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Can Superboy handle the magic? ’Titans’ cast previews Conner Kent’s Season 4

Even if Lex Luthor’s part of your family tree, ’everyone should get to know their parents,’ says Brendon Thwaites.

By Benjamin Bullard
Joshua Orpin, Damaris Lewis in Titans Season 3 Episode 13

It’s getting scary out there. As Titans gets set to swing back next month for its fourth season at HBO Max, Lex Luthor (Titus Welliver) has gone dabbling with the occult to get the upper hand on the Gotham gang, adding magic and scary supernatural terrors to the threats the Titans typically know how to contend with. 

The series’ new dark arc poses a menace to everyone — but perhaps especially to Conner Kent (aka Superboy), the part-Kryptonian genetic clone of both Lex and Superman. Played by Joshua Orpin, Conner’s already got a lot on his mind besides shutting down Lex’s horror show as the new season kicks off. But as fate would naturally have it, those horrors are bound to come knocking — whether he’s ready to face them or not.

One of the “amazing things about this season,” as Orpin shared with SYFY WIRE and other outlets at a recent New York Comic Con roundtable, “is that we’re dealing with villains that are incredibly powerful. And they wield dark magic, and fans of the comics and other media will know that Kryptonians are notoriously vulnerable to magic.

“So one of the big things for Conner this season is coming to terms with that vulnerability. Because this is a guy that hasn’t been alive for very long — but during that time that he’s been alive, he’s been invincible. He’s never really lost a fight; he’s never really had true difficulty. No one’s been able to hurt him physically, and all of a sudden, he’s encountering these people that have these terrifying magical abilities that can really just lay him out. This season in particular really tackles that issue in a big way, in terms of bringing in adversaries that present a genuine challenge and a threat to the Titans.”

True to their teenage origins in the DC comics, the Titans can’t take two swings at the nearest bad guy without having to grapple with their own coming-of-age inner turmoil. Conner’s especially vulnerable as the new season sets out, says Orpin, teasing that Superboy’s journey through the 12 upcoming new episodes will take him farther than ever before.

“After the events of Season 3, he’s just had his first love; he’s had his first heartbreak, and I feel like, developmentally, that was quite significant for him,” says Orpin. “So he’s not the same Conner that he was at the beginning of season 3… It’ll become clear, when the season is out, that by the end of the fourth season, he is so far from where he began… that it’s almost like he’s a different person entirely.”

In a world that doesn’t hand its young heroes a roadmap, forging relationships is a big part of Titans’ story appeal. But, those ties will be tested in new ways throughout Season 4, says executive producer Greg Walker, as Lex throws up supernaturally sinister roadblocks to strain what’s already a soul-searching time for the group’s most inwardly vulnerable members.
“[I]t’s a family show essentially,” says Walker. “Anytime a character gets a challenge — Superboy gets a challenge; Ryan [Potter, who plays Gar Logan aka Beast Boy] gets a challenge, in terms of where they are in their life — the family’s gonna bear that. It’s gonna break the family up. It’s gonna cause tension and stress — and then we get to see how everybody else evolves to it.”

Superboy (1994-2002) #0

“I don’t want to give too much away,” adds Orpin, “but those relationships  — particularly the relationship with Dick Grayson — play a big role in Conner's story this season. Conner has to rely on his family, and like any kid growing up, he wants to rebel. But then he comes back, and you see those relationships shift, and you see just how important those people are to him in his life.”

With his genetic father figures not exactly approachable at the moment, it sounds like Conner probably could use some mentoring. Enter Dick Grayson aka Nightwing (Brendon Thwaites), the Titans’ resident Bat-daddy and (mostly) reliable guide as the least-immature leader of a superhero group who’s a little green around the ears. 

“[D]ick has to try and figure out how to be that father figure to Conner Kent that he doesn’t have,” Thwaites explains. “And that’s a tricky dynamic. Because on the one hand, he tells Superboy, ‘I wouldn’t get within ten miles of Lex Luthor.’ On the other hand, everyone should get to know their parents.”

Here’s to hoping that Conner can straddle the Season 4 dark side without careening clean over the edge. Catch the premiere of the series’ upcoming new chapter when Titans returns to HBO Max beginning Nov. 3.

Looking for more superhero action? Stream Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and more on Peacock right now.