Sometimes my brain goes on odd tangents.

Pre-Crisis, was there ever a discussion about how being shot with a bullet felt to a Kryptonian? We all know that they could easily shrug off the projectiles, but did they actually feel them at all? Did one describe the sensation?

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That's where his super-intelligence comes in as it allows to precisely know how much pressure he's exerting and not crush the entire world like it was made of eggshells and paper mache! And people as water balloons!

Still not sure how Ma & Pa Kent lived for as long as they did!

How much would he weigh? Have to be quite a bit or cars would just run over him.

His terrible twos must have been really terrible.

My personal theory is that Jor-El had "pre-programmed" Baby Kal aboard the rocket NOT to crush every living thing he saw into paste!

Richard Willis said:

His terrible twos must have been really terrible.

Logically, no amount of super-intelligence could keep someone strong enough to move a planet from utterly demolishing anything he grasped.  No-one could maintain that kind of control on such a magnitude of strength.  So I've always had my own theory on how Superman's super-strength worked.

Take your index finger and press the tip down on your desk with as little pressure as possible.  For sake of illustration, let's give the amount of strength you're applying at that point the value of 1 finger-strength (FS).

Now push down with your finger just a little harder.  We'll call that 2 FS.  Slowly increase the amount of strength you use to push down on the desk surface; meanwhile, the value rises . . . 3 FS, 4 FS, 5 FS, and so on.  When you get to the point where pushing your finger down on the desktop starts to hurt a little, let's say that is 25 FS.  When you go to 26 FS, it's going to hurt somewhat more, but you won't have done any damage to the desk.

Now, let's say Superman pushes his index finger on the desktop.  From 1 FS to 25 FS, his strength is just like yours, that of a normal man in regular physical condition (except that it won't hurt, because he's invulnerable).  But when he moves up to 26 FS---bam!---his super-strength kicks in at that point, and the desk is shattered.

In other words, Superman's strength is normal until he applies enough pressure to "activate" his super-strength.  As long as he remains under 26 FS (or whatever value of measurement one wants to use; I imagine the engineers out there could tell me the real unit of measurement), then handling stuff for the Man of Steel is just like it is for you or me.

That's the only way it would work.  Otherwise, it would be like living in a world made up of eggshells for our boy from Krypton.

Interesting theory, Commander. I think it's obvious that however Superman's "super-strength" operates, it's more than simply a "magnfied" version of however normal strength operates.

In the Silver Age, he would sometimes pick things up with his super-strength -- I'm thinking several scenes of him saving ships of various makes -- that wouldn't have the structural strength to deal with being moved like that. That is to say, if Superman picks up a battleship, it would break apart. Whatever part he wasn't personally lifting would be broken off by gravity. It's not a matter of super-strength, but of structural integrity of the object lifted, which isn't super at all.

The Li'l Capn knew instinctively that something was wrong with those scenes, but accepted them because he was young and it's what he wanted to see. There's really no need for an explanation beyond that -- the creators were giving their audience what they wanted.

But if we want an in-story explanation, it's a head scratcher. John Byrne's explanation (which he didn't actually use when he did Superman) was that all of Superman's powers were essentially telekinesis. He wasn't lifting the ship with his hands, he was lifting it with his mind. His TK was keeping the ship from coming apart. 

OTOH, something might be going that the artist isn't depicting. For example, Superman might be able to lift a battleship by zipping up and down its keel at super-speed, essentially lifting it from all points at once. But the artist just showed him lifting it in the middle. That's one explanation.

The Commander's clever explanation doesn't help much with that, but it is useful in explaining the original question of this post. If Superman's invulnerability could be dialed up or down (probably instinctively), that would explain how a nuclear bomb wouldn't even budge him, but he can still feel a kiss. (I'm assuming his invulnerability is also connected to his mass -- the bomb's force wouldn't move him because he'd become too dense to move. Even his hair doesn't move!)

So Superman might not feel bullets at all, or they might tickle -- depending on how much he dialed the invulnerability up or down.

Captain Comics said:

It was established in some '70s or (pre-Crisis) '80s story that Superman always had to be in flight a little bit to prevent his weight from crushing sidewalks and such. I could buy that ...

But then there was one story when he couldn't fly for some reason so he kept himself slightly aloft by constantly exhaling from his nostrils at the floor. I mean, he's Superman, but he does have to inhale occasionally to continuously exhale, doesn't he? 

I'm probably misremembering that story, but I do recall rolling my eyes.

You may be misremembering two stories, my friend.  I don't recall any pre-Crisis Superman tale insisting that the Man of Steel had to be in flight, even slightly, at all times to prevent his weight from crushing the surface beneath him.  It's possible there was such a story, after all, I'm old and don't remember so good, anymore.  But the only pre-Crisis story I remember that addressed Superman's super-mass in any fashion was "Superman Vs. Superstar", from Action Comics # 414 (Jul., 1972).

This was the tale that introduced DC's George Reeves homage, Gregory Reed, to the Superman mythos. In the climax of the adventure, Reed, resentful over being disfigured in a fire that occurred on the set while he was portraying Superman, has used a magical spell to exchange bodies with the real Man of Steel. This occurs at Reed's cliffside home.  As Reed-in-Superman's-body vents at Superman-in-Reed's-body . . .

Suddenly, the floor trembles beneath their feet . . . mahogany walls creak loudly in defiance as the entire room sways and falters . . . .

"Good god!  What's happening to my house?" exclaims Reed.

"Reed---you don't know how to control the super-mass of my Kryptonian body!" Superman explains. "You've made yourself tremendously heavy without realizing it!"

Things work out in the end, with both men back in their proper bodies.  Not so good for Reed's house, though.  It's winds up as rubble.

Outside of that one mention by Superman of controlling his super-mass, nothing else is said about it in the story.  The implication is pretty clear, though:  Superman's Kryptonian body is far denser than that of normal folk, but he can consciously control his mass to keep from leaving huge craters in the roadway every time he takes to the air.  By extrapolation, that's also how a car can smash against his invulnerable body without him moving an inch.

I remembered the exhaling-through-his-nostrils bit quite well---it was quite a visual supplied by Swan and Anderson---but it took some time to find the issue in which it appeared.  That was "The Most Dangerous Man on Earth", from Action Comics # 419 (Dec., 1972).  In that story, yes, Superman had to stay off the ground, but not because he couldn't fly or any sort of resultant effects on his super-mass.

Cutting to the chase, cosmic dust attaches to the lens of a space telescope launched by N.A.S.A. Sunlight filtered through this contaminated lens saturates the Earth with a mysterious energy which causes explosive bubbles to appear whenever Superman (whose body is immune to the radiation) touches the ground.  (The story itself proceeds as a mystery:  why is this happening?)

In order to appear as Clark Kent, the Man of Steel resorts to the constant exhale of his super-breath through his nostrils that you mentioned . . . .

"Hope Lois doesn't realize that I'm a fraction of an inch taller---because of the super-compressed air I'm constantly exhaling to keep my feet slightly off the ground!"

Of course, that technique also implies that Superman can control his super-mass, but the need to resort to such a bizarre stunt struck me as odd.  From my reckoning, he should have been able to stay a fraction of an inch above the ground with his own power of flight.  Furthermore, writer Cary Bates must have agreed with me because, two pages later, we see Clark in his living room, floating a couple of inches above his easy chair.

So we were probably rolling our eyes at the same time those many decades ago, Cap.

Ha! That's the one! Thanks, Commander -- I'd never have found it on my own.

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