Of all the planets spinning in the vast universe of comics, no fictional cosmic destination holds as much mystique as Superman's homeworld of Krypton. Originally located just fifty light-years from our own solar system, the fantastic Earth-sized planet and its advanced culture bathed in the glow of a red star named Rao and suffered a tragic end that comics fans can recall by heart.
Krypton's myriad secrets were expanded and elaborated on by dozens of DC writers and artists over the last eight decades. Many of these must-see attractions and enticing locales were merely mentioned in passing in comic book panels, depicted in guide-book maps, or included in storylines revolving around Jor-El, Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, and Krypto.
Beyond its domed cities and crystalline skylines were an incredible array of natural wonders like the Gold Volcano, Fire Falls, Jewel Mountains, Kryptonian Zoo, Scarlet Jungle, Meteor Valley, Glass Forest, and Rainbow Canyon.
Now DC Comics is releasing a new graphic novel set on Krypton titled "House of El Book One: The Shadow Threat," soaring into book stores starting Jan. 5. Written by New York Times bestselling novelist Claudia Gray ("Star Wars: Lost Stars," "Star Wars: Master & Apprentice") and featuring art by illustrator Eric Zawadzki, it's the first volume in a trilogy exploring Krypton through the eyes of two star-crossed teenagers on opposite sides of the extinction-level event.
Here's the official synopsis:
"Zahn is one of Krypton's elites: wealthy, privileged, a future leader. Sera is one of Krypton's soldiers: strong, dedicated, fearless. Their rule-bound society has ordained that their paths should never cross.
"But groundquakes are shaking the planet's surface. Rebellious uprisings are shaking the populace. Krypton's top scientists — Jor-El and Lara — conduct a secret experiment that is meant to reform their planet from the cellular level up. Zahn and Sera must join forces to investigate the hidden dangers truly threatening Krypton. In the process, they form a bond that will endure past the end of the world…"
In approaching this project's story, Gray settled on the fundamental question of how do these scientifically advanced people not know their planet is going to blow up?
"Maybe these are people who literally can't see the danger they're in," she told Space.com. "So I wound up with a world that has invested so heavily in genetic engineering — that has fine-tuned and specialized nearly every person to what they consider perfection. But that's led to a society with rigid striations and hierarchies, where people don't communicate with each other and so never are able to learn from each other.
"The protagonists are original characters, Zahn and Sera, whose lives have been designed for them, birth to death, before they were born. Those lives were never supposed to intersect. When they do, they create not only a personal connection but also a vantage point from which they're able to see the truths about Krypton almost nobody else can see."
For creating the environment for her characters, Gray's editors at DC told her not to be beholden to the past.
"What I came up with — a heavily industrialized society, one that has cut itself off from almost anything organic, where many people never even set foot on the ground itself — doesn't have much room for flora and fauna," she added.
"It was a huge honor to get to come up with my own Krypton, but that is an honor I absolutely share with Eric. He pictured all of this so richly and so vividly that it brings a whole new level of vitality to the story. This is my first time writing a graphic novel, so I really had no idea what to expect—and Eric's contributions have gone past my wildest dreams."
Enjoy our exclusive look inside DC Comics' "House of El Book One: The Shadow Threat," arriving in stores on Jan. 5.
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Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.