<i>by Alan Kistler</i> <p>Superman is one of the most famous characters in fiction and has been in continuous publication since his first story in <b>Action Comics #1</b>, released in 1938. Even if you've never read a comic, many folks know the basics: <p>Born on Krypton, baby Kal-El was sent to Earth to avoid his planet's destruction, was raised in the American Mid-West as Clark Kent, and grew to become the hero called Superman. <p>But other details have been the subject of change as DC has periodically revised Superman's history and origins to modernize the character. <p>Now he's getting yet another makeover, as is the whole DC Comics superhero universe. Starting this week, DC is replacing its many superhero series with 52 brand new titles, all starting with issue #1. <p>So in celebration of Kal-El's previous history and the new history yet to come, here are some fun facts about the famous Man of Tomorrow! <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>
There have been a few different accounts concerning Superman's Birthday. Some stories have said that Superman's rocket landed on Earth on February 29th and that Clark celebrated this as his birthday. In one comic, writer Geoff Johns said this date was actually December 1st. <p>The TV series <i>Smallville</i> placed the birthday in early May. <p>But when the Silver Age of comics began in the late 1950s and DC did its first superhero relaunch, a different account was provided that many fans have enjoyed and accepted. <p>According to <b>Action Comics #241</b> in 1958, the Last Son of Krypton actually recognized two birthdays: as Superman, he celebrated the day he landed on Earth (June 10th); as Clark, he celebrated the day he was adopted by the Kent family (later said to be June 18th). These are fitting birth dates since the Man of Steel's very first comic was published in June of 1938 and because June 18 was also the birthday of Bud Collyer, the very first actor to portray Superman, bringing him to life in cartoon and radio.
Superman's power isn't limitless or unstoppable. In most versions of Superman's origin, the people of Krypton were powerless while walking around their planet, which orbited a red sun. But under Earth's yellow sun, a Kryptonian's cells absorb and convert the solar rays into incredible power. <p>As young Clark Kent grew older, he grew more powerful as his body was able to store more solar energy and convert it more effectively. As an adult, this makes him incredibly formidable and invulnerable to most Earth weaponry, either because the solar energy toughens up his skin and muscles or because it creates a skin-tight force field (the explanation has changed a couple of times). <p>But none of this makes him invincible. If he goes to another planet where there is no yellow sun, he'll slowly run out of juice. And if he's on Earth but fighting at full force without rest, he might start using up energy faster than his body can replace it, meaning his powers get progressively weaker and his body becomes more vulnerable to physical harm.
For many years, Clark pursued reporter Lois Lane and in the 1990s they finally tied the knot. In DC's relaunch, they will no longer be married or even dating. But whether they still end up together or not, it's worth noting that even before now, Lois was never said to be the first one who captured Superman' attention and heart. <p>In high school, Clark had deep feelings for his best friend Lana Lang, a character who was a major focus in the TV series <i>Smallville</i>. As a teen, Clark also had a crush on Saturn Girl, a time traveling teenage superhero from the future. <p>In college, he seriously dated a girl named Lori Lemaris who turned out to be a mermaid from Atlantis. <p>During a time travel adventure to Krypton's past, Superman became involved with Lyla Lerrol, a famous Kryptonian actress. <p>And for a while, the Last Son of Krypton had a crush on Wonder Woman (hey, who wouldn't?).
As a kid in high school, Clark was visited by the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team of super-powered teenagers from the 30th century who had been inspired by legends of his life. 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. <p>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 developed an optimistic view of the human race. He knew Earth was worth protecting and fighting for because he'd seen what it would achieve 1,000 years down the line.
Originally, Superman's catchphrases called him the champion of the oppressed and said he was dedicated to truth and justice. And that was it. The phrase and the American Way wasn't added until around the time when the U.S. started entering World War II. "Truth, justice and the American way" began in radio broadcasts of the era. <p>The phrase later became an iconic piece of Superman's identity in the 1950s when it was spoken during the introduction of the popular TV series starring George Reeves.
The explanation for Superman's symbol has changed a few times. For decades, the comics simply said it was nothing more than a stylized monogram designed by Clark and his adopted parents, something they whipped up together after deciding on his new alias. <p>In the 1978 feature film <i>Superman: The Movie</i>, it was said that the S-shield was actually a Kryptonian glyph that served as a family seal for the House of El. <p>Later TV and animated adaptations all followed this explanation. <p>Finally, in 2003, the comic books followed suit. In the story Superman: Birthright, writer Mark Waid modernized the hero's early days to much acclaim and altered the origin of the shield. Waid revealed that the symbol was not only a family crest, as the films had first indicated, but was also an ancient Kryptonian symbol that meant "hope." This meaning and legacy was why Clark chose it as his seal when he became a public hero and its resemblance to a stylized letter S, along with his incredibly abilities, is what inspired reporter Lois Lane to call him "Superman."
Clark's disguise isn't as simple as slicking back his hair and putting on a pair of glasses. Different comics over the decades have shown that the Man of Steel uses several subtle tricks simultaneously to maintain a dual identity. <p>The lenses of his glasses are slightly tinted, changing the shade of his eyes. <p>Thanks to incredible control over his muscles (which also allows him to safely shake hands with people despite his steel-bending strength), Superman actually gives himself a different voice when he's Clark Kent. <p>By slouching over and wearing ill-fitting clothing, Clark gives a different impression of his body. <p>And thanks to studying some acting techniques, he completes the disguise by employing very different body language as Clark. <p>There's also the advantage of our next fact...
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. In other adventures, Superman has disguised a robot as one of his alter egos, again so that Clark Kent and the Man of Tomorrow can be seen interacting. So to the general public, they are friends who simply bear a great resemblance to each other. Since Superman doesn't wear a mask, folks tend not to think that he might have a secret identity anyway.
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. <p>In the years since his creation, he's been given new abilities and had some later taken away. <p>Nowadays, his arsenal includes heat-vision, incredible strength/stamina, enhanced senses, X-Ray vision, "arctic breath" (also known as "ice breath"), super-speed (including reaction time), increased healing, near-complete body/muscle control, and a skin-tight force-field that makes him invulnerable to most forms of harm.
Many people know that Superman fears the green rock known as Kryptonite. This radioactive ore is the remains of his home planet and its energies disrupt the solar power in Clark's body, poisoning him in the process. <p>Over the years, other types of Kryptonite have had different effects on Kal-El, all negative. But this isn't the only weakness. <p>Superman has faced many alien and superhuman enemies whose strength rival his own and whom have been able to injure him through sheer force. <p>Since he draws his power from a yellow sun, the radiation of a red sun (such as the one Krypton orbited) immediately robs Superman of his power. <p>On top of that, Clark also lives in a reality where magic is very real and he's learned that 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, werewolves and other supernatural creatures that exist in the DC Universe can injure Superman and draw blood if he lets them get close enough.