Superman is the quintessential superhero, and part of it is because of his dynamic powers — like the heat vision seen in the recent trailer for <i>Man of Steel</i>, out this month. While some superheroes have one, maybe two powers, the DC icon has everything from flight to super-strength, near-invulnerability, X-Ray vision and super senses… but that’s not all. <P>If you think his ability to travel through time — as seen in 1978’s Superman movie — is something, wait until you see the even stranger powers he’s used in his various incarnations over the past 75 years. “Super” man, indeed!
Superman isn’t a blowhard by any means, but he’s frequently shown himself in comics, movies and television to have the amazing ability to inhale and exhale enormous volumes of air; enough to extinguish fires, suck the air out of a room, and even push large-scale objects, an even a tornado once. <p>Another aspect of this power is his Freeze Breath, in which he exhales cold air so extreme it can freeze steam into ice. In the season nine episode of <i>Smallville</i> entitled “Rabid,” Clark uses it to cool a cup of coffee — no small feat if you've ever been on the wrong end of a scalding cup of joe.
It seems modern culture is inundated with one fad diet after another, but one diet that won't catch on — hopefully — is the Superman diet. In various instances both in comics and film, Superman has said that his body doesn’t need food or drink like humans do; instead, his body receives all the energy he needs from light of the Sun. <p>On occasion he has been shown to eat things — including a mountain of hamburgers in <i>Action Comics #454</i> — Superman’s excuse is that although his body doesn’t need it he sometimes mentally wants to, perhaps a vestigial function of his Kryptonian physiologically since they don’t normally live in sight of a yellow sun. This was followed up on in episode 36 of <i>Superman: The Animated Series</i>, where he states that he eats out of habit. One can only imagine how good Ma Kent’s cooking was to start that habit.
It turns out telekinesis isn’t just for the women of the X-Men over at Marvel, as DC’s poster boy has shown the ability to move objects with his mind on more than one occasion. <p>In John Byrne’s 1980s run on <i>Superman</i>, the writer/artist explained that Superman’s ability to fly was a form of “self-telekinesis” in which an invisible field envelops him and anything he touches to float by the force of his mind. Byrne went further to explain that this telekinesis also supplements his invulnerability. <p>And just a few years later in the 1987 film <i>Superman IV: The Quest For Peace</i>, Superman whips out the ability to use a telekinetic beam emitted from his eyes to lift people and even repair some damaged buildings — namely, the Great Wall of China.. <p>One more reason not to step on Superman’s cape.
Over in Marvel Comics, telekinesis often goes hand-in-hand with telepathy, and that's held true for DC’s Man of Steel as well. <p>In 1947’s <i>Superman #45</i>, the Man of Steel uses a hereto unexplained ability to read his enemy’s mind and implant thoughts — thoughts to release Superman from his restraints that the enemy just placed on him. <p>Skip forward a couple decades to the television series <i>Lois & Clark</i>, and that show reveals that all Kryptonians can communicate with each other wordlessly via telepathy. While most likely wouldn't want their relatives to have the ability to read their thoughts (or vice versa), it could come in handy, too.
It’s hard to say something negative about the 1980 classic <i>Superman II</i>, but if there’s one thing that must be said, it’s this: What’s up with the scene where Superman throws his “S” symbol from his emblem to form some sort of plastic-wrap trap over his enemies? <p>No one before or since has come up with a logical explanation for that never-before seen power, and it was unsurprisingly never used again in movies, television or comics.
What’s better than one Superman? Two Supermans. (Supermen?) <p>It might seem like a strange notion, but it’s something that’s happened several times in Superman lore. The storied Superman Red/Superman Blue days of 1990s DC Comics come to mind, but that was due to outside forces. Decades before that, the Man of Steel did it on his own, without any explanation before or since. <p>Very early on in the life of Superman in a 1938 episode of the live-action series <i>Adventures of Superman</i>, Lois and an crusty old prospector are trapped in a Pennsylvania mine shaft. Thankfully Superman comes in to save the day, but in order to save the duo he must become a duo himself. Out of nowhere, Superman splits himself into two identical Supermans in order to save the distressed humans. <p>Odds are low that he'll be using that power in <i>Man Of Steel</i>.
For all you Don Juans out there, Superman’s got you beat. We’ve seen in both film and comics that Superman has the unexplainable but envious ability to give amnesia-inducing kisses on command. <p>In the final moments of 1980’s <i>Superman II</i> movie, Clark Kent gives Lois Lane a big wet one and in the process manages to wipe out the confusing truth that Clark is also Superman. That might seem strange, but when you stack it up against other heroes' attempts to keep their identity secret, then you might think it’s not so crazy. But it is. <p>And you can’t blame <i>Superman II</i> screenwriters for inserting this strange superpower into Superman lore; it comes from an actual comic book. Back in 1963’s <i>Action Comics #306</i>, Clark uses his memory loss-inducing liplock on Lois to cover up her discover of his superheroic identity. That well-timed morsel of affection left Lois dazed and confused, and the nearby Daily Planet staff agog at Clark’s debonair ways.
The Silver Age was like the Wild West for Superman in terms of his powerset. Many of the previously documented strange powers come from that time, and the one we’re focusing on now is positively perplexing — mesmerizing, even. <p>Way back inside the pages of <i>Action Comics #38</i> from 1941, writer Gardner Fox shows DC’s Man of Steel hypnotizing an errant psychologist named Harold Morton, and forces him to turn himself into the police. You don’t see that happening on <i>Law & Order</i>, do you? <p>This mind-based power popped up again in 1978’s <i>Superman #330</i> by Martin Pasko and Curt Swan, where Superman beats a villainous hypnotist named Spellbinder at his own game by hypnotizing the entire population of Metropolis via a hastily constructed television screen that floats over the city. <p>If that wasn’t enough, even Krypto the Super Dog has the ability. Don’t ask.
Ventriloquism, or the ability to throw your voice, may not require superpowers — but the distance for which Superman’s shown himself able to do it makes it near impossible without them. This Super Vetriloquism was used repeatedly in various DC Comics in the 1950s and 1960s, but it’s even been seen in more modern comics like the 2005 miniseries <i>The Question</i>. <P>Like the previous entry, even Krypto the Super Dog has shown the ability to throw his voice and impersonate others — including Superman — through walls even!
Shapeshifting might seem far out for the real world, but in the world of comics its an all-too-common superpower possessed by heroes in virtually every universe, with Marvel even possessing an entire race of shapeshifters in the Skrulls. So the fact that Superman too possesses this power may not be strange enough in its own right to earn the number one spot, but how he does it earns the top spot on our list. <p>In 1947’s <i>Superman #45</i> (the same issue that introduced his telepathy), Superman manipulates the muscles in his face and his entire body to assume the form of a pale yellow-skinned alien…. With pointy ears and no hair, no less. This brings up a litany of questions, but let's limit it to two: <p>1. How can a hero with nearly impervious skin stretch and contort it to such a degree? <p>2. Why doesn’t Superman use this ability to concoct a better secret identity for himself, rather than wearing a pair of over-the-counter reading glasses as Clark Kent?