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When and how did Superman Gain the Name ‘Kal-El’?

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In “When We First Met,” we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became the notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Bill S, we look into the history of Superman’s Kryptonian name. Bill specifically asked, “[W]hen did we first find out about Superman’s Kryptonian name – Kal-El? Or was Kal-L first? Why these two variations?”

Evolution of Superman Comics until his Nomenclature as ‘Kal-el’

When Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), there was very very little in the way of an origin given for Superman besides the fact that the character came from another planet…

 

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That's How Superman Got His Name Kal- El
That’s How Superman Got His Name Kal- El

Super Man as a COMIC STRIP: BIG FAILURE

Comic strips were much more popular and treated wit ha great deal more respect. Siegel and Shuster tried to first sell Superman as a mere comic strip and failed (in fact, Action Comics #1 was literally made up of their sample comic strips, cut up into a comic book format, which is why Action Comics #1 has an abrupt cliffhanger, as the first feature was literally just “use as much of the comic strips as it would take to fill this many pages”). Thus, when Superman became a big hit, the creators (and National Comics, as well) were very interested in seeing the comic adapted into a comic strip, also.

Later that year, Superman got his own solo ongoing comic book series and Siegel and Shuster adapted the origin story in Action Comics #1 and added in Krypton but not the other aspects or features(like the respective names of the characters)…

Superman Comic
Superman Comic

Superman Radio Series

Superman however, then starred in his own hit radio series. One of the writers for the radio show,named George Lowther, wrote a novel about Superman in 1942…

The Adventures Of Superman
The Adventures Of Superman

It was in that novel that the names of Jor-el and Kal-el debuted.

Superboy in More Fun Comics #101

A few years later, in the first appearance of Superboy in More Fun Comics #101 (by Siegel and Shuster), we get to see Jor-El adapted into the comics…

Superman Comic
Superman Comic

10th anniversary origin of Superman in Superman #53

It was also worked in in the 10th anniversary origin of Superman in Superman #53..

Superman Comic: The Origin Of Superman
Superman Comic: The Origin Of Superman

Superman somehow didn’t learn his birth name until 1957’s Superman #113 by Bill Finger (who did Superman’s other origins but somehow didn’t work his name in there)…

“Return to Krypton” bit in Superman #141

Kal-El, though, was not really used in the comics with any regularity until the time Jerry Siegel returned to the Superman comics in the late 1950s, like this “Return to Krypton” bit in Superman #141…

Superman Comic
Superman Comic

and Otto Binder worked out the various origins together in Superman #146..

Superman: The Complete Story of Superman's Life
Superman: The Complete Story of Superman’s Life

There you go, Bill! Thanks to Mark for the Superman #113 bit comic!

References: Comicbook