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Superboy Inspired A Major DC Super Team - Young Justice Theory Explained

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Young Justice season 4, episode 4, "Involuntary."

A new theory suggests that Superboy inspired the formation of a major DC superhero team, the Legion of Superheroes, in the reality of Young Justice. This theory arose in the wake of Superboy's apparent death, which was brought about by a rogue time traveler who was being hunted by the 31st century Legion of Superheroes. It is unclear why this time traveler would want to kill Superboy or why the Legion was so invested in monitoring him, unless his fate was somehow tied to their own.

The main plot of Young Justice season 4 has centered around the wedding preparations of Superboy and Miss Martian, who traveled to Mars with Beast Boy to hold a traditional Martian marriage ceremony with Miss Martian's family. They were secretly observed by three members of the Legion of Superheroes, whose Young Justice Season 4 appearance was teased in the final episode of Young Justice: Outsiders. Precisely why the Legionnaires had come back in time went unexplained beyond a reference to "one big thing" they were meant to prevent, but this did not stop them from acting to save Superboy and Beast Boy's lives.

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There have been several incarnations of the Legion of Superheroes since their first appearance in 1958, and most of them were inspired by the example of one Superboy variant or another. This could offer another reason, beyond simple heroism, for why the Legion felt the need to step in and save Superboy when his life was endangered. It could also explain why a rogue time traveler might seek to alter events to bring about Superboy's death before his marriage to Miss Martian, hoping it might cause the Legion of Superheroes that hunted them to cease existing.

The first four episodes of Young Justice Season 4 drew Superboy, Miss Martian and Beast Boy into the investigation of the Martian king's death at a time of racial turmoil among the four Martian races. There was no shortage of suspects thanks to the conservative elements of the Green Martian race being displeased with the king's progressive agenda and the White Martian minority thinking the king did not go far enough in equalizing the Martian caste system. The increased tension caused by the king's death led the White Martian terrorist Ma'alefa'ak to plant a viral bomb designed by the New Gods scientist and Justice League villain Desaad under the arena where a presentation honoring the birthday of the Martian prince J'emm was being held.

To complicate matters, an unseen time traveler using technology similar to that of the Legion of Superheroes also entered into the tunnels under the Martian arena and planted a secondary device on the viral bomb. This traveler intentionally drew Superboy's attention, making noise he could hear even over the noise of the arena. This led Superboy to discover the viral bomb and start punching his way through the arena floor to a lava flow, which he hoped would be hot enough to kill the virus inside the bomb.

The purpose of the time traveler's device became clear after Superboy submerged himself in the lava with the bomb. When Superman (who had come to Mars to serve as the best man at Superboy's wedding) tried to retrieve his younger brother's body, he found himself immediately weakened by the presence of Kryptonite radiation. With Miss Martian unable to sense Superboy's thoughts, it seemed that the young hero had made the ultimate sacrifice to save his Martian hosts.

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Clearly, the mystery time traveler had some reason for killing Superboy, but there was no explanation offered for what it might be. However, an examination of DC Comics history provides a motive for a fugitive from the era of the Legion of Superheroes to want to murder Superboy. Namely, that without a Superboy, there would be no Legion of Superheroes.

The Legion of Superheroes first appeared in Adventure Comics #247, in a Superboy story where a young Clark Kent was visited in Smallville by three other heroes, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Boy and Saturn Girl, who claimed to have come from the future to test his worthiness to join their team of teenage superheroes. The tests proved to be part of an elaborate hazing ritual as the Legion had already voted to offer Superboy membership in the team. This was because stories of Superboy's heroism were still told 1000 years in the future, inspiring the Legion of Superheroes' formation.

A 2019 retcon made another Superboy, Superman's son Jonathan Kent, responsible for the foundation of the Legion of Superheroes in the modern DC Universe. Following a gathering of leaders from the many populated worlds from across the DC Comics universe in the 21st century, Superman son Jon Kent suggested the formation of a governing body so the various planets could work out their differences peacefully and prevent further intergalactic wars. This suggestion apparently led to the formation of the body which would become the United Planets, which helped to form the Legion of Superheroes in the 31st century. This information was volunteered by the Legion, who traveled back in time to offer Jonathan Kent a place among their ranks.

Young Justice is beloved by comic book readers for how well it draws upon the rich history of DC Comics, reworking classic ideas in new ways, such as transforming Artemis Crock (who was originally a villain in the comics) into a hero and Green Arrow's sidekick. Given that, it's not impossible to believe that Young Justice might try to put its own spin on the foundation of the Legion of Superheroes by having the Conner Kent clone version of Superboy be responsible for inspiring the heroes of the 31st century rather than a teenage Clark Kent or Superman's son Jon Kent. With that idea in place, it also follows that a time-traveling criminal from the 31st century might also try to prevent the Legion of Superheroes from ever existing by killing Superboy before he became an exemplar of heroism and a beacon of hope for future generations.

More: Young Justice: Everything That Happened Between Outsiders & Phantoms

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