Where is Superman from? The character’s historic origins, explained

DC Comics Trinity (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman)
Image via DC Comics

With James Gunn revitalizing the Man of Steel for Superman: Legacy, it has fans asking, how did Superman get to be, well, Superman?

People are the sum of all their complicated parts, including their childhood, its location, socioeconomic status, religion, and so much more. Because of this desire to get to the root of what makes a person or fictional character tick, origin stories have always been a popular genre.

Part of that equation is where he was from but it’s not that black and white. There’s how the DC character was created in the first place, the planet the fictional character was born on, where he was raised and by whom, and where he moved as an adult. Let’s break this all down.

Who created Superman?

Superman was created by two comic book legends Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The pair first met at Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1932 and bonded over a love of storytelling. Siegel dreamed of being a writer and Shuster a illustrator, which made them the perfect combination.

The first iteration of Superman came in the form of a short story self-published in Siegel’s magazine Science Fiction: The Advance Guard of Future Civilization. “The Reign of the Superman” showed a far different character than modern audiences know and love. Superman was instead a homeless man named Bill Dunn who was duped by an evil scientist into taking an experimental drug, giving him psychic powers he uses only for selfish gain before they quickly wore off. Another iteration of Superman made some much needed changes. His powers were changed to super strength and bulletproof skin. He also was now a good guy fighting crime instead of trying to make himself rich.

At one point Siegel and Shuster had a “break up” of sorts. After facing many rejections, Siegel thought their youth and inexperience was the problem. He decided he would work with someone else more experienced on the project to see if that would result in someone publishing the work. Shuster did not take this well and burned their rejected comic book, sparing only the cover. When Siegel did not have luck with other partners, the duo eventually reconciled and got back to work.

It would take years, many revisions and rejections before Siegel and Shuster finally sold the version of Superman audiences know and love today. The character first appeared in the inaugural issue of Action Comics on April 18, 1938. He was the first costumed superhero, forever changing the course of comic book history. In fact, it was because of Superman’s success that DC introduced the iconic Batman, Wonder Woman, and basically every other Golden Age superhero.

They were paid $130 dollars and sold the rights to the character to Detective Comics, Inc. “We just let our imagination run wild. We visualized Superman toys, games, and a radio show — that was before TV — and Superman movies. We even visualized Superman billboards. And it’s all come true,” Shuster gushed.

Superman’s place of birth

Now that we’ve covered how the character was created, let’s look at Superman’s backstory. Superman was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton, which gets its name from the element. This makes him an alien — a Kryptonian to be exact — not a human being. Krypton is pretty similar to Earth except Kryptonians have super strength and speed.  Kal-El is also not the only famous fictional character to come from the planet. Supergirl, Krypto the Superdog, Beppo the Super-Monkey, and Power Girl all call it home as well.

Unfortunately Krypton no longer exists. Kal-El’s parents, Jor-El and Lara, made sure he escaped before the planet exploded. They placed him in an escape rocket and sent it to Earth.

Superman’s childhood

When Kal-El’s escape pod crashed into Earth, he gained another home when the pod brought him to Smallville, Kansas. He was found by two wonderful people who would go on to adopt and raise him as Clark Kent. More importantly Jonathan and Martha Kent would accept him for who he was and gave him the moral foundation that is at the center of Superman’s character.

Superman’s adult home

When Clark was ready to leave home, he moved to the big city to pursue his journalistic dreams and his private superhero endeavors. Metropolis was the perfect place for him to do both. He finds work as a reporter at The Daily Planet. This allows him to have an inside scoop on crime going on in the city. It also introduces him to love interest Lois Lane and his buddy Jimmy Olsen.