later use the clone as a weapon.
Superboy lived much of his life with the Kents, but his was a relatively short life that ended when he was killed by the renegade "Superboy-Prime" during the "Infinite Crisis" crossover event in 2006.
Superboy never really formed the strong affinity for Kryptonian religion and culture or for Methodist Protestantism exhibited by Superman. Superboy might be classified as a Methodist in a vague sense due to the fact that he is the clone and quasi-son of Superman, and he was being raised in a Methodist home. But Superboy is not known to have ever overtly identified himself as a Methodist, Protestant, or Christian. He was really only alive for a few years and he appears to have formed, at most, minimal self-identity in any religion, denomination or philosophical system. Superboy struggled just to think of himself as human.
Superboy was not not particularly religious, but he did wonder about the state of his soul. In Teen Titans #26, after recovering from being mind-controlled by the evil Lex Luthor, Superboy said what appeared to be a prayer to God to ask the fundamental age-old religious question "Why am I here?" As if in answer to his prayer, Raven instantly appeared. Raven (whose parentage is overtly tied to Heaven and Hell) showed Superboy a vision of his life, and then showed him his own soul, confirming to him that desipite the unusual nature of his creation, that he nevertheless has a soul - a spiritual self, the source of his consciousness, distinct from his physical body.
Superboy ponders his soul
From: Teen Titans #24, DC Comics: New York, 2005; story titled "The Insiders: Part One"; written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Matthew Clark, inked by Art Thibert; pages 2-3; reprinted in Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders (DC Comics: New York City, 2006):
Robin (Tim Drake): Conner. You've been up all night again?
From: Teen Titans #25, DC Comics: New York, 2005; story titled "The Insiders: Part III"; written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Matthew Clark, inked by Art Thibert; page 12; reprinted in Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders (DC Comics: New York City, 2006):
Superboy (Conner): You ever get used to it?
Robin: Well . . . yeah. I have. But you shouldn't. And these books aren't going to help.
Superboy: I asked Raven if I had a soul yesterday.
Robin: [Pause] What'd she say?
Superboy: Nothing. She got flustered. What's that mean? I'm a clone, I know that -- but do I have a soul?
Robin: Of course you do.
Superboy: Then what kind of soul is it? Cadmus wanted to make another Man of Steel for the good of Metropolis. But they couldn't stabilize Kryptonian genetics without human D.N.A. Doing it half-ass was the only way they could figure it out. The human D.N.A. . . think about it. What it really is. What's inside me -- part of me. It's corrupted. I can feel it, Tim. It belongs to him.
[Superboy looks down athte book he has been reading: Lex Luthor: The Authorized Biography, picturing Lex Luthor as the U.S. President, wearing a business suit, standing heroically in front of a waving U.S. flag.]
Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark): Lex Luthor?!
Kid Flash (Bart Allen): I thought Conner was cloned from, y'know . . . Superman.
Robin (Tim Drake): He was . . . half of his D.N.A. was. He just--
Wonder Girl: When was he going to tell us?!
Robin: About five minutes before everything went down.
[In the previous issue, Lex Luthor activated a mind control program that he had implanted into Superboy's brain during the clone's gestational formation. Superboy attacked the Teen Titans, severely injuring some of them.]
Wonder Girl: I can't believe you kept this from me.
Kid Flash: You can't shut us out. That's what Batman does! Cassie's right, Tim. You should've told us. I thought we were all friends!
Robin: We are. We never thought . . . I never thought it'd go this far.
Kid Flash: And all that stuff that's going on with the League, neither did they. We can't be like them. We gotta stick together. So let's think. We know having his genetics doesn't mean he's a bad guy. I mean, look at Raven. Her dad's basically Satan.
Raven: I appreciate the example, Bart.
Teen Titans #26 takes place after the four-part "Insiders" story (two issues of Teen Titans and two issues of The Outsiders). In this storyline, Lex Luthor activated the programming he had hidden in Superboy, who attacked his fellow members of the Teen Titans. Brainiac activated the programming he had hidden in Indigo, who attacked her fellow members of the Outsiders. Eventually Superboy overcame Luthor's mind control. Indigo overcame her programming long enough to beg her boyfriend and teammate Shift to turn her from an android into organic flesh and blood in order to kill her.
Being controlled by Lex Luthor, whose D.N.A. contributed to his creation, was a very traumatic experience for Superboy. He injured many of his close friends among the Teen Titans during his rampage.
Back on the Kent farm, where Superboy lives with his adoptive "parents" (also Clark Kent's adotive parents), Superboy contemplates his existence. In this scene, he takes off his glasss and apparently prays to God: "God. Why am I here? Why do I even have to exist?"
Is it possible that Superboy is here just speaking to himself, rather than attempting to pray? Perhaps. But he certainly appears to be bowing his head and folding his hands as if in prayer.
As if in an immediate answer to his prayer, Raven suddenly appears and shows him a vision of his life and also shows him his soul. Raven is his teammate on the Teen Titans. Her appearance after his prayer to God is ironic in a way, given the fact that she is the daughter of the powerful demon Trigon, yet she is striving to live life as an angel. As Kid Flash stated in the previous issue, Raven is basically the daughter of Satan.
Superboy's prayer, the appearance of Raven, the vision he shows him, and his glimpse at his own soul make this one of the most overtly religious Conner Kent/Superboy stories ever published.
From: Teen Titans #26, DC Comics: New York, 2005; story titled "Soul Searching"; written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Marlo Alquiza; reprinted in Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders (DC Comics: New York City, 2006); images below are from pages 3-5 and pages 16-17 of this issue:
Narration/Superboy's thoughts: I put myself under house arrest before anyone else could. Most of them thought it'd be best if I stayed locked up on the Fortress, but Ma wouldn't allow it. She says the farm is the last place Luthor could ever find me. But Luthor's smart. I'd never say it out loud, but I think he's probably the smartest person in the world. And if he finds me . . . I don't know what I'll do . . . I don't know what I am.
Conner Kent. Kon-El. Superboy. I don't deserve to be called any of them.
Superboy (Conner Kent): [speaking aloud] God. Why am I here? Why do I even have to exist . . . ?
[Raven appears in the sky and lands in front of Connor.]
Superboy: Raven? What are you doing here?
[Raven says nothing, but simply stares enigmatically at Superboy.]
Raven: I'm sorry, Conner.
[Raven shows Conner a vision (or allows him to see a vision), in which he sees key scenes from his life, including his birth, his meeting with his near-future self, and his recent battle with the Teen Titans when he was mind-controlled by Lex Luthor. He sees himself as he is now battling himself a month ago, when he was controlled by Luthor. It is a metaphorical rather than literal battle, implying that he is fighting Luthor's evil influence on him.
In the end, in his vision, Superboy punches through his mind-controlled, exclaiming, "I'm not a monster! He sees his mind-controlled self fade away, and finds himself standing in darkness. Superboy sees a beautiful glowing orb floating above him.]
Superboy: What . . . What is this . . . ?
[Raven appears, emerging from the darkness from behind Superboy.]
Raven: It's your soul. Young. New. But growing.
Superboy: I thought you said I didn't have one.
Raven: I never said that.
Superboy: When I asked you--?
Raven: I didn't answer. It was buried so deep. I couldn't see it. Not until you broke free from Luthor. No one gave this to you, Connor. No scientist or donor. You made it. And it's beautiful.
I know what you're thinking. That you don't have a choice in who you are. That you're cursed and damned and you'll never be anything good. I know how you feel. And I hate that someone I care aboiut feels like I do.
I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Conner.
Superboy: How is everyone?
Raven: I took the burden of Robin's pain. His arm is nearly healed. Victor has been repaired.
Superboy: And Cassie?
Raven: I can feel your guilt . . . No one blames you. Not entirely. And her feelings for you haven't changed.
Superboy: I . . . don't know what to say.
Raven: Say you'll come back to the Titans. Let us help you get through this together. We've seen what happens when we don't stay together--
Superboy: I can't come back. Not now.
Raven: When you're ready . . . call us . . . And Bart wanted me to tell you . . . you'll always be a Titan.
From: "Superheroes/villains and their religions" forum discussion, started 16 March 2006 on "Animation Insider" website (http://www.animationinsider.net/forums/archive/index.php?t-17835.html; viewed 28 June 2008):
03-16-2006, 05:16 AM
Someone pointed this out at another forum. I found it to be quite amusing that someone would actually have enough time on their hands to ponder about this.
03-17-2006, 06:22 AM
...The only TT [Teen Titans] member the mentioned that I saw was Aqualad. And of course he's Atlantean.
03-17-2006, 03:03 PM
Well, as far as the Titans go, Raven is obvious. Superboy is the same as Superman. Wonder Girl is the same as Wonder Woman. Kid Flash is the same as Barry Allen... Starfire follows the Tamaranian religion.
From: "Denominational Affiliations of Superheroes", posted by Sheridan Voysey on 2 July 2006 on "The Open House (life, faith, culture)" blog website (http://www.theopenhouse.net.au/2006/07/denominational_affiliations_of.html; viewed 19 June 2007):
With all the hoopla this week of the Superman Returns movie, you might be interested to know that almost all our superheroes have some kind of denominational affiliation. Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic - you'll find connections in the storylines of our best hooded, caped, spandex-covered, super-people.
Supergirl and Superboy - Methodist
Do you remember Supergirl? Generally considered Superman's female counterpart, Supergirl first appeared in 1958 and several variations of her have appeared in comic books since then. But during the late 80s and 90s, Supergirl was an active Methodist. Her minister, the Reverend Larry Varvel, was based on a real-life Methodist minister of the same name.
And did you ever hear of Superboy? He was a clone made from the DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor. Like Superman, Superboy was also raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and while not particularly religious, he often wondered about the state of his soul, and once uttered what appeared to be a prayer to God asking that fundamental question, "Why am I here?"
...So, Dr Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk, is a lapsed Catholic; Batman is a possible Anglican; Superman is a Methodist, and Spider-Man an unnamed Protestant. I'd like to know what a Presbyterian superhero would look like, or even a Pentecostal!
Superman consults Christian ministers when he needs advice; Supergirl regularly attends church; Superboy asks God what he's doing here; The Hulk believes in an afterlife, and Spiderman prays.
It seems even Superheroes need to bow the knee for some divine help every now and then.
Excerpts from: "Superman Wedding -- why a Christian ceremony?" newsgroup discussion started 11 October 1996 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4d17a1ff0ee9c715/d141c36005b90ea4; viewed 5 June 2006):
From: Joseph T Arendt
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
It doesn't bother me that it was a Christian wedding. Just as you did, I figured Ma and Pa Kent were probably Christians, given their background and past history. I would think this might be enough for Clark to want a church wedding even if he himself seldom goes. As for Lois, I don't know whether she is an atheist or not, but I haven't seen signs she would reject the idea of being married in a church even if she doesn't much care. I'd suspect Clark, the Kansas farmboy, might push harder for a church wedding than Lois, the modern city girl.
What I wonder is what would happen if it had been SuperBOY [Connor Kent] and Tana Moon getting married whether it would have still been a Christian wedding. That would feel out of place to me. Superboy wasn't raised by presumably Christian foster parents and I haven't seen any hints he believes in any religion.
From: Douglas Ethington
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
Email: Douglas Ethington
I always thought that Clark was most likely a Christian...
Anyway, this thread got me thinking about the other DC heroes and what their religious beliefs might be, so here are some of my thoughts (most of this MHO [My Humble Opinion]):
...Superboy, Bart Allen, and Kyle Rayner probably haven't given much serious thought to religious matters...
From: Jean-Claude Van Doom, "Which god's side are they on?", posted 20 August 2006 on "Legion of Doom" blog website (http://legionofdoom.cheeksofgod.com/?p=170; viewed 9 May 2007):
...Sadly, as a Presbyterian, my only protectors are Wolfsbane and Speedball, apparently...
However, I was raised Methodist, so if I fall back on that (and really, how much different are Methodists and Presbyterians?) I can claim Superman, Supergirl and Superboy (although he's dead now/for now)...
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