The New Superman – Character Bio
New Superman has landed! DC’s latest reboot of the (arguably) most powerful superhero team in all of comics is called the New 52. The Justice League has all the familiar characters from lore, with origins modified and “updated” for the modern era.
It’s worth it for comic book fans to familiarize themselves with the extent of their powers – as well as any augmentations with which they might have been endowed by the current team of writers.
The new, updated look of just about every one in the Justice League hasn’t come without some significant changes, which will be detailed in the following. Of course, we start off with everyone’s favorite superhero, Superman of Krypton and Kansas.
Superman is also known as Kal-El and Clark Kent, and he has retained the prodigious suite of super-powers that has always made him tops in the pantheon of fictional heroes.
He possesses super-strength (of course), super-speed, great durability and resistance to harm, a wide array of super-senses, unlimited flight, x-ray vision, blazing-hot heat vision and alien intelligence. He’s also been endowed with ceremonial Kryptonian battle armor in DCs update – though one wonders why he’d need it.
Superman’s New Armor/Suit
The battle armor is barely-recognizable from afar; it just looks like his suit – albeit without the red undies of Action Comics. Upon closer inspection, it is easier to see the rivets and plates that form the seamless whole.
It diverges from the bulky, true-armor look and feel of the doomed Superboy Prime, who donned the mighty armor of the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis Legends – through which so few heroes emerged unscathed.
Some of the attributes of the Kryptonian armor are its sheer indestructibility, modified look, and ability to heal Superman on the genetic level.
In truth, the costume is more like a symbiote (think the Venom and Carnage costumes of Marvel Comics, except a whole lot tougher and “less alive”), in that it bonds with the Kryptonian host and ‘reads’ it’s DNA, creating a crest of the familial lineage.
One would think that the New Superman doesn’t really need healing abilities, given that he is so hard to hurt, and the sun heals any wounds of his at an accelerated rate. Unlike other durable superheroes, Supes actually has invulnerability as an extra, separate power.
New Superman’s resistance to physical (and energy-based, in fact) assault is far greater than you would expect of a being of his prodigious super-strength, which is a major part of the reason so many heroes look up to the Man of Steel, and so many villains flee the scene when they see the tell-tale blur of blue and red on the horizon.
However, consider this example of the extent of the battle armor’s abilities: Superboy was engaged in a battle with the Kryptonian entity Hel, who is so powerful that it unleashed an attack that started breaking down Superboy’s body on the genetic level.
Superman swathed the suit around him, and it started healing him so effectively that it stopped the deadly process implemented by Hel and was the only thing keeping Superboy alive. All-in-all, the battle armor further catapults Superman’s already lofty levels of durability to new realms. For the very strongest foes, it takes everything they’ve got just to hurt him; now he heals from such wounds at an accelerated rate.
More Than Just a Strong Guy….
Of course, other than his great strength, Superman is also well-known for how hard it is to actually harm him.
Never mind high-caliber bullets and stab wounds – which is the level of invulnerability usually possessed by other superheroes we consider HTKs (hard-to-kill) – Superman is on a whole different level.
It is often very, very difficult for even strong superheroes to hurt Kal-El; only near-celestial beings and above are consistently able to threaten him physically.
That being said, the new Superman has retained his susceptibility to irradiated pieces of his dead home world, Krypton. Even this so-called Kryptonite isn’t a sure kill, however; it tends to slowly weaken him or drain him of his powers over time, and he always knows when the very, very rare mineral is nearby.
New Superman’s Origin Story
As you would expect, there’s no way that DC would diverge too much from the 70+ year old story of the world’s greatest superhuman hero.
Kal-El’s parents sent him in a star-ship to the habitable planet Earth in an attempt to save him from Krypton’s fate; the ultra-advanced planet’s core was failing and primed to explode because of centuries of over-use by his energy-hungry forebears.
Landing in a wheat-field in Kansas, baby Kal was discovered by Martha and Jonathan Kent, who thought maybe the Russians or Americans were carrying out experiments using babies in rocket ships.
Being a barren couple, the Kents took him in and raised him lovingly as an only child, Clark Kent – always wondering why no agent of the government came by to claim him.
Young Clark Kent slowly started to develop unreal abilities. The entire suite of his powers wouldn’t manifest all at once; but each one that came was at a power level much higher than any other being’s.
Deciding what kind of man he wanted to be was an easy one for Clark, as time went on his experiences shaped him.
Right after high school, he began his fight against an often overlooked hotbed of psychopathic activity: the world of businessmen and businesswomen.
Of course, this couldn’t be allowed to pass, given that there are so many influential psychopaths in business, and people don’t often realize this.
Fact is, we might even need a few psychopaths in business – but don’t hold me to that. The US government then aligns with the genius Lex Luthor, seeking his aid in finding a solution to the Superman problem.
New Superman is captured and treated like a lab rat, with scientists using powerful equipment to try and torture him – which of course doesn’t work. After all, could he really be Superman if it did?
Superman only allowed himself to be held in order to ascertain their level of depravity, as well as their capability. The one thing the government did learn was that Superman is affected by Kryptonite.
The Rise of Brainiac vs Superman
As the greatest intellect on the planet, Lex Luthor is often beyond the long arm of the law.
It turns out that this intensely unscrupulous human has made a bargain with an even greater alien intelligence called Brainiac, and effectively sold the citizens of Metropolis – and indeed, the Earth – to Brainiac.
Fortunately, New Superman has decided that his tenure under government detention is at an end, and “escapes” in time to seek out the approaching Brainiac and engage him in battle.
It is during this fight that he finds a Kryptonian suit of ceremonial battle armor – among other things. It is after his defeat of Brainiac that Superman is truly known to the world.
Loved by many, he is also of course feared – there simply isn’t any other superhero as powerful as he is, and this could have ramifications for those who don’t trust his intentions or commitment to the good fight.
Superman’s Powers in the New 52 Series
The New Superman’s strength is, simply put, gargantuan.
No; his strength is outright legendary.
In this current series, the Kryptonian retains his lofty levels from his storied past, which have always pretty much been as strong as necessary – and beyond. There’s no question that it is this strength that tends to make Superman difficult to write for sometimes.
Either you have to throw foes at him that are so powerful, it just isn’t believable that any other members of the Justice League should even be in the mix, or you end up having campy villains and boring stories.
An example of proper Superman writing is the bout with Doomsday; the New 52 is doing alright so far with stories to keep you reading – for the most part.
In one panel, he is shown strapped to a machine that has him bench-pressing the weight of the entire Earth – that’s over ten to the twenty-fourth power in kilograms, folks – for a business week, nonstop.
What can we possibly compare this to on a scale more easily-digestible by humans? Well, the entire Pacific Ocean weights 6 sextillion tons, so the whole Earth weighs about as much as a thousand Pacific Oceans.
Only then does the Tomorrow Man begin to sweat.
Furthermore, this New 52 Superman was tested underground, with not a ray of sunlight present – so presumably, this is Kal at his uncharged weakest (sans Kryptonite, magic, and Frank Miller’s writing ☺).
For some background on numbers, in order, there’s a million, then there’s a billion (a thousand millions, of course), then there’s a trillion (a thousand billions or a million times a million), next up is a quadrillion, then a quintillion, then finally we get to sextillion.
This Superman fella could play soccer with a mountain – although the goalie would probably have to be another Kryptonian.
The New Superman is still very quick, but not light-speed quick. Supersonic velocities are definitely in, but there was no real number quoted – as of yet – in the ongoing New 52 series.
He is, however, slower than The Flash. Superman’s heat vision is also still very powerful, and he has a great degree of control over it – it can be used as a dissecting laser, or as a blast furnace of almost unimaginably hot proportions. Those alien eyes can also see through walls and other objects like X-Rays.
His superhuman senses are well beyond the realm of merely superhuman (Marvel’s Wolverine, after all, has superhuman senses).
Additionally, the new Superman can pick up conversations from space, and hear cries for help from the planet Mars while Earthbound. We won’t talk about the physics (or lack thereof) involved in such propositions…
His telescopic vision is limited only by the curve of the planet, so anything on the horizon is within eyesight when he’s on the ground – and beyond when he takes flight straight up.
His durability is on par with his strength levels; Superman rarely ducks, because he simply doesn’t have to – whether it’s a missile, bomb, bullet or superhuman punch.
Lastly, this New Superman is also very, very intelligent, and can super-speed read.
He performed surgery on Lois Lane after reading many medical texts in the blink of a human eye, and even commandeered Brainiac’s ship after he defeated the evil alien conqueror, turning it into his new Fortress of Solitude.
Long-time fans of the Man of Steel will recall that his Fortress has always been somewhere deep in the Arctic, largely out of reach of any human.
The New 52 Superman is certainly capturing many fans, and even the old guard is grudgingly taking a liking to this version. Sure, we do we miss the iconic Superman with red underwear, but his legend is written in stone and can always be revisited at a whim.
The New 52 Superman is fresh, stays true to the character – mostly – and is entertaining and well-drawn. Although there are many new facets to the character, many fans sort of hope for the old Kal to re-emerge – red underwear and all – eventually, when this new take runs its course. For the time being, there’s much to enjoy in this chronicle of the greatest super hero of all time.