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Off My Mind: Superman's Ship—Why Only Room For One?

If Krypton was so advanced, how come the ship only had room for one?

Superman has a simple origin. His planet, Krypton, was doomed to blow up, his father, Jor-El, put him in a rocket and sent him to Earth where he gained superpowers under our yellow sun. Since the first telling of his origin back in Action Comics #1 in 1938, his story has been depicted numerous times.

One of the differences in each telling of his journey from Krypton to Earth is the size of the ship carrying baby Kal-El. The design of the ship in 1939's Superman #1 showed an even bigger ship. Clearly, Superman arriving alone helped shape who he was and who he would become. We've seen other stories (as recently as last year's Last Family of Krypton miniseries) where Superman was joined by his parents. Was it really necessary for him to journey to Earth alone?

Besides being a plot device, it always struck me as odd that Kal-El had to be sent alone. Some versions show a smaller ship but looking at the early interpretations, why didn't one of his parents go with him?

Superman #61, 1949
Superman #53, 1948

In Superman #6, Superman is able to break through the time barrier and witnesses his parents final moments. Jor-El clearly states that there is room for her and their baby. What's interesting about this is Lara decides to stay behind rather than ensure her infant will be safe and have a mother upon his arrival. Superman #53, from the previous year gave a little more background as well as a simple "good luck" as their helpless child is shot out into space.

It could be argued that the rocket would have a better chance of reaching Earth if it was only carrying Kal-El's weight. This is the how the story goes in later renditions. The journey was too far and the extra weight would require more fuel. But in Superman #53, Jor-El is Krypton's greatest scientist and talks to the Council of Five about building ships to leave the planet. He knew about the dangers and the ship he managed to build was able to hold his wife and son. Some versions show the Kryptonians as cold and a little unfeeling. That would explain how a mother could send out her baby into the coldness of space. But that would mean she either didn't have faith the rocket would make it to Earth or actually did care about Kal-El's safety. Lara also states her wish to give their son a chance.

Man of Steel #1, 1986

What's the deal? Why would Superman's mom give up the chance to raise him? Why did she choose to stay with her husband in death rather than live to raise her child? Over the years and with the different tellings of his origin, this decision has been taken away from Lara. In John Byrne's The Man of Steel #1 in 1986, the ship is referred to as a matrix orb. Kal-El wasn't even born and the orb would shield him from the poisonous radiation of space. Because it wasn't a normal ship, the choice of Lara accompanying her son wasn't even a question.

With the origin constantly changing, the move was made away from Lara choosing her husband over her child. Both Superman: Birthright and Superman Secret Origin

show there was no choice. Was Lara a bad mother for abandoning her child? Was the actual reason she stayed behind on a planet that was about to explode? Is this why Kal-El's departure from Krypton has been changed over the years? We may never know the actual answer.

What are your thoughts on why Lara stayed behind? Was it out of love for her husband, love for her child in giving him a stronger chance of survival or was it out of fear in traveling through space?

145 Comments
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Posted by queenfrost_
@RazzaTazz:  Nope, she was the wife to Jerome Siegel my friend
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus
@joshmightbe:

That's what I was just thinking myself. The only problem with that is...that works for the post-Crisis/Byrne Era/Man of Steel Superman since the ship was also a birthing matrix and naurally the baby was still a growing and developing fetus that would finally be born on Earth.  But the pre-Crisis ship, at least to my knowledge, did not hint at anything suggesting deep space/interstellar/intergalactic life support systems.  No suspended animation, stasis or cryostatic modules.  Hell, the way that it was portrayed it seemed like the ship jettisoned across entire galaxies with nothing more than rocket propulsion; absolutely nothing to suggest the ship had a faster than light drive whatsoever.  If these things were implied, fair enough, but Im usually one to take literal truth when reading my material. But yes, you're absolutely right with the suspended animation idea. 
Posted by Vitality

Here's a good topic you should do... 
 
 
"What if Kal-El's parents came to earth with him?"
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus
@Vitality:
It's been done.  Superman: Last Family of Krypton, Elseworlds miniseries.
Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus
@G-Man:

I don't think you bring up absurd topics at all.  If anything they are most thought provoking, like this one! After all, such topics help broaden our horizons on subjects like this relating to the Man of Steel and gives us wonderful insights into the world of "what if?"
Posted by primepower53
@InnerVenom123 said:
"Plot device, like you said. "
Posted by Doctor!!!!!

In Superman: The Anitmated series, Lara could have gone with baby Kal-El but she didn't ... 
well it is all a plot device.
Posted by blaakmawf
@ComicMan24: @ComicMan24 said:
" @InnerVenom123 said:
" Plot device, like you said. "
I agree with that. "
Yeah, not too much else to it.
Posted by howlettgrowl

just be glad Superman did not land near the house were the cast of jersey shore reside!!!

Posted by NightFang
@InnerVenom123 said:
" Plot device, like you said. "
Posted by ld12278
@RedheadedAtrocitus:  Exactly, like The Nail, where the Kents got a flat tire from a nail so they weren't on the road to find Kal-El. I'd buy that branch-off myself.
Posted by DarkSyde79

Not only that but if the Krytonians where advanced as they're portrayed... shouldn't ships have been more common???

Posted by mickoreo_LZ

There is no logical reason for Lara to stay and let her son go to Earth alone. Plot device. Comics are full of them

Posted by Primmaster64
@InnerVenom123 said:
" Plot device, like you said. "
Posted by TheCrowbar
@DarkSyde79 said:
" Not only that but if the Krytonians where advanced as they're portrayed... shouldn't ships have been more common??? "
Do you own a boat? How many people making over six figures owns a boat?
Posted by Kal'smahboi
@DarkSyde79 said:
" Not only that but if the Krytonians where advanced as they're portrayed... shouldn't ships have been more common??? "
I believe the official reason for this is that Kryptonians are xenophobic and space travel was forbidden. Other than that, it's just a plot device to get the last son of Krypton to Earth.
Posted by Blackestnight

Her prepared rocket fell when the planet was breaking up they chose to save the baby

Posted by TheCheeseStabber

well you know on Krypton plane tickets are expensive because the economy was so bad so maybe they could only aford one for now

Posted by Gokujam
@TheCheeseStabber:
ROFLOLOLOL
Posted by ssejllenrad
@TheCheeseStabber said:
" well you know on Krypton plane tickets are expensive because the economy was so bad so maybe they could only aford one for now "
Yeah this is most likely explanation.
Posted by MrDirector786

Plot device

Posted by TheCheeseStabber
@Gokujam: im being serious have you checjked the prices there late woops never mind it explodeded
Posted by Big

Lara wouldn't want to live with the guilt of leaving her husband behind. Plus, what chance does a middle-aged woman who can only speak a foreign language have in this economy? Zilch.
Posted by Sydpart2

In Superman TAS there was room for her, but the ship had a better chance of escaping without her on it.

Posted by weaponxxx

Superman was the original hipster....
 
"Yeah I totally have means of escaping Krypton's doom...but you've probably never heard of it."
 
Mom and Pop were killing his style.

Posted by The Stegman
@G-Man: in Superman Earth One, didn't they say the reason only Kal El could go was  because if his parents built a bigger rocket for them to fit in, it would be noticed and stopped by the Krptonian police?
Posted by Dr. Detfink

I'm going to assume that the House of El didn't have enough time or resources to build a bigger ship. If memory serves, pre-retcon Kal-El's father was mocked regarding the fate of Krypton. Such a deep space ship would require A LOT of fuel and small space for deep sleep.

Posted by ultraman324

Hmm... this reminds of something I read somewhere awhile ago that Bryne's original idea for "Man of Steel" was to have the pregnant Lara get into the ship and then die during the birth on earth because of some Krytonite that was stuck the outside of the ship. 

Posted by El_Derrico

There seems to be a consensus of plot device. I have to concur. It's like how Bruce Wayne wasn't sent to foster care when his parents die. Who the heck knows.  

Posted by abeyance

here's a bigger question why didn't jor-el get the phantom zone projector and put the people that believed him inside along with his wife then put it inside with Kal. He could have left instructions to build a red sunlight filtered room with supes wearing a solar suit to weed out the people put in there because of the explosion and put the criminals back inside.

Posted by Thor'sHammer

I always thought Jor-El and Lara were the first couple to fall in love in generations.  They were also the first to procreate naturally, not in test tubes, in generations or even millenia.   I think it stands to reason that Lara's sense of romance with Jor-El overpowered any maternal instinct she probably didn't have. 

Posted by TheMess1428

Then we later see that his uncle, Zor-El, also made a rocket that his 14 year old daughter could use to get to Earth too, to be Clark's guardian. But instead, she was stuck in suspended animation and the rocket took way too long to arrive on Earth. She landed around the time Clark was in his early to mid thirties and She was still 14. At least that's the current Supergirl's story. 
 
And then somehow there was another ship that sent Clark's family dog, Krypto, to Earth as well. 
 
This story has too many holes...

Posted by Eyz
@TheMess1428 said:
" Then we later see that his uncle, Zor-El, also made a rocket that his 14 year old daughter could use to get to Earth too, to be Clark's guardian. But instead, she was stuck in suspended animation and the rocket took way too long to arrive on Earth. She landed around the time Clark was in his early to mid thirties and She was still 14. At least that's the current Supergirl's story.  And then somehow there was another ship that sent Clark's family dog, Krypto, to Earth as well.  This story has too many holes... "
So many spaceships in the end, arriving every now and then :/
 
Ha! But it makes for quite surprising stories! (I remember another modern story, with many other Kryptonians showing up..was it the one year later story?)
Posted by JJ_McKool

I think we're all overlooking the most likely answer here, however depressive. Jor-El's not the heroic father his son believed, but an enormous passive-aggressive dick.  
 
 Think about it, this guy was of such an absurd genius that even on a place like Krypton, he was still given the title of leading scientist.  
 
Of an entire planet!  
 
He was so far above everyone in intelligence that they had no choice but to bow to his superior intellect. This, coupled together with his inability to convince anyone that their planet was about to reach a demise could mean only one thing, that this man had some severely impaired social skills. His horrifying intellect meant he never really identified with anyone in the world. He was almost always alone. His one miniscule experience with intimacy was with a wife who was riding his coat-tails of success. And he knew it. His one last action on Krypton would be a single digit salute to all the people who laughed at him. Who took advantage of him. Who feared him. Including his wife and even son, who was probably not even of his seed. He'd show them.  
  
But just as his passage was about to begin, his wife found him in his lab, and through some combination of his passive cowardess, a sparkle of what he realized was still, love, despite her infidelities, and a decision to defy expectation, he gave up his seat to his wife and son. 
 
But why then would she give up her seat? Like I said, she never really loved him. He was just a coat-tail to ride. She never loved him, or even liked him, she just liked his money. And when she gave birth to what actually turned out to be his son, her initial postpartum depression took a turn for the worst. When offered the chance to leave absent her goldmine, Jor-El, with the son she never wanted, she gave up her own seat as well, opting instead for death.      

Posted by Chris2KLee

The distance they were sending it, I always figured it was easier to build it to protect a child than a full grown adult. Also seemed like a last minute thing to me too.

Posted by PowerHerc

Yes; why?  It's obviously a plot device to explain why only baby Kal-El survived the end of Kyrpton.  The device was thin but functional, especially in the Golden Age.
Posted by Xenozoic Shaman

 Tickets for the Galaxy Express are expensive.

Posted by sagefire

I've always liked the explanation that Krypton exploded a bit too soon for Jor-El and he was in the process of testing spacecraft. Sending off Krypto to test if a living being could make it to earth safely, and when that pod didn't seem to work he built another prototype. When the cataclysm started he only had his test probe, and that it was only big enough for the baby. I've always thought that explanation was the best.

Posted by TheMess1428
@Eyz said:
" @TheMess1428 said:
" Then we later see that his uncle, Zor-El, also made a rocket that his 14 year old daughter could use to get to Earth too, to be Clark's guardian. But instead, she was stuck in suspended animation and the rocket took way too long to arrive on Earth. She landed around the time Clark was in his early to mid thirties and She was still 14. At least that's the current Supergirl's story.  And then somehow there was another ship that sent Clark's family dog, Krypto, to Earth as well.  This story has too many holes... "
So many spaceships in the end, arriving every now and then :/  Ha! But it makes for quite surprising stories! (I remember another modern story, with many other Kryptonians showing up..was it the one year later story?) "
I don't remember that story... But I do remember there was another Kryptonian that lived on Earth because she had arrived a long time before Clark and lived there in secret.
Posted by dewboy01

maybe they didn't have enough ships on their planet.
Posted by Mr_Wayne69

I was discussing the same thing with a friend of mine the other day. It honestly makes no sense. I hope that Snyder/Nolan and company fix the problem if they include the origin in the film.
Posted by comicgeek24

plot device.

Posted by SuperTide

Plot device.

Posted by Hoboseid
@G-Man said:
" Superman has a simple origin 
 
 
 
VERY SIMPLE 
 
It's not original, its a rip off on 2 stories 
 
Siegel copied Doc Savage was known as "the man of bronze", unoriginal.  
He also stole from Jewish, Christian,  Abrahamic elements ie lonely baby moses in a basket, lonley baby clark in a basket 
ticket for one, let the sprog sail the river of stars across space....if the sprong survives.....he grows up to be a savior fans boys obsess over like the man of bronze
Posted by Kairan1979

Well, we saw in Superman : Last Family of Krypton Elseworld what could happen if Jor-El and Lara arrived on Earth too.

Posted by MKF30

I think it was due to time restraints, not even Jor-El had time to make a "family ship" and probably figured, we lived a happy life until this point....Kal-El is more important and still a baby.

Posted by RazzaTazz

From my ninth day on the site.

Moderator
Posted by Clark_EL

@g_man: Man of Steel kind of explains it in their own way.

As far as comics go it's just a Plot Device.

Online
Edited by cameron83
Posted by aquahawk

The space-minivan was at the shop?

Eh, I agree it was purely a plot device.

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