The nature of Superman's powers

Any comic book aficionados out there who can give me the straight dope on the Man of Steel? Okay, Superman gets his power from the fact that we have a yellow sun. But is it ever explained why that matters? Similarly, kryptonite drains him of his powers - but do the comic books ever reveal the reason for this?

Just some pointless wondering,
Your Quadell

krypton had a red sun, and that would make him normal, so yellow must supercharge him in a solar type way.
why does krypton weaken him???

Does that mean, if I visited a planet with a red sun, I would have super powers?

I thought you already did, Papabear. :slight_smile:

A yellow sun puts out energy in wavelengths that enhance the natural psi powers of the Kryptonian humanoid. All of Kal-El’s powers are a variety of psychokinesis or clairvoyance. Green kryptonite has a radiation which interferes with the Kryptonian metabolism. As it first cancels out the secondary mainfestations of Kryptonians in a yellow-sun environment, the “super powers” are masked well before death occurs. Other varieties of kryptonite have been reported, the differing radiations causing them to be perceived as different colors. The effects of these other radiations are varied, from random mutation in shape to complete elimination of “super powers.”

An Earth human probably would not manifest any “super powers” even under a blue sun, since the fine details of brain structure that control psi abilities in Terrans and Kryptonians are subtly but markedly different.

Dr. Fidelius, Charlatan
Associate Curator Anomalous Paleontology, Miskatonic University
“You cannot reason a man out of a position that he did not reach through reason.”

Wow, Dr F! You are the man.

Your Quadell

The explanation I remember from the comic books was that Superman was super-dense. No mentally, just dense in that his atoms were smaller, more abundant, and tougher. This not only gave him his invincibility, but made him immune to gravity, very strong, and all sorts of other things. This was from being under Sol’s yellow rays. In a red sun system, he would be effectively human.

Yeah, so how come he can bounce bullets off his chest but when someone throws a gun at him he ducks?

Ahhh…the classics!

However, the continuity of the Superman comics was totally revamped a few years ago.

Now, it turns out (and as DrF pointed out) most of SM’s powers are of the “tactile telekenetic” variety.

He has a TREMENDOUS amount of power in this telekenetic ability, but there is almost no range to it. Thus, to lift an oceanliner, for instance, he has to actually touch it.

Bullets do not bounce off of his skin, but off of a telekenetic shell, which is only a fraction of an inch from his body. This explains why he is uninjured after crashing into Mother Earth from 75000 feet, but his cape is often in tatters (no, his costume has no special properties).

And his body acts like a solar collector–the energy from the yellow sun is stored in his body, and powers his super-abilities. In one case, the stored energy brought him back from the grave…in another case, the stored energy almost destroyed him.

Oh…and Clark Kent is no longer a journalist. He’s now a novellist.


He’s both, like Jow Klein, only more honest.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

Eeks, I meant Joe Klein. (He’s the Newsweek guy who wrote Primary Colors and denied it for almost a year, isn’t he?)

Chaim Mattis Keller

In a way, it’s a good thing that he’s not the brightest light on the tree. Application of psi powers is limited only by will and imagination. This is proven by the usage of the artificial psi manifestations provided by the “power rings” of the Green Lantern Corps. Kal-el cannot even do his chaotic excitation of molecules without the target being in line-of-sight (“heat vision”). Try to envision what someone with brains could do with similar abilities. I think the late great Barry Allen would have been able to do absolutely miraculous deeds…

Which one was Barry Allen,now? (I was a BIG comics fan, but it’s been many years). The Flash, right? What made him so bright? I don’t remember any stupendous mental feats.

DrF, there is a remote possibility that Barry Allen is back as the Flash. If I understand correctly, he didn’t die immediatly in Crisis, he went into the future and lived for a few years, then came back and died. Wally West, the most recent Flash, has apparently died or “gone into the speed force” which is a sort of heaven for Flashes. A new Flash has shown up, and his identity has not been revealed. One hint is that he showed his face to Wonder Woman and Superman and they let him in the JLA without question. Some think he is a future Wally, some say he’s the Barry from the future.

Quadell, I seem to have a knack for taking your threads off on tangents. Sorry again.

Joe–Unless I’ve missed a couple of very important issues, I think you’re mixed up on the Flash Chronology. Barry Allen did live in the future for a time (and had twins with his wife Iris), but died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. The 1990’s Flash is still Wally West, formerly known as Kid Flash.

You’re sort of right about the Speed Force. Max Mercury, a speedster from the 19th century, revealed to Wally, Jay Garrick (the Golden Age Flash) and other speedsters that there is a mysterious force which powers super-fast humans. When a speedster dies, s/he is absorbed into the Speed Force. When Johnny Quick, another G.A. speedster died, he was pulled into this mysterious realm. Barry Allen’s whereabouts are unknown.

For a short time everyone was fooled into thinking Barry Allen had returned to the 20th Century, but it was really a confused Professor Zoom, A.K.A. the Reverse Flash, a 30th century enemy of Barry Allen. Wally fixed his hash and sent him back to the future.

Let the dead stay dead. (Five quatloos to whomever can identify the quote.)

Barry Allen died a hero’s death in the Crisis. He should be allowed to rest in peace. Although we never did see the body, he sped himself into nothingness…

I have fond memories of the Flash solving puzzles by thinking them through, and not just running real fast. He was the most brilliant police scientist in all of entral City after all. But being able to move faster than c did have some advantages.

Maybe Ray Palmer was smarter, he did invent the whole size/mass control technology single-handedly. As if being able to be really really tiny could be thought of as an advantage…

Getting back to the subject, there are several differing explanations for Superman’s powers.

Original Simon and Shuster: Superman was physically more evolved than us poor humans; all Kryptonians had super powers on their home planet before it was destroyed.

DC Company line (prior to John Byrne): Superman’s powers were a combination of factors. Krypton was a much larger planet then Earth; Earth’s lesser gravity gave him superstrength and the ability to fly. The more energetic radiation from the yellow sun accounted for the rest.

Guy, we are both right. The scenario I attempted to recount has taken place over the last couple of issues.

Not directly relevant, but there was an earlier thread a few months ago about Superman’s “S”, that you might find of interest…[/url}