May 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #304: Conduit

Superman had a childhood rival he never mentioned or even seemed to know about back in the 90s.

I’ve pointed out a few times that the 90s were not necessarily a good time to be a superhero fan.  Antiheroes were everywhere, and Superman had a mullet.   True, DC was a bit more resistant to 90s antiheroes than Marvel or Image, but that didn’t stop them from tossing out forgettable or “edgy” characters either as new solo heroes or opponents for their longstanding good guys.

That’s probably as good an explanation as any for Superman foe Conduit.

Conduit was one Kenny Braverman, a childhood classmate of Clark Kent.  Kenny was born the same night infant Kal-El’s spacecraft crashed on Earth, and the associated kryptonite radiation bathed the infant Kenny, changing him.  Kenny would grow up to be a sickly child who would eventually overcome all of that and become a star high school athlete and scholar…

…who always came in second to Clark Kent.  And Kenny’s father never let him forget that.

Now, it should be worth noting that in this version of Clark’s childhood, his kryptonian powers were a gradual development, and he didn’t even really achieve them until he was more or less an adult.  As such, any successes he had in school were not helped out by his natural-born Kryptonian abilities.  Kenny, who eventually figured out Clark was Superman, didn’t know or believe that, so when he started to develop the power to fire off kryptonite radiation, well, he had someone to aim it at.

Plus, the CIA gave him equipment to allow him to use these abilities.  That involved putting on special gauntlets and getting some metallic surgical implants and the like.  The sort that are hard to miss, and while Clark’s life kept getting better, Kenny’s kept getting worse, almost at a parallel.  Clark gets engaged to Lois and lives happily ever after?  Kenny does the same, but then his fiancee sees him shirtless, asks some questions he can’t or won’t answer, and leaves him.

I will never forget the person in the letter column after that issue who asked how it was the woman hadn’t seen her fiance shirtless up until that point.

So, armed with kryptonite and nifty armor, the villain calling himself Conduit took his frustrations out on a childhood friend who had no idea how bad things were for Kenny.

As it is, Kenny’s obsession reached a point where he managed to kidnap the Man of Steel and take him to a false Smallville, one built to look like the Smallville of the men’s childhood with androids built to look like the residents (plus Lois), and while some of the droids attacked Superman, that wasn’t the main event.

In a Smallville where even Ma and Pa Kent didn’t care for Superman as much as Kenny.  Also, Superman seems a bit slow on the uptake here.

As it is, Conduit’s plans involved drawing on the power of all the androids and using it to take down Superman.  That was too much energy, and Conduit died.  Superman then flew the body back to his father’s house, suggesting the man should have shown more pride in his son’s accomplishments.  And that, it would seem, would be the end of Conduit, a revamped version of the old foe the Kryptonite Man as near as I can make out.

Except…he did appear in other places, sort of.  Both Superman the Animated Series and the movie Man of Steel depicted moments from Clark’s childhood, and both featured a character named Kenny Braverman as something of a jock and a bully.  Did he have kryptonite powers?  Nope!  He was just a jerk.

In the end, aren’t all villains just jerks?  Maybe, but this one sure was.