When Kara was eight years old, she gave Zor-El a statue of a winged creature she made herself, but was upset that the wings weren't perfect. Nonetheless, Zor-El treasured the statue, assuring Kara it was fine just the way it was and that he loved her. Zor-El would often bring Kara to his lab while he worked and even sought his daughter's help when facing difficulties. At some point, he took Kara to the planet Starhaven and the Well of Stars.
At one point in his life, the Ruling Counsel of Krypton ordered Zor-El to create the Medusa virus, a synthetic bioweapon designed to eradicate all extraterrestrial life other than Kryptonians as a fail-safe mechanism to protect Krypton in the event of an invasion. The virus was never used, and the files regarding it were later brought to Earth on Kal-El's pod.
Sending Kara to Earth and protecting Argo City
In 1979 when it was determined that Krypton was facing imminent destruction, Zor-El initially worked to build a transmatter portal in an effort to teleport every resident of the planet to safety, but failed to complete it in time. He then used his research on the Harun-El to design a protective dome powered by the rock to preserve Argo City, ensuring that a piece of Krypton survived.Not knowing if the dome would work, Zor-El and his wife Alura decided to send their daughter Kara to Earth alongside her cousin and Zor-El's nephew, Kal-El. Before sending her off, Alura told Kara that the trip would be long, but assured her that she and Zor-El will be with their daughter in her dreams. Zor-El prepared his daughter's pod and watched as the latter boarded her ship, leaving right before the planet self-destructed.
Ultimately, Zor-EL was able to power the Harun-El dome and Argo City was saved. Unfortunately, he lost his life in the process due to the tainted air following the collapse of Krypton.
HologramZor-El's intelligence appears as a hologram in the Fortress of Solitude when Kara goes there to learn of Project Medusa. The A.I. explains that the virus was created by him as a joint effort between the Military and Science Guilds to kill other life forms in the event of an invasion. Shocked, Kara protests that her father was saving lives with his work, to which the A.I. corrects with saving Kryptonian lives. Kara angrily points out that Zor-El had given Project Cadmus the perfect weapon to use on Earth and deactivates the A.I. before he can respond.
Zor-El's death was one of the catalysts for Alura changing her legal methods, as she was heartbroken over her husband's death and believed it could've been prevented if she was more proactive in saving Krypton.
About 37 years after Zor-El's death, Project Cadmus stole the files on the Medusa virus from the Fortress of Solitude for their agenda against aliens. After Kara learned the origin of the virus, she was horrified at her father's willingness to create and use such a dangerous weapon and even felt ashamed to be his daughter, wondering if death and destruction were all that remained of her parents' legacy. However, J'onn J'onzz assured Kara that she is her parents' legacy, and can learn from Zor-El and Alura's mistakes to be better.
When Kara visited Argo City for the first time, she was both awed and saddened upon learning of her father's sacrifice, implying she came to forgive Zor-El for his mistakes.
Zor-El was shown to be a compassionate, courageous, and wise individual who worked hard to protect Krypton through his work as a scientist. He was a very loving and devoted husband and father to his wife, Alura, and daughter, Kara. Zor-El would often share his work with Kara, fondly acknowledging his daughter as a fellow scientist.
However, Zor-El was revealed to have also been a ruthless pragmatist if it came down to it; to fight against potential alien invasions, he created the Medusa virus, a dangerous bioweapon with the capability of eradicating all life other than Kryptonians on a large scale. While Zor-El was not completely without reason in using such a virus as a last resort to protect his home, it should be noted that he never even thought to create a cure in case the Medusa virus fell into the wrong hands, displaying traits of callousness and arrogance.
However, given that Zor-El's A.I. lacked emotions, his personal feelings regarding Medusa's creation remain unclear.
Despite these flaws, Zor-El genuinely loved and cherished his family, placing the well-being of his fellow Kryptonians above all else; in the wake of the planet's destruction, Zor-El worked tirelessly to find a way to save all of the residents, ultimately sacrificing his life to protect Argo City to ensure that a piece of Krypton remained intact - proving that he truly did have his family and home's best interests at heart.
Powers and abilities
- Kryptonian physiology: Normally, like all Kryptonians, Zor-El's capabilities were no greater than a normal human of his physical conditioning. However, if he had been charged by the energy of a yellow sun, Zor-El would have become able to perform various inhuman feats. Ultimately though, this never happened as he wasn't ever exposed to a sun different from the Kryptonians' natural red one.
- Genius-level intellect/Master scientist/Master engineer: Zor-El was extremely intelligent, being one of the most distinguished scientists on Krypton. He was personally commissioned by the Ruling Council to create the synthetic Medusa virus. Zor-El was also an excellent engineer, as he built a special dome powered by the Harun-El to provide Argo City with breathable air and hide it from potential invaders. Zor-El was also partially successful in designing a transmatter portal from scratch.
Adventures of Supergirl
- Zor-El was bad at cooking.
Behind the scenes
- Zor-El debuted in Action Comics #252 (May, 1959), as the biological father of Kara Zor-El, who also made her debut in the same issue. In the comics, Zor-El was one of the few to believe his brother, Jor-El, about Krypton's destruction, which prompted him to build a protective dome around Argo City.
- The latest incarnation of the character is brainwashed into becoming the second version of the villain Cyborg Superman by Brainiac after Argo City's destruction. Upon regaining his memories, Zor-El attempted to recreate Krypton on Earth out of a misguided attempt to atone for his mistakes, forcing Kara to stop him. Zor-El redeemed himself after saving Kara's life from Indigo, only to be captured by the D.E.O. and murdered by Mister Oz as a "mercy kill".
- In the Prime Earth comics, Zor-El took part in the creation of the Worldkillers, which he later regretted due to their lethal nature.