Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org). Here is a link to an archive of all the past questions that have been answered so far.
Reader Lou I. wrote in to ask:
Love the questions. Here’s one that’s puzzled and don’t know if it has ever been addressed:
It’s a fact that to build muscle, you have to challenge your muscles by lifting heavy weights repeatedly. That is the only way to build your physique.
If Superman can basically lift anything with little effort, how did he wind up in comics as a muscle-bound superhero? Shouldn’t he look more like Christopher Reeve (even George Reeves) as opposed to Henry Cavill? The man can effortlessly defy gravity, but even if that were the test of his strength, that challenge would wear off very quickly as gravity’s pull is a constant, not an increasing intensity.
In comic books, I think they came close to being realistic in the 1970’s, but later incarnations have him bulging at every corner. Any thoughts? Thanks.
Let’s take a crack at it, Lou!
I think that there are two basic possible answers to the question. I’ll address each one.
First off is the “Kryptonian superman” theory.
In Superman #53, Bill Finger, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye delivered Superman’s origin…
Notice their take on Krypton. This is not dissimilar from how Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster viewed Kryptonians in the Superman comic strip..
Essentially, then, Kryptonians are special kinds of aliens where their physiology makes them grow up to all look ripped.
The Kandorians were always in good shape, as well…
When he revamped Superman during the mid-1980s, John Byrne considered addressing the issue and ultimately decided it was a “pointless exercise” so just skipped it (he did have Clark Kent have a workout bench to at least explain how HE had big muscles)…
The other theory is that while it might not appear like Superman is working out since he can lift things so easily, he really IS working out, just by doing lots of little super things every day.
The idea is that his feats of strength (or even just flying itself, as obviously his flight is derived from himself, so he must be burning off energy doing so) burn off energy and the solar radiation replenishes it, but he burns off SO much that he basically is in a constant status quo where he is ONLY burning off fat and not muscle, which is why he is so cut.
The New 52 Superman was even showed literally working out…
So I think you could make a case for this second, more complicated answer.
The easiest answer, though, is still “they’re aliens – their physiology is different and they just all look ripped all the time.”
Thanks for the question, Lou! If anyone else has a question, drop me a line at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org!