Weaknesses are Superman’s Kryptonite

Let’s say you’re writing a Superman story and you want to make it seem like Superman is in danger. One of the most persistent complaints about the character is that “He’s too powerful!” and “He can do anything!” Basically, the idea here is that he has no weaknesses, so it’s unbelievable that he could be threatened. The thing is though, Superman has weaknesses. Hell, everybody knows he has at least one weakness. His most famous weakness is so well known that we actually use it as a term for weaknesses that anyone has. Next to saying that something is your “Achilles Heel”, saying something is your “kryptonite” is probably the most well known way of describing a weakness without just using the word “weakness”.

But if you have to work kryptonite into every story, you end up repeating yourself every month, which means things grow stale. It’s good then that kryptonite isn’t actually Superman’s only weakness. The second most often cited weakness of Superman, by those in the know anyway, would be “magic”. Now, if a stage magician were to walk up to Superman and pop a flash paper thing in his face, that wouldn’t hurt him. No, it’s “real” magic that can hurt Superman. Essentially, if something can defy the laws of physics, nobody is going to deny that that could hurt Superman. That’s handy for characters like Mr. Mxyzptlk to befuddle our hero. So that’s another weakness, but still, he’s pretty overpowered, though, right?

Well, it turns out that if someone, or something, is strong enough, they can just beat the heck out of Superman. Really. That happens a lot for such an “overpowered” character. Look at the whole Doomsday thing. You know, that time Superman was beat so badly by some alien monster that he was declared dead. That was just some alien that happened to be strong enough to take on Superman. No magic or kryptonite involved. Other such monsters can and do exist in Superman’s world. You want Superman to feel threatened in a story? Throw some monster in there. Bam, he’s threatened.

But apart from that Superman is still overpowered, right? He can fly, he can shoot lasers from his eyes, he can see through walls, and more. What kind of villains are supposed to compete with that? Well, here is where I will remind you that Superman’s gallery of villains includes about a dozen people with the exact same set of powers that he has. The Phantom Zone is full of other Kryptonians who’d just so happen to love to kill the guy. Some, like General Zod, have Superman’s powers plus the tactical skills of a military leader. Some, like Faora, have Superman’s powers plus extensive training in martial arts. Some, like Nam-Ek, have Superman’s powers plus other mutations that actually make them more powerful. Some, like Jax-Ur, have Superman’s powers plus a scientific mind that could probably come up with clever ways to use those powers like regularly Clark does. They are at least Clark’s equal in powers and they outnumber him on top of that.

Furthermore! There’s all the other supervillains with powers. Bizarro has as many powers as Superman, but with bizarre twists. Parasite can drain Superman’s own powers at a touch, weakening the hero while buffing himself. The Cyborg Superman can whip up whatever technological nonsense you want to use that week. Toyman or Prankster can design any kind of wacky scenario in which Superman is threatened by some weird doomsday device. The list goes on.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think every Superman story should be about villains. I prefer to see him in stories that aren’t about who wins fights. But let’s suppose you want to tell such a story. And you don’t want it to be one where Lois or Jimmy or Ron or even Metropolis as a whole is in danger. You want to make it seem like Superman himself is threatened by a supervillain. But you don’t want the villain to have Kryptonite, or magic, or to be particularly strong, or have any interesting powers or to create an interesting scenario. In that case, I would suggest you just make Superman say “Man, it’s strange, but I’m feeling really weak right now.”

Yeah, that would be bad writing, but it sounds to me like you’re aiming for a bad story, y’know?

We May Have Almost Had A Good Superman Cartoon

Gonna bring Superman Thoughts back for a bit, I think. Maybe not weekly, but more often. Gotta be getting something up here.

The reason for today’s Superman Thought in particular is the news that we almost got a Superman cartoon that looks like it would have been very close to what I’d want from a Superman cartoon.

As reported in this article, there was a proposed Superman Family cartoon. It would have combined Silver Age sensibilities with the diverse cast of Superman characters that have been introduced since the Silver Age. It probably would have been pure gold.

Prankin’ it up with the ol’ Prankster

The Prankster is one of Superman’s longest-appearing regular supervillains. I don’t think he gets a lot of respect from fans, but he’s also “made it” into the pantheon of Superman characters. He’s not one who I feel I need to fight for his inclusion. He’ll continue to show up because he’s tradition.

One of the more recent takes on this character, one I like, is that he’s the guy that other criminals will hire to annoy Superman as a distraction while they do other crimes. That’s a good way to go, because it gives him a lot of freedom to do wacky things. He’s also good for just doing his own crimes, in nice standalone stories with a little twist at the end. And he also gets to team up with the Toyman a lot, which is also fun.

But if I were writing a Superman story right now and wanted the Prankster in there, I’d probably have him go up against the “Truth” aspect of what makes Superman tick. The Prankster could have a vendetta against the Daily Planet and try to harm their credibility with some elaborately staged Fake News pranks and they’d have to step up and prove the worth of journalism. I think that, in this age of the erosion of truth, the Prankster has a relevant role he could play.

Clark Kent Collects Clocks

It’s good for a person to have a hobby. Even Superman. I have found that there are at least three references to Clark Kent having collected clocks. I grant that, over a period of eighty years, three references are not a lot. Some might say that they’re very very little. But I like the idea of Clark collecting clocks and I’m saying we should bring it back.

The advantages of bringing back Clark’s hobby:

  • Collecting clocks is a decidedly “unhip” hobby. There are constant attempts to make Clark “cool” but I don’t like it. Superman is the straight-lacedest of Superheroes. In spite of the attempts to change this, this is actually a thing that most of his fans like about him. They ought to embrace the idea that Clark is a “square” and this is a way to remind people of it.
  • It ties in with Jimmy’s signal watch. For those who don’t know, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen is so danger-prone that Superman gave him a watch that, when activated, emits a sound that Superman can hear, so that the hero will come save him. Why a watch? Well, if Clark is a fan of timepieces, the answer to that question becomes obvious.
  • Stories could be based around clocks and stuff. It’s a good way to teach kids how to tell time and stuff.
  • Clocks could liven up the Fortress of Solitude. Ever since the Donner films, the Fortress has been depicted as this depressingly barren warehouse full of nothing but snow and crystals. It looks patently un-cozy. I’d love to see some rugs and some paintings to liven up the place, but we just need to throw in a couple fancy clocks (even alien clocks) and we’re headed in the right direction.

The disadvantages of bringing back Clark’s hobby:

  • There are none! Get outta here, chumps!

Bring back the clocks! Or at least someone start a band called Clark Kent Collects Clocks.

Superman Smashes The Klan???!!!

There’s some news regarding Superman that PDRs will find extremely interesting. This is news important enough that I have knocked today’s scheduled Superman Thoughts post down the line and have to address this now, the day I found out about it. Superman Smashes The Klan is coming.

A story about the Clan of the Fiery Cross radio show! I have wanted this forever.

And apparently it’s news from February, so I am clearly bad at Superman Thinkin’. Here is a news story from the fifth of February announcing this book will come to exist in 2019. Here is a Superman Thoughts posts I scheduled in April in which I lamented that the Clan of the Fiery Cross had not been remade. Clearly, I am not good at keeping up on these things.

I don’t think this is a remake of the Clan story from. From what few scraps I have gathered in the hours since I first learned about this, I think it’s going to be a meta-textual piece about a child who hears the radio serial and how it relates to her life as a Chinese immigrant. That’s great. I’m on board. After all, that means I get this story AND I still get to clamor for a proper remake of the story.

What I am saying is: I am happy this is happening.

Anyway, In another post I have scheduled for next month or so, I talk about how I’d love a standalone book based on the radio show and using the character designs from the Fleischer cartoons. Look at that image up there and tell me it isn’t awesome. Anyway, when that posts finally comes up, keep in mind that I didn’t know about this.