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  1. #1

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    Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Caution: Potential spoilers. Like many others, I saw "Superman Returns" a short while ago. Unlike others, however, I didn't really enjoy it, and I struggled with why. I thought about all the inconsistencies in the film - how Superman can both hear and have his cape blow in outer space (where there's no air to do either), how Superman can
    Spoiler
    save a man from falling off a building, and save an entire airliner, suddenly, both of which would kill the victims involved, or fly Lois Lane around at high speeds without her even blinking or squinting from the wind.
    That's really not my issue with the film, I've concluded - it goes to the heart of the superman story itself.

    Disclaimer: I have only seen the Superman films, not read the comic books.

    From what I understand, the following is a over-simplified summary of Superman's history:

    1. Superman's father, Jor-El, was an astronomer, who both calculated that his home planet, Krypton, was going to be destroyed, and also discovered that Earth was an inhabited planet. (I'm aware of the parallels to the new discoveries in the 1920s, when Superman first appeared, to the discovery that Earth will someday be destroyed, and the discovery of distant suns at that time)

    2. Jor-El placed his only (baby) son, Superman, in a spacecraft, and pointed it towards Earth. It crash landed on the Kent's farm, and Superman was raised by them. (I'm aware that the creators of Superman were Jewish and claimed this was the modern equivalent of the Moses myth).

    3. Superman has powers on this planet, Earth, that he would not have had on Krypton. Supposedly, he draws strength from Earth's sun, which gives him superpowers such as x-ray vision (foiled only by lead - also a scientific discovery from pre-Superman), heat vision, an ability to fly, ability to lift large objects, bullet proof, and speeds faster than a speeding bullet (did I miss anything)?

    4. Superman becomes weak when exposed to Kryptonite, which exists only on Earth in meteoric form from his former home planet. At least those pieces that survive the atmosphere, that is.

    So here are my questions, most of which have to do with Kryptonite.

    1. We're gonna need a bigger spaceship. Was Jor-El certain that Earth would be hospitable to Superman? Wouldn't he have created a capsule big enough for the whole family? If he wanted to ensure the survival of Kryptonians, wouldn't he have put a baby girl in there also?

    2. Maybe we don't even need a spaceship. Can Superman fly through space, or not? In every film, there are scenes of him flying out of the Earth's atmosphere (so, presumably, he doesn't need to breathe - maybe he could be Aquaman also, then?). In one movie, I think it was Superman II, he even flew around the Earth enough times to reverse its rotation, and in another, (Superman III?), he flung criminals from Krypton into the Sun. So why, then, in this movie, does Superman
    Spoiler
    return after five years in a spaceship?


    3. Why does Superman have superpowers? There's reference, I think in the first movie, that the Earth's "yellow sun" gives Superman's cells great power. Did Krypton not have a sun? Does the color of the sunlight make a difference? What is it about Earth's sun that makes superpowers, anyway (and that didn't exist on his homeplanet)? If he's indistinguishable from humans in every other way (I mean every other way - see number five below), then why would he have superpowers without the corresponding large muscles, less mass, or other changes compared to humans?

    4. Why would Kryptonite affect Superman? This has to be what bugs me the most. If Kryptonite are fragments from his former planet, Krypton, then he should thrive when exposed to his home planet, not get weak and die, correct? Was there something about Krypton aside from the explosion that would have made him and his family weaken and die, had the planet not exploded? If anything, Krypton should be a substance that strengthens Superman, not kills him.

    On a related subject, if Kryptonite truly does weaken him, then why, in this most recent movie, is he able to lift an entire CONTINENT made out of Kryptonite into space, and throw it into the Sun? Wouldn't the Kryptonite make him too weak to accomplish the task?

    5. How could Superman father a child with a human? I read a paper when I was a kid about how the velocity of any Superman sperm would be the equivalent of a bullet, and anyone mating with Superman would die instantly. But consider this - even if conception takes place, if the baby has superhuman strength
    Spoiler
    (as the child in this movie did)
    , wouldn't the kicking during pregnancy basically either destroy the mother's internal organs, or kick through the uterine wall? Never mind that Superman is basically an alien from another planet, with, presumably, a different bio history than Earthlings. Does he have DNA? Considering how different starfish and octopi are from trees and buffalo on this planet, how different should Superman, being from another planet, be?

    Can someone please explain any of this to me? Suddenly the Superman I knew and loved makes no sense to me.

  2. #2

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogberto
    So here are my questions, most of which have to do with Kryptonite.

    2. Maybe we don't even need a spaceship. Can Superman fly through space, or not? In every film, there are scenes of him flying out of the Earth's atmosphere (so, presumably, he doesn't need to breathe - maybe he could be Aquaman also, then?). In one movie, I think it was Superman II, he even flew around the Earth enough times to reverse its rotation, and in another, (Superman III?), he flung criminals from Krypton into the Sun. So why, then, in this movie, does Superman
    Spoiler
    return after five years in a spaceship?


    3. Why does Superman have superpowers? There's reference, I think in the first movie, that the Earth's "yellow sun" gives Superman's cells great power. Did Krypton not have a sun? Does the color of the sunlight make a difference? What is it about Earth's sun that makes superpowers, anyway (and that didn't exist on his homeplanet)? If he's indistinguishable from humans in every other way (I mean every other way - see number five below), then why would he have superpowers without the corresponding large muscles, less mass, or other changes compared to humans?

    Krypton had a red sun. This has been shown to sap his strength as well. If he is on a world with a red sun he will start to lose his powers since he cannot recharge them. He is an alien so I am not sure that he is indistinguishable from humans. Its something in his make-up that allows him to use the sunlight ot charge powers.

    4. Why would Kryptonite affect Superman? This has to be what bugs me the most. If Kryptonite are fragments from his former planet, Krypton, then he should thrive when exposed to his home planet, not get weak and die, correct? Was there something about Krypton aside from the explosion that would have made him and his family weaken and die, had the planet not exploded? If anything, Krypton should be a substance that strengthens Superman, not kills him.

    On a related subject, if Kryptonite truly does weaken him, then why, in this most recent movie, is he able to lift an entire CONTINENT made out of Kryptonite into space, and throw it into the Sun? Wouldn't the Kryptonite make him too weak to accomplish the task?

    5. How could Superman father a child with a human? I read a paper when I was a kid about how the velocity of any Superman sperm would be the equivalent of a bullet, and anyone mating with Superman would die instantly. But consider this - even if conception takes place, if the baby has superhuman strength
    Spoiler
    (as the child in this movie did)
    , wouldn't the kicking during pregnancy basically either destroy the mother's internal organs, or kick through the uterine wall? Never mind that Superman is basically an alien from another planet, with, presumably, a different bio history than Earthlings. Does he have DNA? Considering how different starfish and octopi are from trees and buffalo on this planet, how different should Superman, being from another planet, be?

    Can someone please explain any of this to me? Suddenly the Superman I knew and loved makes no sense to me.
    1. Sorry can't help with #1. I have to think on it. Do realize that the movie continuity does have little to do with the comics. Superman has expressed many powers in the movies that are not shown in the comics, like the memory erasing kiss in Superman 2 or the S-shield wrapper that he uses in the same movie.

    2. From my knowledge of the comic and other sources, like the aniamted series I am going to guess that in the live action movies he is holding his breath. He is not up for long and since he is invulnerable he does not need to worry about explosive decompression. In the animated series he could do this as well, but needed a spaceship and/or spacesuit for long missions. I believe in the comics he can hold his breath for a long time, but a Superman comic reader will have to verify that.

    3. Krypton had a red sun. This has been shown to sap his strength as well. If he is on a world with a red sun he will start to lose his powers since he cannot recharge them. He is an alien so I am not sure that he is indistinguishable from humans. Its something in his make-up that allows him to use the sunlight ot charge powers.

    4. The kryptonite changed when his world exploded. In other words if you took a chunk of Krypton pre-explosion and exposed it to modern SUperman it would have no effect one way or the other.

    Since most of the kryptonite was incased in earth he could do this. I believe it has to be direct stimulation. You put something between superman and kryptonite and it will lessen the effects on him, with varying effectiveness depending on what is used. I found it a bit hard to believe myself and was not fond of the scene. The only salvation was the fact that he basically used all his strength to pull it off.

    5. Well that is a good question. Perhaps the child did not kick mom to death since he was inside her and not exposed to direct sunlight, thusly he never gained powers until after he was born.

    As far as ejacualtion goes in the comics they talk about how he trained with monks at one point before becoming a superhero so that he could learn great muscle control. This is part of how he can pull his punches when stopping a bank robber and not accidentally knock their head off. Its also how he can get along in the world without breaking everything. He has to use a real light touch. the comics have not touched too much directly on superman sex, but he is married to Lois in comics and I assume they have sex so it is just one of thiose things they do not talk about.

    I hope that helped a little.

  3. #3

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogberto
    1. We're gonna need a bigger spaceship. Was Jor-El certain that Earth would be hospitable to Superman? Wouldn't he have created a capsule big enough for the whole family? If he wanted to ensure the survival of Kryptonians, wouldn't he have put a baby girl in there also?
    I'm thinking that it was a matter of time. He did not have time to make a big enough ship. Also given that everyone thought he was nuts and that the world was not going to end I doubt anyone would have given them their little baby girl to shot into space. By the time the planet started falling apart it was too late. On a related note, in the animated series Jor-El did make the ship large enough for Lara, his wife, as well. However, she refused to go, saying her place was at his side. I actually recommend the superman animated series from the mid-nineties over the live action movies. They are much better.

  4. #4

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Aha - I'm glad you knew the answers and posted here. Maybe I should check out the animated series. And thank you for the other answers as well - most of this I did not know at all.

    Your first posting also brings up a point about meteorites in general, and kryptonite specifically - the volume of dust in space, or falling on the earth, always exceeds the total mass of meteorites that actually impact the earth at speed. So then, wouldn't we expect that in space especially, and even on the ground on Earth, that kryptonite space dust might pose a bigger hazard than chunks of the stuff, to Superman's daily activity levels?
    Last edited by RobotMirror; 08-23-2006 at 09:15 PM.

  5. #5

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogberto
    Aha - I'm glad you knew the answers and posted here. Maybe I should check out the animated series. And thank you for the other answers as well - most of this I did not know at all.

    Your first posting also brings up a point about meteorites in general, and kryptonite specifically - the volume of dust in space, or falling on the earth, always exceeds the total mass of meteorites that actually impact the earth at speed. So then, wouldn't we expect that in space especially, and even on the ground on Earth, that kryptonite space dust might pose a bigger hazard than chunks of the stuff, to Superman's daily activity levels?
    Well, from what I know it is a very rare element on earth. Unlike in the TV show Smallville where we see large amount of Kryptonite meteorites hit Earth, very little Krypton has reached it in the comics and animated series. In small/trace amounts SUperman can generally avoid getting ill from it, but it will weaken him. FOr example, in the "Hush" storyline from Batman Poison Ivy used kryptonite in her mind control lipstick which weakened Superman enough for the lipstick to actually work. However, it did not weaken him to the point where he could not fly or smash through walls. The amount of kryptonite particles in the air is probably too small and too spread out to have any real effect. However, it is possible that if a villian were to get some kryptonite and grind it into a powder and throw it in Superman's face it could get in his lungs and it might severely hurt him if not kill him. I would imagine that it has been tried by now, but it's not a tactic I have ever seen used.

  6. #6

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogberto
    Aha - I'm glad you knew the answers and posted here. Maybe I should check out the animated series.
    NO problem. I would suggest if you want to try out teh animated series that you do the following.

    AVoid the recent DVD "Brainiac Attacks". It sucks

    However, a great one to try out to see if you like the series is "The Batman/Superman Movie". It may have a dumb title but it is an awesome introduction to both characters in that style. Here it is on amazon.com

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&s=dvd

  7. #7

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Good to know, thank you - you are a wealth of knowledge of all things Kryptonian!

    One more question - the "fortress of solitude" shown in at least three of the movies is said to contain Kryptonian crystals with all the knowledge and information of the planet/race stored in them. Wouldn't that be "kryptonite", technically?

  8. #8

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogberto
    Good to know, thank you - you are a wealth of knowledge of all things Kryptonian!

    One more question - the "fortress of solitude" shown in at least three of the movies is said to contain Kryptonian crystals with all the knowledge and information of the planet/race stored in them. Wouldn't that be "kryptonite", technically?
    Well assuming that the native material that was Krypton became Kryptonite due to the explosion, and that the crystals were on the spaceship with Kal-El (superman), those crystals would not have been effected by the explosion. Now had they been on Krypton when it exploded and SUperman found them later, then i feel they would be Kryptonite.

  9. #9

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Ah, I get it. So whatever caused the explosion caused the quality of any fragments of the "home planet" to change, and are now lethal/dangerous. Hmm.

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogberto
    Ah, I get it. So whatever caused the explosion caused the quality of any fragments of the "home planet" to change, and are now lethal/dangerous. Hmm.
    LIke i said it is all conjecture, but let's face it. A planet exploding is going to have all sorts of crazy chemical and other reactions so I think that makes the most sense. I'll have to ask Kurt Busiek or Karl Kesel next comicbook convention.

  11. #11

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    I found this article: http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/kryptonite.htm

    Interesting quotes:
    "In comic books from the late 1930s, Kryptonians all had super powers."
    Like radioactive Earth elements, kryptonite emits radiation, although exactly how kryptonite atoms decay is unknown. However, kryptonite radiation seems to behave like gamma or X-ray radiation -- it can penetrate objects and living bodies but cannot penetrate lead. This suggests that kryptonite radiation a form of electromagnetic energy, like gamma or X-rays, rather than particles of matter."
    So, assuming this is true (this seems to be conjecture on the part of that website), doesn't it mean that Earth's yellow sun is not the source of Superman's powers, and doesn't it also naturally suggest that, if ordinary alpha,beta, and gamma nuclear radiation is what makes Kryptonite dangerous, that it would also be dangerous to humans (as the same radiation is currently)?

    And I found this entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kryptonite

    Some issues of Superman have indicated the mechanism by which green kryptonite may hurt Superman. ... Kryptonite's radioactivity possibly interferes with this semi-photosynthetic process, driving the energy out of his cells in a painful fashion. Long term and high-level exposure to green kryptonite can be fatal to Superman. In post-Crisis comics, long-term exposure to kryptonite is known to have the same effects on human beings as exposure to Earth-born radioactive materials; these effects include cancer. Lex Luthor discovered this inadvertently after acquiring a ring with a green kryptonite fragment set in it to provide protection against Superman--Luthor first lost the hand he wore the ring on to cancer...
    In Superman Returns, an additional piece of kryptonite is found in a rock fragment, once more in Addis Ababa. Lex Luthor steals it from a Metropolis museum and uses it in his quest to create a new kryptonite landmass. During the extraction process, the rock appears to hold a significant amount of green kryptonite. The scientific name for the rock was displayed on its case, 'Sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide with fluorine'. As borosilicate glass is commonly crystalline and green-tinted, this could be a plausible human mis-identification of kryptonite; alternately, as no 'unknown' component is listed, one might assume this (sodium/lithium/borosilicate/fluorine) blend to be the actual composition of green kryptonite

  12. #12

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogberto
    I found this article: http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/kryptonite.htm

    Interesting quotes:

    So, assuming this is true (this seems to be conjecture on the part of that website), doesn't it mean that Earth's yellow sun is not the source of Superman's powers, and doesn't it also naturally suggest that, if ordinary alpha,beta, and gamma nuclear radiation is what makes Kryptonite dangerous, that it would also be dangerous to humans (as the same radiation is currently)?
    OK. Kryptonite has indeed in the comics been proven to be dangerous to humans in the long term. If a human handles a chunk they will probably feel no ill effects. If they are constantly exposed to Kryptonite with no precautions they can die, like in the Lex Luthor example.

    In the movies they have never shown the otehr Kryptonians have powers on Krypton, though it is possible. It is very likely that Dc comics dumped the whole Kryptonians have powers a long time ago. If nothing else they have dumped it in what we comicbook nerds call "Post-Crisis". What does that mean? Well it's a long story that I'm sure wikipedia can fill you in on. However, it basically rebooted the histroy of the DC comics universe and things like all kryptonians have powers was probably eliminated at that time if not before. I'm not certain when DC decided Superman gets his powers from the sun, but that has been canon for awhile, at least 21 years. However, these are rules for comicbook Superman. Movie Superman is different. I'm not sure they ever really get into the source of his powers. Animated SUperman definitely gets his powers from the sun. I'd have to go back and rewatch the live action movies to see if they explain how he gets his powers and if the yellow sun is necessary.

  13. #13

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Great first post. I like Superman and was looking forward to the movie but the plot just killed it for me. Mostly between him and Lois. So supposedly he gave her a kiss that erased her whole memory in Superman II. So if she remembers that she had his baby and that she had a relationship with Superman, how does she not remember that Clark Kent is Superman?

    I loved one quote by Roger Ebert in his review: Alas, the craggy landscape he produces couldn't be loved by a mountain goat and won't be habitable for a million years, but never mind.

    I found another funny quote from an old Saturday Night Live skit from 1978, where Lois and Superman were having a party for all the superheroes. Bill Murray was the Superman, Margot Kidder (the host) was Lois, John Belushi was the Hulk, and Dan Aykroyd was the Flash:

    Lana Lang: You know, I'm surprised Clark Kent isn't here.

    Lois Lane: I hope he comes. I invited him.

    Lana Lang: You know, it's funny.

    Lois Lane: What?

    Lana Lang: About Clark.

    Lois Lane: What?

    Lana Lang: Have you ever noticed how you never see Clark and the Flash together at the same time?

  14. #14

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Neon Cactus
    I found another funny quote from an old Saturday Night Live skit from 1978, where Lois and Superman were having a party for all the superheroes. Bill Murray was the Superman, Margot Kidder (the host) was Lois, John Belushi was the Hulk, and Dan Aykroyd was the Flash:

    Lana Lang: You know, I'm surprised Clark Kent isn't here.

    Lois Lane: I hope he comes. I invited him.

    Lana Lang: You know, it's funny.

    Lois Lane: What?

    Lana Lang: About Clark.

    Lois Lane: What?

    Lana Lang: Have you ever noticed how you never see Clark and the Flash together at the same time?
    I think I remember that one. Isn't that the one where Garrett Morris played Ant-Man?

  15. #15

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    Re: Does the "Superman" story make any sense?

    Yeah, and the other super heroes are making fun of him. The Hulk stinks up the bathroom. And then Superman flies away to get ice and Clark Kent shows up and they're talking about her pre-Superman days, and she's talking about how Superman thought she was a virgin. Clark asks her, Well, weren't you? And she said, Come on, I was dating the Hulk! Then Clark leaves and Superman comes back and throws all of the guests out.

    I found the link for the whole transcript of it. The writing quality on the show was definitely better than it is now.

    http://snltranscripts.jt.org/78/78osuperman.phtml

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