Many of us know the basics after having seen at least one cartoon, movie or TV show based on Superman comic books. When the planet Krypton was about to blow up due to a chain reaction at its core, scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara sent their baby Kal-El (whose name meant “star-child”) into a rocket aimed for Earth. There, he was raised on a farm in Kansas by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who named him Clark. He later became a journalist at The Daily Planet and led a double-life as the world-famous superhero called Superman.
Just about everyone has heard this story (and if you haven’t, seriously, where have you been?). And everyone knows Lois Lane is his love and Lex Luthor is his enemy. Most people know Kryptonite is bad, that Superman has a clubhouse in the Arctic Circle called the “Fortress of Solitude.” But as DC Comics gets set to celebrate 700 issues of the Superman comic book this week, here are some things you may not have known about the Last Son of Krypton.
1. It’s not just about the glasses.
Clark's disguise isn't as simple as slicked back hair and glasses. The lenses of his glasses are slightly tinted, changing the shade of his eyes. Thanks to incredible control over his muscles and vocal cords, Superman actually gives himself a different voice when he’s Clark Kent. Looser clothing and slouching over gives a different impression of his body. And thanks to studying some acting techniques, he completes the disguise by employing very different body language as Clark. There’s also the advantage of our next fact ...
2. Clark Kent and Superman HAVE been seen together.
The DC Universe has heroes with various abilities. On occasion, friends of Superman who have the ability to shape-shift have masqueraded as Clark Kent, allowing the famous reporter and the Man of Steel to be seen and photographed together at the same time. To the general public, they are friends who simply bear a great resemblance to each other.
3. The “S” isn’t just for Superman.
The famous S-shield is not just Superman's family crest. First hinted at in the 1978 feature film, in the comic book story “Superman: Birthright” and the series “52”, we learned that it's also a Kryptonian symbol that means “hope.” Interestingly, drawing the S-shield upside down changes the meaning to “resurrection.”
4. Even superheroes need safeguards.
Clark actually wasn’t thinking about secret identities when he started wearing glasses as a freshman in high school. Around this time, Clark’s full powers were finally emerging and he had a tough time learning how to control them. Martha Kent had noticed that his heat-vision didn’t burn through the rocket that had brought him to Earth, so she took glass pieces from its window and put them into frames. Now if Clark’s heat-vision ever sparked up accidentally when he got excited, the glasses would block it and no one else would be the wiser.
5. It wasn’t always the “American way.”
Originally, Superman’s catchphrases called him the “champion of the oppressed” and said he was dedicated to “truth and justice.” Folks didn’t say he also fought for “the American Way” until the 1940s during radio broadcasts of that era, and the phrase became an iconic part of Superman lore when the TV series starring George Reeves began airing in the 50s.
6. Superman’s a time traveler.
As a kid in high school, Clark was visited by the Legion of Super-Heroes, super-powered teens from the 30th century who had been inspired by his legend. Seeing he was desperate for a chance to hang out with kids who were more like him, the Legion regularly brought Clark into the far future to join them in adventures. Whenever Clark returned home, part of his memories were clouded so he couldn’t alter his own future. These trips with the LSH helped Superman learn to become a hero and are part of the reason he maintains an optimistic view of the human race. He believes we’re worth it because he’s seen what we achieve 1,000 years from now.
7. He wasn’t always able to fly.
When Superman first appeared in 1938, the comic said that he was incredibly strong, could withstand anything less than a bursting shell from a tank, and was able to leap 1/8th of a mile. And that was it! His ability to fly first showed up in the radio series and his original cartoons. In the comics, he officially gained the ability to fly in 1941, nearly two years after his first story. In the years since his creation, he's been given new abilities and had some later taken away. Nowadays, his arsenal includes heat-vision, incredible strength/stamina, enhanced senses, X-Ray vision, arctic breath, super-speed, increased healing, near-complete body/muscle control, and a skin-tight force-field that makes him invulnerable to most forms of harm.
8. He didn’t always date Lois Lane.
Reporter Lois Lane is his wife, but she wasn’t the first one to capture Superman' attention and heart. In high school, Clark had deep feelings for his best friend Lana Lang, who was also the first person outside of his foster parents to learn about his strange powers. As a teen, Clark also had a crush on Saturn Girl, a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. In college, he seriously dated a girl named Lori Lemaris, who turned out to be a mermaid from Atlantis. During a time travel adventure to Krypton’s past, Superman became involved with Lyla Lerrol, a famous Kryptonian actress. And for a while, Superman had a crush on Wonder Woman (hey, who wouldn’t?).
9. Batman owns Superman.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you’d be surprised how much Bruce Wayne is a part of Clark’s life. Bruce owns the building that Clark and Lois live in and, in fact, gave them their apartment as a wedding gift. And some years ago when it needed a new financial backer, Wayne Enterprises bought the Daily Planet newspaper, where Lois and Clark both work.
10. Kryptonite isn’t his only weakness.
Superman has faced many alien and superhuman enemies whose strength rival his own and whom have been able to injure him. Since he draws his power from our yellow sun, standing in the light of a red sun (such as the one Krypton orbited) immediately robs Superman of his powers, leaving him vulnerable to fists and bullets like anyone else. Clark also lives in a world where magic is real and simply being an alien offers no special protection against most sorcery. In fact, the chaotic energies of magic disrupt his force-field, meaning demons, vampires and werewolves can draw blood if Superman lets them get close enough.
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