Jor-El was a scientist who lived during the last days of Krypton. He had a deep love and respect for Krypton's ancient past, which contrasted sharply with the cold, sterile world the planet had become. When it was arranged for Jor-El to be bonded with Lara (the reason being they were the most genetically compatible), Jor-El broke with tradition and asked if he could see the woman with whom he would have a child. Jor-El fell in love with her, and she eventually came to love him as well. They lived together, and a son was conceived from their sex cells and implanted in an artificial womb, known as a Matrix Chamber.
About that time, Krypton was being ravaged by an apparent Plague known as the Green Death. People were dying by the millions and the cause could not be found. Jor-El worked hard nearly non-stop and finally discovered the cause. It was not a plague at all, but instead a deadly form of radiation caused by the fusing of native elements into a deadly new crystalline substance. This fusing had occurred due to intense pressure building up in the planet's core--the deadly result of a doomsday weapon initiated centuries ago by Black Zero.
Jor-El attempted to warn the Kryptonian Council, but they refused to listen to him. They rebuked the thought that a new element could have occurred without their knowledge, as "not a cloud traversed the sky that they did not control." Jor-El pleaded with them that they must evacuate the planet, but this was regarded as blasphemy and he was banished from their sight.
Soon thereafter, Jor-El realized that his prediction about the planet exploding were off--he only had days at most, not months. He managed to develop a serum that would allow his still unborn son to leave the planet, and treated Kal-El before placing the matrix chamber in a rocket ship. Lara was appalled when she first learned that Jor-El intended to send their child to Earth, as she felt it was a savage, backward planet. Jor-El insisted that it would be an ideal environment for their son, and pointed out that under Earth's yellow sun, he would be virtually a god among men. Kal-El was saved, and Jor-El and Lara spent their last moments together before the planet exploded.
Inside the rocket ship which brought Kal-El to Earth, Jor-El left a message for his son explaining his origins. This message was relayed via a holographic version of Jor-El that appeared to Kal-El after he had already grown up as Clark Kent and assumed the identity of Superman. Clark was wary of the strange image at first, not understanding the Kryptonese until the hologram made actual contact with him. In addition to "downloading" the message of his origins, it also gave him knowledge of how to speak his native tongue.
While Jor-El was never resurrected, he made a number of appearances in the form of flashbacks, recordings, alternate time lines, etc. One notable appearance occurred during Zero Hour, when time itself was being unraveled due to the machinations of Extant and Parallax. Jor-El and Lara show up at the Kent farm, announcing they have come to take their son home. Superman arrives and is shocked by this news, as well as by seeing his parents face to face (Jor-El here looks almost identical to his son). Jor-El states that Krypton never exploded, but even as he had fired Kal-El off the planet another scientist had developed a device that saved the planet. Gradually, life began to return to world, and Jor-El became a leading advocate for abandoning their completely science driven culture. To exemplify the need for change, he and Lara decided to have a second child--but this one conceived and born naturally. The child, also a son, could survive without the life support suits the rest of Krypton had come to use. Jor-El and Lara asked their son if he was ready to return. A tearful Clark said that he knew in his heart they were not his real parents--he had personally been to the ruins of Krypton years before, and knew the havoc the timeline was in. Nevertheless, he said that if it was possible, he would like to visit their world and meet his brother. Tragically, their ship was struck by lightning caused by the Zero Hour event and exploded right before Clark's eyes. Metron appeared, assuring Superman they had not been his "real" parents, but while Superman understood that, he also knew they had been the closest he would ever come to meeting them.
Superman and his supporting cast had their origins revised in the Superman: Birthright series written by Mark Waid in 2003. This rewrote the previous definitive origin story, John Byrne's 1986 mini-series The Man of Steel, to include more elements from the Silver Age character. It would remain in continuity until Infinite Crisis in 2006 established Geoff Johns' Superman: Secret Origin.
Jor-El was once a scientist and high-ranking member of the Kryptonian Science Council on the planet Krypton. He was a protege of the eminent scientist known as Non and together they discovered that Krypton was suffering from severe geological disturbances - disturbances that threatened to destroy the entire planet. Jor-El brought his concerns to the Science Council, but they dismissed his assertions as a vehicle of paranoia and discord. Jor-El was also the architect of the Phantom Zone projector, a device that could teleport convicted criminals into an otherworldly dimension called the Phantom Zone. Jor-El believed that imprisonment in the Phantom Zone was a more humane method of incarcerating criminals, though he had little knowledge of what life inside the Phantom Zone was truly like.
Shortly before the destruction of Krypton, Jor-El and his wife Lara gave birth to a son named Kal-El. Desperate to save his son's life, he created a star-drive ship designed to take him to another world - a world where he would be safe and grow up to be strong and happy. Sometime afterwards, he and Non were arrested by General Zod and Ursa. When Non defies the Council's dire prohibitions and elects to spread the word of the coming apocalypse, he is abducted by Council agents and apparently lobotomized, thus explaining the character's mute simple-mindedness, brutality, and destructiveness. Appalled, Zod and Ursa propose to Jor-El that they band together and overthrow the Council, but Jor-El will have none of it. When their murderous insurrection fails, the Council forces Jor-El to exile them to the Phantom Zone and never speak of his findings again, lest he face the same fate. For this perceived betrayal, Zod declares that he will escape and conquer Krypton (confident that Jor-El will actually discover some way to save the planet) and force the scientist and his son to kneel before him one day ("You will bow down before me, Jor-El! I swear it! No matter that it takes an eternity, you will bow down before me! Both you, and then one day, your heirs!!!")
Jor-El explored the galaxy in search of a suitable planet and sent out dozens of probes designed to collect various data. His research revealed that Kryptonians living in a yellow-star system developed enhanced physical characteristics including super-strength, speed and agility. One of Jor-El's probes landed on the planet Earth where it was discovered by motorist Thomas Wayne while he was on a drive with a pregnant Martha. When Thomas touched the probe, his consciousness was instantly transported to Krypton where he met Jor-El so that Jor-El could better learn what kind of world Earth was to help him decide which of many possible candidates he should send his son to. Although their meeting was brief, Jor-El developed a fondness and respect for Thomas Wayne. Thomas tells Jor-El that the people of Earth aren't perfect, but are essentially a good and kind race, who would raise the child right. He decided that Earth would be the perfect planet for his son to be raised. Thomas recorded his encounter in a diary, which was discovered by Bruce in the present day.
Within a short period of time, Jor-El's worst nightmares came to pass. Massive groundquakes erupted across the planet and Krypton literally shook in its death-throes. With little time to spare, Jor-El and Lara placed baby Kal-El into his rocket ship and sent him off towards Earth. Krypton exploded and everyone on the planet, including Jor-El, were killed.
Having been rebuilt via a Kryptonian crystal during the One Year Later story arc, the current version of the Fortress of Solitude, now contains an advanced interactive "recording" of Jor-El which, is otherwise identical in function.
- Genius Level Intellect: Jor-El possessed an advanced knowledge of Kryptonian history.
- Science: He was also a proficient scientific engineer responsible for designing hyper-drive technology.
- Robots: Jor-El made use of his father's robotic servants, such as Kelex and Kelor.
- Hyper-Drive: Jor-El designed a hyper-drive system, which he attached to his son's birthing matrix, rendering it capable of interstellar flight.
- The original concept of Jor-El was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938. Writer/artist John Byrne reimagined the character for the Post-Crisis environment in 1986, taking great liberties with the character's history and overall appearance. It was later completely reimagined again by Mark Waid in 2004.
- Height and weight from Superman: The Man of Steel Sourcebook.
- 88 Appearances of Jor-El (New Earth)
- 28 Images featuring Jor-El (New Earth)
- 2 Quotations by or about Jor-El (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Jor-El (New Earth)
Superman Family member