Basic Superman Questions

OK, I know practically nothing about super heroes except for Captain Klutz, so go easy on me.

Is Superman as Clark Kent still Superman with all his powers?

Does he wear the super suit under the Clark Kent clothes?

What is the super suit fabric made out of and who made it?

Does Superman need food/oxygen/water? He can fly in space… right?

Did he ever have sex with Lois Lane? Wouldn’t that kill her?



Last I heard, the suit was made from blankets found in the rocket that brought him to Earth. Ma Kent unraveled the blankets–made from mysterious Kryptonian polymers–and made the red-and-blue costume.

This account could be decades out of date, though.

He feeds on sunlight and can hold his breath for an impressive amount of time. But when he takes long flights into space, he sometimes brings along an oxygen tank and mask.

By this logic, Arnold Schwarzennegger would be measurably deadlier in bed than, say, Wally Cox. No evidence supports this, and “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” was just one writer’s theory. Yes, he has sex with Lois, his wife, and has since well before they got married.

Hope this helps.

Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex by Larry Niven, circa 1969.

It is, unless DC has changed things again. The baby blankets were pre-Crisis continuity. Post-Crisis, the super-suits were normal cloth. Superman had an “aura” which extended about a quarter-inch out from his body, which protected him from friction (and also IIRC repelled dirt). His cape was outside the aura, so it would frequently get tattered and torn.

I haven’t read MoS, WoK, but there is at least one reference, that’s at least in semi-continuity, that while Lois and Clark can have sex without hurting her. However, should she become pregnant, the likelihood is that the fetus would be super-human and in kicking while in the womb would kill her. That’s from over a decade ago, though, so for all I know they have multiple kiddies by now.

Not sure about current Supes, but current Supergirl’s costume is made from blankets her spaceship.

I really do understand what you wrote, and have no problem with it.

But, this just brings up memories from 1956-1967 or so. I admit I haven’t followed Supe since then, but I have to wonder WTF? on this. Don’t want to get into a debae about “continuity.” But what is this? I mean, either the costume was woven from the baby=Clark’s blankets or they weren’t.

And, I am certainly in the middle of an even earlier conundrum, fro my own era of these comics. When I found out from the very first comics, Sup didn’t fly, he leaped in great bounds, a la The Hulk. Then, it somehow changed to he could fly.

Do you remember the Q & A page back then? One question a reader had, was how does Superman fly? And the cop-out answer was something like “He just DOES. Deal with it.”

Kinda turned me off. Just kind of wondering if this is a problem for current fans of the comic book series?

Yes, though in the beginning, Clark was the fake identity and Superman is how he really is personality wise. Now, Clark is real and Superman is just a “gig”.

Would it? The baby would have never been exposed to the orange sun. Would it be powered? I would think you would need to keep Lois indoors (sunlight can penetrate the womb), but until Clark Jr. was exposed to the orange son, wouldn’t it be powerless?

They’re so cute when they’re innocent!

Okay, jokes aside, the problem lies in what people who follow comics like to sarcastically call (complete with finger quotes) “comic continuity”. As the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire, “comic continuity” is neither comical nor continuous.

Neither of the Big Two (DC and Marvel) can seem to manage to maintain continuity for longer than about 10 years or so. They either reboot (Crisis on Infinite Earths) or just ignore previous continuity as if it never happened (Wolverine’s bone claws). If it helps, you can think of the state of Superman’s costume as being an uncollapsed waveform, sort of a Schrodinger’s union suit…both Kryptonian blankets and normal clothing at the same time. Just don’t give in to the temptation to look in the box to make sure…

I like that explanation, jayjay!

And, really, it makes a LOT of sense. Thanks!

We’re back to baby blankets, by the way. As per Birthright, they were tailored by Ma Kent and cut by heat vision.

And yeah, the fact that history is mutable is just something you have to learn to live with if you follow comics for any significant amount of time. You can console yourself with the knowledge that any retcon you don’t like will eventually itself be retconned.

It’s a yellow sun, not an orange one. And I can only go by what the writers wrote at the time. The story was in an annual for one of the Superman books which came out as part of the Armageddon crossovers, in which a number of different possible futures for Superman were revealed. Since it was one of several possible futures, I described it as “semi-continuity.” Continuity at the time was that Clark’s powers developed gradually as he grew up (no Superboy/Superbaby), but there would never have been a human-Kryptonian hybrid before, so there’s no reason to demand either way that said fetal hybrid would or wouldn’t have powers.

The yellow sun stuff was itself a late addition. Originally, it was just the lower gravity on earth, but then they realized that wouldn’t account for x-ray vision and all, so the yellow sun somehow grants these powers magically to someone born under a red sun.

Late, in this case, meaning the 50s or 60s. (The earliest reference I have to it is in the early 60s - E Nelson Bridwell explaining how Superboy kept his powers under a blue sun in a Legion story - but it’s treated as well-established by that point.)

Well, originally originally, the Kryptonians were a race of supermen, who “had evolved, after millions of years, to physical perfection!” Oddly, though this 1939 image shows Kryptonians casually jumping around like giant grasshoppers, they still seem to build road systems and ground vehicles. Even as late as 1948 (in Superman #53), an origin of Superman story shows Jor-El (given that name for the first time) trying to convince a council to evacuate to Earth, prompting derisive laughter and one comment that the primitive Earthlings “do not even possess X-Ray powers!” It’s clear the environment is irrelevant; a Kryptonian will be super-powered no matter where he or she is.

The 1948 story, “The Origin of Superman” will soon be printed in full here, so watch this space. At the bottom of the page are links to other origin stories. Earlier ones show Kryptonians (well, men at least) casually performing feats of great strength and speed. It wasn’t until 1961 the the red sun/yellow sun thing started.

Nah, Clark was always how Superman “really is”, with the exception of the exaggerated cowardliness/wimpiness. But when Superman looks lin a mirror, he sees Clark Kent.

Clark Kent/Superman is really Kal-El. ‘m just sayin’

"Superman did not become Superman, Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears, the glasses, the business suit, that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak, he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race. "

-Bill, Kill Bill Vol 2

Yes. He’s not Captain Marvel who changes back and forth; he’s as Kryptonian in the suit as out of it–which is sometimes a drawback when it comes to keeping his secret ID.

These days it depends on the artist; some draw him as wearing the uniform (he HATES calling it a costume) all the time, others show him donning shirt, at least, at super-speed, not simply revealing it dramatically.

These days the super-suit is ordinary cloth. A side-effect of his super-powers is that anything extremely close to his skin–say a centimeter out or less–is protected by the same force-field aura that makes his body invulnerable,though the suits tend to be less durable than Kal-El himself. (Obviously this doesn’t work on the cape, which regularly gets shredded.) For about the last twenty years, his mother has been his primary seamstress.

He can go extremely long periods without outside nutrition and oxygen so long as he’s powered up. However, his power is not infinite; the more strength/speed/etc. he uses, the sooner he’ll need a solar charge. Thus, though he can fly in space, he’ll probably be inconvenienced by a long trek in interstellar space. Contrariwise, getting into a fight with him inside the orbit of Mercury is NOT a wise move.

He’s not merely had sex with Lois, he’s married her. Apparently he can control when his strength is on or off, otherwise she’d have been worm food long ago.

Bill was, however, speaking nonsense. It’s unsupported by any any version of the character. It’s Bill’s own perception of the world put on the Last Son of Krypton’s already overburdened back.

Firstly ‘born Superman’:

Superman was born Kal-El, son of Jor-El. Had Krypton not exploded he would, no doubt, have followed his father as a distinguished scientist, unless, as one story posited, he eventually got chosen to become a Green Lantern. Even the early versions of the character where Kryptonians have superpowers even on Krypton - he’d just be one of the crowd. Perhaps not even one of the great ones.

But, that wasn’t to be, so Kal was sent to Earth where the potential for him to become a superhero existed. Where he would be something other than he would have been on Krypton.

Where, also, he would be raised by the Kents. Who, both in life and death, were every bit as influential on Superman as Jor-El and Lara were. At least. Particularly in the Post-Crisis version, where, were he influenced by his Kryptonian heretage, a hero is the last thing he’d be.

They raised him from infancy to adulthood. They made him the man he became - the hero he became. ‘Clark Kent’ might be a disguise, but John and Martha/Mary Kent made Superman who he is.

Second, the ‘critique on humanity’:

The Silver Age Public Clark Kent - the klutz, the weakling, the nobody - was created in adulthood. As a teenager, Clark held back his powers, so as to not get caught, but he was incredibly average. He worked in the Kents’ general store, did OK, but not outstanding in school, did well enough in gym to pass, but not standout… He was all-around average.

As an adult, he adapted a more exagerated ‘ultimate nebbish’ persona. This served two purposes: First, Superman was getting more publicity than Superboy did, so further distancing Superman and Clark helped make his identity more secure. Second, it made it easy for him to slip off to be Superman - giving someone a stomach cramp with heat vision, so his faking a worse one of his own would be believable; pretending to be claustrophobic so he could leave a space station as Clark and come back as Superman, that sort of thing.

These two things should make it obvious that ‘Super-wimp’ Clark couldn’t be a critique on humanity, couldn’t be how he sees us. Too much of making the disguise work was based around his being so much less hardy than those around him, and he’s had his whole life seeing what we’re really like, and spent his entire adolescence successfully imitating an unremarkable example of humanity.

Also, this only applies to the Silver Age version at all. The Golden Age, late Pre-Crisis, and Post-Crisis versions all play Clark as entirely average - or even a bit of a stand-out in a good way. And the modern version is definitely the son of John and Martha Kent in all the ways that matter.

(BTW, just to cover a point that hasn’t been addressed: there was a brief period in the mid-nineties where Clark WASN’T superpowered. This was the ‘Electric Supermen’/‘Superman Blue/Red’ era, where he’d transform into an energy being (well…two energy beings) and back again.)