Why did Superman’s father choose to send him to Earth rather than a more advanced alien civilization, and how did that decision shape Kal-El?
This article contains spoilers for Superman #25.
DC Comics are once again facing the oldest question in the Superman mythos – why did Jor-El send his son Kal-El to Earth? Everyone knows the Man of Steel’s origin story; how his parents discovered their homeworld of Krypton was doomed and constructed a small spacecraft to transport their only son to Earth. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster initially based the idea on the story of Moses – with the spaceship representing Moses’ reed basket – but over the years the tale has taken on a rather more Messianic tone.
Naturally, the comics have continually circled back to that fateful day, and they’ve been particularly interested in exploring why Jor-El chose Earth. Superman/Batman #50 revealed that Jor-El transported people from other worlds to Krypton in order to test whether or not his son would be safe there. The comic shows Jor-El considered Thanagar and New Genesis, but he ultimately settled on Earth after a conversation with Thomas Wayne, Batman’s father.
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This week’s Superman #25 shines a new light on this age-old question. The issue is really just an introductory story for the next villain, Synmar, an alien who was brought up to be his world’s answer to Superman. He originates from the planet Synmar, and his people watched the destruction of Krypton with horror, appalled that an entire civilized planet could simply… end. They noticed a single spacecraft leaving Krypton, and realized a lone child had survived. And they were rather surprised when they realized the baby was being sent to Earth. Why wouldn’t Jor-El choose to send his son to a more advanced planet, one where he would be recognized as a Kryptonian and brought up with detailed knowledge of his background?
It’s a fascinating issue, not least because the dialogue subtly reframes Superman as Krypton’s true legacy. Had Superman gone to a planet like Thanagar or Oa, a world where the Kryptonians were known commodities, he would have grown up carrying the weight of that legacy upon his shoulders – an experience his cousin Supergirl actually experienced landing on Earth after Superman had established his own legacy. Instead, he was brought up by Martha and Jonathan Kent, and he got the opportunity to decide for himself what kind of man he would be. Far from becoming a god on Earth, Superman became its greatest protector. This is the true legacy of Krypton, one chosen by its last son for himself. He is the Man of Tomorrow, a symbol of hope and optimism, not of grief and loss. He would never have had that opportunity had he been sent to any other world but Earth.
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