This is something that’s been bugging me for the last couple of weeks.
I was surfing around the Intarwebz and landed on this Wikipedia page that listed Superman’s powers. We all know that Supes pretty much hit the superpower lottery — he’s got just about everything, and he’s got more of it than just about anyone else. But there was this bit that bugged me:
After being saturated with yellow solar energy in All-Star Superman, his strength was tested as exceeding the force of 200 quintillion tons (or 2×1020 tons, in scientific notation, i.e., two hundred billion billion tons), enough to pull the Earth away from the sun. As of The New 52 reboot, his strength now exceeds 5.972 sextillion metric tons.
I’m willing to buy that for “All-Star Superman,” when, again, he’d been overdosed on solar energy — and the focus of the story wasn’t on his physical strength. But the New 52 bit just annoys me, partly ’cause they’re just trying to one-up Morrison’s story, and partly ’cause it’s just so stupid. Here, lookit this panel from the Reboot’s Superman #13:
And here are the panels, if that’s too small to read. First, the technician helping test Supes says this:
And Superman replies:
This bugs me, and not just for the arrogance the Man of Steel is flashing here.
Really, that level of strength is freakin’ unrealistic. Yes, even for a superhero comic book. Especially for a superhero comic book. Bench-pressing the planet is stupid — and I felt the same way when Grant Morrison had Superman, Wonder Woman, and Martian Manhunter do it all the time in the classic “JLA” series.
Being powerful enough to juggle planets may be a power fantasy (but I don’t know anyone who fantasizes about juggling a planet — juggling bullies, sure, planets, no way), but it makes for boring storytelling.
Where’s the challenge for someone who can juggle a planet? Got a comet on the way to hit Earth? Juggle the planet out of the way. Lex Luthor has a new robot? Is it heavier than the planet? Toss it aside. Lex Luthor got a chunk of Kryptonite? Swat it out of the solar system before it actually reduces your powers or causes you any serious harm. Or have Wonder Woman or the Martian Manhunter or Apollo do it for you, ’cause it’s been pretty well established that they’ve all got Superman-class strength.
Challenge comes from being able to be challenged, and the DC Reboot just prioritizes a few creators’ feeble egos and shallow fantasies above good storytelling.
Superman was a better character back when John Byrne was writing him in the mid-’80s — not just because Byrne was a better writer, with a better grasp of the Man of Steel’s personality and motivations, but because he understood that Superman was more fun to read about when he couldn’t juggle a planet.