Throughout the Superman comics, General Zod had been a relatively minor antagonist, but in the decades since Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie he’s become one of the most significant villains in Superman’s narrative, and with that notoriety, he’s been given the chance to have different versions of his character revealed.
Recent comics have seen Zod with touching origin stories, showing compassion to his soldiers as a military leader, and even working with Superman to provide a better future for Krypton. It’s these moments that have led to the complex depictions of his character in Man of Steel and Krypton and allowed a potentially two-dimensional villain to become truly multi-faceted.
10 Being Saved By Superman’s Father
While traditional versions of Zod depict him as hating Kal-El’s entire family, the fresh slate his origin story is given in The New 52 proposes a childhood spent viewing them in a much friendlier light thanks to particular kindness shown by Superman’s father, who would one day have to abandon his own son.
The new story focuses on Zod going on a nature trip with his parents, two scientists who are eager to catalog new life in the wilderness with their son. When his parents are killed by a creature they’re trying to study, Zod is left to fend for himself for an entire year, until Superman’s father comes to his rescue and re-integrates him into society.
9 Revealing His Concern For Faora
Superman Wonder Woman #4 may primarily focus on the fallout from the Man of Steel and Wonder Woman’s new relationship status, but it also reveals a little more about the bond between General Zod and Faora, who he tries to release from the Phantom Zone before the power couple can stop him.
The issue focuses on Superman and Wonder Woman feeling like they’re the only ones who truly understand one another, facing the world’s scrutiny despite feeling completely alienated. Zod’s desire to have Faora by his side is no different than Superman and Wonder Woman’s wish to have someone to be with when the battles eventually come to an end, and Zod reminds his enemy that was Wonder Woman to be trapped in another dimension, he would do everything within his power to rescue her.
8 When Superman Gives Him Another Chance
In the aftermath of Rogol Zaar’s destruction of Krypton in Superman #14, General Zod and his family conduct a parley with Superman and his, and the two figures come to terms with the fact that whether they like it or not, they’ll have to work together to make a new beginning for Krypton, and to Superman’s surprise, Zod expresses regret for his past transgressions.
Zod’s top priority has always been to protect Krypton, and despite Superman disagreeing with his methods, he can’t disagree that on the matter of Krypton’s survival, they’re on the same page. To Zod’s surprise, Superman puts his faith in him to lead the restoration efforts, and the two families share a tender moment that shows they’re not so different after all.
7 When He Values His Soldiers’ Lives More Than Krypton’s Legacy
Villains often consider themselves the heroes of their own stories, and while Zod usually finds a means to justify his genocide, in the graphic novel House of El, he’s actually depicted as a benevolent leader to his people. In the final days of Krypton, fans see General Zod as a far cry from his warmongering self and demonstrating a great deal of compassion.
Far from being a dictatorial military commander who expects his soldiers to blindly give their lives for Krypton’s interests, he shows great concern for them when they’re tasked with terraforming other planets. In one memorable moment, after a rogue wave almost crushes them on the planet Rado, he warns them not to be dismayed for surviving, because although they’re meant to give their lives for Krypton, they’re not meant to waste them, because they’re worth more than being used as fodder.
6 Valuing A Young Soldier’s Contribution
Aside from acknowledging that the lives of the soldiers in Krypton’s military have value beyond their function in Kryptonian government, House of El’s General Zod also recognizes the inherent value of the individual, thanks to the plan developed by Jor-El and Lara to save the planet.
In a wholesome moment straight from Superman’s playbook, Zod picks a young female soldier named Sera-Ur on the strength of her sense of commitment and superb engineering skills to successfully see the plan through. She is able to not just showcase her potential to her superior, but understand her worth as part of the collective effort to save her people.
5 Thanking Superman For Helping Him Rebuild Krypton Society
World of New Krypton involves the aftermath of 100,000 stranded Kryptonians leaving Earth and trying to build a life within its solar system on New Krypton. Superman chooses to live among his people and help them become adjusted to their new powers from Earth’s yellow sun. At the same time, General Zod is released from the Phantom Zone and becomes New Krypton’s military leader.
Certain conspirators try to disturb the peace, and at one point Superman is implicated in an act of subterfuge, but he doesn’t run from his prosecution. In one reflective moment during the Nova Cycle, Zod commends him for standing by his principles and implies that working with Superman is better than being his enemy, especially since they both want what’s best for Krypton. It’s a surprisingly nuanced moment for Zod, who has often been defined by -and reduced to- his absolutism.
4 Giving Superman Time To Prove Him Wrong
In World of New Krypton Vol 3, members of the Labour Guild begin to take hostages to draw attention to their long hours, wanting more time to see their families. Fearing there will be loss of life on both sides, Superman asks to negotiate with their leaders before Commander Gor can execute them. General Zod gives Kal-El a certain amount of time to determine their demands.
By giving Superman the time he needs, Zod not only shows how much he respects his former nemesis but gets the benefit of understanding the Labour Guild better. For an evil military mastermind with a history of violence, he comes to realize it’s increasingly not the answer. The guild eventually surrenders and gets a seat on the Science Council, the first in Kryptonian history.
3 Defending His Wife And Child From An Evil Superman
In Countdown to Final Crisis #30, General Zod is semi-retired from being Superman on Earth-15, where crime has been eradicated due to the efficient efforts of its superheroes. Supervillains everywhere are either long-passed like the Joker or have become humanitarians like Lex Luthor. The nefarious Superman Prime eventually disrupted the utopia, waging war on Luthor, Zod, and the Justice League.
When Superman-Prime arrives at the Fortress of Solitude, he targets Zod’s family, forcing the Kryptonian into action. In Superman: Last Son, Zod was willing to murder his own son to achieve his goals, but this is an instance that highlights Zod’s devotion to his family, not his own ambition. Unfortunately, his efforts are in vain, and he dies along with his wife and their unborn child.
2 Showing Compassion For Non
Non, Zod’s hulking accomplice who first appeared in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, makes his comic book debut in Action Comics #10, where he’s lobotomized by the Science Council for what he knows about Jor-El and Krypton’s impending destruction. General Zod and Ursa’s revolt against the Council becomes more sympathetic (though still incredibly misguided), particularly because it focuses on a friend.
That it’s Jor-El that ultimately helps banish them to the Phantom Zone -after they plead with him to expose the Science Council- is incredibly ironic, but also adds dimension to Zod and his cohorts, who are seen to be a close-knit bunch that are forced to make their own way in isolation.
1 When He Realizes What’s Important In His Life
General Zod has been married to Ursa for decades in various comic book iterations, and in some, they also have a son Lor-Zod. After escaping the Phantom Zone in Action Comics #984, the three of them find themselves in a new world, one where Zod will build a New Krypton.
The chaos of trying to flee the Phantom Zone, after taking on supposed “allies” as well as Superman and his family, has revealed to Zod what’s most important to him; Ursa and Lor. He realizes he can be devoted to pursuing the construction of a New Krypton and his family without sacrificing one or the other, and that just because Superman’s the hero doesn’t mean a supervillain can’t love his family just as much.
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