Superman & Lois Restores Classic Kryptonese Language (Unlike The DCEU)

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for the Superman and Lois pilot.

One of the most clever Easter eggs in Superman and Lois involved its use of Kryptonese, the classic written language of Krypton from the comics. This nod also represented a subtle distancing of the series from the DCEU, which has its own version of the Kryptonian language.

Many science fiction and fantasy settings have inspired the creation of languages based upon their realities. Indeed, the Lord of The Rings books and the Middle Earth setting spun out of linguist J.R.R. Tolkien’s efforts to create his own fictional languages. Apart from Tolkien’s work, the Klingon language of Star Trek is perhaps the most famous example of a fictional language in Western culture, with various works of classic literature (such as the plays of William Shakespeare) being published in Klingon translations. The original Kryptonese language is not quite so famous, having been created by Superman editor  E. Nelson Bridwell primarily to stop his readers from sending him their own ideas for what a Kryptonian written language should look like.

Bridwell’s Kryptonese substitution font, which had previously been used on both Smallville and Supergirl, was also used to provide the Kryptonian writing of Superman and Lois. The Kryptonese glyphs are prominently featured in a key scene of the pilot, in which General Sam Lane reveals to Clark Kent that the mysterious Stranger attacking nuclear power plants in an effort to cause a meltdown had left behind a microscopic inscription written in Kryptonese at each facility. He showed one of the inscriptions to Clark, which he translated as reading “You are not a hero, Kal-El.”

In addition to being a tribute to the classic comics and Bridwell’s work, the Kryptonese writing was also a clue as to the identity of the Stranger, which was revealed in the final scene of the pilot. The Kryptonese language and the culture of Krypton are not as widely known on Earth-Prime in the Arrowverse as they are in other realities. Given that, and the fact that the Stranger knew Superman’s Kryptonian name, there was a small pool of people who might be the Stranger.

It is also worth noting that Bridwell’s Kryptonian language is not the same as the one utilized in the DCEU. Director Zack Snyder had intended to create a spoken Kryptonian language for the movie Man of Steel, but ultimately decided against it as he feared subtitles in the early part of the movie “could create a barrier to the viewer and not be as immersive right out of the box.” Despite this change in plans, linguistic anthropologist Dr. Christine Schreye still created a unique Kryptonian written language with a distinctive alphabet for the film, which does not share any common point of origin with the comic book Kryptonese utilized in Superman and Lois.

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