Superman Ideas That “Stuck” (and Should They Be Unstuck?), Part 1: Powerless on Krypton

Jor-El, from Superman: The Animated Series, on his knees and bleeding a bit from his mouth

A lot of things about Superman and his world change over the years and across media, but some things rarely if ever change, even if they weren’t that way from the beginning. That’s to be expected, especially with things from very early on, such as Superman’s powers.

While it’s nice to have a certain amount of consistency, I actually consider it a positive of the Superman franchise that it has such a wide variety of different interpretations. So sometimes it feels like a bit of a shame if certain ideas end up being used everywhere, especially if I think there’s potential to the way things were before that idea was created.

In this series, I’m going to discuss aspects of Superman canon that have been implemented widely since their introduction and potential advantages of not sticking to them all the time. First up:

Kryptonians have no powers in their native environment

This is a very old idea, likely the oldest idea I will discuss in this series – you have to go back to the Golden Age to escape it. It has a clear purpose: make it easy to make sure almost all Kryptonians died when Krypton exploded. Superman wasn’t nearly as strong or invincible when he was first created, so it used to be easy to believe that all his people would’ve been wiped out by their whole planet exploding, but as his powers grew more and more through the years, this idea became “necessary”.

Of course, I put “necessary” in quotes because it’s not like this idea is absolutely necessary. I certainly don’t blame them for going with this all those decades ago – it’s a simple and easy solution. It also has the advantage of making Krypton simpler and easier to write and conceptualize for in general. A world full of extremely superpowered people sounds pretty crazy. Could random citizens destroy the planet or conquer other planets if they wanted to?

So it makes sense this idea has survived so long and been implemented into almost every Superman continuity. In and of itself, though, I’d say there’s nothing really logical or interesting about it. It’s pretty unbelievable that a species would evolve to be able to do such amazing, incredible things that they’d never be able to do in their native environment. OK, a lot of things in Superman are unbelievable, but usually in a way that makes stories more interesting. This idea, if anything, does the opposite. A world of supermen sounds like it could be very interesting to me.

I don’t think you’d have to worry too much about random Kryptonian citizens causing destruction as long as you established that the technology of Kryptonian society could prevent this. For example, you could have important objects and structures be invincible themselves, and make there be a forcefield around the planet that can only be passed under special circumstances.

Of course, you do need to solve the central problem of why almost all Kryptonians were killed by their planet exploding, but there are other possible solutions. For example, you could make Kryptonians have powers in a red sun, but be less powerful than they are in a yellow sun. The powers of Kryptonians under a red sun could be at the level of early Golden Age Superman, or even early Post-Crisis Superman. This solution would also be rather logical: the idea that Kryptonians would evolve to be able to absorb yellow sunlight (which they would never normally be exposed to) and get powers from it is strange, but the idea that they evolved to be able to absorb red sunlight and get powers from it, and they could get even more powers from a young and vibrant yellow sun, makes more sense.

Another thing you could do with this idea is make it so Kryptonians have superpowers in a red sun, but Superman doesn’t. Superman’s body could be so adjusted to the overabundance of energy from Earth’s yellow sun that red sun just can’t empower him the same way. Something a bit like this was actually established in an alternate universe miniseries called Superman: Space Age. It didn’t have Kryptonians be powered on Krypton, but it does establish that Superman has a weakness to the red sun that other Kryptonians don’t have due to being away from it for so long.

A segment of a comic. First panel shows Krypton and its red sun and has the narration text from Superman: "I get my powers from the Earth's yellow sun. Krypton, the world I come from, revolved around a red sun." Next panel shows Superman saying, "I've been away from Krypton so long that the rays of a red sun are poisonous to me."

Another idea I’ve had is that maybe instead of pieces of Krypton becoming radioactive after its destruction to become Kryptonite, this could happen before and be a part of the destruction process, poisoning all the inhabitants of Krypton.

Should it unstick?

Overall, it’s not surprising this idea has stuck around, but it’s an idea that I think mostly exists for convenience or simplicity as opposed to because it adds interesting storytelling possibilities. And I personally see a great appeal to Kryptonians being inherently super, and the simplicity and logic of this idea. But ironically, reintroducing this idea might be confusing to people since it hasn’t been seen for a very long time. And I admit that it simply can’t be as simple as it could be back in the early Golden Age since you still need some explanation for why there are so few survivors of Krypton’s destruction.

However, for me personally, it would be so cool to see a version of Kryptonian society where everyone has Superman’s powers. Very little time and attention was spent on Krypton in the early Golden Age, so we never got the chance to explore a planet of supermen in detail.

Other than potentially being confusing due to it not being the case for such a long time, the only other major disadvantage I can think of is Superman losing his weakness to red sunlight, and I already explained how this could be kept. Admittedly, this adds another thing that needs to be explained and thus more potential for confusion. Personally, I wouldn’t consider it a deal breaker if they eliminated Clark’s weakness to red sunlight altogether, but it would be at least a little limiting to storytelling.

All this being said, I admit that I’m pretty unique for even caring about this at all, and even I will concede it’s not exactly a big deal. But I feel like a Krypton with powered inhabitants at least deserves a try in some form of media.

Will it unstick?

All things considered, Kryptonians will probably always be unpowered on Krypton in mainstream comic canon, and the same can probably be said for live action films and other high profile media. But spinoff media is more flexible, so I can see the idea of powered Kryptonians on Krypton being explored there. In the My Adventures with Superman show (which has already made some big changes from Superman tradition), there is a scene where Clark is shown a hologram of Krypton and it features a yellow sun turning red (seemingly because of something artificial). If this means what I think it means, Krypton used to have a yellow sun until it was artificially and recently turned red, and therefore Kryptonians had powers on their native world until recently. But we probably won’t know any details until Season 2 comes out.

Another possibility is that it might be used by non-DC entities when Superman enters the public domain, particularly because when this happens, people will be drawing on the earliest Superman media. I’m unsure if simple concepts such as Kryptonians not having powers on Krypton are able to be copyrighted, but if they are, non-DC entities won’t legally be able to use it, and thus will have no choice but to bring back how things originally were.


I’ll admit that Kryptonians having or not having powers on their home planet is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, even by Superman lore standards. After all, the planet gets destroyed when our hero is a baby. But I’m the kind of person who enjoys when aliens are significantly different from humans biologically, and with Kryptonians being so human-like in most ways, it seems a shame they don’t even get their superpowers (their only major difference from us) while on their home planet. We’ll just have to see if My Adventures of Superman, or any other Superman spinoff, decides to play with this idea.

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