After more than eighty years, Krypton remains–for better or worse–one of the most important planets in the history of DC Comics. First appearing in Action Comics #1 In 1938, the birth planet of one of the world’s greatest heroes, Superman, showcased a world of science, leadership, and choice.
Instead of watching Krypton settle into dust, writers have chosen to explore the planet further; as a result, the Man of Steel’s original homeworld has evolved into an enduring symbol of what society can achieve. Like the Roman Empire, Krypton offered an inspiring yet tragic glimpse into a utopian world where science, leadership, and choice flourish–yet fail–its people. Timeless and tragic, Krypton’s legacy continues to inspire and challenge readers to this very day.
In the recent World of Krypton series (by Robert Venditti, Michael Avon Oeming, and Nick Filardi), Krypton’s science council must prevent the planet’s core from triggering a cataclysmic event. The head of the science council, Jor-El, establishes a protective shield to preserve the energy that remains in Krypton’s core. Fueled by faith in his fellow Kryptonians, Jor-El pleads with the public to curb their energy consumption; however, the public ignores Jor-El’s request from him. In fast time, the planet’s core grows unstable, sparking Krypton’s doom.
From a storytelling perspective, Krypton serves as a cautionary tale for Earth. Like today’s citizens, Kryptonians consumed without care for their planet’s well-being. In the real world, environmental problems like carbon emissions, climate change, and global warming threaten to destabilize–and potentially destroy–the planet. In this vein, creators enlist Krypton to warn of the dangers of ignoring environmental concerns. While once a vague possibility, Krypton’s downfall became an inevitable reality. While many people still question whether or not Earth can avert its path towards destruction, the final fate of Superman’s original homeworld may hold the unfortunate answer.
In addition to science, World of Krypton highlights Krypton’s commitment–and struggle–to uphold democracy. When Jor-El’s appeal to Kryptonians fails, General Dru-Zod, Krypton’s head of security, arrests Kryptonian protesters, banishing them to The Phantom Zone. While Jor-El trusts his people, Zod deems that Kryptonians are unworthy of that trust. In the end, neither man’s leadership prevents the fall of Krypton.
Jor-El and Zod’s leadership styles remind readers that democracy can be messy. While citizens on Earth search for the perfect leader, the fate of Krypton suggests that infallible leaders do not exist. The legacy of the fictional planet empowers creators to discuss complex ideas about the government, leadership, and politics of the real world. If a writer spotlights Jor-El, they will uncover the pros and cons of trusting citizens to achieve the greater good. In contrast, Zod’s narrative unravels the perils of an authoritarian regime. Creators often draw parallels between Krypton’s failed Utopia and America’s struggle for a more perfect union.
Instead of leaving readers in the rubble of a fallen Utopia, writers have explored Krypton’s most enduring theme: choice. In 2016’s super girl series, Kara’s father, Zor-El, travels to Earth to ask his daughter to help restore Argo City to its former glory. Naturally excited, Kara presses her father on his plan for her, and Zor-El reveals that he intends to steal Earth’s lifeforce and resurrect the citizens of Argo City. No longer a prisoner to Krypton’s legacy, Kara eventually rejects her father de ella and chooses to stand with Earth.
Writers love to test Kal and Kara’s loyalty to their lost planet by casting them as resident aliens on Earth. Krypton’s lineage demands that The House of El preserve its legacy, yet The Last Son and Daughter of Krypton choose to carve out a new legacy on Earth. Their stories affirm the power of choice and its potential to change one’s destiny. Creators still push Kal and Kara into uncomfortable territory, forcing them to make tough decisions in the face of fear, but ultimately, these heroes still choose to reflect their best selves and, in doing so, inspire audiences to do the same.
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