How does Superman fly

Superman has no jets, wings to help him fly, so how does he do it, yes we know he is not real and uses a green screen on camera, but if he was, How :question::question::question::question::question::question:


It is a well established fact that Superman’s ability to fly defies the laws of physics. Superman first began to fly in animated comics in the 1940s because it looked much cooler in animation than just jumping around (leaping is consistent with physics). There was no scientific explanation at the time as to how this could work. I think there is some retroactive explanation that’s been cooked up that Kryptonians evolved anti-gravity organs of some sort that allow them to manipulate the gravitational field but IMHO that would still defy physics as we know it.

To enjoy comic book heroes one must be able to suspend one’s disbelief to an extent.

The theory I’ve always subscribed that most of his powers can be attributed to contact telekinesis.

Flying just mentally moving himself.

Super strength? Mentally lifting whatever he’s touching. Which also explains why he can carry planes, ships, trains, or whatever without them collapsing around his hands.

He’s also not actually bulletproof, he just automatically stops anything that comes in contact with him.

Heat vision is a subset of that where he can cause the atoms in whatever he’s looking at to vibrate causing friction.

No, I’m not going to itemize every power attributed to him with an explanation.

Since the explanation for this lies in the realm of comic-book lore rather than physics, let’s move this to Cafe Society.

General Questions Moderator

Once upon a time I came across a book in a library about Superman. A whole book all about him. It had an entire chapter analyzing his super powers. (I think there are many such essays out there; probably on-line too.) It turns out that a lot of his powers, like leaping over tall buildings in a single bound, would require that he be able to generate and deploy some vastly phenomenal amount of energy over a very short period of time and over a short distance, exceeding any physically possible capacity for doing so.

Actually, here’s an analysis that suggest pretty much just that.

A Unified Theory of Superman’s Powers (PDF), Ben Tippett, Sept. 30, 2009.

Reverential, isn’t He?

The way I understand it, he flies by manipulating his own gravity. Or, at least, that’s what Luthor suggested when he tried to figure it out.

Here’s a page from the Scifi Stack Exchange.

Yeah, I noticed that and I even edited my post to say so, but missed the edit window and gave up. //old rolleyes// Throughout the entire paper, Tippett capitalizes He, Him, and His when they refer to Superman.

Actually, Superman started to hover, then fly, in the comics before it appeared in the cartoons, although the comics may have been preparing the public for the concept before the cartoons came out (it takes time for a cartoon to be made, after all) In the very first Superman cartoon, he does some enthusiastic leaping, but he also does stuff that’s most emphatically not leaping, but can only be described as “flying”. It’s never explained in the cartoons (or in the comics, back then)

Note that the original openings to the Fleischer cartoons not only had the narrator say “able to leap tall buildings at a single bound”, it actually showed it. But “leaping a building at a single bound” seems pretty tame stuff for a guy who can actually fly. Maybe that’s one reason they changed the list of powers and similes later on in the cartoons openings (although they kept the original list when they re-used for the TV show).

There are some folks who say that Superman flew first in the radio show, before comics or cartoons. I haven’t compared the dates on this, but it would be weird – there’s no reason Supes couldn’t have continued bounding around like an anthropomorphic kangaroo on the radio. They could’ve played the same whooshing sound and said he was jumping, rather than flying. It’s only in the cartoons that flying was necessary because of the way it looked.

The leaping thing has a long history, by the way. The hero of Philip Wylie’s Gladiator (thought to be one of the inspirations for Superman – Siegel and Schuster reviewed it in their fan magazine) leapt, by virtue of his enhanced strength. So did Aarn Monroe in Campbell’s stories of a guy raised on a higher-gravity planet (another suggested inspiration). Before them John Carter was capable of prodigious leaps, which helped make him Jeddak of Jeddak in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian novels, again a case of our hero coming from a planet with higher gravity. And H. G. wells had the First Men in the Moon leaping around, as well, and for the same reason.

He forces the earth away by sheer force of ego and will, same as Green Lantern. Not sure about the Martian Manhunter or Wonder Woman, although she did have that invisible jet for a while before the jokes got too extreme and she had it smallified and… implanted.

Like the TARDIS, he is in contact with other dimensions. Perfectly clear to me!

Not to hijack, but when I was a kid in the 50’s, Wonder Woman floated on air currents. She used the jet for distant travels.

Obligatory mention of Thor throwing his hammer and then holding onto the strap.

That’s Marvel. Their stories don’t have a scientific basis. Only DC roots their characters in a strong reality-based environment. Like Batman.


When the comics have characters “leap tall buildings” they tend to forget that there is an equal, opposite reaction. If one could leap tall buildings, one would leave a big hole in the ground at takeoff and landing.* Hancock *got that right, though of course the point of Hancock was that he left a mess whenever he “helped” people.

A more relevant reference is the way the Hulk makes prodigious leaps simply jumping rather than flying. That’s what Superman used to do (not to mention Hugo Danner in Wylie’s Gladiator)

I don’t want to put you off like I’m getting on your case about this, Projammer, because I think I’ve unintentionally put people off before when talking about this. I can see the attractiveness of the theory and I’m only addressing the theory when I say it totally ruins Superman.

The short version is first, if you think about what kind of super powers Superman has it’s all about how strong he is. He’s like the Hulk or the Thing. All this mental stuff really makes him more of the Jean Grey or Sue Storm type.

Second, the term “contact telekinesis” makes me want to smack my head. It’s like saying thanks to telekinesis I can levitate a glass in mid air by my mental power… to command my hand to grasp it and my arm to raise it up. wooooooooo… spooky powers!

And no, I don’t have a great explanation for the mechanics of how he flies. It’s just along the lines that super strength defies gravity and it would look stupid if Superman couldn’t fly but all the other lesser super powered heroes can.

Contact telekinesis and a microthin forcefield (his invulnerability) is exactly how Superman’s powers were described in Byrne’s post Crisis on Infinite Earth reboot.