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Explaining the House of El in comics before SYFY's Krypton premiere

Contributed by
Mar 21, 2018

With Krypton starting up on SYFY tonight, folks are wondering how much of the show, which explores Superman's much older relatives and the DC Universe in space, has been inspired by comics and vice versa.

With David S. Goyer as an executive producer on the series, Krypton will definitely dovetail into Man of Steel (2013), in which the most thrilling part took place on Krypton. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of Superman's notable relatives and a few of their stories explored in the comics.

World of Krypton 3 Cover

World of Krypton 3 Cover

SEYG-EL

"History Lesson" by John Byrne and Mike Mignola
World of Krypton Vol. 2 #3 (1988)

When John Byrne was given the chance to reboot Superman and his mythos post-Crisis, he renamed Kal-El's grandfather (originally Jor-El I) to Seyg-El as a nod to Superman creator Jerry Siegel. Krypton's main character is named Seg-El, played by Cameron Cuffe. Backtracking a little, in pre-Crisis DC, Jor-El the First was a scientist who worked on an experimental aircraft capable of reaching hyperspace and went on a one-man mission to Earth. He first appeared in Superman #103 in 1956, but this version of him was erased after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

After this, Byrne and Mignola established Seyg as the leader of the Kryptonian Science Council that helped govern Krypton's society. While there weren't many stories about Seyg, it was noted that he saw his son Jor-El as being too in-touch with his emotional side and too affectionate towards his wife, Lara Lor Van, something that was frowned upon in Kryptonian society.

ZIM-EL

"A Tale of Time and Tide” by Elliot S. Maggin, Dick Dillin, and Murphy Anderson
Superman #268 (October 1973)

In this flashback story, Jor-El meets up with his uncle Zim-El, a scientist and inventor. Jor-El notices that a mixture of chemicals in a can allows the can to fly out the window. This might have been how Jor-El developed the rocket fuel that would safely transport his son to Earth.

Adventures of Superman 460 Cover

Adventures of Superman 460 Cover

KEM-EL or KEM L

"Be it Ever So Deadly” by Dan Jurgens, Andy Kubert, and George Perez
Adventures of Superman #460–461 (November–December 1989)

Every family has a bad seed and Kem-El is the House of El's. He was a distant relative of Jor-El, a militant who extinguished a sentient preservation ship and its small crew of a dying breed of aliens. His reasons? To preserve the Kryptonian culture by eradicating everything else. He corrupts one of the aliens' machines to maintain "Kryptonian culture," calling this device 'the Eradicator.' He ensures that no one but members of the House of El can control the Eradicator.

Interestingly, this device continues to be a thorn in Superman's side for years to come. Superman rediscovers the device on Warworld and (maybe not so smartly) brings it home with him. The Eradicator then messes with Jimmy Olsen, creates a Fortress of Solitude, pollutes Superman's mind, and opens up a gateway to the Phantom Zone. Though Superman throws it into the sun, it returns as an energy being with a body based on Superman's. Eventually, the Eradicator would become a key figure in DC's Reign of the Supermen (1993) storyline as one of the four Supermen who arrive after Superman's death. All of this was thanks to Kem-El.

Jimmy Olsen 60 Cover

Jimmy Olsen 60 Cover

DON-EL

"Super-Mite!” by Leo Doorman and Al Plastino
Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #60 (April 1962)

Long story short, Brainiac comes to Krypton and shrinks the entire city of Kandor, cramming it all into a bottle that can never be broken. Don-El, Superman's cousin, is the police chief of Kandor and gets caught up in the mix. Later on, Superman would obtain control of Kandor from Brainiac and restore the city and its citizens to their proper sizes. But Don-El, along with Kandorian scientist Van-Zee, would help lead a colonization of Rokyn, a deserted planet revolving around a red sun. The story, "Let My People Grow" (Superman #338), would give the last remaining survivors of Krypton a new life.

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KARA ZOR-EL, aka SUPERGIRL

"Beyond the Silent Night” by Marv Wolfman, Robert Greenberger, George Perez, Dick Giordano and Jerry Ordway
Crisis on Infinite Earths #7

There have been many stories and solo series about Superman's other first cousin, Kara Zor-El, but none greater than the one about her sacrifice as she kept Anti-Monitor from killing her cousin and nearly destroying the villain himself. Supergirl had one of the more significant superhero deaths in mainstream comic book history, as her death was honored for nearly 20 years. She now boasts a popular solo show on The CW, Supergirl, the only female-led DCTV show on its roster.

VAL-EL

"Bring Back Yesterday" by E. Nelson Bridwell and Curt Swan
Superman Presents: The Krypton Chronicles, Vol. 1 #2 (October 1981)

As a well-respected member of the House of El and a direct paternal ancestor to Kal, Val-El will be remembered as an explorer. He discovered lands on Krypton that would be settled as Urrika and Lurvan, the two cities involved in the Last War.

LARA LOR VAN

Superman: Secret Origin (2009-2010) / Man of Steel #1 (October 1986) by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank / John Byrne

It wasn't until John Byrne's Man of Steel #1 that we ever saw a story about Kal-El's mother, Lara. In the limited series Superman Secret Origin, Lara's hologram tells a young Clark Kent of his true lineage, that he is not one of "them" (humans). Martha Kent is there to witness this too and is brought to tears.

Jor-El wasn't the first suitor to be assigned to Lara, as her first assigned mate was Zon-Em, who died from a radioactive disease referred to as the Green Plague. Kryptonian marriage was a cold act, devoid of warmth and compassion, but that's where Jor-El and Lara were different; they genuinely loved one another and cherished their bond. When Jor-El showed Lara where they would send Kal-El, she was at first horrified by Earth's violence and hoped that he would one day bring Earthlings around to Kryptonian ways.

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JOR-EL II

"Midnight in the House of El" by James Robinson, David Goyer, and Peter Snejbjerg
Starman #51 (March 1999)

We all know that Jor-El put his kid on a rocket to Earth before Krypton exploded, and some of you may even know that Jor-El created the inhumane prison of forever known as the Phantom Zone. But there are many stories Jor-El is a part of, and perhaps none greater than the 51st issue of James Robinson's Starman.

Jack Knight becomes lost in time and space and, along with previous holders of the Starman mantle Mikaal Tomas and a hologram of Jack's father Ted, he lands on Krypton long before its demise. Ironically, they are met by Jor-El. While attempting to find their way back to Earth, they reveal the location of our blue planet to Jor-El, who in turn is enamored with these beings from the future. Meanwhile, Jack is awestruck to be in the presence of Superman's father. Seyg and other Kryptonians discover the Starmen's ship and proceed to interrogate them, suspecting they're in an alliance with the Black Zero terrorist group. Jor-El assists in their safe escape off Krypton, but not before Jack can pass along the coordinates to Earth. It's not only a love letter to Superman but contains loads of references to other Superman stories and the larger world of Krypton.

For even more stories about Kryptonians, track down copies of the four issue mini-series Krypton Chronicles, Man of Steel #1, and the recent paperback collection Superman: The Many Worlds of Krypton, which collects The World of Krypton Vol. 1 #1-3, The World of Krypton Vol. 2 #1-4, Superman #233, #238, #240, #248, #266 and Superman Family #182.