Non initially appeared in the first two Superman films, Superman: The Movie and Superman II. At the beginning of Superman, Non is one of the three Kryptonian criminals on trial, along with General Zod and Ursa, for their attempted coup against the Kryptonian government. The three are sentenced to be imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. They are cast into the Phantom Zone portal shortly before the planet Krypton is destroyed. Although Non is most physically imposing of the trio and at first blush creates an intimidating persona, he is also the most docile of the three, not even having the ability to speak, though he occasionally whines and moans. Non's name is not actually spoken at any time during the film: Jor-El refers to him as being "as without thought as [he is] without voice". Non also seems to have a seen of childlike behavior and slavish obedience to General Zod. When the Zod trio first arrive on Earth, they are stopped by local police, which gives them a chance to test their powers. Non tests his new strength by breaking a siren light off a police car, but then presenting it to General Zod as a gift, showing his respect. Zod treats this simply by sighing at an obviously useless offering.
In Superman II, a hydrogen bomb that Superman hurls into space destroys the Phantom Zone portal, allowing the three to escape. When they reach Earth, they discover that, due to their Kryptonian physiology, the Earth's yellow sun gives them each the same powers as Superman. Non favors his strength above any other and early on has trouble engaging his heat vision, and when he does it is significantly weaker than that of his companions, however, as he later uses it to alter one of the busts on Mount Rushmore to resemble his own face it can be assumed he has mastered or at least gained greater control over it (or the other two members could have worked in unison to help Non carve the image as a favor). Non mainly acts as a henchman to General Zod, who uses his power to overtake the U.S. Army and force the President of the United States to give control to him.
Superman leads General Zod, Non and Ursa to his Fortress of Solitude, where he decided to rid them of their powers, taking Lois Lane and Lex Luthor with them. He reversed the machine which took his powers earlier in the film (by manipulating the rays of the red sun of Krypton), in order that he live with Lois as a mortal, and told Lex that the machine would rid them of their powers. Lex couldn't resist a chance to double cross Superman, and told them. However, because Superman knew full well that Lex would falter and betray him, he took the liberty of reversing the molecular chamber, so the rays affected those on the outside of the chamber, where he is kept safe, stripping Zod, Non and Ursa of their powers. Zod then tells Superman to kneel before him, which he does and dispatches Zod and Ursa is punched by Lois. Non, failing to realize what has happened to his compatriots, attempts to attack in revenge by leaping at Superman. Only too late does Non fail to realize he lost the ability to fly and falls into the same pits as Ursa and Zod.
The fate of the film version of Non varies depending upon which version of Superman II is viewed. The original theatrical release and the 2006 re-edited version Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut both suggest that he most likely fallen to his death. But in the Richard Donner cut, the three supervillains are shown re-imprisoned into the Phantom Zone when Superman rotates the Earth backwards, which means that they (including Non) don't actually die after all. A deleted scene from the film, reinstated in some TV broadcasts, shows Non being taken into custody by the Alaskan police.
In Smallville he is referred to as Nam-Ek.
Transition to comics
In October 2006, film director Richard Donner, noted for his work on the first two Superman movies, began to write Action Comics in collaboration with Geoff Johns. After an unidentified Kryptonian boy crash lands in Metropolis and is taken in by Lois Lane and Clark Kent, he is followed by three more Kryptonians in identical vessels: General Zod and Ursa (who claim the boy as theirs) as well as Non. In these comics, Non is portrayed as being more bulky than in the Superman II movie.
In Action Comics Annual #10, it was revealed that Non was a friend to Jor-El, as well as a member of the Kryptonian Council, while they discovered Krypton's instability. After leading a separatist movement, Non was abducted by unknown persons and seemingly lobotomized, leading to his current status as a minimally-verbal brute.
There is no indication that Non exists in any other Superman material, although later groupings of Phantom Zone villains have included strongmen who may have been based, in part, on Non, particularly Quex-Ul. In the novel The Last Days of Krypton there is a character named Nam-Ek, who is a friend of Zod and quite similar to Non.
Non also appears in DC Universe Online as an NPC and an enemy boss.
Powers and abilities
While on Earth in the Superman II movie, Non had super-strength, invulnerability, super-speed, flight, marginal heat vision and super breath. Non stands at 6'6". In recent comics, Richard Donner has portrayed Non's strength as greater than that of General Zod and Ursa put together; yet Non is neither as intelligent nor as brutal as the other two.
It is interesting to note that his heat vision took a significant amount of time to develop, whereas Zod and Ursa had been able to easily use heat vision, suggesting that heat vision may be related to Kryptonian brain activity; since Non didn't think much, there was subsequently less mental energy for Non to use heat vision.
Non is a birth-defect mute (although his comic-book alter-ego, Kru-El, spoke whole sentences) and appears to also be retarded; as stated by Jor-El, "His only means of expression are wanton violence and destruction."
Like all Kryptonians, he is vulnerable to Kryptonite, and he may be vulnerable to magic as well.