Superman's New Power Makes Him A Little Less Super, A Lot More Human

Superman's New Power Makes Him a Little Less Super, a Lot More Human

It's been a problem that creators who've worked on Superman projects have been dealing with for decades: How do you make the near-omnipotent Man of Steel feel more relatable? Ironically, the newest solution comes from giving Kal-El yet another superpower.

Warning: Spoilers and images for today's Superman #38 follow.

Superman's New Power Makes Him a Little Less Super, a Lot More Human

The latest issue of the ongoing Superman comic is the climax of the "Men of Tomorrow storyline", which had Superman befriending another fantastically powerful sole survivor of a dead planet named Ulysses. When Superman foils a plot to trick millions of Earth's humans into migrating to a new planet that seems like a utopia, he and Ulysses become enemies and brawl it out in a huge fight. As the battle escalates, Ulysses threatens to use his energy-manipulating powers to destroy the Earth.

Superman, of course, can't let him do that and fires a blast of heat vision to try and stop him.

Superman's New Power Makes Him a Little Less Super, a Lot More Human

Then things start to change. Dramatically.

Superman's New Power Makes Him a Little Less Super, a Lot More Human

The aftermath of the blast leaves both Superman and Ulysses unconscious, with Batman taking Clark to the Batcave to recuperate.

Superman's New Power Makes Him a Little Less Super, a Lot More Human

The new power lets Clark expel all the solar energy in his cells in one explosive blast. The super-flare power — which just makes me think of bell-bottom pants — doesn't only make Superman explode like a nuclear bomb. It also makes him temporarily vulnerable.

Superman's New Power Makes Him a Little Less Super, a Lot More Human

In terms of the character's multimedia continuity, this latest new power is a bit reminiscent of those apocryphal energy blasts used against Kal-El by the Phantom Zone escapees in the Superman II movie. That connection may not be a coincidence since Superman writer Geoff Johns used to work for that film's director Richard Donner, and later co-wrote a Superman story arc with his former boss. So the super-flare might be a nod to Donner.

Superman's New Power Makes Him a Little Less Super, a Lot More Human

Changes to Superman's power level have happened before, usually with the aim of making the character feel either more accessible or more formidable. He couldn't fly when first introduced and further abilities like x-ray vision and super-breath cropped up as the decades rolled on. The 1950s and 1960s saw the frequent addition of ridiculous new abilities added to make the plots of various stories work. He was famously made invulnerable to Kryptonite in the 1970s, though that didn't last long. When DC rebooted the character in the 1980s, his power levels were no longer such that he could tow entire planets behind him. Superman's pretty much stayed there ever since. Super-strength, super-senses, super-damage-resistant, heat vision and super-speed have been the core parts of his metahuman abilities for a while now.

The story possibilities opened up by this change seem to write themselves. If you know who Superman really is, you can force him to use his new power and then try to kill him over the next 24 hours when bullets won't bounce off his skin. The 24-hours-as-a-normal-guy gets around the whole "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" problem, too, if the current Superman/Wonder Woman romance winds up going away.

Superman's new power isn't the only change in status quo that happens in this issue, either, but I won't spoil that here. It's already been revealed that Superman gets a new costume in the next issue of his eponymous series as well. As with all tweaks made to characters in a shared fictional universe, these shifts will only become interesting or canonical as other creators twist them into their own interpretations. Will Superman seem more normal as a result? Only time will tell.


    The formatting on this story is all over the place on my screen, making it unreadable, is this happening for anyone else?

      Nevermind, it is just my internets taking about 5 minutes to download the images.
      BTW, that is an *awful* cover, with Superman's oddly skinny thigh and the really awkward grappling angles, it looks like kids having a cuddle.

        Yeah, now that you mention it his thigh is weirdly skinny. And the expression on his face...terrible cover.

        Also, Supes was getting a new outfit in this issue. Can someone link to that so we can see it.

          Yeah, his face looks like a ventriloquist's dummy.

        I didn't notice until you pointed that out, but wow, that thigh is horrible.

        Yep, all I could think about was that leg.

        Friends don't let friends skip leg day.

        I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice that thigh. I've never really been a fan of John Romita Jr's art. Not as bad as Rob Liefeld's though I guess.

    Considered reading this one, but I am not really as fan of the super boy scout.

    superman, most boring superhero around, still.
    i just have never liked SUperman as a superhero, sorry, but ive been that way since i was a kid.

    Thats... actually a good power. The best ones are the ones with consequences. Wolverines claws, cyclopses vision and this. Well thought out. I like it.

    When I saw the phrase "a lot more human", I thought his new superpower was something like the ability to know if a spider is nearby or perhaps knowing before you pull into a maccas that their ice cream machine is broken.

    Read this article over at IGN
    It documents other super powers he's had over the years like Super Caller-ID and Super Dancing.

      I lol'd at super-mathematics. I wish I could do basic arithmetic in my head...oh, wait...

      Last edited 05/02/15 1:16 pm

    Heroes spoiler:Peter Petrelli did it first.
    I've never liked Superman. Despite his moral quandry angle, he's just too much of a Marty-Stu hero. This kind of makes him a little more tolerable but you'd have to have a pretty crazy plotline to justify him using it which means he's mostly going to still be same old Superman. Unless of course you start introducing things like a trip to Namek.

      Heroes spoiler:

      Watchmen did it ALL before Heroes did it :P

    Only Geoff Johns could write something as braindead as a one-day solar recharge taking 24 hours, and Batman saying a Kryptonian is 'Human' (as opposed to just, say, vulnerable). Of course, the article is written by someone who thinks Supes is both near-omnipotent and also still at the severely toned down power level introduced in the 80s, and has so little knowledge of Superman that they believe the Woman of Kleenex 'joke' hasn't been solved for decades, so it's going around.

    Hasn't anime been doing the whole "ultimate power that leaves you vulnerable or dying after use" shtick for decades now?

    Did superman just say "GG" when he unleashed his power??

    Thing is, he doesn't have to use his new power. He could just avoid using it and continue being the same old god-like Superman.
    It's a cool ability but i think it's completely pointless. Especially considering when he used it, it only knocked the other guy out. You would think if all of Superman's power was expelled the explosion would have been much bigger and anyone in it's path would be atomised.

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