Superman Comic Books

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Superman's Super Breath Explained - Origins and Evolution

We all know that Superman has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Powers that include flight, super strength, super speed and various super-vision capabilities. He also has super breath, which encompasses a variety of uses, including freeze breath.

Superman's Super Breath not only includes the ability to freeze things, but his lung capacity is such that he can expel air with such force as to blow things away as well.

The first use of Superman's super breath was seen in "Action Comics #20" (with a cover date of January 1940). In the story Superman blows out a villain's torch when they threaten to set alight hostages. While not necessarily a stellar example of Superman's super breath, the narration does describe the Man of Steel as summoning "all the power in his powerful lungs" to blow out the torch, so it's definitely the use of a super-power and not something a mear mortal could achieve.

Another early example of Superman's super breath came in "Action Comics #37" (dated June 1941) in which Superman extinguishes a building fire, saving an officer and his secretary when they're trapped in the Mayor's office with the room well ablaze. Superman enters via a window and with "a terrific gust of breath" he blows out the flames.

While Superman's super breath is more commonly known in the freeze-breath variety, this wasn't seen until nearly 20 years later in "Superman #129" (which a cover date of May 1959). In the story, Clark Kent, wearing a fireman's hat, "super-cools" his breath to help the fire die out, covering the entire room in ice. Scientifically, this is known as the Joule-Thomson effect or Joule-Kelvin effect.

Super Breath isn't exclusively used to expel air, as Superman has also been known to perform super feats of inhalation. Examples include Superman inhaling smoke or other lethal gasses, and the expelling it once in a safe environment.

While his lung capacity allows him to hold his breath for extended periods in airless environments, in modern comic books Superman still needs to breath, and has been shown to use a breathing apparatus when flying in outer space.