I doubt that there are too many people in the world who do not have at least a passing familiarity with the Origin of Superman. The story of how Jor-el sent his infant son from the doomed planet Krypton to earth and how that child grew into the Man Of Steel is very much a part of our collective mythology.
However, it may surprise you to learn that Superman himself had no idea about his origins until he was well into his career as The Man Of Steel. Of course this has been retconned over the years but the ORIGINAL Golden Age Superman did not find out about his back ground until Superman # 61 (Nov-Dec 1949). In fact Superman #61 not only introduces Superman to his origin but also to the only substance that can kill him, Kryptonite. For obvious reasons this is a “SUPER” key book for Golden Age collectors and fetches around $1,000 for a high grade copy!
Like many Golden Age stories, “Superman Returns To Krypton” (written by Bill Finger and drawn by Al Plastino) starts out as a pretty silly tale. Lois is trying to expose Swami Rama (I kid you not, SWAMI RAMA!) in a series of Exposes in the Daily Planet. Riva is your garden variety hood but dresses like a swami complete with a bejeweled turban. Riva discovers that lois is a reporter and is about to kill her when Superman bursts onto the scene. Without any explanation he is overcome by weakness 9you guessed it, The jewel in the turban is KRYPT-onite!!!) Riva of course does not know that his hat holds the deadly rock and instead believes he has hexed Superman. (I told you this was a typical Golden Age story!) After multiple encounters with Riva, Superman realizes it is the strange stone that weakens him. Through a highly dubious series of “logical” leaps Superman traces the rock to the mountain where it was found. He realizes the rock was a metorite! The Man Of Tomorrow decides to fly back along the path the metorite took to hit the earth, faster than light in fact. He goes back in time and space and, as a ghostly figure, gets his first view of his birthplace. Basically Superman sees his own origin, which WE have always known but which up until now, HE has been totally ignorant of. Following the rocket that Jor-el sends off as Krypton explodes, Superman sees his foster parents plucking him from the wreckage and in a moment of “Super-Enlightenment” exclaims:
“Now I understand why I am different from earthmen! I am not from earth at all (duh!) I’m from another planet-the planet Jor-el called KRYPTON”
You would think the whole faster than a speeding bullet , leaping tall buildings, changing the course of mighty rivers and bending steel in his bare hands things would have given him a clue but Superman was never a very good detective.
Granted, this was not the BEST Golden Age story but it was among the most significant. The introduction of Krypton and Kryptonite were quantum events in the Superman mythos. Those two plot devices would drive the bulk of the Silver Age Superman stories and directly give rise to such story elements as Krypto, Supergirl, Kandor, RED, GOLD, BLUE, RAINBOW, White and GOLD kryptonite, and many other plot devices (mostly developed by Mort Weisinger). Many of those elements are in use to this day!
As a collectible, as I mentioned earlier, Superman #61 is one of the most highly prized of all the Golden Age Superman books. Now you have to excuse me whilst I set out to GET one!!!