In less than a year, Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel will take flight, returning one of the most iconic superheroes to the big screen. Seven years since Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns disappointed fans, Dark Knight mastermind Christopher Nolan has penned a new script, bringing forward a fresh and darker take on the character.
After seeing the Man of Steel trailers recently, many fans of the original Superman films have been questioning some of the film’s ideas. Man of Steel retells the origin of “the man in blue tights”, with Henry Cavill starring as our beloved caped hero. While most people know the basics after seeing at least one cartoon, movie, TV show or comic, there are a number of untold truths about Superman, who may or may not be exactly who you think he is.
Born on a planet named Krypton, to parents Jor-El and Lara, baby Kal-el is sent in a rocket/spacecraft/ship to earth when the planet is set to explode.
After his ship crash-lands on earth, he is taken in by Jonathan and Martha Kent, a middle-aged couple from Kansas who were unable to have a child of their own. They rename him Clark and keep his origins a secret until he starts developing super powers – speed, strength, hearing, flight, enhanced senses, x-ray vision, arctic breath and heat vision.
When Clark discovers his true identity he becomes a hero named Superman. In order to keep his identity a secret, he leads a double life and poses as a clumsy and nerdy journalist at The Daily Planet in Metropolis.
He later develops strong feelings for Lois Lane, a fellow journalist, and makes enemies with a wealthy criminal named Lex Luthor. While he spends most of his time-saving people throughout the world, but mostly Metropolis, he always has a getaway in the Arctic Circle called The Fortress of Solitude, where he conducts experiments, imprisons criminals from other planets and reads up on the history of our universe.
1. Superman originally started as a bald villain
It’s certainly hard to believe, but Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s Superman first appeared in 1933 in “The Reign of the Super-Man” as a bald-headed villain, bent on world domination, with the power to control people’s minds. Thank goodness the story wasn’t popular and the character was reimagined later (1933) as a superhero instead. It’s clear to see, however, that the original Super-Man bears a strong resemblance to arch-nemesis Lex Luthor.
Trivia: Superman’s dog is called Krypto. When he’s not fighting crime, Krypto has his own secret identity – Skip.
2. Superman wasn’t born with powers
Critics of The Man of Steel have always argued that he is limitless and invincible, except when he is near Kryptonite. But this isn’t true. Superman wasn’t born super. His powers developed as his he grew older. Superman draws his power from Earth’s yellow Sun, absorbing and converting the solar rays into power. The older he got the more energy he was able to absorb. Hence, Superman can also grow tired and weaker if he is unable to store solar energy at the same rate he is using power. Think of him as a solar rechargeable battery. Superman has faced many alien and superhuman enemies whose strength rival his own and who have been able to injure him. He is also vulnerable to magic.
Interestingly, when he first was created by Siegel and Schuster, the Last Son of Krypton couldn’t fly but was able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
Trivia: Superman can be seen somewhere in every episode of the television show, Seinfeld.
3. The S on his chest doesn’t only stand for Superman
The explanation for Superman’s symbol has changed a few times. Most people mistake the symbol on Superman’s chest to be the S which stands for Superman, but it’s also his Kryptonian family crest (the house of El), as seen on his ship, blanket, and Jor-el’s clothing. It is also a symbol which means “hope”, as indicated in the Superman: Birthright comic series. Flipping the symbol upside down strangely results in the Kryptonian symbol for “resurrection”. The S was also used as a shield in a few interpretations. It also inspired reporter Lois Lane to call him Superman. It also pays homage to his two creators Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster.
Trivia: The original Richard Donner Superman script included four Kryptonian villains, not three. The fourth was a psychopathic jokester, named Jak-el.
4. Batman and Superman have a bromance
Both heroes have crossed over into comic books where they were required to join forces to defeat a threat to Earth. They are also both members of the Justice League. In the 90s, Superman and Lois get married. Bruce Wayne owns the building the couple lives in – a wedding gift from the famous billionaire. Strangely Bruce also later buys the Daily Planet, where both Lois and Clark work. They are the best of friends. In Superman/Batman No.3, Batman observes, “It is a remarkable dichotomy. In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then… he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him.”
Trivia: The actor, Nicolas Cage, named his son Kal-el, which is Superman’s birth name.
5. What’s the deal with Kryptonite?
Everyone has seen the green glowing rock that brings Superman to his knees. Kryptonite is made of mineral debris from his home planet, Krypton. There are many different types of kryptonite, the most popular being:
Exposure to green kryptonite radiation nullifies Supes powers, causing pain and nausea, which could possibly lead to his death. The only substance on Earth that can protect him from the radiation is lead, the only substance Superman cannot see through. Green kryptonite is also completely harmless to humans (although the TV show Smallville has a slightly different take on this).
Red kryptonite was created when green kryptonite passed through a (red-hued) “strange cosmic cloud,” some of which arrived on Earth. They have strange effects on Superman’s behaviour – usually resulting in hallucinations and transformation into a villain.
Gold kryptonite permanently removes superpowers from Superman, by destroying the ability of Kryptonian cells to process solar energy.
Blue kryptonite is the Bizarro (an evil Superman clone) analogue to green kryptonite – meaning it hurts Bizarros, but has beneficial effects on Kryptonians, like healing and protection from green kryptonite.
Trivia: Jude Law was Bryan Singer’s only choice to play General Zod in Superman Returns. After Law turned down the role several times, Singer eliminated the character from the script.
6. Superman is based on the story of Jesus
The parallels between the Man from Nazareth and the Man from Krypton are unmistakable. Superman’s Pa and Ma Kent are both similar to Mary and Joseph, in fact, Martha Kent was originally named Mary while Jonathan Kent’s middle name remains Joseph. Superman’s family name El is a Hebrew word for God. This highlights the Christ story; El (God) the father sending El (God) the son to Earth, to be a protector and to “show them the way”. Among the many Gospel-inspired story elements, Clark like Christ travels alone to a remote location – Clark to the Arctic and Christ to the desert – at the age of 30 Clark becomes Superman, the same age Jesus started His ministry. Superman Returns echoed these ideas throughout, especially with the voice of Jor-el: “They can be a great people, Kal-El–they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you–my only son.”
Trivia: Many people believe the role of Superman is cursed, and bad luck will befall any actor who plays the character.
7. Superman has fought just about every character out there
There is a really long list of characters that have gone toe to toe with Superman, including Batman, Hulk, Thor, Aliens, Mohammed Ali, Spider-man, Predator, Terminator and many others. Yet he has only been really defeated once – against Doomsday, who ultimately kills The Man of Steel.