|First appearance||Adventure Comics #283
|Created by||Robert Bernstein (writer)
George Papp (artist)
|In story information|
The Phantom Zone is a prison dimension featured in the Superman comic books and related media published by DC Comics. It first appeared in Adventure Comics #283 (April 1961), and was created by Robert Bernstein and George Papp. It was frequently used in the Superman comics before the continuity was rebooted in the 1980s, after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and has appeared occasionally since.
- 1 History
- 2 Known inmates
- 3 Other versions
- 4 In other media
- 5 Relations to the Phantom Zone
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The Phantom Zone was discovered by Jor-El and used on the planet Krypton as a method of imprisoning criminals. Previously, criminals were punished by being sealed into capsules and rocketed into orbit in suspended animation with crystals attached to their foreheads to slowly erase their criminal tendencies; Klax-Ar was one criminal who received this punishment but escaped. Gra-Mo was the last to suffer the punishment, for it was then abolished in favor of the Zone.
The inmates of the Phantom Zone reside in a ghost-like state of existence from which they can observe, but cannot interact with, the regular universe. Inmates do not age or require sustenance in the Phantom Zone; furthermore, they are telepathic and mutually insubstantial. As such, they were able to survive the destruction of Krypton and focus their attention on Earth, as most of the surviving Kryptonians now reside there. Most have a particular grudge against Superman because his father created the method of their damnation. When they manage to escape, they usually engage in random destruction, particularly easy for them since, on Earth, each has the same powers of Superman. Nevertheless, Superman periodically released Phantom Zone prisoners whose original sentences had been completed, and most of these went to live in the bottle city of Kandor.
The sole inmate of the Phantom Zone who was not placed there as punishment for a crime is Mon-El, a Daxamite who fell victim to lead poisoning. Superboy was forced to cast him into the Phantom Zone to keep him alive, where he remained until the time of the Legion of Super-Heroes when Brainiac 5 created a medication that allowed him to leave safely.
Green Lantern Guy Gardner once experienced an extended and tortuous stay after an explosion of a Green Lantern Power Battery sent him there, until rescued by Superman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who had believed him to be dead all that time.
Superman develops communications equipment for the Phantom Zone, like the Zone-o-Phone, and refinements to the projector. In addition, the city of Kandor uses the Phantom Zone regularly, with parole hearings sometimes chaired by Superman. However, since the departure of Kandor, that is, outside of Mon-El, most of the inhabitants were confined to lifers and generally not inclined to making conversation with their jailer. As for Superman himself, as much as he appreciates how the Zone is necessary to contain its Kryptonian inmates and shelter Mon-El, he apparently privately harbors concerns about the justness of its penal use. This is illustrated in the acclaimed story, "For the Man Who Has Everything" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, where Clark is ensnared in a fantasy illusion created by an alien parasitical plant called a Black Mercy. As his subconscious resists the illusion of a peaceful life on Krypton, among the first signs of its degeneration is the sight of his cousin, Kara Zor-El, hospitalized after being attacked by an anti-Phantom Zone militant who left literature protesting that the Phantom Zone is a method of torture.
In the Steve Gerber mini-series The Phantom Zone (January - April 1982), it is revealed that the Zone not only has a back exit through which villains can escape, but is also home to terrible beasts. Superman and Quex-Ul encountered a Kryptonian wizard named Thul-Kar who tells them he believed Jor-El's prophecy of Krypton's doom and entered the Phantom Zone by magic. While there, he discovered the truth about the Phantom Zone where it and all its levels are manifested as the interface between the Earth-One dimension and that of a sentient universe called Aethyr. Only by entering Aethyr's realm can they escape back to Earth, and that is dangerous indeed. While Quex-Ul was killed by Aethyr, Superman managed to make his way out of the Phantom Zone.
Mister Mxyzptlk is later possessed by Aethyr. During Superman's fight with the possessed Mr. Mxyzpltk-Aethyr empties the Phantom Zone of its inhabitants but is absorbed into Aethyr itself. As the Phantom Zone villains head to Earth to conquer it, Thul-Kar and Nam-Ek are also absorbed into Aethyr. Superman awakes and sees that the Phantom Zone villains are wreaking havoc on Earth, causing destruction to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. and demanding Superman come out and fight them. Superman battles the Phantom Zone villains in Washington. While fighting Faora Hu-Ul, he witnesses her disappearing as she is absorbed into Aethyr. Mister Mxyzpltk reveals that his strong personality has taken over Aethyr and he absorbs all the rest of the Phantom Zone inhabitants into himself. Mxyzpltk-Aethyr leaves, intending to next take over the Fifth Dimension, and Superman is left to put out the fires in Washington and then rid Metropolis of Kryptonite.
In the post-Crisis DC Universe, the Phantom Zone first appears after Superman returns from space with a Kryptonian artifact called the Eradicator. This device, created by his Kryptonian ancestor Kem-L, attempts to recreate Krypton on Earth, building the Fortress of Solitude; the extradimensional space in which the Eradicator finds the Kryptonian materials necessary is called the Phantom Zone. A Phantom Zone Projector is part of Superman's current Fortress. It has been used to access the Bottle City of Kandor and to trap villains such as the White Martians.
The Phantom Zone has been independently discovered by various characters where it is called the "Buffer Zone" by the Bgztlians, the "Still Zone" by the White Martians, the "Stasis Zone" by Loophole, the "Ghost Zone" by Prometheus, and the "Honeycomb" by the first Queen Bee. In post-Crisis/post-Zero Hour continuity, it was Loophole's "Stasis Zone" technology that exiled Mon-El, known in the new continuity as Valor/M'Onel, into the Phantom Zone for a thousand years.
Superman fashions the Phantom Zone technology into an arrow projectile which upon striking a victim will project them into the Phantom Zone. Roy Harper, the original Speedy, steals this arrow from Superman when the original Teen Titans are invited for a visit many years ago. Roy, however, never uses the arrow and passes it on to his replacement, Mia Dearden, who uses the arrow in the recent Infinite Crisis on Superboy-Prime. Unfortunately, he is too strong for even the Phantom Zone arrow, and manages to break out.
At one point, the White Martians imprison Batman in the Phantom Zone and take his identity as Bruce Wayne.
Batman devises a measure made after Superman recovers from his first battle with Doomsday, that, when the Justice League or any other superhero groups encounter a Doomsday Level Threat, a group of heroes, authority, and military forces will contain it within a proximity after clearing all civilians within it. If Superman and the rest fall, the Doomsday Protocol will commence by sending it to the Phantom Zone.
Supergirl #16 shows a form of life native to the Phantom Zone. These Phantoms are enraged over the use of their universe to house criminals and seek revenge on the one responsible.
In the limited series 52 the Phantom Zone is ingested by Mr. Mind while he is mutating into a giant insect form. Once fully-grown, Mind regurgitates it in an attempt to destroy Booster Gold and Rip Hunter, but the attack is deflected by Supernova, who returns the Zone to its proper dimensional plane. Supernova is able to control the Zone as his supersuit's powers are based upon Phantom Zone projector technology stolen by Rip Hunter.
A recent issue of Action Comics offers a possible explanation as to the Phantom Zone's disappearance. The theory being that the Phantom Zone was actually the mythical Nightwing, counterpart to the Flamebird, imprisoned in an altered state of being. Having chosen a new Avatar, Chris Kent who was freed from the Zone, he too would have been freed from his shackles thus causing the Phantom Zone to cease to exist.
The New 52
In The New 52 (a reboot of the DC Comics universe), Jor-El suggests going into the Phantom Zone when Krypton was about to explode. Zod however appears with other Phantom Zone prisoners and attempts to escape the Phantom Zone. Krypto however sacrifices himself by attacking Xa-Du thus going into the Phantom Zone as well.
It is revealed that the Doctor Xa-Du was the first Kryptonian prisoner to be sent to the Phantom Zone due to his forbidden experiments in suspended animation with Jor-El executing the sentence. The Phantom Zone is reverted to the Pre-Crisis version as the inmates can observe, but cannot interact with, the regular universe becoming literally "Phantoms".
Inmates in Pre-Crisis
Throughout the Silver Age of Comics, Superman meets many residents of the Phantom Zone:
- Ak-Var - Ak-Var is a petty criminal who was sentenced to 30 years in the Phantom Zone for a crime that he didn't commit. Upon his release, he becomes the assistant and partner of Superman's cousin Van-Zee. Van-Zee is a Kandorian scientist who is secretly Nightwing. Ak-Var becomes his partner Flamebird.
- Ar-Ual - Female Kryptonian prisoner who escaped the Zone and impersonated Wonder Woman to get close to Superman and sap his strength; she was exposed by Lois Lane.
- Cha-Mel - A petty thief who developed a chemical formula that enabled him to change his appearance, Cha-Mel was sent to the Phantom Zone after attempting to burglarize Jor-El's home. During Superman's youth, he managed to exchange places with Superboy, with the latter taking his place in the Zone. Impersonating Superboy, he tried to secure the Phantom Zone projector to free the other prisoners, but the device was destroyed in a tug-of-war with Krypto, returning him to the Zone while freeing Superboy.
- Doctor Xadu (first name unknown) - Doctor Xadu was a physician who killed dozens of patients while performing forbidden cryogenics experiments upon them.
- Faora Hu-Ul - A martial arts expert and hater of males. She killed a lot of male Kryptonians before she was apprehended and sentenced to 300 years in the Phantom Zone.
- General Dru-Zod - General Zod created an army of clones (prototype Bizarros) in an attempt to take over as ruler of Krypton. He was sentenced to 40 years in the Phantom Zone.
- Jax-Ur - Jax-Ur is a rocket and missile engineer turned rogue criminal who unintentionally destroys one of Krypton's two moons (Wegthor) while testing a nuclear test missile as part of his plan to take over Krypton. Along with the moon, Wegthor's population of 500 Kryptonian colonists is killed. Because of the severity of his crime, Jax-Ur is the only criminal sentenced to spend all existence within the Phantom Zone, without the possibility of parole (although Krypton's destruction makes this unlikely for any prisoner).
- Jer-Em - A religious fanatic who caused the destruction of Argo City (the birthplace of Supergirl). In the Steve Gerber mini-series The Phantom Zone (January - April 1982), Jer-Em purposely exposes himself to Kryptonite to enter the Kryptonian afterlife, taking Nadira with him.
- Kru-El - A weapons designer and cousin of Jor-El and thus a relative of Superman. He committed a terrible crime and was sentenced to the Phantom Zone.
- Lar-On - Lar-On was described as being afflicted with a varying Kryptonian lycanthropy disease which made him similar in many respects to a supernatural werewolf since he was most closely identified with it. Since it defied Kryptonian medicine's efforts to cure it, Jor-El had to project him into the Phantom Zone and vowed to find a way to get rid of his lycanthropy. Lar-On was later unwittingly freed by a scientist named Jeremiah Terry when he was trying to reach Earth-Two. He was defeated by Superman and Batman and returned to the Phantom Zone as Lar-On apologized to Batman and Superman for the trouble his werewolf form caused. The same lycanthropy disease which Lar-On was infected with occurred two issues later where it turned Jeremiah Terry's daughter Sandy into a were-unicorn and turned Batman into a were-bat until Superman managed to cure both of them.
- Lois Lane - The first Phantom Zone prisoner, Lois is accidentally imprisoned by Superman's father Jor-El during a test of the Phantom Zone projector after she uses a time machine to travel into Krypton's past. Lois remains imprisoned in the Phantom Zone until Superman discovers her in the present and releases her.
- Mon-El - A Daxamite youth who met Superboy on Earth and discovers he is acutely vulnerable to exposure to lead (this is described in the comics as "lead poisoning", though it is not the same as real-life lead poisoning). To keep him alive, Superboy cast Mon-El, with his permission, into the Phantom Zone where he resided until the 30th century where Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes develops a cure which allowed him to leave safely. The 30th century would also have more dealings with the Phantom Zone; in one instance (Action Comics #287, April 1962), it is used by a race of shapechangers to imprison Supergirl.
- Nadira and Az-Rel - Nadira (a telekinetic) and Az-Rel (a pyrokinetic) were two petty criminals from the Krypton Isle of Bokos (AKA the Island of Thieves). Upon their release from the Phantom Zone (The Phantom Zone mini-series, 1982), they sought out 'pleasures' on Earth using their powers indiscriminately on the populace. Later, Nadira was killed by Jer-Em upon exposure to Green Kryptonite. In her dying pain, she telekinetically inflicted pain on Az-Rel, which unleashed his pyrokinesis upon himself, incinerating him.
- Nam-Ek - A Kryptonian scientist who did experiments with a Rondor (a sacred animal of Krypton that could cure any disease). Killing this animal was forbidden. Nam-Ek created a serum from a Rondor horn and become immortal. However, Nam-Ek's serum had also disfigured his skin turning it purple and he grew a Rondor horn in the center of his forehead. Nam-Ek was sentenced to an eternity in the Phantom Zone. Nam-Ek is the only Kryptonian to escape the explosion of Krypton remaining on that planet.
- Professor Va-Kox - A mad geneticist whose mutagenic formula, the "Force of Life", creates violent, mutated monsters from the aquatic life of the Great Lake of Krypton.
- Quex-Ul - Quex-Ul is the only innocent Kryptonian sentenced to the Phantom Zone. Quex-Ul is put in the Phantom Zone for supposedly killing a herd of the sacred Rondors. Rondor horns have healing properties and were therefore sacred to Kryptonians. Quex-Ul is caught at the scene of the crime and is convicted and sentenced to 25 Sun Cycles in the Phantom Zone. Superman later proves his innocence and releases him from the Zone. Quex-Ul in turn saves Superman from exposure to Gold Kryptonite, but he loses his own powers from the exposure and his memory as well. Now thinking he is a normal Earth inhabitant, he goes to work for the Daily Planet under the name of Charlie Kweskill. In the Steve Gerber mini-series The Phantom Zone (January - April 1982) Quex-Ul's memory and powers are restored when he and Superman become trapped in the Phantom Zone, and he dies upon colliding with Aethyr in their desperate and dangerous bid to escape.
- Ras-Krom - A superstitious Kryptonian criminal who escaped the Phantom Zone and tried to free his fellow prisoners to form a super-gang and conquer the universe. He was outwitted and re-imprisoned by Superman and Jimmy Olsen.
- Shyla Kor-Onn - A Phantom Zone escapee who fought Supergirl. She later reformed and joined the Science Council on Rokyn, the planet on which Kandor was enlarged.
- Thul-Kar - A Kryptonian wizard who used magic to teleport himself into the Phantom Zone upon believing Jor-El's warnings of Krypton's approaching destruction and was the first to discover the Phantom Zone's connections with Aethyr.
- Tra-Gob - The former leader of a band of Kryptonian thieves who was betrayed by his own men and rescued by Zor-El before they could execute him. Tra-Gob was sentenced to forty years in the Phantom Zone, but still remained deeply grateful to Zor-El. When a freak occurrence opened a breach into the Phantom Zone, Tra-Gob briefly escaped and rescued Superman and Lois Lane from mortal danger before, his debt to Zor-El now repaid, he willingly returned to the Zone to finish the remaining ten year of his sentence.
- Vor-Kil - A prisoner skilled in the Kryptonian martial art of Klurkor, freed when sun-spot activity created a hole in the Zone. Superman lured him back into captivity with the help of Jimmy Olsen.
- Zora Vi-Lar - The daughter of Vi-Lar in Kandor. She took up a life of crime as Black Flame and fought Supergirl who defeated Zora Vi-Lar with Gold Kryptonite. She was imprisoned in the Phantom Zone for a short time.
- An unnamed criminal who got 30 years for blowing up a factory.
There were also some Kryptonians that were mentioned to have been imprisoned in The Phantom Zone as seen in the Phantom Zone mini-series:
- Male Kryptonian Inmates:
- Female Kryptonian Inmates:
- Erndine Ze-Da
Inmates in Post-Crisis
The following were imprisoned in the Phantom Zone:
- Az-Rel and Nadira Va-Dim - In the Post-Crisis, Az-Rel and his lover Nadira Va-Dim are Kryptonians that Ursa had enlisted to be sleeper agents on Earth.
- Car-Vex - A Kryptonian criminal who was banished to the Phantom Zone. General Zod later recruited her to be a sleeper agent on Earth where she infiltrated Project 7734 under the alias of Officer Romundi of the Science Police.
- Dev-Em - A Kryptonian who was arrested and imprisoned in the Phantom Zone for murder and perversion.
- Faora -
- Jax-Ur -
- Non - Non is a former friend and scientific colleague of Jor-El. After leading a separatist movement that planned to tell all of Krypton on what will happen to their planet, he is abducted and lobotomized by Krypton's Science Council. This leaves him a minimally-verbal and highly aggressive brute. Some aspects of his personality survive and surface as an extreme kindness when dealing with children. Serving as General Zod's enforcer, he also becomes guardian and caregiver for Zod's son Chris Kent.
- Quex-Ul - In the Post-Crisis, Quex-Ul is a Kryptonian criminal who was banished to the Phantom Zone and was later recruited by General Zod to be a sleeper agent on Earth.
- Tor-An - A Kryptonian who was on General Zod's side and was imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. When Ursa was charged with assigning five Krypontians as sleeper agents on Earth, Tor-An assumed the identity of a human entrepreneur named David Carter and became the CEO of the Empire Communications Network based out of Sydney Australia. He was defeated by Flamebird and Nightwing and reimprisoned in the Phantom Zone. Tor-An was later killed by Ursa.
- Ursa - Ursa is the lover of General Zod and mother of Chris Kent. After Non is lobotomized by the Science Council, she instigated open rebellion along with General Zod. As a result, the three were exiled to the Phantom Zone.
- Val-Ty - A Kryptonian sociopath who once fought Tomar-Re whom he eluded by destroying Xan City. He was later captured and placed in the Phantom Zone. When Zod's blanket amnesty was issued, he and the other Phantom Zone criminals were released. Unlike the group who went with Ursa, Val stayed on New Krypton, going rogue. He was the target of a manhunt by the Military Guild, and was eventually captured by Kal-El's Red Shard, for which he has vowed revenge.
Inmates in All-Star Superman
- Bar-El - A Kryptonian astronaut who was one of a few survivors of Krypton. He and Lilo were placed in the Phantom Zone until Superman can find a cure for their Kryptonite illness.
- Lilo - A Kryptonian astronaut who was one of a few survivors of Krypton. She and Bar-El were placed in the Phantom Zone until Superman can find a cure for their Kryptonite illness.
Inmates in The New 52
- Faora -
- Jax-Ur -
- Krypto - Sealed in the Phantom Zone when stopping Xa-Du from escaping. He was released by Superman in Action Comics #13 (December 2012).
- Non -
- Ras-Krom -
- Ursa -
- Vak-Ox -
- Xa-Du - A scientist who was incarcerated in the Phantom Zone for doing illegal experiments revolving around suspended animation.
Superman & Batman: Generations
In the Elseworlds tale Superman & Batman: Generations, Superman is sentenced to the Phantom Zone in 1989 when he is stripped of his powers in a confrontation with the Ultra-Humanite that ends with his foe's death, the judges reasoning that, even if Superman feels he may have killed his foe deliberately after the deaths of his family and friends, putting him in a conventional prison without his powers would be dangerous and solitary confinement was too extreme given his past deeds. He is released in 1999 by the returned Batman- who notes that he is ending the sentence early but is certain that nobody would object to early release 'for good behavior'- although Superman was briefly able to appear as a phantom in the real world in 1997 to distract a foe who was about to kill Knightwing (Superman's grandson, adopted by Batman's son after the deaths of Superman's children).
In other media
- In the 1978 season of Super Friends there is an episode titled "Terror from the Phantom Zone" in which a comet's collision causes the Phantom Zone to release three Kryptonian villains Hul, Rom-Lok and Logar. The villains go on a crime spree and banish the Super Friends to the Phantom Zone but keep Superman on Earth, exposing him to Red Kryptonite which causes him to age quickly. The villains get great enjoyment showing off "old Superman" to the world. Superman, with help from the Justice League computer, manages to figure out that Blue Kryptonite may reverse the aging process because Blue Kryptonite is harmful to Bizarro, and therefore should be helpful to Superman. Superman finds the Blue Kryptonite and is aged back to normal, then goes on his quest to rescue the other Super Friends and ultimately send the three villains back into the Phantom Zone. The three villains later return in a "lost season" episode from 1983 titled "Return of the Phantoms". Here they hijack an alien's time-space conveyor and go back in time to Smallville and attack Superboy, in order to prevent him from becoming Superman. Fortunately, the pilot of that craft went to warn the Super Friends about what the trio would be attempting, and guided Superman and Green Lantern to the proper time period to help the boy. The Super Friends version of the Phantom Zone is described as, "Far beyond the boundaries of the Milky Way. In the uncharted void of deep space. An incredible 5th dimension of space and time, lies parallel to the universe that we know. This interesting interstellar warp which holds the most sinister and ruthless criminals in the galaxy is the infamous Phantom Zone." The molecular structure of any person exiled in the Zone appears white and black. Batman's devices and the Wonder Twins' Exxor Powers are useless within the Phantom Zone.
- The Phantom Zone appears in the Superman episode "The Hunter." General Zod and his female followers Ursa and Faora are shown as prisoners in the Phantom Zone.
- Although the Phantom Zone isn't explicitly mentioned or shown in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, there is a similar type of medium which resembles its representation in Season 4 Episode 10 "Meet John Doe" and Episode 11 "Lois and Clarks". A Utopian from the future programmed a "time tablet" to trap fugitive Tempus in a space-time cube if he tried to control the tablet. However, Tempus tricked Superman into being trapped in the cube, which was then lost in space-time. Superman was rescued by H.G. Wells when the exact second Clark disappeared was discovered. Season 4 Episode 2 "Battleground Earth" featured another analogue, a Kryptonian form of capital punishment (practiced by a surviving colony); devices capable of scattering a criminal's body across the universe. Superman was sentenced to this punishment, but due to newly discovered facts and a violation of procedure the process was reversed before it could be completed. It is unclear whether a fully complete procedure could be reversed, and if so, whether there is a point after which it becomes irreversible. Superman was feeling shaky immediately after the procedure (which appeared to be painful), but recovered quickly.
- The Phantom Zone is first mentioned in the first episode of Superman: The Animated Series, "The Last Son of Krypton, Part 1". Jor-El attempted to convince everyone to enter the Phantom Zone to be saved from Krypton's destruction, and one man would be sent via spaceship to re-establish Krypton's population on a new world. Since this idea was not accepted by Krypton's Science Council, Jor-El sent his son in the spaceship to Earth along with the Phantom Zone projector. In the episode "Blasts from the Past", Superman discovers the Phantom Zone projector which also has a communication function that allows him to converse with the inmates. He makes contact with the convicted traitor Mala (who is a loose adaptation of Superman II's Ursa). He learns that Mala's 20-year sentence in the Phantom Zone is finished and releases her. Unfortunately, Superman then learns that Mala is arrogant and power-hungry, badly enough to possibly require returning her to the Phantom Zone. When she learns that Kal-El (Superman's Kryptonian name) prefers the company of a certain Terrestrial named Lois Lane, Mala turns against Superman, and later releases General Jax-Ur (a version of General Zod, although named after another villain from the Superman comics) to take over Earth. They were banished once again into the Phantom Zone at the end of the story as Superman commented "Parole revoked." In "Absolute Power," Jax-Ur and Mala are later accidentally released on another remote planet where they remake it into Krypton's image. During a fight with the Kryptonian fleet, Jax-Ur and Mala are ultimately sent into a black hole.
- In the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Doomsday Sanction", Superman and the Justice League send the nearly unstoppable Doomsday into the Phantom Zone after his capture. This usage of the Phantom Zone, effectively sentencing Doomsday to life imprisonment without trial, presented massive arguments about the Justice League's right to make such judgments. Batman was especially troubled by this move.
- In the Legion of Super Heroes animated series, the Phantom Zone is close to its classical portrayal as a parallel dimension where criminals are sent. As a throwback to the Pre-Crisis version, inhabitants of the Zone become incorporeal - essentially, ghost-like phantoms - thus giving the Zone its name. In this series, Superman discovers his previous self's Phantom Zone projector, which he accidentally uses to free a villain named Drax (voiced by Greg Ellis). The projector is eventually turned on the other Legionnaires, but with Phantom Girl's help, they manage to escape without it and send Drax back at the same time. On a related note, Drax mentioned that he was born in the Phantom Zone.
- In the television series Smallville, in the fifth season premiere "Arrival", Clark Kent battles two evil Kryptonians named Nam-Ek & Aethyr (Disciples of Zod). When he refuses to join them in their quest to subjugate Earth, the Kryptonians attempt to banish Clark to the Phantom Zone using a metallic bracelet (inscribed with Kryptonian symbols) that opens up a vortex. However, Clark manages to turn the tables, sending them into the portal instead. Aside from its entrance, the Phantom Zone is represented as a floating black square, similar to its depiction in the Superman films. In the episode "Solitude", the Kryptonian artificial intelligence known as Brainiac (posing as Professor Milton Fine) manipulates Clark into believing that Jor-El is responsible for Martha's mysterious illness. This is all part of a plot to free the imprisoned General Zod. Professor Fine persuades Clark to take him to the Fortress of Solitude, where he gives Clark a black crystal and instructs him to insert it into the Fortress' control console, misleadingly saying that it will destroy Jor-El and therefore save Martha. However, the crystal, once inserted into the console, instead opens up a vortex in which another black square is seen, with a figure resembling General Zod as portrayed in the Superman movies. However, Brainiac's plan is thwarted once Clark removes the crystal. In the episode "Vessel", General Zod is finally freed from the Phantom Zone. After inhabiting Lex Luthor, Zod traps Clark inside the Phantom Zone using a Kryptonian bracelet similar to the one used in the episode "Arrival". In the season premiere of the sixth season, the Phantom Zone itself is shown as a desolate wasteland where Clark is rendered powerless and mortal. It is revealed to have been created by Jor-El as a prison for not only Kryptonian convicts, but also criminals from the "28 known galaxies". The more dangerous prisoners (e.g. General Zod and Bizarro) are stripped of their corporeal forms and their spirits are then cast into the Zone. Clark escapes with the help of a Kryptonian woman named Raya, who claims to have known Jor-El. To ensure her survival, Jor-El sent Raya to the Phantom Zone just before the destruction of Krypton. Raya reveals that those of the blood of Jor-El's house can utilize a secret exit from the Phantom Zone, therefore Clark can leave. Upon escaping the Phantom Zone, Clark accidentally releases Raya and various prisoners and phantoms to Earth. Chloe Sullivan later refers to the escaped convicts as "Zoners". In the season 7 finale, "Arctic", it is revealed that Brainiac has trapped Kara in the Phantom Zone. In the season eight episode "Bloodline", Clark and Lois are both trapped in the Phantom Zone, where they are reunited with Kara. Also Zod's wife Faora takes control of Lois' body so she can be set free by Kara, and goes on a rampage in Metropolis. In the season ten episode "Icarus", Clark uses a crystal of El to send Slade Wilson to the Zone. When Wilson is found back on Earth in "Dominion", Clark and Oliver Queen enter the Zone to see how that escape was possible. They learn that the clone of Zod - who was sent to New Krypton with the others - was sent to the Phantom Zone for his crimes. While there he merged with the Phantom of the original Zod, gaining all of his memories, and a blood transfusion from Clark allowed him to send others out of the Zone. Clark departs the Zone while destroying the control console on the Phantom Zone side in order to prevent anyone else from leaving.
- In the 1950 film serial, Atom Man vs Superman, Lex Luthor traps Superman in another dimension. Though the Phantom Zone would not appear in the comics until eleven years later, it is styled in the same fashion and is named by Luthor as The Empty Doom.
- In the 1978 Superman film starring Christopher Reeve, the Phantom Zone is presented as a large, flat rhombus-shaped mirror that moves by spinning. Jor-El (Marlon Brando), who developed the Phantom Zone summons it with a wand to imprison General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his co-conspirators Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O'Halloran), who appear to be transferred into the two-dimensional space on the mirror's surface, which is then flung into deep space. The Phantom Zone is only referred to by name in the extended versions of Superman when it is mentioned by the Kryptonian First Elder (Trevor Howard). Superman's mother Lara (Susannah York) refers to the Phantom Zone by name in Superman II when she first makes the revelation about the three villains contained inside it. In his DVD commentary, director Richard Donner refers to it as "the Zone of Silence".
- In Superman II, as Superman saves the city of Paris from destruction by hurling a nuclear bomb into space, the resulting nuclear explosion inadvertently shatters the Phantom Zone and releases the three prisoners. Now free, General Zod and his cohorts travel to Earth, wreaking havoc with the powers granted to them by Earth's yellow sun. The Phantom Zone appears in Richard Donner's cut of Superman II, released in November 2006. In this version (per the original shooting script prior to being altered by director Richard Lester for the theatrical version), the Phantom Zone is shattered by the XK-101 rocket Superman threw into space in the first Superman film. The Zone is shown splitting into three separate shards, one containing each villain, before it finally shatters, freeing them. Jor-El presents a visual representation of the Phantom Zone and its occupants in a recorded message embedded in the education crystals housed at the Fortress of Solitude, unaware that he is actually talking to Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) and Miss Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine). After defeating Zod and his followers, Superman uses a time-warp to imprison the three criminals back in the Phantom Zone and undo the damage they had done during their time on Earth.
- In the Supergirl movie, the sorceress Selena banishes Kara to the Phantom Zone by means of a summoned crystal shard. The crystal transports her to a barren, desolate world where it shatters, casting her to the ground. This depiction of the Phantom Zone suggests that the crystal shard seen in the first two Superman movies is not the Phantom Zone itself, but simply a vehicle that takes prisoners to this desolate wasteland which is referred to as the Phantom Zone, similar to the Smallville TV series. Once in the zone, Kara loses her powers as Supergirl and becomes an ordinary mortal. In this movie, it is also revealed that there is a way out of the Zone, although the trip to the exit portal is extremely dangerous and would almost lead to certain death. Kara is guided to this portal by Zaltar, another Kryptonian who was banished there. Kara is successfully able to transport herself back to earth using this portal, although Zaltar is killed in the attempt. Following Kara's escape, the defeated Selena and her henchwoman Bianca are both banished to the Phantom Zone.
- In the direct-to-video animated feature Superman: Brainiac Attacks, Superman must enter the Phantom Zone to retrieve a rare element which will cure Lois Lane of a deadly disease. This version of the Phantom Zone differs from previous animated continuity, as it is shown to actually be populated by "phantoms" and Superman retains his powers in the Phantom Zone.
- The Phantom Zone is referenced in All-Star Superman. Like the comics, Superman places Bar-El and Lilo into the Phantom Zone until a cure for their Kryptonite illness can be found.
- In the 2013 reboot film Man of Steel, General Zod, Faora, Car-Vex, Dev-Em II, Jax-Ur, Nadira, Nam-Ek, Tor-An and some unnamed followers of General Zod are sentenced to 300 cycles of somatic reconditioning in the Phantom Zone following their attempted coup d'état against the Kryptonian government and General Zod's murder of Jor-El. Upon sentencing, Zod and his co-conspirators are infused within a gelatinous substance, encased in a crystalline material and are subsequently loaded into a Kryptonian ship. The ship then launches into orbit around Krypton where three smaller vessels establish a window into the Phantom Zone into which the ship enters. A short time later, the destruction of Krypton triggers the release of the prisoners. Later in the film, it is revealed that the vessels Zod and his army are using possess a "Phantom Drive", a collision from a smaller ship (piloted by Col. Hardy of the U.S. Military with Kal-El's rocket and operated by Professor Emil Hamilton and Lois Lane) with a similar drive causes a cataclysmic reaction that creates a small singularity, returning the ship and its occupants to the Phantom Zone along with the Military plane, Hardy, and Hamilton.
- In the video game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, the DC portion of the story mode concludes with Emperor Shao Kahn being imprisoned in the Phantom Zone after Superman defeats Dark Kahn. In Shao Kahn's single player ending, it is revealed that the Phantom Zone has the opposite effect on him. Rather than being depowered, Shao Kahn is re-energized by the Phantom Zone’s energies and breaks free of it with an untold number of prisoners who swear allegiance to Shao Kahn for releasing them. The Phantom Zone in the game resembles its portrayal from Superman: The Movie and Superman II.
- The Phantom Zone appears in Injustice: Gods Among Us, also resembling its portrayal in Superman: The Movie and Superman II. According to some character profiles, the Phantom Zone is used by the alternate Superman to "re-educate" several super-villains into joining the Regime suggesting that the alternate Superman spares villains if he believes they could be useful (such as Bane and Killer Frost). Near the end of Story Mode, the Zone is used by the "prime" Superman to safely seal away the alternate Doomsday after the monster is defeated. A portal leading into the Phantom Zone can be found in the Fortress of Solitude stage, combatants can be knocked into a Phantom Zone projector and then spat out of a portal taking damage. They can also be knocked into the Phantom Zone itself at the far left side of the menagerie section where they will collide with one of the crystal fragments housing a monstrous "Phantom." The inmate will proceed to take a bite out of the fighter's shoulder before being knocked off by a floating rock, and then the fighter will fall through a second Zone portal winding up in the laboratory section of the stage. The character General Zod has limited control of the Phantom Zone as part of his special moves, and can summon an inmate for help as well as momentarily trap his opponent within the Phantom Zone. If Classic Battle is cleared, a cutscene will show the alternate Superman being sucked into the Phantom Zone's portal in the menagerie. As he is pulled closer to the portal, he has several flashbacks of Lois Lane, her death at Joker's hands, and his murder of Joker before being pulled into the Phantom Zone by a "Phantom." The alternate Superman is then seen trapped inside a crystal screaming in anguish as he drifts deeper into the Phantom Zone. General Zod's ending in Classic Battle reveals that Zod's imprisonment has granted him the knowledge necessary to utilize some of the Phantom Zone at will (explaining some of his in-game abilities) as well as his plans to use such abilities in future conquests after he has trapped the Regime's Superman in the Phantom Zone and took over the Regime so that he can make Earth into the image of Krypton.
- The Phantom Zone projector appears in Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure. Zod escapes from the phantom Zone and seals Superman in it. Maxwell manages to free Superman and put Zod back in the Phantom Zone.
- In Kevin J. Anderson's novel The Last Days of Krypton, Jor-El discovered and was temporarily trapped in the Phantom Zone. Later, after General Zod's (Dru-Zod's) insurgence/rebellion, Zod and his consort Aethyr-Ka, as well as his muscle-man Nam-Ek, were imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. In a mistaken attempt to destroy the Phantom Zone, where Zod had trapped some of his enemies, the revived Council of Krypton cast the Phantom Zone to the center of the Planet Krypton, causing, first its implosion, then its explosion. Fortunately Jor-El and Lara were able to rescue their son Kal-El by sending him into space just before the planet's explosion. He arrived on Earth where he became known as Clark Kent/Superman.
Parodies and homages
- In the South Park episode "Krazy Kripples," Christopher Reeve is imprisoned in one after eating too many fetuses.
- In Bartman Meets Radioactive Man, Radioactive Man is imprisoned in the Limbo Zone.
- Family Guy parodied the Phantom Zone in the episode "Lethal Weapons." When Peter announced that "Krypton sucks", General Zod, Non, and Ursa came by and were promptly bested in a fight by Lois, and imprisoned in a Phantom Zone reminiscent of the Superman movies.
- An American Dad! episode "The Most Adequate Christmas Ever" shows that God imprisoned Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog in the Phantom Zone when they tried to get into Heaven. It then shows Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog flying above in their rectangular prison as they beg to be released.
- A dimension referred to as the "Null Void" appears in the television series Ben 10 (and its various iterations Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, and Ben 10: Omniverse) and is used as an inter-dimensional prison for containing various alien criminals in the Ben 10 universe. It is primarily accessible via a "Null Void Generator," a device similar in design and application to Superman's Phantom Zone Projector. In some episodes of "Ben 10: Alien Force" and "Ben 10: Ultimate Alien," there is a version of Incarcecon that is in the Null Void which is used to imprison the criminals there.
Relations to the Phantom Zone
There had been similar Zones that were in comparison to the Phantom Zone:
- The Silver Age Phantom Zone appears to be prefigured in the 1950 Superman serial Atom Man vs. Superman, in which Lex Luthor uses a kind of matter-transmitter device to trap Superman in a limbo called the "Empty Doom" from which he can see and hear events in the "real" world but cannot touch anything or be seen or heard.
- In the Captain Future novel Planets in Peril (1942) by Edmond Hamilton, Chapter 13 "Phantom Prisoners", Captain Future is sent to the "Vault of the Unbodied"... essentially an early version of the Phantom Zone. Hamilton later went on to write some of the early DC comics Superman stories, including some Phantom Zone stories.
- Additionally, in the story "Wonder Woman's Wedding Day" from Wonder Woman #70 (November 1954), Wonder Woman is sent by Professor Uxo to another dimension much like the Phantom Zone, in which she becomes a spectral observer, unable to interact with those around her. She is able to escape by telepathically overwhelming Professor Uxo with the thought she is watching his every move, forcing him to "reassemble" her in his laboratory before a barrage of bullets, which she easily deflects. Wonder Woman captures Professor Uxo and his henchmen as they are taken away by the police while his "time dimension transfer machine" is damaged beyond repair.
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