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  1. #1
    Astonishing Member superduperman's Avatar
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    Default Superman's powers: What age is most appropriate?

    American Alien got me thinking: What age do you think is most appropriate for Superman to first develop powers? And are there any of his powers you would trust him with from day one? My argument is that he should have some from day one if for no other reason than to learn to control them. Strength for instance. Especially if he is supposed to be so much stronger than everyone else around him. What parent doesn't want their child to be invulnerable? But one could argue that's just an extension of his strength. Flight also seems like one you have to learn to control. Though no parent wants their kid flying off whenever he likes. I wouldn't trust a toddler with heat vision under any circumstances though. I also must confess a bit of personal bias here. My favorite version of Superman is the old Ruby Spears cartoon with the Family Album segments at the end showing a young Clark with all of his powers from day one. But that's just a personal preference. Even I don't know that I would go THAT far. What ages do you think it would be appropriate for him to develop each power?
    Last edited by superduperman; 01-09-2016 at 05:41 PM.

  2. #2
    Ultimate Member Ascended's Avatar
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    In my mind, Clark's physical abilities and sensory input is greater than our's from day one. Krypton is supposed to be a high gravity world with poor light conditions. It makes sense that he'd be tougher, stronger, and faster than us just as a baseline, and his eyes and ears would pick up different frequencies. Clark should never know what its like to be a baseline human; his physiology just isnt wired like our's.

    So, you know, something akin to early Golden Age levels. I dont know if he needs to be that powerful as a baby, but something comparative. If Golden Age, leaping tall buildings Clark is a hundred times stronger than an average man (random number), then toddler Clark should be 100 times stronger than the average toddler. Which is a whole lot to deal with as a parent, but would still be, theoretically, feasible.

    As he gets older and starts to absorb more sunlight, and especially during puberty when his biology changes (and since his cover isnt blown at that age we can assume he went through similar changes such as growth spurts, voice change, and more hair), that's when the wacky stuff like heat vision and flight start to manifest, and his physical/sensory abilities skyrocket. By that age he's old enough to understand the ramifications, keep these things secret, and practice control.
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    Senior Member ManSinha's Avatar
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    This is one contrast when compared to the likes of Zod etc who have been shown to have full control of their powers in a relatively short time after their arrival

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member superduperman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    In my mind, Clark's physical abilities and sensory input is greater than our's from day one. Krypton is supposed to be a high gravity world with poor light conditions. It makes sense that he'd be tougher, stronger, and faster than us just as a baseline, and his eyes and ears would pick up different frequencies. Clark should never know what its like to be a baseline human; his physiology just isnt wired like our's.

    So, you know, something akin to early Golden Age levels. I dont know if he needs to be that powerful as a baby, but something comparative. If Golden Age, leaping tall buildings Clark is a hundred times stronger than an average man (random number), then toddler Clark should be 100 times stronger than the average toddler. Which is a whole lot to deal with as a parent, but would still be, theoretically, feasible.

    As he gets older and starts to absorb more sunlight, and especially during puberty when his biology changes (and since his cover isnt blown at that age we can assume he went through similar changes such as growth spurts, voice change, and more hair), that's when the wacky stuff like heat vision and flight start to manifest, and his physical/sensory abilities skyrocket. By that age he's old enough to understand the ramifications, keep these things secret, and practice control.
    That's something that I've never understood about the post-Crisis Superman. They went out of their way to portray him as a "normal" boy up until about puberty (and even then the age at which his powers developed kept getting pushed up) yet he came from an advanced society. Theoretically, even without the powers, he should have been much more advanced than us physically. Krypton was a super-evolved society in comparison with Earth. This bolsters my theory that most of the post-Crisis continuity was a backlash to the SA. In the old continuity, he was Superboy. So to ensure that doesn't happen, don't let him develop most of his abilities, especially flight, until he nearly graduates high school. This would also explain why Krypton went from a Buck Rogers Utopia to a sterile, unlivable world and why his parents were kept alive well into his career and even why he was "born" on Earth. I would argue the current origin is actually a healthy compromise. He was strong but he wasn't throwing around cars as a toddler (just maybe chairs) and everything else came along later.

  5. #5
    Mighty Member adkal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superduperman View Post
    That's something that I've never understood about the post-Crisis Superman. They went out of their way to portray him as a "normal" boy up until about puberty (and even then the age at which his powers developed kept getting pushed up) yet he came from an advanced society. Theoretically, even without the powers, he should have been much more advanced than us physically. Krypton was a super-evolved society in comparison with Earth. This bolsters my theory that most of the post-Crisis continuity was a backlash to the SA. In the old continuity, he was Superboy. So to ensure that doesn't happen, don't let him develop most of his abilities, especially flight, until he nearly graduates high school. This would also explain why Krypton went from a Buck Rogers Utopia to a sterile, unlivable world and why his parents were kept alive well into his career and even why he was "born" on Earth. I would argue the current origin is actually a healthy compromise. He was strong but he wasn't throwing around cars as a toddler (just maybe chairs) and everything else came along later.
    Although his abilities were 'played down' in his Post-COIE-youth: a bull trampled him when he was 8 years old and he didn't have a scratch on him, and he lifted a truck in order to get his ball. His vision (x-ray and telescopic) and hearing were also enhanced. It's more likely that this version of Superman (going with Byrne's psionic-approach to how Kal's abilities worked) held himself back in a way the previous versions never did (or could) and (later) only 'pushed' himself (a little) when competing against Kenny.


    As for the question posed in the OP, I'm of the view that his mental abilities should kick in first, and as a newborn. Observing, processing, and adjusting - then, as the other abilities begin to develop and he's aware that we don't have them, he adapts accordingly.


    As for other Kryptonians - my basic approach to them is that they get the abilities pretty much straight away, but it's temporary. Their cells soak up the juice and they get the powers, but it takes time for them to process and store the way Clark does, so that, in a matter of hours (depending on which abilities they indulge in and for how long) they come down to a base-level (GA) and it then takes them a couple of years (at least) of casual absorption to get back to being able to have heat vision.

  6. #6
    AT EASE, LOO-SUH! Superlad93's Avatar
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    I don't know, what sort of story do you wanna tell? What sort of Superman do you wanna make?


    I find myself more and more against the idea of having this end all be all rule book to things as inherently flexible as "when should Superman start getting his powers?"

    I for one could see a story and main universe where Superman knows he's an alien early on but he doesn't get any of his powers till he's like 27 or even 30! I mean can you imagine a universe where Clark grows up thinking "home planet security" is gonna knock down his door and drag him kicking and screaming from his parents, and he wouldn't be able to do an thing about it? Then one day when he's already 'assimilated' and what not he finds out he's the most powerful man on the face of the planet. That sounds pretty fun, I think.

    I also love what Landis is doing in AA. It's a really humanizing take on Clark and his powers, and it shows that as long you simply change the "harmonics" (color, tone, subject matter) you can make Clark's powers come off as grounded a new report, or as whimsical as a pixar movie.

    I also think the argument can be made that it's a little too convenient that baby Kal-El wasn't shooting heat beams from his eyes when they found him. I think there's an interesting take/story in a Jon and Martha Kent who have to deal with this horrifying but ultimately innocent child. Locking themselves in the storm cellar to wait out a deadly tantrum (Looper anyone?). Martha struggling between love and fear, and she hold the boy and looks into his eyes. Jon seriously thinking about calling the cops or sleeping with a gun, but ultimately finding the courage and patience to help his new son. A little morbid? Yeah, maybe. But no less possible than any other incarnation. Not saying it's my preferred one, but it's not invalid, I feel.

    For me, I guess I don't really have a preferred age where he should get his powers. I think knowing he came from a spaceship has the same emotional impact as being stronger or see more things than anyone else. BUT I can't deny that I love the novelty of a super powered alien growing up in the Midwest and doing his best to live a decent life.

    I apologize if this post seems like a cop out lol

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    I'd say he has all the powers from day one except heat-vision. It's the scale that changes over time. Like Ascended said- infant Clark would be more powerful than any other infant but that might be on the level of bending spoons or breaking the wooden bars on his crib rather than bending girders. By Kindergarten Clark might be able to outrace cars (maybe 45 MPH in a run) or lift the furniture with one hand (say a few hundred pounds) but not have the solar stamina to do those things for more than a minute or so. It would be when Clark hits puberty (and by human standards he might be a late bloomer say around 15- 16) his powers would begin to go from hundreds of times average human feats to thousands of times exceptional humans and keep increasing past that point.

    His senses would be more a matter of them not getting more powerful as time went on but of Clark learning to sort through the information he was getting better. Infant Clark would have learned to block out the sounds and smells that weren't interesting to him (Not food, not Mom, etc) but as he grew older he would begin to learn how to isolate what he wanted to see, hear, smell out of the rest of it. Things like X-ay vision wouldn't be new senses as much as Clark learning to see the inside of objects when he wanted and the just the outside when he didn't want to see the inside (or more precisely to "visualize" what his senses were telling him about the insides)

  8. #8
    Astonishing Member superduperman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Superlad93 View Post
    I don't know, what sort of story do you wanna tell? What sort of Superman do you wanna make?


    I find myself more and more against the idea of having this end all be all rule book to things as inherently flexible as "when should Superman start getting his powers?"

    I for one could see a story and main universe where Superman knows he's an alien early on but he doesn't get any of his powers till he's like 27 or even 30! I mean can you imagine a universe where Clark grows up thinking "home planet security" is gonna knock down his door and drag him kicking and screaming from his parents, and he wouldn't be able to do an thing about it? Then one day when he's already 'assimilated' and what not he finds out he's the most powerful man on the face of the planet. That sounds pretty fun, I think.

    I also love what Landis is doing in AA. It's a really humanizing take on Clark and his powers, and it shows that as long you simply change the "harmonics" (color, tone, subject matter) you can make Clark's powers come off as grounded a new report, or as whimsical as a pixar movie.

    I also think the argument can be made that it's a little too convenient that baby Kal-El wasn't shooting heat beams from his eyes when they found him. I think there's an interesting take/story in a Jon and Martha Kent who have to deal with this horrifying but ultimately innocent child. Locking themselves in the storm cellar to wait out a deadly tantrum (Looper anyone?). Martha struggling between love and fear, and she hold the boy and looks into his eyes. Jon seriously thinking about calling the cops or sleeping with a gun, but ultimately finding the courage and patience to help his new son. A little morbid? Yeah, maybe. But no less possible than any other incarnation. Not saying it's my preferred one, but it's not invalid, I feel.

    For me, I guess I don't really have a preferred age where he should get his powers. I think knowing he came from a spaceship has the same emotional impact as being stronger or see more things than anyone else. BUT I can't deny that I love the novelty of a super powered alien growing up in the Midwest and doing his best to live a decent life.

    I apologize if this post seems like a cop out lol
    It's not a cop out at all. In fact, one of the more interesting things about Superman is wondering when he'll develop powers with each new version of the character. I'm looking forward to the flashback episodes of Supergirl where we get to see Superman's history of adjustment. What you describe in your first scenario is something like what they would have done with the Nicholas Cage version of Superman. He would have had a robot "babysitter" come with him to Earth and help raise him from day one. So even if he doesn't develop powers right away, he already knows he's going to at some point. That would be an interesting take. If you've never read the short story "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Baby Sitter" from Bizzaro Comics, I suggest you track it down. It's essentially what you describe in your second scenario only handled with humor. The first issue of American Alien sounds a lot like that too. Jon comes across as somewhat afraid of his son. The scene where Clark punches the wall at the theater and Jon gets annoyed is a good example of a father tired of dealing with his son's "quirks".

  9. #9
    Astonishing Member superduperman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Clark View Post
    I'd say he has all the powers from day one except heat-vision. It's the scale that changes over time. Like Ascended said- infant Clark would be more powerful than any other infant but that might be on the level of bending spoons or breaking the wooden bars on his crib rather than bending girders. By Kindergarten Clark might be able to outrace cars (maybe 45 MPH in a run) or lift the furniture with one hand (say a few hundred pounds) but not have the solar stamina to do those things for more than a minute or so. It would be when Clark hits puberty (and by human standards he might be a late bloomer say around 15- 16) his powers would begin to go from hundreds of times average human feats to thousands of times exceptional humans and keep increasing past that point.

    His senses would be more a matter of them not getting more powerful as time went on but of Clark learning to sort through the information he was getting better. Infant Clark would have learned to block out the sounds and smells that weren't interesting to him (Not food, not Mom, etc) but as he grew older he would begin to learn how to isolate what he wanted to see, hear, smell out of the rest of it. Things like X-ay vision wouldn't be new senses as much as Clark learning to see the inside of objects when he wanted and the just the outside when he didn't want to see the inside (or more precisely to "visualize" what his senses were telling him about the insides)
    This is kind of the way I would handle it. I would have him have all of his powers from day one but at a very low ebb. So he's strong at first but only about the strength of a full grown man. He can "fly" but only about for thirty seconds before he slowly floats down like a balloon. By the time he is a toddler, he can lift furniture and float for a few minutes. By about eight he can lift up the back end of a tractor and fly for about half an hour before he floats back down. By the time he's seventeen, he's bulletproof and can fly for hours and has gained control over most of his abilities.

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    This depends on a story element external to Superman himself.

    So long as Superman is the only survivor of Krypton, then it doesn't matter exactly when the full power set kicks in--so that works for both the original Superman in the late '30s and early '40s and the reboot Superman in the late '80s and early '90s (both were supposedly the only ones to get out of Krypton alive).

    Once other survivors of Krypton are added to the mix, then it gets complicated. The main reason for bringing in other survivors is to give Superman some friends and enemies that are equal to him in their power levels. You don't want everyone to sit around for 20 years waiting for another survivor to be at equal strength (and if the powers accumulate over time, then Superman ought to still be able to kick anyone's arse, as he's been on Earth the longest). Trying to get around this catch-22 led to a lot of overly complicated stories in the last twenty years, just so they could keep this paradox that Clark didn't get his powers all at once, but some Jon-Ee come lately gets the full set in one go.

    Even though I prefer Clark to be the only true survivor of Krypton (and everyone else is explained away as a simulation, phantom, ghost, computer generation etc.), I still like it that he's already Superbaby when he arrives--giving Jonathan and Martha quite the handful to deal with when he gets to Earth. Why Superbaby doesn't cause complete catastrophe can be explained somehow.

    For one thing, the rocket seems to arrive along with the Kryptonite. The warp in space that the rocket opens up, to get from Krypton to Earth, must've sucked a lot of radioactive Krypton debris through with the rocket ship. So Kal-El is still recovering from Kryptonite exposure when his rocket lands on Earth.

    Another reason could be that there are all kinds of mind-tapes, holographic projections etc. on board the rocket. Simulations of Jor-El and Lara are taking care of Kal-El during his stressful flight and their lessons teach him some self-control, so he knows enough not to tear his rocket apart before it gets to its destination.

    Presumably Superbaby is super-intelligent--despite his creative use of the English language. So he chooses not to use all of his powers at once.
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    Astonishing Member superduperman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    This depends on a story element external to Superman himself.

    So long as Superman is the only survivor of Krypton, then it doesn't matter exactly when the full power set kicks in--so that works for both the original Superman in the late '30s and early '40s and the reboot Superman in the late '80s and early '90s (both were supposedly the only ones to get out of Krypton alive).

    Once other survivors of Krypton are added to the mix, then it gets complicated. The main reason for bringing in other survivors is to give Superman some friends and enemies that are equal to him in their power levels. You don't want everyone to sit around for 20 years waiting for another survivor to be at equal strength (and if the powers accumulate over time, then Superman ought to still be able to kick anyone's arse, as he's been on Earth the longest). Trying to get around this catch-22 led to a lot of overly complicated stories in the last twenty years, just so they could keep this paradox that Clark didn't get his powers all at once, but some Jon-Ee come lately gets the full set in one go.
    This, to me, is why the pre-Flashpoint origin never made any sense. Clark didn't have his powers from day one but Supergirl and the New Krypton refugees did for the purpose of story contrivances. I remember when SO came out in 2009 there were all kinds of debates about how Clark's powers worked on the DC message boards. This was especially strange during the New Krypton storyline where everyone from Krypton, whether adult or child, all had Superman like powers. They basically held Clark back on purpose to make life easier for the Kents but the moment the story needed everyone from Krypton to have powers from the get go, they did that.

    I think a lot of this also comes down to how radiation works on the human body. Chernobyl is a perfect example of this. Those that were at the direct site of the disaster died within hours. Those that were further away and got out of the city died years later. I saw a documentary on this and to this day, there are still parts of the city that are off limits while other parts are perfectly safe (relatively speaking). The basement where the clothes of the clean up crew are stored, for instance, still needs a radiation suit to visit and even then you can only stay for a few minutes. And it will be like this for centuries. This is still thirty years after the disaster.

    So let's say a human visits a planet where the solar radiation would kill them. How long would they need to be exposed to that planet's sun before they died? Or even just got sick? If you built a house there much like the Kent's house on Earth, would it delay the effect and for how long? When we are exposed to solar radiation, we aren't just exposed to it when we go outside on a sunny day, we are exposed to it in every aspect of our lives to various degrees. It's literally everywhere on Earth. Take a three year old Clark outside to play for a couple hours one afternoon in July and he might be lifting the couch over his head. Walk around town for an afternoon and he'd come home flying. We simply don't know.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    This depends on a story element external to Superman himself.

    So long as Superman is the only survivor of Krypton, then it doesn't matter exactly when the full power set kicks in--so that works for both the original Superman in the late '30s and early '40s and the reboot Superman in the late '80s and early '90s (both were supposedly the only ones to get out of Krypton alive).

    Once other survivors of Krypton are added to the mix, then it gets complicated. The main reason for bringing in other survivors is to give Superman some friends and enemies that are equal to him in their power levels. You don't want everyone to sit around for 20 years waiting for another survivor to be at equal strength (and if the powers accumulate over time, then Superman ought to still be able to kick anyone's arse, as he's been on Earth the longest). Trying to get around this catch-22 led to a lot of overly complicated stories in the last twenty years, just so they could keep this paradox that Clark didn't get his powers all at once, but some Jon-Ee come lately gets the full set in one go.

    Even though I prefer Clark to be the only true survivor of Krypton (and everyone else is explained away as a simulation, phantom, ghost, computer generation etc.), I still like it that he's already Superbaby when he arrives--giving Jonathan and Martha quite the handful to deal with when he gets to Earth. Why Superbaby doesn't cause complete catastrophe can be explained somehow.

    For one thing, the rocket seems to arrive along with the Kryptonite. The warp in space that the rocket opens up, to get from Krypton to Earth, must've sucked a lot of radioactive Krypton debris through with the rocket ship. So Kal-El is still recovering from Kryptonite exposure when his rocket lands on Earth.

    Another reason could be that there are all kinds of mind-tapes, holographic projections etc. on board the rocket. Simulations of Jor-El and Lara are taking care of Kal-El during his stressful flight and their lessons teach him some self-control, so he knows enough not to tear his rocket apart before it gets to its destination.

    Presumably Superbaby is super-intelligent--despite his creative use of the English language. So he chooses not to use all of his powers at once.
    Well based on the explanation for the powers there are ways around the reasoning why other Kryptonians get the same powers as Clark quicker.

    With the pure solar battery approach we had Supergirl's rocket floating around letting her absorbing yellow sun rays for decades so she landed with a full charge, whereas Clark was active during the same period using up his power and replenishing it over and over.

    With my preferred take where Krypton was simply more hostile resulting in Superman's powers being the result of a higher gravity, evolution aimed at maximizing getting energy from multiple sources, etc ... You simply state that someone like Zod has better muscles from living on hostile Krypton where as Clark has better energy reserves from living under a yellow sun.

    And don't forget that if part of either explanation is tied to the Kryptonian puberty then any adult Kryptonian might be as powerful as Superman, but an infant won't. Superman isn't more super because his powers developed over time, he's more powerful simply because he got older and would be just as powerful regardless of how old he was when he arrived.

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    The problem was that all these explanations take time to set up. Sometimes you want a story that gets to the action right away.

    It's understandable why, when in the early '50s more survivors started showing up, they all got their powers immediately, because it saved time. Stories were shorter back then.

    Likewise, in the early '60s, the red sun/yellow sun explanation was simple and easy. That way powers come and go in a snap. Thus they can do stories where Superman or another Kryptonian becomes like an average Earthling and there isn't a waiting period for those powers to come back in the next story.

    Tedious explanations waste time. It's much better just to avoid all that and get to the meat of the story. Otherwise the explanation becomes the story.
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    I'm a fan of the "his powers were there but developed slowly since he grew up on Earth instead of Krypton's environment, but once he fully gained his powers he was as strong as he'd be if he grew up on Krypton and then came to Earth" take. When Kara, Zod, and all the other Kryptonians show up they gain powers faster because they weren't raised on Earth, but none of them are stronger than Kal because once a Kryptonian gains full possession of all their powers then any past limitations don't matter. And, as was mentioned in the thread, I like the idea that Kal knows how to use his energy reserves better than his fellow Kryptonians and that he should never be an "ordinary" human level--either physically or mentally. He does come from an entirely differently evolutionary line and would never see the world exactly as a human does (and he'd probably have instincts that humans don't).

    I think Morrison did a good job of SHOWING this in his run on Action Comics. His Kryptonians, for example, are able to play on building ledges as children because they're smart enough to not fall, and Brainiac mentioned Superman's "Kryptonian moral imprint" prevented him from killing an injured Brainiac, which suggests that Superman and Kryptonians aren't just humans who can gain powers, they're beings whom natural selection took down a far different road, despite the superficial similarity in appearance. So I think one can inform the reader on this without doing a long-winded exposition dump.

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    Astonishing Member phantom1592's Avatar
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    I'm a huge fan of Clark as Superboy. For that matter, I'm a huge fan of Superbaby.

    For me, when the near yellow sun... he has full powers. When sun goes out, he does not. it's the only way that Zod and the rest make any kind of sense at all. It also gives credence to the kent's paranoia since they know he's 'more then human'.

    Most importantly of all...

    it explains the need for Clark to have Glasses. His 'Weak and shy' persona has been there since he was a small child. All those kids in high school with him... always knew him as puny kent and always saw him with the glasses. This idea they've pushed for years now that Clark didn't put on glasses till after he put on a cape is just crazy talk.

    Smallville was the worst of the bunch. 10 seasons before he put on the disguise? Clark without glasses doesn't work if you want to say that everyone already knows clark without glasses...

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