A fascinating thing about the history of Superman is that, despite Superman’s Kryptonian ancestry being established in the very first panel in the very first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1, that was pretty much it for Superman’s connection to Krypton for the next decade! It would not be until 1949’s Superman #61, over 11 years after Superman first debuted, that he first learned even the name of his birth planet! Soon, though, Superman would meet some other survivors from Krypton and as time went by, readers learned more and more about Kryptonian culture, especially when fellow Kryptonians Supergirl and Krypto became regular cast members in Superman’s comic books.
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After Crisis on Infinite Earths, though, Krypton’s history was re-made by John Byrne, who made it a more of an austere place than it had been in past depictions. Here, we will list you 15 relatives of Superman that you might not know he had (so we’re not talking his cousin, Supergirl. We mean more obscure than that). Most of these characters are Pre-Crisis, but there are a few Post-Crisis examples. We’ll list them in alphabetical order.
Something that you have to quickly get used to is that pretty much every Kryptonian looks like Superman. It’s super weird out of context, but in the context of the Superman comics of the 1950s and 1960s, when every third person Superman met was his doppelganger, it makes a lot more sense. One of these doubles was Don-El, who was Superman’s first cousin.
Don-El was a resident of Kandor, the Kryptonian city that Brainiac stole from Krypton and shrunk down. So it survived the destruction of Krypton and Superman later had the shrunken city in his Fortress of Solitude. Don-El was a top man in the Kandorian police department. In one memorable story, Don-El pretended to be a special Superman toy to help fill in for Superman when Superman was on a mission in outer space.
Dik-Zee was also Superman’s first cousin. He was the son of Jor-El’s sister, Kara. He was also an exact look-alike of Superman (as was Dik’s twin brother, Van, who you will meet later on). In a memorable story, Lois Lane was forced to shrink down and hide in Kandor when she was accidentally transported to the Fortress of Solitude and trapped in a room with poisonous gas. She had to wait until Superman got back from an outer space mission before she could be freed.
She met Dik-Zee and the two began dating while Lois was trapped in Kandor. He worked as a reporter, so he got her a temporary gig as a reporter in Kandor. Eventually, he proposed to Lois and she was considering it, but then Superman showed up and took her home before she could answer.
Erok was a great Kryptonian warrior who actually came up with the famous “El” last name. Erok lived in a time when Krypton was just filled with barbarians in loosely affiliated tribes. He was given a special potion by a scientist that would temporarily give Erok superpowers. So in his first battle as part of his campaign to conquer Krypton, he showed off his skills (Erok, of course, also looks exactly like Superman) and soon, he had conquered the planet and united the people into a civilization.
One of the major cities on Krypton, Erokol, was named after him. He grew tired of having to introduce himself with the names of his father and his father’s father, etc., so he came up with a special family name, El. His first son was named Kal-El!
There was a time in Kryptonian history when the planet was invaded by aliens called the Vrangs. The Vrangs not only enslaved the Kryptonians and forced them into a life of hard labor, but they even insisted that they pretend to be happy about their servitude. Most of the Kryptonians just sucked it up and smiled while they worked. One day, though, a Kryptonian named Val-Or refused to smile. He stood up to his captors and he was murdered by it.
His bold sacrifice inspired his friend, Hatu-El, who then led a revolt against their Vrang guards. They took over their slave camp but to fight back against the rest of the Vrang invasion army, Hatu-El had to find a way to power their stolen Vrang weapons. He discovered an element called Hatuar (named after himself, of course) that powered their weapons and led to their freedom.
On Krypton, the god that they worship was called Rao. Jaf-El was a religious prophet who warned the people of Krypton when the red sun of Krypton suddenly turned yellow. As it turned out, though, instead of giving them powers (like Superman when he went to the yellow sun of Earth), the color change was due to great volcanic disturbances that sent a bunch of gold dust into the sky and made the sun appear to be yellow even though it was still red.
The volcanos eventually led to tsunamis that wiped out most of early Krypton, but luckily, the winged H’Raka, who had been hunted almost to extinction, showed up and saved Jaf-El and a number of other Kryptonians and flew them above the high waters. The water subsided and they rebuilt Krypton, with the H’Raka now an honored animal.
10. KAL KENT
In 1998, Grant Morrison came up with a clever crossover idea for the DC Universe called DC One Million. Every DC comic would celebrate its #1,000,000 issue and the issue would star the version of that character that would exist in the year that it would take for a comic book to reach its one millionth issue (sometime in the 853rd century).
The plot of the crossover was the Justice League of the 853rd century came to the 20th Century to bring that Justice League (the first Justice League) to the future to see the return of Superman Prime. The Superman of the 853rd century was a man named Kal Kent, a longtime descendant of Kal-El. Kal Kent later showed up in All Star Superman leading a group of time travelers to the day that Jonathan Kent died.
In the Post-Crisis continuity, Krypton was not a particularly awesome place in every way and perhaps the most notable downside of the planet was introduced when Superman met the Eradicator. The Eradicator was a sort of sentient machine that was designed to maintain the purity of the Kryptonian race.
Many years in the past, Superman’s ancestor, Kem-El, came up with a system where people from other planets would be unable to survive on Krypton, while similarly, no one born on Krypton could ever leave the planet (with Kal-El having been sent away while still an embryo). Kem-El’s crazed views later caused problems for Earth, since the Eradicator survived the destruction of Krypton and tried to turn Earth into a new Krypton for the last son of Krypton, Superman!
8. KLAR KEN T5477
There have been a few different future versions of Superman, but typically they turn out to be based on imaginary stories. One of the few examples that was presented as just flat out a descendant of Superman was Klar Ken T5477, the Superman of the 30th Century! He was introduced in 1965 and, just like his ancestor, he worked as a reporter in his secret identity.
While no longer vulnerable to Kryptonite, the radiation from many nuclear wars had turned the water of Earth toxic to anyone, including Klar Ken T5477. Known as the 20th Superman (or Superman XX), Klar later teamed up with Batman XX to fight the evil Muto. Man, Superman XX and Batman XX teaming up had a whole other connotation during the 1960s, when X-Rated was not yet a thing.
As noted earlier, twins were in abundance in Krypton, and sure enough, Jor-El had a twin brother named Nim-El. Nim-El was the father of Don-El (although Nim-El did not end up making it to Kandor before the destruction of Krypton). For whatever reason, despite being the twin brother of Jor-El, we don’t know a whole lot about him (except that he liked drawing attention to buildings he should be hiding from criminals).
The only time we saw him in a story is when a criminal who survived the destruction of Krypton (in a sad twist, a number of criminals survived the destruction of Krypton because they were trapped in the Phantom Zone) and escaped the Phantom Zone. He had plastic surgery to look like Nim-El, which, of course, meant that he looked like Superman! He almost tricked the Kents into thinking he was the real deal.
Pir-El played a major role in the battle that decided the last war on Krypton. You see, there were two rival factions combating each other, one based in Kandor/Kryptonopolis and the other based in Erkol. The fighting had become so severe that Pir-El was told to use deadly Disintegrator-Spheres that completely destroyed major based on Erkol. Erkol’s side responded with a powerful warship that focused the energy of the sun and disintegrated Kryptonopolis! It was headed to Kandor next!
Pir-El came up with a clever solution – they had been working on a gas, but it kept smoking too much to be practical. However, the smoke was perfect to block the warship from the sun. Having blocked it from the sun, the warship crashed. The gas then settled into Erkol where it was revealed to be “pacifist gas.” Yes, they brainwashed their way to peace. Yay?
In the Pre-Crisis continuity, Jor-El’s father was also named Jor-El. That Jor-El did not get a lot of attention in the Superman stories, so it was not like he was a major character (the only time we ever even got to see his wife was in an imaginary story of what if Krypton exploded before Superman was born). Therefore, when John Byrne revamped Krypton Post-Crisis, he gave Jor-El the first a new name, Syeg-El.
Syeg-El was a follower of the old ways of Krypton and he was embarrassed to learn that his son, Jor-El, showed way too much emotion. Jor-El ended up actually falling in love with his wife, Lara, which was forbidden on Krypton. Byrne obviously named Syeg-El after Superman creator, Jerry Siegel, but before he saw it written out, Julius Schwartz was offended by the name because it sounded like “Sieg Heil” to him.
As you may or may not know, Krypton was ruled by a Science Council. You might think, “Isn’t that an odd group to rule an entire planet?” Well, the explanation came down to a decision made many, many years ago in Krypton when the various sects all agreed to finally officially be united into one government. The problem was that they couldn’t decide how to be governed. Tala-El wanted them to be ruled by science, while others had other ideas. Tala-El went to his brother, who was a religious scholar and he suggested letting Rao decide.
So the various groups went out with lightning rods and they let Rao decide by whoever was struck by lightning last would be the form of government Krypton used. The last one standing was Tala-El, who later revealed that he used science to make his lightning rod least attracted to lightning!
Van-Zee was the twin brother of Dik-Zee and also an exact double for Superman. He was also Superman’s closest friend in Kandor, as Superman would come to visit him and his wife frequently. Whenever Superman needed to visit Kandor, he would have to switch places with someone within the bottled city and Van-Zee would typically be his go-to guy to switch places with (since he knew he could trust Van-Zee not to do anything stupid on Earth). Once, he had to use Van’s father, Nim-Zee, when Van was sick.
When in Kandor, Superman lost his powers. However, he didn’t stop being a hero, so Superman and Jimmy Olsen became the Batman and Robin of Kandor, named Nightwing and Flamebird. Van-Zee then took over the Nightwing name from Superman (with his assistant becoming Flamebird).
2. ZEE TWINS
Van-Zee’s introduction was one of the crazier ones of the Kandorians. You see, Van-Zee monitored Earth a lot, as well as Superman’s adventures. While doing so, he saw Lois Lane a lot and fell in love with her from afar. One day, he was accidentally sent to Earth while dressed in a Superman costume. He tried to get Lois to marry him but she turned him down. Luckily, he then saw a young socialite named Sylvia DeWitt who looked exactly like Lois! So he proposed to her and she accepted!
They moved to Kandor and he gave her a serum to give her super powers. They then had twins, Lyle-Zee and Lili Van-Zee. The twist was that the whole story was done without showing us their names, so we would think it was Superman and Lois the whole time while it was actually Van-Zee and Sylvia DeWitt.
One of the hilarious things about comics that have been going on for decades is the desire by writers to explain things. This was especially true of the generation of comic book writers who started working in comics after having grown up on comics. The original comic book writers were mostly science fiction writers who red science fiction and pulp fiction growing up. The next generation, though, grew up thinking, “Hey, who is faster – Superman or Flash?” so a fan turned writer like Jim Shooter would end up writing that first race between Superman and Flash.
Similarly, in a story about Krypton’s past, writer Gerry Conway saw Jor-El spend time with his uncle Zim-El, an inventor. Zim-El told him a story about an ancient Kryptonian inventor and in the end accidentally invented the rocket fuel Jor-El would use to send his child Kal-El, to Earth many years later!
Would you like to learn more about Superman’s Kryptonian ancestors in DC’s Rebirth? Let us know in the comments section!
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