Many years ago on the planet Krypton, Jor-El the First and his wife Nimda An-Dor gave birth to their third son, Zor-El. Like his older twin siblings, Zor-El pursued a career in science, but never succeeded in gaining the fame and recognition that his brother Jor-El the Second had come to enjoy. Zor-El established himself in the Kryptonian district known as Argo City but frequently made trips to the capital city of Kryptonopolis to visit his family.
Jor-El the Second eventually discovered that atomic upheaval within the planet's core would soon destroy Krypton. He pleaded his case to the Kryptonian Science Council, but they ignored his concerns. Zor-El recognized the wisdom of Jor-El's warnings and was one of the few Kryptonians who actually believed him. He knew that Jor-El was designing a rocket ship for the purpose of escaping Krypton's destruction, and set about creating one for himself. Time ran out however and Krypton ultimately exploded killing billions of defenseless Kryptonians. During those final hours, a pocket of air surrounded the community of Argo City and protected it from the concussive force long enough so that it was hurled free from the explosion's epicenter relatively intact.
Argo City and the small island upon which it rested drifted through the vastness of outer space. Its people remained hale and hearty and moved on with their new lives to the best of their ability. Zor-El met a young woman named Allura In-Ze. The two fell in love and were eventually wed. Shortly thereafter, the atomic chain reaction that had destroyed Krypton had begun to affect Argo City's geography as well. The terrain began to slowly transform into a poisonous radioactive green isotope known as Kryptonite. In order to protect Argo City's populace from Kryptonite radiation, Zor-El created special lead sheeting which they then used to cover the entire planetoid. Once again, these exiled Kryptonians managed to escape death.
A short time later, Zor-El and Allura gave birth to their only child, Kara. When Kara was a teenager, a rain of meteor's penetrated Argo City's protective bubble and punched massive holes into the lead sheeting. Waves of Kryptonite energy began pouring from the apertures and Kryptonians began falling over dead. Unwilling to sacrifice their only child, Zor-El and Allura embarked upon a desperate course of action. Zor-El threw himself into his work and began constructing a space vessel that would rocket Kara away from Argo City. Using a super-space telescope, he discovered a planet called Earth. On this planet, Zor-El found another Kryptonian named Kal-El. Kal-El (now referring to himself as Superman), was one of the few Kryptonians to survive their home world's destruction and was the son of his late brother, Jor-El. Hoping to leave Kara in the care of a fellow Kryptonian, he programmed the rocket ship with a course heading for Earth.
Kara eventually landed on Earth and introduced herself to Kal-El as his cousin. In time, she began adventuring alongside him as his super-secret weapon – Supergirl. Kara believed that her family died on Argo City, but in fact they actually survived.
In Argo City's final moments, Zor-El discovered a limbo dimension which existed parallel to the Phantom Zone. Dubbing it the Survival Zone, he created a projection device which transported dozens of Kryptonians to safety, although they were now trapped, with no means to return to the normal universe.
On Earth, Supergirl and her foster parents Fred and Edna Danvers discovered that her Kryptonian parents were still alive inside the Survival Zone. Supergirl began constructing an extraction device to free them. Along with Fred's engineering expertise, they were able to successfully create an aperture in the Survival Zone releasing Zor-El and the others.
Reunited for the first time in years, Supergirl introduced her birth-parents to the Danvers, as well as her cousin, Superman. Zor-El learned that Argo City was not the only community to survive Krypton's destruction. Years ago, the alien conqueror Brainiac had arrived on Krypton and shrank the former city capital of Kandor, sealing it within an impenetrable bottle. In time, Superman managed to take possession of Kandor from Brainiac and now housed the shrunken city inside of his Fortress of Solitude. Zor-El and Allura moved into Kandor and resumed their normal lifestyle. Zor-El asked Kara to move in with them, but although she was overjoyed at seeing her parents again, she elected to remain with the Danvers in her adopted town of Midvale.
A short time later, the Els and the Danvers entered into a cultural exchange program. Fred and Edna volunteered to spend some time in Kandor, allowing Zor-El and Allura the ability to explore Earth. Under Earth's yellow sun, the two Kryptonians developed superhuman abilities similar to that of Kara and Kal-El. Supergirl instructed her parents on how to use their new powers including heat vision and x-ray vision.
Although usually reserved, Zor-El embarked upon several adventures on Earth. On one such occasion, an alien creature known as a Srang bit Edna Danvers, driving her temporarily insane. Adopting the identity of a Kandorian criminal named Bira, she attempted to kill Zor-El with a Kryptonite trap. Fortunately, Supergirl was able to rush to the rescue in time to prevent her father's death. Edna eventually returned to normal.
Zor-El and Allura eventually returned to Kandor and remained there until such time that a means to restore the shrunken city to its regular size was discovered. Superman helped to relocate dozens of Kryptonians to an uninhabited planetoid which came to be known as Rokyn.
Zor-El remained on Rokyn and worked closely with Van-Zee in establishing a new Kandorian society.
- Kryptonian Physiology: Under the effects of a "yellow" sun, Zor-El possesses the same potential powers as an average Kryptonian. These include:
- Solar Energy Absorption: Under optimal conditions, this is the main source of Zor-El's super powers as they are contingent upon exposure to solar radiation from a yellow sun star system. Their biological make up includes a number of organs which lack analogues in humans and whose functions are unknown. It is believed that between one or more of these and their bio-cellular matrix, "yellow" solar energy is stored for later use. This allows for the use of these powers to fade when yellow solar radiation is not available instead of immediate failure.
- Heat Vision: Zor-El can, as a conscious act, fire beams of intense heat at a target by looking at it. can vary the heat and area affected.
- Super-Hearing: Zor-El's hearing is sensitive enough to hear any sound at any volume or pitch. With skill and concentration, can block out ambient sounds to focus on a specific source or frequency.
- Enhanced Vision Zor-El's vision processes the entire electromagnetic spectrum as well as allowing vast control over selective perception and focus.
This umbrella ability includes the following:
- Electromagnetic Spectrum Vision: Zor-El can see well into most of the electromagnetic spectrum. They can see and identify radio and television signals as well as all other broadcast or transmitted frequencies. Using this ability, they can avoid detection by radar or satellite monitoring methods. This also allows them to see the aura generated by living thing.
- Telescopic Vision: This is the ability to see something at a great distance, without violating the laws of physics. Though limited, the exact extent of the ability is undetermined. In function, it is similar to the zoom lens on a camera.
- X-Ray Vision: This is the ability to see through any volume of matter except lead. Zor-Els can see things behind a solid, opaque object as if it were not there. They can focus this ability to "peel back" layers of an object, allowing hidden image or inner workings to be observed. The exact type of energy perceived - such as x-rays, cosmic rays, or some other energy invisible to normal humans - is unclear. This ability perceives an ambient energy source though, it does not involve the eye projecting a concentrated, possibly toxic, beam to be reflected back from objects.
- Microscopic Vision: This is the ability to see extremely small objects and images down to the atomic level.
- Infrared Vision: Zor-El can see with better acuity in darkness, and to a degree in total darkness.
- Flight: Zor-El is able to manipulate graviton particles to defy the forces of gravity and achieve flight. This ranges from hovering to moving in any posture, in any direction.
- Invulnerability: Due to the interaction of dense molecular structure and supercharged bio-electric aura, Zor-El is nigh-invulnerable to extreme energy forces. In addition, extends this protection against toxins and diseases.
- Superhuman Stamina: Zor-El is able to maintain continuous strenuous physical action for an indefinite period of time. This based on body converting yellow solar radiation directly to energy, but is limited by physiological and psychological needs to eat, drink, and sleep.
- Superhuman Strength: Zor-El's strength is augmented by yellow solar radiation interacting with the greater than human density, resilience and biological efficiency of musculature. strength is more an act of conscious will on energy fields than actual physical strength. It is this act of conscious will that enables to perform physical feats that are beyond the mere application force, such as moving a mountain top without said rock crumbling under its own mass.
- Superhuman Speed: Zor-El is able to move at incredible speed by sheer force of will. This extends to perceptions and allows for feats such as catching bullets in mid flight as well as covering vast distances in little or no time.
This also confers:
- Super-Breath: Zor-El is able to create hurricane force winds by exhaling air from lungs. can chill the air as it leaves lungs to freeze targets. can also reverse the process to pull large volumes of air or vapor into lungs.
- Climatology: Although not as brilliant as his more esteemed brother, Jor-El, Zor-El is an accomplished scientist, specializing in the field of climatography.
- Kryptonian Physiology: Under the effects of a "yellow" sun, Zor-El possesses the same potential weaknesses as an average Kryptonian. These include:
- This version of Zor-El (Earth-One), including all history and corresponding appearances, was erased from existence following the collapse of the original Multiverse in the 1985–86 Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series. Even though versions of the character may have since appeared, this information does not apply to those versions.
- The imp known as Mister Mxyzptlk once created magical constructs of Zor-El and Allura in order to torment Supergirl. Despite being a doppelganger of the true Zor-El, the false Zor-El still cherished his daughter and tricked Mxyzptlk into saying his name backwards. Once Mxyzptlk returned to his home dimension of Zrff, the doppelgangers of Zor-El and Allura ceased to exist.
- Zor-El once created an android doll named Al Mintor. Al's purpose was to act as a test subject for travel within the Survival Zone. Years later, Al developed self-awareness and escaped from the Zone. Arriving on Earth, he briefly fell in love with Zor-El's daughter, Supergirl.
- 49 Appearances of Zor-El (Earth-One)
- 4 Images featuring Zor-El (Earth-One)
- Quotations by or about Zor-El (Earth-One)
- Character Gallery: Zor-El (Earth-One)