Zor-El is a brilliant scientist of Krypton like his brother Jor-El and was one a very few he heeded his brother's warnings about the imminent destruction of their planet. He is also the father of Kara aka Supergirl.
Zor-El is a DC character created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino first appearing in Action Comics #252. Zor-El was retconned by Joe Kelly and Mark Sable,
Zor-El managed to save Argo City from Krypton's destruction through the use of Brainiac technology. After becoming the leader of Kandor alongside his wife Alura, he focused on finding a habitable plan in which the Kryptonian survivors could live but the city was attacked by Brainiac. He was able to send his daughter away in a capsule to meet up with her younger cousin on Earth before he was taken prisoner alongside his wife. The couple were kept as prisoners within Kandor, the city Brainiac had previously captured and miniaturized. After having been killed by Reactron, Zoe-El was returned from the dead for the purpose of being a member of the Black Lantern Corps.
Major Story Arcs
The Coluan known as Brainiac invaded the planet Krypton and plundered the planet of its collective knowledge. He used his advanced science to shrink and bottle the entire city of Kandor; adding the Kryptonian metropolis as another specimen to his vast collection of alien cities. To carry out this plan, Brainiac ordered hundreds of his robots planetside to prepare the city for abduction. These robots mercilessly killed any resistance, protecting themselves from attack with self generating force fields.
Following the taking of Kandor, the people of Krypton ignored the warnings of Jor-El that the planet was unstable and facing destruction. Jor-El's warnings were dismissed by almost all of Krypton, however Zor-El believed his brother and set into motion his own plans for survival. Zor-El and his wife Allura experimented on one of the robots destroyed by General Zod's troops. They managed to deconstruct Brainiac's force field technology sufficiently to create a protective dome over their home, Argo City. Unfortunately Zor-El and Alura did not have time enough to master this technology and protect all of Krypton. When Krypton exploded Argo City was protected from the blast, and remained intact floating aimlessly in space for many months.
Zor-El and his wife began work on an evacuation plan to lead the remaining Kryptonians to Earth where they would be reunited with their nephew Kal-El. Zor-El tried his best to attempt to get the Council to agree to the beginning of a space-craft program to begin the search for a habitable planet, though Earth was the main goal. Much as they had with his older brother Jor-El, the remains of the council refused to listen. When Kara questioned why they needed a new home, Jor-El showed her the power source behind the force-field; the severed androids head. Though Kara questioned what would happen if it ever awakened, Jor-El promised her it wouldn't. As Jor-El took Kara from the room, the android picked up a signal from Brainiac and did just that.
Kara spotted a ship outside of the dome. Brainiac had sensed his technology in use and discovered the Kryptonian refugees. Knowing that Brainiac would not spare their city, Zor-El and Alura placed their daughter Kara in the only escape rocket that had been ready for service. When a Brainiac android attempted to force its way into the craft, Jor-El single-handily fought it off to give his daughter the chance to escape. They sent her to earth, instructing her to find and protect her infant cousin Kal-El. As Kara escaped, the villainous Brainiac once again invaded a Kryptonian city. His troops assimilated any additional people and information that contained knowledge that had not been learned from Kandor. Those Kryptionian who Brainiac viewed as "redundant" were slaughtered. Zor-El and Alura were transferred to the Bottle City of Kandor and remained there as prisoners of Brainiac for many years.
Eventually they, along with the other denizens of Kandor, would be freed on Earth by their nephew Kal-El. Zor-El and Alura were voted to lead the city into peace, though not everyone agreed with this course of action. Zor-El was delighted to see his nephew, and even happier to see his daughter safe and sound holding the first El family dinner in years. Zor-El talked to his nephew, listening to his tales of his adventures on Earth and also as to how things worked on the planet. While he would not confine the citizens of Kandor to the arctic where Kal-El had brought them, they had been confined for too long, he did follow Kal-El's lead in opening diplomatic relations with earth's population.
Heading to Metropolis to meet with the President, Zor-El and Allura exchanged pleasantries with the leader, even joking about Kara's recent actions during the Amazonian Invasion before their meeting was interrupted by the arrival of Doomsday. Though Kal-El attempted to get them to stay back, Zor-El and the other Kandorians knew of Doomsday, and Zor-El led his people in an assault against the creature. Taking the fight to the moon, to keep their from being an unnecessary human casualties Zor-El and the other Kryptonians were able to swiftly overcome and kill Doomsday.
After recovering from the event, Zor-El realized how easy it would be for Kal-El's assorted enemies to seek revenge on him through an assault on Kandor. Conferring first with his wife, and later with Commander Gor, one of the leaders of the Kryptonian Navy caste, he decided to capture Kal-El's rogues gallery and confine them to the Phantom Zone. He called teams together, and led his people on an assault against the foes of Superman, managing to capture Parastie, Toyman, Bizzaro and multiple others. Returning them to Kandor they confined all of the villains to the Zone. Zor-El regarded the mission a success.
Zor-El was surprised, and horrified, to learn that their had been human casualties as a result of his actions, while capturing the Parasite Gor had killed the police whose custody he was in. Zor-El was even more appalled to find that Allura had known, and failed to share the information with him. Her, and the other Kryptonians callous attitude greatly disturbed him. As Alura flew out of their home, Zor-El his daughter and nephew followed. Zor-El listened for a moment as his wife argued with the younger El's. Finally hearing enough, he admonished Alura. They had made explicit instructions that no-body was to be hurt, and she should have told him the moment that she was made aware. Alura explained that none of them understood Kandor's true purpose, leading her family to Brainiac's captured ship she led them inside.
As they traveled throughout the ship, Zor-El listened as his wife explained their attempts to save the other bottled cities to Kal-El and Kara. Zor-El spoke with his daughter as Allura and his nephew argued, promising to get his wife to understand the implications of their actions, as he himself did. As the debate continued, Zor-El intervened. Attempting to show his wife he understood her fears, he also attempted to press her to give them the names of those responsible. Zor-El was shocked, along with the others, to find that Allura had given the authorization to kill.
Zor-El was interrupted by the arrival of Gor and his forces, who had just captured Metallo and Reactron. Upon entering Kandor their were able to uplink from Brainiac to his ship, and unleash his drones. The El family leapt into action alongside the recently freed prisoners, and began fighting the drones.
Fighting alongside his daughter, Zor-El had no trouble dealing with the drones. As Reactron arrived and attempted to attack Kara with his newly made-Kryptonite heart, Zor leapt into the way. Taking the blast meant for his daughter, Zor-El lost his powers and collapsed. Reactron then blasted him through the chest.
As Supergirl and Alura were visiting Zor-El's tomb, a power ring of the Black Lantern Corps found its way to New Krypton and breached Zor-El's grave. He rose within seconds, reanimated as a Black Lantern. He attacked and defeated several nearby Krpytonians, including Alura and leaving only his daughter Supergirl left to face him.
He taunted and berated her, trying to draw a pure emotional response from her. But she attacked him in a mix of rage and willpower with a punch that obliterated much of his head. It was a tiny victory. His head began regenerating itself immediately, and he promised that she could not stop him from killing all of Kandor.
Zor-El's reanimated corpse and Supergirl fought in the skies of Kandor with Zor-El trying to harvest her heart for the Black Lantern Corps. Meanwhile, the Science Guild succeeded in scanning and analyzing the energy properties of his black power ring. This information allowed them to design an energy field that would keep out Zor-El and any wielding a black power ring. With this knowledge in mind, Alura joined the fight, saving her daughter from Zor-El and driving him out into space. The energy field was established as he tried to go after Alura and Supergirl again, hacking off one of his hands. He pummeled the field to no avail, unable to reach the surface of New Krypton.
With much of his character history erased under the New 52, Zor-El was given a new role--that of the villainous Cyborg Superman, an antagonist for his daughter Supergirl.
After battling H'el and her own Sanctuary ship, Kara decides to find a new planet to rule. She comes across I'noxia, which is being destroyed by a giant a robot. Supergirl destroys the robot and is accepted as a hero, something she isn't used too. The leader of I'noxia reveals that everything on I'noxia can be rebuilt with memories. He tells Kara to think of a memory, an old child hero, and the I'noxian leader takes the hero's shape. He then reveals the true leader of the planet, Cyborg Superman.
Cyborg Superman gains Kara's trust, and says with enough of her memories, they can make I'noxia into a new Krypton. In return, Cyborg Superman wants Kara's humanity, that way he can be whole again, and Kara can be one with "Krypton". Kara rejects this and tries to leave, only to be confronted by resentful copies of Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Silver Banshee and H'el, made of her memories. Being captured, Cyborg Superman takes her humanity, "killing" her. Cyborg Superman has his minion take away his cybernetics so he could be normal again. It is the revealed Cyborg Superman (unknowingly) is Zor-El, Kara's father.
When Krypton was being destroyed, Zor-El created a shield from Brainiac technology to protect Argo City. The shield works, but it left everyone in the city unprotected from the lethal blue sun. One by one, the citizens of Argo died. Zor-El activated a beacon for Brainiac to come and help. Brainiac took the almost dead Zor-El and realized he was related to the great genius Jor-El. He takes Zor-El's consciousness and creates Cyborg Superman, calling him "perfect". He sends Cyborg Superman to other planets in search of perfection, and he eventually finds I'noxia.
Powers and Abilities
Zor-El possesses Kryptonian Physiology and so is able to exhibit the powers of the average Kryptonian such as solar energy absorption, heat vision, super-hearing, enhanced vision (which included electromagnetic spectrum vision, microscopic vision, telescopic vision, x-ray vision and infrared vision.
He is invulnerable and possesses incredible stamina levels alongside superhuman strength, speed, reflexes, agility and super breath. Zor-El is also able to fly.
He is an extremely accomplished scientist and artist as well but is vulnerable to kryptonite.
In Other Media
Zor-El appears as a minor character in the 1984 film, portrayed by Simon Ward.
In this series, Zor-El is characterized as a Kryptonian villain and terrorist, purposefully igniting Krypton's unstable core so as to fulfill Rao's Prophecy--a prophecy stating that Kryptonian paradise can only be attained through the destruction of Krypton in its current form. Aside from his zealous beliefs, he also tried to assassinate his brother in order to steal his wife, Lara-El.
He died on Krypton, but was later resurrected on earth by Kal-El, via cloning technology. It was eventually revealed that he sought to conquer earth, and he was both defeated and killed when the crystal that gave him a second chance at life was destroyed by Kal-El. He was portrayed by Christopher Heyerdahl.
Zor-El plays a minor role in thet CBS/CW television series. He and his wife Alura Zor-El are seen sending their daughter to earth to watch over baby Kal-El in the pilot. He later makes brief appearances in flashbacks and hallucinations. He is played by Robert Grant.
Zor-El is briefly seen in his standard role in this animated film--sending Supergirl to earth to watch over the young Kal-El.
Zor-El plays a minor role in the animated film, appearing alongside his wife as residents of the bottle city of Kandor. They help Superman understand the motive behind Brainiac's capture of cities and destruction of worlds. He was voiced by Stephen Root.