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Jor-El saved his son by rocketing him off the planet Krypton just before it exploded. How and/or why did the original comic book Jor-El choose Earth as the target for his son's rocket?

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  • Which canon? As per Smalville series, he was actually on Earth before. Oct 29, 2012 at 3:53
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    Edited. Defined as requested. Oct 29, 2012 at 4:18

3 Answers 3

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The simplest answer which spans almost the entire canon of Superman iterations:

  • Jor-El chose Earth for its yellow sun (and the potential powers Kryptonians gained under a yellow sun) and in the earliest iterations the abilities Kal-El would possess as a result of Earth's lower gravity.

  • However this answer would not be fully explained until the 1960s. Earliest versions of the story don't ever explain anything more than Jor-El barely being able to get Kal-El off planet before its destruction.

First Superman Strip 1939

First Superman Strip 1939 - Notice Jor-El (and all Kryptonians) has superhuman abilities on Krypton as a result of evolutionary development.

  • The early comic strip versions only depict the powers Superman gained as a result of Earth's lower gravity. His increased speed and strength were the primary powers gained.

Superman panel Action #6

Other universe depictions of Superman had varying reasons in addition:

  • Early descriptions of Krypton sometimes had the Kryptonians having powers ON Krypton, so traveling to Earth would simply allow Kal-El to potentially lead or rule Earth if he so desired.

  • Earth was also chosen for its lower level of technology, hoping to offer Kal-El the most opportunity for survival as the last member of the Kryptonian species.

  • Some iterations indicated Jor-El had a macroscope or teleportation abilities allowing him to see/visit the Earth and have an understanding of the suitability of Earth over other potential sites.

  • Considering the reaction some universes had to the existence of Kryptonians, it was implied the Kryptonians were not always desirable neighbors, perhaps fear of their potential powers when they were off-world. This was noted particularly during the Man of Steel, Post Crisis era.

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  • Another nice answer. Does Jor-El's Macroscope predate that of Piers Anthony, or is it a later addition to Superman canon? Oct 29, 2012 at 4:54
  • The idea of Jor-El "seeing/visiting" Earth probably came before Anthony's Macroscope because there are stories in the late fifties where Jor-El uses a telescope to see Earth FROM Krypton, but I suspect the idea of using the telescope to travel to Earth may have happened around the same time or soon after. Great ideas sometimes propagate in multiple places at the same time. Oct 29, 2012 at 4:57
  • It may be notable that in the very early canon like the radio show - Krypton was in our solar system. I think the implication is that a 1940s audience couldn't imagine a rocket being interstellar. Nov 13, 2023 at 15:04
  • It seems from the original strips that Kal-El was just launched into space, and happened to land on Earth by chance? Your example strips support your suppositions but don't directly address why Earth.
    – Spencer
    Nov 13, 2023 at 19:55
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Nothing in the original comic book suggests Superman's father intended anything of the sort.

Superman's first appearance is in Action Comics #1 (PDF link) in June, 1938. The very first panel says:

As a distant planet was destroyed by old age, a scientist placed his infant son within a hastily-devised space-ship, launching it towards Earth!

That's all it says, and all of the subsequent panels deal with Superman after he gets to Earth. There's nothing to say that a launch "towards Earth" was anything but random.

A work's "canon" (if you find it necessary to impose such a thing) can certainly evolve as time passes, but you asked about the original comic book, and I don't think Siegel and Shuster had any sort of comprehensive worldbuilding in mind when they created the first installment.

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I would imagine that the physical resemblance between our species also played a part. Kal-El wouldn't fit in on a planet where everyone had ten legs.

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