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"All his traditional powers are gone," editor Joey Cavalieri said. "Instead of the living solar battery he's always been, Superman is now an energy being. Superman doesn't exactly fly any more; he zaps from place to place like a bolt of lightning..."
Dan Jurgens reinforces the significance of the change. "Superman's new powers are a very drastic change from the powers he previously had. For example, though bullets would bounce off him in the past, they now pass right through him." Of course, changes of this magnitude also force Superman to "re-learn" his superheroic role.
The entire storyline continues from DC's Final Night series from late 1996; however, Dan Jurgens points out that this major change actually predates that series. "This was planned about a year ago," Jurgens said. "Final Night has nothing to do with this, although it did work in with the changes very well. Final Night wasn't even conceived of before this was all worked out."
The new powers fully developed in Superman #123, (released March 12th) by Dan Jurgens, Ron Frenz, and Josef Rubinstein. Not only does Superman have new powers, but he also has a new costume and a new symbol. The landmark issue, featuring a new Superman logo, also featured a special glow-in-the-dark cover on stiff paper stock.
"We thought it was time to make things a little tougher for Superman," said Joey Cavalieri, "And since we've already killed him, it seemed the way to do it was to get him powers he was unfamiliar with and have him learn how to walk again."
Since the first appearance of Superman in 1938, the Man of Steel has been through numerous alterations. However, past changes were temporary. This time, the popular icon has undergone a major transformation that contains long-lasting effects in perhaps the biggest comic storyline since 1992's The Death of Superman.
"Comics is a visually symbolic medium," said Louise Simonson, writer of Superman : Man of Steel. "When you make a big change in a character, people need to recognize that a big change has been made just by looking at that character. That's part of the reason for coming up with the idea to change the costume."
Though Superman's powers have changed, Superman will still derive then from solar energy.
Many people have argued for the old Superman to remain, but times change and apparently so does Superman. "He's still Superman," said Cavalieri. "He still has the 'S' and it seems to me if you're going to do a story like this, you should really go all the way. It's a hell of a visual and when you see how he flies, you won't even miss the cape."
The most controversial event in recent comics history took an unexpected turn in December 1997, as the new-costumed Superman's strange, energy-based powers lead to a fundamental change in the hero's very identity, and introduced two new characters to the Superman mythos. DC Comics launched: SUPERMAN RED/SUPERMAN BLUE.
The 64-page one-shot, while taking its title from one of the most beloved "imaginary" Superman stories of the 1960s, was every bit a part of modern continuity. Menaced by the unlikely, but nonetheless deadly, alliance between Toyman and the Cyborg, Superman's energy form was ripped apart, but the hero survived -- as two distinct beings: the devil-may-care Superman Red, and the more somber Superman Blue. Identical except for their color, each had the same powers as the original Man of Energy and each could turn into Clark Kent.
The new costume was in fact a containment suit. In the month leading up to the landmark issue Superman #123, Superman slowly changed into a being made of energy. The suit was made from a fabric which was designed and patented by Lexcorp, and "kindly" donated by Contessa Erica Del Portenza, then the CEO of the corporation. The 'look' of the costume was probably put together by Professor Hamilton (an old friend of Superman's) and Lois, his wife.
These were a little more complicated. The main thing was all his classic powers were gone. No more heat vision, X-ray vision, Super-hearing or invulnerability!
It all began in Superman #122 when he blew up a toaster, passed his hand through a coffee pot, and most alarmingly, accidentally hurt an innocent bystander when bullets passed right through him. Another side-effect was that electrical goods went *K-Phut* when he was near them. These problems were soon cleared up thanks to the containment suit.
Things really heated up in The Adventures of Superman #545, when everything went wrong! His whole body started to pass through things, he lost his flight power and his vision powers completely changed. He began to pass through things because he had been knocked out of phase with our reality. In Superman Annual #9, we are told that as Superman Blue he was 100% energy, and was slightly out of phase with the normal reality plane.
By concentrating hard, Superman could solidify himself back to a human state reverting back to Clark Kent (and into the normal reality plane), but then he had NO powers at all. At first when changing back into Clark Kent he had no clothes on, but that wasn't a problem after a while. Although where his clothes went during his phase into Superman was unknown.
Okay! So, what could he do?
Before anything else, it should be noted that the following information was given in the JLA Secret Files #1 "Who's Who" page on Superman:
|Superman: The Man of Tomorrow
Containment suit stores energy, which is transformed into other powers.
Teleportation, Intangibility, Super-Vision and the Creation of Electromagnetic Fields.
Teleportation - (*Zapping/Flying*)
At first, Superman, lost his ability to fly. Instead he was able to 'Zap' from place to place. The first time Superman did this was in Action Comics #732, when he traveled to a research station in Antarctica, and then back to Metropolis again. This appeared to be some kind of teleportation. However, he needed to concentrate to be able to get the location for his landing right. In The Adventures of Superman #546, he used this power to travel down a telephone line and into his and Lois' apartment.
Superman also created a Sonic Boom when he zapped from one place to another.
At first there seemed to be some confusion between the writers at DC Comics as to whether or not Superman could indeed fly!! In Action #733, when Superman met with The Ray, it was said that Superman, at first, could only Zap from one place to another, but then he could either Zap or Fly because he was more experienced, had more control over his energy powers. He was able to fly "reeeeeally, really fast" as The Ray said. The words 'faster than light' were used. BUT!! In MOS #69, when Superman was taken over by Tolos (on page 21) he said, "Ah! The Rocket Belt! Just what I need! This body can't fly now... it bolts from place to place..." and then used the Rocket Belt to fly away.
Whether it was just an artistic thing or not, we saw Superman both in flight and also as a lightning bolt. So I am surmising that Superman could both fly and zap as he pleased.
(Note: As an energy being, Superman no longer had his X-Ray, Telescopic, or any of his other classic vision powers.)
He had the ability to see radiation, wavelengths and spectra, all of which he could not see before. In Superman Annual #9 we read that Superman used his vision powers to trace an infra-red trail left by a car. In Action #735 Superman first used his Spectra vision to analyse Saviour's body which enabled him to work out that Saviour used psychic energy to generate matter. Superman again used his Spectral vision in the JLA/WildCATS special to analyse a perimeter wall to gauge its thickness and work out its structural make-up. With this vision he was also able to see the energy-signature of the villain hiding behind the walls.
In MOS #68 Superman shot beams of energy from his eyes at a villain (Scareware), but Scareware appeared to teleport away from the scene before we were able to see just what these beams of energy could do. Although in Action Comics #734, Superman shot "Vision Bolts" of energy from his eyes, melting his opponents' guns.
This first manifested itself in Action Comics #732 when Superman tried to stop a lorry. A beam of energy, which appeared to be magnetic in nature, shot from his out stretched hand and 'grabbed' the vehicle. In Man of Steel #67 when Clark tried to shave, using his trusty heat vision, he sent himself bouncing around his apartment, leaving all metal objects clinging to the walls. It appeared that Superman could manipulate his electrons to form any power he could think of, just like a Green Lantern Power Ring. Also in MOS #67, Superman used his *Power Punch* for the first time. Using his experience from Action #732, he manipulated the electrons around his fist to produce another 'fist' which he could use to hit out with.
In Action #733, following advice from The Ray, Superman manipulated his electrons further to create two new powers. The first of these was a Tractor Beam, which he used to pull Metallo towards him. The second was a pulse that increased Metallo's mass by affecting the gravitational field around Metallo so that the villain's body would sink into the ground.
Another similar power was used in Action Comics #734 when Superman created a "Repulsing Energy" field to act as a battering ram.
He could also "Morph" or change his appearance by manipulating the electrons of his containment suit and energy. As seen in Action Comics #733, while Superman was getting advice from The Ray, he appeared to make his containment suit morph into a blue and white version of The Ray's costume.
Again in Action Comics #734, Superman changed his appearance to look like a "Peace Keeper" within Kandor, this time also changing the colour of his appearance to match the soldier's uniform.
Along the same lines as his "Morphing" ability, Superman was able to make himself Intangible (transparent/invisible) as seen in MOS #74 when he tried to save Lois without being seen by Rajiv (her kidnapper who suspected that Clark is Superman).
In MOS #69, Superman used his new powers to weld shut a metal door. This may have been a similar power to that which he beamed out of his eyes (as mentioned under Vision Powers).
In Action #735, Superman generated a Kinetic Vortex around Scorn (Ceritak) who was suffocating within a cloud of smoke, by rotating it like a tornado, he managed to pull the clinging cloud away. Another version of this power was shown in Superman #127, page 17, where Superman used his containment field to draw water from the ocean onto a nearby burning warehouse.
MOS #71 gave Superman his first attempt at using his Electromagnetic power. When confronted with the task of stopping two trains heading for a front-on collision, Superman landed in between them, out-stretched his arms, polarising each with a positive magnetic field, causing them to repel each other, stopping them from colliding.
Solid Energy Field: Basically a part of his Electron Manipulation powers was Superman's Solid Energy Field. In MOS #68, Superman manipulated his "Solid Energy Field" to smother fires. With the ability to expand his body size, Superman was able to encase a whole burning building and together with his Solid Energy Field managed to put out the flames. Superman also used another variation of his Electron Manipulation power, creating a solid energy wall to protect people from fire as they waited on the roof of an apartment block. Then when the roof collapsed, Superman fell with the people and appeared to move the shield under the people to catch them. Superman was (as noted above) Intangible, unless he surrounded himself in a Solid Energy field. It appears this Solid Energy Field was what enabled Superman to hold and grab solid objects and also what enabled others to grab or hold Superman (see Unanswered Questions section below). Being able to phase between having the Solid Energy Field on or off was in itself a powerful weapon against an opponent who couldn't tell if Superman was intangible or not.
Electromagnetic Force: Another facit of his Electron Manipulation powers, this power was first tried out by Superman in MOS #73, when he was attempting to protect Lex Luthor from Apokolips Parademons, and came up with the idea of magnetising the metal worn by his opponents, causing them to crash together in a useless pile.
In Action #732, a frustrated Superman slammed his fist onto a police computer. His hand passed into the monitor and he began to access the data on the disk drive and network. Again in Superman #129, we were told that Superman tapped into a school's alarm system to determine exactly where a fire had broken out within the complex.
In Action #732, Superman drew radiation from some illegal nuclear waste directly into his body cleaning the waste of radiation. In MOS #67, Superman accidentally drew energy off of the whole city of Metropolis, causing everything to short out. In Superman #123 Superman drew power from a neon sign and then used it to attack Ceritak. By doing this, Superman, was able to travel faster than light (at least that's what it said).
In MOS #68, the ability to expand his body mass, enabled Superman to absorb the energy from a number of flying rockets (rendering them useless) and also the massive amounts of radiation from within Metallo's Aircraft Carrier Nuclear engine power supply. With the absorption of so much radiation, Superman was in extreme pain. It was never known just how much energy/radiation Superman of Energy could absorb, although we knew that he had his limits.
Further to Superman's Energy Absorption ability was his ability to turn any energy he absorbed into energy he could then use for other purposes. For example he was able to absorb the momentum of moving object that passed through him, thereby slowing down the object/person (as seen in AOS #547) and converting that absorbed energy for his own use (as seen in JLA Secret Files #1, page 35). Or as seen in Action #739, he absorbed the heat energy from a burning building and converted it into a "dynamic energy web" which he used to hold the structure together. Similarly, (in JLA #12, page 8) Superman was able to absorb the entire energy output from an explosion he was in, except for the light it emitted, thereby saving himself and the Martian Manhunter, but fooling his enemies who thought him destroyed in the explosion.
In MOS #67, Superman split his energy up and 'zapped' around Metropolis in many places at once, collecting information as to what was happening EVERYWHERE in the city.
As seen in Action Comics #733, when injured as Clark, Superman could change back into his energy form and concentrate to "pull himself together". We saw him actually heal a broken arm, cuts and bruises this way. His first impression was that "Energy doesn't bleed" but in his panic, his injuries just converted themselves to his energy form by "spurting" out energy in the same places as his injuries. It was Lois who convinced him he needed to calm down and concentrate on re-forming himself. A similar result also was possible in reverse. When Superman's energy form was disrupted too greatly to reform himself, a change back into his Clark Kent form made him whole again, although he seemed to need time to recuperate to reform as Superman (as seen in Superman Annual #9).
The strangest of Superman's new powers was discovered in the beginning of the Genesis event in MOS #72. Probably caused by the "God Wave" that changed most Super-hero's powers across the DC Universe, this Dimensional Teleportation was the opening up of windows to other dimensions. Discovered and utilised by Override of the Mainframe gang, he captured and contained Superman, then brought objects from other dimensions within close proximity of Superman which would open a window into the object's dimension of origin. At first unable to control the opening and closing of these windows, Superman soon, with intense effort, managed to gain control of the ability to open and close these portals, trapping the Mainframe gang in another dimension. In a quiet moment with Lois, Clark wondered if the ability, which he no longer seems to have after the above mentioned event, was brought on by Override's machinery. Lois didn't think so, eluding to the chaos happening all over the world with other metahumans (i.e. Genesis).
It appeared that Magic (one of Superman's classic weaknesses) still held power over him in his new form. In AOS Annual #9, Superman found he was unable to absorb the punches or impacts he received while fighting a mythological being, and when he grabbed hold of a pendant hanging around the creature's neck he received a mighty shock. Superman himself pondered that the feeling "had magic written all over it!"
And again in Action Annual #9, (page 16) in a conversation with Lois, after dealing with a villain called Brother Serenity, Clark explained just how helpless he felt.
Also of note is the fact that Superman did not lose his powers when subjected to sunlight of a red sun (as seen in JLA/WildCATS). Therefore it was presumed that Earth's yellow sun was no longer the source of Superman's powers.
The following circumstances showed what Superman's weaknesses were in his energy form:
Excess Radiation Intake - Superman (and his containment suit) had a limit to how much radiation and energy he could absorb. Absorbing too much caused him pain and probably could have killed him (as seen in MOS #67).
Shock Pods acting like Tasers were seen to paralyse Superman in Action Comics #734, basically rendering him powerless.
An Energy Control being (an inhabitant of Kandor) was able to capture and contain Superman in Action Comics #734 using its ability to control all forms of energy it came in contact with.
Disrupter Cannon or similar technology caused Superman's energy form to disperse, which made it very hard for him to reform himself, and therefore he needed to revert to being Clark Kent to carry on. (as seen in Superman Annual #9)
Excessive use of powers - In AOS #549 Superman was seen to be "winded" after flying an elevator full of people out of his burning apartment building using his magnetic grip. He even admitted as much to Jimmy Olsen (pg 14).
Although this also could have been attributed to the fact that flight reduced the effect of Superman's magnetic grip (as seen in Action #738, pages 15 & 16). He had more control when he was standing on solid ground.
In his search to find the answers for himself, Superman and Professor Hamilton conducted some tests in which the Professor confirmed that Superman's "spectrometer" readings were very similar to the phase-shift required to enter the bottled city of Kandor.
Although Wizard Magazine's Superman Special edition (March 1998) states that Superman became an energy being because of an excessive amount of solar energy intake when trying to regain his powers after the Final Night storyline. And that his return to his "classic" costume and powers came about because of his excessive outpouring of energy to save the earth at the end of the Millennium Giants storlyine (Superman #135).
Wizard Magazine's explanation is further backed up by information presented in Superman Secret Files and Origins #2 (May 1999) where Professor Hamilton explains his theory that when Superman immersed himself in the reignited sun shortly after the Final Night saga that Superman may well have overloaded his body's ability to process solar radiation, and therefore his body had no choice but to store the excess energy, eventually resulting in the transformation to a being that consisted only of energy.
It should also be noted that Superman Secret Files and Origins #2 (May 1999) also reveals that while some theorised that the eventaul return to the classic Superman resulted from the fact that Superman Red and Superman Blue were prepared to sacrifice themselves during the "Millennium Giants" saga and therefore were rewarded by being returned to the one true Superman, Professor Hamilton thinks that Superman's restoration can be attributed to the total release of the excess solar energy Superman absorbed which (he thinks) caused the transformation to an energy being in the first place.
Solid? - There was originally some confusion over whether or not Superman could actually physically hold, grab or touch solid objects. Bullets and rockets were seen to pass through him, his hand had been seen to pass through objects as he was 100% energy. Yet we also saw him wearing a parachute, grabbing hold of Lex Luthor by the throat and other examples where he appeared to be solid.
To add to the confusion, Professor Hamilton stated in his interview with Jimmy Olsen (which we heard on TV reports in MOS #70, page 8) that, and I quote: "As an energy being, Superman can't physically touch anything..." Yet, in the very same comic (page 22) we saw Superman aiding Scorn who had his arms around Superman's shoulders for support!!
It seemed that these contradictions were explained by Superman's ability to form a Solid Energy Field around himself which enabled him to hold, touch and grab solid objects (as explained in MOS Annual #6, page 30).
Power Source? - Joe Kaposta (firstname.lastname@example.org) emailed me asking:
Did Superman [in his energy form] have some kind of internal power storage that needed recharging, like a power ring and its battery, or in his energy form was he connected to something like the Flash's "speed force", so that he had a constant supply of energy available to him?
ANSWER: Superman was 100% energy. He was able to absorb energy from a variety of sources and convert this into energy he could use, boosting his powers. He could store this energy thanks to the containment suit.
Thanks to Neil Martin (email@example.com) who reminded us about the Self Healing and Costume Morphing powers.