15 Superpowers You Didn’t Know Superman Had
If you’re going to be the most famous superhero of all-time, you better be able to fire super-dwarves out of your hands. Or at the very least have an uncanny ability for knitting. Thankfully, DC’s writers have been more than up to the challenge of making Superman as super as possible, and the world is a better place for it. Ever since he first appeared in 1938’s Action Comics #1, the Man of Steel has racked up a litany of abilities beyond our wildest dreams. Forget flight, invulnerability, and speed, we’re talking about the genuinely ludicrous superpowers that only someone who’s flown well past the point of reason could come up with.
Sure, Superman’s powers may come and go faster than we can say “Myxlplyx”, and for the most part, they just take everyday tasks and add the prefix “super” to them — Super-Friction, Super-Landscaping, Super-Makeup, Super-Hunches (Spoiler: they’re just regular hunches, except made by Superman) — but there are some that stand out as actually being legit. Or as legit as blasting solar rays out of your face can be. We should caution though, most of these are from the Silver Age, a fabled time when monkeys roamed free, everyone got turned into a baby at least once, and Lois Lane would do crazy offensive things like pretend to be a black woman. But if you can open your mind to the possibilities of what it truly means to be a superpowered hero, then you might just be ready to see the Man of Tomorrow shoot rainbows from his fingers.
Here are 15 Superpowers You Didn’t Know Superman Had.
Let’s just be clear here. That’s not Superman using super-speed to quickly create a modern wedding dress, that’s him super-weaving. As in, he’s an aspiring fashion designer who possesses the amazing talent to construct looms on the fly in the middle of forests, keeps an emergency weaving kit in his costume, knows how to properly prepare silken threading, and then can convert it all into a gown befitting the contemporary styles of the day.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, he salvaged those silken threads from the wedding dress of Helen of Troy and paired it with the ring of Cleopatra, which he stole from a pyramid and a bouquet comprised of flowers he picked from the Garden of Eden. It’s all part of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #15, where we’re led to believe Superman is finally marrying Lois Lane, only to find out in true Silver Age fashion that it’s actually a doppelgänger (who presumedly possesses all the same weaving powers) that has fallen in love with someone that looks identical to Lois. But none of that tomfoolery changes the fact that a Superman out there somewhere has the oddly specific ability to make your dream wedding a reality.
The great thing about Superman is that he has so many different options for solving problems. Take this jar of jelly beans for example. He could easily use his x-ray vision to figure out how many there are inside, but instead, he decides to turn his arm into a scale and calculate weight differentials. Thus proving that the Man of Steel is just as super smart as… oh wait, 20 times 16 times 10 actually equals 3,200? Hmm. That’s embarrasing. Maybe he should have stuck to X-ray vision after all.
Alright, so who cares if Superman’s super-mathematics are basically regular mathematics that any fourth-grader could master, and even then he gets it all wrong. Maybe this power is intended to make him sound like he knows what he’s talking about by spewing out a bunch of random numbers so as to impress people with bean tricks. Maybe 20 times 16 times 10 does in fact equal 32,00o and we’re just too stupid to realize how much of a genius he is. Or maybe he intentionally got the answer wrong to let us feel like we are smarter than Superman. One thing is for sure, Silver Age Lois Lane is an idiot. That’s just math.
13. SUPER FLARE
No, Kal-El’s superpowered flare isn’t something he wears while working at Friday’s or the way he likes his pants. It’s his latest and greatest super-prefixed ability, developed in 2015’s Superman #38. When pushed to an extreme limit and made really, really angry, Supes can unleash the energy stored within his cells to emit a red burst of solar flare awesomeness that incinerates anything in the immediate vicinity. Think heat vision, only coming out of every inch and orifice of his body. And we mean every orifice.
While it might have seemed like Superman didn’t have enough superpowers already, and imbuing him with the combined capabilities of Hulk and Goku only makes sense, turning Kal-El into a super Akira does have its drawbacks. For instance, Superman going supernova leaves him physically and mentally weakened to a near-human state. Also, it kills everyone around him. Not exactly something you want to brag about.
With a metabolism like Superman’s, it goes without saying that he can throw back a few burgers. What is the normal person’s recommended daily calorie intake? 2,000? Well, Superman’s is in the millions. Luckily for him, his Super-Endurace and the natural nourishment provided to him by our sun means he actually doesn’t have to eat, drink, or sleep… ever. Though when those supply of yellow rays diminish, watch out — Superman will eat your freaking arm off, bone and all. A frightening thought for sure, but it’s nice to see the Man of Krypton now and again fully embracing “the American Way,” one pound at a time.
To get an idea of what Superman’s uncanny appetite and endless ability to chow down looks like, check out Action Comics #454. When all the planet’s solar energy mysteriously disappears, the Man of Steel finds himself in a constant state of malaise. So what does he do? Order every piece of meat on the planet and go to it. His current record is 60 burgers a minute. Ron Swanson would be proud.
That’s right, much to the delight of nerdy ventriloquists everywhere, one of Superman’s go to superpowers is voice throwing. You might think there isn’t much of a need for something as ridiculously random as Super-Ventriloquism. Yet somehow, Superman found cause to use this talent on a number of occasions over decades of adventures. Now in case you’re imagining the Man of Steel making a smaller, wooden version of himself propped up on his knee crack jokes, you’re in for a disappointment. But don’t worry, what follows is no less stupid.
By calling upon his powerful vocal cords and super muscle control, the Man of Steel is able to project his voice across vast distances with flawless accuracy. But wait! There’s more! Superman also possesses the ability of super-voice-mimicry, so he can sound like anyone he wants, living or dead. Thus, he could make Perry White believe a statue of Julius Caesar could actually talk, or trick a poor widow into believing her dead husband was contacting her from beyond the grave. Even more terrifying is that Krypto the Super-Dog has the same ability, and often uses it to communicate through Superman. Such as when a young Supes and Krypto used this power on one another to scare the hell out of everyone around them.
If Thor can do it and also Wonder Woman, why not Superman? The ability to understand and learn any form of language instantly is a skill worth having. Especially when you come across a mermaid. What does a mermaid’s language sound like? Beats us, but Superman knows every word of it, and that’s all that matters.
It should come as no surprise that Superman is a natural polyglot. Being able to speak any language no matter how foreign seem’s like a drop in the bucket for someone who can get 32,000 from multiplying 20 times 16 times 10. It’s also a pretty a good skill to have if you make a living protecting the entire planet, since it would be really embarrassing to mispronounce, “streichholzscächtelchen.” Obviously, of all his languages, Superman is most gifted in Kryptonese — an entirely made up language from his homeworld that sounds slightly racist and which apparently Batman is also fluent in. Is there anything these guys can’t do?
Sometimes, all the powers in the world aren’t enough to stop a disgruntled disco hall owner from trying to blow up a bunch of teenagers. That’s where super-dancing comes in. So let us tell you about the time in 1979’s Superman Family #196 when Clark Kent gets wrangled into judging a dance competition by “The Clark Kent Fan Club” (yep, that’s a thing) only to find himself tangled up in a high stakes discotheque feud. Using his X-ray vision, Clark realizes the club he’s at is rigged with explosives. Unable to turn into Superman without giving away his secret-identity, Kent does what any undercover superhero would do – the disco.
With not a moment to spare, Superman clears the dance floor. He gets up on stage and uses his super-powered groovy moves to generate enough good vibrations to shatter the device’s trigger mechanism. The day was saved, a local business protected, and the Clark Kent Fan Club delighted. And that, boys and girls, was the time Superman disarmed a bomb with nothing but the power of dance. John Travolta would be proud.
Remember that scene in Superman II when Superman passionately kisses Lois and somehow selectively erases her memory? You could be forgiven for thinking the filmmakers were pulling another ill-advised cellophane ‘S’ shield out of their butts, but in fact, they were being faithful to the source material. The power of Superman’s super-kiss (official title) were on full display decades prior in 1963’s Action Comics #306. Only this time, when he mouth-roofies Lois, it’s not just her feeble mind that swoons.
Mild-mannered Clark Kent and sex-crazed Lois Lane find themselves beneath a mistletoe. Lois, never one to turn down making out with a man, promises to give Clark a “thrill” by kissing him “as if he were Superman.” Jokes on you, minx. Never one to miss an opportunity to violate someone with his lips, Clark decides to teach Lois a lesson in promiscuity by smooching the life-force right of her. It’s hard to tell exactly what happens here. Maybe his puckered mouth crushes her face. Maybe he uses some kind of tactile tongue tactics to zap her senses. Or maybe he’s just a superpowered kisser. Regardless, Lois is so disorientated by the experience that her own sexual inferiority flashes before her eyes and she nearly drops dead on the spot.
7. MICROSCOPIC VISION
Apparently, seeing through your clothes and being able to burn them off aren’t the only things Superman can do with his eyes. He can also examine them on an atomic level. Because while most of time, the Man of Steel’s X-ray and heat vision will do the trick, truly ridiculous situations call for microscopic vision. Like in World’s Finest Comics #46, when Supes needs to scrutinize the structural integrity of some faulty steel. Mere child’s play for those retinas, since his eyes are naturally over a thousand times more powerful than the best microscopes. As if Lois didn’t have enough reasons to be self-conscious, now she’s got to worry about Superman getting grossed out by her pores.
Of course, that’s not all Superman’s orbs can do. They also register infrared and ultraviolet light, as well as possess telescopic vision. That’s right, Superman can see through buildings, your DNA, the weird stains covering Jimmy Olsen’s room, and across vast distances spanning the entrirety of outer space. Miraculously, this also includes checking in on multiple planets simultaneously. Given all this, tell us again why this guy can’t see through lead?
6. RETROCOGNITION (AKA SUPER-IMAGINATION)
Think Superman’s vision is only limited to reality? Think again. In 1959’s Superman #127, a mild-mannered monkey gets turned into Titano, a giant ape who shoots Kyptonite lasers from his eyes. This ends up being a mild-inconvience for the Man of Steel, until he fashions a massive pair of lead sunglasses for Titano to wear and then super-speed hurls him through time back to the prehistoric past. Done and done. So as to reassure Lois this was the right move, Superman takes a gander across time using his telescopic vision to see Titano about to get eaten alive by dinosaurs. That’s right, Superman has the super-cability to see into the past. Or does he?
Bizarrely, when compiling this story about a giant talking ape with Kryptonite vision into Superman Annual #2, DC’s editors felt having Superman “look through time” was just too-far fetched, and made a last minute change to their final panel. So instead of “telescopic vision,” we now get the far more confusing “Super-Imagination.” What is “Super-Imagination” you ask? We’re guessing normal imagination, only with a lot more creativity. But this all begs the question of what really happened to Titano, and why Superman felt the need to make up a fake scenario so Lois sounded more crazy than she already is.
Frankly, at this point, it would be more surprising if Superman didn’t have the ability to spontaneously rearrange his face into an albino devil wearing a loin cloth. So thank goodness for 1947’s Superman #45, or else we would never know about the Man of Steel’s amazing ability to alter the genetic makeup of his entire body at will.
When Superman gets captured by a group of inter-dimensional aliens who collect living beings and decide he would make for a nice addition to their trophy case, it looks as if Big Blue has finally met his match. That is until he uses the Jedi Mind trick of “telepathic will control” (more on that in a moment) to turn the tables, then miraculously change his body structure, skin tone, and clothing by stretching his face to look like one of the aliens. With his daring escape complete, Superman shakes off the transformation and returns to normal, with nothing in the way of an explanation or it ever coming up again.
4. TELEPATHY (AKA READING THE MIND OF TELEPHONES)
Seriously, who can’t read minds these days? Even Groot has the ability. So it should go without saying that the Man of Steel can do the same, and even one-up that dumb tree. We already mentioned his use of “telepathic will control” to escape some albino aliens, but what else can Supes do with his super-powered brain? For starters, he can read the mind of phones. Yep, Superman can telepathically sense the identity of whomever is calling him without having to pick up. Utterly useless today, but a veritable lifesaver thirty years ago.
So powerful are Superman’s telepathic capabilities that he can read thoughts across any distance, and even time. Thanks to the ancient Kryptonian mental art known as Torquasm-Vo, Kal-El could further access the inner depths of his psychic abilities, not only fending off telepathic attacks, but also creating illusions to battle his enemies on an astral plane (as he did against the Eradictor with a giant Predator-esque Superman). Seems like all this telepathy and phone-reading would have come in real handy trying to figure out whatever Lex Luthor was plotting next. But what do we know?
If he can control minds, it only follows that Superman can also control objects using nothing but his super-powered thoughts. Like that one time he levitated Lois so he and Jimmy Olsen could use her floating body as a platform to escape a pit during an episode of Adventures of Superman. Or how about when he was younger and mysteriously started moving criminals electromagnetically in The New Adventures of Superboy #11. And who can forget when he rebuilt the Great Wall of China just by staring at it during Superman IV? No, sadly, we will never forget that.
If that’s not enough, there is Superman’s tactile telekinesis – the ability to move an object with the power of your mind merely by touching it. If we’re being honest, this doesn’t sound all that super. But it’s actually what allows him to lift an entire airplane by its nose without splitting in half, and fly. Or at least this is the explanation writer John Byrne came up with during his misguided attempt at revamping Supes following Crisis on Infinite Earths in the ’80s. Utilizing the best pseudo-science of the day, Superman’s strength, invulnerability, and flight were all explained away as his generating a constant “electropyschic” force field aura around his body and whatever he touched. Can’t a guy just fly for flying’s sake anymore?
We might be the only ones, but don’t you think it’s odd that no one ever recognizes Clark Kent as Superman? Well apparently there’s a very poor explanation for that, and it’s called Super-Hypnosis. And we’re not just talking Superman waving a pocket watch in front of people to make them sleepy (though he does that too), we’re talking about him straight up wiping people’s memories and making them obey him just by looking in their general direction. Which might alternatively explain how he seemingly stole Lois’ memories with his lips during Superman II.
By releasing the golden shower of his hypnotic gaze on someone, the Magician of Steel could effectively neuralyze them. Apparently, he doesn’t even have to be concentrating to make it work. By the end of the ’70s, writers no longer felt it appropriate for Superman to do things like shapeshift without a reasonable explanation, so they made convoluted attempts to rationalize things, like why no one could tell who Superman was after he put on a pair of glasses. In that vein, Superman #330 teaches us that Clark Kent’s specs are made out of Kryptonian plexiglass, which intensify the mesmerizing effect of his eyes. Hence, no one ever can figure out Superman’s secret identity — because he is unconsciously hypnotizing them not to. GENIUS! Though it kind of makes you wonder why he just doesn’t use super-hypnosis to put an end to all the world’s problems.
1. SUPER-MINI-SUPERMAN GENERATION (AKA SHOOTING RAINBOWS FROM HIS FINGERS)
Superman is no stranger to being cloned. Drunk Supermen, Red and Blue Supermen, punk-teenaged Supermen, Nicolas Cage Supermen, there seems to be no end to super-doppelgängers out there. But by far the greatest and weirdest came in the pages of Superman #125, when the Man of Steel started shooting rainbows from his fingers. Don’t worry, it makes even less sense when put into context.
A mysterious midget spaceship crashes on Earth and blows Superman up, causing him to lose all his powers. (That’s right, there was a brief time when the Man of Steel could tragically no longer super-weave.) But in their place, he could now magically create rainbows that caused crooks to immediately surrender. Not a bad trade if you ask us. But those weren’t just any rainbows, they were actually the multi-colored jet stream of a tiny miniaturized version of Superman flying out of his hand and using all of his normal powers to save the day. Obviously, this made Superman super jealous, so he tries to kill his super powered mini-me, only for the Super-Imp to sacrifice himself for his big twin by riding a Kryptonite meteor into the ocean. And here you thought Bat-Baby was a stupid idea.