As we’re about to see on the big screen in ’Man of Steel’, one of the reasons DC Comics’ Superman is the premier iconic superhero is because he’s really got the whole package of super powers. Flight, invulnerability, super strength, x-ray vision, super speed… He’s got it all! Every superhero since Superman has been basically a copy with a some of the powers stripped away.
Except… as powerful as Superman is, he doesn’t have EVERY power out there, right. Here are the Top 10 super powers the Last Son of Krypton doesn’t have… Or does he?
The ability to be totally unseen by your opponents is kind of a useful power… Especially when your regular duds are bright blue with a huge, billowy cape and a giant yellow S in the middle of your chest. Granted, Superman’s pretty powerful and it’s not like he can’t take a hit, but there are times when stealth is in order. And you know, it’s not like no one had thought of it before Superman; H.G. Wells published The Invisible Man in 1897, which was adapted into the classic Universal movie in 1933.
Except… we’re talking about a guy who can move as fast as The Flash. He’s got super speed and has claimed he can move faster than the speed of thought. Which, from a practical standpoint, means he moves faster than your eye can follow. Which means you can’t see him. Which means he’s invisible.
Heat powers are pretty cool (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor). Being able to set yourself on fire and throw fireballs and melt your way through almost any container. The Human Torch came on the scene only a year after Superman and, while he never quite grabbed the media attention Supes did, he was no slouch in the popularity department either! Especially going around melting Nazi tanks and submarines! I mean, sure, Superman could douse himself with gasoline and light it without getting hurt, but that’s not the same thing as generating it himself.
Except… what do you typically do if your hands are cold? You rub them together to generate heat. First law of thermodynamics in action there. And what if you rubbed them together really, really fast for a really, really long time? Well, you’d get a lot of heat. What if you rubbed your hands so fast as to be invisible (see above)? Well, then you’ve effectively gotten your hands as hot as a fire and you could just melt stuff by touching it. Isn’t that part of his coal-to-diamonds trick? You need pressure AND heat to turn carbon into the hardest mineral on earth.
OK, let’s stick with this Fantastic Four theme for a bit, since we’ve already covered half the team anyway. Guys like Mr. Fantastic and Plastic Man can stretch their body into any shape they like, as if they were made out of clay. They have a super-far reach, and can mimic all sorts of objects physically. Supes? Nothing of the sort.
Except… Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen famously became Elasti-Lad on multiple occasions after contact with the cleverly named Elasti-Formula. Lois Lane had go of it as well. Now you could claim that Superman has never partaken of the same liquid, or that it might not work the same way on Kryptonians, but how else would you explain this…?
The thing about Superman is that he’s always Superman. There’s no magic word that changes him with a lightning bolt. He’s not a shape-shifter. Fans have long joked about stupid it is that he just puts on a pair of glasses and nobody seems to recognize him. It’s like he’s not even trying to make an effort in looking different! He can’t pull a Martian Manhunter or Beast Boy routine.
6. Time Travel
The Doctor, Superman is not. He’s got no magic box to take him anywhen in the universe, and he can’t make time flow backwards on a whim. I mean, yeah, there was that spinning-the-Earth backwards thing in the movie, but everyone pretty much tries to forget that because it was such a horrible, horrible piece of film. It probably ranks lower than Nuclear Man from Superman IV. The less said about that, the better. So, no time travel for Supes.
Except… even ignoring that bit, the Man of Steel has done more than his fair share of time travel. Even if you count things like his getting sent back to WWII to fight alongside Sgt. Rock or tag-teaming with Jimmy Olsen in an ancient gladiatorial arena as outside forces acting on him, there’s still the fact that he spent a lot of time as a teenager hanging out with the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th century! Do you know how many times we saw sequences of Clark flying through the “time barrier” with cheesy calendar pages zipping past him?
Superman can’t make copies of himself. Triplicate Girl is of a race that can do that naturally, and Jamie Madrox has a mutant ability to generate dozens of copies of himself. There have been people who have tried to copy Superman — the comics shortly after the famous Death of Superman are probably the most famous examples — but the last son of Krypton is unique. Superman himself made a number of robotic copies of himself (mostly for the purpose of tricking Lois Lane) but they were clearly robotic surrogates, and not actual duplicates of the real deal.
Except… there’s the whole Superman Red/Superman Blue thing. Yeah, it was originally just an imaginary story from the 1960s, but that whole thing was drawn out into a big story in 1998. Even the current continuity comics have alluded to it!
4. Changing Size
Frankly, I gave up trying to keep up with Hank Pym’s various identities years ago. Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket, Goliath… whatever he calls himself, his shtick is growing and shrinking. And occasionally inventing evil robots that have crazy Oedipus complexes. That aside, Pym is the man to talk to about changing size and he’s in a totally different universe than Superman. The Atom does sometimes hang out with the Justice League, but his shrinking is pretty well limited to himself. So that’s one thing Superman doesn’t have access to: being able to change size.
Except… he’s got this bottled city of Kandor sitting around his home office. A city saved from his home planet, but miniaturized and kept in a bell jar. Which Superman visits from time to time. As in, he goes into the bottle. He shrinks to the size of the miniaturized inhabitants and goes into the city. You can’t blame the guy; he’s lost his whole planet and he wants to spend some time with the few survivors. So he figured out a way to shrink himself down to spend time with the locals.
Superman’s no idiot, but mind powers are not his big thing. All of his superpowers really center around physical activities. He’s not a mind-reader or anything; he’s just a guy who’s just a bit beyond the peak physical human specimen. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and all that.
Except… over in Lois and Clark, we learn that Kryptonians have a natural ability to communicate telepathically with one another. Superman learned it from the folks on New Krypton. And then somehow taught it to (non-Kryptonian) Lois Lane by the end of season 3! So apparently it’s just a regular deal for the Big Blue Boy Scout.
Superman cannot do magic. In fact, magic is so anathema to Superman that it’s one of the few things he’s not immune to. If Supes finds himself up against some freaky mysticism hocus pocus, he’s got to put a call out to Dr. Fate or the Phantom Stranger or somebody for backup because he will be totally out of his element. That’s why you haven’t seen any actor who’s ever played Superman appear in the Harry Potter films!
Except… except… wait — I don’t have any exceptions? A-ha! I’ve got you now, Clarky-boy! I’ve got something you can’t do! Didn’t think I could find something, did you? Phaugh! Phaugh, I say! I–
Oh, come on!
You know what? I’m done! I give up! I tried really hard to think of 10 superpowers that Superman doesn’t have, and I can’t even come up with one! This guy can frickin’ do anything! You can wrack your own brains on this one; I’ve fried mine at this point!