Superman is a savior, a god, and a perfect example of a flying alien who inherits human qualities. And without even knowing the scientific reasons behind his limitless powers we love him the most among all. But what the hell is the Superman origin conspiracy and how he makes people love him even when he’s not around? You think you’ve known him for a long time but what if I say you’ve not?
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but the letter L is strangely interwoven throughout the Superman mythos. It’s as much a part of his literary legacy as his iconic costume or the famous curl in his hair. Now, you might think that the letter S is the most critical character seeing as how it’s right there on his chest, but nope because the writers came along and said guess what that S has been a secret L this entire time you fools.
Once Superman was saved by a little boy named Steven Snappin… Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were both born into Jewish families.
Lex Luthor, Lana Land, Lois Lane, those are the easy ones. But then, there’s Lori Lemaris, Letitia Lerner, Lyla Lerrol, Linda Lee, freaking Linda Lee which brings us to Kryptonian names like Lara Lor-Van, Leslie Lar, the entire House of El, and the symbolism that evokes. So, what’s the deal here?
Why are Superman’s legends liberally littered with this lone, lurking letter?
According to Larry Tye, the author of ‘Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero, the double L naming was a signature move for Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They would name every Superman character with two Ls. The pair even turned into a meta-game. Readers would write in whenever they’d uncover a character’s name had those signature Ls. As to why this became a Superman origin conspiracy tradition, there doesn’t seem to be one straightforward reason. It’s not uncommon in the medium, right? Alliterative names are a staple of the comic book superhero industry. They’re useful for characters targeted at young audiences because they’re easy to remember. Heck, they’re useful for creators as well. And it’s pretty though how Marvel has so many alliterative names because it helped Stan Lee keep all the characters straight in his head. At least, that was supposed to work in theory, not so great in practice.
But outside common sense it seems like this classic trope in the Superman franchise became one by complete chance which is…..that’s pretty unsatisfying, isn’t it? Either way, this phenomenon has been brought up in the comics as well. Notably, in 1968’s Superman No.204 story, a scientist named Lorraine Lewis falls in love with Superman, and in her attempt to court the man of steel she’s bested continuously by his other love interests, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and Lori Lemaris. So, naturally, she captures all three to bait superman with a trap that consists of two giant Ls that burst into flame, and ultimately, killed Lorraine. Hence the name of the story, The Case of the Lethal Letters. Even earlier, before this comic, in issue No. 157, a story titled, Superman’s Day of Doom, involved Kal-El receiving a prediction machine that claimed that he would find himself in a snag and be saved by a pair of Ls. Later on, Superman comes in close contact with some pretty nasty Kryptonite. As his life energy drains, he realizes that he has strangely been connected with loads of people with double L initials, and wonders which one of his many friends would serve as his guardian angel. Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lex Luthor, even? But it wasn’t any of them. No, Superman was saved by a little boy named Steven Snappin. Wait for what? How does that make any sense? Well, as Steven goes on his merry way, Supes notices the back of his shirt reads Little League. Double Ls. Bit of a stretch there Steven!
Maybe we’ve been thinking about this too literally. What if the heart of this Superman L conspiracy is at the heart of Superman?
Because an S is not always an S!
Superman may have been given the name Clark Kent when he crashes landed on Earth, but he already had a name when he was a baby on his home planet of Krypton. His biological parents called him Kal-El. Kal-El! His surname is, literally, El. That’s what the S on his chest stands for. It’s the family crest of the house of El. It’s like one big family. He’s Kal-El, his father’s name is Jor-El, his uncle’s name is Zor-El. You get it. But interestingly that scheme doesn’t apply to everyone on Krypton. Remember Zor-El from one sentence ago. Well, he had a daughter that you may have heard of, Kara Zor-El. Supergirl. Supergirl’s adopted Earth name is, currently Kara Danvers, even though it was originally Linda Lee because of course, it was! But her Kryptonian birth name was Kara Zor-El. Which you’ll notice doesn’t exactly have the same structure as Kal-El. This is because Kryptonian names are determined based on biological sex. Male Kryptonians have a personal name hyphenating a house name and female Kryptonians have a personal name followed by their father’s full name. So, Supergirl’s father is Zor from the house of El, making him Zor-El and her Kara Zor-El. You can see this in Superman’s parents as well. As we already established, his father Jor is from the house of El, thus, Jor-El. While his mother Lara is from the house of Van, and whose father’s name is Lor, hence Lara Lor-Van. Another double L! When it will end?!
No, not when will it end? When did it start? I mean in early Superman stories the S symbol wasn’t much more than the man of steel’s brand. It didn’t stand for anything much less a family crest. That idea didn’t start in the comics at all. It started right. 1978’s Superman: The Movie. It’s a good film if you haven’t seen it. I’m not usually one to give in to nostalgia and say that movies in the past are better than movies today simply because they’re old or whatever, but Christopher Reeve is still my favorite live-action Superman. I don’t even know why I have to throw in live-action is there as a qualifier. He’s just my favorite Superman, period. But more importantly, this is the film where we’ll find more answers to this L Superman Origin conspiracy. Specifically, on the opening scene sequence on Krypton. This is the heartbreaking scene when Superman’s parents send him away to live on Earth as their own homeworld collapses around them. What’s interesting is what we see on Superman’s father. It’s the iconic S symbol. You see the original screenwriter for the film, Mario Puzo noticed that Superman’s logo didn’t really mean much of anything in the Kryptonian mythos, and he wanted to change that for the movie. His original idea was to make Superman’s logo the official symbol of Krypton, representing the entire planet. That idea didn’t end up sticking though. You’ll notice that it’s really just Jor-El here who’s wearing the symbol during the beginning part of the movie, and that’s because, as the story goes, the actor who played Jor-El, Marlon Brando wanted an excuse to wear Superman’s logo on his own costume even though he wasn’t playing the man of steel himself. And if Marlon Brando says he wants to wear the Superman logo, you make that happen. You don’t deny Brando!
Thus, in later rewrites of the script, the immortal Superman logo was retroactively adopted as the coat of arms for the house of El. It stands for his heritage. It links himself to his ancestors. To his culture.
And maybe not just his culture. Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were both born into Jewish families, and as you can probably guess their shared upbringing bleeds into a lot of Superman’s mythology, including his house name, El. Now, I’m gonna be honest with you guys, I’m not super religious anymore. Sorry to my friends who are reading this. It’s kind of an awkward way to break it to you. But I think it’s absolutely worth talking about the religious influences that molded the man of steel.
Throughout the Bible, the suffix El is used a lot. Not only does El serve as one of the names for the big G man himself, which is pretty apt for a superman. You can also find it at the tail end of many top-tier biblical figures. Daniel, the beloved Jewish prophet of the Kingdom of Babylon, interpreted dreams and received apocalyptic visions all while remaining faithful to his religion. Samuel, the celebrated Jewish military leader, who’s been described by biblical scholars as a predecessor to Jesus Christ. And Michael the angel, who advocated for the Jewish people and went toe-to-toe with Satan on the battlefield. All of these figures are peacekeepers, leaders, or combatants against otherworldly evil, and those descriptions fit Superman’s mold pretty well. Now, all this is speculation, of course. We don’t actually know if Siegel and Shutter intentionally made Superman’s birth name a reference to celebrated Jewish icons of the Bible, but the similarities are, indeed, there. And there’s also the, frankly, over-discussed idea that Kal-El’s origin story also mirrors the upbringing of an all-star in the Jewish faith, the sea-splitting legend himself, Moses. It’s great if you’ve known it already, fearing the complete extinction of their people, a parent sends their infant son traveling to a faraway place where he’s eventually adopted and raised in an entirely different culture, only to then grow into adulthood and fashion himself as a leader aided by abilities beyond that of a mortal man. Sounds pretty familiar, right? Moses is described as a figure of the peace who brings the Jewish people of Egypt out of slavery and into an exodus into a kingdom of their own. He stands up to his fellow man and with the power of the man upstairs, becomes a hero to his people. Moses and the house of El, both represent hope.
And like I said, while we don’t know for sure, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that Siegel and Shuster worked in these references intentionally. From the initials of countless supporting characters to Kryptonian houses and culture to biblical names and influences. The language of the Superman franchise comes from all corners, and it may be impossible to trace everything to select few sources, but at the center of Siegel and Shuster’s character lies the legacy of a lonesome letter.
But what do you guys think? Is there something to this L conspiracy in Superman’s mythos, or, as always am I just reading too much into things? Or does it go deeper?