Man of Steel has its admirers and detractors, but one of the most intriguing elements of Zack Snyder’s 2013 Superman reboot was its depiction of Superman’s birth planet of Krypton. A far cry from the cold, crystalline ice world popularized by Richard Donner’s Superman in the 1970s, Man of Steel‘s Krypton was a provocatively vivid and decidedly alien-looking world with design elements influenced by H.R. Giger’s Alien, David Lynch’s Dune, and even James Cameron’s Avatar. This was unlike any version of Krypton ever seen before in movies or television, and it was one of the more well-received aspects of Man of Steel.
In December of 2014, the Syfy channel announced that a Krypton series was in development, set to be written by David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, Batman Begins). Set decades before the planet’s destruction and centering around the grandfather of Kal-El, the future Man of Steel, Krypton would be the most in-depth look ever at the society of the original superhero’s home world and family history. With the success of Gotham, the Batman prequel series on FOX, Syfy would be throwing its hat into the DC Universe prequel game.
This week saw the trailer for Krypton leaked online – and then promptly taken down – but before it disappeared it raised a pivotal question: Is Krypton a prequel to Man of Steel? Judging from what we saw and heard in the trailer, the answer has to be yes.
The costume and production design of the cities and environs of Krypton sync up perfectly with what was depicted in Man of Steel, right down to the metallic key shaped like the fabled S crest of the House of El (which, in the DCEU, isn’t an S but instead symbolizes “hope”). The visual style of the sets – from the domed city we glimpse at the start of the trailer (Kryptonopolis or possibly Kandor, the future bottled city) to the costumes and armor worn by the characters, each with their elaborate family crests emblazoned on their chests, and even the accents of the characters that sound mainly British – clue us in that this is indeed the same world that Russell Crowe’s Jor-El would some day rebel against.
The character breakdowns announced for the series also strongly indicate the characters of Krypton are the progenitors of the heroes and villains we came to know in Man of Steel. Krypton’s main characters are Seg-El (Camerone Cuffe), the father of Jor-El and the grandfather of Kal-El, and Lyta Zod (Georgina Campbell), the ancestor of the future General Zod. The Els and Zod were, of course, the main characters in Man of Steel, and it seems both families have a shared history that influenced the fate of the planet Krypton for generations before their decendants took their conflict to Earth.
Seg-El is described as “the scion of the once prosperous El family and is blessed with an intuitive brilliance for all things technical. He is now living in Krypton’s lowest caste after his family was stripped of its rank.” Krypton will partly be about the rise to prominence of the House of El, an aspect of Superman’s lore we’ve never seen depicted in live action. Lyta Zod is described as a member of Krypton’s military caste who has a “forbidden romance” with Seg-El, tying the Houses of El and Zod even closer together than the adversarial relationship Superman fans have grown accustomed to.
The element of castes, as Kryptonians were bred to serve specific functions according to the needs of society, was a major focus in Man of Steel. Jor-El defied the Kryptonian caste system by fathering Kal-El – the first natural birth on Krypton for centuries. When his avatar met Clark Kent on board the Kryptonian space craft on Earth, Jor-El described their society:
“Every child was designed to perform a predetermined role in our society as a worker, a warrior, a leader, and so on. Your mother and I believed Krypton lost something precious, the element of choice, of chance. What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?”
Other characters include Val-El (Ian McElhinney, who played Barristan Selmy on Game of Thrones), described as “Seg’s genius grandpa who defied death by going into the Phantom Zone, and is a staunch believer in space exploration.” Val-El also “believes that space exploration is a basic form of self-defense, and he has tried, without success, to warn the Kryptonian elite about the arrival of an ancient threat.” Then there is Primus Alura Zod (Ann Ogbomo), described as Lyta Zod’s mother and a leader of Krypton’s military guild.
The Phantom Zone, and the concept of Kryptonians as explorers who traversed space for thousands of years, setting up colonies on other worlds, were all prominent in Man of Steel. No mention yet of the World Engine, the giant machines Kryptonians use to terraform other planets to make them livable for themselves, which Zod was going to use to end all human life on Earth. As for the alien threat Val-Zod warns Krypton against, this could be a way to introduce Brainiac into the DCEU. Meanwhile, the Zods all being born to serve in Krypton’s military caste ties into everything we know about General Zod in Man of Steel. There was also a dialogue tease where Seg-El must “find the fortress,” perhaps introducing the Fortress of Solitude that is missing from the DCEU’s version of Superman.
Glimpses of the planet Krypton have been a staple of Superman television properties from Lois & Clark to Smallville to Supergirl, which featured Kara Zor-El forced to live in her memories of Krypton in the season 1 episode “For The Girl Who Has Everything.” However, Krypton will be the first series to fully immerse Superman fans in the culture, politics, and history of Superman’s home planet and birth family – all things Henry Cavill’s Superman actually knows precious little about. If it all works, Krypton could be the epic science fiction leg of the DCEU on television, and it could even bring doubters around to appreciate Man of Steel (or some of it, anyway) in a whole new way.