Various versions of 'Superman' and 'Krypton'

When Kal-El’s home planet of Krypton was destroyed, his father, Jor-El, shot his only son out into space. Eventually, Kal-El became Superman. But, as any DC fan knows, there have been a lot of onscreen Supermen. Now, with the new SyFy prequel, Krypton, focusing on Kal-El’s grandfather — Seg-El — the question is, which version of Superman’s life is this all leading to? Krypton’s showrunner — Cameron Welsh — says the answer is both complicated and simple.

“It really is its own thing,” Welsh tells Inverse when asked about which version of Superman an audience member could imagine Krypton preceding. “I think we’ve probably drawn from everything in a way. That opening [monologue] and the Marlon Brando reference was, I think, very much in our minds. And then there’s a shot later in the pilot of the three prisoners who are being sentenced to death. I think stuff like that is very much like when Zod, Ursa, and Non are being sentenced to the Phantom Zone in the original Superman.”

Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sentences Zod, Ursa, and Non to the Phantom Zone in 'Superman' (1978).
Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sentences Zod, Ursa, and Non to the Phantom Zone in 'Superman' (1978). 

So, in a sense, Krypton is similar to the Fox Batman prequel Gotham, insofar as it is a prequel to the general story of Superman rather than being beholden to any specific continuity. And yet, from a design perspective, this version of the planet will probably remind audiences most of the opening moments of 2013’s Man of Steel. The concept of “the genesis chamber,” where Kryptonians make their babies, is even central to the show’s plot.

“I loved the design aesthetic of Man of Steel,” Welsh says. “But we’ve gone beyond just the cinematic kind of world. I think we’ve gone right into the comics as well, obviously, and even animated portrayals. We tried to really call from as wide as possible to try and find all kinds of inspiration.”

Regardless of where the inspiration comes from specifically, Krypton feels genuinely connected to the mythos of perhaps the most famous superhero in comic book history. When a time-traveling Adam Strange shows up with Superman’s cape, that big yellow “S” could be Christopher Reeve’s, but hell, it could be Dean Cain’s, too. We briefly hear a remix of the John Williams Superman fanfare, which could remind fans of Reeve and Brandon Routh, but everything looks like Henry Cavill’s world. Krypton approaches the canon of Superman probably more like Doctor Who: Everything is pretty much connected, even if it doesn’t all look the same. Plus, as both Welsh and producer David S. Goyer have pointed out, because there’s time travel involved, all bets are off. “Adam Strange has never been to Krypton before,” Welsh teases. “Already, the timeline has changed.”

One thing is for sure, however. Although Krypton is derived from the world of DC Comics, it is not in the same universe as other popular DC Comics shows, including The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl. “We’re not connected to the cinematic universe. We’re not connected to the other DC TV shows,” Welsh says firmly. “We’re pretty much on our own.” —Krypton debuts tonight on SyFy at 10 p.m. Eastern, right after The Magicians.

Photos via Warner Bros, SyFy/Warner Bros/CW