General Zod: who is the Kryptonian Revolutionary?

One World, Under Zod

General Zod:Come to me, son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod!

Superman II

A king stands on a balcony. His planet has been attacked by invaders with otherworldly powers. The invaders are approaching this last bastion and must be stopped at any cost. The royal army draws their weapons and prepares for battle. The castle shakes as a crash is heard on the roof. Twice more a crash is heard as crumbled stone rains. Sunlight floods the hall as a figure descends.

Red light shoots from his eyes, burning everyone he gazes at. Spears and arrows bounce off his flesh. In a burst of speed, the figure tears several defenders apart before flying up and throwing the king to the ground. The king sees several more figures descending. The attacker tells him there is only one way to save his people. The king reluctantly climbs to his feet, approaches the attacker, and kneels before General Zod. 

General Zod is one of DC Comics’ most powerful supervillains. He has all of Superman’s powers, an army of fanatically loyal Kryptonian criminals, and no love for humanity. So who is he? How did he become a villain? How is he still alive if Krypton was destroyed? Let’s find out.

The Phantom Zone: General Zod’s Backstory

Jor-El: [at Zod’s trial]  “General Zod – once trusted by this Council, charged with maintaining the defense of the planet Krypton itself. Chief architect of this intended revolution and author of this insidious plot, to establish a “New Order” amongst us… with himself as absolute ruler. You have heard the evidence. The decision of the Council will now be heard.

Superman: The Movie

General Zod debuted in Adventure Comics #283 in 1961. He was created by Robert Bernstein and George Papp. Originally bald and clean-shaven, Zod was redesigned to look like actor Terence Stamp following Superman II.

General Dru-Zod led Krypton’s military forces. He dreamed of conquering the galaxy, but his hopes were dashed when a science experiment went awry and Krypton’s council abolished their space program. Zod created a robot army and launched a failed coup d’etat. The council used Jor-El’s newest invention to banish General Zod into The Phantom Zone, a barren alternate dimension unaffected by time.

Forty years later, Superman discovered the Phantom Zone Projector and commuted Zod’s sentence. The ungrateful general learned that his savior was Jor-El’s son and used the Projector to banish Superman into the Phantom Zone. Zod tried to conquer the world with his new superpowers, but Superman escaped and recaptured him.

Zod made several more escapes, but was always defeated by Superman’s greater experience with Kryptonian superpowers or by being tricked and sent back to the Zone. Even recruiting other Kryptonian criminals who had been sent to the Zone failed, usually due to infighting. This version of General Zod disappeared after the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

New Krypton: General Zod’s History

Zod:Ursa, you and Lor were my focus all along. It’s a new Krypton we want, and this world is ripe for domination. One day of work, two at the most, and it will be ours. With my Queen and Prince by my side, Krypton will live again!

Action Comics #984

After the Crisis, DC’s editors mandated that Superman was Krypton’s only survivor. General Zod fell by the wayside for a few years, despite attempts to reinvent him. The first made him a genocidal warlord from another universe who became the first villain Superman executed. The second was as a Soviet villain who was powered by red sunlight. The mandate was eventually lifted, and the true General Zod returned.

This Zod was a charismatic leader and one of the few who believed Jor-El about Krypton’s destruction. His coup was an attempt to rebuild the Kryptonian armada so they could conquer a new homeworld. Jor-El refused to help his friend, leading to Zod’s defeat and imprisonment.

Superman released General Zod, his wife Ursa-Zod, and their lieutenant Non. The trio of criminals unsuccesfully attempted to free the rest of their army. The trio kept finding ways to escape, seeking to kill Superman for Jor-El’s betrayal and to conquer the world.

General Zod eventually found the Bottle City of Kandor, a Kryptonian city that had been captured and shrunk by Brainiac. He returned the Kandorians to full size and founded a colony called New Krypton. The colony co-existed with Earth for a few years before Lex Luthor slaughtered nearly everyone there with a kryptonite nuke.

The Phantom Zone criminals eventually found an escape route that brought them to the planet Jekku. General Zod conquered the planet and established a new Kryptonian Empire. His wife Ursa bore a son named Lor-Zod, who was raised to follow in his father’s footsteps. The Green Lanterns liberated Jekku, causing the Zod family to once more turn their sights on Earth.

Kryptonian Commander: General Zod’s Powers and Personality

General Zod:I exist only to protect Krypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born, and every action I take, no matter how violent or how cruel, is for the greater good of my people. And now, I have no people.  My soul… that is what you have taken from me!”

Man of Steel

Zod didn’t earn the rank of general by collecting bottle caps. He is an expert strategist, tactician, and martial artist. His charisma allowed him to convince the violent Phantom Zone criminals to swear fealty and serve as his loyal army. He sometimes has Kryptonian weapons.

Like all Kryptonians, General Zod gains superpowers after absorbing yellow sunlight. He’s super strong, fast, durable, can fly, has heat vision, and every other trick you’ll find in our list of Superman’s Top 10 Superpowers. He’s generally weaker than Superman because he hasn’t absorbed as much sunlight, but makes up for that deficiency by being a better fighter and tactician.

General Zod is xenophobic, conservative, and a supremacist. He also follows a code of honor, respects his soldiers, takes responsibility for his actions, and shows love to his family. Whether Zod is a bloodthirsty conqueror or a soldier trying to save his people varies based on the author.

The Actors Who Portray General Zod

Rene Auberjonois – Superman (1988)
Jason J. Lewis – Justice League Action
Liam O’Brien – DC Superhero Girls
Callum Blue – Smallville
Mark Gibbon – Supergirl
Colin Salmon – Krypton
Bruce Thomas – Justice League: Gods and Monsters
Phil Morris – Young Justice
Terence Stamp – Superman: The Movie, Superman II
Michael Shannon – Man of Steel, The Flash

Didya Get All That?

A Kryptonian Conqueror.

Image: Aaron Pierre, Colin Salmon, and Georgina Campbell in “The Phantom Zone”, Season 1, Episode 10 of Krypton. Image courtesy Syfy.

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