A short, ignominious history of General Zod

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    See also our Review of "Man of Steel" and our list of the Top 10 Superman Stories.

    "Kneel before..."

    The villain in “Man of Steel” is General Zod. Although the man has had many faces throughout Superman’s historic continuity — from Kryptonian fascist to sad-sack Russian — it might illuminate the new movie if you know a little bit about Zod’s past indiscretions.

  • zod Adventure-Comics-Vol.-1-283-1961

    "I promise not to conquer your pitiful new adopted planet, Superboy." (Adventure Comics #238; 1961)

    5. General Zod’s First Appearance

    Sentenced to 40 years in the Phantom Zone by Jor-El (Superman’s father) back before Krypton blew up, Zod is released by Superboy after he did some math and realized it was time, good behavior or no. Zod then dresses up like a Nazi and tries to conquer Earth, before parole office Superman sends him back without a trial.

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    "Look, I combined the fascism of a generic uniform with the casual racism of all-white fabric! Next stop: Project Runway!" (Phantom Zone #1-4; 1982)

    4. Phantom Zone

    General Zod and friends hypnotize a Daily Planet pasteup man — who also happens to be an amnesiac Kryptonian criminal — into building a Phantom Zone projector. Superman gets trapped in the Zone while Zod and crew escape. Zod then tries to throw the Earth into the Phantom Zone for some reason, while Superman escapes with the help of a wizard and sends Zod back to multi-dimensional jail, short a few co-conspirators who decided to commit suicide. No joke.

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    "Aarghh, that green kryptonite is staining my beautiful uniform! Oh, and killing us!" (Superman 21-22, Adventures of Superman 444; 1988)

    3. Supergirl Saga

    Lex Luthor accidentally releases Zod and friends while searching for a missing Superboy. The criminal Kryptonians proceed to boil away Earth’s atmosphere, killing billions of people in the process. Psych — it’s a pocket universe! Luthor creates a new Supergirl from protoplasm, who kidnaps Superman from the “real” universe. He ends up executing Zod and friends.

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    "Are these spikes jutting out from my costume too goth?" (Action Comics 779-782; 2001)

    2. Russian Zod

    Instead of a Kryptonian, this Zod is the child of two Soviet cosmonauts changed when baby Superman flew by their capsule on his way to Kansas. He was raised in a KGB lab, so that’s bound to turn out well, right? The problem with Russian Zod — okay, the biggest problem — is that he’s weak under a yellow sun and strong under a red sun, just the opposite of Superman. So he tries to turn the sun red, of course, but Superman stops him. He gets angry and uses his now weakening superpowers to charge at the Man of Steel with a burst of super-speed, only to shatter against Superman’s ripped pecs. Literally — he squashes himself like a bug.

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    "Wait a minute, is the rest of the Earth like this? I think we're just going to fly around the planet the wrong way until we travel back to the Phantom Zone." (“Superman II”; 1980)

    1. Terrence Stamp Zod

    Forget Gene Hackman as a bumbling Lex Luthor, forget that Zod and friends’ first stop on Earth is Idaho, forget that Superman suddenly has telepathic powers when he wants to erase Lois’ knowledge that he’s the Man of Steel (insert your own joke here), there’s nothing better than hearing Terrence Stamp say “Kneel before Zod!” At the end, Superman either throws the newly powerless Zod into a deep hole in the ground or reverses the Earth’s rotation so none of it actually happened. Hey, if a trick works, keep doing it, right?