On the planet Krypton, using evidence provided by scientist Jor-El, the Ruling Council sentences three insurrectionists, General Zod, Ursa and Non, to "eternal living death" in the Phantom Zone for attempting a totalitarian rebellion. Although the Council widely respects him, Jor-El is unable to convince them of his belief that the Kryptonian sun will shortly explode and destroy their planet. As a result, Jor-El launches a spacecraft containing his infant son, Kal-El, towards Earth, a distant planet with a suitable atmosphere, and where Kal-El's dense molecular structure will give him superhuman powers. Shortly after the ship launches Krypton is destroyed.
Three years later the ship reaches Earth, crashing near an American farming town, Smallville, where Kal-El is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent and raised as their own son, Clark. Eighteen years later, after the death of Jonathan, Clark hears a psychic "call", discovering a glowing green crystal in the ship. Compelled to travel north, heading to the Arctic, where the crystal builds the Fortress of Solitude, resembling the architecture of Krypton. Activating a control panel inside the fortress, a vision of Jor-El explains Clark's origins, educating him in powers and responsibilities. After twelve years, with his powers fully developed, Clark leaves the Fortress and finds a job at The Daily Planet in Metropolis. He meets and develops a romantic attraction upon his new partner and fellow reporter Lois Lane, but the feelings are not returned, she regards him as a friend. Lois becomes involved in a helicopter accident where conventional means of rescue are impossible, requiring Clark to use his powers in public for the first time in order to save her.
Later, he visits her at home, takes her for a flight over the city, and allows her to interview him for a newspaper article in which she dubs him "Superman." Meanwhile, criminal genius Lex Luthor has developed a cunning plan to make a fortune in real estate by buying large amounts of "worthless" desert land and then diverting a nuclear rocket from a missile testing site to the San Andreas Fault. This will destroy California and leave Luthor's desert as the new West Coast of the United States, greatly increasing its real estate value. After his incompetent henchman Otis accidentally redirects the first rocket to the wrong place, Luthor's girlfriend Eve Teschmacher successfully changes the course of a second missile. Knowing Superman could stop his plan, Luthor lures him to his underground lair and exposes him to Kryptonite. As Superman weakens, Luthor taunts him by revealing the first missile is headed to Hackensack, New Jersey, in the opposite direction, knowing Superman could not stop both impacts.
Teschmacher is horrified because her mother lives in Hackensack, but Luthor does not care and leaves Superman to a slow death. Teschmacher rescues Superman on the condition that he will deal with the New Jersey missile first. He is consequently too late to stop the second impact, causing a massive earthquake which he battles to correct. While he is busy saving others, Lois is killed by way of a quake which swallows her car and earth debris falling onto Lois, suffocating her. Distraught at being unable to save Lois, Superman ignores Jor-El's warning not to interfere with human history, preferring to remember Jonathan Kent's advice that he must be here for "a reason" and travels back in time in order to save Lois. Having finally averted the disaster, Superman delivers Luthor and Otis to prison, where he knows they will be secure until they receive a fair trial.
See Also: Superman II