Powers and abilities of Superman

Powers and abilities of Superman

The powers of DC Comics character Superman have changed a great deal since his introduction in the 1930s. The extent of his powers peaked during the 1970s and 1980s to the point where various writers found it difficult to create suitable challenges for the character. 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, although he still remains weaker than his Pre-Crisis incarnation.


Complete List

Over the course of the character's existence of more than 70 years, Superman has—at some 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 Strength - Strength much greater than that of a normal human, making him "more powerful than a locomotive," is one of Superman's signature powers. 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, lift objects hundreds of times his own weight including any sized vehicle over his head, bend and/or break steel with his bare hands, lifting mountains, all the way up to in the Silver Age and Modern Age moving entire planets. After being saturated with yellow solar energy in All-Star Superman, his strength was tested as exceeding the force of 200 quintillion tons (or 2x10^20 tons, in scientific notation, i.e. two hundred billion billion tons).[volume & issue needed] 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. Superman's endurance has also been shown as limitless (whilst he remains in yellow sunlight).
  • Invulnerability - Immunity to almost all forms of harm, including extreme force and extremely high temperatures. Effectiveness has ranged from his skin being piercable by nothing less than a "bursting shell" to being completely unharmed at ground zero of a nuclear explosion. This ability includes the immunity to most known diseases, viruses and toxins. Explanations for this ability have included Kryptonians having an extremely dense molecular structure to each of his cells emitting an unbreakable aura of solar energy. However, in the rare instances Superman has required medical attention, this resistance to injuries has complicated necessary procedures such as surgery. For instance, when a criminal shot him with kryptonite ammunition, a surgeon was forced to give Superman a controlled exposure to the mineral in order to temporarily weaken his skin enough to make the incisions necessary to remove internal fragments of the bullet.[volume & issue needed] 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.
  • Flight - The ability to naturally defy and operate independently of gravity and propel himself through the air at will. Originally, he only had the power to jump great distances, as stated by the 1940s Superman cartoons ("Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound"). 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. Lex Luthor once theorized that Superman had to stem from a gigantic planet with enormous gravity, where his species had developed natural anti-gravity organs to be able to function; on Earth, this would allow him to control his own gravimetric field in order to fly.[1]
  • Superhuman Speed - Another one of Superman's signature abilities is his superhuman speed, allowing him to move, react, run, and fly extraodinarily fast. Originally classified as being "faster than a speeding bullet", allowing him to catch bullets in mid air before they hit him, or anyone else. Top speeds have ranged from nearly a hundred miles per hour when he was first created in the 1930s to speeds far greater than the speed of light. His thoughts and perception are also greatly accelerated to be able to control his actions while moving at high speeds. Superman's running speed has oftentimes been shown to be on par with that of The Flash's.
  • 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 opaqueness 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.[2] 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 he uses it on. A more common 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."
  • Heat Vision - Ability to emit solar energy from his eyes. Usually resembles bright red or orange laser-like beams, which may be invisible at low temperatures but extremely bright at high ones. The effective range of his beams are hundreds of feet. In addition varying the beam width, height, and intensity, Superman has demonstrated a high degree of skill and accuracy in manipulating his beam able use this power with surgical precision and at microscopic levels. Since the power can be used invisibly, Superman often takes advantage of that to perform tasks subtly without needing to get into costume. In some version, these beams can also be used to produce great concussive force rather than heat. The beams are tremendously powerful and can be used to rupture steel plates and pulverize rock. Also in some stories, it can be reflected like a true laser, able to use great skill and accuracy in manipulating the blasts off multiple targets in rapid succession, or more commonly to remove his very durable facial hair. Sometimes shown to be one of his more physically draining powers to use as it uses such concentrated solar energy. In the Pre-Crisis stories, Clark wears glasses with lenses made of Kryptonian glass (initially cannibalized from his rocket ship's transparency dome) so he can fire his heat vision through them without damaging them. In the stories from the 1986 relaunch onward had Clark wearing regular glasses and then with the revision in Superman: Secret Origin, he wears glasses with Kryptonian glass that are intended to contain unwanted firings; in this situation, Clark is forced to momentarily lift them out of his eyes' firing arc to use his heat vision effectively.
  • Superhuman Breath - Ability to inhale and exhale huge volumes of air with great force, capable of extinguishing large fires and moving heavy objects such as cars. Also allows Superman to hold his breath for extended periods in airless environments. 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, and can cool objects to sub-zero temperatures and freeze air moisture solid.[3]
  • Superhuman Hearing - Can hear far more sounds with far more detail 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 even hear sounds on other planets. 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. Sometimes includes the ability to see EM frequencies invisible to humans, such as radio transmissions, infrared light, 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 - A heightened and highly accurate sense of smell comparable to some animals such as dogs. Can be used to detect things like the chemicals in a bomb hidden somewhere in a crowded room.
  • Eidetic Memory - Superman is occasionally shown to have flawless, total recall of everything he has ever seen, read or heard. In turn, he is often depicted as being fluent in many of Earth's languages and cultures.

Superman's Age

Superman's age in continuity is 32 years old. However, as a Kryptonian, his alien nature affects his age, meaning his age does not slow him down.[4]

Golden Age Superman

Superman's original powers (Action Comics #1, pg. 1).

As presented in the original 1930s comic strip, Superman's powers were inherent in all indigenous Kryptonians because of their advanced evolution. In the origin stories of the comic books and comic strip, Kryptonians were shown using the same powers that Superman would have on Earth. Krypton's larger size and gravity was also given as an explanation for the character's powers.

Superman's original powers mainly consisted of superstrength, superspeed, supersenses, and invulnerability. When introduced in 1938, he was considerably weaker than even the Modern Era Superman. Superman was only strong enough to lift a support beam or lift a car with only one hand. He was only fast enough to pass an express train. He couldn't fly, he could only make powerful leaps of up to an eighth of a mile (660 ft or 201.168 m). He could only withstand bullets and smaller artillery. This means that larger, heavier weapons, or a speeding train, could kill him.

Siegel and Shuster did equip Superman with telescopic vision and super hearing, at least in their earliest draft weeklies.[5]


  • Super strength, super speed, and super senses
  • Invulnerability
  • Superhuman control of face muscles
  • Telescopic Vision

Silver/Bronze Age Superman

Superman's powers were subject to expansion and revision from the 1940s. His powers were explained as a result of the weaker gravity of Earth and the intensity of Earth's yellow sun. Superman's powers were negated if he entered an environment similar to that of Krypton, such as the bottle city of Kandor, or if he was exposed to the solar energy of a red sun. In Silver Age stories, the powers and limitations of Superman were instantly possessed by all Kryptonians exposed to Earth or Earth-like conditions.

Superman's strength is so great that he can move entire planets at once and is able to fly at speeds faster than light. He can use this power to travel through time as well as fly to other worlds, solar systems and galaxies and even to other universes with relative ease. By the 1970s, Superman was able to withstand the explosion of nuclear weapons with no risk whatsoever and fly unharmed through the core of a star. Superman was also able to survive without air, water, or food. Superman was immune to everything except for Kryptonite radiation and magic.

Superman possessed x-ray vision, allowing him to see through solid objects (except through lead), as well as telescopic vision (seeing great, even interstellar distances) and microscopic vision (seeing small things, even subatomic particles). These powers could be used individually or in conjunction with one another. His eyes could also perceive the full electromagnetic spectrum including infrared and ultraviolet frequencies of radiation. Originally depicted as a by-product of his x-ray vision, Superman's "heat vision" allowed him to generate energy beams which could be used to melt or vaporize almost any substance.

Superman could hear sound at almost any wavelength and at vast distances. Superman's breath was capable of freezing objects (because his lungs were able to put air under tremendous pressure, thus super-cooling it) and generating hurricane-force winds. Superman could throw his voice across great distances. This power was used to confuse enemies or protect his secret identity by tricking others into believing that he (or Clark Kent) was in a different location. "Super-Hypnosis" was once mentioned as a subconscious ability of Superman: putting on his glasses causes him to inadvertently hypnotize everyone around him into seeing Clark Kent, not Superman - explaining the effectiveness of his otherwise "flimsy" disguise.

Superman possessed super genius-level intelligence and an eidetic memory (average people from Krypton already had genius level intelligence—they learned calculus at ten or eleven years). These enhanced mental capabilities were a direct result of his exposure to a yellow sun. Superman also possessed 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.

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. In addition to his other super senses, Superman was occasionally shown as having highly-enhanced senses of touch and smell.


  • Super strength, speed, stamina, endurance and durability.
  • Extreme longevity
  • Enhanced mental processes, defences, and genius level intellect.
  • Unlimited physical senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing).
  • Ability to perceive the entire electro-magnetic spectrum and various other forms of energy.
  • Flight
  • Flight across the universe to distant galaxies and solar systems through hyperspace, flying through space warps near earth and emerging many light years away.
  • X-ray vision
  • Heat Vision
  • Precise muscle control and vocal control.
  • Freezing/hurricane breath.
  • Super-Ventriloquism
  • Super-Hypnosis

Modern era (John Byrne)

John Byrne's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths revision of the Superman character in 1986 reduced the character's 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 were "too sensational or unbelievable for modern audiences".[6] Emphasis was placed on yellow sun energy as a source for the character's powers. The Red sun radiation weakness was attributed to a lack of yellow sunlight: If Superman isn't exposed to yellow sunlight for a long period of time, his powers wane gradually. 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 series depicted the character gradually losing his powers when deprived of the sun's energy. Conversely, Superman can expose himself to increased solar radiation to temporarily increase his power.

Superman's strength was reduced to the point where he could no longer move giant planets but can still move tremendous amounts. (The DC Heroes RPG statized the strength of Superman is able to lift 800,000 tons, which is 1.6 billion pounds). Superman's sight, stamina and breath powers were also similarly reduced, and the character also required an oxygen mask for prolonged travel in space or underwater. His mental abilities were also curtailed to the point where intelligent humans, like geniuses Lex Luthor or Batman, could outsmart him. The powers of super-ventriloquism and super-hypnosis were not generally used during this period, although it was never stated whether they had been eliminated or not. Fortunately, the powers of virtually all powerful characters in the DCU who were a match for the Pre-Crisis Superman have also had their powers reduced in the same proportion, e.g. Captain Marvel.

Superman's ability to fly under his own power was explained with the concept of "self telekinesis", an invisible telekinetic field that allows him to lift himself off the ground. Any objects that Superman touches are also enveloped by the field and this allows him to move them with the force of his will. In addition, the idea of a supercharged bioelectric "aura" which acts as an invisible "force field" around and within his body was introduced to provide an explanation for his invulnerability (Characters noting that this skin-tight aura allows his equally tight costume to come through his fights relatively undamaged, although his cape will tear as it is not protected by the aura). His invulnerability is still great enough to withstand one 50 megaton nuclear explosion, but he will be knocked out as result.

Unlike previous versions, Superman's hair and beard grow normally, requiring grooming using his heat vision, carefully reflected off a piece of the ship that brought him to Earth, burning off unwanted growth.

Modern Era (after Byrne)

After Byrne's departure from the series, Superman's powers and abilities once again increased. He regained the ability to travel interstellar distances and to hold his breath for the amount of time required to make such journeys, and move dwarf planets such as Pluto. During the "Up, Up and Away!" storyline he regained his eidetic memory. He still retains his weakness to kryptonite, but instead of stripping him of his abilities, it causes extreme nausea, confusion, and pain. He is also still vulnerable to magic and can be harmed by magical creatures, which makes allies like Captain Marvel, whose similar powers are based on magic and the gods, valuable assets (see Superman/Shazam: First Thunder).

Exposure to the light of a younger blue sun provides Superman with increased physical abilities, and the power of "Superman Vision", which allows him to bestow his abilities on other beings for a limited time.[7]

Though still largely invulnerable, Superman has been shown to be susceptible to damage from other yellow-sun powered Kryptonians such as Power Girl, Supergirl, General Zod, Non, and Ursa (as well as the Daxamite heroes Mon-El and Sodam Yat); and characters with powers comparable to those of Kryptonians—including the heroes Captain Marvel, Icon, Martian Manhunter, Orion, and Ultra Boy; and the villains Atlas, Bizarro, Black Adam, Cyborg Superman, Darkseid, Despero, Doomsday, Lobo, Monarch, Mongul, Ultraman, Validus, and the current version of Brainiac (when connected to his ship). Most notably, he has consistently been portrayed as weaker than Superboy-Prime, a character who possesses powers comparable to the Silver Age version of Superboy.[8]


  • Flight
  • Invulnerability
  • Superhuman Strength
  • Superhuman Speed
  • X-Ray Vision
  • Telescopic/Microscopic Vision
  • Heat Vision
  • Super-Senses
  • Super Breath/Freeze Breath
  • Eidetic memory
  • Regeneration
  • Longevity
  • Superhuman Olfaction
  • Superman Vision (under a blue sun)


Despite his incredible superpowers, Superman's powers come with 4 notable flaws:

  • Kryptonite: His most known weakness. Radioactive fragments of the planet Krypton created by fusion during the explosion that destroyed it. Superman's cells store electromagnetic radiation (such as sunlight) and convert it into energy, manifesting as his super-powers. When Superman is exposed to kryptonite (within roughly ten feet or less of any size or amount), its high-band radiation rapidly interferes with this process, causing severe physical pain and the loss of his powers, though lead can be used to block it out.
  • Red Sun 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. This process does not have the painful, crippling and fever-like symptoms of Kryptonite, and essentially leaves him with the normal health and abilities of a human in his size and shape, as it did for the entire population of Krypton during its existence. Exposure to Yellow Sunlight causes his powers to return. Other than Red solar radiation, using up his yellow solar energy before having a chance to recharge also causes Superman to lose his powers.[9]
  • Magic: It varies from writer to writer. While not so much an actual weakness, Superman's invulnerability offers no protection against magic. As a result, spells cast on Superman affect him the same as they would anyone else. This sometimes goes so far as enchanted weapons being able to subvert his invulnerability as well. Generally, he suffers the vulnerability provided he is directly attacked with magic. But there exists a number of exceptions, such as Justice League of America (version 1) #49, where Superman faces an ogre. Superman's direct attacks have no effect on the ogre, however Superman is able to harm the ogre through the usage of a stick.
  • Massive Physical Forces: While Superman is extremely resilient to most physical harm, he is not quite completely invulnerable and is susceptible to temporary injury from physical forces usually delivered to him by some of his super-powered inter-galactic enemies. Superman's ability to gain energy from sunlight may be counter-acted if he is badly beaten so quickly that his body doesn't have time to heal (as happened in his battle with Doomsday). In some spin-off media, he has been shown to be similarly vulnerable to electricity, a weakness exploited by nemeses Conduit and Live Wire.

Alternate versions

Over the years, many alternate versions of Superman have appeared, in Elseworlds books or other timelines. Many of these were limited series and one shot stories, so the extent of Superman’s abilities is not always explored in great detail.

Frank Miller's Dark Knight continuity, which includes The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and All-Star Batman and Robin, has depicted Superman's powers in a variety of ways. All-Star Batman and Robin, for instance, depicts a younger Superman traveling from the U.S. to Paris by means of running fast enough to cross the ocean surface. The Dark Knight Returns depicts him as having the usual super speed, heat vision, flight, and strength. It also gave him a new ability: when he was severely weakened after being caught in a nuclear explosion, he was able to restore himself by absorbing the photosynthetic energy available in plant life.

The Grant Morrison penned Elseworlds book All-Star Superman features a massively powerful Superman, akin to his Silver Age version. Superman: Red Son features a Superman somewhat more powerful than his current incarnation, as does the limited series Kingdom Come, due to prolonged exposure to solar radiation (to the degree that he is practically invulnerable to the effects of kryptonite). Other series such as War of the Worlds portray a Superman with the comparatively limited powers of his original Golden Age appearances.

Film and television

Fleischer Superman cartoons

Superman's powers depicted in the classic Fleischer cartoons were very much like they were at the time he first appeared in 1938 - strong to lift heavy objects, leap an 1⁄8th 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 (though he eventually overcomes the beam), ramming into a meteor or comet would knock him out for a bit, and tear gas would do to him what it does to normal humans, but only for a little while.

Adventures of Superman

On the TV series The Adventures of Superman, in addition to his conventional powers, Superman also demonstrated some one-time-only powers; in the first season episode "Rescue", he develops the ability to split himself into two (slightly weaker) Supermans. 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.

Superman films

In Superman: The Movie, Superman's speed was shown as fast enough to reverse the timestream. In Superman II, he possessed the ability to hypnotize Lois Lane with a kiss. Because the three Kryptonian villains of the movie had the ability to shoot beams from their hands, Superman presumably would have the same power. 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. 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 does rob him of his strength and make him vulnerable, but due to flying above the clouds and into the rays of the sun, he gained enough amplified strength to lift Lex Luthor's kryptonite-based sub-continent beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space, despite the kryptonite shard in his body and the kryptonite pillars coming from the continent, though this severely weakens him and he falls back down to Earth in a coma.


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 film-counterpart (on which the series was inspired, in spite of the inherent continuity problems). However, Superboy never displays any of the 'extra powers' Superman had in the films. Throughout the series, it never seemed evident that Superboy was aware of the yellow sun affecting him. In the season two episode "Lex Luthor...Sentenced to Death", Superboy has been crippled by Luthor (thanks to a powerful weapon) and has to go through an extensive rehabilitation program to regain his powers (no attempt is made at simply exposing Superboy to the sun's rays, however). Notably, Superboy's costume is presumably invulnerable in the series (although its origins are never properly explored). Superboy regularly uses his cape to protect people from gunfire and other peril.

Lois & Clark

In the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Superman's powers are consistent with the comics at the time (the immediate post-Crisis era). Due to the nature of the series (emphasizing the Clark Kent aspect of the character), Superman had the traditional powers associated with the character at the start of the series and the writers would often find ways to nullify those powers rather than adding new ones. Kryptonite and certain "superweapons" also took a more drastic toll on him than in other series, sometimes leaving Clark powerless for several hours after contact (in case of Kryptonite it was true about the first encounter in "The Green, Green Glow of Home," but later he usually retained some of the abilities). He also had a healing factor, 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 the wooden table that they were written on.


In the television series Smallville, most of Clark Kent's powers develop over his teenage years. In the first episode of the series, he is aware of his superhuman strength and speed, and first experiences his invulnerability when Lex Luthor hits him with a Porsche at 60 miles an hour. Clark's body is bruised (but not pierced) by bullets and does not immediately heal in early episodes, but by the fifth season episode 'Hidden', Clark is capable of surviving atmospheric reentry without sustaining any physical damage. Any wound he suffers appears to heal within seconds. Clark's super-strength also increased over the course of the series to the point where in the sixth season episode 'Combat', Clark exhibited the ability to set off powerful shockwaves with his punches in which he successfully dispatched a formidable intergalactic foe. Similarly, his speed has also increased as he ages. Clark has also run from Kansas to Central America and Kansas to the Fortress of Solitude at the Arctic Circle, which are thousands of miles apart, in a matter of seconds. His healing rate is greater than normal; for instance, a head wound gained while his powers had been lost closed immediately upon his powers' return. Kryptonite exposure can inhibit this healing.

Clark developed X-ray vision in the first season episode X-Ray, heat vision in the second season episode Heat and super hearing in the third season episode Whisper (This last apparently developing in response to him being temporarily blinded when his heat vision was reflected back at him after it struck kryptonite). He discovers super breath in the sixth season episode Sneeze while suffering froma cold after he temporarily lost his powers. Clark's breath can create powerful winds, and as of season 9 episode 3 "Rabid" he is also able to cool things with his breath, this is shown when he cools Lois' coffee to distract her and use his super speed. Flight is developed very gradually over time. The first mention is in the first season episode Metamorphosis, where Clark first "defies gravity"; however, this is not really controlled. He is shown to be hovering over his bed while sleeping, but falls and destroys his bed once he wakes up. The first real controlled flight is in the second season episode Vortex, although this is with the help of a tornado. In the third season finale Covenant, his "floating" in the air is assisted by Kara, a deceased human who has been empowered and programmed by Jor-El. In the fourth season episode Crusade, he flies properly, but only in his Kal-El persona which was programmed by Jor-El into being a Kryptonian warrior (Martha Kent's use of Black Kryptonite removed the Kal-El persona). The real world reason for this limitation on this power is due to the "No Tights, No Flights" rule made by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar to avoid the full manifestation of Clark's Superman persona. The present producers have continued this policy. Within the continuity of the show, it is stated that he will not be able to fly because deep down he still thinks of himself as human, until he embraces his Kryptonian destiny and bypasses certain mental blocks. Clark also exhibits a healing factor seen rarely in the comics. His healing factor seems to be heightened by direct sunlight, as seen in the season 7 Premiere Bizarro. His healing factor seems to be able to heal virtually any wound. In the season 5 episode Void; Clark's death allowed his healing factor to neutralize the kryptonite in his system and then heal him. Thus far, the only wound he was unable to heal from was the Starblade, a mystical weapon. However the Starblade was destroyed, and in the Season 4 episode Sacred Clark is able to heal from the wounds inflicted by Lana's enchanted weapons. In addition to Superman's rare powers he also ages more slowly than human beings.

Added to these, Smallville also features a number of abilities not seen in other incarnations, not all of which find their source in Clark's Kryptonian origin.[citation needed] In the first season episode "Hourglass", he was able to see the same visions seen by a precognitive named Cassandra Carver while she held his hand, who stated that this had never happened with anyone else whose future she had foretold. The third season episode "Hereafter", explores Clark's immortality and his ability to alter the destiny of others. Later in Season 3, in the episode "Resurrection", it is said Clark's blood has the power, when treated by an unknown process, to revive the dead. However, it is explained that this can only work on someone who has died of a certain liver disease, due to the blood's healing properties, and the fact that the liver has the most resilient cells in the human body. In addition, his spirit itself is accredited with special healing properties in season four's "Transference", in which he temporarily inhabits the body of Lionel Luthor. Even after the transfer is reversed, Lionel says that he feels different, his liver having been healed of its disease, and his previously amoral behavior changes for an extended period in later episodes. Clark has also been shown to have limited defenses against psionic powers - the first season episode "Stray" had a character unsuccessfully try to read Clark's mind. On several occasions, Clark has broken the laws of gravity and terminal velocity, usually by jumping after someone who has been thrown from a great height and reaching the ground before them. This could be related to the character's currently untapped but apparently present ability to fly.

As with most versions of Superman, he is vulnerable to Kryptonite in several forms, with green kryptonite weakening him, while the show's version of red kryptonite introduced in the season two episode "Red" causes him to regress morally, resulting in Clark doing and saying things that he would not normally say while under its influence, such as stealing money and seducing women, although he notably never resorted to murder. Blue Kryptonite is introduced in the season seven episode "Blue" and it has the effect of stripping a Kryptonian of his or her powers as long as he remains in contact with it. Gold kryptonite is mentioned but its effects are never seen, although they are generally implied to be the same as previously-shown samples in that contact would deprive Clark of his powers permanently. He is also vulnerable to magic, as first revealed in the fourth season episode "Spell" and later again in the season eight episode "Hex". The sonic cry of Black Canary also causes him intense pain due to the sensitivity of his super-hearing; in the episode "Siren", the sound actually causes Clark's ears to bleed.

During the ninth season of the show, Clark learned how to use the arctic version of super-breath, while during the tenth and final season, Clark gradually starts to learn his power of flight, such as when he hovers while dancing with Lois Lane. Clark also demonstrated Microvision when he used it to see faded ink from a club stamp. In the second half of the series finale "Finale part 2" in which Clark becomes Superman, he finally reconciles his Kryptonian heritage with his Terran upbringing and sheds the psychological baggage which had prevented him from achieving flight. His physical strength was also greatly increased to the level that he could move the planet Apokolips, Darkseid's homeworld, from the collision course with Earth Darkseid sent it on with his bare hands (Although he may have been aided in this feat by various factors such as Darkseid's recent defeat and the moral upheaval involved as he inspired humanity to hope again). This version seems to follow at least the post Byrne Modern era Superman, were at least some of his Silver and Bronze Age god like strength is restored. Whether he is more powerful than that to the point of Silver Age levels possibly will never be known since the series has ended and Smallville was about Clark's journey to becoming Superman and not Superman himself. However, in the season 10 episode "Homecoming", Superman was depicted in the year 2017 containing the explosion of a nuclear reactor by flying at superspeed around the shockwave and suppressing it.

DC Animated Universe

In the animated series Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and its sequel Justice League Unlimited, Superman is depicted with power levels similar to those he possessed immediately following his 1986 reboot in the comics, though the writers had admitted[citation needed] to what extent does vary depending on plot requirements. Superman possesses the powers of superhuman strength and 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, freeze breath or hearing. While Superman is immensely strong both in terms of muscle power and ability to take physical punishment, he is not all-powerful.

Superman derives his power from the yellow sun of Earth. Forced under a red sun akin to the red sun of his homeworld, Krypton, or exposed to red sun radiation, Superman rapidly loses his powers, reverting to the stature of a normal human.[10] This version of Superman also needs to breathe, taking a deep breath in "Apokalips Now... Part 2" before plunging into the ocean, and having a special suit for when he needs to operate in outer space. In the episode Knight Time,he is shown to have microscopic vision as well as the ability of voice mimicry as he successfully mimics Batman and Robin's voices while posing as Batman.

However, in the Justice League Unlimited finale, "Destroyer", Superman says that he hasn't shown his full power because, in his own words, "I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard," and as such he is fearful of utilizing the full extent of his strength and powers, because of the risk that he might inadvertently kill someone. Darkseid, as a formidable and lethal villain, (a literal alien god) forces Superman to "cut loose", fighting Darkseid at full strength, without pulling his punches or limiting himself. At full power, Superman was shown to be either on even terms with Darkseid, or better.[11]

The episode "The Late Mr. Kent" reveals that Superman doesn't need to eat, though he does out of habit.

In the Batman Beyond episode "The Call" set fifty years in the future of the DCAU, Superman is shown to have aged far slower than the average human, looking somewhere in his late forties to early fifties as opposed to Bruce Wayne's late seventies or early 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. He is said to be still active fifteen years later in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue".

Video games

Superman has been portrayed in many video games.[12]

As seen in the game Justice League Heroes, Superman had super strength, freezing breath, invulnerability, heat vision, and flight.

In the Superman Returns video game, based on the film, his powers consist of super strength, super speed, invulnerability, flight, x-ray vision (used on large objects that Superman lifts so they won't obstruct the player's vision), super hearing (displayed as danger icons throughout the city), heat vision, super breath, and freeze breath. In the game, health is measured in property damage, not damage to Superman.

In the Nintendo 64 version of Superman, Superman is given the abilities of super strength, invulnerability and flight. The additional powers of heat vision, super breath and super speed could be unlocked for brief periods by collecting power icons.[13]

Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe features Superman displaying the powers of super strength, freezing breath, super breath, heat vision, flight, and super speed, though none of these are used to the fullest extent.[14] Superman's invulnerability is not on display, explained as a combination of his weakness to magic and the effects of the "combat rage" reducing his powers.


In Tom De Haven's book It's Superman!, Superman's powers were depicted as decreased to the levels similar to both 1938 and the Fleischer Superman cartoons, and complete with hard science.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Birthright #5
  2. ^ Bryne, John, "Guess Who's in Metropolis...?!" Superman vol. 2, #9
  3. ^ Burns, K., & Singer, B. (Executive Producers). (2006). The Science Of Superman[Documentary]. Los Angeles: Prometheus Pictures.
  4. ^ http://www.supermansupersite.com/faq.html
  5. ^ http://www.archive.org/details/DraftSupermanWeeklies
  6. ^ Superman vol. 2, #1
  7. ^ Action Comics #856
  8. ^ Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds
  9. ^ The Final Night
  10. ^ S:TAS - The Main Man, Part II; S:TAS - Solar Power; S:TAS - Legacy, Part II
  11. ^ Justice League Unlimited - Destroyer
  12. ^ http://www.Supermanhomepage.com/other/other.php?topic=video-games
  13. ^ http://www.gamespot.com/n64/adventure/Superman64/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary;read-review
  14. ^ http://www.Supermanhomepage.com/other/game-walkthrus/MKvsDC-codes.html

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