Lara Lor-Van, usually referred to as Lara, is a fictional character who appeared in Superman comics published by DC Comics. Lara is the biological mother of Superman, and the wife of scientist Jor-El.
Lara is usually referred to only by her first name. Most depictions of Kryptonian culture show that females use their father's full name as their last names before marriage, and usually use just their first names after marriage. Thus, "Lara Lor-Van" was Lara's full maiden name, as "Lor-Van" is the name of Lara's father.
After constructing his Fortress of Solitude, Superman honored his deceased biological parents with a statue of Jor-El and Lara holding up a globe of their native planet Krypton.
Golden and Silver Age
Lara was first referred to in the Superman newspaper comic strip in 1939, where her name was spelled as "Lora"; her name first appeared as being spelled "Lara" in a 1942 Superman novel. After the establishment of DC's multiverse system in the 1960s, it was retroactively shown that "Lora" was the name of Superman's mother in the Earth-Two universe, while "Lara" was Superman's mother in the Earth-One universe.
A 1948 retelling of Superman's origin story first delved into detail about Lara, though her formal and more familiar Silver Age aspects were firmly established starting in the late 1950s and over the course of the next several decades, with a definitive summarization in the 1979 miniseries The World of Krypton (not to be confused with the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths late 1980s comic special of the same name).
As it was summarized in this miniseries (and in various other Silver Age stories), Lara was an astronaut in Krypton's space program. On Krypton, it was deemed that women were more suitable for astronauts than men; however, Krypton's space program was soon permanently grounded after Jax-Ur blew up one of Krypton's inhabited moons. Eventually, Lara met scientist Jor-El, with the two having several adventures together before getting married. Some time later, Lara gave birth to the couple's only child, Kal-El.
When Krypton was about to explode, Lara and Jor-El placed their infant son into an escape rocket built by Jor-El. In earlier versions of the story, Jor-El wanted Lara to accompany their son to Earth, but Lara refused, saying their son would have a better chance of reaching Earth without her extra weight. Kal-El's spaceship then took off, leaving Lara and Jor-El to perish.
Lara has appeared (usually briefly) in various media adaptations of the Superman story. However, as was the case in the older comics, Lara usually has a less prominent role than Jor-El in such depictions.
Lara was played by Susannah York in Superman: The Movie, Superman II and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (voice only). After Marlon Brando (Jor-El) was removed from Superman II, Lara took on the role as Superman's mentor, in both Superman II and IV.
In the 1990s cartoon Superman: The Animated Series, Finola Hughes provided Lara's voice. Lara's father in this series, a member of the Science Council, was named "Sul-Van."
Lara has appeared in one episode of Smallville. Clark was dipped in a tank of kryptonite enhanced liquid used to induce repressed memories to come to surface. His mother (heard but not completely seen) placed baby Kal-El into the rocket which will take him to Earth. While Jor-El is more determined that he will fulfill his destiny, she is concerned about his well-being. Clark came out of his fugue screaming her name. Clark knows his biological mother loves him. From her dialogue, Lara is based on the Man of Steel and the Superman movie versions.
In 2013, Lara was portrayed by actress Ayelet Zurer in the blockbuster film, "Man of Steel."