In a clip from tonight's episode of Supergirl, which exclusively debuted last night on ComicBook.com, fans got official confirmation that the baby born to Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) and Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) on Argo City was named Jonathan Kent, after his paternal grandfather. And while non-comic book fans might find that piece of information to be little more than a fun bit of trivia, it actually suggests a very specific trajectory for the Last Son of Earth-38. That trajectory is unlikely to impact "Crisis on Infinite Earths," but will almost certainly play a role in the planned Superman and Lois series.
So, who is Jonathan Kent, and why is he so special? We're glad you asked. The very short version is that he is the son of Superman and Lois Lane, born during a story called Convergence and created by Dan Jurgens (writer of the "Death of Superman" finale, which is also getting some love in this crossover) and "grew up" to be Superboy. To take the scenic route to your answer, let's start in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths from the comics.
At the end of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's epic Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, the DC multiverse was done away with, merged into a single Earth with a long and complicated history that included heroes previously from numerous worlds from throughout not just DC history, but the histories of companies like Fawcett Comics and Charlton, whose characters DC had purchased after their original publishers went under. The resulting continuity reset gave the writers and artists of DC a chance to reinvent -- usually modestly, but sometimes more radically -- their titles and characters. Executive producer Marc Guggenheim has suggested that the TV version may play a similar role -- maybe not necessarily by merging all of the worlds but certainly in giving the creatives a chance to tweak their continuities with relatively few consequences.
"When I met with all the showrunners, I basically said listen, while we don't have work to do in terms of cleaning up continuity, we do have, because of the nature of the story that we're telling, an opportunity tot make whatever radical changes that we want to make," Guggenheim recently told ComicBook.com. "Think of this story as a magic ticket, and pretty much anything you ant to see coming out of Crisis we can probably narratively make happen."
Some of the biggest changes came to Superman, who was reinvented by writer/artist John Byrne in The Man of Steel. That story powered down Superman -- whose abilities had grown so much in the Silver and Bronze Age comics that he was capable of pushing planets out of their orbit with relatively little trouble -- to be more in line with other heavy hitters like Thor and the Incredible Hulk -- still amazingly powerful, but able to be hurt and thus a little easier to create tension around. That version of Superman also largely got rid of the idea of Clark Kent as a bumbling doofus, replacing him with a fairly confident and competent man who just used visual tricks like changing his voice, hair, and posture to differentiate himself from Superman.
That version of Clark found it significantly easier to have a meaningful relationship with Lois Lane, and the result was that fifty issues into the series Byrne launched after the Crisis (he only stuck around for half of that, so this wasn't his doing), Clark and Lois were engaged. About ten years after the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the pair finally tied the knot (timed to coincide with the marriage on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, a series inspired by the post-Byrne take on the Man of Steel.
Lois & Clark was famously cancelled abruptly, ending on a cliffhanger that involved the title couple finding a baby on their doorstep. That makes Superman & Lois something of a spiritual sequel to the show, at the very least, but it also puts it right in line with where the comics got much, much later.
In 2011, DC Comics rebooted again following the Flashpoint event, and got rid of he decades of continuity created since the Crisis. The post-Crisis DC Universe had enjoyed a much more tightly managed continuity that evolved the universe over the course of 20+ years, and while some fans enjoyed that, it left longtime readers who missed the classic characters and perspectives of their youth in the dust. The New 52 set most books back to zero, reintroducing the characters as much younger versions of themselves with a truncated and much less complex backstory. Superman and Lois were no longer a couple.
The New 52 was a big sales success at first, but very few of its books turned into fan- or critical favorites, and eventually the reboot was more or less scrapped. Still, just five or so years after a reboot, DC did not seem to want to admit failure on the level that would require another full reboot so two more events -- first Convergence, and then DC Universe: Rebirth -- tinkered with the timeline a little and reintroduced some post-Crisis, pre-Flashpoint ideas and characters.
And that, finally, is where Jonathan Kent comes in.
The premise of Convergence was that following the events of both Crisis on Infinite Earths and Flashpoint, Brainiac had "rescued" cities from doomed realities and placed them together on a planet, separated from one another and prevented from leaving via the use of technology. This meant that several alternate-reality takes on the heroes -- like the post-Crisis Superman and Lois -- remained alive despite the various reboots and retoolings. In Convergence, Brainiac had taken steps to be sure that any superhumans on his experimental planet were de-powered, meaning that Lois and Clark effectively just spent time as a couple of reporters, with no Superman to speak of. By the time Convergence started, the pair had been on Brainiac's world (called Telos) for a year, and Lois was very pregnant. When the "walls" came down and chaos ensued, Superman and Lois's baby was born, delivered in part by former doctor, current lunatic Batman Thomas Wayne from the Flashpoint universe. They named him Jonathan, and we got to find out that the pair had a "happily ever after" before Convergence ended, seemingly once again closing the door on that version of Lois and Clark forever.
But shortly after that, with The New 52 on life support and editorial sensing that changes were needed across DC's publishing line, one of the things they did was to reveal that Convergence had sent Clark, Lois, and Jonathan to the New 52 Earth, where they landed ten years in the past. Seeing that the world already had a Superman and Lois Lane, they took on assumed names and lived on a farm, where they raised Jon. Lois did investigative journlaism work under an alias, while Clark would dress up in an all-black suit and do good deeds in a way that would not get him noticed and identified as a superhuman, let alone a Superman.
Eventually, the New 52 Superman died, and Clark had to step up and take on the role of Superman for a new generation. That meant moving to Metropolis. Through plot convenience, Lois ended up merged with her doppelganger, and Clark went through a story where he got the memories of New 52 Superman, too. Jon, at nine years old, was suddenly developing powers and grappling with the fact that his father was the most famous man on the planet.
He would take on the name of Superboy and team up with Damian Wayne, the son of Batman, and form the Super-Sons, fighting crime and quarreling with one another, until Jor-El (Superman's Kryptonian father) turned out to have survived the destruction of Krypton and become a supervillain. He ended up taking Jon on a trip into space, and when Jon returned, he was in his late teens, more powerful, and ready to head to the future to join the Legion of Super-Heroes. This was fine with the rest of the DC Universe because Conner Kent, the post-Crisis, pre-Flashpoint Superboy, had recently returned and so keeping track of two Superboys was a little much anyway. At present, that is where we stand: Jonathan is 17 or 18, living in the 31st Century, and contributing his powers and upbringing to the Legion.0comments
How much, if any, of this will come to pass in the TV shows is hard to say yet, although it's worth noting that Superman and Lois is casting for two teenage boys...!
"Crisis on Infinite Earths" kicks off on Sunday, December 8 on Supergirl, runs through a Monday episode of Batwoman and that Tuesday's episode of The Flash. That will be the midseason cliffhanger, as the shows go on hiatus for the holidays and return on January 14 to finish out the event with the midseason premiere of Arrow and a "special episode" of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, which launches as a midseason series this year and so will not have an episode on the air before the Crisis. Black Lightning's midseason finale will have a "Crisis" tie-in as well, although unofficially.