“Kneel before Zod!” When Terrence Stamp uttered this iconic phrase in 1981's Superman II, the character of General Dru-Zod skyrocketed into the public-eye and became a pop-culture icon.
With Zod's latest adaptations, both in 2013's Man of Steel and the second season of Supergirl, the troubled Kryptonian warrior has captivated another generation with his straightforward goals and bitter rivalry with Superman.
Throughout the character's history, there have remained constants, such as General Zod being intrinsically tied to his supernatural prison - the Phantom Zone - as well as his desire to conquer Krypton, Earth, or whatever stands in his way - namely Superman.
Even so, not every incarnation follows the rote origin story to a tee. Within the nearly sixty years since Zod's inception, there have been some significant deviations from the path, along with well-hidden Easter eggs and references.
If you think you're well-versed with the character, you might be surprised by what we've uncovered throughout the many continuities, so prepare to kneel before our list of 15 Things You Didn't Know About General Zod.
15 He Was A Disturbed 11 Year-Old
Zod’s appearances typically follow the same thread of him being a warmongering megalomaniac attempting to overthrow Krypton’s government before being banished to the interstellar prison, Phantom Zone.
However, in the JSA: Liberty Files comic, the familiar aspects of this tale were tossed to the wind in favor of a major shake-up: Zod was a sociopathic 11 year-old. Far from being a general, the young Zod was banished not for attempting to overthrow the government, but for creating a bio-weapon with no particular reason in mind other than a jolly good time.
Even more shocking, his freedom from the Phantom Zone would be because of Earth-based scientists, who gave him the name “Clark Kent.” The young Zod, under the guise of an innocent child, grew up to be that universe’s (deranged) Superman.
14 He Was Once Russian
Being a deranged 11 year-old was certainly a departure for the character, but it wasn’t the last big change. The Modern Age of comics found a way to intertwine the destinies of Superman and Zod in a novel way.
The would-be General was given the origin of being human, the son of two Russian cosmonauts who were near the infant Superman’s ship. Because of this, they were subjected to Kryptonite radiation, the effects of which were passed onto their son.
Taking the idea of the two characters being foils of one another, the effects of the radiation caused Zod to be weak under the sun of Earth (the source of Superman’s power). Instead, he was super-powered under the rays of the red sun, which forces Superman’s powers to dwindle.
13 Odo Voiced Zod
Although a far cry from the DC animation golden age of the 1990s, the Ruby-Spears Superman series was notable for having the first-ever screen portrayal of Wonder Woman post-Crisis.
Although it had this groundbreaking inclusion, it also had some questionable versions of Superman’s villains, such as “Cybron,” a bizarre take on Brainiac, who was not yet finalized as a character after the universe erasures of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
General Zod, however, managed to remain accurate to his comic counterpart, even down to the plain, brown uniform. More interesting, however, is that future Star Trek-alum, Rene Auberjonois, who played fan-favorite Odo in Deep Space Nine, would give a voice to this incarnation of the character.
While this may be the very first time a Star Trek actor (past, present, or future) would voice a DC character, it would be far from the last, with Wil Wheaton, Kate Mulgrew, Nichelle Nichols, and LeVar Burton being primary examples.
12 His Ship's Name Is A Reference
In Man of Steel, General Zod and his fellow Kryptonians made their way to Earth in a massive vessel known as the Black Zero. Originally a prison-ship, it was repurposed to terraform Earth into a new Krypton for Zod to rule during the course of the film.
While various facts surrounding the ship are interesting on their own, such as its ability to shield its crew from the rays of Earth's sun or that it had its own atmosphere, its name is the most fascinating.
Black Zero is a clever reference to various supervillains within the DC Universe, all of whom have a bone to pick with Superman and his ilk, with the original incarnation being the one directly responsible for the destruction of Krypton.
After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Black Zero was morphed from a character into an organization, which was essentially a Kryptonian terrorist group responsible for creating a dangerous virus.
11 His Crest Has A History
Superman’s crest is just as iconic as his cape or curl, and it’s had plenty of meanings throughout its near-century of existence. Man of Steel tells us that the “S” is really the Kryptonian symbol for “hope,” but the comics explain further that it’s also the symbol for the House of El, Superman’s family.
In Zod’s case, his crest simply stands for the House of Zod, but it’s not devoid of an interesting history, as the symbol was a common sight within Krypton’s Warrior Guild. Historically, members of the House of Zod have long since belonged to and led the Guild, which existed from before Kryptonian civilization began to hit its stride up until its untimely destruction, with Zod himself as the final commander.
It was from this final age of the Warrior Guild that the revolutionary Sword of Rao movement was started, kicking off the events of Man of Steel.
10 He Had Disciples
Like all good megalomaniacs, General Zod surrounds himself with like-minded (and obedient) retainers. Although there are multiple versions of the "Zod Trio," and what characters formed it, they generally consist of co-conspirators or fellow criminals in the Phantom Zone.
In Superman II, his disciples were Ursa (also known as Faora) and Non (also called Nam-ek.) While Non, known for his brute force and muteness, has generally remained unchanged through his appearances, Ursa has a far more diverse history.
Going by many names throughout her existence, Ursa’s most common crime, which landed her in the Phantom Zone, was her hatred of men. Her hatred was so intense that, during her debut in the Silver Age of comics, she ran a concentration camp where at least 23 were killed, lured in by her beauty.
Oddly, in the Richard Lester cut of Superman II, her personality (and allusion to the man-hating) was slightly altered. It, instead, implied that she might have been secretly in love with General Zod, hence her loyalty to his cause.
9 He Makes An Appearance In Diablo II (Sort Of)
In Blizzard’s beloved multiplayer dungeon-crawler, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, players are tasked with exploring a medieval realm, conquering enemies, and searching for new and more powerful weapons, armor, and spells.
Surprisingly, the General is referenced by the rarest of all runes in the game, “Zod.” Only able to be acquired on Hell difficulty from a handful of immensely powerful enemies, this rune is as devastating as it is scarce.
Amusingly, Superman is also alluded to in the rune system, specifically the one called “El”, a reference to his family name. It seems that the developers may have had a preference for Zod and his demands for kneeling, since “El” is one of the more common and weaker runes, especially when compared to its exponentially superior counterpart.
8 He Is The Final Boss In An NES Game
Superman for the Nintendo Entertainment System failed to meet the quality mark set by the many all-time classics rounding out the system’s library, but at least it gave Zod the honor of being the final boss.
Loosely based on the first two Superman movies, the game features cutesy, deformed graphics, bizarre dialogue, and Superman riding subways. It also includes a Statue of Liberty rip-off called the Statue of Freedom, which is graced with an anime face and speaks to Superman.
Players go through the game as the Man of Steel, beating up thugs on their quest to stop the “Zod Gang.” Eventually, the journey will reach its epic climax on Freedom Island, where players face off against the gauntlet of the Zod Gang: Ursa, Non, and General Zod himself.
Upon the game’s conclusion, Superman seals the trio in the Phantom Zone, and the chatty Statue of Freedom gives a head-scratching speech during a rousing 8-bit rendition of the National Anthem: “Thanks Superman, Zod’s Gang was cast into space by a spell!”
7 He Is Analogous To Satan
Superman is no stranger to religious allusions and comparisons, be they subtle or open, such as the poster for Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, which features the last son of Krypton’s protective arms outstretched above the Earth in a strikingly Christ-like pose.
Therefore, it’s only appropriate that General Zod, the evil-aligned foil, would have his own analogy to a religious icon: Satan.
Zod’s backstory and personal actions are nearly a mirrored reflection of Satan’s rise and fall in the Bible. Like Satan, Zod believed himself to be superior and attempted a coup to rule the heavens, in this case Krypton, launching a large-scale war to prove it.
Following Satan’s example, he was defeated and cast into a Hell-like prison, only to eventually be released and torment the son of his greatest enemy.
6 He Commanded A Robotic Army
During the Silver Age, Zod’s original idea of taking over Krypton was spurred by the destruction of one of their moons, Wegthor.
The loss of the moon was caused by a scientist, Jax-Ur, who callously tested a nuclear warhead on its populated surface. The purpose of this experiment was to see if his design would work, in which case he would then stockpile his newly developed weapons and use them to overthrow Krypton’s government.
However, this course of action-- due in no small part to Jor-El, who, being caught in the aftermath of the attack-- caused space travel to be banned on Krypton.
Outraged, Zod took matters into his own hands and raised an enormous army of robotic warriors resembling a Bizarro version of himself to overthrow Krypton. Of course, he was defeated and imprisoned in the Phantom Zone along with Jax-Ur, and the rest is history.
5 He Had A Background In Science
With yet another continuity revamp in the form of the The New 52, General Zod’s origin was given a fresh coat of paint as the son of two scientists.
While still young, he and his family went on a trip into the wilderness for the purpose of discovering and cataloguing new life. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the tragic, and Zod’s parents were killed by creatures in the wild. Miraculously, Zod persevered and survived for an entire year on his own, until he was eventually rescued by none other than Superman’s father.
Years later, after becoming an elite soldier and general for Krypton, he developed a hatred towards a species called the Char. Ordering the creation of a bio-weapon made to look like one of his hated foes, he unleashed it upon the innocent populace of Krypton as a ploy to justify a war against them.
This plot was discovered, and the General, once again, found himself and his followers banished into the Phantom Zone.
4 Viggo Mortensen And Daniel Day-Lewis Were Considered For The Role
Before Michael Shannon brought life and layers to Kryptonian usurper in Man of Steel, both Viggo Mortensen and Daniel Day-Lewis were in the running.
Mortensen, known for Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would have given an interesting flavor to the character, with his trademark simmering eyes and quiet power. Considering the anger and duty that the Man of Steel Zod bottles within him during the film, he would have been a great fit.
That said, Daniel Day-Lewis, typically considered one of the finest (and craziest) actors of our time, would likely have made this performance an experience on its own. Would his Zod bring the volcanic rage of Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood? Or would it be more like his sociopathic Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York? In any case, it would have been another memorable role for the actor.
Despite the what-ifs, Shannon did a marvelous job with the character, and succeeded on his own merits.
3 He Was Used To Break DC's Rules
The DC Universe was forever changed following Crisis on Infinite Earths, a large-scale crossover with the goal of purging the enormous “multi-verse” created for the many comic worlds, in order to have a somewhat clean-slate.
One of the new rules that followed this upheaval was that there should be no Kryptonians other than Superman, of which there were quite a few at the time.
Enter Zod, the man known for breaking rules and overthrowing order. In fact, it seems only fitting that this crazed General was the tool the writers used to get around the “no Kryptonian” order.
Whether it be a version of Zod hailing from the Time Keeper-created Pocket Universe, one given life by Brainiac in an alternate reality, or his stint as a Russian; the character hailed from alternate continuities. This could therefore insure that the only Kryptonian in the prime timeline was Superman.
2 He Fathered Superman's (Adoptive) Son
Just a year after the final rule-breaking incarnation, General Zod was back in business within the main continuity, and was given a brand new narrative thread.
Within the Phantom Zone, Ursa, now his wife, gave birth to their son, Lor-Zod. The child was graced with an immunity to the forces of the Zone, which eventually allowed for their escape.
While on Earth, Lor-Zod was found by Superman and Lois Lane, who chose to adopt him, giving him the name Christopher.
Years later, following a war with his true parents and their cadre of Kryptonian criminals, Chris was taken into the Phantom Zone, only to be rescued and eventually adopt the mantle of Nightwing upon his return.
Ultimately, Zod returned and waged the War of the Supermen. In a tragic twist of fate, Christopher sacrificed himself by throwing Zod into the Phantom Zone and staying with him to make sure he never returned.
1 He Can Control The Phantom Zone
In the well-received fighting game, Injustice: Gods Among Us, NetherRealm Studios gave players an excellent story with a tight-combat engine, satisfying both comic and fighting fans alike. Naturally, the brutal Zod made an appearance, this time as a DLC fighter.
Like most fighting games, each character has a canonically-dubious ending, but Zod’s is especially intriguing. Due to the immense amount of time spent in that cursed Phantom Zone, and thanks to the help of a fellow prisoner, Zod was able to learn how to control and conjure the powers of the Phantom Zone, creating small pockets of it at will.
After defeating Superman by subjecting him to his newfound abilities, Zod was finally able to claim the High Counselorship and rebuild Earth into the Krypton he has long desired.
Can you think of any other facts about Superman's General Zod? Let us know in the comments!