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The powers of DC Comics character Superman have changed since his introduction in the 1930s. Many other DC Comics characters have Superman's abilities from Kryptonian DNA, such as Zod, Kara Zor-El, and even the hybrid Superboy. The extent of Superman's powers peaked during the 1970s and 1980s to the point where various writers found it difficult to create suitable challenges for the character. Lex Luthor described Superman as a "living god" on Earth. As a result, his powers were significantly reduced when his story was rebooted by writer John Byrne after the Crisis on Infinite Earths series. After Byrne's departure, Superman's powers were gradually increased again, though with greater in-story explanation than his Pre-Crisis incarnation.

His powers include flight, super strength, x-ray vision, invulnerability, speed, heat vision, freezing breath, super flare (a recently added massive, omnidirectional heat blast that obliterates anything within a quarter mile radius), and superhuman senses.Superman can travel at the speed of light on par with the Flash. He has the ability to break seven planks at a time, into pieces just with the kick of his leg onto the ground. The limits of these abilities vary depending on the writer. However, as his name suggests, Superman has frequently been depicted achieving feats of immeasurable magnitude.

List of powers and abilities of Superman[edit]

Over the course of the character's existence of 75 years, Superman has, at one point or another, had various combinations of the following powers and abilities. The levels of those individual powers and abilities have also changed in intensity, from "merely" enhanced above that of normal humans to truly god-like. Some added as the character evolved, others toned down and restricted in later eras.

Superhuman solar energy[edit]

Superman gets the majority of his powers from Earth's yellow star, effectively making him a giant solar battery; when he uses Super Flare he expels that stored up energy in the form of a giant blast of energy.[1][2]

Solar energy absorption and healing factor[edit]

Superman's powers rely on his cells' ability to absorb and metabolize solar energy from yellow stars like Earth's sun or a blue star. His Kryptonian body is a living "solar battery" that absorbs solar energies and converts them to fuel for vast superhuman abilities that wouldn't otherwise be afforded under Rao, Krypton's red supergiant. His cells also store yellow sun energy so he can use his powers under objects, at night, in dark places, and in space.

Pre-Crisis, yellow stars were said to emit "ultra solar rays" which enabled Kryptonians' superpowers; penetrating the Earth itself, said rays also enabled Kryptonians to stay super-powered at night.[3][4] Post-Crisis, it is the overall high intensity of yellow solar radiation that is shown as causing Kryptonians' superpowers.[5]

Solar flare and heat vision[edit]

Superman's heat vision is the ability to emit solar energy from his eyes. Heat vision was initially introduced as "the heat of his x-ray vision" (a byproduct of his existing x-ray vision powers) in Superman (vol. 1) #59 (July 1949); heat vision as a separate power first appeared in Action Comics #275 (April 1961). In Superman #38, part of The New 52, it is revealed that Superman's heat vision is a precursor to a power called "super flare".[6] This power utilizes all the solar energy stored within Superman's cells, allowing him to resort to an all-out attack. However, Superman cannot use it more than occasionally, as it drains him of all the solar energy he has stored up until he can recharge his cells with solar energy which takes him about 24 hours. During this time frame, he is essentially human in his abilities.[7]

Solar invulnerability[edit]

Immunity to almost all forms of harm and ailments, including extreme force and extremely high temperatures. Effectiveness has ranged from nothing less than a "bursting shell" being able to pierce his skin (in the beginning of the mythos), to surviving being struck by the electromagnetic waves of a star going supernova with 50 times the force of Kepler's Supernova (after Superman was already weakened by red sunlight radiation),[8] to withstanding the collapse of universes. Explanations for this ability have ranged from Kryptonians having a molecular structure with a density superior to that of titanium and having strong bonds within the cells of his body that cannot be pulled apart. His invulnerability has enabled him to withstand Darkseid's omega beams, a feat originally thought to be impossible. In the rare instances, however, that Superman has required medical attention, this resistance to injuries has complicated necessary procedures such as surgery. For instance, when a criminal shot him with a kryptonite bullet, a surgeon was forced to give Superman a controlled exposure to the mineral, thereby temporarily weakening his skin enough to make the incisions necessary to remove internal fragments of the bullet.[9] Superman can also withstand kryptonite in certain circumstances, but prolonged exposure will eventually be fatal. Superman's invulnerability is further increased by his bio-electric aura, which protects him from some attacks and can be extended to protect others like in All Star Superman. In some versions, this power greatly retards his aging and increases as he gets older, sometimes rendering him effectively immortal. The epilogue to the Justice Society of America storyline "Thy Kingdom Come" (a sequel of sorts to the Kingdom Come limited series) showing Superman surviving 1,000 years into the future, albeit as a very elderly, hunched-over man. Another version in DC One Million lives through the 853rd Century, some 83,200 years from now, though he was living inside the sun for thousands of years before coming out, making him godlike in his abilities. Superman is frequently depicted as being virtually indestructible, however his solar aura will drain away if he takes too much damage. Normally this isn't an issue since exposure to sunlight will instantly refuel the aura, but as seen with his duel against Doomsday, if Superman is out of sunlight for too long his defensive abilities will deteriorate. Also, even under constant sunlight, it is possible for Superman to be injured by enemies comparable to his strength like other Kryptonians like Bizzaro, Zod, Superboy-Prime and Doomsday.


Superman in flight.

Because Earth and the Sun exhibits less gravitational pull than that of Krypton, and also due to his solar-powered body, the Man of Steel can also alter his personal mono-directional gravity field to propel himself through the air at will. Originally, he only had the power to jump great distances, as stated by the 1940s Superman cartoons slogan "Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." This was also shown in the movie Man of Steel. His power of flight has ranged from simply being able to jump great distances using his vast strength, to beginning in late 1941 being able to accelerate, float in midair, and change direction while traveling. Later he became able to traverse interstellar distances without stopping.[10]

Superhuman strength[edit]

Superman using one of his chief powers, his strength
Superman's heat vision power in use

Enhanced physical strength far above that of a human and even most super-humans, making him "more powerful than a locomotive," is one of Superman's signature powers and has often been described as chief among his other abilities. Depictions of the upper limit of how much weight he can lift have ranged from being able to do the work of several laborers in half the time, crush diamonds in his grasp, lift objects hundreds of times his own weight including any sized vehicle over his head, bend steel with his bare hands, lifting mountains, and all the way up to in the Silver Age and Modern Age where he is seen moving entire planets. This makes him one of the strongest beings in the DC Universe. After being saturated with yellow solar energy in All-Star Superman, his strength was tested, and demonstrated to be sufficient to support over 200 quintillion tons (or 2x1020 tons in scientific notation, i.e., two hundred billion billion tons); he held this much with one hand and he even said he feels like he can pick up more, enough to pull Earth away from the sun.[11] As of The New 52 reboot, his strength now exceeds 5.972 sextillion metric tons, and he managed to do it in the absence of a sun for five consecutive days with only a single drop of sweat, leaving Superman asking for more,[12] although this has been done before by the New Earth/Infinite Crisis Superman, when he moved the Earth away from the Sun against Starbreaker's force. On this occasion, he did have the assistance of the Green Lantern, however, it should be noted that Green Lantern only made a chain out of willpower and connected it to Earth, with Superman alone providing the actual pulling strength.[13] It should also be noted that Superman from the Post-Crisis era can lift even heavier items like Mageddon (a mechanism that dwarfs the Sun)[volume & issue needed][14] and the Book of Infinite Pages with the assistance of Shazam.[15] Explanations include being adapted to the heavier gravity of Krypton, and his muscles using the power of the solar energy which fuels all his abilities. While in direct yellow sunlight, his strength can be augmented to incalculable and limitless levels. He has strength necessary to shatter entire worlds.[16]

Superman's stamina has also been shown as limitless while he remains in yellow sunlight. He has also lifted the embodiment of Spectre known to harbor eternity (although eternity is a measurement of time, not mass, therefore it is debatable whether Superman really lifted infinite weight or not) with the aid of Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, albeit barely, as they only managed to lift his cape and then could no longer hold on, accidentally dropping Spectre,[volume & issue needed][17] and he held a black hole that could have destroyed a Solar System[18] with his bare hands without any outside help. He even attempted lifted the Book of Infinite Pages, his counterpart, Ultraman, who was of equal strength, effortlessly lifted the Book with his bare hands all alone soon after. [19] When powered with the Cosmic Armor, Superman was able to effortlessly lift up Limbo with his index finger, and his hand was already larger than Limbo itself,[20] which itself is most of the DC Multiverse, which surrounds the Speed Force, the Bleed and the 52 Earths, although it should be noted that Superman did this with the aid of the Cosmic Armor/Thought Robot Armor which worked with the consciousness of Ultraman and Superman combined. Unhealthy exposure to yellow or blue solar radiation can increase Superman's overall strength, and such effects may become permanent to the point where he may die of oversaturation (although this has happened only in All-Star Superman). However, despite his limitless strength under the radiation of a yellow or blue star, Superman has sometimes been overpowered and has even been beaten to death as his present strength is dependent on his intake of solar energy, although there are exceptions, even when he is fully powered. He has admitted multiple times that should he fight Doomsday without the advantage of the Phantom Zone, it would result in his permanent death.[volume & issue needed]

Kinetic energy explosion[edit]

In Action Comics (Vol. 2) #49, the New 52 version of Superman develops the ability to harness the kinetic energy his body generates and focus it into his punches. While doing this and upon contact with a target, he can release the energy in the form of a concentrated explosion, decimating his target and thereby making his strikes all the more potent.

Superhuman Speed[edit]

Another one of Superman's signature abilities is his superhuman speed, allowing him to move, react, run and fly faster than the human eye can perceive. It was originally—and famously—classified as being "faster than a speeding bullet," allowing him to catch bullets in mid-air before they hit him, or anyone else. His top speeds have ranged from nearly a hundred miles per hour when he was first created in the 1930s to those surpassing the speed of light. He has even been shown to surpass the concept of infinity altogether with his speed alone.[21] He has even escaped from the event horizon of a black hole with sheer speed alone despite the laws of science stating that it is impossible to escape from a black hole once an object of any kind reaches the event horizon, even going so far as to escape a double black hole with speed alone.,[22] He flies from the Sun to the Earth in seconds multiple times (once to punch Wonder Woman unconscious[23] and a second time to fly Darkseid straight from Apokolips back to Earth[24]). It is well accepted that The Flash, is able to be a bit faster than Superman on land. Superman has superspeed, and is capable at running faster than the speed of light however speedsters such as Barry Allen, & Wally West (both of whom were in the Justice League with Superman) use the Speed Force to move at high speeds. Superman isn't connected to the Speed Force, therefore in terms of sheer speed, The Flash is superior.

Superhuman intelligence[edit]

Superman is often shown to have a flawless, eidetic memory of everything he has ever seen, read, heard, or otherwise experienced. In most portrayals, Superman is capable of multilingualism, enabling him to learn, speak and understand any language he comes in contact with. Superman possesses intellect that surpasses genius-level. In Superman #5 (Summer 1940) he proclaimed that he had invented the cloth (immune to the most powerful forces) of which his uniform is made. People from Krypton already had genius-level intellect, being a society thousands of years ahead of Earth in technology. In the presence of a yellow sun, Superman's intelligence is further enhanced, literally to super-humanoid levels, giving him super intelligence and allowing his brain to operate faster than a supercomputer.[25] His intelligence has enabled him to create effective strategies and tactics when engaging enemies during situations from which his powers alone cannot save him.

Superhuman breath[edit]

The ability to inhale and exhale huge volumes of air with great force, capable of extinguishing large fires and moving heavy objects such as cars. Super-breath also allows Superman to hold his breath for extended periods in airless environments. In one 1970s-era Superman comic,[volume & issue needed] he saved a town from a tornado by inhaling the twister into his lungs. He then flew just above Earth's atmosphere, with his chest looking somewhat distended, and exhaled the tornado into space. In another 1970s comic,[volume & issue needed] Superman was inflicted with a condition whereby if he stepped in the ground or otherwise came in physical contact with the surface of the Earth, explosive energy orbs would begin to rise from the area immediately near him, endangering anyone nearby. When Superman realized he was causing the orbs to appear, he resolved always to remain in flight until he could find a solution to the problem. Since, however, as Clark Kent, he could not be seen flying, instead, Clark walked around constantly expelling a jet of air straight down from his nostrils to keep his body just millimeters from his walking surface. The release (exhalation) of highly compressed air through a valve (such as pursed lips) causes it to drop radically in temperature. This is known as the Joule–Thomson effect, and when Superman does this, it is usually referred to as Freeze Breath, Freezing Breath, Arctic Breath, or Ice Breath, and can cool almost anything to sub-zero temperatures and freeze air moisture solid, effectively creating ice.[26]

Superhuman senses[edit]

  • X-Ray Vision – The ability to see through solid objects, usually with the exception of lead. Early stories assumed that hiding objects in lead would prevent him from finding them; however, more modern stories have Superman being able to take advantage of lead's x-ray opacity to do a wide scan of an area with his X-Ray vision in which the lead objects become immediately visible and then narrow his search to those specific locations.[27] Explanations for how this power works vary, but rarely include the emission and perception of actual X-Rays, as such high-energy radiation would actually be dangerous to living things on which he uses it. Another theory involves being able to see and concentrate on the patterns of natural cosmic radiation as it reverberates off objects. X-Ray vision was first used by Superman in Action Comics #11 (April 1939), where it was called "Superman's X-ray eyesight."
  • Superhuman Hearing – He can hear far more sounds with far more detail and at far greater distances than normally humanly possible, including sounds on frequencies undetectable by humans such as dog whistles. Superman is able to mentally screen out most of these sounds to be able to function normally, even in a noisy environment, and can focus in on specific things, like a person's voice or heartbeat, even if they are in another part of the city. He can sometimes be shown to hear sounds on other planets, which makes it likely that his hearing is fundamentally different from that of a human, as sound cannot travel through the vacuum of space. Like humans and most animals, he is skilled at automatically noticing his own name out of the jumble of several overheard conversations, making him adept at quickly responding to calls of distress all over the city.
  • Superhuman Vision – His senses grant him the ability to see farther and with greater accuracy and detail than humanly possible. It sometimes includes the ability to see EM frequencies invisible to humans, such as radio transmissions, infrared light, and the bioelectric aura which surrounds all living things, even in pitch-black darkness. Offshoots of this power include Telescopic Vision, which allows him to "zoom in" on far-away objects, sometimes hundreds of miles away, and Microscopic Vision, which allows him to zoom in on objects that would normally be too small to see, like those on a cellular or molecular level.
  • Superhuman Olfaction – He possesses a heightened and highly accurate sense of smell comparable to some animals such as dogs, that can be used to detect things like the chemicals in a bomb hidden somewhere in a crowded room. Not all versions of Superman display this power.
  • Vocal Abilities — Superman has shown possession of various vocal abilities. Stories have shown him being capable of raising his voice to loudspeaker levels, for purposes such as delivering a message to a large crowd.[28] Early Golden Age stories showed Superman capable of mimicking the voice of others and throwing his voice through simple ventriloquism.[29] By the 1950s, the said ability had evolved into a stand-alone power called "super-ventriloquism," the ability of Superman to send his voice across vast distances, but only to a specific person or place.[30][31] Super-ventriloquism was used in both Silver Age and Bronze Age stories, but it was generally discarded in post-Crisis stories.
  • Energy Awareness - In Action #49 of The New 52, after intentionally absorbing large amounts of kryptonite in an attempt to destroy a damaged layer of skin cells blocking his body from absorbing yellow solar radiation, Superman developed this power. With it Superman is able to detect and comprehend the very flow, consistency, and application of waves, signals, and transmissions throughout the world. This gives him access to new forms of information, including perceiving radio-waves and other such communications.
  • Memory Manipulation In the Superman movie with Christopher Reeve Superman was able to remove Lois Lane's memories of his secret identity.

Known vulnerabilities, limitations, and weaknesses[edit]

Initially Superman was frequently depicted as being nigh undefeatable due to his incredible abilities. As time went on, writers introduced Superman to weaknesses capable of challenging his power:

  • Green kryptonite: Superman's most famous weakness, kryptonite, originated as radioactive fragments of the planet Krypton. Kryptonite was created by fusion during the explosion that destroyed the planet. Superman's cells store electromagnetic radiation from the rays of a yellow sun, and convert it into energy, manifesting as his super-powers. When Superman is exposed to the most common variety, green kryptonite (within roughly ten feet/three meters or less of any size or amount), its high-band radiation rapidly interferes with this cellular process, causing severe physical pain and the loss of his powers (or at least a portion of them). Prolonged exposure to green kryptonite may eventually lead to his death.[32] Kryptonite radiation can be blocked by the use of lead.[32]
  • Red Solar radiation: Natural in Krypton's planetary system, red solar radiation replaces the higher-yield yellow solar energy in Superman's cells, robbing him of the fuel for his powers. Pre-Crisis, red solar radiation was said to lack the superpower-enabling "ultra solar rays" that yellow solar radiation contains.[33] Post-Crisis, red solar radiation is described as being weaker in overall intensity than yellow solar radiation. This process does not have the painful, crippling and fever-like symptoms of kryptonite, and essentially leaves Superman with the normal health and abilities of a human of his age and fitness level, as it did for the entire population of Krypton during its existence. Exposure to yellow solar radiation causes his powers to return.
  • Magic: Superman's biomatrix is his most powerful asset, but the strength of this field is also its greatest weakness. Its permeability to certain wavelengths makes him vulnerable to certain radiations, particularly magical energies whose chaotic electromagnetic or extra dimensional signatures disrupt this force field. Superman's vulnerability to magic varies depending upon the special effects of the magic. No magic seems to be able to directly destroy him unless it comes from a semi-divine or divine source. He can be injured and worn down by magical entities. Magic can have powerful and unpredictable effects on Superman and his magical enemies have often proven to be the most dangerous.
  • Psionics: Another weakness is psychokinetic interaction; telekinesis, telepathy, possession, etc. An exceptionally powerful mentalist can manipulate the minds of even the strongest of Kryptonians or Daxamites due to their relatively weak defenses against psychic affliction. Like in the case of Maxwell Lord causing superman to hallucinate that Batman and Wonder Woman were dangerous enemies he needed to kill.[34] Or in a similar vein, Manchester Black gave Kal-El a stroke by pinching his capillaries shut with his mind.[35]
  • Lead: Although the element lead is the one substance that blocks kryptonite radiation (one of Superman's weaknesses), it is also the one substance through which Superman cannot see with his X-ray vision.
  • Solar Energy Exhaustion: If Superman is forced to engage in strenuous physical activity (such as with his battle with Doomsday) for a large amount of time or is forced to perform one very difficult task without continuous solar energy absorption, he will end up expending all of his stored solar energy and will continue to be weakened and be rendered vulnerable until he either dies or replenishes his solar "fuel".
  • Solar Energy Dependency: His abilities will eventually weaken without replenishing his energy reserves with normal (yellow) sun radiation, especially if he doesn't have any direct contact with yellow sunlight. He also cannot breathe in space without a Sun in his vicinity, although he can hold his breath for several hours if not days in the vacuum of outer space.
  • Sensory Overloading: Superman's superhearing has been overloaded several times before, even going so far as to make his eardrums bleed, when high-pitched sounds were used against him in combat.
  • Vibratory Attacks: Superman as are other with similar power sets are dangerously vulnerable to acoustic/ultrasonic attacks, in-spite of his invulnerability Kal-El, other Kryptonians or others who're invulnerable can have their brains scrambled by a potent enough hypersonic pulse blast, that it can split their skull like a watermelon. Said vibrations can, at the right frequency, disrupt their biophysical structure to the point where even their invulnerability will not protect them.[36][37]
  • Physical Trauma: All incarnations of Superman have fallen victim to extreme physical trauma. Like any other human, it is possible for Superman to die once enough damage has been inflicted on him by characters equal to or stronger than him. This has happened twice, when Doomsday killed Superman[38] and when Superboy-Prime killed Kal-L by rupturing his organs beyond saving and violently crushing his skull.[volume & issue needed][39] Cosmic Armor Superman also died after winning a lengthy battle against Mandrakk at the cost of being damaged beyond any chance of repair.[40] Another instance was when Wonder Woman gouged Superman's eyes and broke his right arm at the elbow, causing him much pain, although the latter quickly healed soon after.[41]
  • Robot Crabs: The Nintendo 64 incarnation of Superman proved quite ineffective against Brainiac's minions whose designs were inspired by crabs.[42]

During a New 52 storyline Superman fell victim to a complex plot by Vandal Savage that saw him being contaminated with a rare form of radiation that inhibited his body's ability to process solar radiation, gradually depriving him of his powers as he exhausted his solar energy reserves. He was eventually able to overcome this handicap by exposing himself to kryptonite as a form of chemotherapy,[43] but this killed him shortly afterwards, Superman surviving just long enough to stop Vandal Savage's plan, say goodbye to his allies and friends, and pass on his role as Superman to his 'predecessor' from the pre-"Flashpoint" universe, shortly before turning to ash upon death.[44]

By superhero ages[edit]

Golden Age Superman[edit]

Superman's original powers, as depicted in Action Comics #1

As presented in Action Comics #1 and the 1939 Superman newspaper comic strip, Superman's powers are inherent in all indigenous Kryptonians because of their advanced evolution. Thus, all Kryptonians were shown using the same powers that Superman would have on Earth.

Starting in mid 1939 newspaper daily strips, the notion of Krypton having a greater gravitational pull was introduced as a reason for Superman's great strength.[45] After this, most stories in the 1940s and 1950s would indicate that Superman (and other Kryptonians) would only gain superpowers when free of Krypton's heavy gravity (and in some stories, also its "unique atmosphere"[46]), or when not under Krypton-like environmental conditions.

Superman's original powers mainly consisted of super-strength, super-speed, super-senses, and invulnerability. As described in Action Comics #1 (June 1938): "When maturity was reached, he discovered he could easily: Leap 1/8th of a mile [200 meters]; hurdle a twenty-story building...raise tremendous faster than an express train... and that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his skin!"

Within the years afterwards, many of Superman's other superpowers were also introduced, including his visual powers (such as x-ray vision[47]) and super-hearing.[48] (Siegel and Shuster, in their initial development of the character, did equip Superman with telescopic vision and super hearing, at least in their earliest draft weeklies.[49]) Golden Age Superman's super-sensitive ears could pick up radio waves Superman #7 (Nov. Dec. 1940).

Writers of Superman experimented with new powers for the character. The abilities that proved popular became part of his regular repertoire, while others were discarded after a single use. One power introduced in Superman #5 (Summer 1940) was soon discarded, an ability for Superman to reshape his face muscles to change his appearance. Another power that appeared at least once was an ability to perform telepathic mind control, as seen in Superman (Vol. 1) #45 (March–April 1947).[50]

Superman's power levels also grew throughout the 1940s; by 1947, he is able to use his super-speed to break the time barrier for the first time.[51] By Superman (Vol. 1) #38 (January–February 1946), he is able to withstand the blast of an atomic bomb; Superman (Vol. 1) #43 (November–December 1946) shows Superman able to withstand the heat of the Earth's core.

Superman's vocal abilities were occasionally used in 1930s-1940s stories. In Superman (Vol. 1) #13 (November–December 1941), he used simple ventriloquism to distract a pair of criminals holding Lois Lane hostage. The ability to raise his voice to an extremely loud level was introduced in 1939 newspaper dailies, when he warned Tarryville residents of a dam burst, shouting from miles away.[52]

In 1950, Superman meets fellow Kryptonians for the first time, a trio of criminals exiled into space before Krypton exploded. The Kryptonian criminals (named Kizo, U-Ban, and Mala) mention Kryptonians having had x-ray vision, super-strength, and super-speed on Krypton, but not other powers, including flight.[53]

During the 2005–2006 "Infinite Crisis" storyline, the Golden Age Superman, now known as Kal-L, managed to pummel through entire dimensions of universal proportions with ease in order to free himself. His fight with both Superman from the Post-Crisis continuity and Superboy-Prime also threatened to not only destroy the space-time continuum, but the entirety of the DC Multiverse.[volume & issue needed]

Silver/Bronze Age Superman[edit]

Superman's powers were subject to expansion and revision during the 1940s and 1950s. Shortly after Supergirl's introduction, the origin of Kryptonians' super-powers was revised. With Action Comics #262 (March 1960) (and expanded upon in Superman (Vol. 1) #146 in July 1961, Superboy (Vol. 1) #113 in June 1964, and in subsequent comics), it is explained that Superman's powers are derived primarily from the "ultra solar rays" of a yellow sun (like Earth's) that penetrate Earth day and night. Under a red sun (like Krypton's, or the artificial red sun in the bottle city of Kandor[54]), Kryptonians lack superpowers, regardless of the difference in gravity. The powers and limitations of Superman are instantly possessed by all Kryptonians (including animals, such as Krypto) exposed to a yellow sun.

Superman's late Golden Age powers were expanded upon during the late 1950s and 1960s, where they reached their peak. Some stories would show Superman as capable of moving a planet.[55] Said increased power levels were also retroactively assigned to his younger self, Superboy; one story showed the Boy of Steel towing a dozen worlds tied together on a chain.[56]

Stories also show Superman capable of traveling across interstellar space under his own power. In one story (in an attempt to rescue an unconscious Supergirl from being hurled out of the universe at a tremendous speed), Superman traveled faster than he'd ever moved before, managing to break through multiple dimensions and barriers before being stopped by the Spectre, who stated Superman was passing "toward realms no mortal eye may be permitted to behold." Superman had also surpassed the concept of infinity in the process, being shocked over what he had done.[57] Beginning with Superman (Vol. 1) #199 (August 1967), an occasional series of races between Superman and the Flash also were published, with Superman's super-speed shown to be at or slightly below that of the Flash's.[58]

Like his late Golden Age self, Superman retains the ability to break the time barrier through the use of his super-speed, as shown in various stories, including one of the Superman-Flash races.[59] However, this ability also comes with limitations. Superman is unable to change the past through the use of time travel.[3][60] Additionally, if Superman or another Kryptonian travels to a point in the past or future during which they're alive, the time-traveller becomes an invisible phantom, undetectable to anyone and unable to interact with their surroundings.[61] Superman's ability to time-travel allowed him to become a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes while he was Superboy.

Superman's vulnerability to kryptonite (introduced in comics in 1949) is also retained, along with greater emphasis on the newer weaknesses of exposure to a red sun and to magic, such as the fifth dimensional magical abilities of Mr. Mxyzptlk.[62] Also, unlike later Supermen, the Pre-Crisis incarnation of Superman does not have limitless stamina, even under a yellow sun, at least, until he gains access to Excalibur.

Superman's overall strength is increased to immeasurable levels, as seen when he sneezed away an entire Solar System in a distant galaxy by accident, forcing him to evacuate to another distant galaxy whose Solar System and all signs of life had vanished eons ago due to a horrendous plague. Superman was also capable of effortlessly pulling Jupiter-sized planets weighing at sextillions of tons with just a chain connecting them, pulling them from a dying galaxy to a new one in order to save the inhabitants of said planets. After this, he merged with the Sword of Superman, which tied him to the entire Universe he was in.

Superman also possesses super genius-level intelligence and an eidetic memory. Average people from Krypton already had genius-level intelligence, being a society thousands of years ahead of Earth in technology. They learned calculus as children, and possessed the ability to read by age one.[25] These enhanced mental capabilities are a direct result of his exposure to a yellow sun. Superman also possesses the mental ability to screen out the enormous amount of information received by his enhanced senses and to focus on a single detail such as a particular voice or location.[63] Some occasionally used powers, such as super-ventriloquism (the ability of Superman to throw his voice across great distances)[31] or super-hypnosis (an enhanced ability to hypnotize others)[64] also were seen in Silver and Bronze Age stories.

In the early 1970s, Superman's power levels (particularly his strength and invulnerability) are reduced as the result of a storyline involving an accident that renders most of Earth's kryptonite inert, as well as creating a sand creature that drains 35% of Superman's powers.[65] This leaves Superman lamenting about the fact that he was reduced to the point where he could not even push around an entire continent.

However, In Superman Annual Vol. 1 #10, he gains access to the Excalibur, a sword made in the aftermath of the Big Bang, granting him limitless power, making him one with the universe and nearly making him omnipotent, until he decides to discard it, regaining his original strength.

Modern Age[edit]

When the Superman character was revised by John Byrne shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was decided to place restrictions on his abilities. This was designed to make it easier for writers to come up with suitable challenges for the hero, and to eliminate or reduce those powers that had become too sensational or unbelievable for modern audiences. Emphasis was placed on yellow sun energy as a source for the character's powers. Superman's origin story was altered so that his powers developed gradually as his body absorbed yellow sunlight, and stories such as the "Final Night" miniseries depicted the character gradually losing his powers when deprived of the sun's energy. When Superman's reserves of solar energy were depleted, as in Infinite Crisis or the Death of Superman story arcs, he required an extended period of time under a yellow sun, or some type of artificial solar enhancement in order to recharge.[citation needed]

Superman's strength was reduced to the point where he could still move tremendous amounts, but the character no longer had the ability to move planets. His speed was also reduced so that he could not exceed the speed of light. While still capable of surviving a nuclear explosion, such events would severely weaken him. Superman's sight, stamina and breath powers were also similarly reduced, and the character was also shown as requiring an oxygen mask for prolonged travel in space or underwater. Unlike previous incarnations, Superman's facial hair grows at a normal rate, which requires regular grooming by firing his heat vision off a reflective surface onto his own face to burn it off.[66]

In other media[edit]


Adventures of Superman[edit]

On the TV series The Adventures of Superman, in addition to his conventional powers, Superman also demonstrated some one-time-only powers; in the sixth season's "The Mysterious Cube", Superman learns how to walk through solid matter. The source of Superman's powers was stated to be his dense molecular structure, a trait that was occasionally mentioned in the comics.

The episode "Through the Time Barrier" showed that, unlike the contemporary Silver Age comic book version, Superman was unable to travel through time under his own power.

In the episode, "The Last Knight", Superman is shown to have the power of voice mimicry.


In the television series Superboy (later re-titled The Adventures of Superboy) young Clark Kent (alias Superboy) is shown to have similar power levels to his feature film counterparts, though he does not display any of the special powers Superman had in the films. In the season two episode "Lex Luthor...Sentenced to Death", Superboy has been crippled by a powerful weapon of Luthor's and has to go through an extensive rehabilitation program to regain his powers, though no reference is made to the ability of the Sun to facilitate this. Superboy regularly uses his cape to protect people from gunfire and other peril.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman[edit]

In the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Superman's powers are consistent with the immediate post-Crisis comics. In "The Green, Green Glow of Home", kryptonite and other "superweapons" take a more drastic toll on him than in other series, sometimes leaving Clark powerless for several hours after contact. He also exhibits rapid healing, shown by a wound from a kryptonite bullet closing within seconds of its removal in "Madame Ex", and an ability to distinguish patterns, such as reading several different letters just from looking on a wooden table on which they are written.[67] With the introduction of other Kryptonians it is revealed that they can all communicate through telepathy.[68]

Supergirl TV series[edit]

Superman is mentioned often in the Supergirl series, in which it often indicated that his greater age and experience make him considerably more powerful than her. For example, a powerful non-nuclear bomb hurls Supergirl is into the ocean, whereas it is stated that such a fall would not have injured Superman.[episode needed] When Supergirl temporarily loses her powers through overuse of her heat vision, James Olsen mentions that Superman calls it "Solar Flare" and usually recovers in 48 hours. Kryptonians are shown to be vulnerable to kryptonite radiation, with low levels capable of neutralizing their powers without harm. Heat vision manifests itself in the form of bluish white beams, unlike the commonly seen red. Superman remarks that Kryptonians age more slowly on Earth when it is remarked there is no visible age difference between him and Kara.[episode needed]


Superman film serial[edit]

In Atom Man vs. Superman, the second live-action film serial featuring Kirk Alyn, Superman has the ability to shout loud enough to be heard across great distances.

Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh films[edit]

In Superman and Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Superman's speed was shown as fast enough to reverse the timestream. In Superman II and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, he possesses the ability to erase Lois Lane's (Margot Kidder) memory of the knowledge that he is Clark Kent by passionately kissing her. The kiss put her in a trance-like state and when she awakens, she remembers nothing but is temporarily disoriented. In Superman III, he is able to create a diamond from coal using super strength and raising his heat temperature with a glowing yellow flash from his hand. In Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, he demonstrates the ability to repair damaged structures with a telekinetic beam from his eyes, and to levitate several falling people; he also shows a greater extension of his superhuman strength to draw the moon out of orbit and then return it to normal.

In Superman Returns, Superman is shown to possess enough invulnerability to stare unblinkingly as a gun is fired point blank at his eye and receive no damage at all. Kryptonite only visibly exhausts him and makes him more physically vulnerable. By flying above the clouds and into the rays of the sun, he gains enough amplified strength to lift the sub-continent created by Lex Luthor from a Kryptonian crystal, which is poisoned with kryptonite, and hurl it into space. Superman does this despite the kryptonite shard on which his body is impaled, though this severely weakens him and he falls back down to Earth in a coma.

DC Extended Universe films[edit]

Man of Steel[edit]

In Man of Steel, Superman's powers are explained to be the result of Krypton's atmosphere and gravity being much more severe than Earth's, resulting in Kryptonians being naturally much stronger than humans while on a planet like Earth. It is also explained that Kryptonians can absorb the radiation of stars like the Sun, but are unable to absorb the radiation of their planet's star due to its advanced age and differing nature. Throughout his youth, this version of Clark Kent learns to control his super-senses and heat vision, which cause him trouble in his childhood. The adult version of this Superman displays enormous strength, durability and speed but his he has to put effort into lifting oil rigs. Superman is also able to utilize telescopic vision to see the Kryptonian warship hovering over Earth while in Smallville.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice[edit]

In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, samples of kryptonite are salvaged from Zod's ship. These are later acquired by Lex Luthor and subsequently stolen by Batman, who uses the rock to forge a kryptonite spear and a small collection of kryptonite gas grenades. Exposure to the gas reduces Superman's powers to a level that allows Batman to engage him in battle with his armored Batsuit, although it only weakens Superman for a minute or so. When Luthor uses technology salvaged from Zod's warship to create Doomsday, a Kryptonian monster from Zod's corpse and his own DNA, the resulting creation possessing the ability to drain energy from its environment, including solar energy, and rapidly mutates, although it is still vulnerable to the kryptonite spear.


Fleischer Superman cartoons[edit]

Superman's powers depicted in the classic Fleischer cartoons were very much like they were at the time he first appeared in 1938: strong enough to lift heavy objects, leap an eighth of a mile, and run faster than an express train – with the addition of two new powers that were introduced around the time the cartoons were made: flight and x-ray vision. X-Ray vision was first used by Superman in Action Comics #11, April 1939, where it was called "Superman's X-ray eyesight." Some of the limitations that were shown in the cartoons were that an increase in the energy of an energy cannon would push Superman back to the ground, ramming into a meteor or comet would briefly render him unconscious, and tear gas would briefly incapacitate him.

DC Animated Universe[edit]

In the animated series Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and its sequel Justice League Unlimited, Superman possesses the powers of super strength, speed, flight, x-ray vision, heat vision, wind and freeze breath, super hearing and sight, and incredible resistance to harm, though he seldom uses his heat vision or breath. Superman's strength is shown to be able to completely overwhelm Darkseid, forcing the Darkseid resort with directed energy.[episode needed] In "Speed Demons", it is shown that Superman's speed is roughly on par with the Flash, with the latter's reflexes being greater. The episode "The Late Mr. Kent" reveals that Superman does not need to eat, though he does out of habit. In the episode "Knight Time", he is shown to have microscopic vision as well as the ability of voice mimicry (not related to his Kryptonian powers, but a practiced skill) as he successfully mimics Batman and Robin's (Tim Drake) voices while posing as the Dark Knight.

Superman derives his power from the yellow Sun of Earth. Forced under a red sun akin to that of his homeworld, or exposed to red sun radiation, Superman rapidly loses his powers, reverting to the stature equal to a normal human.[69][70][71] This version of Superman also needs to breathe, as he takes a deep breath in "Apokalips Now... Part 2" before plunging into the ocean, and has a special suit for when he needs to operate in outer space.[episode needed]

Because of the risk that he might inadvertently kill someone, he is fearful of utilizing the full extent of his strength and powers,[72] a quandary he describes as "living in a world of cardboard". Darkseid, as a formidable and lethal villain (and literal alien god), forces Superman to "cut loose", fighting Darkseid at full strength, without pulling his punches or limiting himself. At full power, even after Darkseid's power greatly increased from merging with the essence of Brainiac, Superman was shown to be either on even terms with Darkseid, or better.[73] Superman can be subdued by prolonged exposure to Darkseid's Omega Beam.[episode needed]

In the Batman Beyond episode "The Call", which is set fifty years in the future, Superman is shown to have aged far slower than the average human, showing only few wrinkles and grey hairs, as opposed to the older Bruce Wayne's late eighties. This prompts Bruce to mention that he "could use some of that Kryptonian DNA." Superman retains all of his previously shown powers at the same level, despite his age, and is said to be still active fifteen years later in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue".

DC Universe Animated Original Movies[edit]

In the film All-Star Superman, Superman creates a "super serum" granting Lois Lane Superman's superpowers for 24 hours, as a surprise birthday gift. Among the abilities granted to her are enhanced senses that allow her hear the "beautiful symphony of stars" and witness unknown colors beyond the visible spectrum. After Lex Luthor steals the serum and consumes it, he temporarily sees the world as Superman sees it, and gains a measure of understanding of the subatomic and how it interconnects with the macroscopic world, which he believes may enable him to solve the grand unification theory, but the powers fade before he can do this.


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