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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – How Does Superman Get His Powers?

All throughout December, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the change in where Superman’s powers came from…

Enjoy!

When the Superman comic strip began, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster provided us with an origin for Superman, that he came from an advanced world where people could run as fast as trains and leap hundreds of yards in a single bound…

The rest of the origin was the familiar origin that we’re used to, as first shown in the comic books in 1948′s Superman #53 (by Bill Finger and Wayne Boring), where we were given a look at Superman’s origin…

In 1961′s Superman #146 (by Otto Binder and Al Plastino), we saw that origin again, only things were juuuuuust a bit different…

Later in the issue, the baby (now grown into Superboy) discovers how he got his powers…

Eventually, the “powers from the sun” explanation was refined into a “solar battery” explanation that continues to this day (I’d spotlight that change, as well, but I think it really is more of a refinement than a case of an outright revision).

91 Comments

I always liked the original version better. There is something interesting about a planet of people that has evolved to the “peak of human perfection”. It also imposed some reasonable limts of Superman’s powers (can’t survive an exploding planet, can’t fly in space unaided). The solar battery business never worked for me.

I like the first origin a lot better. The art and dialogue feels more iconic, almost comic strip-like in the classic Alex Raymond style used for works such as Flash Gordon. Also, less is more here.

By contrast, I just can’t get into the Silver Age Superman stuff for some reason.

The problem with the original version is: If Kryptonians were so advanced and smug, why didn’t they already have rockets capable of carrying more than a small child?

The original seems so much better written. It feels so much more natural.

The rewrite tries so hard to show all the wacky alien differences. These come off as silly. The metal eater panel is so overly wordy. The sign says it is a metal eater, but the kid has to explain that it is a metal eater and they are feeding it scrap metal. Then the mother has to explain that the cage has glass bars. The cosmic clock is just…

The jarring nature of “Krypton-quake” made me realize that the first origin also avoided “earthquake” (using “tremor” and “quake” instead), but sounded much better for not going for “Krypton-quake”.

The first origin gives a reason why Earth was chosen (due to its similar atmosphere), which the second doesn’t. Mocking Jor-El and being concerned he is trying to pull a coup, laughing him out of the room, seems better than calling a security droid to remove him.

Of course, the first origin didn’t have to deal with putting Krypto and Supergirl into the story, but the second doesn’t even do that great a job at those tasks.

The art in the original version is outstanding. Is that Wayne Boring?

Yep, Boring on the first, Plastino on the second.

I’ve always found much of Superman’s Kryptonian origin works together, both as a species of peak humanoid life and with the more recognizable Silver Age bits. Solar battery also works for me, I love the idea of Superman’s cells’ nuclei actually being nuclear – that is, microscopic nuclear power cells so powerful that he can charge his entire body with energy, then using his unbelievably advanced Kryptonian nervous system, he can actually discharge energy and create force from any cell in his body. This would certainly explain how he can fly not just by propelling himself with a leap, but in any direction, even in a vacuum, just by instinctively “whooshing” in that direction.

i love the way they use ‘kryptonquake’ not earthquake, but then use uranium which is named after the planet Uranus in our star-system!

If they hadn’t gone with the “solar battery” bit, we wouldn’t have gotten those awesome sequences in Dark Knight Returns.

Both versions do retain enough similarities to make it believable that the Kryptonians are so advanced and yet so reliant on technology and their apparent superiority to all that they wouldn’t believe Jor-El OR have spaceships built that would explore space or leave the planet. Why go elsewhere when you know you’re the awesomest?

(And not that it ties to Superman’s powers, but the ’90s Animated Series added another nice layer to this by mixing in Brainiac as the “planet-mind” that helps the Council ignore Jor-El for his own purposes. The arrogance due to technological superiority is evident there.)

If Krypton’s gravity is so strong, why is Jor-El’s cape doing it’s thing in the first set of panels?

The biggest problem I have with the first version is that even if the science council believed every world, the warning has come too late to be of any use to them.

My favorite panel is the person randomly observing “The weather control tower is blowing away that smog and purifying our, air as usual!” I imagine their next pronouncement was “My shoes continue to contain my feet!”

At least Silver Age Krpton looks like a planet. Golden Age has it looking like a moldy orange.

A lot of people say that the first origin is better, but the problem with it is that it only works for early Superman’s powers, when he was still largely leaping rather than flying. The reason they had to change it is because once he truly started flying with the ability to change direction in the air, high gravity on Krypton and peak human perfection didn’t cut it anymore. No matter how strongly your muscles evolved from high gravity, you shouldn’t be able to fly the way Superman was able to by 1961.

Of course, the 1949 origin is itself an abandoning and forsaking of the original origin where Krypton is a planet of Supermen and Earth’s gravity has nothing to do with it whatsoever. (Admittedly though, this is only shown in the newspaper strip so it’s not considered canon I suppose)

That said… it wasn’t that the gravity explanation was being abandoned completely. After 1961 it was a combination of the earth’s lower gravity and the yellow sun that gave Superman his powers. An argument could be made that the 1961 explanation was an addition to the 1948 origin, not an abandonment of it.

Superman has such a rich, varied history.

Early Superman, originally conceived as some sort of pinnacle of evolution (the very name “Man of Tomorrow” has even survived into the present day despite being utterly inadequate for the character) was an interesting character on his own right, but it has only a slight resemblance in powers and particularly in character to the “true” Superman that was established later on.

In all honesty, Superman is at his weakest and least interesting when people attempt to present him as a sci-fi based character. His strongest point ever was during the 1970s, when he was for all intents and purposes a semi-mystical character instead, an ethical ideal taking human form. A true Superman. A character that drew from both its sci-fi and fantasy inspirations and took the best from each, while avoiding the pitfalls from both.

He was difficult to write at those times, for certain. But the stories that we got, oh they were so unique and often exquisite, dealing with the ethics and dilemmas of true nobility, invulnerability and moral purity in ways that haven’t really been explored much since. That Superman was very much an inpirational figure, in ways that have since been forgotten. Writers such as Martin Pasko and E. Nelson Bridwell made Superman as good and entertaining a character as he is ever likely to get. Superman _was_ going to triumph no matter what, we knew that. But we often were surprised and motivated by how that came to be. And he had such a complex, first- rate set of supporting characters that some led books of their own without being simply derivative, most notably the LSH and at several points Supergirl.

The gravity explanation wasn’t abandoned until the Byrne reboot in 1986. There’s a really good story a couple of years before that in Batman and the Outsiders #19 where Batman brings Superman in to help take down an enraged Geo-Force. During the fight, Geo-Force uses his gravity powers to increase the gravity around Superman so he can pound the snot out of him.

Nice to see Boring art before he started drawing El-family men with Bob Hope style nose and chin!

Okay, I’ve reread the second origin pages you have up & don’t actually see the “Powers from the sun” explanation in it, just that we see no evidence of Kryptonians having any power.

A good explanation to put up would be from 1960′s “Supergirl’s Greatest Victory!” from Action Comics #262

There Superman explains to Supergirl that they get their powers from a combination of the lesser gravity plus “Ultra solar rays” that “only yellow stars like Earth’s sun emit”. “On planets of non-yellow suns we would not be super-powered, even under low gravity!”

That story also has an explanation of how kryptonite affects Kryptonians.

In case anyone wants to know who wrote each story: Superman #53 was written by Bill Finger and Superman #146 was written by Otto Binder.

The gravity explanation wasn’t abandoned until the Byrne reboot in 1986. There’s a really good story a couple of years before that in Batman and the Outsiders #19 where Batman brings Superman in to help take down an enraged Geo-Force. During the fight, Geo-Force uses his gravity powers to increase the gravity around Superman so he can pound the snot out of him.

Maybe I’m missing something because I didn’t read the story in question, but I fail to see how Geo-Force using his gravity powers to beat up Superman is somehow evidence that the old gravity-induced superpowers origin of Superman was still canon in the early 80s.

Page 18:

Geo-Force hits Superman from behind

Superman: “E” for effort Geo-Force … but you can’t hurt me!

Geo-Force: Can I not? I recall your powers’ source is the environment of the Earth … your strength and invulnerability are derived from her lesser gravity … one of my powers is to increase that gravity … even to that of your native planet … to remove your strength.

Superman: Rao

Geo-Force: Suddenly this fight is not so one-sided , after all!

He punches Superman in the face

Superman: UNGGH!

There’s a really good story a couple of years before that in Batman and the Outsiders #19 where Batman brings Superman in to help take down an enraged Geo-Force. During the fight, Geo-Force uses his gravity powers to increase the gravity around Superman so he can pound the snot out of him.

That was a good issue. Now I feel like digging it up and rereading it. I haven’t read it since I was like eight or nine… wonder if it holds up?

“he can fly because of lower gravity than Krypton” is silly. Sure, he was born on another planet where the gravity is heavier. But by the time he’d gone public in his 20′s, he’d been living on a foreign planet for years! why would his body think of the gravity as being “less” by then?
Heck, the guys who went to the moon — where the gravity is less — couldn’t fly …

Also, whoever colored Superman 53 up there must really like Robin’s costume, since he put Jor-El in a version of it.

always liked the superman got his powers due to being a solar battery and krypton had a red sun where earths yellow sun allowed superman to absorb solar power. never liked the weak gravity yet every one on krypton was a super being. one. even if its the orginal one of superman

“Wayne Boring Superman” is an oxymoron. :-^)

“he can fly because of lower gravity than Krypton” is silly. Sure, he was born on another planet where the gravity is heavier. But by the time he’d gone public in his 20?s, he’d been living on a foreign planet for years! why would his body think of the gravity as being “less” by then?
Heck, the guys who went to the moon — where the gravity is less — couldn’t fly …

The idea was that since his people evolved under centuries of extreme gravity, natural selection caused Kryptonians to be born with enough strength muscle to withstand such gravity. That means that even if he never grew up under such gravity, he would be born with superior muscles strong enough for him to be able to move under extreme gravity.

The gravity and evolution based origin is way better. I always preferred a non-flying Superman who “leaps tall buildings” instead of flying. It’s much more plausible from a scientific perspective. Although, having a species that looks exactly like Caucasian humans evolve on another planet is a pretty big stretch too.

Commander Benson

December 28, 2011 at 8:34 am

“Both versions do retain enough similarities to make it believable that the Kryptonians are so advanced and yet so reliant on technology and their apparent superiority to all that they wouldn’t . . . have spaceships built that would explore space or leave the planet.”

I CAN SPEAK to only the mythos of Superman from the Silver and Bronze Ages on the matter of why such an advanced civilisation as Krypton would not already possess spaceships aplenty. Savvy fans had asked the same question for years. And a few years back, it was posed to me. Here is the result:
_________________________________________________________________________________

To answer [the] question requires wading through several Silver-Age and Bronze-Age stories involving Krypton. Written by different writers over the span of years, nevertheless, they manage to merge into a comprehensive tapestry regarding Krypton’s attitude toward space travel.

Obviously, at one time, Krypton did have a fledgling space programme. Because its society preferred to concentrate its development toward bettering life on its own planet, Krypton’s space programme, while more advanced than Earth’s, was not at the same level as the rest of its technological development.

Still, it had made some advances. Before Jor-El’s discovery of the Phantom Zone and his invention of the Phantom Zone projector, Krypton’s criminals were punished by placing them in suspended animation inside satellites and rocketing those satellites into orbit around the planet. (“The Crimes of Krypton’s Master Villains”, Superboy # 104 [Apr., 1963], et al.)

And it had made progress toward manned space travel to other planets. In fact, when Jor-El met Lara Lor-Van, the woman he would eventually marry, she was an astronaut in training. And Jor-El himself had built an experimental anti-gravity device for Krypton’s space programme. (“Jor-El’s Golden Folly”, Superman # 233 [Jan., 1971])

However, the renegade scientist Jax-Ur, working on his own private rocketry programme, launched a nuclear-powered rocket into space and that rocket went off course and destroyed Wegthor, one of Krypton’s two moons. Wegthor had been inhabited by colonists and the ruling Science Council decided that further experimentation into space-capable rocketry was too hazardous and banned any future efforts into space travel. (“The Babe of Steel”, Action Comics # 284 [Jan., 1962]; “The Last Days of Krypton”, The World of Krypton # 3 [Sep., 1979])

After Jor-El had discovered that a chain reaction in Krypton’s nuclear core was leading to Krypton’s imminent destruction, he approached the Science Council several times, entreating them to reverse its prohibition of space travel, so efforts could be devoted to building a fleet of space ships to save their people. Since the Science Council did not believe Jor-El’s prediction of doom, and since it was also suspicious that Jor-El was trying to revive his own space-exploration efforts, it refused. (The World of Krypton # 3)

In defiance of the space-ban, Jor-El, along with several others who believed that Jor-El’s prediction of Krypton’s doom was accurate—including his brother Nim-El, Professor Ken-Dal, and a time-displaced Superman—constructed a giant “space ark” in Kandor, designed to save thousands of Krypton’s people.

When the ark was completed, hundreds—mostly those who believed in Jor-El’s deduction that Krypton was doomed—travelled to Kandor to board the giant ship. However, the boarding took place on the same day that Brainiac arrived and captured Kandor with his shrinking ray. Thus, Krypton’s last great hope of escape, along with almost all of the people who believed in Jor-El’s prediction of doom, were taken away. Because of the rare materials and time required to build the ark, there was no hope of building another one. (“Superman’s Return to Krypton”, Superman # 141 [Nov., 1960]; this incident was also iterated in the story “The Greatest Green Lantern of All!”, Superman # 257 [Oct., 1972])

Thus, Jor-El was forced to continue his efforts at designing a working rocketship in private, and one large enough, he hoped, to bear just him, Lara, and their infant son. Jor-El was required to labour under secrecy, since the suspicious Science Council continually monitored his actions, including, at one point, hiring a detective, Par-Es, to spy on Jor-El. (“The Last Scoop on Krypton”, Superman # 375 [Sep., 1981], et al.)

_______________________________________________________________________________

Hope this helps.

Without going into too much detail. Maybe the Kryptonians made the same decision as we humans of Earth, and decided that manned spaceflight was not economically viable, and focused their resources into other pursuits. I mean it’s not like we can criticize them for that, we haven’t even gone to the moon in almost 40 years. If we thought it was worth it we’d probably have a lunar outpost and have sent astronauts to Mars by now.

It’s also worth pointing out that originally, all Kryptonians had superpowers. It had nothing to do with being on Earth. Their “physical structure was millions of years advanced of our own. Upon maturity, the people of his race became gifted with titanic strength!”

That explaination was abandoned for the heavier gravity origin. It was later retro-actively given to the Earth-2 Superman.

The Geo-Force vs. Superman story is excellent. I particularly love the moment when Geo-Force announces nothing will stop him (a sexual harassing professor has driven Geo’s friend to attempt suicide so Geo intends to terminate him with extreme prejudice [Batman eventually takes the prof down with detective work showing his history]), slugs Superman and doubles over clutching his hand. Supes: “Sorry, but everyone has to learn that part for themselves.”
I believe later stories did retain the idea that Kryptonians are intellectually more evolved than us so that they’re reading by two or three years old.

Of course, the 1949 origin is itself an abandoning and forsaking of the original origin where Krypton is a planet of Supermen and Earth’s gravity has nothing to do with it whatsoever. (Admittedly though, this is only shown in the newspaper strip so it’s not considered canon I suppose)

Yeah, that was what I was going with (that that origin never made its way into the comics, so the origin presented in #53 was the first “official” origin).

Okay, I’ve reread the second origin pages you have up & don’t actually see the “Powers from the sun” explanation in it, just that we see no evidence of Kryptonians having any power.

D’oh! My apologies, I left out one of the scanned pages. It’s fixed now! Thanks for the pick-up!

Given the garish color schemes the Kryptonians wore in Superman #53, can we really call them an advanced civilization?

the last page scan’s not showing up…

It’s an alien society Rob, who’s to say what’s fashionable on an entirely different planet?

Man, in the first origin story, the winds on Krypton must blow ALL the time. Even indoors. I mean, just about every cape shown in those pages seem to be fluttering in the wind.

Of course, the 1949 origin is itself an abandoning and forsaking of the original origin where Krypton is a planet of Supermen and Earth’s gravity has nothing to do with it whatsoever. (Admittedly though, this is only shown in the newspaper strip so it’s not considered canon I suppose)

Yeah, that was what I was going with (that that origin never made its way into the comics, so the origin presented in #53 was the first “official” origin).
In Action Comics #1 ,it states that “upon reaching maturity, the people of his race become
gifted with titanic strength!” and compares these abilities to those of ants and grasshoppers, an indication of the influence of Phillip Wylie’s novel ‘Gladiator’, Ibelieve.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I don’t much care about how Superman can punch a speeding freight train in the face. I just want to see him do it.

LOL at the cosmic clock. The guy who built it actually just made it stay at zero, knowing that no one would live long enough to notice the hand wasn’t moving.

The art is great but the colouring leaves a lot ot be desired. It’s like every colour was on sale and they decided to splurge.

I loved that Batman and the Outsiders comic. At the time (pre-MOS) I couldn’t stand the Superman character and got quite a kick of watching him take one on the chin.

And as far as the “powers from the sun” to “solar battery” refinement . . . that was always my least favorite part of Byrne’s reboot, as it allowed Superman to slowly lose his powers if he was cut off from a yellow sun for an extended period of time (which seemed to happen a lot for a while). That never felt right to me, for some reason. It seemed like an even bigger deus ex machina/achille’s heel than kryptonite. I wonder if that’s still part of the DCNu revamp. Hope not.

Yep. The yellow sun battery thing is part of the DCnU. Last issue of Supergirl she is held captive and when she escapes, she gets stronger when she is exposed to the sun.

Wait a second! There are more changes than this. You stopped in the Silver Age (which, frankly, is where Superman and friends should have stayed). Still, what about other changes and variations. The first big one to come to mind is the John Byrne era. Then there’s the whole recent rewrite where Braniac is the cause of Krypton’s doom. Why did you stop?

We’re only talking about his powers here. The only change to his powers since the Silver Age was, as I noted, more of a refinement than anything. He still gets his powers from the sun, they just explained HOW he takes the sun’s power. So from the Silver Age until now, the sun gives him his powers.

A minor aspect of the solar-battery angle in the Silver/Bronze Age was that under certain suns (white dwarves, for instance) Superman actually got many times stronger due to the more intense light.

One thing that strikes me in the two stories is that Finger tells the origins in a sombre fashion with genuine pathos and gravitas (sorry)with Lara sacrificing her chance at survival to be with Jor-El .

Binder’s is overly complicated with shoehorning in mentions of all the other survivors and cutesy humour that the loss of Krypton is treated in a downright glib manner that totoally trivializes what makes Superman’s origin so genuinely mythic.

On the other hand, we do get treated to Clark Kent in that last panel dressed like Spanky from the Little Rascals, so there is that.

I wonder how much a sheet of lead like the one Pa Kent is holding would weigh?

Even if Superman were able to convert 100% of the solar energy striking his body into stored mechanical energy (which would make him appear totally black, as no light would be reflected) there would not be sufficient energy to perform his extraordinary physical feats, let alone his more outrageous powers such as heat vision. I prefer the notion that there is something in the earth’s environment ( EM wavelengths plus perhaps other factors) that serves as a catalyst for a direct matter-to-energy conversion process that takes place within Superman’s cells. With this explanation, Superman really gets his powers from the food that he eats, just as we do, but his “digestion” process is radically different.

Brian – I understand you are talking about his powers. But in every instance mentioned, Kryptonians are superior intellectually and physically. These aspects are responsible – at least in part – for Superman’s powers. In fact, the Superman issue shown above has Superboy explaining to Pa Kent that Earth’s gravity and sun don’t give him his powers, they just enhance the super-intellect and super-strength that he has. This is completely different from the “solar battery” concept that is in use since John Byrne’s re-imagining. Since that time, Kryptonians may have been intellectually superior to humans, but they were not physically superior. Thus Superman’s strength and enhanced senses all come from the effect of Earth’s gravity and sun on his Kryptonian body. Also, since he is now a battery, he really never was a super baby or a super boy because he needed years of “charging” to gain his powers.

Also – and I was leaving this out because it’s nitpicking – but Superman’s eye powers were originally all based on X-rays. His ability to see through walls or turn things red hot were accomplished through X-rays. It wasn’t until later that the powers were delineated into separate abilities.

Regardless, it was fun to look at some details of the Silver Age. Guess I just wanted more of it, considering the sorry state of Superman these days.

Brian, I think you’re understating the magnitude of the change inherent in the “refinement” as you call it.

According to the original “he gets his powers from the yellow sun” explanation, exposure to the yellow sun activated his powers, but they weren’t necessarily dependent on them after the activation. In the Silver Age he was frequently shown spending extended periods away from Earth’s yellow sun without any adverse effect on his power levels. Once initially activated by the sun, his power was pretty much persistent and stable. The only things that really affected it were red sun radiation, kryptonite, and magic.

The “solar battery” explanation (which I believe originated in M.O.S.) altered that significantly. After that, any time he was cut off from Earth’s sun (or a source of similar solar radiation) for an extended period, his powers began to wane and, if he’s cut off long enough, they went away almost completely. (As I noted earlier, this happened numerous times.) That it means that if he spent enough time on any planet that didn’t have a sun similar to ours (or, for that matter, if he’s on Earth but somehow shielded/cut off from incoming light/radiation, as in Final Night) he ceases (at least physically) to be Superman.

That’s a pretty radical change.

I wanted to quickly address the flapping cape issue.

Anybody see the episode of Mythbusters where they debunked the myth that the moon landing had been faked? Part of the myth was that the moon landing must’ve been faked because the flag they planted was flapping around. Skeptics claim that the flag could only flap around A) in an atmosphere where there was wind and B) in a normal 1G environment. The Mythbusters crew proved that you don’t need normal gravity or even an atmosphere for a flag to flap around on its own.

So, why and how could a flag flap around in an environment with 1/6 gravity and no atmosphere? Momentum. As Newton stated: A body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external force. When the flag was planted, the force of the action caused it to jiggle and wave. Since there was not external force to stop it from waving, the flag continued to wave. It likely only stopped when the forces of friction from within the flag itself eventually overcame the forces keeping it going.

Think about how this applies to Jor-El’s cape. The guy is in motion all throughout that conversation. Even though Krypton had massive gravity, the cape would have to follow the motion of Jor-El. He’s the external force acting on the cape and keeping it from resting. Seeing as how these are still frames of an event, there’s not telling how long the cape would’ve succumbed to the gravitational forces.

On top of that, we have no idea how much mass the cape actually had. For all we know, it could’ve been made of a “space age” fabric that had very little mass. NASA uses a substance called aerogel as insulation. Aerogel is made up of 99.9% air. In spite of this, it is INCREDIBLY heat resistant and can even support many times its own weight. Wiki has a picture of a 2g block of aerogel supporting a 2.5kg brick.

Sometimes, reality is just weirder than fiction. It’s likely that, some day in the future, we’ll all be wearing fabrics that perform in ways that wouldn’t be possible today.

Just because Kryptonians themselves are build to be more dense and massive doesn’t mean that their clothes have to be. Who knows? Maybe Jor-El’s costume, being of an advanced material, would only weigh a pitiful 3g here on Earth, but would end up weighing 3lb over on Krypton, because of its greater gravity. It would be normal for them, but super light to us. Likewise, our Earth clothes, which do nothing to weigh us down here, would likely help crush us to death over there.

Forget the flapping cape. Between momentum and space age fabrics, it’s very plausible that it’d still flap away in a massive G environment.

I really wish this board had an edit feature so that I could edit my grammar.

@ cookepuss:

I routinely feel that way. However, that is a terrific post.

We also don’t know how fast Jor-El was moving or if there was some external force like wind acting on the cape. Yeah. It’s a comic and I’m obsessing over it, but whatev. =)

Where I like all the origins, I prefer Byrne’s- Superman is just a solar battery. It’s simple and easy to understand (assuming you accept crazy comic book physics)

I thought this was going to be about Superman’s powers being telekinetik in nature as per the Byrne reboot (is that still being used? I haven’t read a DC comic in 5 years) but this is still an interesting topic.

You know, the only thing that bothered me about the Yellow-Sun explanation was that Supes lost his powers *instantly* when exposed to Red Sun radiation… even if he still was under a yellow sun! What, his body couldn’t absorb more than one type at a time? And he had no energy reserves? This is why I like the Solar Battery idea better.

I also want to point out that this idea was used earlier by Marvel Comics characters (Captain Mar-Vell was also a solar-battery type, if I recall correctly- also note that this character had many other similarities to Superman, including his super-strength being due to being a native of a high-gravity world.) Byrne also used the telekinesis powers explanation for his Superman rip-off, Gladiator.

Re: why Krypton had no spaceships, I also remember a story that claimed they disliked contact with alien races after being invaded by one once in the past (can’t recall the details, sorry.) This was turned into full-blown xenophobia in the Byrne version.

@Sijo: Byrne is free & clear of blame in the Gladiator situation. Gladiator was created by Claremont & Cockrum in Uncanny X-Men #107, the very issue before Byrne joined the book. While I do agree that his powers are just like Superman’s his core weakness is really what separates him. Gladiator’s powers are confidence driven. Praise him and tell him he’s the absolute best and he’s untouchable. Get him to doubt his superiority and he’s pretty much Glass Joe. It’s a subtle difference, but one that makes all the difference when it comes to characterization and personality.

Captain Mar-Vell wasn’t a solar battery type. He was straight up Kree. His powers were later boosted by the Nega-Bands, which utilized his own psionic energy to give him extra powers. There was no solar battery thing with Mar-Vell. Not even when he became protector of the universe.

Either way, there’s a long line of Superman clones starting with DC’s own Captain Marvel, acquired from Fawcett Comics. Marvel’s never shy about cloning DC characters. Sentry, Hyperion, and Solarman stand out as the most obvious ripoffs. The Squadron Supreme is itself almost entirely a JLA ripoff.

Every company rips off or parodies its competitors. Anybody else remember Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters? Remind you of a certain group of turtles?

The Squadron Supreme is in a different category. The ripoff started with the Squadron Sinister as villainous JLA counterparts (while the JLA battled counterparts of the Avengers, something worked out by the writers), then Roy Thomas introduced the good parallel world Supremes (it was later explained that the Grandmaster created the Sinisters as a direct imitation of the Supremes, the best warriors he’d ever employed). So they weren’t intended to be a standalone series (though they became one eventually) any more than Cap’n Strong in Superman (a Popeye knockoff) was more than an occasional guest-star.

Power-2 most-the-Peoples

December 29, 2011 at 10:44 am

@cookepuss
the funny thing about Adolescent Radioactive Black-belt Hamsters being a rip on thew Ninja Turtles is that the the Turtles are a parody of the comics industry of the early mid 80′s.
Take the X-men combined with Franks Miller Roninn, the new Teen Titans and turtles as a joke and there you have it.
1. Mutants.
2. ninjas.
3. teenagers.
4. turtles.
So A.R.B.H., is a rip of a rip, Oh the 80′s how I miss thee.

Power-2 most-the-Peoples

December 29, 2011 at 11:00 am

The Solar powered battery works for me, but I’ll admit that the Silver, Bronze Age, Superman is too powerful.
He essentially makes all the other heroes meaningless if he can do everything.
And Kryptonite was everywhere back then.
Not too mention he could time-travel, fly at warp speed and if not for the Spectre he could have bunched out God.
http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/DC_Comics_Presents_Vol_1_29
So taking him down a peg or two makes for more interesting possibilities story wise.
Which is why I love the original 1938 Superman, almost scientifically possible but not so all powerful he can’t kick his butt beat.
That’s one of the fundamental flaws of Jerry Siegel’s writing is he kept getting stronger and more cocky.
A hero has got to have limits, in order for him to have a challenge, can he rise to it?
Plus the reader can identify with the struggle, that’s’ why Batman’s more popular than Supes now-a-days.

Plus the reader can identify with the struggle, that’s’ why Batman’s more popular than Supes now-a-days.

I don’t get this sentiment because to me, Batman is way more overpowered than Superman. If I woke up with Superman’s powers one day, I could see myself accomplishing the stuff he does. He’s great at totally underachieving. “Hey, I have the power to move planets and a super intellect. My biggest feat this year will be outsmarting a chubby bald middle aged guy and fighting a dumb-as-rocks duplicate who’s not even really evil.” And he earns a journalist salary, which is not bad but is not something stratospheric that a hard working middle class guy can’t match.

Batman on the other hand, even if he is unpowered, is someone I can never relate to, especially in his Batgod persona. Billionaire, skilled in every martial art, can outsmart anyone, is super-perfect in every way. I never understand why people claim he’s more relatable.

@Power-2 most-the-Peoples: I totally agree about TMNT being a mixture of all those things. Unless you were one of those jaded/observant types, I think that it went over the heads of many readers at the time, especially once it went mainstream.

@cokiepuss: Mar-Vell was indeed given solar powers when Roy Thomas revamped him in the early 1970s; a scientist named Dr. Savannah (see the homage?) used a solar device to save Marv’s life, which also left the Kree with sun-based zapping powers. Absorbed solar radiation was the source of his energy blasts in later issues.

I like the original origin as well. If Kryptonians are the peak of mental and physical perfection then it goes a long way to explaining Superman’s physique because how would he work out to get a body like that?

I wonder how much a sheet of lead like the one Pa Kent is holding would weigh?

Well, it looks to be square-ish, and its length/width seems to be roughly five times the width of Pa Kent’s hand.

I measured my own hand’s width at about 4 inches. I have an average-sized hand. My guestimate is that the lead sheet is roughly 20 inches by 20 inches, and probably about a half inch in thickness.

Converting to the metric system, that works out to roughly 51 cm by 51 cm by 1.25 cm. So that sheet of lead is roughly 3250 cubic centimeters. According to wikipedia, the density of lead is 11.34 grams per cubic centimeter. So, the lead sheet in Pa Kent’s hand probably has a mass of around 36 or 37 kgs.

In United States customary units, that works out to a weight (near the surface of the Earth) in the neighborhood of 80 lbs or so.

That is just best guess, of course.

Heh, I think it is funny that Omar Karindu called cookepuss cokiepuss – I have two totally different images when I hear those two terms.

cookepuss makes me think of an ice cream cake:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cookie_Puss

cokiepuss makes me think of a drug addict:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocaine

One of the striking things about reading the Batman Chronicles is how much more human Batman was back then. Sure, he’s the best there is, but two guys taking him by surprise is enough in some stories to get the drop on him. Today you’d need what, 50? 100?
The growth in power affects him just like it does Superman.

I love Jor-El’s calendar with the date of Krypton’s destruction circled and “Day of Doom” written next to it. He’s like a ten-year-old waiting for his birthday.

@cookepuss: What I meant is that Byrne first used the “Superman’s powers are telekinetik” idea with Gladiator, in a Fantastic Four story that he wrote (and drew). Mostly to justify his ability to lifts things like buildings and planes without having them collapse under their own weight. (Which ironically, wasn’t really needed post-crisis. They just could have said he no longer could do that.) Admittedly, it did explain a lot of his powers very well.

Power-2 most-the-Peoples

December 29, 2011 at 6:02 pm

@T.
Well when I’m talking about Batman I mean to say a bronze age- Batman.
The guy from those old Steve Englehart Marshall Rogers stories.
Long before the Bat-God crap got started.
He was a man trying to actually live two lives, know ultimately one would ruin the other.
Back then millionaire Bruce Wayne actually wanted something of a normal life, despite being the Bat-Man.
Mentally a healthier fellow than what he became later, and still is today.
Back then he actually smiled.

I love this discussion. Anyone remember those extra mental powers Superman developed about a decade ago? Theta waves or something, via mental yoga. Because he really needed a power boost.

Happily, they were quickly ignored.

@T.
Well when I’m talking about Batman I mean to say a bronze age- Batman.
The guy from those old Steve Englehart Marshall Rogers stories.
Long before the Bat-God crap got started.
He was a man trying to actually live two lives, know ultimately one would ruin the other.
Back then millionaire Bruce Wayne actually wanted something of a normal life, despite being the Bat-Man.
Mentally a healthier fellow than what he became later, and still is today.
Back then he actually smiled.

In that case I totally agree. I love Bronze Age Batman. Englehart’s run was great, as you say, but right now I’m reading Gerry Conway’s 80s run and its incredibly overrated! I’m shocked no one discusses it more when talking about favorite Batman eras.

@T “I’m reading Gerry Conway’s 80s run and its incredibly overrated! I’m shocked no one discusses it more when talking about favorite Batman eras.”

I’m guessing you meant to type ‘underrated’ – and yes, the Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Gene Colan and, coming atcha, Doug Moench biweekly Batman/Detective Comics period was a wonderfully inventive, consistent run.

(Would someone tell me how to italicise while commenting here? I see no tools, and can’t recall html?)

[...] Oh, I don't wish the origin changed – the new stuff I want to see would be in non-origin stories. The various origins are just fine. Speaking of which, CBR's splendid Brian Cronin has a fun article on the subject here. [...]

Oops, you’re right, I meant underrated!!!

Sign me up as another who prefers the underrated 80s Batman to the modern “BatGod” version. Bronze Age Batman is still the default version in my head. He was awesome, yes, but not unbeatable, the best balance between grittyness and humour/humanity in Bruce/Batman’s character.

Just think: O’Neil, Adams, Haney, Aparo, Conway, Wein, Newton, Colan, Englehart, Rogers, Austin, Moench, Giordano, Golden (on Batman Family), Novick; a few guest appearances from Starlin, Russell etc etc…..

Conway gets a lot of flack for one of his stories being a weaker sequel to the Englehart/Rogers run, but the Croc/Jason Todd intro story is one of my favorite Batman stories of all tme. (It’s remarkable how much of the much later introduction of Bane is already in there, complete with Batman facing an army of his past villains!)

I mentioned Batman and the Outsider earlier and I have to say I absolutely loved the way writer Mike W. Barr wrote Batman in that series. Just driven and obsessed. He does what needs to be done to win his war on crime. Miller gets all this credit for his version of Batman, but Barr was doing that kind of Batman before Dark Knight Returns was released. Barr made Batman matter again. His sales were in the toilet. BATO was the first Batman series in a very long time that was a sales success.

I guess the gravity explanation is now back. Superman’s new origin in Action Comics #5, Jor-El says:

Brainiac: Target worlds with younger, fiercer suns, where he will grow strong. Worlds where the gravity is weak so that he will seem to fly.

Personally, having just solar energy be his only source of power made easier sense.

The guy came from a planet with a weaker sun which would no doubt create an environment that a human would have a difficult time surviving in which would explain why his people were living solar batteries when it came to adapting for survival which would make his powers a side-effect from absorbing energy from a stronger sun, and let’s not forget, he’s been living on earth’s gravity his whole life and his muscles would have weaken in time.

For me, I’ve always like/believed if there was a change in the sun’s color, Superman – while on Earth – would have powers similar to his early Golden Age version and lose flight, supervision, etc.

Arcee, there’s a Silver Age Superboy story (Superboy 141) where the villain confronts Superboy on a planet lit only by a red aurora borealis, which leaves Superboy bereft of everything but the gravity related powers, strength and speed. As the villain thought the aurora would neutralize Superboy’s powers red-sun like, that was more than enough.
It was also established that under some suns, Superman’s powers become a lot stronger and humans become Superman-class (IIRC)

all this is rubish

Travis Pelkie

May 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

“all this is rubish”

Yes, like that sacred carny cry (whisper it, now):

HEY RUBE!!!

I never had a problem with the “solar battery” aspect of the Superman mythos. I just accepted that he had those powers for that reason. IMHO the Golden Age origin was good, but the more powerful Superman is a character I like better purely out of personal taste and no real facts. He got a little too powerful there for a while, but he seems to be on a pretty good level in the DCnU especially in Action Comics.

So we’re to believe that Kryptonians can attain godly powers just from an ordinary sun-lamp?
Sounds fishy to me.

The original didn’t make much sense either, i.e. saying that Krypton’s gravity was thousands of times that or Earth; even in a comic book they’d be squashed flatter than pancakes. And it wouldn’t explain how the could defy Earth-gravity.

And then there’s the entire idea how a super-advanced race never attained space-exploration…

But compared to the later exaggerations, these powers seem tame by comparison.

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