When Superman Lost a Third of His Power Forever...Or Until Next Issue

This is "Never Gonna Be the Same Again," a feature where I look at how bold, seemingly "permanent" changes were ultimately reversed. This is not a criticism, mind you, as obviously things are always going to eventually return to "normal." That's just how superhero comic books work. It's just fun to see how some of these rather major changes are reversed. This is differentiated from "Abandoned Love," which is when a new writer comes in and drops the plot of the previous writer. Here, we're talking about the writer who came up with the idea being the same one who resolved the change. This is also differentiated from "Death is Not the End," which is about how "dead" characters came back to life, since this is about stuff other than death.

Today, we look at how Superman was significantly depowered after getting revamped in the early 1970s.

This is the third part in what was originally going to be a three-part look at three of the most notable changes that Denny O'Neil made to the Superman mythos when he took over writing duties on Superman in 1971, but just now as I was writing that I realize I probably should feature a fourth notable change to the mythos that occurred in these stories. The first one is here, about how Kryptonite was meant to be eliminated. The second is here, about how Superman's Superman robots were meant to be eliminated.

This time, we look at Superman's powers themselves.

Clearly, when Julius Schwartz was given control of the main Superman title, he and Denny O'Neil had a clear idea of how to approach the character. Much like how Schwartz was in the midst of a "back to the original" take on Batman at the time (with Batman becoming more of a DARK Knight than he had been since the very earliest Bill Finger/Bob Kane stories), so, too, did they decide to take Superman back to a similar point in his career. When Superman was introduced, he was significantly less powerful than he became over the years and his stories had a very "down to Earth" feel to him, with Superman addressing normal issues (like saving a woman from domestic abuse in his first issue).

Therefore, in Superman #233 (by O'Neil and Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson), the same experiment that accidentally turned all kryptonite on Earth into iron also seemed to transform the sand where the experiment occurred into a living being...

We see in the following issue that when the Sand creature flies near Superman, Superman's powers fail...

We later see in Superman #237 (by O'Neil, Swan and Anderson) that contact with the creature is further limiting Superman's powers, but also affecting his mind a bit, as he is kind of a jerk to Lois Lane here...

Things get worse until Superman is totally powerless in Superman #241, but he decides that he wants to renounce his powers (he is being helped by I-Ching, a character from Wonder Woman's series at the time, which O'Neil was also writing). I-Ching explains that Superman has a great responsibility to keep using his great power and Superman ultimately agrees..

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