Superman "S" Question

Please help settle an argument I am having with my son.

He says the emblem on Superman’s chest is an S and stands for Superman, but I maintain it is a Kryptonian symbol which just happens to look like an S.

Who’s right?



You’re right. IIRC, it’s supposed to be Superman’s family crest.

What Lord Ashtar said.

If you recall the scene in Superman where Jor-El is consulting with the other Kryptonian elders, they all have similar symbols on their clothes.

Thanks. Sometimes it feels really good to be right! :wink:


I doubt that the 70s film is canonical, but I seem to remember that Lois made up the “Superman” name for a sexual-fantasy inspired headline well after the costume was established to feature the S.

This may be the explanation today, but the S on his chest existed from the very first story, before anybody had even invented the planet Krypton and the whole Jor-El and Lara backstory. Much of that came from George Lowther’s 1942 novel The Adventures of Superman. But nothing of the baby’s Kryptonian heritage is known on earth, and the dying Eben Kent’s (it would be a while before Jonathan became the standard name) last words are “You’re Superman!” with the italics in the original. Obviously, the S (not ever mentioned in the novel as far as I can tell from a scan) on the costume is intended to stand for Superman.

When the Kryptonian symbol bit was ret-conned into the storyline I don’t know. After my time, for sure.

For anybody older than a certain age, the S stands for Superman, and we’ll have no nonsense about any late-coming rethoughts.

I find it very funny that your son is the one holding out for the Superman interpretation. It really should be the other way around.

It’s funny to look at the first Superman story (Action Comics #1 from 1938) and see the differences. Can’t fly, only leap 1/8th of a mile; “and that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin!”

Once again IIRC, she made a comment after he saved her from falling off the building along the lines of, “What a super man. Hmm…Superman.”

So we’re faced with either accepting the “Golden Age” version of the S or the modern version, which represent it as a “family crest”?

Wouldn’t that make us both right? Depending of course, on which version one would choose to accept? My son has no knowledge of the novel, BTW. It’s just the way he sees it .


The “S” is a symbol in Kryptonian (Kryptonese?) which, as LORD ASHTAR says, is the family crest of the House of El (Jor-El, Kal-El).

The fact that it appears to be the letter “S” in our language is merely a coincidence…the symbol is the “S” in a diamond-shaped

Yeah, but this never appeared anywhere before the first Ricard Donner/Salking Brothers movie. Until that time it as pretty clear that the “S” was for “Superman”.

Who’s right? Depends upon whether you use the movie as your standard or the comic-book intent. I don’t even know if the movie explanatio has ever been accepted into the comic-book universe. I’ve certainly never see it there.
On the other hand, that errant curl over Supe’s forehead (never preset when he’s Clark) is supposed to be another, almost subliminal “S”. When they asked Stan Lee to redesign Superman in a grittier version, he apparently suggested putting an “S”-shaped scar on his face. So there’s plenty of precedent for seeing “S” on Superman as an initial.

Is the novel Exapno spoke of available? I would like to read it.

I did a search and take a look here:

There’s that S that Exapno spoke of, and it’s an S as plain as day. So it would appear that the latter version was intoduced after 1933.

Damn! I was right and then I was wrong! :smiley:



Just echoing what has been said before.

In the comics, movies, TV shows etc, the S always stood for “Superman.” The 1970s film with Christopher Reeve, and with Marlon Brando as Jor-El, set up that the “S” was some sort of Kryptonian symbol (presumably the symbol for justice, or something of the sort, or possibly the office of Prosecuting Attorney), or possibly the family crest.

After that, other TV shows (like LOIS AND CLARK) picked up on the S as a Kryptonian symbol.

So, you’re both right. Depends on which version you’re reading or watching.

I was also wrong in stating that the S Exapno spoke of was featured in “The Golden Age”. It was actually in “The Orginal Age” and it looks like it started changing shape during “The Golden Age.”

Thanks for a very interesting thread, Y’all!


I just threw the novel in as a cite. There’s no question that the Kryptonian explanation came along after the fact. When, is the question.

I remember absolutely nothing in all my comic reading through the 60s and 70s that would indicate any possible reference to a Kryptonian origin for the S. It always stood for Superman.

Maybe I should turn this around. When is the origin of the Kryptonian S?

I just did a GOOGLE search, Exapno, and found nothing but a few fan websites. I also just tried to go to the DC Universe and have Jeanette Kahn answer our question, but one cannot send e-mails to them. (Temporarily Unavailable).

So I guess it’s in the hands of The Super-Dopers to answer your question! But for what it’s worth, I don’t think it was the movie that changed it.


Oh, yeah. The novel.

When I did a search on, I found the cheapest prices ($13.46) for the 1995 facsimile reprint hardback edition.

The true 1942 novel will cost you a bundle. In addition, the book has the distinction of being the single most expensive and hard to find volume issued in the armed forces series of tiny sidewards paperbacks for the troops in WWII. A copy in good condition will set you back $950.

Hell! Money’s no object! I can afford a thousand bucks for the orginal edition! :smiley:

Just kidding! No, I can’t afford the $950.00 dollar copy, but I thank you for finding the '95 Edition for me. That was very kind of you.

So our WWII guys got to read it for free or what? I remember the “sidewards” paperbacks too, Ex. I used to read the Tarzan ones when I was a little boy in Germany.



It started out as a simple “S” back in the 30’s, as Exapno describes.

In the 70’s (possibly as a result of the movie, or maybe not), it became the crest of the House of El. I seem to recall someone telling me that the Superman comics used the “House of El” concept BEFORE the movie, but I can’t swear to it.

In the 1986 John Byrne revision, it became a simple “S” again. Clark didn’t even THINK of becoming a costumed hero until after he had performed a super-stunt in public and Lois called him a “super-man”. He and his father designed the logo accordingly.

No Krypton element in this version, because Clark wouldn’t discover his true origin until after Superman had been active for a while. Also, Kryptonian fashion, according to Byrne, was unrelentingly dark and somber… a brightly-colored house logo wouldn’t have fit in at all… and, in fact, didn’t appear in any Krypton scenes that I noticed.

Since the Byrne version has gradually been replaced over the years with the more “classic” version, it’s hard to say what the explanation is now.

I like the “S” idea… fits the standard pattern of superhero logos… is appropriate for a guy who considers himself a Kansas farmboy, NOT an alien… and is more probable (what are the odds that the House of El symbol would just HAPPEN to look like the letter that stands for the name that some human reporter just HAPPENS to tag Kal-El with?)