Was there ever a plausible explanation for Superman's vision powers

Over the years as Superman's mythos has expanded, we've been given relatively plausible explanations for his superhuman abilities(I'm not going to say it makes scientific sense for a difference in solar radiation to enhance his physical abilities but I'm willing to accept that explanation). However, he has a handful of abilities, mostly related to his vision powers, that don't make quite as much sense.

As his senses are all enhanced over a normal human's, I'm willing to accept (to a certain degree) his telescopic and microscopic vision powers. But what's the explanation for him being able to look through solid, opaque objects or fire laser beams ftom his eyes? Even with enhanced senses that stretches the credibility of what he should be able to do.

Yes, I'm well aware I'm talking about a fictional character that's had stories written about him by hundreds of different people olin the past, many of whom did not have a Mort Weisinger looming over their shoulders to make silure the continuity lined up. Still, this is just something I'm curious about. 

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I remember that text piece very vividly. Though not the idea Superman has "radar vision" rather than just infra-red vision.

Commander Benson said:


Don Mankowski said:

Superman Giant Annual # 2, p52

Thank you, sir!   

And it's the same text piece that was reprinted in 80-Page Giant Annual [Superman] # 11 (Jun., 1965).  So that establishes that Mort Weisinger intended to separate heat vision from X-ray vision at least as early as November, 1960.  (Superman Giant Annual # 2 went on sale on 10 November 1960.)

I've come across a few on-line articles that have dealt with the subject of when "heat of his X-ray vision" became "heat vision", but none of them, nor my own, has ever uncovered this bit of knowledge, that the two vision powers were separated within the mythos months before it happened in the stories themselves.

Much obliged, Mr. Mankowski.

So, he can see through (almost) anything, however distant, however microscopic, memorize entire books at a glance AND recall the facts ... and burn or melt (almost) anything as well.

I'm amused that the entire deal is to make the kids say "WOW!"  That's it!

Now, if I'm the writer, trying to create challenge and mystery for Superman, I'm not so happy! We'd need a new super-villain with counter powers. Or hostages. Or (sigh!) lead. If we slip up, some little snot will take us to task on the "letters" page.

I wonder, can Superman see what's directly behind him?  I mean, how would he do that?  Bend his vision rays backward? Maybe another application for "radar vision"? Roll his eyes backwards in his head? (Nahh, he surely can't x-ray see through his own invulnerable skull, now can he?) I guess he could always cast his telescopic vision clear around the world to view his own back. Or just turn around at super speed so fast that no one notices.

Can he snoop on a distant planet when his side of the Earth is facing the other way, or does he have to fly to the opposite hemisphere to do that?  I guess he can just look through the entire Earth to accomplish this.

In "Deadly Dreams of Doctor Destiny" The Atom's temporary telescopic vision enables him to yes, see around the world to right behind him. But that was based on a dream coming to life so I doubt it applies to Superman (but if he's done it, someone here will know).

2)As a writer, seeing the things writers do to challenge the Man of Might is interesting. For example the story (I forget the title) where Luthor traps him into carrying around a giant ball filled with poison gas, having eliminated the usual methods of destroying it. So Superman has to find a new way while contriving to thwart crime with the big ball on his hand.

Don Mankowski said:

So, he can see through (almost) anything, however distant, however microscopic, memorize entire books at a glance AND recall the facts ... and burn or melt (almost) anything as well.

I'm amused that the entire deal is to make the kids say "WOW!"  That's it!

Now, if I'm the writer, trying to create challenge and mystery for Superman, I'm not so happy! We'd need a new super-villain with counter powers. Or hostages. Or (sigh!) lead. If we slip up, some little snot will take us to task on the "letters" page.

I wonder, can Superman see what's directly behind him?  I mean, how would he do that?  Bend his vision rays backward? Maybe another application for "radar vision"? Roll his eyes backwards in his head? (Nahh, he surely can't x-ray see through his own invulnerable skull, now can he?) I guess he could always cast his telescopic vision clear around the world to view his own back. Or just turn around at super speed so fast that no one notices.

Can he snoop on a distant planet when his side of the Earth is facing the other way, or does he have to fly to the opposite hemisphere to do that?  I guess he can just look through the entire Earth to accomplish this.

Don Mankowski said:

I'm amused that the entire deal is to make the kids say "WOW!" That's it!

As a kid, I was amazed when Superboy put his pants on two legs at a time. That panel is burned into my memory.

Now, if I'm the writer, trying to create challenge and mystery for Superman, I'm not so happy! We'd need a new super-villain with counter powers. Or hostages. Or (sigh!) lead. If we slip up, some little snot will take us to task on the "letters" page.

……lead and kryptonite and magic!

I wonder, can Superman see what's directly behind him? I mean, how would he do that? Bend his vision rays backward? Maybe another application for "radar vision"? Roll his eyes backwards in his head? (Nahh, he surely can't x-ray see through his own invulnerable skull, now can he?) I guess he could always cast his telescopic vision clear around the world to view his own back. Or just turn around at super speed so fast that no one notices.

So, if Superman can see beyond the horizon, even to the other side of the world, does that mean that his vision is subject to gravity??? Otherwise, it should continue pretty much in a straight line like radio waves.

I think that super-heroes are, in essence, fantasy characters, with a thin veneer of "science" slathered on.  Superman is a demi-god, Green Lantern has a magic ring, Iron Man is a knight with magical armor, Bruce Banner is a werewolf who turns green instead of furry -  and that's not counting the actual fantasy characters like Thor or Wonder Woman.  They weren't created to be scientifically accurate, so attempts to make them scientifically accurate are generally flawed.  

In the end, Superman has werid, inexplicable vision [powers because that's the sort of thing that demigods have.

That's why I care more about the aesthetics of "how do their powers work?" than any attempt at scientific logic. Cyclops being a human ultra-violet battery works much better for me than the OHOTMU's "his eyes are gateways into a dimension of energy" which just feels clunky. And really isn't any more plausible.

The Baron said:

I think that super-heroes are, in essence, fantasy characters, with a thin veneer of "science" slathered on.  Superman is a demi-god, Green Lantern has a magic ring, Iron Man is a knight with magical armor, Bruce Banner is a werewolf who turns green instead of furry -  and that's not counting the actual fantasy characters like Thor or Wonder Woman.  They weren't created to be scientifically accurate, so attempts to make them scientifically accurate are generally flawed.  

In the end, Superman has werid, inexplicable vision [powers because that's the sort of thing that demigods have.

In fantasy, the attempts to explain the inexplicable often make little to no sense.

I really like the movie, Us, but the attempt to introduce a rational explanation for the duplicates is (1) dumb and (2) activates our rational mind in a horror movie that works so well because it plays on our fears which are often primitive and (in some sense) outside of reason.

In fantasy, magic can be used to used to  explain anything, because magic has no rules or logic to it.  To my mind, that's its strength and its weakness as a fictional device.

Strongly disagree. Lots of fantasy has rules for magic, sometimes elaborate, sometimes simple.

And of course in comics it's not like science is any different. Throw in technobabble about quantum physics or nanotech ("I turned this man into a newt by rewiring his molecular structure with nannites!")  and presto!


The Baron said:

In fantasy, magic can be used to used to  explain anything, because magic has no rules or logic to it.  To my mind, that's its strength and its weakness as a fictional device.

I keep thinking of Joe Quesada's explanation for how Spider-Man's deal with Mephisto inexplicably brought Harry Osborn back to life: "It's magic!"

Uh, uh. Try again.

As to your first point, sure, many fantasy works have rules - all arbirtary rules made up for the sake of a given story. You can look at the "science"  of a given story and say, "Based on current knowledge, that's correct science or that's incorrect science."  You can't  look at a fantasy story and say, "That's incorrect magic", because magic  has no rules except what a given author decides to set up  for it.  

As to your second point, that's correct.  It's why I say most super-heroes are fantasy figures with a thin veneer of "science".

Fraser Sherman said:

Strongly disagree. Lots of fantasy has rules for magic, sometimes elaborate, sometimes simple.

And of course in comics it's not like science is any different. Throw in technobabble about quantum physics or nanotech ("I turned this man into a newt by rewiring his molecular structure with nannites!")  and presto!


The Baron said:

In fantasy, magic can be used to used to  explain anything, because magic has no rules or logic to it.  To my mind, that's its strength and its weakness as a fictional device.

"A wizard did it!"


Jeff of Earth-J said:

I keep thinking of Joe Quesada's explanation for how Spider-Man's deal with Mephisto inexplicably brought Harry Osborn back to life: "It's magic!"

Uh, uh. Try again.

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