What was the real reason DC and Brian Michael Bendis changed Superboy's age?
Brian Michael Bendis, the writer who quick-aged Jon Kent within the pages of Superman, also introduced the Legion of Super-Heroes to that title in August 2019's Superman #14. And Bendis told Newsarama at the time: “This whole storyline [in Superman] has been a build-up to get to this moment.”
But does that include Jon Kent’s super-fast aging? Bendis has since wrote Superboy into the Legion of Super-Heroes, but did making him a young adult helped to make that possible? Let's take a look at the evidence.
Jonathan’s Fast-Forward Age
First, let’s review how Jonathan suddenly aged from being a 10-year-old-ish kid last year to being a responsible 17-year-old young man in current continuity.
Shortly after Bendis launched his new Superman title last summer, little Jonathan left with his mom to travel around the universe on an adventure with his grandfather, Jor-El. After awhile, Lois realized that Jor-El and Jonathan didn’t require her to be there, so she decided to return to Earth.
But soon after, Jon and Jor-El were sucked into a black hole that was also a “time flux generator on top of a tear in the dimensional slide.” Little Jonathan was separated from his grandfather and thrust into the past, where he lived for years as a prisoner of Ultraman. Jon was eventually rescued by his grandfather, who sent him home. But the years Jon experienced in the past had caused him to age significantly.
While Clark and Lois experienced only a few weeks on Earth, their son had aged into a young man of approximately 17.
If Bendis says his “whole storyline” in Superman has been leading up to the debut of the Legion of Super-Heroes, then that would include the fact that Jon aged.
But how could aging Jonathan be important to the debut of the Legion?
Recreating the Classic Scene
First, utilizing Jonathan as a teenager might help Bendis pay homage to the classic first appearance of the Legion.
After all, Bendis himself said the Legion of Super-Heroes will have a relationship with the Super-family that is a “version of the classic relationship.”
In the first appearance of the Legion, the team’s three founders — Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Lightning Lad — traveled back in time to interact with Clark Kent when he was Superboy.
And they invited him to be part of their team, an invitation he accepted.
The Legion members were about the same age as the young Clark Kent, so they ended up being friends over several subsequent visits.
Now, we saw on the cover for September’s Superman #15 (the issue after the Legion’s “Rebirth” debut in #14) that it prominently featured those same three founders, who have apparently traveled back in time to interact with Superman now.
But this time, Clark Kent is an adult and he wasn’t alone on the cover. His son, Jon Kent, the newest version of Superboy, was also with him, who appeared to be the same age as the new versions of Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Lightning Lad.
Bendis did recreate the scene from the Legion’s first appearance (where the Legion invites Superboy to join their team), with Jonathan the intended target instead of Clark, who eventually, took up the offer.
Stranger, Minimal Danger
Jon’s age was of course an important part of whether he can join the Legion of Super-Heroes, particularly as Superboy’s team-up became permanent.
Letting a little boy fly away or travel to the future with complete strangers probably wasn’t going to happen in today’s world of child abductions. “Stranger-danger” might be less significant for a superpowered boy, but when it involves superpowered strangers, it’s still a worthy caution.
But that scenario changed significantly when Superboy aged.
In Superman #12, Jor-El pointed out to Superman that teenaged Jonathan can be trusted on his own adventures now that he’s a young adult.
“If we’ve learned anything from this entire ordeal,” Jor-El said to Clark in this month’s issue, “it is that young man can take care of himself.”
And although Clark reluctantly allowed Jonathan to fly away to another space adventure, the fact that his boy is not really a boy anymore definitely had something to do with it.
There was evidence outside the story that Jonathan might be making a big decision involving the Legion.
When Newsarama talked to Bendis about the Legion debut in Superman #14, we asked about whether newly teenaged Jonathan plays a role in the Legion’s debut.
Bendis avoided answering the question, admitting that “the answer to your question is the spoil at the end of the issue.”
So there’s no question that Jon was significant to the story depicting the Legion’s arrival in the present-day DCU.
Another piece of evidence came from September’s solicitations from DC, as the copy for Lois Lane #3 indicated that Jon is making a change: “Jon Kent surprises his mother with a visit to her hideout in Chicago with big news that ties directly into the events of Superman #15, also on sale this month. … Lois must deal with her now-17-year-old son making life-changing decisions…”
Superman #15’s solicitation also supported the idea, saying that the Legion will make an “offer” to someone: “The greatest super heroes of the 32nd century have traveled back in time not just to meet the heroes who inspired them, but to make an offer…but to which hero? And why will that choice tear Superman’s life apart?”
In hindsight, there were a lot of clues that Jonathan Kent was going to depart for the 32nd Century for awhile... And that just might explain why Jonathan Kent grew so old, so fast.