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A weird "twilight dimension" first discovered by Superman's father, Jor-El. Kryptonian criminals were banished to the Phantom Zone to serve out their sentences as disembodied wraiths. Inside, the exhiled inhabitants exist in a "phantom state;" unaging; requiring no food, air, or water; and communicating with one another telepathically. They are able to observe everything that takes place in the physical universe - either on Earth or in outer space - even though they cannot be seen or heard themselves. By observing Superman from inside the Phantom Zone, all its inhabitants have learned that he is secretly Clark Kent.
Before Jor-El's discovery of the Phantom Zone, Kryptonians who perpetrated serious crimes were exiled into outer space in a state of suspended animation inside specially constructed space capsules. The criminals imprisoned inside these "prison satellites" were placed in suspended animation by means of a special sleep gas, and chunks of a glowing crystalline mineral - capable of cleansing their brains of criminal tendencies in a hundred years' time - were placed on their foreheads so that ultimately, once their sentence was served, they might take up constructive roles in Kryptonian society.
The practice of exiling criminals into outer space was terminated after Jor-El discovered the Phantom Zone, to which convicted felons could be banished by means of an ingenious "Phantom Zone projector," of Jor-El's own invention. Exile into this twilight world proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Phantom Zone outlaws, however, for it enabled them to survive when the planet Krypton exploded.
To this day these villains hover invisibly in their twilight dimension, many waiting for their opportunity to escape from the Zone and "take over the Earth."
Text on this page taken from The Great Superman Book © 1978 by Michael L. Fleisher.