Superman is one of the biggest superheroes ever created, and because of that, DC has kept a close eye on him. He is one of their big sellers, and they intend on keeping it that way. In order to do this, though, they have experimented with a lot of different arcs, stories, and powers as a means of keeping audiences interested in the Man of Steel. Since his early days in Action Comics, the character has been constantly reimagined and reinterpreted. Each writer that gets a shot at the character brings something new to the table, and many times, it flies completely over our heads.
This isn't just in the comics, though -- changes have been implemented in radio, television, and film (for better or worse). Fans of the character will be surprised to hear about the many alterations DC has made to him with multiple story arcs, runs, and launches together. With Superman looking to return in the Justice League movie, it's time to see how he's risen in the comics and what new additions have been implemented in his lifetime. Prepare to have your minds blown to Krypton and back as we explore 15 times DC changed Superman without you noticing.
15 FROM VILLAIN TO SUPERHERO
The origins of Superman can be traced all the way back to 1933, where two guys were working on a story called Reign of the Super-Man. It was in this original vision for the character was that he would be a bad guy with unnatural powers that would serve as a huge obstacle for the world to try and overcome.
However, the writers saw the popularity of costumed heroes rise and decided to take the Super-Man and turn him into a hero. With it was a completely changed backstory. Going from a bald man with telepathic powers to the Last Son of Krypton named Kal-L, they struck gold with this story and set the stage for what comic books could be from that point on.
14 ELECTRIC SUPERMAN
When comics and the '90s mix, you know you're always in for something truly special. Even Superman wasn't safe from that edgy decade, and he was given an entirely new costume and a new set of powers to give him some trouble after being newly married to Lois Lane.
Starting with the "Power Shift" prelude, Superman is hit with a bolt of lightning that changes his genetic makeup. No longer is he the invulnerable powerhouse that he once was. Instead, he is a being of pure energy. He can absorb other sources of energy and his X-ray vision now allows him to see a different spectrum. He was also given a new white and blue suit and ditched the cape. For all its strangeness, there's no denying it would stand out on a shelf.
13 FROM JUMPING TO FLYING
Part of Superman's repertoire is flight. It's just an aspect of the character that we accept and understand nowadays. He's not Superman if he can't fly. For some of the older fans in the audience, that wasn't the case though. The Man of Steel actually had his fair share of different powers back in the day.
Among his differences, one of them is that he couldn't fly. Remember that old intro that said "capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound"? They emphasized that because he hadn't yet learned the ability to fly. The writers said that it would look silly on the pages and avoided it as much as possible. Nonetheless, it wasn't long before the Man of Steel eventually took to the skies -- a progression that was shown on a small scale in the Man of Steel film.
12 HE WAS TURNED INTO A CAVEMAN
Batman and Superman have argued and fought each other more times than we can count on both hands, and that rivalry has gone through decades of comics. Take World's Finest #151 for example. In it, there is a strange ray that strikes the Dark Knight, transforming him into a brilliant man who looks like a Watcher from Marvel Comics.
He then uses this brilliance to turn Superman into a caveman and reverse the evolution in his brain. What makes this even more painful for Superman is that he can no longer speak proper English (and he also wields a club). It becomes even weirder as time goes on, and none of us completely understand why the writers decided to make this an actual story.
11 SUPERMAN RED AND SUPERMAN BLUE
For all of Superman's powers, he can't be in two places at once, and the writers at DC felt that it was high time to remedy that. The Man of Steel faces many challenges involving brainpower, and so he decides to use a machine that will increase his intelligence in Superman #162. Yet, because of comic logic, he is instead separated into two versions of himself: one dressed in all blue, and the other dressed in all red.
While this is certainly weird at first, it works to their benefit. Not only can they solve a lot of Superman problems, but they solve Clark Kent problems as well. No longer does the Lois Lane and Lana Lang love triangle cause issues, because each Superman picks a different woman to marry. Superman Red and Blue would later reappear as part of the aforementioned "Electric Superman" arc.
10 SUPERMAN USES KRYPTONITE TO GET HIS POWERS BACK?
Who would've thought that Kryptonite would eventually help Superman get his powers back? The story begins when Vandal Savage is concocting a plan to take over the world. He knows that of the heroes ready to defend Earth, Superman will give him the most problems. Because of this, he alters the Man of Steel's molecular composition to prevent his body from changing with solar radiation.
While Superman kept a few of his powers, most of them were completely gone. Because the tyrant's plans were getting closer to fruition, Kal knew he had to try something. To fix himself, he jumps into Kryptonite to kill the mutated cells and that somehow gives him his powers back -- he's simultaneously being killed and fixed at the same time.
9 HAS A BRATTY SON
Like all great superheroes, Superman was eventually given a son by the DC writers in the current "Rebirth" continuity. Named after both of his grandfathers, Jon Kent was born in secret due to a situation that requires Superman and Lois go into hiding and operate only in secret. However, it wasn't long before the new Kent needed to see the world and learn about his past.
In the Super Sons storyline, also part of "Rebirth", Superboy meets up with the Damian Wayne Robin and works with the Teen Titans. However, his young age and lack of control over his powers make him a frustrating companion to work with. He has a lot to learn before he'll ever be a superhero truly worthy of his father's name.
8 SHOOTING LITTLE SUPERMEN OUT OF HIS HANDS
Older comics feature some of the strangest superpowers, and this is one we couldn't come up with even if we tried. Several decades ago, Superman was struggling with the loss of most of his powers (yes, they were still doing it back then) and had to solve a specific problem. Luckily, he came out of the gate with a new ability that allowed him to solve it.
He could shoot a miniature Superman out of his hands to get the job done. While some thought it was an entirely new entity, Superman explained that it was nothing more than a "force I materialize in my image which "borrows" my superpowers." Not the greatest explanation, but we'll take it for now. Besides, the panel of Superman raising his hand to shoot out a miniature version of himself is too priceless to ignore.
7 PINK KRYPTONITE
The only word we have for this is "wow." Superman has been exposed to many forms of Kryptonite over the years, and there have been new ones introduced to provide new challenges to the heroic Man of Steel. However, the one that deserves to be drilled into dust and never seen again is the dreaded and little-known Pink Kryptonite.
"What does Pink Kryptonite do?" We hear you asking. If you think that it alters the Man of Steel's powers in any way, think again. Instead, it targets Supermans sexuality and turns any Kryptonian it encounters from straight to gay. We will never forget the image of Superman complimenting Jimmy Olsen's attire after being exposed to this oddly specific mineral. Kill this whole concept with fire, please.
6 LIFE BEFORE KRYPTONITE
Most people coming to the DC Universe see Kryptonite as something that's been there the entire time. The reality is that Kryptonite wasn't always a part of Superman lore and actually wasn't introduced until fairly later in the character's life. Due to his popularity, there was a radio show that involved the character going up against baddies and saving the day.
However, the voice actor for that show would have a lot of work to do, and the studio wanted to give him a break every once in a while. To do this, they created Kryptonite as a means of weakening Superman and thus, allowing the voice actor to have some time off. The people at DC liked it so much that they incorporated it into the comics.
5 HIS EARTHSHATTERING HOOK UP WITH WONDER WOMAN
After the stellar run of The Dark Knight Returns, it was only a matter of time before we would see a sequel. Unfortunately, The Dark Knight Strikes Again didn't live up to its name or legacy. Instead, we got a haphazard plot with many moments that made readers feel a little uncomfortable.
The standout scene is when Superman is being all mopey about losing a battle. When he talks about it with Wonder Woman, the two decide to consummate their relationship. However, it's not just any hookup. They, as a matter of fact, cause volcanoes to erupt, explosions to occur and tidal waves to crash down on shores. Thousands of people died as a result, and we're still not sure what to think of this, nor their whole New 52 relationship.
4 GAINING A THIRD EYE
With Brainiac's recent purge on the DC Universe in Injustice 2, it's fitting to take a look at the kinds of problems he used to cause the Man of Steel. In Action Comics #275, he exposes our flying hero to Red and Green Kryptonite... both at the same time! Who knows what strange alteration Superman will go through?
The result is that he grows a third eye on the back of his head. Not only does he have to wear several hats on a regular basis (and change his personality with each one for some reason), but he has to deal with the embarrassment. However, he eventually learned how to use it to his advantage when he managed to add it as another direction to his heat vision and zap Brainiac.
3 CREATING PEOPLE OUT OF THIN AIR
On the topic of Red and Green Kryptonite, that's not the only time that he would be exposed to such a colorful combination. Action Comics #283 would see a duo of cunning men create a statue in Superman's image of both of those rocks. When the Man of Steel came close to it, he immediately had access to some strange powers.
This time, he didn't grow a third eye, but instead can make his wishes come true. When he tries to solve this problem, he wishes that he had the help of Sherlock Holmes, when suddenly, the world's greatest detective appears! He even uses this power to later cause both sets of his parents to materialize out of nothing. For all of DC's problems, being creative is not one of them.
2 TEEN RIVAL OF LEX LUTHOR
One aspect of Superman lore that has been changed constantly is his origin story. While each time he remains the Last Son of Krypton and raised by the Kents, it's the details after that which seem to be in a constant state of flux. This particular change occurred in Superman's teenage years.
He was shown to have two best friends, as well as a rival in Lex Luthor. Apparently, the genius was a few years older than them and used his larger size and intelligence to bully them and cause all sorts of stereotypical problems for kids of that age. Needless to say, this is the kind of addition we don't need for Luthor, as we already see him as a frightening villain. Connecting him to Superman's past feels contrived.
1 BECAME A YELLOW LANTERN
While the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game was filled with interesting details in its story, the comic held many more of them. One particular event saw Batman's Insurgency gaining power as many DC forces worked to stop Superman. Even the entire Green Lantern Corps of Oa came to stop his tyranny.
Yet, due to his newfound power, Superman was offered a Yellow Lantern Ring. He accepted and became more powerful than anyone could imagine. He used it to temporarily defeat the Insurgency as well as kill all of the Green Lanterns on Oa. After that, Wonder Woman persuaded him to deny the ring, as it symbolized a much darker side of the DC Universe, and she still felt that Superman and the Regime were above that.
Are there any other changes to Supes we missed out? Let us know in the comments section!