Is Superman actually short sighted?

Finished watching the Smallville series finale yesterday. A question arose, is Clark Kent actually short sighted? Several versions of his youth that I have seen show young Clark actually wearing glasses, long before he was Superman., Superman returns for instance.

I had thought that they were just part of the act since well hey he has Supervision, but my sister swears that she has read that he actually is short sighted and he has to actually consciously use his powers before his he can employ supervision.

So in the mythos or any version, is he actually short sighted?

In the old comics Clark had to constantly wear the glasses because at least half the stories consisted of someone doggedly trying to prove he was, in fact, Superman/Superboy. All of which could have been avoided if he wouldn’t have told anyone he had a secret identity in the first place.

It’s been remarked in the comics now and then that most of the public in the DC universe doesn’t assume Superman even has a secret identity, what with going around unmasked and all.

But Superman Returns was the first treatment I’ve ever seen in any medium that suggested he actually needed to wear glasses. At the time, it struck me as yet another pointless complication the film-maker threw in for no good reason.

He has to wear leotards to see better.

Powers or no powers, the Kents knew perfectly well that he wasn’t a normal child, and made at least some effort to deflect attention from him. It’s plausible that they would have had him wear glasses with non-corrective lenses (or mild lenses that actually distorted his vision slightly) as a sort of “protective coloration”, even before his powers developed. Glasses would make him that much more harmless-looking, and less likely to attract attention.

I think Smallville missed an opportunity there, in it his powers developed gradually, having him short sighted would have been good for the story as his supervision developed.

Superman does not have to consciously use his powers, but consciously not use them. This is shown each time he gets a new power. He winds up accidentally breaking things with his super strength, accidentally running too fast, etc. When his powers have been transformed to other people, they always wind up making the same mistakes.

Yes, he has to actually be trying to see something to use his Super-Vision, but that’s exactly what you do when you look at something.

That said, your girlfriend may still be fundamentally right. He wasn’t born with super-vision. He may have been nearsighted before his powers kicked in. Seeing as super-vision was one of the later powers he manifested, it would seem odd that he would have worn glasses before that time if he were not nearsighted. If he wore glasses as a kid or a young adult, then it was almost certainly not a disguise. I don’t buy that they would put glasses on him just to deflect attention unless there was something to deflect from. It’s not like wearing glasses makes people think you are weak.

In what stories, in what media, in what time span? I don’t think this is generally true at all.

In the early part of the century, including when Superman first appeared, it was exactly like people thought that wearing glasses meant you were weak. That’s why there were taunts of “four eyes” and pleas like “you wouldn’t hit a kid with glasses, would you?” Glasses were a universal symbol of weakness. If you grew old enough they turned into a symbol of wisdom. But brains implied physical weakness at any point in life.

Since Sam Raimi’s Spiderman came out at about the same time, I think they would probably have taken pains to avoid being perceived as cribbing that bit directly.

Don’t you remember the heart-breaking story where he struggled to control his Super-Weaving powers?

Nope. Did he also have Super-Bobbing powers at the same time?

Superman’s Super-weaving power.

In Smallville and the recent retelling of his origins in the comics, this has happened with his heat vision (triggered by sexual arousal in the comics, and the reason for his glasses), x-ray vision (Smallville only) and super strength (broke a friend’s arm playing football).

However, it’s not so much ‘needing to think not to use his powers’, so much as ‘not knowing he can do it, so pushing too far’ for the strength, and ‘having a weird trigger’ for the heat vision. The Smallville x-ray vision note is the only case of it being an unconscious thing he had to actively not do.

This is the point. Superman became popular because he represented every weak kid’s dream.

Today, glasses are common, and are not necessarily seen as a sign of weakness. In the past, they were a symbol of weakness, and a child wearing them would often be teased about them. It happened to me, when I was young. Idiots often made my life a misery jeering at my glasses. I had to spend a lot of time handing my glasses to someone to mind while I demonstrated that I was not weak. That scenario was a usual one back in the Jurassic Period.

The message of Superman was - I seem to be a weedy kid who wears glasses, and everyone thinks I am weak. The fools do not know that I am Superman, greater than those kids who laugh at me.

This one still makes me laugh

Superman doesn’t have vision problems. Now that nerdy reporter from the Planet, Clark somebody I think, he can’t see a thing without his glasses. All you have to do is look at those guys side by side and… hey wait, how come I never see them together? That’s weird.

Look if you are thinking that they are one and the same, you are wrong. Superman looks like Superman, Clark Kent looks like Superman with glasses. See big difference.

That’s no longer quite true. I’ve read stories in which he’s alluded to having a secret identity, which frankly struck me as stupid. The Byrne retcon that he maintains his secret identity simply by not acting as if he has one always struck me as sensible.

SR is, of course, a terribly bad stupid redeemed only by the beauty of its cinematography. But that notion didn’t bother me. I liked the idea of Clark’s powers slowly developing during his adolescence, and the notion that he was somewhat frail as a child works with that. In particular, it would be hard for Clark to convincingly act as if he were ill or tired if he’d never felt either sensation.

I believe that it is also stated in Lois and Clark that he is actually slightly near sighted and the glasses are not an act; he wears them in the early episodes;when he is no one but Clark Kent.

How does that marvellous bit from Mystery Men go?