Krypton's Greatest Scientist
The father of Superman, and the foremost scientist of the planet Krypton prior to its destruction. A "scientific genius" (S No. 65/3, Jul/Aug 1950: "Three Supermen from Krypton!") with a fertile, wide-ranging intellect, he conducted far-reaching experiments in rocketry, invented a matter-transmitter and numerous other marvels, and discovered the Phantom Zone. It was Jor-El who predicted to an unbelieving population "that Krypton would explode from gathering atomic pressure at the core of the planet" (Act No. 182, Jul 1953: "The Return of Planet Krypton!"), and it was Jor-El who, when the doomsday came, dispatched the infant Superman toward Earth in an experimental rocket, remaining behind with his wife Lara to perish in the cataclysm.
Described repeatedly in the texts as "Krypton's greatest scientist" (S No. 53/1, Jul/Aug 1948: "The Origin of Superman!"; and others), "Krypton's foremost physicist" (Act No. 329/1, Oct 1965: "The Ultimate Enemy!"), and "the greatest scientist on Krypton" (Act No. 149, Oct 1950: "The Courtship on Krypton!"; and others), Jor-El was born into a family with a centuries-long heritage of achievement in the fields of science, statesmanship, and exploration. His ancestry teemed with such men of lasting distinction as Val-El, an explorer and discoverer who was the moving force behind Krypton's great Age of Exploration; Sul-El, the inventor of Krypton's first telescope; Tala-El, the author of Krypton's planet-wide constitution; Hatu-El, a scientist and inventor who discovered the nature of electricity and devised Krypton's first electromagnet and electric motor; and Gam-El, the father of modern Kryptonian architecture (SF No. 172/3, Aug/Sep 1975: "The Superman Family Album"; and others).
When Jor-El was still an infant, his own father, Jor-El I, succeeded in journeying to Earth and back in an experimental spacecraft of his own design (S No. 103/1, Feb 1956: "The Superman of Yesterday"), and although knowledge of the craft's construction had apparently been lost to Kryptonians by the time Jor-El reached maturity (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: "The Kid from Krypton!"; and others), there can be little doubt that his father's achievement served to inspire his own explorations into the then-infant sciences of rocketry and space travel.
Little is known of Jor-El's early life, but by the time he reached college he had begun to gather about him a coterie of young intellectuals destined to make great names for themselves in the annals of Kryptonian science. His college roommate was Professor Kimda, who, years later, would befriend Superman in the bottle city of Kandor and help him thwart the schemes of the villainous Brainiac (Act No. 242, Jul 1958: "The Super-Duel in Space"). Jor-El also befriended Ral-En, whose career as a "brilliant scientist" was ultimately warped and destroyed by dictatorial ambitions fostered and encouraged by his father Mag-En (S No. 154/2, Jul 1962: "Krypton's First Superman!"). Other colleagues included his friend Nor-Kan (S No. 158, Jan 1963: "Superman in Kandor" pts. I-III—"Invasion of the Mystery Super-Men!"; "The Dynamic Duo of Kandor!"; "The City of Super-People!"; and others) and Lon-Es, who worked for a time as his assistant (S No. 154/2, Jul 1962: "Krypton's First Superman!").
During this period, two of Jor-El's brothers—his identical twin brother Nim-El (Adv No. 304/1, Jan 1963: "The War Between Superboy and Superman"), and another brother named Zor-El (Act No. 252/3, May 1959: "The Supergirl From Krypton")—also embarked upon distinguished careers in science, but they appear to have limited themselves to the fields of weapons science and climatography, respectively, and to have displayed none of their brother's capacity for brilliance and creativity in a breathtaking array of scientific disciplines (S No. 146/1, Jul 1961: "The Story of Superman's Life!"; and others). Indeed, in the course of a brilliant career that was terminated by the destruction of Krypton, Jor-El applied his great genius to virtually every aspect of Kryptonian life, not only to every facet of science and invention, but also to the problems of war and peace (Act No. 216, May 1956: "The Super-Menace of Metropolis"), transportation (S No. 134, Jan 1960: chs. I-III—"The Super-Menace of Metropolis!"; "The Revenge Against Jor-El!"; "The Duel of the Supermen!"), and the humane administration of criminal justice (S No. 65/3, Jul/Aug 1950: "Three Supermen from Krypton!"; and others).
He worked to develop a serum for prolonging life (S No. 78/1, Sep/Oct 1952: "The Beast from Krypton!"), carried on an intensive telescopic study of the planet Earth (Act No. 223, Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton"; and others), and conducted archaeological research into the "marvels of a dead civilization that once existed at the bottom of the Great Krypton Sea!" (S No. 170/2, Jul 1964: pts. I-II—"If Lex Luthor Were Superman's Father!"; "The Wedding of Lara and Luthor!").
His inventions included a "petrifying ray" which turned people to stone as long as it shone on them, "levitation bombs" designed to reverse the pull of gravity and make objects fall upward, a "super-artificial lightning projector" for projecting bolts of artificial lightning, a magnet that attracted human flesh instead of iron, and an "invisibility-spray" which could make a person invisible by covering him with "a fine coating of light-refracting particles" (S No. 74/1, Jan/Feb 1952: "The Lost Secrets of Krypton!"); a "matter-radio," described as "a transmitter that can send all forms of living matter—even living people—across space by radio" (S No. 77/1, Jul/Aug 1952: "The Man Who Went to Krypton!"; see also Act No. 281/1, Oct 1961: "The Man Who Saved Kal-El's Life!"); a "dimension-traveler," designed to "project a person out of this dimension into a new one"; a "missile-projector," designed to deliver any object to any destination at supersonic speed; and a "nuclear fission tester," which "registers if any chain reaction is starting and shows the source" (WF No. 69, Mar/Apr 1954: "Jor-El's Last Will!"); an "amazing growth ray for plants," capable of growing vegetables "100 times bigger" than their customary size (Act No. 325/1, Jun 1965: "The Skyscraper Superman!"); and an all-purpose, mass-produced vehicle—capable of traveling on land, sea, or air, and even underground—which quickly came into such common usage among Kryptonians that it soon became known as the "Jor-El," much as Henry Ford's creation became known as the Ford (S No. 134, Jan 1960: chs. I-III—"The Super-Menace of Metropolis!"; "The Revenge Against Jor-El!"; "The Duel of the Supermen!"). Jor-El's Atom-Scan Ray was an important device in constructing Krypton-II, an artificial duplicate of the planet Krypton and an idea devised by Jor-El so as to prevent (and deceive) an invading alien armada from arriving on the real Krypton. The Atom-Scan Ray projected an image of the planet Krypton into outer space, and then, by remote control, meteors were drawn in from all over the galaxy and molded to successfully create a duplicate of Krypton (S No. 189, Aug 1966: "Krypton Lives Again!" "Krypton's Second Doom!").
For these and other inventions and discoveries, Jor-El was awarded Krypton's coveted Science Prize, in the form of a statuette molded from rare illium metal (S No. 173/2, Nov 1964: "Tales of Green Kryptonite No. 1"), and an honorary medal from the Kryptonian Science Society (Act No. 182, Jul 1953: "The Return of Planet Krypton!").
Indeed, although Jor-El was still a young man at the time of his marriage to Lara, the lovely dark-haired young woman who, according to at least one account, was Jor-El's "assistant" during the period preceding their engagement (S No. 170/2, Jul 1964: pts. I-II—"If Lex Luthor Were Superman's Father!"; "The Wedding of Lara and Luthor!"), he was already a "famed scientist" engaged in top-level research at a Kryptonian "missile base" (S No. 141, Nov 1960: "Superman's Return to Krypton!" pts. I-III—"Superman Meets Jor-El and Lara Again!"; "Superman's Kryptonian Romance!"; "The Surprise of Fate!").
But Jor-El was concerned with humanitarian matters as well as scientific ones. Because of his strong moral opposition to capital punishment, he devised a method whereby perpetrators of serious crimes could be exiled into space in a state of suspended animation inside specially constructed space capsules, a method first employed to safeguard Kryptonians against the power-hungry ambitions of the Kryptonian scientist U-Ban and his two brothers, Kizo and Mala, also scientists. According to Superman No. 65/3, the space capsules were made of transparent plastic and shaped like rocket ships (Jul/Aug 1950: "Three Supermen from Krypton!"), but according to Superman No. 123 these so-called "prison satellites" were of a spherical shape. The criminals imprisoned inside them were placed in suspended animation by means of a special sleep gas, and chunks of a glowing crystalline mineral—capable of cleansing their brains of criminal tendencies in a hundred years' time—were placed on their foreheads so that ultimately, once their sentence was served, they might take up constructive roles in Kryptonian society (Aug 1958: chs. 1-3—"The Girl of Steel"; "The Lost Super-Powers"; "Superman's Return to Krypton"). (See also Zo-Mar)
The practice of exiling criminals into outer space was terminated after Jor-El had discovered the Phantom Zone, a twilight dimension to which criminals could be banished—by means of Jor-El's own Phantom Zone Projector to serve out their sentences as disembodied wraiths. Indeed, it was Jor-El's testimony that resulted in the sentencing of many Kryptonian criminals to the Phantom Zone (S No. 153/3, May 1962: "The Town of Supermen!"; and others). He was the "leader" of the Kryptonian "justice council"—analogous to being the foreman of an American jury—that found Quex-Ul guilty and sentenced him to a term in the Phantom Zone (S No. 157/1, Nov 1962: "The Super-Revenge of the Phantom Zone Prisoner!"), and his testimony was undoubtedly influential in determining the guilt of the would-be dictator Ral-En (S No. 154/2, Jul 1962: "Krypton's First Superman!"). On at least one occasion he served as an undercover agent for the Krypton Bureau of Investigation to help thwart the sinister machinations of a would-be tyrant (S No. 123, Aug 1958: chs. 1-3—"The Girl of Steel"; "The Lost Super-Powers"; "Superman's Return to Krypton").
It is small wonder, then, that this brilliant and versatile scientist soon won a place for himself on Krypton's prestigious Council of Science (Act No. 223, Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton"), also referred to as the Council of Scientists (S No. 146/1, Jul 1961: "The Story of Superman's Life!"). The precise role of the Council is hard to define. Action Comics No. 223 makes a clear distinction between the Council and Krypton's "highest officials," suggesting that the Council presided over scientific matters as distinct from political ones (Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton"), but Superman No. 65/3 makes reference to "Krypton's ruling council, which consisted of the [planet's] ten leading scientists," and goes on to describe Jor-El as "the leader of the council," suggesting that the scientific establishment had jurisdiction over the political sphere as well as the scientific and that Jor-El occupied a position on the council which made him virtual head of state (Jul/Aug 1950: "Three Supermen from Krypton!"). According to Superman No. 53/1, on the other hand, scientists who heard Jor-El foretell the impending doom of Krypton were suspicious that he might be "trying to frighten Krypton's leaders away from our planet so that he may rule" (Jul/Aug 1948: "The Origin of Superman!"), suggesting that although Jor-El was a "brilliant scientist" (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: "The Kid from Krypton!") and "prominent Kryptonian" (S No. 154/2, Jul 1962: "Krypton's First Superman!"), he was only marginally involved in political activity. On the planet Krypton, however, the scientific establishment exerted considerable influence on political and social policy, and so, whatever its precise functions, Jor-El's position on the Council of Science meant that he occupied a prestigious position in Kryptonian life.
At the time Lara gave birth to the infant Superman, she and Jor-El were residing in Kryptonopolis (SA No. 5, Summer 1962; and others), the city that had become the capital of Krypton following the theft of Kandor by the space villain Brainiac. According to Superman No. 75/1, the proud parents named their newborn son Jor-El, 2nd (Mar/Apr 1952: "The Prankster's Star Pupil!"), but an overwhelming preponderance of texts assert that they named him Kal-El (S No. 113, May 1957: chs. 1-3—"The Superman of the Past"; "The Secret of the Towers"; "The Superman of the Present"; and others). By all accounts, the dark-haired youngster bore an "unmistakable" resemblance to his father (S No. 77/1, Jul/Aug 1952: "The Man Who Went to Krypton!"; and others).
It was around the time of Superman's birth, while all of Krypton was busily engaged in preparations for the planet-wide pageantry scheduled to mark the upcoming anniversary of "the 10,000th year" of Kryptonian civilization (Act No. 223, Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton"), that Jor-El made what was at once the most momentous and most calamitous discovery of his scientific career: the discovery that Krypton's uranium core, which for untold ages [had] been building a cycle of chain-reactions," was on the verge of unleashing a planetary cataclysm, that "soon every atom on [the] planet would explode like one colossal atomic bomb!" (S No. 61/3, Nov/Dec 1949: "Superman Returns to Krypton!").
It remains unclear why Jor-El, alone among his contemporaries, was able to forecast the impending doom of his planet. According to Superman No. 113, Jor-El was first alerted to the coming cataclysm by Queen Latora of the planet Vergo (May 1957: chs. 1-3—"The Superman of the Past"; "The Secret of the Towers"; "The Superman of the Present"), but other texts assert that he had "long suspected" the problem (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: "The Kid from Krypton!"; and others), having first detected it by means of his scientific "instruments" (S No. 146/1, Jul 1961: "The Story of Superman's Life!"; and others), specifically an ingenious "nuclear fission tester" of his own invention which "registers if any chain reaction is starting and shows the source" (WF No. 69, Mar/Apr 1954: "Jor-El's Last Will!").
By whatever means Jor-El became aware that Krypton was about to explode "from gathering atomic pressure at the core of the planet" (Act No. 182, Jul 1953: "The Return of Planet Krypton!"), he moved coolly and decisively to confirm his suspicions, burrowing deep into the bowels of Krypton in an "atomic-powered mole," performing numerous experiments, making countless intricate calculations (Act No. 223, Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton").
Finally, although he still lacked positive scientific proof to substantiate his hypothesis (Act No. 223, Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton"; and others), Jor-El was ready to report his findings to Krypton's prestigious scientific council. "Gentlemen," he intoned solemnly, as he addressed his scientific colleagues in Krypton's hallowed Hall of Wisdom, "...Krypton is doomed!...[T]he core of Krypton is composed of a substance called uranium...which, for untold ages, has been setting up a cycle of chain-impulses, building in power every moment! Soon...very soon...every atom of Krypton will explode in one final terrible blast! Gentlemen, Krypton is one gigantic atomic bomb!" (S No. 53/1, Jul/Aug 1948: "The Origin of Superman!"; and others).
It is incredible that the assembled scientists did not believe him. Already there was "a rumble of mighty forces" from deep inside Krypton that could be heard and felt by every Kryptonian. Perhaps Jor-El's explanation is the only true one: that "men often reject a truth that is too terrible to face!" (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: "The Kid from Krypton!"; and others).
Whether the cause was jealousy, or pomposity, or the unwillingness of men to face a terrible truth, it is a simple fact of history that the venerable scientists of Krypton rejected Jor-El's warning. His prophecy of impending cataclysm was greeted with jeers and laughter (S No. 53/1, Jul/Aug 1948: "The Origin of Superman!"; and others). He was accused of being an alarmist and a crackpot, an irresponsible fantasizer and a cunning schemer in pursuit of planetary power. And when he carried his plea to Krypton's "highest officials" (Act No. 223, Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton "), and then to the population at large (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: "The Kid from Krypton!"; and others), all he received for his efforts was more scorn and derision.
Besides Lara, Jor-El's loving wife, only two Kryptonians are on record as having believed in Jor-El and his prophecy of cataclysm: his brother Zor-El (S No. 146/1, Jul 1961: "The Story of Superman's Life!") and the scientist Shir Kan (Act No. 218, Jul 1956: "The Super-Ape from Krypton"). Although "Kryptonians had not yet perfected rocket travel" at the time Krypton exploded (S No. 113, May 1957: chs. 1-3—"The Superman of the Past"; "The Secret of the Towers"; "The Superman of the Present"; and others), various rocketry experiments were under way, and Shir Kan—whether he conceived the idea independently or whether he was inspired by Jor-El's call for the construction of a fleet of rocket ships to evacuate Krypton's population to some distant planet (Act No. 172, Sep 1952: "Lois Lane...Witch!"; and others)—responded to Jor-El's dire prediction by having his staff construct a fleet of "experimental rockets" which might have been used as part of a planet-wide migration. Concerned that Kryptonians might be incapable of withstanding the rigors of interplanetary travel, however, Shir Kan took the conservative step of first testing his rockets with a small population of experimental apes. Many, if not all, of Shir Kan's apes survive to this day on a far-distant planet (see Super-Ape), but Shir Kan's act of overcaution meant that his rockets, which might have been used for at least a partial evacuation of Krypton, were off in outer space when the doomsday came (Act No. 218, Jul 1956: "The Super-Ape from Krypton").
Jor-El, meanwhile, set to work with renewed dedication, aware that time was running out (S No. 146/1, Jul 1961: "The Story of Superman's Life!"), determined to rescue his people from the calamity he knew was coming. His dream was an immense interplanetary migration—the transfer of the entire population of Krypton from their doomed home to another planet—in a fleet of "rocket-driven space arks" (S No. 146/1, Jul 1961: "The Story of Superman's Life!"), "giant rocket ships" of which Jor-El himself had already constructed a scaled-down prototype (S No. 53/1, Jul/Aug 1948: "The Origin of Superman!"; and others).
Resettlement on the planet Earth would be the natural goal of such a transfer. Earth was Jor-El's "favorite planet" (S No. 113, May 1957: chs.1-3—"The Superman of the Past"; "The Secret of the Towers"; "The Superman of the Present"). For years he had made an intensive study of that planet, as no Kryptonian ever had, peering at it through his "super-powerful telescope" (S No. 141, Nov 1960: "Superman's Return to Krypton!" pts. I-III—"Superman Meets Jor-El and Lara Again!"; "Superman's Kryptonian Romance!"; "The Surprise of Fate!"; and others), carefully scrutinizing "every detail of Earth life" playing across the giant "Earth monitor screen" in his laboratory's scrupulously equipped "Earth monitor room" (Act No. 281/1, Oct 1961: "The Man Who Saved Kal-El's Life!").
Jor-El had a natural affection for Earth. His ancestor Sul-El, the inventor of Krypton's first telescope, had been the first Kryptonian to chart the location of Earth's sun (SF No. 172/3, Aug/Sep 1975: "Superman's Family Album"; and others). His own father, in an early triumph of space travel, had once actually negotiated a round-trip journey between Krypton and Earth (S No. 103/1, Feb 1956: "The Superman of Yesterday").
Now, with the day of cataclysm drawing nearer by the moment, Jor-El renewed his study of Earth with a single-minded intensity, determined to establish, beyond any doubt, whether Earth would indeed be a habitable planet for his people. He studied "every aspect of Earth by tele-screen projection" and concluded that Earth's environment would be ideal for a Kryptonian settlement. In order to study the probable effects of Earth's "weaker gravity" on the migrating Kryptonians, he employed sophisticated "gravity-distorting machines" to transform an isolated Kryptonian valley into an atmospheric microcosm of Earth, complete with "a sample section of an Earth city" which he constructed with the aid of powerful Kryptonian "building machines." In the altered atmosphere of his artificial Earth, Jor-El confirmed through experimentation what he had already arrived at through astronomical calculation: "...My Kryptonian muscles enable me to run at super-speed and hurtle through the air!" he thought to himself as he cavorted in his man-made environment. "And in this weaker gravitation, my body would be invulnerable!" (Act No. 223, Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton").
But Jor-El did not place all his hopes in an interplanetary migration by rocket ship. For in addition to his rocket prototype, Jor-El had his "matter-radio," a "transmitter that can send all forms of living matter—even living people—across space by radio!" (S No. 77/1, Jul/Aug 1952: "The Man Who Went to Krypton!").
In the chronicles, two separate texts deal with Jor-El's hopes of evacuating his people to Earth by means of the matter-radio. In terms of minor details, the texts differ, but both are in accord on the following points: (1) Jor-El envisioned a mass migration to Earth via matter-radio; (2) in preparation for the evacuation, he used his device to summon an Earth scientist to Krypton, both to discuss the feasibility of the planned migration and to explore the means of carrying it out; and (3) in the end, time ran out before the necessary number of apparatuses could be constructed, and a malfunctioning of Jor-El's own matter-radio at the time of the cataclysm prevented even him and his wife Lara from using it to effect their escape (S No. 77/1, Jul/Aug 1952: "The Man Who Went to Krypton!"; Act No. 281/1, Oct 1961: "The Man Who Saved Kal-El's Life!").
As the day of doom drew ever closer, Jor-El made one last desperate attempt to arouse the Kryptonian population from its fatal complacency. As part of Krypton's glorious "10,000-year celebration," a "super-scope" film was being shown commemorating the planet's past and expressing optimism for its future. Into this film, Jor-El spliced scenes that he had himself created, horrifying trick-photography footage of Krypton exploding into fragments, along with the image of Jor-El in the foreground, shouting "This is Krypton's tomorrow!...[O]ur planet is doomed!" (Act No. 223, Dec 1956: "The First Superman of Krypton").
Even this spectacularly dramatic ploy, however, failed to arouse the masses from their apathy, and before long a "great computer-forecaster" recently developed by a colleague had informed the defeated Jor-El of what he already knew: that the odds were now ninety-nine in a hundred that Krypton would be destroyed before an interplanetary evacuation could be carried out (Act No. 314/1, Jul 1964: "The Day Superman Became the Flash!").
Immediately, Jor-El turned his attentions to the completion of a more modest task, the construction of a small rocket sufficient to rescue himself and his family (S No. 100/3, Sep 1955: "The Clue from Krypton"), and when time ran out on even this modest project, he devoted his last remaining energies to the task of saving his son. Placing the last of his hopes in his recent "experiments with small rockets," Jor-El launched Kal-El's pet dog, Krypto, into outer space in a tiny rocket as a final trial run for the evacuation of his son, but the test proved inconclusive when, instead of returning to Krypton as Jor-El had planned, Krypto's rocket was struck a glancing blow by a meteor and sent careening into outer space (S No. 146/1, Jul 1961: "The Story of Superman's Life!").
With the death of Krypton now perhaps only hours away, Jor-El placed some of his greatest inventions inside a massive vault with a combination lock in the hope that they might somehow "survive to benefit other men even though our own world must die!" Little did Jor-El suspect that these inventions would one day find their way to Earth, where they would be used for evil by the diabolical Lex Luthor (S No. 74/1, Jan/Feb 1952: "The Lost Secrets of Krypton!").
Action Comics No. 216 asserts that the rocket in which the infant Kal-El escaped from Krypton's final holocaust was actually a small scale model of a "gigantic space ship" which Jor-El had earlier loaded with "outlawed war weapons" and launched into outer space as part of his plan to avert the possible outbreak of war on Krypton (May 1956: "The Super-Menace of Metropolis"), but numerous other texts refer to it as a "model space-ship" (S No. 61/3, Nov/Dec 1949: "Superman Returns to Krypton!") or "experimental model rocket" (S No. 141, Nov 1960: "Superman's Return to Krypton!" pts. I-III—"Superman Meets Jor-El and Lara Again!"; "Superman's Kryptonian Romance!"; "The Surprise of Fate!") of the type which Jor-El had hoped to use for an interplanetary evacuation (S No. 74/1, Jan/Feb 1952: "The Lost Secrets of Krypton!"; and others).
To prevent his son's rocket from being crushed by flying meteoric fragments as it hurtled through space, Jor-El outfitted it with a special jewel-like "projector" of his own invention, designed to obliterate oncoming meteors by emitting "iron-destroying rays." "This jewel," explained Jor-El to his wife, "is really a tiny projector which emits invisible rays that can destroy iron! Since meteors are almost all iron, such a projector as this in [the] rocket would protect it from damage!" (Act No. 172, Sep 1952: "Lois Lane...Witch!").
Inside the rocket, along with the projector, Jor-El placed what has been described as his "last will and testament." Inscribed on a thin sheet of super-hard metal, the will consisted of detailed descriptions of three of Jor-El's greatest inventions: his "dimension-traveler," his "missile-projector," and his "nuclear fission tester." The metallic last will somehow survived the explosion that destroyed the rocket moments after it landed on Earth and became buried deep in the ground, where it remained until it was finally rediscovered by Superman many years later (WF No. 69, Mar/Apr 1954: "Jor-El's Last Will!").
To the outside of the rocket, Jor-El affixed several metal cylinders containing Kryptonian "condensed food" intended for the nurturing of his infant son following his arrival on Earth. The containers became detached from the rocket during its journey through space, however, and were not discovered until many years later (see Mr. and Mrs. Roger Bliss) (Act No. 217, Jun 1956: "The Amazing Super-Baby").
Another item which Jor-El affixed to the exterior of the rocket was a special Kryptonian "record playback machine" containing a "video-recording"—or "video-tape"—of Jor-El narrating some of the events leading up to the destruction of Krypton. The video-tape and playback machine, however, somehow became detached from the rocket after it had entered Earth's atmosphere, and were not discovered until Aquaman retrieved them from the sea bottom many years later (Act No. 314/1, Jul 1964: "The Day Superman Became the Flash!").
Knowing that Kryptonians would acquire "super-powers" in the lesser gravity of Earth, Jor-El had created a supply of special "radioactive capsules" designed to renew those powers temporarily in the event anything on Earth made them "fade away." In the horror of Krypton's final moments, however, Jor-El forgot to include the metal box containing the capsules among the items he placed in the rocket, and they were not discovered until many years later (see Elton Craig), when they found their way to Earth embedded in a meteoric fragment (WF No. 87, Mar/Apr 1957: "The Reversed Heroes!"; see also WF No. 90, Sep/Oct 1957: "The Super-Batwoman!").
Now the hour of Krypton's doom had come. "At that fateful moment, the rumblings inside Krypton became a roar and the planet shook wildly!" (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: "The Kid from Krypton!").
The model rocket ship was small, but it was large enough to hold both Lara and her infant son. Jor-El urged them toward the tiny rocket. Already their home was crumbling about them (S No. 53/1, Jul/Aug 1948: "The Origin of Superman!"; and others), and through gaping holes in the collapsing walls they could see the lofty spires of Krypton's once-proud edifices toppling like children's blocks amid dense clouds of choking black smoke. "I will not leave you, Jor-El!" cried Lara. "But we will save our son!" (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: "The Kid from Krypton!"; and others.
Hurriedly, "the helpless infant was placed into the space-ship" (S No. 53/1, Jul/Aug 1948: "The Origin of Superman!"), wrapped in the blue, red, and yellow blankets that would, according to many accounts, one day be used to fashion his famous Superman costume.
And then the tiny craft was "launched forth into the void" (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: "The Kid from Krypton!"), the flag of Krypton was emblazoned proudly on its fuselage (Act No. 246, Nov 1958: "Krypton on Earth!").
"Krypton is dying!" cried Jor-El, amid the dying convulsions of a shattering planet.
"But our son will live," answered Lara, "—the last survivor or a great civilization!"
Then, as husband and wife clung together in a desperate last embrace, "nature's fury gathered for one final cataclysmic eruption....And as the pitifully small space-ship hurtled through interstellar space, the once mighty planet Krypton exploded into stardust!" (S No. 53/1, Jul/Aug 1948: "The Origin of Superman").
Because he remembers his parents as having been so "loving and kind" (S No. 123, Aug 1958: chs. 1-3—"The Girl of Steel"; "The Lost Super-Powers"; "Superman's Return to Krypton")—and because the anguish of losing them in childhood was so unbearably painful—Superman has memorialized his parents in numerous ways: he has dedicated a room to them in his Fortress of Solitude (Act No. 247, Dec 1958: "Superman's Lost Parents!"; and others), taken color photographs of them "by overtaking and photographing light rays that had left Krypton before it exploded" (S No. 132, Oct 1959: "Superman's Other Life!" pts. 1-3—"Krypton Lives On!"; "Futuro, Super-Hero of Krypton!"; "The Superman of Two Worlds!"), and carved their faces into the side of a planetoid in the style of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial (S No. 161/1, May 1963: "The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent!"). When, in January 1962, Superman, Supergirl, and Krypto the Superdog transform an uninhabited planet in a "distant solar system" into an exact duplicate of Krypton as their way of commemorating "the anniversary of the death of Krypton," two of the "human androids" with which they populate their "memorial planet" are "robot imitations" of Jor-El and Lara (S No. 150/1: "The One Minute of Doom!").
In addition to these memorials created by Superman, a statue of Jor-El, Lara, and baby Kal-El adorns the grounds of Metropolis's Superman Museum (S No. 150/3, Jan 1962: "When the World Forgot Superman!"), and there are wax figures of Jor-El and Lara on display on Jonas Smith's brainchild, Krypton Island (Act No. 246, Nov 1958: "Krypton on Earth!"). In October 1961 Lori Lemaris indicates that she and her fellow Atlanteans intend to use a hoard of gold from a sunken Spanish treasure ship to fashion solid gold statues of Jor-El and Lara as a surprise gift for Superman in gratitude for his past efforts on behalf of Atlantis's mer-people (S No. 148/3: "Superman Owes a Billion Dollars!").
Zoll Orr, a scientist of the planet Xenon who befriends Superman in February 1958, is a perfect look-alike for Superman's father (S No. 119: "The Second Superman!" chs. 1-3—"The World That Was Krypton's Twin"; "A Double for Superman"; "Superman's Mightiest Quest") and Superman encounters another Jor-El look-alike—also named Jor-El—during a visit to an extradimensional "parallel universe" in July 1961 (S No. 146/2: "Superman's Greatest Feats!"). Later still, Superman would encounter an android duplicate of Jor-El on Krypton-II, an artificially created duplicate of his destroyed homeworld (S No. 189, Aug 1966: "Krypton Lives Again!"; "Krypton's Second Doom!").
In June 1938, in the text containing the first account of Superman's origin, Superman's father is referred to only as an extraterrestrial "scientist" and his actual name is never stated (Act No. 1).
In July-August 1948, in a text containing a far more extensive account of Superman's origin, Superman's father is referred to by name—as Jor-El—for the first time in the chronicles (S No. 53/1: "The Origin of Superman!").
In November-December 1949, Superman sees Jor-El and Lara for the first time since his infancy when he journeys through the time-space barrier to the planet Krypton and actually witnesses the cataclysm that destroyed his native planet (S No. 61/3 "Superman Returns to Krypton!").
In October 1950, three Kryptonian "thought-projection discs" containing a detailed account of the courtship of Jor-El and Lara—which have been whirling about in space since the explosion of Krypton—are returned to Earth by a U.S. experimental rocket and retrieved by the ever-curious Lois Lane (Act No. 149: "The Courtship on Krypton!").
In January-February 1952, Jor-El's vault of great inventions, which had been hurled into outer space by the force of the cataclysm that destroyed Krypton, is drawn to Earth by a "magnet-ray machine" devised by the diabolical Lex Luthor (S No. 74/1: "The Lost Secrets of Krypton!").
In March-April 1954, on the site where the rocket carrying the infant Superman landed upon its arrival on Earth, Superman finds Jor-El's last will and testament—a thin sheet of super-hard metal inscribed with detailed descriptions of three of Jor-El's greatest inventions—buried deep in the ground. Following the instructions left behind by his father, Superman constructs working prototypes of all three inventions, and although he ultimately destroys two of them in the belief that mankind is not yet ready for them, the third and last invention, Jor-El's "nuclear fission tester" and the partially completed formula for halting a nuclear-fission reaction that accompanies it, does enable Superman to detect and halt a potentially cataclysmic chain reaction building up at the core of the Earth (WF No. 69: "Jor-El's Last Will!").
In May 1956, Metropolis is besieged by colossal metal machines—unleashed by a robot-piloted alien spacecraft—which tear through the city wreaking havoc and destruction. Superman's initial conclusion is that the "terrible machines" are the work of a sinister mastermind who "wants to take over the world," but a diary written by Jor-El, which the Man of Steel finds on the spacecraft's floor, reveals that the machines are actually "outlawed war weapons" from the planet Krypton which were launched into outer space by Jor-El prior to the death of his planet as part of his plan to avert what he feared was the possibility of an imminent outbreak of war on Krypton. The plan—which entailed launching the weapons-craft to an "artificial satellite," where its robot pilot would proceed to destroy a previously constructed "prop city" with the weapons as a graphic reminder to Kryptonians of the horrors of war—was aborted by the explosion of Krypton, which sent the weapons-carrying spacecraft careening into space, eventually to land on Earth, where the robot pilot began mindlessly to fulfill its automated mission of destruction. Superman ultimately destroys the weapons spacecraft, however, carrying it "deep into the center of Earth...where the molten core consumes the super-menace from Krypton!" (Act No. 216: "The Super-Menace of Metropolis").
In December 1956, "far out in space," Superman comes upon "a mass of cosmic wreckage" from the doomed planet Krypton, including Jor-El's journal and laboratory desk and some films which Jor-El made of himself using "automatic cameras." Together, Jor-El's journal and films record the events leading up to the death of Krypton, document Jor-El's telescopic study of Earth and his experiments with artificially weakened gravity in an isolated Kryptonian valley, and recount the story of his defeat and capture of two power-mad Kryptonian scientists, Val Am and Khai Zor, who had hoped to profit from Jor-El's discoveries in order to escape to Earth and establish themselves as "masters of the Earth people!" (Act No. 223: "The First Superman of Krypton").
In May 1957, Superman recovers a Kryptonian "mind-tape"—and a helmetlike apparatus for playing it back—after the objects have fallen to Earth outside Metropolis embedded in a kryptonite meteor. Dictated by Jor-El shortly prior to the death of Krypton, the mind-tape tells the story of Jor-El's recent encounter with the lovely Queen Latora, ruler of the planet Vergo, and of her elaborate scheme to revitalize Vergo's dying sun by using a colossal electromagnet to pull the planet Krypton into the heart of Vergo's sun—thereby destroying Krypton and annihilating its population—in order to refuel the expiring star with Krypton's uranium core. Stunned to discover that the red-haired queen literally intended to obliterate his planet, Jor-El fought to thwart the scheme and ultimately prevailed upon Queen Latora to search elsewhere in space for a planet sufficiently rich in uranium to enable her to fulfill her mission. According to his account, Jor-El first learned of Krypton's imminent destruction when Queen Latora told him that she had chosen Krypton as the fuel for Vergo's sun only after determining that Krypton's doom was already imminent. Indeed, soon afterward, Krypton did perish, and several decades later, after having been alerted to the Vergoans' plight by his father's mind-tape, Superman flashes into outer space to help Queen Latora and her people revitalize their sun and thus avert their own imininent extinction (S No. 113: chs. 1-3—"The Superman of the Past"; "The Secret of the rowers"; "The Superman of the Present").
In August 1958, Superman journeys through the time-space barrier to Krypton at a time when his parents, who have not yet married, are working as undercover agents to thwart the sinister machinations of the diabolical Kil-Lor. When, as the result of a disastrous misunderstanding, Jor-El and Lara are convicted of treason along with Kil-Lor and launched into space in suspended animation to serve out a 100-year term in a prison satellite, Superman frees the trio from their orbiting prison and defeats Kil-Lor—who has acquired super-powers identical to Superman's as the result of having ventured beyond Krypton's gravitational pull—by tricking the villain into killing himself by overexposure to kryptonite. (S No. 123: chs. 1-3—"The Girl of Steel"; "The Lost Super-Powers"; "Superman's Return to Krypton").
In December 1961, Superman enjoys a brief reunion with Jor-El and Lara—as well as with his foster parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent—after exposure to Red Kryptonite has temporarily endowed him with the power to make his wishes come true and he has wished aloud that his parents were on the scene to advise him how best to use his marvelous new power. Moments later, however, the effects of the Red Kryptonite wear off, Superman loses his wish-fulfilling power, and his magically materialized parents and foster parents fade and vanish like wraiths (Act No. 283: "The Red Kryptonite Menace!").
By July 1964, while patrolling the sea bottom, Aquaman has retrieved the Kryptonian "record playback machine" and "video-recording" which Jor-El had originally affixed to the exterior of the rocket that carried his infant son to Earth. Narrated by Jor-El, the recording recounts his efforts to decide which six distant planets would make the best home for his son Kal-El by feeding the available data into a "great computer-forecaster." According to the computer-forecaster, young Kal-El would ultimately become a famed lawman and hero on whichever of the six planets he grew to maturity, but the type of hero he became would depend on the type of planet chosen as his home, so that if he grew up on the water-world of Valair, for example, he would develop into a seagoing hero like Aquaman. As the result of these and other inquiries, Jor-El decided his son would be happiest living on Earth (Act No. 314/1: "The Day Superman Became the Flash!").
During this same period, Lex Luthor journeys through the time-space barrier to Krypton at a time predating the marriage of Jor-El and Lara as part of his bizarre scheme to marry Lara himself and thus become the father of Superman (S No. 170/2, Jul 1964: pts. I-II—"If Lex Luthor Were Superman's Father!"; "The Wedding of Lara and Luthor!"). (TGSB)
(See also Jor-L of Krypton-2)