In this feature I spotlight changes made to comic book characters that are based on outside media, as well as characters who entirely came from outside media. I’m sure you can think of other examples, so feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com if you want to suggest some other examples for future installments.
Today, based on a suggestion from reader Teroro K, we look at how Superman’s “S” symbol became a Kryptonian symbol!
When Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, the S on his chest had a simple explanation – it was there because he was called Superman, thus he had an S because, well, Superman begins with an S.
That was the story for years. And people were fine with that for years. It was just an accepted part of Superman’s set-up. He fights crime and has a costume that has an S on it because it stands for “Superman.”
Even when Superman’s origin was detailed, the design of the costume was just glossed over. As the years went by, a few different reasons were used for the origin.
Then the “Superman” movie came about. Original screenwriter Mario Puzo had the idea that Superman’s S was NOT an Earth symbol, but rather, in effect, the logo of Krypton. So it would be used all over Krypton in the early scenes in the film set on the doomed planet. That approach was altered in the later editions of the screenplay, but the idea of the S being present on Krypton persisted and it eventually became the symbol of Superman’s family, the Els. Marlon Brando’s Jor-El wore the S on his shirt (apparently Brando specifically requested that he wear the S on his shirt).
For years, they did not address the issue in the comics, until 2004’s “Superman: Birthright” by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu, that made the S symbol officially a Kryptonian symbol, as Jor-El wears it…
but the symbol is found elsewhere, as well…
It is mixed with meaning “hope” and an El coat-of-arms.
And that’s what it’s been ever since, in both the comics and the movies.
Thanks, Marlon Brando!
And thanks to Teroro K. for the suggestion! If anyone else has an idea for a future edition of Follow Your Path, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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