Jor-El is a fictional character from the Superman comic books, published by DC Comics. Created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born artist Joe Shuster, Jor-El first appeared in Action Comics #1 as Kal-El's (Superman) biological father. Jor-El is a Kryptonian and the husband of Lara Lor-Van. He is a scientist, and leader on the planet Krypton before its destruction. He foresaw the planet's fate, but was unable to convince his colleagues in time to save their race after his appeals. Jor-El was able to save his infant son, Kal-El, sending him in a homemade rocketship to the planet Earth just moments before Krypton's demise. After constructing his Fortress of Solitude, Superman honored his deceased biological parents with a statue of Jor-El and Lara holding up a globe of Krypton.
Jor-El appeared in various adaptations of Superman stories, such as the 1978 film Superman and Superman Returns (2006) where he is portrayed by Marlon Brando, in the 1950s television program Adventures of Superman he was portrayed in the pilot episode by Robert Rockwell and in Smallville where he is voiced by Terence Stamp and briefly portrayed by Tom Welling as a young Jor-El. Jor-El is usually portrayed as closely resembling the later appearance of Kal-El, as the adult Superman. In the 2006 Richard Donner cut of Superman II (actor Marlon Brando did not appear in the original 1980 release of the film), Lex Luthor notes a resemblance between Jor-El and Superman.
A 1948 retelling of Superman's origin story first delved into detail about Jor-El, though his formal and more familiar Silver Age aspects were firmly established starting in the late 1950s and over the course of the next several decades, with a definitive summarization in the 1979 miniseries The World of Krypton (not to be confused with the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths late-1980s comic miniseries of the same name).
Even before Jor-El's birth, the El family was renowned across Krypton for its various contributions to Kryptonian society. Ancestors of Jor-El included: Val-El, a famous explorer; Sul-El, the inventor of Krypton's first telescope; Tala-El, the author of Krypton's first planetary constitution; Hatu-El, the inventor of Krypton's first electromagnet and electric motor; and Gam-El, the father of modern Kryptonian architecture.
Frustrated, Jor-El continued his work on space travel on his own, hoping to build a spacecraft to save his own family. This work included launching several smaller test rockets; one of these rockets included the family dog, who responded to the name of Krypto). However, as time ran short, he soon found that he would only have enough time to build a spacecraft to save his son Kal-El. Jor-El decided to aim for sending Kal to Earth, realizing he would gain super-human powers under Earth's more intense yellow sun and lower gravity. As Krypton finally went through its final destructive stages, Jor-El and Lara placed their son in the rocket and launched him toward Earth, before they themselves were killed along with almost all the rest of the planet's population.
In the 1990s series Starman, it was revealed that in his youth, Jor-El met a time-traveling Jack Knight and Mikaal Tomas, two individuals who both bore at various points the "Starman" mantle. Knight and Tomas had been accidentally sent 70 years back in time and hurled across space. It was in this way that Jor-El first learned of Earth's existence; in return, Jor-El helped Knight and Tomas escape from his overbearing father, Seyg-El.
In the Infinite City graphic novel Superman and Lois discover a city of aliens in a pocket dimension who all seem to speak Kryptonese . They discover Jor-el had planned to try to save the population of Krypton by taking them all to this pocket city There wasn't enough time and the city became governed by a neural clone robot of Jor-el who went on to create an in exact clone of Kal-el altered because of the physics of the dimension making Kal-el 2 blonde.
In the 2004 miniseries Superman: Birthright, Jor-El, along with Krypton and Lara, was more-or-less reinstated to his Silver Age versions, though with such updated touches as Lara contributing equally to the effort of sending Kal-El, once again an infant while on Krypton, to Earth. In this version, Jor-El discovers Earth moments before launching his son's spacecraft to Earth. Also, the conclusion of the miniseries has the adult Superman, on Earth, seeing his parents through Lex Luthor's time-space communicator, and on Krypton, seconds before its destruction, Jor-El and Lara see their son alive and well on Earth and know that their efforts were successful. As with Byrne's conflicting view of Krypton, the Birthright origins of Jor-El, Krypton, and Lex Luthor have recently been retconned, and, following the Infinite Crisis, they are no longer valid in comics canon.
However, a more recent storyline co-written by Geoff Johns and Superman director Richard Donner presented yet another version of Jor-El and Krypton which reintroduced General Dru-Zod and the Phantom Zone criminals into mainstream continuity. With art by Adam Kubert, Jor-El is depicted for the first time with a beard and the design of Kryptonian society is distinct yet again from Birthright and Man of Steel, incorporating elements of Donner's work on the first two Christopher Reeve films, in particular the notion of Krypton's Council threatening Jor-El with harsh penalty of exile to the very Phantom Zone he himself had discovered if he were to make public his predictions of their planet's imminent doom or otherwise attempt to "create a climate of panic."
Jor-El is shown here to have been mentored by friend and noted scientist Non, who corroborated Jor-El's findings regarding Krypton's impending destruction, when the two were arrested and brought to trial before the Council by Zod and Ursa. When Non defies the Council's dire prohibitions and elects to spread the word of the coming apocalypse, he is abducted by Council agents and apparently lobotomized, thus explaining the character's mute simple-mindedness, brutality, and destructiveness in line with Jack O'Halloran's performance as Non in the first two films. Appalled, Zod and Ursa propose to Jor-El that they band together and overthrow the Council, but Jor-El will have none of it. When their murderous insurrection fails, the Council forces Jor-El to exile them to the Phantom Zone and never speak of his findings again, lest he face the same fate. For this perceived betrayal, Zod declares that he will escape and conquer Krypton (confident that Jor-El will actually discover some way to save the planet) and force the scientist and his son to kneel before him one day. (This echoes the statement Terrence Stamp made in both Superman movies Donner directed: "No matter that it takes me an eternity, you WILL bow down before me, Jor-El; I swear it! First you, and then one day, Jor-El, YOUR HEIRS!!!")
Having been rebuilt via a Krypton crystal during the One Year Later story arc, the current version of the Fortress of Solitude, which was also designed to essentially be visually identical to the Donner and Bryan Singer films, now contains an advanced interactive "recording" of Jor-El which, although visually dissimilar to Marlon Brando, is otherwise identical in function to that featured in Superman Returns.
In Superman/Batman #50, it is revealed that, years ago, Jor-El sent a probe to Earth that made contact with Thomas Wayne while he was on a drive with a pregnant Martha, the probe holographically transmitting Thomas's consciousness to Krypton so that Jor-El could better learn what kind of world Earth was to help him decide which of many possible candidates he should send his son to. Thomas tells Jor-El that the people of earth aren't perfect, but are essentially a good and kind race, who would raise the child right, convincing Jor-El to send Kal-El there. Upon returning to his body, Thomas uses the technology in the Kryptonian probe to revitalise a failing Wayne Enterprises. Years later, the alien technology would be the basis of much of Batman's technology. Thomas recorded his encounter in a diary, which was discovered by Bruce in the present day.
Marlon Brando played Jor-El in the 1978 Superman film, which Alexander Salkind, his son Ilya Salkind, and their business partner Pierre Spengler produced and which Richard Donner directed. In the 1978 movie, Jor-El is shown wearing the Superman "S"-shield symbol as the family crest of the House of El; it was, in fact, Brando's idea to wear the symbol in this manner. In the current comics, the shield is the Kryptonian symbol for "hope," and not only is it worn by Jor-El in a similar manner to Brando of the first feature film, but it adorns all manner of Kryptonian flags, clothing, spaceships, and equipment. However, the film version is one in which the shield is unique to members of the House of El, with other Kryptonians wearing their own individualized family crests.
When the young adult Clark Kent finds the green crystal his father placed in his ship, it leads him to the North Pole, where the green crystal creates the Fortress of Solitude, and finally brings Clark into contact with an interactive hologram of his biological father, who instructs the young Superman on how to use his powers and informs him that the people of Earth "can be a great people, Kal-El, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all...their capacity for good...I have sent them you, my only son." Later, Jor-El is shown advising Superman on why he must maintain his secret identity to protect himself and his loved ones. Jor-El's relationship with Superman in the film is seen by some as a metaphor for God's relationship with Jesus Christ, to the point that Jor-El sending Superman to Earth to help the human race parallels God sending Christ to Earth to enlighten and redeem its people.
When Jor-El investigates the difference between Brainiac's findings and his own, he discovers that Brainiac has lied to the council to save himself. Brainiac counters by sending the authorities after him, leading to a protracted action sequence of Jor-El evading the police (Brainiac later on uploaded himself onto an orbiting satellite). This is one of several scenes which portray Jor-El as a skilled fighter and pilot, his primary vehicle resembling a flying scooter. With mere minutes before Krypton is to be destroyed, Jor-El loads Kal-El into the rocketship which had been intended for a single Kryptonian who would restore Krypton's population from the Phantom Zone, and dies with his wife as the planet explodes. Jor-El's legacy on the show is carried on by the constant battles between Superman and Brainiac (he is as much Jor-El's enemy as he is Superman's) and the Phantom Zone criminals Jax-Ur and Mala, who were foiled by Jor-El.
In all other episodes Terence Stamp provides the voice of Jor-El. Stamp had previously played General Zod in Superman and Superman II. In Smallville continuity, Jor-El's spirit resides within the Kawatche caves of Smallville, Kansas, and later in Clark's Arctic-based Fortress of Solitude, from which he attempts to guide and influence the life of his son. (Whether this "spirit" is supernatural in origin or some technological duplication of the long-dead Kryptonian scientist's memories, knowledge and personality as it is in the films is never made clear in the series.) But in a great divergence from any other version of Jor-El, who is usually shown as having had benevolent reasons for sending his son to Earth, Clark finds a message from his biological father, in the spaceship that carried him to Earth, that seemingly instructs him to conquer the planet and lead as a tyrant; this was proven to be incorrect by the end of the show's fourth season and continuing into Season 5, when the actual meanings of Jor-El's words are revealed to be that he wanted to prepare Clark for the coming meteorite shower, the arrival of Brainiac, and by the fifth season finale, the dreaded arrival of Zod.
Jor-El's relationship with Clark, posthumous though it is, can best be described as turbulent. Throughout the series, Clark defies Jor-El countless times and, each time, always has to deal with the repercussions. In the episode "Exodus," Jor-El demands that Clark return himself to him so that he can begin his quest to rule Earth. Clark, fearing the path Jor-El has laid out for him, destroys his spaceship, which was a vessel for Jor-El's commands. As a result of the following explosion, Smallville:Martha Kent, Clark's human mother, is injured and loses her unborn child, resulting in Smallville:Jonathan Kent blaming him for causing it. Overwrought with guilt, Clark puts on a Red Kryptonite ring and runs away to Metropolis.
Jonathan discovers the location of his son and seeks Jor-El's help in retrieving Clark. Jor-El makes an agreement with Jonathan, stipulating that he will help if Clark is eventually returned to him. Jonathan reluctantly agrees and is given temporary Kryptonian superpowers which he uses to bring Clark home but ignores his part of the bargain. Later, at the end of the episode "Hereafter", Jonathan suffers a near-fatal heart attack, and this plagues him from time to time, as a warning.
In the episode "Covenant," Jor-El abducts a young girl and reprograms her into a superpowered girl named Kara. In the comics, Kara is actually Clark's cousin and Jor-El's niece, and later takes on the title of Supergirl. Kara manipulates Clark into joining her by saying that Clark's family and friends will betray him. When Kara's predictions seemingly prove correct, Clark, having no one else to turn to, returns to Jor-El and is reprogrammed into Kal-El of Krypton, a cold, single-minded being with no memory of Clark's life. Kal-El begins his mission of retrieving three Kryptonian crystals scattered throughout the world. Martha disrupts Jor-El's plan by exposing Clark to Black Kryptonite, freeing the "Clark" persona and eliminating the colder Kryptonian side of Kal-El.
In the episode "Sacred", Clark activates a message from Jor-El, and Jor-El explains that Krypton's knowledge was encoded in the three crystals, which were brought to Earth and hidden at far reaches of the world, and that his mission was to have Clark unite the three stones and prevent Earth's destruction. In the season finale, "Commencement" (and continuing into the fifth season premiere, "Arrival"), Clark unites the three stones, which meld into one crystal, and is transported to the North Pole, where the Kryptonian crystal forms the Fortress of Solitude.
Afterwards, Clark enters the Fortress where the final phase in his journey is about to be completed. However, Clark interrupts his mission by aiding Chloe Sullivan, who, having been accidentally transported along with Clark to the Arctic, followed him into the Fortress and is freezing to death. Jor-El initially refuses to allow Clark to leave, but relents, stating that Clark must return to the Fortress before sunset. Clark fails to return and as a result, he is stripped of his powers. Although Clark is grateful to finally be able to live a "normal" life, it comes back to haunt him when he is fatally shot in the episode "Hidden."
Jor-El inhabits Lionel Luthor's body and brings Clark's corpse to the Fortress where Clark is resurrected with all his powers restored. After being revived, Clark is told by Jor-El that there will be a price to pay for this favor: the life of someone close to Clark must be taken in exchange for his being given back. In the episode "Reckoning," the 100th episode of Smallville, when Lana is killed in a car accident caused by Lex and a grief-stricken Clark begs him for help, Jor-El gives Clark a crystal that will send him 24 hours into the past. Clark uses the crystal to go back in time and prevents the accident that took Lana's life, but unfortunately, this leads to a confrontation with Lionel. In the original timeline, Jonathan was on his way to meet with Lionel, but never met him as Lana was killed in an accident. When Clark went back to the past and saved her, Jonathan didn't have a reason to stop and met Lionel, but he then died from a heart attack.
Jor-El later warns Clark that Brainiac wants to unleash General Zod from the Phantom Zone, and, if Zod inhabits a human host, he must kill him to prevent destruction. Upon escape, Zod takes over Lex's body, but Clark backs down at the last minute and stabs Brainiac. This results in Zod exiling Clark to the Phantom Zone. Clark is rescued by Jor-El's former research assistant and ally Smallville:Raya, who provides him a key to escape the Zone. At the same time, Jor-El contacts Martha for the first time and commends her for having raised Kal-El, and he helps heal Lois Lane, who had been injured in a plane crash caused by Brainaic. Following this, the Fortress shuts its power down temporarily, but Clark manages to restore it with a crystal bearing the House of El insignia.
In the Seventh Season, Kara Zor-El, daughter of Zor-El and niece of Jor-El, awakens from nearly twenty years in suspended animation with the goal to find and protect baby Kal-El, whom she does not realize has grown. When he finally learns that her father and his were at odds with each other, Clark seeks Jor-El out for answers about who this girl really is. Jor-El explains that Zor-El was evil, and Clark must start his training with Kara by finding out what her real motives are.
In the episode "Lara," the flashback between Kara and Lara, Clark's biological mother, Lara mentioned that Jor-El invented the Brain Interactive Construct [Brainiac] to save Krypton. At the end of the episode "Blue," Jor-El informs Clark that because of his recurring disobedience and not learning from his mistakes, Clark will have to face a consequence: imprisonment at the Fortress. However, when Bizarro enters the Fortress, Jor-El releases Clark so that he can stop him. Although silent, Jor-El also appears in the episodes "Traveler" and "Sleeper". In "Traveler," Jor-El restores Kara's powers. At the end of the Season Seven finale, "Arctic", the Fortress is destroyed. The fate of Jor-El following the destruction of the Fortress is currently unknown.
In the episode of the animated show Futurama entitled "Future Stock," Jor-El has a cameo as a giant floating head, proclaiming himself "Master Of Scheduling."
In an episode of the USA Network series Monk (TV Series) entitled "Mr. Monk Takes Manhattan," the street preacher who briefly converts Adrian Monk is called "Jor-El."
"They claimed Jor-El was wrong too," has been used by various green organizations in trying to make the world aware of the plight of global warming.
In Kryptonian society, scientific achievement was a preeminent virtue, so Jor-El's probe was programmed to seek out the leading scientific mind on Earth, presumably to adopt Kal-El. The probe landed (in the early 1950s, although the date is non-specific) in Princeton, New Jersey, where it soon appeared outside the window of Albert Einstein and communicated its mission to him through mental telepathy, along with precise details of where Kal-El's rocket would land (near Smallville, Kansas), several days later. Through the probe, Einstein learned that due to the yellow-sun environment and lower gravity, the child would acquire superhuman powers on Earth.
But Einstein concluded that he himself was too old to raise a super-child and that he would probably not live to see him become an adult. He reasoned the child should have both a father and mother, and also that on Earth, the qualities of kindness and honesty would be more important than sheer scientific knowledge to instill into a super-powerful being. (The real-life fact that Einstein had fled from despotic Nazi Germany in the 1930s was noted as a possible factor in this decision.)
Einstein then traveled incognito to Smallville to seek out a suitable family; this required his sneaking away from fawning government handlers, assigned to protect/baby-sit Einstein as a vital national resource. In the course of several days in Smallville, he encountered Jonathan and Martha Kent, and decided that they would be ideal foster parents for the Kryptonian child, due to their honest and generous natures. Einstein arranged for the Kents to be in the immediate area when Kal-El's spaceship landed, thus ensuring he would be found and later adopted by them.
The last sequence shown in the novel has Kal-El, now grown up to become Clark Kent/Superman, reading a letter that Einstein had written to him, using the written Kryptonese language, in which he explains all this.