Although Superman’s origin has been retold many times, the story has remained somewhat consistent throughout. Superman’s story tells of his birth as Kal-El to renowned scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara on the alien planet Krypton. When Jor-El discovers that the planet is going to explode, he puts Kal-El in a spaceship heading to the planet Earth, which crashes in a field in the state of Kansas.
The ship and its occupant are found by Jonathan and Martha Kent, a farming family, who take him in as their own. As he grows, so do his strength and his strange and awesome abilities, fueled by Earth’s yellow sun. As an adult, he moves to the bustling City of Tomorrow, Metropolis, becoming a field reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper, and donning the identity of Superman.
In the Golden Age of Superman, Jor-L, a scientist of the planet Krypton, discovers that his planet is about to explode. He attempts to warn his fellow scientists of this impending catastrophe, but is dismissed as a crack-pot and laughed out of the scientific community. As a last-resort, he and his wife Lara place their infant son Kal-L, in a ship and rocket him into space where he drifts for an unknown amount of time before crash-landing to Earth and is discovered by Jonathan and Mary Kent.
At first they intend to place to him in an orphanage, but relent at the last moment and decide to raise him as their own, naming him “Clark” and treating him as their son. As he matures, great powers began to manifest and before his parents’ deaths, they dub him Superman and urge him to use his powers for the forces of justice. His parents pass on and he moves to Metropolis to begin his career at the Daily Star (later known as the Daily Planet) so that he could hear about trouble as it’s happening. Superman’s time as a hero had him getting directly involved in World War II, carrying Stalin and Hitler to the League of Nations in Geneva to face a trial for their human rights violations.
He also becomes the protector of Metropolis, but, unlike his later incarnations, he’s extremely aggressive and vicious, often murdering his powerless foes, and having little regard for the collateral damage he inflicts. This attitude lasted until the end of the 1940’s when new editor Whitney Ellsworth banned the character from killing, even having Superman vowing to never kill anyone ever again and if he did he would retire. Several of the series’ supporting characters were introduced in this age, most notably Lois Lane, a fellow reporter who would be Superman’s love interest and eventually his wife, and Lex Luthor, the archenemy of Superman. This early version would be retconed into the Superman of Earth-2.
During the Silver Age, DC Comics decided to create two Supermen instead of just updating the Golden Age Superman. To that end, they introduced Superboy, who was a younger version of Kal-El and travels to the future to help the Legion of Superheroes fight evil across the year 3000. Additionally: Supergirl is first introduced as Superman’s cousin during the late 1950s and serves the role of kid sidekick along with the menagerie of super-animals (including Krypto, Beppo, Streaky and Comet).
Many of Superman’s most iconic villains are introduced in this era, and most of them take on a science fiction theme, including Brainiac and Bizarro. Superman also helps find the Justice League of America, marking one of the first pan-label crossover teams in comic book history. During the 1960s, his origin is revealed: Superman was born on Krypton, to Jor-El (a slight change from the Golden Age Jor-L) by Lara Lor-Van. Rejected by the Science Council, Jor-El labors to build a vessel that can transport his family away from the impending catastrophe. The planet’s destruction begins before Jor-El predicted, however, and he can only send his son.
Kal-El’s ship lands in Smallville and is discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent (an earlier version identified them as Ethan and Sara Kent), who adopt the boy and raise him as their own, naming him Clark (which was Martha’s maiden name). Clark discovers his powers while still a baby (See Superbaby) and learns to control them as he matures. Clark convinces his mother to sew him a costume and fights evil as Superboy in Smallville while also becoming a member of the Legion Of Super-Heroes in the year 3000. He is assisted by his pet, Krypto the Superdog, who also escaped Krypton in a prototype rocket launched by Jor-El, and thus had similar powers to the Boy of Steel.
Childhood friends, Lana Lang and Pete Ross, round out his supporting cast and give him a connection to Earth beyond his parents. When Jonathan and Martha Kent both die of a disease for which even Superboy cannot cure, Clark moves to Metropolis and attends Metropolis University, continuing his adventuring throughout his college career. He eventually changes his name to Superman upon graduating with a degree in journalism and gets a job at the Daily Planet soon after ward. Silver Age Superman is famous for being incredibly powerful and for his ability to gain new powers that Superman had never had before.
The Bronze Age
Superman’s mythos and continuity in the Bronze Age, with the exception of a few minor changers, were essentially congruent to the Silver Age.
Death Of Superman
A mysterious creature crash-lands on Earth. It burrows slowly to the surface and begins a homicidal rampage across the rural area outside Metropolis killing everything in its path. The Justice League, minus Superman, arrive but the creature easily defeats them, severely wounding most members, with literally one arm tied behind its back. The Man of Steel arrives to engage the creature in battle, but finds they are equal in strength and unable to stop the beast, now dubbed ‘Doomsday,’ from reaching downtown Metropolis. The two gladiators clash, finally killing one another with an incredibly strong pair of death blows delivered simultaneously. This incident brought sorrow to all who loved and cared for their hero Superman.
Superman discovers, and destroys, a drone sent by Brainiac to seek out the Man of Steel. He examines it in his Fortress, he finds evidence that all his previous encounters with Brainiac were merely battles against probes controlled remotely by the real AI. Upon hearing the name, Supergirl confides in her cousin that she was on Krypton when the interstellar supercomputer attacked the city of Kandor, shrinking and stealing it.
Superman blasts into space to intercept the living computer before he reaches Earth, but encounters him in a distant galaxy abducting another city before setting off a super nova, knocking out the Kryptonian. Superman awakens inside Brainiac’s ship and begins to investigate, stumbling across an entire room filled with bottled cities, including Kandor, where he speaks to some of his living relatives.
Brainiac reveals his mission to collect cities from inhabited planets and then destroy the planets by triggering a supernova and Earth is, of course, his next target. The Justice League battle Brainiac’s forces and Supergirl stops the missile that would have exploded the Earth’s sun. Sadly for Superman, Brainiac has learned his identity and sends a missile to the Kent farm. Though no one is injured, Johnathan Kent, Clark’s father, suffers a fatal heart attack. Superman is left to deal with one of the only times he couldn’t save a life.
In The New 52″, DC’s relaunch of it’s entire comic book line, Superman is still from Krypton, was still raised on a farm in the American Mid-West, is still named Clark Kent and is still a journalist who resides in the city of Metropolis. In fact much of what has been part of Superman’s mythos for decades is still true. However, there have been some changes both minor and major. In the New 52 Superman is no longer married to Lois Lane and he has once again been established as one of the Justice League’s founding members. Superman’s costume has went through what some would consider significant changes. He no longer wears red shorts over his blue pants and his yellow belt has been replaced by a red one with just a bit of yellow as part of his super-symbol buckle. His iconic “Super-symbol” itself has been changed ever so slightly, too. It is now metallic and raised off his shirt. The shape of the “S” within the symbol has also been changed. Like the majority of the other DC superheroes during this relaunch, Superman’s costume now has lines/seams all throughout it. Lastly, Superman now has a high collar which goes up his neck and sleeves which end in cuffs that extend part way down the back of his hands ending in a red border.
It was also revealed that both Jonathan and Martha Kent have already passed away due to a car accident and Clark has had to grow into the role as Superman without them. This is a stark difference to the Pre-52 and many other sources where either both parents were still alive or Martha lived on as widow.
Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Rags Morales, Superman is introduced five years in the past before founding the Justice League. Superman is shown wearing a blue t-shirt with his family crest on it with blue jeans, boots, and his Grandfathers cape, which was given to him by his father before the death of Krypton. Superman is shown as a vigilante outlaw as he tries to fight injustice in Metropolis. Following his confrontation with tycoon Glen Glenmorgan, Superman is pursued by Police and then followed by the military, who had actually under the influence of Lex Luthor sabotaged an entire neighborhood of Metropolis to be a death trap. Superman is captured by the military, lead by General Lane, is tortured, and then questioned by Luthor as to who he really is.
Luthor asks him if he knows about Krypton and then shows him a skeleton of what appears to be an alien, claiming it to be one of Superman’s kind. Superman laughs at this and then breaks free, escaping his room and tries to escape. While running through the halls, he comes into contact with his space ship, which actually begins to speak to him. Superman regrettably leaves the ship behind, although promising to come back, and escapes the compound. Following this it is shown that Luthor had actually been consorting with an unknown individually who had been feeding Luthor his information on Superman. The days following show Superman being seen not just as a nuisance to the police but to the people as well. They turn on him, and Superman is forced to ‘retire’. However, Superman is then called into action once again when The Collector of All Worlds, Luthor’s contact, strikes the world, using the internet to take control of the technology in Metropolis to ‘preserve’ it. Among this technology is John Corben, who had just been fused with an experimental war suit following Superman’s escape from the compound. Superman, with the help of Steel, who had helped create the war suit, is able to defeat Corben before Metropolis is shrunk by The Collector and placed in his ship, much like he did to Kandor. Superman is forced to go up to The Collector’s ship and retrieve Metropolis.
Superman then is forced to battle The Collector (along with Corben who had beamed onto the ship prior). During the battle, Superman comes across Kryptonian technology, along with a DNA synchronized war suit, which he puts on to have a better chance of defeating The Collector. He is then able to ‘unplug’ the Collector by using his shrunken ship, which was inside the shrunken city of Metropolis, throwing it into The Collectors mainframe and shutting it down. Superman is then able put Metropolis back the way it was before the shrink was permanent and The Collectors ship became his first Fortress.
Superman’s adventures then continue by jumping forward to the point after The Justice League is formed. Superman is shown to being hunted down by Nimrod, a hunter who has to his account killed everything. Nimrod tries to hunt down Superman by finding a place where he is most vulnerable, even going on to discover Superman’s secret identity. However before Nimrod is able to make the kill, Clark Kent ‘dies’ in an explosion caused by an ex-employee of the now incarcerated Glen Glenmorgan. This then allows for Superman to catch Nimrod of off balance and the result ends with Nimrod getting put in the hospital after a battle with Superman. Following this Superman is forced to create for himself another secret identity Johnny Clark, a firefighter.
However this allows for no peace when Superman is forced to do battle with “The First Superman”. This is shown to be the new-52 version of Captain Comet, who is also known as the Blake Farm Ghost. Going by Adam, he explains that he’s there to stop the end of Earth, his home-world, by taking another “neo sapien” with him, Susie Lane, Lois Lane’s niece. Adam tries to force Susie to come along with him to his spaceship, coaxing her with his stories of outer-space. However, when an alien attacks Metropolis during this time and hurts Lois Susie begs Adam to help her, which he does not. Superman then battles Adam, trying to help both Susie and Lois at the same time. He is able to defeat Adam in time and then brings Lois to the hospital where he himself operates after learning as much as he can about her condition at the library.
After this another villain is introduced to the New-52, Xa-Du. On Halloween night Superman, while working in The Fortress (his current one), is visited by Xa-Du, wearing a suit to allow him to interact with Earth while in the Phantom Zone. Xa-Du is able to trick Superman into going into the Phantom Zone and is left with the world for his to rule, or so he thinks. Inside the Zone, while being attacked by fellow Zone dwellers, is helped by Krypto, who before Krypton’s destruction had jumped into the Zone, and The Phantom Stranger, who had also been tricked into the Zone. Superman is able to manipulate Xa-Du from the Zone and is able to get inside the suit and frees himself as well as Krypto later (The Stranger having already left).
The next event occurs when Superman travels to Mars to help a group of astronauts battle Metalek, an alien machine bent on recreating its home world. Superman is able to make peace with it, but not before The Multitude, a group of what appears to be parasite like angles, attack the planet. Superman deduces that based on their appearance, they are from a different dimension and can be defeated by a blast that is similar to their own dimension. Superman’s plan works but not minutes after that he is attack by the little man.
After this attack, Superman is pulled back into reality. It’s revealed that the events of Xa-Du and the Multitude have not happened yet and that they were images shown to him by his landlord Mrs. Nyxly, who is in fact a resident of the 5th dimension. She explains that her father’s old court magician, Vyndktvx, has been targeting Superman because of his role with hurting him when he attacked the King-thing Brpxz and that what she’s been showing him has been to show him she is telling the truth and that Vyndktvx can strike at any moment in time, all for the purpose of hurting Superman. Before Nyxly can act and help Superman, she is shot by Nimrod, and Superman is now cornered.