However, we think that it’s unfair that Superman always steals the spotlight from another emblematic character of the DC Universe.
We’re talking about none other than General Zod himself — Superman’s ultimate adversary.
Zod is hardly a positive character — given that he’s a power-hungry supervillain and all.
Nevertheless, considering his charisma and abilities, it’s not surprising that even the most altruistic person wouldn’t need much convincing to revise their moral compass and kneel before Zod.
In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Zod, share what our favorite movie portrayal of the disgraced Kryptonian general is and explain what makes his character so compelling.
What Is Zod’s Fictional & Publishing Background?
According to the Superman lore, Zod was the leader of Krypton’s armed forces and a close friend of Jor-El — Superman’s biological father and the planet’s leading scientist at the time.
Despite Zod’s prominence in Krypton’s society, one trait that led to his initial demise and eventual rise to power was his megalomania and ambition.
Following the abolition of Krypton’s space program and the destruction of the planet’s moon, Zod attempted to take over the world — by creating an army of his clones, no less.
His attempt was unsuccessful, and as punishment he was banished to the Phantom Zone for 40 years — an alternate dimension discovered by Jor-El.
After Zod was released from the Phantom Zone at the end of his sentence, he found his home planet of Krypton destroyed in a natural disaster.
With his own world in ruins, Zod settles on the next best thing — conquering Earth, which just happened to be the home of another surviving Kryptonian, Superman.
How Powerful Is Zod?
Throughout the Superman adaptations, we rarely see Zod unleash the full potential of his powers and abilities — not counting his incredible intelligence and knowledge of battle tactics and strategies.
Just like Superman, Zod gets the bulk of his powers from the solar energy of yellow stars — which is precisely what makes their conflict so intense.
Zod’s powers and abilities include:
- Superhuman strength, agility, speed and endurance
- X-ray and heat vision
- Superhuman hearing and reflexes
- Accelerated healing
- Flight abilities
- Advanced hand-to-hand combat skills
While Zod is certainly a worthy adversary to Superman, the latter tends to get an upper hand in an all-out brawl.
The main reason — Superman has been exposed to our solar system’s yellow Sun for practically all his life, giving him the time and resources to master his abilities.
Zod, on the other hand, only gets a chance to harness the power of the solar energy occasionally and for short periods of time before Superman sends him back to the Phantom Zone.
Why Is Zod So Bent On Destroying Superman?
Zod’s grudge against Superman may seem irrational at first.
After all, they have similar powers and are among the few surviving member of the Kryptonian people.
While the exact reasons why Zod hates Superman vary from one adaptation of the story to another, they generally include the following:
- Zod’s superiority complex: This one is probably the most obvious reason — and the same one that led Zod to attempt to conquer Krypton. Zod is a military man who’s been conditioned throughout his career to believe in Kryptonian superiority. Combined with his megalomania, this attitude translated to his disdain for anyone he considers inferior — which is, frankly, everyone, including Superman.
- Superman’s lineage: Jor-El, Superman’s father, was one of the few people who actively opposed Zod’s desire for world domination. And since Jor-El perished in Krypton’s destruction, there isn’t anyone but Superman himself for Zod to unleash his revenge on.
- Zod’s and Superman’s opposing personalities: Finally, perhaps the main reason why Zod hates Superman so much is their opposing value systems and philosophies. Both have similar powers — incredible strength and agility, x-ray vision and so on — but they use them in different ways. Zod is bent on conquering whatever planet he sets foot on and crushing his adversaries. Superman, on the other hand, wishes to help in protect people — something that Zod considers a sign of weakness.
Our Favorite Portrayal Of Zod On The Big Screen
When it comes to live action, the most famous portrayal of General Zod is by Terrance Stamp in the first two films of the original Superman film series.
And as groundbreaking as Terrence Stamp’s performance was, it is not our favorite iteration of Zod on film.
That honor goes to Michael Shannon’s portrayal of Zod in Man of Steel — the 2013 reboot of the franchise.
Michael Shannon has done some outstanding work in every one of his roles to date, and always brings a unique intensity and unpredictable essence to his characters.
This was precisely the case with his portrayal of Zod in Man of Steel. In the film, Zod is not just a cold-blooded, almost caricature comic book villain.
Instead, Shannon’s Zod is unhinged, full of rage and almost scary. Not to mention the beautifully choreographed fight scenes, which reveal the extent of Zod’s powers like never before.
At the same time, Shannon’s portrayal of Zod taps into a trait that hadn’t been explored before — the fragility behind Zod’s façade of a power-hungry military outcast.
So What Makes Us Want To Kneel Before Zod?
Let’s make one thing clear here — the only Zod we would kneel before is Michael Shannon.
And the reason is rather simple — his portrayal of the disgraced General is the most relatable one by far.
In this sense, the Man of Steel Zod is the perfect villain. He’s ruthless and cold-hearted, but we just can’t help but sympathize with him.
As stated above, it is the fragility of Shannon’s Zod that really elevates him above other portrayals of Superman’s nemesis.
Yes, he’s a terrible person who’s full of hate and rage. But dig deeper and you will discover that his hate stems from nothing but pain and sorrow.
Something in Shannon’s performance in the film genuinely makes us feel that behind the mask of the super villain, Zod is grieving — for both his fellow Kryptonians and his unfulfilled ambitions that all perished in Krypton’s destruction.
Zod is like Icarus with a superhero twist. He had flown too close to the sun, but instead of plummeting to his death, he got scorched by it and resumed his flight despite the everlasting pain.
Taking all this into consideration, it is not hard to understand Zod’s motivation and actions — or even join the ranks of his followers if you find his story relatable enough.
What is your take on Zod? Can you justify his hostile stance towards Superman? Share your thoughts below!