"The Last Son of Krypton" is the three-part series premiere of Superman: The Animated Series. It depicts the origin of Superman. Finding that the planet Krypton is about to explode and unable to convince the populace of his theory, scientist Jor-El sends his infant son to Earth. There, he is found and raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent. On Earth, Clark Kent, as he's been named, discovers that he has amazing powers. After arriving in Metropolis, he adopts the name of Superman and becomes Earth's greatest hero. His first adventure pits him against John Corben, a mercenary employing a battle suit developed by the powerful businessman Lex Luthor.
On the distant planet of Krypton, Jor-El conducts research in the desolate northern region. He is suddenly attacked by a giant amoeba-like creature. He manages to escape the creature and returns to his mobile research platform. While working, Brainiac, Krypton's omniscient central computer, appears on screen and demands for his collected data. Jor-El angrily complies, but his bad mood is dispelled by the appearance of his infant son, Kal-El.
His research complete, Jor-El heads home. Later, he goes over the data and it only supports his theory that Krypton is on the verge of destruction. His father-in-law, Sul-Van, warns him that his theory will only cause Jor-El to lose the respect of the scientific community, and the ruling council. Jor-El's only hope, Sul-Van warns, is that Brainiac will support his theory, or else his career will be over. As he says this, an earthquake rocks Krypton, worrying the populace.
Jor-El reports his findings to Krypton's ruling council, insisting that the planet's core is undergoing a mounting chain reaction that will destroy it soon. The council turns to Brainiac, who dismisses Jor-El's findings and explains that Krypton is only undergoing a slight polar shift. Jor-El warns the council that their blind dependence on the machine will doom them all, but the council is openly outraged when they hear his rescue plan: to send the entire population into the Phantom Zone—a penal dimension housing vicious criminals and creatures—and then have one person travel to a different planet and release them later.
In spite of Brainiac, Jor-El still believes he's right. Heading to Brainiac Operations to check why the AI disagrees with him, he becomes suspicious when Brainiac won't allow him to check what Brainiac's task is inside Satellite Coms. When he breaks into Satellite Coms himself when Brainiac tries to deny him entry, he discovers that he is correct, and Brainiac knows it. The AI is in the middle of secretly downloading himself into a satellite to escape the planet's destruction. Confronted, Brainiac fully admits that he lied so that he wouldn't be ordered by the Science Council to waste time preparing an evacuation plan, as the planet will be destroyed in hours. According to his programming, the survival of Krypton's knowledge is more important than that of its people.
Jor-El is tempted to destroy him then and there, but Brainiac reminds him that if he goes, so does the planet's legacy. Jor-El's hesitation allows Brainiac to summon a squad of security guards, advising them to use deadly force against him. He narrowly manages to evade them and returns home.
At his home, Sul-Van has been reviewing Jor-El's research and found that it is actually quite sound. Unfortunately, as Jor-El informs him, it is far too late now. Jor-El quickly makes preparations for his back-up plan: to save his son, Kal-El, by sending him off in the small one-person spaceship he had earlier developed as part of his evacuation plan. It was meant for someone to take a Phantom Zone projector to Earth and release Krypton's population in safety, but now it can only be used as a lifeboat to save one person. Sul-Van is skeptical of this plan, but knowing Jor-El can't outrun the authorities, ultimately volunteers to distract the police so his daughter, Lara, and Jor-El can prepare the ship to launch.
Seeing Lara's grief over losing their only child, Jor-El offers to make some quick flight modifications so that she can be saved along with him. She refuses, saying that her place is with Jor-El and triggers the final preparations herself. In orbit, Brainiac's satellite completes download and launches into space.
As earthquakes rock the planet, the apprehended Sul-Van calmly recognizes it's Krypton's final death throes. Jor-El and Lara launch Kal-El's ship and it successfully lifts off: watching their son disappear from sight, the couple hold each other and kiss while the terrified population witness their world tearing their civilization and itself apart. Behind Kal-El's ship, Krypton explodes. The spaceship then opens a wormhole in space and enters, several chunks of Kryptonite entering into it as well.
Kal-El's spaceship reaches Earth's solar system, and makes touchdown in Smallville, Kansas, briefly giving Martha and Jonathan Kent a scare when it passes over their truck. They locate the ship and discovering its young passenger, Martha decide to adopt him, despite some reluctance from Jonathan. Martha decides to name the infant foundling "Clark", after her maiden name, and the trio heads for home.
Several years later, Clark Kent is now a teenager attending Smallville High. He talks to his girlfriend, Lana Lang, and explains about how he has been developing some strange superhuman powers recently using examples such as hearing a conversation from a distance and seeing a teacher put up decorations for the school dance through a wall. As he talks to Lana, a family driving an RV has a traffic accident and is trapped in a fire. Without thinking, Clark races to the accident scene and frees the family, easily tearing through metal and remaining completely unscathed by the flames.
Clark is disturbed by these new powers and goes to talk them over with his parents. Deciding that he's old enough to know the truth, Jonathan tells him the full story of his adoption. Clark is taken down to the barn, where he is shown the spaceship that he was found in as a baby. His Earth parents give him a holographic projector that activates when he touches it, showing him a holographic message in his mind from Jor-El and Lara inside their family home. They tell him of his Kryptonian heritage as well as the powers he will gain from Earth's sun; they also warn him that his powers may bring fear and attempted destruction from others, but in spite of this, he should never use his powers in anger. This message, however, only serves to further alienate Clark, who runs off in anger and fear. However, he is able to cheer himself up after discovering his ability of flight and returns to the farm to reassure his parents.
Several more years later, in Metropolis, there has been talk of a "guardian angel" doing good deeds. In truth, Clark, now an adult, has been secretly using his superpowers to help people. At the same time, he is hired as a new reporter on the Daily Planet's city desk. He becomes acquainted with his editor, Perry White, as well as his coworkers Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Lois, to her displeasure, is assigned to show Clark around for a few days.
Lois wastes no time trying to ditch him, but is surprised to find him already at work at the site of their first joint assignment: the unveiling of Lex Luthor's newest weapon. Lois admits that "Smallville", as she dubs Clark, is not as gullible or green as she had assumed and is suitably impressed. Luthor proudly presents a powerful battle suit dubbed the Lexo-Skel Suit 5000: "constructed by a patented alloy, and virtually indestructible", piloted by a single man, but with as much firepower as a battalion of troops. However, during the ceremony, a group of mercenaries attacks and steals the Lexoskel. Clark decides that it's time for his first public appearance and changes into his outfit. He saves Lois from being crushed and then attempts to pursue the mercenary group. The mercenaries attack, but their weapons are ineffective against the hero. At first, it seems that Clark will save the suit, but the group's leader fires a missile that misses Clark but strikes a passenger jet, causing it to fall.
Clark leaves the mercenaries and attempts to save the plane. At first, he only manages to damage the plane even further but finally manages to slow the its fall and gets it to land in a nearly empty Metropolis park. With such a display of power, there is no way for the hero to hide from the public.
Perry White demands that his reporting staff find out who this man is, saying that the public is clamoring for information and is in a state of near-panic. Looking at video footage of the "angel", Lois dubs him "Superman" after the "S" on his costume's chest. Clark is uncertain about maintaining a public image, but knows that if he keeps acting secretively, people will start to fear him. After a conversation with his parents, who openly disapprove of the methods of Gotham City's protector, Batman, Clark decides to have a private interview with Lois to earn the people's trust.
The newly dubbed Superman takes Lois to a place where they can talk in private. He tells her of his Kryptonian background and that he's not here to scare anyone, only to help people. Lois is skeptical and wants to know his true identity. Superman refuses to tell her, but there is enough information to go public.
At LexCorp, Luthor reads the story of Superman's origins while Lois and Clark are there to interview him about the Lexo-Skel theft. Clark muses aloud that the theft will actually work out well for Luthor. With such a powerful weapon in the hands of terrorists, the U.S. government will undoubtedly contract with LexCorp to build a bigger, more powerful version. Luthor laughs off the idea, but Lois is intrigued, especially when Clark later confides to Lois that Luthor possibly gave the suit away.
Back at the Planet's archives, Clark finds a photo of Luthor with the Regent of Kaznia, a country that the United States has placed under a trade embargo, based on evidence that the Regent has been employing a hit squad of terrorists against his political enemies. Clark's theory is that Luthor staged the theft in order to make a secret sale to the Regent.
Lois decides to investigate herself in secret and goes to a Kaznian tanker ship docked in Metropolis Harbor. On the ship, Lois meets up with John Corben, who says he's the head of a diplomatic mission to restore friendly relations with the U.S. However, while she is snooping around the ship, she finds the Lexo-Skel, and is captured.
Meanwhile, back at the Planet, Jimmy tells Clark about a smuggling story he and Lois worked on. Clark sees the tanker in one of Jimmy's pictures, and guesses where Lois has gone.
Out at sea, Corben is about to execute Lois, but Superman arrives. He easily defeats the terrorists, but Corben climbs into the battle suit to have a fighting chance against him. Superman flies Lois to safety and then goes to fight Corben. The battle drags from the harbor to Metropolis, with Corben seemingly having the upper hand, until Superman literally tears the suit apart, forcing Corben to surrender.
On Lois' order, the Planet stops the presses and re-prints the front page, with a story on Superman's triumph.
Superman pays a visit to Luthor's office. At first, only Luthor talks as Superman gives him the silent treatment. He tells Superman that he has total control over Metropolis, and Superman cannot prove Luthor's connection to Kaznia. Luthor then confides his global ambitions and offers Superman a position. When Superman remains silent, Luthor finally loses his composure and throws a small model of the Lexo-Skel at him. Superman crushes it in his hands and warns Luthor that he'll be watching him.
He then flies through Metropolis while various citizens cheer him on.
Elsewhere, in the deep reaches of space, a crew of aliens discovers Brainiac's satellite. They take it aboard their ship, but before they can study it, the satellite quickly comes to life, kills the entire crew and takes over their ship.
- Sul-Van compares Jor-El's ego to Argo in size; later, in "Little Girl Lost", Argo will be revealed to be Krypton's sister planet, and the home of Kara In-Ze/Supergirl.
- Jor-El's original plan to use his spaceship to save Krypton's population in the Phantom Zone explains the presence of the zone projector inside the ship, which Superman finds in "Blasts From the Past".
- After Krypton explodes in the end of Part I, there is a shower of green flaming rocks falling behind Kal-El's ship. These rocks will become known as Kryptonite in "A Little Piece of Home".
- The spaceship that brings Kal-El to Earth is later converted by Professor Hamilton for Superman's outer space pursuits as shown in the beginning of "The Main Man".
- Superman later combines Jor-El and Lara's message tablet with an orb acquired from Brainiac (in "Stolen Memories") to form a Kryptonian computer, as also seen in "Blasts From the Past".
- John Corben eventually becomes Metallo in "The Way of All Flesh".
- Scouts from the planet Almerac record several portions of Superman's final fight with Corben, which brings him into conflict with Queen Maxima and De'Cine in "Warrior Queen".
- When Clark first discusses his powers with his parents, he mentions that he ripped apart a camper like it was cardboard. In the Justice League Unlimited series finale "Destroyer," Clark recalls this feeling when he tells Darkseid how he always felt like he lived in a world made out of cardboard.
Home video releases
- Superman: The Last Son of Krypton (VHS)
- Superman: The Last Son of Krypton (DVD)
- Superman: The Animated Series, Volume One (DVD)
- Superman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Best of Superman (DVD)
- Brainiac attributes Jor-El's theory of Krypton's destruction to "human error". This is strange, since Jor-El is technically Kryptonian, although it can be attributed to the fact that Kryptonians on Krypton are virtually identical to humans on Earth.
- The first shot of LexCorp Laboratories, an "e" was used instead of a "b", thereby misspelling the building's sign as "LexCorp Laeoratories". It was fixed in the next shot it appeared in.
- Krypto appears in part one of this episode as a puppy.
- Jor-El calls the creature that attacked him in the ice cave a "shoggoth". Shoggoths were originally created by H. P. Lovecraft for his Cthulhu Mythos, though he described them quite differently from the creature seen in this episode.
- This is the first mention of Kaznia in the DC Animated Universe.
- Part I of this episode is one of the only two episodes in the series where the Superman persona is absent (as he only appears as Kal-El in that episode). The other is "New Kids in Town".
- Martha Kent's comment that Clark should avoid being compared to Batman suggests that, in the DCAU's continuity, Batman began his crimefighting career before Superman made his first appearance in Metropolis.
- As a note to the above, among the passengers of the airliner are Bruce Wayne's secretary, Dana Blessing from "The Worry Men" and Ethan Clark from "Prophecy of Doom". A man with a vaguely similar appearance to Arnold Rundle is also seen.
- The energy pistols used by Krypton's security forces are identical in appearance to those used by the inhabitants of Gorilla City in the Justice League episode "The Brave and the Bold" and the Justice League Unlimited episode "Dead Reckoning".
- Jonathan Kent speculates that Kal-El's ship might be a Sputnik, the first man-made object to orbit the Earth.
- When Jonathan shows Clark's spaceship to him for the first time, he remarks that "some babies are found in baskets", referring to the Biblical legend of Moses, which Superman's origin is partially based on.
- When Martha finds Kal-El, Jonathan and her discussed possible names for their adopted baby. Martha suggested Christopher or Kirk, direct references to Christopher Reeve and Kirk Alyn, who played Superman in other productions. Reeve played Superman in classic Richard Donner's film series and Alyn played Superman in the movie serials Superman and Atom Man vs. Superman.
- Lois dated Luthor, and subsequently dumped him.
- Lois says "nice S" after seeing Superman's suit. This part was removed from the Toon Disney version, likely because it was a pun on "nice ass", which would be inappropriate for a younger audience. Lobo made a similar pun in "The Main Man, Part II".
- The exchange (or lack thereof) between Superman and Lex Luthor is mirrored by Iron Man and Obadiah Stane at the beginning of part 2 of the Iron Man: Armored Adventures series premiere, as both of the bald, successful businessmen are talking in their office about weapons and armor when someone points out the hero floating outside the window. An offer is given to the hero only to be met with continual "arm-crossed" floating. After becoming frustrated at the hero for not responding, the businessmen are both told "I'll be watching you".
Jor-El: (About how his day went.) Frostbite, monsters. Same old, same old.
Jor-El: You know, Brainiac, somewhere in all those trillions of files clusters there's got to be one that says "people don't like to be spied on."
Brainiac: Good evening, Jor-El. You've been busy tonight. May I be of service?
Brainiac: (On Krypton's imminent destruction.) If the council knew the truth, they would put me to work on an evacuation plan, a futile gesture given the time remaining.
Sul-Van: Good evening, officers. Is there a problem?
(An earthquake begins.)
Jonathan Kent: Put that thing back, you don't know where it came from.
Lana Lang: You're saying you can see through walls? So, how many times have you peeked into the girls locker-room?
Lois (observing a picture of Superman) : Nice S.
Clark: Now that the terrorists have your prototype, the Pentagon is undoubtedly gonna want you to build a bigger and better version for them. When all is said and done, this could net you a multimillion dollar windfall.
Lois: Nice work, Smallville. You're only the second person I've ever seen get under Lex's skin.
Clark Kent: Does this mean I'll have to give up my life?
Superman: Shall we go a few rounds without the suit?
Superman: Call the police and let them know what's happening. I'm gonna try and stop that thing.
(Lex Luthor sees Superman hovering outside his bay window, silently staring at him.)