31

As far as I recall, Superman's logo (Letter "S") originated from Krypton (at least in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" TV series), from the space capsule that delivered the baby Superman to Earth.

If that's the case, how come it was an English letter "S" instead of a Kryptonian alphabet letter which presumably would be different than English letters?

  • I expect many might say that Lois and Clark fall outside of Superman canon. As I recall, Superman's costume was sewn by his adopted human mother who used material found in his capsule. Whether the letter "S" was actually included within, or if it was Mrs. Kent's idea, I'm not sure - the latter would lead to the question of why Mrs. Kent chose that letter. Did she know he was destined to become known as "Superman", or was it meant to stand for something else? – Iszi Feb 15 '12 at 3:06
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  • Nice follow-up. – Iszi Feb 15 '12 at 3:36
  • I don't think there is a single canon where the symbol came from Krypton as an "English letter S". – NominSim Jan 6 '13 at 21:33
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    1. The name "Superman" was invented by humans and/or the man himself, in some continuities specifically because of the symbol. 2. Although it would be a bit weird if Krypton had a letter "S" identical in appearance and function to our "S", it isn't that strange for Krypton and Earth to have independently invented a glyph consisting of a line with two reversals. There are only so many ways to turn a line into a meaningful symbol/glyph. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Oct 27 '15 at 21:17

10 Answers 10

57

According to the Superman Homepage, depending on the era, the writer, and the medium:

  • When he was created by Siegel and Shuster, it was a letter "S" for Superman.

  • As depicted in More Fun Comics #101 in 1945, it was designed by Clark Kent when he began his career as Superboy.

  • According to the episode "Superman on Earth" from the Adventures of Superman TV show in 1952, it was designed by Ma Kent in a fortuitous coincidence from the blankets he had been wrapped in as an infant.

  • In the 1978 movie, it was the Kryptonian symbol for the House of El and Lois Lane took it to be an "S" for Superman.

  • According to Action Comics #500 published in 1979, it was created by Pa Kent.

  • In John Byrne's 1987 "Man of Steel" miniseries, it was again created by Clark Kent.

  • In "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman", Ma Kent designs the costume but the "S" symbol comes from the blankets Clark was wrapped in as a baby. The symbol is also on the rocket that brought him to earth.

  • In 1996's "Superman: the Animated Series", it was a Kryptonian symbol that morphed into the "S" shape and tells Clark telepathically about his Kryptonian heritage.

  • In John Ostrander's 1999 mini-series "The Kents", the symbol came from a blanket that had been passed down through the family. The "S" was a snake and the five sides of the shield represented the five surviving Iroquois tribes.

  • In 2001's "Smallville" TV series, there are two origins:

    • One is Lex Luthor telling Clark that Alexander the Great wore a breast plate with a jeweled "S" on it.
    • Later in the series a Kryptonian key shows up in caves outside of Smallville and it burns the symbol onto Clark's chest.
  • Finally, in "Superman: Birthright" published in 2002, the symbol is Kryptonian, a family crest, and a symbol of hope to the people of Krypton.

All that being said, I have no idea how they are going to change it in the new continuity.

  • 1
    Ugggggh. Can't they invent a Holocron to keep their damned continuities in order? :( :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 15 '12 at 3:54
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    @DVK They did. It's called "Wedon'tcareifthefansgetupset." They have another they are coming out with which is called "Wecanmakemoremoneywitheveryreboot." – Legion600 Feb 15 '12 at 3:59
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    Makes you kinda wish DC was owned by Lucas... runs and hides – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 15 '12 at 4:00
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    @DVK Yeah, until Lucas decides that the Holocron shot first. – Legion600 Feb 15 '12 at 4:24
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    Its worth noting that the reason that the "S" is the symbol of the House of El is because Marlon Brando suggested he also wear the "S" on his chest too. Brando was the highest paid actor in the movie, and I can't find a source for this, but recall reading that it mostly because he just wanted to wear the superman symbol as a condition of his being in the movie. – user20155 Feb 12 '14 at 22:40
22

There are two explanations for this:

  • I remember reading this as a teen. In the original comic book story of his origin (or a retelling, but this was before reboots came around), the blankets Kal El was wrapped in, being from Krypton, were made of an almost indestructible material. Young Clark unravelled them for Martha Kent and she used thm to make his costume. That would mean the costume was made without any reference to Krypton.

  • In Superman: The Movie (the 1978 version, to be sure), most of the members of the Ruling Council on Krypton all have symbols on their outfits. In this picture, we can see Jor-El with the pentagon around an "S."

Jor-El with S symobl

In this shot, we can see a number of council members, each with a different symbol on their robe.

enter image description here

This indicates that it is some kind of symbol for their lineage or house or the district they represent. This would indicate that, just by coincidence, the symbol that represents Jor-El (or his lineage or district or whatever) looks like an "S." (One could also reason that the resemblance to an "S" was part of what made people think if calling him a name that started with that letter.)

So either the "S" is because the outfit was made by Martha Kent, with purely Terran language and images in mind, or the symbol harkens back to representing Jor-El on Krypton and just happens to look like an "S."

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    Good point about the "S" possibly influencing the name "Superman"; I hadn't thought of that. – Keith Thompson Feb 17 '12 at 17:33
  • think if calling him -> think of calling him – Faheem Mitha Oct 27 '15 at 20:32
6

Its a family crest representing a serpent. In the 2008 Kevin Anderson novel The Last Days of Krypton, the El family crest is suggested to symbolize the serpent of deception imprisoned in a diamond-hard crystal of truth.

3

In the 2013 film Man of Steel, the \S/ is described as the Kryptonian symbol for "hope."

  • Is this really correct? In the movie, I thought it was the coat of arms for the house of El, which Clark was meant to take as a symbol for hope. – John Jul 3 '13 at 0:25
  • @John If I recall correctly there was a dialog between Clark and Lois where she asks why he has an S on his chest and he answers that it's not an S but the symbol for "Hope" from where he is from. It's not implausible that the house of El have chosen the symbol for hope as their family crest because they believe it represents them best. – Philipp Sep 29 '15 at 16:11
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    @John The crest of the English House of Windsor includes a castle. If someone asked why I was doodling a castle, I might reply, "It's not a castle, it's the coat of arms of the House of Windsor." Clark meant that the "S" shape means "hope" on Krpyton, but that doesn't mean it can't also be the symbol for his family. He's wearing it because he us of House El, but this is still a castle and that still means hope. – Nerrolken Oct 27 '15 at 20:42
1

We have symbols in one alphabet that resemble a very different letter in the alphabet of another culture. (Think of all the ones that look like X or P.) Kal may change his logos as often as Batman and Diana but having an EL (hope) logo look like an Iroquois motif or an English 'S' is pure serendipity. (Remember that the first,adult Superman came here as a grown up and had shape-shifting skills rather like Icon or J'onn Jonnz.)

1

Originally, it wasn't from Krypton - it was just an "S" for Superman. In most current continuities, it's a Kryptonian symbol that just happens to look like an English letter "S". Others above have given far more detailed answers, but that's basically the jist of it.

  • Would anyone like to comment as to why this received a negative vote? When Superman was designed in 1939, the S on his chest had no meaning beyond "Superman". – Omegacron Apr 21 '14 at 21:42
  • I really wish people would explain why they keep giving this answer downvotes. So far it gets just enough upvotes to cancel the downvotes. The idea of the symbol being from Krypton was added much later... – Omegacron Sep 22 '14 at 18:41
1

Depending on who the story creators are, Superman's symbol has different meanings. The movies portray it as originating on Krypton. Hollywood movies have notorious occult symbolism and it has only become more obvious with each Superman film. In the 2013 Superman movie "Man Of Steel", the Kryptonian suit has a reptile like finish to it and the symbol is confirmed by Superman himself to not be the English letter "S" when he answers Lois Lane's question of "what's the S stand for?" with "it's not an S, on my world it means hope".

John Byrne's Superman reboot - Man of Steel back in 1986 tells the story of how clark having made his first public appearance (no suit) needed a disguise when he performed superman feats. In the newspaper story of Clark's first public appearance performing superhuman feats, Lois Lane had already given the name "superman" to him and so Clark, Martha and Joanathan Kent designed the S shield - simple - a stylized English letter "S" which stood for "Superman".

Nothing to do with Krypton and nothing to do with any other hidden meanings.

0

If you read the original comic Martha Kent unravels the blanket he was wrapped in and makes his costume. Clark saved his adopted father by stopping the truck from falling on him, when Clark was a baby. Martha put the S on his costume because they knew he was a super baby. The suit stretchs as Clark grew, so that is what the S stood for and where it came from, Martha did not know anything about where Clark came from at that time.

0

The other answers have touched on the explanation fairly well: the symbol is generally supposed to be a Kryptonian glyph, which happens to bear a similarity to the letter "S" on Earth. In most retellings, the resemblance is a coincidence. (Oftentimes, the connection is actually reversed: in Man of Steel, the name "Superman" is inspired by the S shape, rather than him wearing an S to represent his name as in real life).

It's also worth noting that Supergirl in the New 52 got a costume redesign, and it included a differently-styled, somewhat more alien-looking "S" shape on her costume:

enter image description here

I'm not sure if it was ever explicitly stated, but it was always my assumption that this was the "true" Kryptonian glyph shape, and that Superman's "S" had been adapted from that shape to conform to his new, Earth-bound identity as Superman.

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This S Is really part of "side way 8 " Which represents an ancient Moorish Clan Called El. This Symbol Means Infinity. Like the W-8 Ben W= Allah 8= Infinity Ben= Son. Allah's Infinite Son.

  • 2
    Is that something Spiderman creators stated or what you imagined in your head? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 14 '14 at 13:09
  • Sorry, bud, I usually don't downvote but this answer is complete nonsense. – Omegacron Sep 15 '14 at 14:51

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