For decades, Superman has stood as the most iconic comic book superhero. People around the world recognize his signature “S” and it stands beside some of the most patriotic symbols America has. Superman has made his mark in comics by being a living embodiment of morality, truth, and justice.
Clark Kent has remained the shining light in DC’s often dark universe, constantly giving those in his world and ours hope. So, before the incredibly anticipated Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, let’s take a look at Superman’s expansive history to better learn about not just the hero but the man as well.
This is Screen Rant’s 12 Facts You Need To Know About Superman!
Clark Kent Is An All-American Alien
Kal-El began on the planet Krypton. He was born to Jor-El and Lara during a time of amazing distress on the planet. In most incarnations, Krypton was set to explode due to its unstable core, which leads Jor-El and Lara to send their baby off to another planet. With hopes of survival for their child as he speeds toward earth, Krypton explodes, killing those on the planet.
Once arriving on Earth, Kal-El crash lands on a farm in Smallville, Kansas. Jonathan and Martha Kent find young Kal-El and name him Clark Kent. Adopting the boy as their own, Jonathan and Martha raise Clark as if he was any young man growing up in Kansas. Although Clark’s powers begin to emerge, they instill into young Clark the ideals of truth and justice with the hope of inspiring Clark to use these amazing gifts to protect those in harm’s way. Once a fully formed adult and hero, Superman stood as a symbol of American justice and liberty for years. In fact, his slogan for decades was, “Truth, justice, and the American way.”
In his depiction during the 2013 film Man of Steel, Clark even says to General Swanwick in response to him questioning Clark’s allegiance, “I grew up in Kansas, General. I’m about as American as it gets.” For being an alien from a far away planet, Clark Kent/Kal-El has become a lasting symbol of American pride and justice.
Superman Has Had Some Wild Powers
Most people know that Superman has some of the most extraordinary powers in all of comics, but besides his heat vision, super strength, arctic breath, super-speed, x-ray vision, super-hearing, and flight, the Man of Steel has some other insane capabilities as well. The most recent addition to his already huge array of powers is the explosive Super Flare. This occurs when Superman literally self-combusts and lets out the equal power and radiation of a nuclear bomb. Once released, he is completely human for 24 hours because his cells need at least a day to recharge the amount of radiation that allows him to have his powers in the first place.
One of the all-time wildest powers Superman has ever had is the ability to shoot a completely sentient, miniature version of himself out of his hand that can be used to aid him against enemies. There are many other odd superpowers that the Man of Steel has been shown to use such as, telepathy, telekinesis, hypnotism, ventriloquism, and even amnesia-inducing kisses. Perhaps the hands-down weirdest power ever exhibited by Superman was in 1947’s Superman #45. In this issue, Superman is able to shape shift into a hairless, pale alien due to his ability to control and contort his muscles at will. Hopefully, this ability never shows up ever again, but it’s still extremely odd that it ever existed.
The Man of Steel Can Be Hurt
With a name like Superman and a nickname like The Man of Steel, one would expect Clark Kent to be practically invulnerable. For the most part, he is, however there are a few things that can bring him to his knees. As most will tell you, the green space rock, Kryptonite, will weaken Superman and leave him vulnerable to attack. Many assume that this is his only weakness and the only way to take on the Man of Steel.
Even though Kryptonite is a great way to weaken him and take him on, but it isn’t the only weakness he has. In fact, one of Superman’s weaknesses that often results in harm is magic. Despite his impressive physical prowess, Superman is not a mystical being. He is a biological life form with enhanced attributes, but he has no foothold in the realm of magic. This is why he can be harmed by things like Aquaman’s trident or Wonder Woman’s sword.
Other ways to hurt the Man of Steel are red sun radiation, various colored Kryptonite, nukes, and supersonic sound. Clark has been brought to his knees more than once in his career, and will continue to be thanks to these weaknesses. He may be a high-powered being, rivaling the power of gods in the DC universe, but everyone has weaknesses, even Superman.
Superman Has Died?
There have been a handful of times that the Man of Steel has crossed the edge of the abyss and actually died. As with many superheroes who have died over the years, Superman doesn’t tend to stay that way for long. Obviously the most iconic Superman demise was during the 1992 series “The Death of Superman.” Here we bear witness to our Man of Steel being brutally beaten to a pulp by the vicious Doomsday. After their intense and bloody battle, both drop dead thanks to the amount of damage each had dealt to each other. Even though this death stands out in comic history, Superman has had other deaths before that.
A story penned by comic legend Alan Moore, author of The Killing Joke, introduced us to a Superman who was forced to go too far. Clark kills Mr. Mxyzptlk, a reality-altering being, after he orchestrated events that led to Brainiac’s killing of Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang. Once coming to terms with the fact that he had broken his cardinal rule, Superman deems himself unworthy of the not just continuing his superhero career, but of life itself. He then walks into a room of Gold Kryptonite that kills him instantly.
Superman Is DC’s Boy Scout
DC is often seen as “dark” thanks to the Christopher Nolan movies, the subsequent DCEU movies, and details we’ve heard regarding the new character incarnations so far, but DC comics have their fair share of heroes who spend most of their time in the light. Even though Barry Allen’s Flash might live up to the nickname of “Boy Scout” a bit more, it’s usually applied to Superman. Almost his entire comic existence has shown Clark Kent go way out of his way to help others and serve the citizens of the world. He believes in law and order. With this, he acts as an instrument of the system to bring justice to those who deserve it. These ideals have began to change in the much more recent incarnations of the character, but for the most part, Superman has always stood for what he’s said in his slogan: “Truth, justice, and the American way.”
A great example of Superman’s deeply ingrained decency comes during Batman: Hush. Superman is being mind-controlled by Poison Ivy in an attempt to kill Batman, so Bats must find a way to get through to Clark. In order to break Superman’s mental barrier, Batman has Catwoman drop Lois Lane off a building to trigger Superman’s primal instinct to protect innocent life. As Lois is falling from the building, Batman even says to himself, “Come on Clark. Be the Boy Scout.” Not only Batman, but everyone in the Justice League depends on Superman’s insurmountable morality to lead them through the darkness that lives within the DC universe. Even though Superman has to be confronted with these tough decisions, he always does what is right.
Superman Has Taken On The KKK
After The Second World War had ended, the Klu Klux Klan was undergoing a revival. They grew more and more violent and audacious with their actions. This did not sit well with activist Stetson Kennedy and he resolved to fight against them. He decided to join the Klan in order to learn all of their secrets and operations. Once the information was gathered, he learned that the police were not willing to help him in bringing down the Klan.
Looking for some way to hit the Klan hard by exposing them, he turned to the makers of the Superman radio show. He hoped that they would be willing to adapt a story in which Superman would battle against the Klan while simultaneously exposing all of their real-world lingo and secrets. The makers of the radio show thought it was a great idea and thus created a 16-part story line aptly titled, “Clan of the Fiery Cross.” The story was effective in demythologizing the KKK and harming their recruitment efforts.
The City Of Metropolis Is Styled After Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
Superman may have grown up in Smallville, Kansas as a little farmer boy, but as his superhero persona grew, so did his aspirations. Clark would later learn to call Metropolis, the city of tomorrow, his home. This futuristic and vibrant city has been a staple in Superman’s history and served as one of the greatest backdrops in comic history. Many know that Metropolis is structured a lot like New York City. In fact, legendary comic writer, Frank Miller, has been quoted as saying, “Metropolis is New York by daytime; Gotham is New York at night.”
Fewer know that its architecture and tone were inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. In this film, Lang depicts a futuristic city with amazing technological attributes, but a poor and undernourished under-belly. On the streets, the everyman is struggling and being wronged by those in power. It wasn’t just the art deco architecture that inspired Metropolis but the social status of those in the film that also helped give the city life in the DC universe.
Superman’s Greatest Foe Is Genius Lex Luthor
What’s a superhero without an arch-nemesis? Superman is a hero with one of the greatest arrays of physical powers in all of DC, but his genius mind is not on par with that of Lex Luthor. He does have a heightened intellect thanks to his alien roots and understanding of advanced alien technology, but he isn’t the best tactician or logical thinker. This is what allows for one of the greatest dichotomies in comic history: Superman vs. Lex Luthor. Lex is known for being a master manipulator, genius, and overall diabolic villain. He is so good at what he does, he convinces America to elect him president! Superman, with all of his strength and all of his powers, can simply not match Luthor’s mind. The disconnect creates a perpetuating wheel of good vs. evil as Superman tries his best to find ways to defeat Lex, and Lex looks for ways to decimate the most powerful man on the earth.
Even though some might think their relationship is not as interesting as Batman and the Joker, Superman and Lex have had a much more varied history than most. There have been stories in which they have had to team-up against a larger evil, Superman has tried to save Lex from the likes of cancer, and Lex has even had Superman doing his bidding. Despite Superman facing the likes of Doomsday, Darkseid, Bizarro, Brainiac, and many others, no one else supplies the same caliber of challenge that Lex Luthor does.
His Two Fathers Are Responsible For His Morality
Being raised by Pa Kent, young Clark learned many valuable lessons. Jonathan Kent, having been the small town farmer that he was, taught Clark the value of sticking up for the little man. He showed Clark that it was important to stand up for one’s self and to work hard for what Clark wanted. Undoubtedly, Jonathan Kent gave Clark an ideal to strive towards by introducing him to “The American Way.”
Jor-El, only having met his son for a moment before sending him off into the universe, had high hopes for his son and the legacy of his people who young Kal will hold on his shoulders. In newer versions of comics and film, Kal-El has an interactive hologram that allows him to speak to the late Jor-El. Here, Superman gets to ask his father questions and learn about the ideals and standards his father had for him. This expectation to carry-on the legacy of his people, and more importantly, live up to the standard his father had set for him, are what create a contemporary basis for his superhero alter-ego to act by. Jor-El taught Kal how to be “Super” while Jonathan Kent showed Clark what it was to be a “man.” Together they created the world’s greatest hero, Superman.
Superman Was Originally Conceived As A Villain
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of the character, had an idea for Superman while still attending high school in 1933. This concept involved a bald character who set out to dominate the globe. In this short story (written under Siegel’s pen name Herbert S. Fine) “The Reign of the Super-Man,” a homeless man named Bill Dunn is down on his luck. Dunn’s luck changes when a chemist named Ernest Smalley offers him a meal and a suit to act as a guinea pig in an experiment. Dunn, eager to eat and get off of the streets, accepts the offer. He drinks a potion that grants him amazing telepathic abilities, but he is consumed by delusions of grandeur.
He then kills Smalley and begins a reign of terror under the guise of Superman. Unfortunately for Dunn, the potion was only temporary, and seeing as he had killed Smalley, he was unable to recreate the formula. Dunn then becomes the same man he once was in the beginning of the tale. This was the only appearance of this version of the character because soon after, both Siegel and Shuster decided to recreate the character as a hero.
Clark Didn’t Become A Reporter For The Salary
Most superheroes have a secret identity that throws people off of their trail. Superman on the other hand, chose his career very carefully. When deciding to be a journalist for the Daily Planet, Supes wanted a job that would keep him close to the world of crime and catastrophes in order to better serve his community and world. Being in this industry, he is able to have access to breaking news and can then have a reason to show up there.
What some might not know is that Clark uses his journalism status to actually make real contributions to the paper. Even though Lois Lane is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Clark has tackled important issues as well. He has helped expose corruption and still help the little guy by not just physically keeping them safe, but protecting them from corporate greed. He would also take on mobs in using his journalistic influence during his earlier days.
Superman Loves To Help Regular People
After growing up and living a life of extraordinary moral convictions, Superman has done a lot of good for the average person. Disregarding the obvious planetary disasters that Superman and the Justice League have averted, Superman has spent most of his career focusing on saving individuals and making a difference in the lives of people one at a time.
One of the most recognizable times that Superman has made a difference in an individual’s life was when he saved a girl named Regan. She suffered from depression and was struggling with the thought of suicide. Distraught and overcome with grief, she went to her therapist to help with the situation. Her doctor was late to the appointment, setting Regan off. She stands on the edge of a building, but before she could jump, Superman shows up and talks her down. He tells her, “It’s never as bad as it seems. You’re stronger than you think. Trust me.” Seeing a hero as strong as Supes use his words and compassion to solve a problem is a great way to showcase that his greatest ability is to use his morality to help those around him.
Now that we’ve covered some of Superman’s defining qualities, perhaps now you now understand the character a bit more. Regardless of the countless incarnations and interpretations surrounding Superman’s history, he will continue to stand as a symbol of hope, truth, and justice. Even though Man of Steel may have ended with Clark not paying for his reckless actions, the subsequent DCEU films will definitely shape Superman into the man and hero we know him to be.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be released in theaters on March 25, 2016.