THE JSA FACT FILE
Kal-L of Krypton-Two/Clark Kent of Earth-Two
Occupation: Journalist and Editor, The Daily Star
First Appearance (Golden Age): Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
First Appearance (Post-Golden Age): Justice League of America #73 (July 1970)
Superman was born Kal-L, son of Jor-L and Lara, on the planet Krypton shortly before Earth's World War I. Krypton was a dying planet, racked by a series of seismic upheavals that spelled the ultimate doom of the planet. Jor-L, a leading Kryptonian scientist, recognized the dangers inherent in these upheavals and prepared a ship to take Kal-L to safety in the event of a planet-wide disaster. When the fateful day arrived, Jor-L rocketed his son to a new life on a distant world. As Kal-L was just a babe in arms, he had no knowledge of his parents or the world where he was born.
Kal-L landed on Earth in the late 1910s, an event witnessed by passers-by John and Mary Kent. The Kents rescued the boy from the crashed ship, which destroyed itself later. The Kents took young Kal-L to a local orphanage, declaring him an abandoned child. Young Kal-L soon proved too much for the nurses there to handle, and when the Kents returned to adopt the boy, he was gladly released (Action Comics #1, Secret Origins vol. 2 #1).They named the boy Clark and took him home to raise on their farm near Smallville.
Clark grew up a bright lad and farm hand to his parents in the 1920s and 1930s, with little suspicion of his fledgling super-powers. When Clark was a teenager, a freak mishap in the time stream caused the Superboy of Earth-One to appear on 1930s Earth-Two. Superboy secretly trained Clark in the use of his powers, but Clark chose not to adopt a heroic identity of his own (New Adventures of Superboy #15-16). Eventually Mary Kent passed on, and John Kent joined her soon after. Before he died, John warned Clark that his powers might frighten people and exhorted him to use those powers to champion the cause of justice and the common good. Clark took his adopted father's advice to heart and decided to create a new identity for himself that would pursue justice while allowing him a human identity. He created a costume similar to one he had seen on his teenage mentor and adopted the identity of Superman.
Clark made two decisions that affected his career as Superman. First, he decided that he needed to leave the small town of his youth and move to a large city, to have greater access to the needy population. To this end, he boarded up his family home and moved to Metropolis. Second, he needed a job that would give him instant access to news of crime and disasters. To this end, he sought employment from George Taylor at the Daily Star. When Taylor declined to offer him a job, Kent became determined to prove himself to the Star's editor. As Superman, Kent prevented the lynching of a local man believed guilty of aiding a local girl, Evelyn Curry, in a murder. After Superman dispersed the crowd, he returned the man to jail and was made privy to the truth. The victim, Jack Kennedy, had been murdered by Bea Caroll, a local night club performer. As Superman, Kent tracked Bea Caroll and wrung a confession from her. In a midnight run to the governor's mansion, Superman roused the state leader and shared Caroll's confession with him. Curry was saved in a last-minute pardon, and the case brought Superman to national attention (Action Comics #1). As Kent, he gave the story to George Taylor, impressing the editor enough to offer Kent a job. Kent's first assignment: to learn everything possible about Superman.
One of Superman's coworkers at the Star was a reporter named Lois Lane. Lane was an aggressive career woman, an unusual characteristic in those days (Action Comics #1). With Superman's appearance, Lane became first fascinated by, and then enamored of, the Man of Steel. She ruthlessly pursued him, and in time Superman returned her affections. Rather than expose her to the risk of association with his costumed identity, he approached her as Clark Kent. Unfortunately, because Kent adopted a mousy and demure facade (to project a cowardly image that contrasted himself with Superman), Lane had little more than contempt for Kent, referring to him as a "milksop" or a "worm." Superman thus spent many years in his early career in a bizarre love triangle with Lois Lane and both forms of himself.
On the other hand, Kent found a friend in a young assistant named Jimmy Olsen (Action Comics #6). Olsen was a office boy at the Daily Star who had aspirations to be a great reporter and idolized the successful Kent. Kent rewarded Olsen's loyalty and admiration by also befriending him as Superman, even helping the "cub" reporter get the scoop when he defeated the Archer (Superman vol. 1 #13). Olsen started his career at the Star as pre-teen in the 1930s and remained there throughout World War II. In the 1950s, he was added to the regular reporting staff of the Daily Star.
While Superman defeated a number of more common adversaries, he encountered his first serious nemesis in the form of the Ultra-Humanite, a brilliant scientist (Action Comics #13). In mid-1939, Superman disrupted the activities of the Cab Protection League, a criminal racketeering operation. He ultimately discovered that a crippled bald man with blazing eyes was the force behind the League and claimed to be behind several such operations across the nation (Action Comics #14). This man, the Ultra-Humanite (alternately called "Ultra" or "Humanite"), has never revealed his true name and claims that even he does not remember his original identity. After the initial confrontation, the Ultra-Humanite was apparently killed in a plane crash, but as is too often the case, reports of his death were exaggerated. Superman encountered Ultra in this form twice more when he tried to extort $500,000 out of the Deering Corporation (Action Comics #17) and when he unleashed a deadly purple plague (Action Comics #19). In this last encounter, Superman confronted the villain, who threatened him with an electrogun designed to kill the Kryptonian. At the final instant, however, the gun misfired, seemingly killing the Ultra-Humanite.
In early 1940, Superman learned the Ultra-Humanite's greatest power when he encountered actress Dolores Winters. Ultra had mastered an advanced form of surgery that allowed him to physically transfer his brain from one body to another, assuming an entirely new identity. In his new form, the Ultra-Humanite kidnapped several celebrities and threatened to electrocute them unless a ransom was paid. Superman thwarted the plot, but Ultra escaped (Action Comics #20). Shortly thereafter, the Ultra-Humanite kidnapped Terry Curtis, a renowned physicist studying atomic energy. Ultra required Curtis's expertise to conduct experiments in producing early nuclear weapons. Superman rescued Curtis and the Humanite was, again, seemingly killed, this time in a volcanic eruption (Action Comics #21).
In 1942, The Ultra-Humanite resurfaced as Dolores Winters, this time in possession of two potent artifacts: the Hammer of Thor and the Powerstone. Ultra again attempted to blackmail the federal government but was thwarted by Superman and the All-Star Squadron. Terry Curtis, himself now possessed of super-powers due to his exposure to his own radioactive experiments, used his unstable body to create an explosion to destroy himself and the Ultra-Humanite (All-Star Squadron #21-25, All-Star Squadron Annual #2). As Curtis flew, he was snatched away to the future Crisis on Infinite Earths, leaving the Ultra-Humanite to escape in the past (All-Star Squadron #55). The Humanite remained in Winters's body until at least the late 1940s and continued to plague Superman (Superman Family #201).
An even deadlier enemy, the one who ultimately became Superman's supreme adversary, was Alexei Luthor. Luthor's true origins and place of birth are unknown, but his modus operandi was invariable: conquest through science. Throughout his adult life, Luthor used advanced weapons, formulae, and scientific processes to commit fantastic crimes. Superman first encountered Luthor in early 1940 when he intervened in a war between the small European nations of Toran and Galonia. The generals of the armies of these nations revealed that the war had been fomented by an evil genius seeking to involve the nations in war to his own benefit. Tracking the genius to his lair, Superman confronted Lex Luthor for the first time. After destroying Luthor's weapons, Superman smashed the controls of Luthor's escaping dirigible, leading to Luthor's presumed death (Action Comics #23). Later that year, Luthor reappeared and kidnapped Professor Martinson, creator of an earthquake machine. Superman defeated Luthor and destroyed the machine, but not before Martinson killed himself in remorse for creating the weapon. Next, Luthor attacked Superman from his base in the Pacific, a glass-covered dome on land raised from the ocean floor (Superman vol. 1 #4). In time, Luthor adopted a new appearance of a shaved head (Superman vol. 1 #13) and, in 1942, briefly acquired super-powers when he recovered the Powerstone from Skull Valley (Action Comics #47, Superman vol. 1 #17). The Powerstone later fell into the hands of the Ultra-Humanite. The Earth-Two Luthor was much more bloodthirsty than his Earth-One counterpart and attempted on several occasions to conquer the Earth or kill everyone close to Superman in an attempt to defeat the Man of Steel (Superman vol. 1 #34, 38, 47). He also joined forces with other adversaries of Superman (Superman vol. 1 #88, Action Comics #151), but in each case met defeat.
Late in 1940, Superman intervened when a group of Valkyries were reported to be invading the nation's capital. In pursuit of the Valkyries was a group of mystery-men who, along with Superman, protected President Franklin D. Roosevelt from assassination by the maidens from Norse mythology. At Roosevelt's suggestion, the group of heroes formed the Justice Society of America, of which Superman accepted reserve membership (DC Special #29). Superman was also a member of the All-Star Squadron, formed in late 1941 after the United States formally entered World War II (All-Star Squadron #3). Throughout the war years, Superman was rarely involved with these groups, preferring to serve a broader interest as America's home-front champion. This role was reinforced when the Axis powers erected a "Sphere of Influence" that prevented heroes susceptible to magic from entering Axis-held territory (All-Star Squadron #4).
Confined to the home front, Superman encountered a number of
bizarre criminals. In 1942, he first met the Prankster, a thief who based his
crimes on a variety of clichéd gags or practical jokes (Action Comics #51). The
twist provided by the Prankster was that the gags were often rigged:
firecrackers that produced large explosions, or kazoos that shot poison gas. In
1943, Superman encountered The Toyman, an eccentric toymaker who used
deadly toys to commit a variety of robberies (Action Comics #64).
In 1944, Superman first met an imp from the 5th-dimensional world of Zrfff
named Mister Mxyztplk (Superman vol. 1 #30). Mxyztplk's crimes were modest,
designed more to torment than harm, but the small alien was a never-ending
source of trouble to Man of Steel. After the war, Superman participated to a
greater degree with the Justice Society, notably in the pursuit of Calvin
Stymes. Stymes had used the river of Koehaha, Colorado's legendary Stream of
Ruthlessness, to induce several prominent businessmen to become criminals,
discrediting themselves to his benefit (All-Star Comics #36). Largely though,
Superman worked alone.
Post-war America experienced a boom in modern technology, and high-tech criminals became more commonplace. In the late 1940s, Colonel Future, a crime boss with a variety of futuristic gadgets at his command, plagued Metropolis with a series of robotic crimes. Superman defeated Future at almost every turn, frustrating the would-be crime lord. Frustrated, Colonel Future turned to the Wizard, former leader of the Injustice Society and rumored sorcerer. He enjoined the Wizard to use magic, one of Superman's obvious weaknesses, to remove the Last Son of Krypton from existence. The Wizard agreed, and cast a spell which, while removing Superman from existence, did not remove Clark Kent. Instead, while Superman was gone for nearly a year, Kent became much more aggressive. His reporting became exposés on Colonel Future's activities, and he personally participated in raids on criminal enclaves. Over time, Lois Lane found herself attracted to the "new" Kent, and the two became romantically involved. Ultimately they married.
During the Kents' honeymoon in the Caribbean, agents of
Colonel Future attempted to murder Clark for his past interference. Spying him
on an ocean swim, they riddled him with bullets, but were surprised that he
took no notice of them. Assuming equipment failure, they fled. Lois Kent,
having witnessed these events, began to again suspect that her husband was
indeed the Man of Steel. That night, she tried to cut his hair with a pair of
scissors, only to break them on his invulnerable locks. Realizing that her
husband was indeed Superman, Lois tracked down the Wizard, now living in
disgrace since falling out of favor with Metropolis's criminal community. The
Wizard was convinced to reverse his previous spell, and Clark regained his
memory of his Kryptonian identity. The Wizard was apprehended and spent several
years in prison. Despite Lois's initial reservations about being the wife of
the Superman, the two renewed their vows in Kryptonian fashion at Superman's
mountainside Fortress of Solitude (Action Comics #484).
The next several years were relatively uneventful, and
Superman and Lois began to build a life together. When George Taylor retired
from the office of Editor-In-Chief, Kent was promoted to that post over Perry
White (Superman Family #197). Taylor later revealed that he had deduced Superman's secret identity, which resulted in his being murdered in an attempt to acquire the secret (Superman Family #209). He continued to encounter traditional enemies
like Luthor (Superman Family #210) and the Ultra-Humanite (Superman Family #201,
214). Childhood acquaintance Lana Lang later used an ancient Egyptian scarab
brooch to become Earth-2's Insect Queen (Superman Family #213). In 1951, the
House Un-American Activities Committee hearings resulted in the formal
disbanding of the JSA, and many mystery-men entered a state of uncomfortable
retirement. Superman remained active due to his broad recognition by the
government and the American people. He, Batman and Wonder Woman helped fill in the gaps of coverage of retired JSA members or covered up when they needed to be active such as when the Gentleman Ghost went on a crime spree in the early 1950's (JSA Vol. 1 #2). Recurrent antagonists like the Toyman and the Prankster remains active until at least 1954 (Superman Vol. 1 #88), though their ultimates fates remain unknown.
By the 1960s, Superman had become less active. He rejoined
the Justice Society in 1969 (Justice League of America #73) and participated in
a number of cases thereafter. Over time, Superman began to express a sense of
melancholy that he was the sole survivor of a dead world. In the 1970s, a spaceship arrived from
Krypton, sent by his uncle Zor-L. The ship contained his cousin, Kara. Although
her ship had taken a longer route to Earth, equipment in the ship had slowed
Kara's aging, so that she was only 20 years old when she arrived on Earth
(revealed in Showcase #97). Superman trained Kara in the use of her abilities
and she eventually took on a super-powered identity of her own as Power Girl
(All-Star Comics vol. 1 #58). Superman went into semi-retirement at this point,
but he continued to be active when needed with the Justice Society (All-Star
Comics vol. 1 #69, 74). Finally, unable to resist the lure of action, Superman
came back out of semi-retirement shortly before the Ultra-Humanite attacked the
JLA and JSA with a re-formed Secret Society of Super-Villains (Justice League
of America #195-197). The group was defeated and sent to Limbo to await trial
Superman also contended with his longtime adversary Lex
Luthor. Luthor joined his Earth-1 counterpart and the villainous Ultraman,
Superman's Earth-Three counterpart, in an attempt to destroy Earths-One and -Two. The
three were defeated by the Supermen of Earths 1 and 2, with the help of
Luthor's Earth-Three counterpart (DC Comics Presents Annual #1). Not long
afterward, the Ultra-Humanite escaped from Limbo and lured Superman into battle
at the riverbed of Koehaha, the Stream of Ruthlessness. By "drowning"
him in Koehaha, the Ultra-Humanite banished Superman's conscience and convinced
him to lure other members of the JSA to those same waters. After a brief stint
as a world conqueror, Superman was cured of the effects of Koehaha and, with a
new generation of younger super-heroes, he and the JSA defeated the
Ultra-Humanite. This case led to the formation of a younger super-team on
Earth-Two, Infinity Incorporated (Infinity Inc. #3-10).
As Clark Kent, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Star, Superman recovered a diary written by the Batman, implicating the JSA as pawns of Hitler during World War II. He printed the diary's contents in the Daily Star, which resulted in the indictment of the Justice Society. At the resulting public Congressional hearing, the JSAers discovered that Batman had written the diary to direct attention at longtime JSA enemy Per Degaton and his upcoming attempt to conquer time; as a result, the JSA was exonerated (America vs. the Justice Society #1-4).
The Crisis on Infinite Earths wrought major changes upon Superman's
life. During the "Villain War" in the midst of the Crisis, Alexi
Luthor was slain (Crisis on Infinite Earths #9). Later, in an attempt to stop
the Anti-Monitor from destroying the multiverse, Superman and dozens of other
heroes traveled to the Dawn of Time and engaged the Anti-Monitor in battle
(Crisis on Infinite Earths #10). The battle resulted in a complete change in
the time/space/dimensional continuum. Earth-Two was sealed off and the Superman of this Earth was considered missing (Justice Society of America Annual #1). A version of the Kal-L of Earth-Two was capture in a pocket dimension with Lois Kent for an extended period and ultimately killed during the Infinite Crisis (Infinite Crisis #6). Whether this individual was the real Kal-L of Earth-Two or whether he continues to exist in the Earth-Two timeline is unclear.
Power and Abilities
Superman's powers, the result of his Kryptonian biology, include (but are not limited to): flight (really, really long jumps), super-strength, super-speed, invulnerability to bullets and lesser projectiles, x-ray vision and heat vision.
Weakness and Limitations
Superman could be poisoned and ultimately slain by exposure to Kryptonite, a radioactive derivative of the planet Krypton's explosion. He also displayed a heightened susceptibility to magic.