Phantom Zone

Infobox comics location

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publisher = DC Comics
debut = "Adventure Comics" #283 (April 1961)
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subcat = DC Comics
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sortkey = Phantom Zone
The Phantom Zone is a fictional prison dimension featured in the Superman comic books and related media. It first appeared in "Adventure Comics" #283 (April 1961). 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.


The Phantom Zone was discovered by Jor-El and used on the planet Krypton as a method of imprisoning criminals. The Phantom Zone criminals first appeared in "Adventure Comics" (Superboy stories), and soon began appearing in Superman stories. The inmates of the Phantom Zone reside in a featureless 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 are 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 own damnation. When they manage to escape, they usually engage in random destruction, particularly easy to 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 these fortunately tended to be relatively repentant criminals.

Throughout the Silver Age of Comics, Superman meets many residents of the Phantom Zone:

*Kru-El, a weapons designer and cousin of Jor-El and thus a cousin of Superman/Kal-El.
*Faora Hu-Ul, a Martial Arts expert and hater of males. Her character is later used as the basis for one of the Kryptonian criminals in the movie "Superman II" where her name is changed to Ursa.
*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.
*Nadira (last name unknown), who is telekinetic, and Az-Rel (a pyrokinetic) are two petty criminals from the Krypton Isle of Bokos (the Island of Thieves).
*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).
*Ak-Var is a petty criminal who upon his release 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.
*Doctor Xadu (first name unknown) was a physician who killed dozens of patients while performing forbidden cryogenics experiments upon them.
*General Dru-Zod, who created an army of clones (prototype Bizarros) in an attempt to take over as ruler of Krypton.
*Jer-Em, a religious fanatic (his name apparently derived from "Jeremiah") who caused the destruction of Argo City, the birth place of Supergirl.
*Quex-Ul is the only innocent Krytonian sentenced to the Phantom Zone. Quex-Ul is put in the Phantom Zone for 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.
*Mon-El, a Daxamite youth who meet 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.

Another character trapped in the Phantom Zone was Green Lantern Guy Gardner who 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.

In the Steve Gerber miniseries "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.


In the post-Crisis DC Universe, the Phantom Zone first appears when 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 the Bgztlians, the White Martians, and the villains Loophole, Prometheus, and the first Queen Bee, who call it the "Buffer Zone", the "Still Zone", the "Stasis Zone", the "Ghost Zone", and the "Honeycomb", respectively. 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. ["Action Comics" #825]

Recently in "Action Comics", General Zod, along with Ursa and Non, appear in search of the son of Zod and Ursa.

"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.

Other media


In the "Superman" movies starring Marlon Brando and Christopher Reeve, the Phantom Zone is presented as a large, flat shard of crystal. First Elder (Trevor Howard) refers to the Phantom Zone only in the extended versions of "Superman". Susannah York (Lara) refers to the Phantom Zone by name in "Superman II" when she first makes the revelation about the three villains. In his DVD commentary, Director Richard Donner refers to it as "the Zone of Silence." General Zod and his co-conspirators Ursa and Non appear to be transferred to a two-dimensional space on the crystal's surface. The crystal is then flung into space.

Years later, in "Superman II", a nuclear explosion from a bomb Superman was forced to fling from Earth into space inadvertently shatters the prison and releases the 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 "", 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 crystal shard imprisoning Zod, Ursa, & Non is shattered by the XK-101 rocket Superman threw into space in "Superman". The Zone is shown splitting into three separate shards, one containing each villain, before it finally shatters, freeing them. After defeating Zod and his followers, Superman uses a timewarp 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, Kara is banished 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. In this movie, it is also revealed that there is a way out of the Zone, but the trip to the exit portal is extremely dangerous.


DC Animated Universe

' and "Justice League Unlimited" have made use of the Phantom Zone at various times. The Phantom Zone is first mentioned in the first episode of ', "The Last Son of Krypton, Part 1", where 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, 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. Making contact with the convicted traitor Mala (a loose adaptation of "Superman II"'s Ursa) and upon further research, learning that her sentence is finished, he releases her. Unfortunately, Superman 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 Terran 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. Banished once again into the Phantom Zone at the end of the story, Jax-Ur and Mala are later accidentally released on another remote planet, and 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 1978 series "Superfriends" there is an episode entitled "Terror from the Phantom Zone" in which a comet's collision causes the Phantom Zone to release three Kryptonian villains. The villains go on a crime spree and banish the Superfriends 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 then manages to figure out with help from the Justice League computer that blue kryptonite may reverse the aging process because blue kryptonite is harmful to backwards "Bizarro" and therefore should be helpful to Superman. Superman finds the blue kryptonite and is aged back to normal and then goes on his quest to rescue the other Superfriends from the Phantom Zone and ultimately send the three villains back into the Phantom Zone. This episode can be found on the DVD collection "Superfriends: Volume Two", which features 16 "Superfriends" cartoons from 1978.

The "Superfriends"' 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.


In the television series "Smallville", in the fifth season premiere "Arrival", Clark Kent battles two evil Kryptonians named Nam-Ek & Aethyr (Disciples of Zod), and 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, and it is revealed that it was found by Jor-El, not created, 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.

Other Appearances

* In the direct-to-video animated feature "", 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".
* 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 (who revealed to Superman that he was born there). 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.
* In the "South Park" episode Krazy Kripples, Christopher Reeve is imprisoned in one after eating too many fetuses.


External links

* [ Supermanica: Phantom Zone] Supermanica entry on the Pre-Crisis Phantom Zone

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