|First appearance||Superman comic strip (1939)|
|Created by||Jerry Siegel
|Place of origin||Krypton|
|Notable aliases||Lora (Golden Age/Earth-Two version)|
|Abilities||Expert in Kryptonian science. Highly trained astronaut.|
Lara (née Lara Lor-Van) is a fictional character who appears in Superman comics published by DC Comics. Lara is the biological mother of Superman, and the wife of scientist Jor-El. Lara Lor-Van is Lara's full maiden name, as "Lor-Van" is the name of Lara's father. Most depictions of Kryptonian culture show that females use their father's full name as their last names before marriage, and then are known simply by their first names after marriage. However in a recent (December 2013) appearance she gives her name as Lara Van-El, implying that a married Kryptonian woman combines her old and new family names as many women do in present-day Western culture.
Lara's role in the Superman mythos has varied over the years, with her treatment and emphasis often depending on the decade she was written in. Golden Age and early Silver Age stories treated Lara in a lesser role compared to her husband. However, stories from the 1970s onwards depict Lara in more prominent roles; one such example is the 2004 miniseries Superman: Birthright.
Fictional character biography
Golden and Silver Age versions
Lara first appeared in the Superman newspaper comic strip in 1939, where she was first named "Lora." Her first comic book appearance (after being mentioned in the 1942 text novel The Adventures of Superman by George Lowther, where she was named "Lara" for the first time) was in More Fun Comics #101 in January–February 1945. A 1948 retelling of Superman's origin story subsequently delved into detail about Lara, though her more familiar Silver Age aspects became more firmly established starting in the late 1950s and over the course of the next several decades.
After the establishment of DC's multiverse in the early 1960s, the Golden Age version of Superman's mother was stated as having been named "Lora," and lived on the Krypton of the Earth-Two universe. The Silver Age Lara, meanwhile, lived on the Krypton of the Earth-One universe.
A definitive synopsis of the Silver Age Lara's life (summarizing the various stories revealing her history) came in the 1979 miniseries The World of Krypton (not to be confused with the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths late 1980s comic special of the same name).
As summarized in The World of Krypton (and in various other stories), Lara was a promising astronaut in Krypton's space program. However, Krypton's space program was soon permanently grounded after Jax-Ur blew up one of Krypton's inhabited moons. Eventually, Lara met scientist Jor-El, with the two having several adventures together before getting married. Some time later, Lara gave birth to the couple's only child, Kal-El.
When Krypton was about to explode, Lara and Jor-El placed their infant son into an escape rocket built by Jor-El. In most retellings, Jor-El wanted Lara to accompany their son to Earth, but Lara refused, saying their son would have a better chance of reaching Earth without her extra weight. Kal-El's spaceship then took off, leaving Lara and Jor-El to perish.
Modern Age versions
After the 1985-1986 miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths and John Byrne's 1986 miniseries The Man of Steel rewrote Superman's origins, details about Lara's background and character were changed. Under Byrne's version, Lara inhabited a cold, emotionally sterile Krypton where even bodily contact was forbidden. Jor-El was considered a "throwback" for actually expressing emotions toward his wife Lara, and for his favoring the less sterilized days of past Kryptonian eras. In this version of the mythos, Lara was a librarian and historian of high rank, and thought it horrifying that Kal-El would be sent to a "primitive" planet such as Earth. Her grandmother Lady Nara and Seyg-El, Jor-El's father, were the ones who arranged the union between them – so that they might have a child who would fill an opening in the planet's Register of Citizens when another Kryptonian died a rare and untimely death.
In the 2004 Superman miniseries Superman: Birthright, Lara, along with Krypton and Jor-El, more or less again became their Silver Age versions, though with updated touches. In this version, Lara is treated as a fully equal partner to Jor-El in constructing Kal-El's spacecraft and in designing various key components.
In the 2009 series Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns, Superman is first introduced to his birth mother in his teens by the spaceship that brought him to the Earth as a baby. She is introduced to Kal-El by a hologram of Jor-El as his mother. This moment shocks Superman and brings tears to Martha Kent's eyes.
Also in 2009, Lara's own family background is described. Lara Lor-Van is born into the Labor Guild, whose members are not physically abused but have no say in the choices of their lives and who, unlike the members of other guilds, cannot change guilds. Lara became a member of her husband's Science Guild when she married him and was thereby granted all the freedoms granted to other Science Guild members. A member of Krypton's Military Guild describes this as being "raised up."
In The New 52, Lara is a member of Krypton's military forces. One of the most talented students on the Military Academy, Lara is both a skilled fighter and a bright scientist.
In Frank Miller's mini-series Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again (also referred to as DK2), Lara is the name of the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman, with the powers of a Kryptonian and the warrior attitude of an Amazon. She has a poor opinion of people less powerful than herself and tries to persuade her father to rise above the "humans" and maybe even take over the world. He himself is torn between this and his adopted parent's view that he should use his powers to help rather than to dominate. Ultimately, he rejects the former option and reconciles with Batman.
In other media
Lara has appeared (usually briefly) in various media adaptations of the Superman story. However, as was the case in the older comics, Lara usually has a less prominent role than Jor-El in such depictions.
- In 1952, Lara was portrayed by Aline Towne in "Superman on Earth", the premiere episode of Adventures of Superman.
- Lara has appeared in one episode of Season 3 in Smallville, played by Kendall Cross. Clark was dipped in a tank of kryptonite enhanced liquid used to induce repressed memories to come to surface. His mother placed baby Kal-El into the rocket which will take him to Earth. While Jor-El was more concerned about his son fulfilling his destiny, Lara was worried no one would love him. Clark came out of his fugue screaming her name, leaving him with the reassurance that his mother had loved him (As opposed to Jor-El's apparently heartless manipulation of him, although his intentions were later confirmed to be benevolent), Martha Kent subsequently telling him "Lara" was his first word, but she and Jonathan never knew what it meant. In the episode named "Lara" of season 7, it is revealed that Lara, now played by Supergirl actress Helen Slater, visited the Kent farm prior to the destruction of Krypton. Along with Kara, they hide a photograph of Lara so that Kal-El will find it. It is also noted in this episode that Lara's DNA was hidden in the blue crystal by her brother-in-law Zor-El. Pictures of Lara from this episode can be found here. In the episode "Blue" Lara and Zor-El are released onto Earth in corporeal form (although technically not alive). The story culminates in Clark's destruction of the crystal to rid the world of Zor-El. Although upset to again lose his mother, with her assurance that she loves him, he is able to in order to save Kara's life. The naming conventions in Smallville seem to differ from the comic book continuity. Kara refers to Lara as Lara-El at the start of the episode of "Blue." This means that females, on Smallville, take their husband's last name and attach to their first. In the 10th season episode "Abandoned!", she appears alongside Julian Sands as Jor-El, appearing in the form of a holographic message that Jor-El and Lara had recorded for Kal-El shortly before his ship was launched. After Lois travels to the Fortress to confront Jor-El about his failures as a father, the message featuring Jor-El and Lara assures their son that they have faith in him.
- Lara appeared in the Robot Chicken episode "Especially the Animal Keith Crofford" voiced by Vanessa Hudgens.
- In the Super Friends episode called "The Planet Splitter," she was featured in a flashback.
- Lara was also in the Challenge of the SuperFriends episode "Secret Origins of the Super Friends."
- In 1996, Lara's voice was provided by Finola Hughes in "The Last Son of Krypton", the premiere episode of Superman: The Animated Series. She is depicted with elements of her Silver Age and Modern Age selves, where she is headstrong and an equal partner to Jor-El, but instead of being a scientist she is an artist. She also sports the forehead hair curl that has become a characteristic trait of Superman's physical appearance.
- The Silver Age versions of Jor-El and Lara appear in the Pinky and the Brain episode "Two Mice and a Baby" as they place an infant Kal-El in his ship as Krypton crumbles.
- Lara made a cameo with Jor-El in the Justice League episode "Twilight".
- In the Justice League Unlimited animated series episode entitled "For the Man Who Has Everything", Superman's imagined son is named Van, a nod to Lara's father, who in the animated series is named Sul-Van (rather than Lor-Van).
- In 2011's direct-to-video animated film All-Star Superman, Lara and her husband Jor-El appear briefly in a flashback during the moment they sent their infant son Kal-El to Earth to survive Krypton's destruction. Also, a large statue of Lara and one of Jor-El are kept by Superman in his Fortress of Solitude.
- Lara is portrayed by Luana Walters in "Superman Comes to Earth", the first chapter of the 1948 Superman movie serial. Portions of this depiction appear in flashback as Lex Luthor recounts the story of Krypton's destruction in "At the Mercy of Atom Man!", the seventh chapter of the 1950 serial Atom Man vs. Superman.
- Lara was played by Susannah York in Superman (1978), Superman II (1980) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) (voice only). After Marlon Brando (Jor-El) was removed from Superman II, Lara took on the role as Superman's mentor, in both Superman II and IV. She was later replaced by Brando's Jor-El in Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, the 2006 edit of Superman II.
- Ayelet Zurer portrays Lara in Man of Steel. Julia Ormond had previously been announced as cast, but dropped out. Connie Nielsen was in negotiations for the role before Ormond was cast. In this version, she is hesitant about sending her only child away to a primitive world, fearing they will kill him. Even after her husband assures her that that is impossible, she worries that the craft won't make it. When Zod confronts Jor-El about stealing the codex and learns of the Els' natural-born son (which is against Kryptonian Law, as all children are genetically-engineered to be more efficient), he fights Jor-El while Lara punches in the launch coordinates to her son's ship and watches him leave before running to her husband's side after he is killed by Zod. She attends the sentencing of Zod and his rebels into the Phantom Zone, where she gives Zod a stoic and cold look even after he cryptically warns her that he will find her son. After placing her husband's corpse into a burial chamber, she watches as Krypton is destroyed and before she dies with the rest of her people, her last words to her son were "Make a better world than ours, Kal.".
- Action Comics Annual (vol. 2) #2, December 2013
- Superman (vol. 1) #53, July–August 1948
- Superman Family #202, July 1980
- Secret Origins (vol. 1) #1, April 1986
- Superman (vol. 1) #233, January 1971
- Adventure Comics #289, October 1961
- Superman (vol. 1) #141, November 1960
- Superman (vol. 1) #257, October 1972
- The World of Krypton #3, September 1979
- "Smallville "Lara" Image Gallery - with Helen Slater!". Kryptonsite.com. Retrieved 2010-12-25.
- "Ayelet Zurer Cast as Superman's Mom in MAN OF STEEL". 25 September 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- "Julia Ormond Out As MAN OF STEEL's Biological Mom!!". Ain't It Cool News. September 25, 2011.
- "Connie Nielsen & Harry Lennix Rumored For Man of Steel". Screen Rant. June 15, 2011. Retrieved August 4, 2011.
- Lara Lor-Van information at IMDB.com
- Lara Lor-Van's entry at the DC Comics Database
- DC Comics official website