Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
When Syfy premieres Krypton March 21, the new series will drop a lot of names that have appeared in DC Comics over the decades. No doubt the show will use these characters in new and surprising ways, but what happened in the comics is still worth consideration, as the print adventures may very well inform TV storylines to come.
Let’s take a look, in order of probable importance:
* SEG-EL (Cameron Cuffe): Originally, Superman’s grandfather was called Jor-El for many years. (Superman’s dad was Jor-El II.) But in 1978, a three-issue miniseries titled World of Krypton introduced him as Seyg-El – which, if you pronounce it right, sounds an awful lot like the surname of a Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel. Grandpa Seyg also appeared in a 1990s Starman story, and in both, he might charitably be described as crotchety.
But, hey, he was old! By contrast, the TV series will depict the newly renamed Seg-El in his 20s, with more daring and less crankiness.
Photo: Gavin Bond/Syfy
Seg-El (left, played by Cameron Cuffe) and Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell) are two Kryptonians living their hot, sexy years a couple of generations before the big boom in Syfy’s Krypton.
* LYTA-ZOD (Georgina Campbell): No such character exists in the comics, but she does have that alarming last name (the one that finishes the phrase “Kneel before …”). Given that Gen. Dru-Zod is a contemporary of Jor-El – who is not yet born on the show – we might very well be looking at the general’s mom.
* ALURA-ZOD (Ann Ogbomo): There’s that surname again! And, weirdly, Lyta’s mother has the same first name as Supergirl’s mother, Alura Zor-El. Alura’s maiden name in the comics was In-Zee, not Zod, but it’s too big a coincidence to dismiss.
* ADAM STRANGE (Shaun Sipos): In the comics, Adam Strange hasn’t palled around much with Superman. Here’s his story:
Adam Strange premiered in 1958 as an archaeologist who was accidentally transported to the planet Rann, in orbit around Alpha Centauri, by something called a zeta beam. He returned to Earth when the beam wore off, but began catching zeta beams to Rann in every issue of Mystery in Space, where he would defeat bizarre sci-fi menaces with his Earthly grit and cleverness, before being yanked back to Earth at the end of the story. Naturally, Adam met and fell in love with a gorgeous alien chick, Alanna, daughter of Rann’s chief scientist, Sardath.
Is it ridiculously convenient that these menaces would only appear when Strange was present? Why, yes it was! Is it preposterous that the super-scientific Rannians were helpless against these menaces until a heroic Earthman showed up? Right again! Is the “alien princess” angle a snicker-worthy cliché as old as John Carter? You bet!
But credit Strange for sticking around for more than 60 years, despite being little more than a stock 1950s sci-fi character with a jet-pack and a ray-gun. Over time this straightjacket of a premise expanded, with Strange aligning with the Justice League, and partnering often with various iterations of Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Hawkwoman. He married Alanna years ago, and they have a child together.
But that’s the comics. On Krypton, Strange comes from our present to the doomed planet’s past (by zeta beam, perhaps?) to protect the El line from time-traveling menaces intent on preventing the birth of Superman. Let’s hope he still has his ray-gun.
Photo: Gavin Bond/Syfy
Shaun Sipos plays Adam Strange, an Earthman who travels through time and space to protect the El family line. Because every show has to have an Earthman, doesn’t it?
* BRAINIAC (Blake Retson): Does Brainiac, a character whose very name has entered our vocabulary as a pejorative, really need an explanation? Oh, very well.
Brainiac is another 1958 creation, originally an alien who traveled the galaxy shrinking and saving cities in bottles, which he intended to use to restore his depopulated planet. In Brainiac’s first appearance, Superman discovered that the villain had a Kryptonian city in his possession, Kandor.
A lot about Brainiac has changed over the years. For one thing, he’s now a sentient computer instead of just a green-skinned alien with a strange hobby. But one thing that has never changed is the theft of Kandor, Krypton’s first capital. It will be surprising if Krypton doesn’t capitalize on that bit of Super-lore.
* DEV-EM (Aaron Pierre): With the exception of one face turn, this guy has been several flavors of trouble in various time periods and for a variety of Kryptonians.
Dev-Em debuted in 1961 as a juvenile delinquent on Krypton who bedeviled his neighbor, Jor-El. Despite his shenanigans, he nevertheless took the scientist’s warnings seriously. He managed to survive Krypton’s doom and landed on Earth (of course), after being in suspended animation long enough to be a contemporary of Superboy. At first “the Knave from Krypton,” as he was dubbed in his second story, continued his malicious pranks. now against the Teen of Steel. Oddly, he then traveled to the 30th century, where he became an agent of the “Interstellar Counter-Intelligence Corps” and an ally of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
That redemption didn’t last, though, as later stories re-invented Dev-Em as A) a renegade Saturnian, B) an insane Daxamite and C) a wacko Earthman who has a religious fixation on Krypton. His current iteration returns him to his roots, as D) a Kryptonian murderer imprisoned in the Phantom Zone.
If he’s not big trouble on Krypton, they should have named him something else.
Aaron Pierre is Dev-Em, who needs to be a bad guy on Krypton, or thousands of comics fans worldwide will pout at once, damaging the space/time continuum.
* VAL-EL (Ian McElhinney): In some versions of Krypton’s history, Val-El was a distant ancestor of Superman who was a great explorer. On TV, Val-El is Seg-El’s grandfather, so he’s probably not exploring much.
* VIDAR (Faisal Mohammed): In 1960s stories, Vidar was a failed Green Lantern in the 30th century who becomes the supervillain Universo. In Norse mythology, Vidar is a son of Odin who slays the Fenrir Wolf and survives Ragnarök.
I doubt he will be either of those things on Krypton.
* JAX-UR (Hannah Waddingham): While there have been variations, Jax-Ur is usually depicted as a Kryptonian scientist whose experiments with rockets or space ships or something explode-y destroys the inhabited moon Wegthor. This results in his banishment to the Phantom Zone which, ironically, saves his life. Sometimes Wegthor’s destruction is mentioned as the basis for Krypton’s ban on space travel, which gives Jor-El quite the headache.
* QUEX-UL (Gordon Alexander): Like Dev-Em, there have been a number of different Quex-Uls.
In his first and most famous appearance, Quex-Ul was s Phantom Zone criminal that Superman had to release because his sentence was up. Fortunately, Superman discovered the bitter Kryptonian had been framed, and fingered the real criminal, who, coincidentally, was also in the Phantom Zone. The grateful Quex-Ul exposed himself to gold kryptonite, which removed his super-powers permanently, and settled into an anonymous life on Earth.
Later stories re-invented Quex-Ul as a true bad guy on several occasions, but none of those appearances had the impact or staying power of the first one.
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So is anyone watching this? "Anyone else" I should say; I've watched every episode so far. It's a pretty big "meh" for me, though, and I may not be watching it much longer. If Smallville was "Superman without Superman," the Krypton is Superman twice removed.
The "Adam Strange" character really annoys me. He's a millennial slacker now? Meh.
I've been watching it, but (like you) not very enthusiastically. Good enough to stick around for awhile and see what develops.
Had to laugh at a review I read that referred to the villain “with the unlikely name Brainiac.” I suspect the reviewer didn’t know the origin of the name.