For most of Superman’s history, one thing has remained a constant: that Kal-El’s parents die in the destruction of the planet Krypton after propelling their baby to Earth. It’s an element of the character’s story that has remained a constant almost from the start. Things changed drastically when it was revealed that Jor-El had survived the destruction of Krypton during the events of “The Oz Effect”. Although he was supposed to die, he was pulled from his death at the last moment by Dr. Manhattan. Throughout the story, Jor-El has proven to be a bit of an antagonistic force. Eventually, he was returned to his original place in time as punishment for certain events that had serious ramifications in the DC Universe. When these issues first came out, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Jor-El’s return. One of the three great rules of comic book writing had been broken: you don’t kill Aunt May, Bruce Wayne loses his parents in a senseless act of violence, and Superman’s biological parents perish along with his homeworld. Over time, I got the idea for Jor to not only survive the destruction of Krypton, but also become a recurring character.
For starters, we already have a variation of this concept. In the Fortress of Solitude, Kal possesses Kryptonian technology that not only allows him to learn from his biological father, but also to interact with him. Although these are only advanced holograms and recordings, the concept is still there. It’s in “Superman: The Movie,” it’s in the comics, and it’s in “Man of Steel,” making it a concept that’s been around for over four decades. What would be the harm if, somehow, Jor-El managed to survive the destruction of his planet? We are already used to Kal going to his biological father for advice, and sometimes even help. The only difference would be that there would be a physical guy instead of a recording. As for how they would write it into the story, I have no idea what they would. Perhaps he was visiting Kandor when Brainiac decided to rob and jam the city, leaving Lara to save Kal.
While this is a significant change of pace for many Superman readers, I think this revamping of the Superman mythos might be of interest. Although Bendis absolutely ignored what happened in “The Oz Effect” to tell his story, the idea of Jon having a Kryptonian grandfather to explore and learn with was a cool concept. Most of the time, Jonathan Kent ends up dying during Clark’s teenage years, so it would be interesting to see him get some wisdom from his biological father, which would play nicely into the debate between nature and nurture versus the character of Superman. . Maybe Kal and Jor could find a way to cure Mon-El of lead poisoning or even restore the bottle city of Kandor to its proper size. The possibilities are limitless.
Of course, something like this would receive an incredible amount of backlash from editorial and fanbase alike, so it’s likely we’ll never see Jor again. Still, it’s fun to think about all the different stories and scenarios that could unfold if he somehow survived Krypton’s destruction. It’s hard to say if that would even be a good change, but the potential for some interesting stories is there.
Mr. Oz was a character introduced in a Superman story by Geoff Johns and John Romita JR. I’ll save my opinion on this story for another day but for now let’s focus on the mysterious character. A figure in a green cape who seemed to have some connection to Clark. But how and why? We find him during the one shot “DC Universe: Rebirth #1”. Then he made appearances in other books and held Tim Drake and Mr. Mxyzptlk as prisoners. Very intriguing. Then they made the story that revealed his identity. I was hoping it wasn’t who I thought. But it was. It was Jor-El. There was this convoluted story about Dr. Manhattan taking him in just before Krypton exploded. Showing him how bad humanity could be. So he decided to imprison people and then became a villain. I still can’t figure this out. I wasn’t happy that Jor-El survived but I hated what they had done to him. Then Brian Michael Bendis came along and did his thing and it only made it worse. Is he still alive in current continuity? We do not care. If that’s what they were going to do to the character after bringing him back for good after 80 years, I’m fine with it fading into obscurity.
This is all a long way to go to ask not only that Jor-El returned, but maybe he shouldn’t have died during the destruction of Krypton. What would Clark’s life have been like had his Kryptonian father traveled to Earth with his son or appeared at some point during the Superman books airing and become a side character. No. It just wouldn’t sit well with Clark’s character if part of the reason he was sent to Earth to be the last son of Krypton and continue the role still existed and was having coffee with Pa Kent. Would there even have been a Pa Kent if Jor-El had traveled with his son to Earth? Perhaps Jor-El would have appeared after floating in suspended animation and showed up at Clark’s doorstep in Metropolis. Or maybe… Well, I think you got it.
Clark learns to manage his powers and becomes the man he is thanks to the inspiration of the Kents which makes him Superman. Having Jor-El with me for the ride just doesn’t make sense as part of the story. Now we got “Jor-El hologram” and “Jor-El flashback” and that’s okay. Some of these Silver Age Krypton stories were fun, and it’s only fitting that Clark learns of his heritage. But Jor-El as a supporting character just doesn’t fit. His sacrifice would be for naught. Jor-El is as much a hero as his son. He warned the elders of Krypton of his destruction, trying to save his people. After they laughed at him, he knew he had to save his son. The planet was going to be destroyed but he built a ship for his son so he could escape the cataclysm but he didn’t build one big enough for him and Lara because he knew their deaths were inevitable. They sank with the ship. But their son must survive, so he made the ultimate sacrifice. That alone should be a reason why he shouldn’t have survived. He shouldn’t fight Superman or have dinner with Clark and Lois. He should also tell some of the creators that bringing him back is a bad move. And make him a “bad guy”!? What were they thinking? Jor-El should be an inspiration for the sacrifices he has made. He should survive in Superman’s heart. That’s why he should never have survived Krypton. No never.