This is a follow on from a prior question, to get some details on the "S" symbol.

Prior to the 1978 Superman movie the "S" Symbol had no fixed source.

However, it is stated that 'it was Marlon Brando's idea to have Jor-El wear the same "S" symbol on his clothes that Kal-El would later wear as Superman'.

Jor-El with S symbol

With Brando being the highest paid actor in the movie, and exerting a lot of control over the creative process, is there any record of why he wanted to wear the symbol or is it just a case of an actor wanting to wear the iconic Superman crest and using their control to do so?

  • 1
    Confusing, isn't it? Was there also a "House of Es" on Krypton whose symbol was an "L"?
    – user14111
    Oct 27 '15 at 23:02
  • 2
    The symbol that looks like a human "S" is indeed the El family emblem. It is in fact, not a letter S, despite its similarity to said letter. It's the Kryptonian symbol that means "Hope".
    – user62329
    Feb 21 '16 at 8:28

Other than some vague statements that 'it was Brando's idea', I can't find any detailed info on why he wanted to do that. However, some information I did find may provide a hint.

From Superman, The Movie Wiki

The designation of the stylized 'S' as Jor-El's family crest on the planet Krypton solved an apparent logical dilemma for the creators of the Superman films. The 'S' is indestructible, as is the rest of Superman's uniform, but Kal-El was not called "Superman" on Krypton. The creators decided to adorn every Kryptonian leader's robes with a family crest (as noted in publicity magazines at the time) and the one for Jor-El's family happened to look like a stylized 'S'.

Some reports say it was Marlon Brando's own idea for Jor-El to wear the recognizable 'S' symbol in the scenes on Krypton. The establishment of the 'S' emblem as the El family crest was a departure from the first three eras (Golden, Silver, Modern) of official DC Comics continuity, in which the 'S' emblem and costume were both created by Martha Kent (Mary Kent in the Golden Age) after Clark chose his heroic name. However, in the 2003 series Superman: Birthright, the 'S' symbol has been changed to represent a universal symbol of the planet Krypton, adorning their flags and military uniforms in holographic projections Clark finds contained in a device that came with him from Krypton. He chooses to wear the symbol to honor his Kryptonian heritage, and the name "Superman" is given to him by the newspapers.

And from IMDB Trivia for Superman, the Movie

The Superman "S" logo that Marlon Brando wears on his white cloak looks the same as the one used for George Reeves costume in the TV show Adventures of Superman (1952). This was probably an homage. Since this film, the idea of the "S" symbol being a Kryptonian family crest of the House of El has been incorporated into Superman's comic books and subsequent adaptations.

George Reeve SupermanMarlon Brando Jor-El

So the 'S' was simply another 'family crest' and perhaps Brando suggested using the one that George Reeves had used as a way of paying homage. Based on what I read, it doesn't sound like it had much to do with him being highly paid or exerting creative control. It sounds like he provided some valuable input to the creators and they agreed.

Addendum -

A comment was added stating that it was already well established in canon that Jor-El wore the same symbol as his son. The supporting info provided mentioned that he 'usually wore the symbol of Krypton's sun'. Now that's a true statement, but I don't understand how that is the same as 'son'. If you check the Jor-El of that era (around the time of the Brando movie) you'll see that the symbol on his chest is distinctive and does in fact look like a 'sun' (with a 'u') and nothing like the stylized 'S' worn by Brando in the film and by Superman himself.

DC Special Series #26 June 1981

The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #12 Feb 1986

  • It was already well-established in the Superman canon that Jor-El wore the same symbol as his son; - This comes from a 1970 Superman comic - oi57.tinypic.com/347v62d.jpg
    – Valorum
    Jul 4 '14 at 23:20
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    @Richard - Have to respectfully disagree. The clipping in your link talks about Jor El wearing the symbol of Krypton's 'sun' (with a 'u'). Where does it say he wore the same symbol as Superman (Kal El). Please see the edit and pics I've added to the post. If you have addition info (pic would be ideal) from a 1970's or so era comic of Jor El with the 'S' insignia, please do post it and I'll be glad to adjust this answer. Thanks.
    – Stan
    Jul 10 '14 at 0:52
  • 2
    I stand most humbly corrected.
    – Valorum
    Jul 10 '14 at 6:10
  • So either Brando made that same "sun/son" misunderstanding and wanted to be accurate, or (more likely) he just wanted to wear the symbol. I mean, who wouldn't?
    – Omegacron
    Jul 1 '15 at 20:19
  • @Omegacron Or some early costuming session had him wearing a goofy solar disc on his chest, and Brando said "let's just use the same S as the kid, ok?" :P
    – Nerrolken
    Oct 27 '15 at 20:51

To appropriately answer your question about who came up with the \S/ insignia on Marlon Brando's costume in Richard Donner's Oscar®-winning, epic masterpiece, "Superman: The Movie".

The answer is not Mr. Brando, but the film's major writer: New York Times bestselling author and the Academy Award winning screenwriter of "The Godfather", Mario Puzo.

Puzo had full access to the legend and the lore of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman and what was in the DC Comics and what he wanted to use in the film adaptation of Superman.

From what I gather, from my own personal research, Mr. Puzo did not agree with the idea of Martha Kent designing Superman's costume or his famous \S/ insignia. Puzo honestly felt that a human being would not create such a fantastic outfit or insignia, but it should come from Krypton and in Puzo's original screenplay, because Superman's Kryptonian father, Jor-El, was so revered as one of Krypton's greatest scientists, for inventing a way to banish all of the anti-social individuals, criminals, monsters and supervillains from their utopian society, by putting them in a place called, The Hideous Phantom Zone of Outer Space, the people of Krypton felt that honoring Superman's father with their family's crest all over the place, was a way to accomplish that.

Hence, Mr. Brando's costume.


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