Why Bart/Kon Shouldn't Be A Rare-Pair: The Konbart Manifesto and Friendship Deep-Dive.
This is a long post with a read more cut further down.
Trigger Words: Death, Depression
I feel like during the time Kon and Bart were both out of comic continuity a lot of comic enjoyers 1.) forgot that these two were intensely close and 2.) in the case of newer fans never even realized the depths of their friendship even prior to Young Justice 2019.
This post is going to primarily focus on Bart and Kon's friendship and how they work together both presented in the comics, and what is implied through dialog and circumstantial events.
Even if you are not looking at what is presented below through the shipping lens, what I am going to compile here at the very least showcases that they have an intense friendship and solidifies that Kon is one of Bart's lightening rods and these two are relevant to each other in ways that I rarely see explored in fan works.
Bart in fanworks with Kon is frequently more or less there as a backdrop to another ship, is there for light moments or just is glazed over as "not a best friend" when the comics make it blatant that Bart and Kon are intensely close.
So let me explain their history and why they work so well together as friends first, and how the ship makes sense and should not be considered rare or a "crack-ship" as they are mutually affectionate.
1.) Kon and Bart share a ridiculous amount of things in common.
I talk about this frequently on this blog and others have pointed this out before in separate posts, but their similarities and sense of belonging to their respective worlds are factors that absolutely bind them closer and in special ways that others do not.
Unfortunately, this is (mostly) an indirect example of their dynamic because DC either sees no value in exploring these commonalities, or writers just have not recognized these details to explore them to fulfil deeper connections between Kon and Bart.
The exception to this was when Bart acknowledged their own sense of isolation and 'weirdness' in Young Justice 2019 The Emancipation of Bartholomew.
"I don't know who to talk to about any of this. No one can relate. Not even the other Flashes. I think that's what you and I always kind of had in common, Conner. We are not like everyone else. Even in our Superman and Flash columns... We are the most different." - Bart
Bart is ultimately correct here as both he and Kon share that when it comes to their family columns they stand out and have history and abilities that is isolating to the point where others in their families might not be able to connect to or relate to them in specific ways, but that doesn't stop their respective families from trying and loving them regardless.
Other than their isolation, they also share in common some key things that happened to them in their lives and some traits that a writer could absolutely capitalize on to make a strong story and it binds them closer together.
Here's a non-exhaustive list of past formative events that both Kon and Bart share.
They both were victims of dubiously moral scientists at the orders of cruel men.
They both do not have proper childhoods due to their unique births, younger life situations, and weird aging (see #4).
Both have genius level intellects, but no one really acknowledges it or takes it seriously.
They both had weird aging outside of Sins of Youth.
Both were cloned by cruel people and their clones replace them so successfully they fooled their friends and family that the imposter was them.
Both at varying times had members of their respective families not believe in them and questioned their integrity, morality and ability to be a hero.
Both mutually shared trauma associated with Bart's first "death" on Apokolips that others in their team did not.
Both had their mentors 'die' while they were not present and had to have the news delivered to them after it already happened. For Bart this was Max, and for Kon it was Jim Harper.
Both were raised by elderly people.
Both for a good period of time lived in the same state just hours from each other.
Both essentially 'grew up' and changed their entire identities overnight which can be fairly read as an expression of deep depression.
They both died just within months of each other.
To counterpoint #5 they were both cloned by Tim at the height of his grief when they died.
They were both erased from existence in the reboot, and both remembered each other and everything about the world before it rebooted.
As I mentioned before, the list above is not really mentioned between Kon and Bart in the comics, and they do not have any real conversations about how they share various trauma as comic narration tends to avoid characters hashing out feelings unless it is to serve growth that a writer wants to develop. However in a realistic scenario there is a strong likelihood that Kon and Bart would realize their commonality and feel kindred and comforted to know that there is someone else out there in the world that understands what they went through on a deep, personal level.
2.) Kon and Bart are FRIENDS outside of Young Justice and Teen Titans.
This is a bullet point that is a 'no duh' for all of them as each member of Young Justice/Teen Titans has been shown to be friends outside of beating the daylights out of bad guys, and many others have been shown to have deep bonds outside of 'work', but this point goes back to the introduction in that I feel a lot of people just have neglected to understand their friendship.
In their Young Justice days especially their friendship is unique and it is implied it started before the formation of team as Kon knew Bart's secret identity prior to the JLA: World Without Grown-Ups special.
Pre Young Justice/Early Friendship
Kon encourages Bart by name during the climax of their battle.
Throughout this special Kon refers to Bart casually by his first name and there is nowhere within this issue that seems to imply that Bart reveals this information during their team up. Kon knew his name beforehand which suggests either Bart told him, or he learned it second-hand from within the hero community.
Tim knows his name because of Batman.
This shows that there was a level of TRUST they had in each other even before the formation of Young Justice. To note, Kon does not learn Bart's name at all in Superboy and the Ravers #7 either when they first meet, so somewhere between then and the JLA: WWGU event Kon discovered or was told Bart's name.
Within this issue we see small crumbs that suggest Kon and Bart got to know a little bit about each other beforehand as there was some friendly teasing, banter and encouragement exchanged between them (even picking on Tim together).
Kon teases Bart and Bart remembers this for years afterwards, flipping it on Wally in his own series later.
Kon and Bart work together to win and are obnoxious about it, as they should be.
Also, when it came to Bedlam devising ways to defeat Tim, Kon and Bart by having each other imagine ways to kill one another, Kon was close enough by then to devise a way that was very specific and effective - by trapping Bart in a contraption that prevented him from moving at all.
Kon apologizes for imagining putting Bart into a restraining bench as his way to defeat him.
This again implies that Kon got to know enough about Bart to know what would cripple him in a fight; you can make an argument that he just thought it up on the spot basing it on first impressions, but if you read the issue entirely the implication still directs that they were friendly beforehand even if in the comics they had not interacted except for in Superboy and the Ravers #7.
The logical assumption is that Bart and Kon knew each other before this and were friendly.
Kon and Bart yet again tease and frustrate Tim together. This is reoccurring.
While they were in Young Justice we get to finally see their friendship really pick up because they finally had a comic series that they shared which meant they could grow and develop. Within this series we get to see them interact with each other in ways that are unique to them.
Young Justice #9.
Kon and Bart will often play games together during down-time in Young Justice (also in Teen Titans), such as Chess where Bart proves to be more calm and collected about it than Kon is as a counterbalance.
Young Justice #31
By the middle part of Young Justice it is well established that Kon is Bart's go-to person for entertainment within their team as depicted in the above issue where Bart desperately tries to convince Kon to break from his television program to be with him. We can assume Bart's suggestions are things that they have done together before. What is also interesting to note is Bart is asking to do things with him as Bart Allen, not as Impulse.
Young Justice #53
To further solidify that they are close friends and interact in ways specific to them, Kon and Bart not only play traditional games, but they took the time to joke with each other to come up with a whole new game that has no winner, it's just interaction and fun. This sort of interaction is unique specifically to them as the others are not part of this behavior.
By the time the Teen Titan years roll around they both have assumed new identities, one where Kon takes a step back into Conner Kent as an attempt to live more normally (something he's always wanted to do), and one where Bart takes up the Kid Flash mantle. They both experience changes in drastic (and sudden) ways, and even through some offensive writing and general character assassinations, they still are shown having a unique and intense bond specific to each other.
For the sake of pacing I am only going to explore a couple moments that stood out to me (this series is 100 issues long!) that show both of them being close emotionally as by now they are emotionally bound friends.
When Kon discovers that half his DNA came directly from Lex Luthor and was mind controlled to attack his friends, naturally everyone was trying their best to stop him.
Bart was ordered to "take him down" being the person in the best place to do so, and instead of going heavy handed Bart decided to try to reason with Kon instead.
Bart doesn't want to hurt Kon. And he refuses to do so at personal sacrifice to himself.
Teen Titans Volume 3 #25
Unfortunately Bart was not successful here but he tried very hard to reach him and appealed to who he knew Kon was at a deep level.
The important thing to note is during this wretched time in their tenure a lot of things happen; one of the main ones being them both dying within months of each other (one of their shared commonalities). Kon died first, and then Bart followed.
During Bart's funeral during Countdown #43 they play a video Bart recorded of himself basically wishing everyone well and encouraging them to not be sad that he was dead. However there are a couple moments that stand out...
In Bart's speech he is addressing everyone in his team, but he specifically mentions Kon in two key moments; he is addressing and speaking directly to Kon as if everything is well even though at this time Kon is dead.
Kon never got to hear this.
Bart and Kon by this point have solidified a strong bond where perhaps when Bart was thinking about making this recording he knew that Kon deserved a special acknowledgement to help him in his grieving process, which in the past Kon did not handle well in regards to Bart (I will explain below.) After Kon died Bart either didn't have the time to make a new video or just didn't want to revisit it again and left it as it was mentioning Kon regardless that he was not going to hear it.
Bart and Kon did not stay dead for long and eventually came back, once they did they had to deal with the aftermath of being dead together...
One of those aftermaths being Kon's relationship with Cassie had started to shift in ways that neither knew how to deal with, nor did they know why it was changing as both were dealing with personal stuff at the time. They are teenagers, after all.
In an attempt to try to get advice, Kon went specifically to Bart for help; not Tim, Gar, Cyborg or Clark or any other 'guy'. He saw Bart as someone he trusted and someone whose input he valued. There is a great level of trust they both have for each other as talking about relationships is a vulnerable and personal step.
Teen Titans Volume 3 #83
Ignore the bad writing on Cassie's part who in this for whatever reason thinks Bart won't respect her if he knows there are relationship issues, and implies that Kon is not allowed to ask for advice from one of their closest friends. Kon breaks up with Cassie a few issues later citing that he wants to give her space to focus on being a leader, and that he wants to retreat (further) into Conner Kent. This is a decision he made himself and it is unknown if he reached out to Bart again for advice.
While the outrageous events of TTv3 kept Kon and Bart extremely busy, we do still get hints that they still do things together outside of being heroes and Kon still reaches out to Bart for help.
Superboy 2011 #3
During this time in comics canon (2003-2011), Bart and Kon live only 4 hours away in the same state (Kansas). Bart being a speedster obviously can be right there with him nearly instantly no matter where he lives, but the closeness also opens more doors of familiarity between them and more relatability.
Kon reaches out to Bart for yet more help when he suggests to Bart to race him for charity so he can help the farmers in Smallville that lost a substantial amount of revenue. Bart gladly accepts and their race has some great FUN moments as they banter and talk about current events.
Kid Flash Lost #1
In one of the final comics of the pre-boot world Bart still references that he watches movies with Kon casually, specifically showcasing that even in a dystopian future where The Matrix is realized, Bart is thinking about Kon and everything they do together.
Bart and Kon are friends, and their friendship has been unwavering without a lapse in trust as both have been anchors for each other; no matter what happens, if the other is alive then it is a good day and they are likely going to be gravitating towards one another.
3.) Kon's breakdown over Bart's "death" and coma.
I don't really see a lot of people talk about this part of Kon's history (even from hardcore Kon fans) unless it is specifically from a Konbart shipping lens and I am not sure why, because everything about the two issue mental breakdown is heartbreaking just on its own with no shipping element added.
Also in one of the issues it implies that Kon has (while subconsciously) bi-curious feelings towards Bart.
The start of Kon's breakdown begins on Apokolips where they were stranded because he got in a fight with Tim and they crashed there. Because of that fight it led to all of them getting traumatized by Granny Goodness, but Bart suffered the worst when his own scout was killed in front of Cassie, Cissie, Kon and himself.
As a result, Bart was comatose for weeks and up until he woke up no one knew if he would survive.
Kon took it extremely badly. Not only is he himself traumatized from having witnessed it viscerally, but he also blamed himself for it happening in the first place.
Kon is writing a letter to Dr. Serling back home while he is still in space and the entire letter is... heartbreaking as he pens out his own grief and trauma in a personal way.
At this point in time, Kon has accepted that Bart is going to die. Kon has essentially lost all hope that Bart will recover and he blames himself entirely for it.
Even when he gets back to Earth in Superboy #92 he still is having PTSD symptoms from everything that happened on Apokolips and Bart is still at the forefront of his thoughts along with everything else that happened there...
(Please remember the title of this issue it is important)
Below is Kon's personal dialog that shows he has intrusive and frequent thoughts about Apokolips, in particular Bart dying and the Lobo clones dying.
"Now Bart's dead. Ba-dump-bump."
"Apokolips. Satan's top choice for vacation spots, after Suicide Slum and Binghampton in winter."
"Us. Young Justice. Stranded. Forgotten, unwashed P.O.W.S."
"Impulse, a piece of him. All of him. I don't get it, anymore."
"He died badly. The smell -- My fault."
"The legion of naked Lobos. If there is one grain of comedy in any of this, it's the legion of naked Lobos..."
"...'Cept they all died, too.
"The aftermath, you don't have to see "A.I." to believe a robot can get very, very, upset."
"Just try breaking the news to Red Tornado."
"Ah. Yes, and there's Impulse again. The rest of him. None of him. So whacked out on having watched and felt his own death..."
"Cut to: the smell of Impulse frying."
"Dead Lobos." "Torture." "Death." "Torture." "..." "Death."
"I am so out of here." - Kon-El
The first two pages alone set the tone for the rest of the issue even if it takes a manic tone with a theme of Alice in Wonderland as a fever dream from hell. Before we get there though we are hit with two panels that are... interesting.
"Hey. Mrs. K., Got any apple pie in the fridge? Oh, one piece is fine. Impulse is in a stupid coma, so he won't -- Hold me? Tell me the war never happened? Pet my head?" - Kon-El
When you look at these two panels the first interpretation is that Kon is implying that Bart won't be around to hold him and pet his head.
The second interpretation is that Kon was going to say that Bart wasn't there to enjoy the pie (thus one piece was fine) and that he had a break in thought and was directing his desire for Martha to hold him and comfort him.
Either way you look at these panels and choose to interpret them it could go either way considering Kon's fragile mental state and how close of friends they were, and where his TWENTY HOUR dream takes him, it could really have been that he was wishing Bart would hold him.
That Kon wants Bart to be alive to comfort and balm the terror that he faced while on Apokolips.
Hm. Hmmm. Okay.
So Bart's dressed as the White Rabbit (remember the title?) but not only that in Kon's own dream he has him make a reference to it being a Playboy Bunny Suit.
I'm just going to leave that there because nothing else can be said about it.
These particular panels have been floating around for ages without context and you don't need much other than to know that the other two are Cherub and Kon's dead girlfriend Tana Moon.
Tana was killed in the Sins of Youth arc by Amanda Spence specifically to hurt Kon.
Cherub was a clone created by Amanda Spence using Bart and Tana Moon's DNA. Amanda shot her in the head while Kon was having a heart-to-heart conversation with her, and as far as he knows she is dead at this point.
And then there is Bart who Kon has resigned multiple times is already dead despite the fact he is in a coma.
Two of the above were direct love interests that were hurt specifically because of Kon, to hurt him, and in his own dream Kon is placing Bart in with them as a person he loves who he is responsible for getting hurt.
The line that Kon might "secretly think of Impulse as a chick" is definitely skirting some lines of bi-coding, or at least getting as close to it as possible for a comic that was released in 2001 which was an incredibly homophobic era. Also it is fun to note that entire dream sequence is colored in bi-flag colors which was adopted in 1998, it was likely unintentional but you can take that as you will.
Kon's fever dream lasted twenty hours and after this issue he was back to "normal" and this breakdown is never mentioned again.
However considering that Bart's own "Death Video" in Countdown #43 had him talking specifically to Kon a couple of times, the two of them might have discussed what happened on Apokolips which led Bart to have the foresight to try to make things easier in a "Death is nothing at all, I'm only in the other room" sort of way. Because by then Bart knew that if he died, people would be upset. Kon extremely so.
4.) Kon helps Bart overcome his fear of using his scouts just by existing.
After the trauma-inducing terror that happened on Apokolips Bart himself was dealing with a bout of PTSD and he took a temporary absence from being Impulse and being a part of Young Justice.
To compliment Kon's own letter from Superboy #91 Bart claims that being Impulse "Isn't fun anymore" in mirrored trauma.
Bart eventually got to a point mentally where he found purpose being Impulse again, but he was extremely weary of using his scouts for obvious reasons.
Then the World Without Young Justice arc came and Bart was face-to-face with Matthew Stuart (Bedlam) who had been in a coma for two years and was out for revenge.
Using his own magical power he had found a way to force Bart into making scouts and he had them flung through time altering the timestream to a point where nothing looked familiar and Young Justice was... gone; the girls converted into villains, the boys were stripped of their powers and training as Kon was just a human teenager and Tim was just Tim Drake.
Bart was the only one who remembered them and it was up to him to stop Matt.
The problem was, he was petrified of absorbing his scouts back into himself because the last time one of his scouts died, he nearly died. Bart wasn't sure what would happen if he re-absorbed a dying scout, because he regains everything that scout experienced and felt while it was operating.
"That'll keep him... busy while... we make our escape..." - Bart
"'Escape?' You can barely stand and your other selves..." - Kon
"... Are dying. I've made too many... Their only chance... is to take 'em back into me. It's just... dunno what'll happen if I absorb a dying scout..." - Bart
"Look... Don't worry. You'll be okay. Why, you're one of the good guys." - Kon while touching Bart's shoulder.
"Uh... ...Here goes everythnnngghh!!" - Bart
"Wow... You okay?" - Kon
"No... But it's no biggie. We better head for Bedlam's Castle, back to Tim..." - Bart
At first glance this might seem inconsequential but Bart really was absolutely petrified of absorbing those scouts back, and he did so because Kon encouraged him, and because Kon in that moment was vulnerable and could be killed with almost no effort.
Bart overcame his fear and absorbed his scouts which had a consequence that wasn't outright shown but if you're well-read in The Flash you know what is going on.
Bart is pushing his own limits here, he is hurt, badly, and is dying himself but because he is a Speedster they never reveal this when it is happening. A speedster admitting something is wrong, but is 'no big deal' is code speak for "I'm going to die, so let's hurry up and save the day."
Bart's exhausted here and is likely going through some sort of molecular and emotional trauma as a result of absorbing his dying scouts, but Kon and all of Young Justice is worth it.
In the end, Bart recovers, saves the day and everything returns to normal... almost.
5.) The Emancipation of Bart Allen AKA Bart "broke reality" for Kon.
Kon was erased from existence with the N52 reboot and with Rebirth he was still no where to be found and no one seemed concerned about where Kon was despite the fact that the multiverse/reboots were very common knowledge among the heroes by then.
Bart (retroactively) was the only one who was shown to actively remember Kon due to his own imperviousness to time shifts and due to the fact that he was able to avoid being rebooted himself. Cassie mentioned remembering "everything about Young Justice" thus implying that she too likely remembered Kon, but Tim didn't remember him (or Young Justice) and needed Zatanna to help unlock the memories of his dear friend. Bart remembered Kon and actively took it upon himself to find him, and by extension Young Justice.
The entirety of Young Justice 2019 has a lot of great moments between Kon and Bart (Bart was relentless in his effort to find Kon, both times he went missing) but there is one key moment that sticks out.
Bart's explanation for what happened leading up to him "breaking things" to find Kon is a little mushy when it comes to continuity placement (Bendis tends to have mushy writing) but his desire to find Kon over everyone else is blatant.
Please tell us Kon, what do you plan on doing? We'll never know bc Tim interjected.
Everything about this issue is charged with emotional depth between both Kon and Bart; from Bart's deep desire to find Kon and Kon's desire to help take care of Bart while he was vulnerable after passing out.
Extremely popular ships were started over less than this ^
After passing out, Kon takes Bart to the woods and builds a fire for them. Kon also remembers that Bart loves Chocos (DC's version of Oreos) and nicked a whole pack from S.T.A.R. Labs for Bart specifically.
6.) Lightening Rod
As mentioned above Young Justice 2019 offered us a lot of moments between Kon and Bart that were suggestive and showcased that Bart is relentless when it comes to making sure Kon is safe, and that Young Justice is intact.
Each member of Young Justice is clearly a lightening rod for Bart as Speedsters can have more than one however there is evidence to suggest that Kon just may have a pull on him more than the others.
Young Justice 2019 #1
When Bart is zapped to Gemworld at the same time as everyone else he alone appears next to Kon, suggesting he is a lightening rod. Tim, Cassie, Jinny and Kelly were separated to other locations entirely.
The working theory building from what we know of Speedsters and their lighting rods, is that when Bart was finally put in proximity to Kon, Bart was immediately attracted to him like lightning strike to a tall building.
Once Bart was reunited with Kon, well, we get the famous hug scene under the backdrop of the bi-flag.
Young Justice 2019 #2 again, popular ships were started over much less.
Knowing what we know now of the depth Bart went through to find Kon and reunite Young Justice can you really blame him for not wanting to let him go?
The rest of YJ2019 has multiple other instances of them hugging, touching and Bart getting very persistent about making sure Kon is safe, which contributed to him passing out.
When it comes to shipping, either as just friends or as romantic partners in some fashion, the evidence provided above gives groundwork for a ship that is based on trust, compassion for the other, emotional vulnerability through shared experiences and protectiveness of the other all with an air of playfulness.
Their affection is mutual and their desire to help each other, mourn each other and support each other is not one-sided as we see both of them do things for the other.
There is a lot of angst there, and there also is a lot playfulness with willingness to listen to each other if in the hands of a writer that understands their past history.
Kon and Bart are friends, first and foremost, and Konbart should not be a rare-pair or considered a ship with no basis as the basis has roots going back to 1995.