5718 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Superman (George Reeves in Adventures of Superman)

Superman

(George Reeves TV version)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

The show (1951-1957) was before my time. I was born the year after it ended. Once I heard about it, I wanted to see it.

But things weren’t like they are now. You couldn’t just order the DVDs or watch episodes on-line. You had to wait until a local station had the good sense to show it in reruns. Once I finally saw it, I was fascinated by how great it was, how Superman could smash through walls and especially his power of flight.

Oh, the special effects for showing it were prehistoric by today’s standards. But, at the time, when I had never seen anything better, it was a child’s ultimate fantasy. I can remember watching an episode and then going outside and imagining myself flying.

To this day, as much as I loved the Christopher Reeve version and the new “Man of Steel” version, the special effects are somewhat meaningless to me. If CGI does it all, great. If it’s a more primitive level of effects, no problem. My mind will fill in the details that the special effects can’t.

The George Reeves show was not the first live action Superman but it was the one that brought Superman into the living room as a television show. Effects, characterization and stories have improved by magnitudes since then but there’s still something magical about the simplicity of the original Superman television series.


Butler (one of two men chatting in the Metropolis Men’s Club): “Can you imagine having that much power ? The power to fly like a bird… to span thousands of miles in the twinkling of an eye… to smash through concrete walls as if they were paper… to defy authority without fear of punishment.”
Conway: “But Superman doesn’t defy authority. He cooperates with it.”
Butler: “I know. But he has the power to, if he wants to exercise it. That’s what counts. The power, the ability… It’s like saying you hold the world in the palm of your hand. No king, no emperor, no dictator ever had more power.”


Background

  • Real Name: Clark Kent
  • Other Aliases: Superman; his birth name was Kal-El but that name was only used in the first episode by Jor-El and Lara on Krypton.
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: Jor-El (father, deceased and Superman presumably has no memory of him), Lara (mother, deceased and Superman presumably has no memory of her), Eban Kent (adoptive father, deceased), Sarah Kent (adoptive mother)
  • Group Affiliation: None
  • Base Of Operations: Metropolis
  • Height: 6’1” Weight: 200 lbs
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black


Powers & Abilities

By the time this series started, Superman’s powers in the comics were fully developed. He had gone well beyond just strength and speed and had all of the powers we normally associate with Superman. However, the show had some differences.

In the show, Superman is a brick with great strength and durability. He seldom displays superhuman combat speed, however. He can go multiple levels of Mach speed in flight but his running speed is not so impressive. His flight also has limitations as discussed in the game stats.

He also has various vision and hearing powers and, of course, his Heat Vision explained as the heat from his X-Ray Vision. As it is a side effect of his X-Ray Vision, it can go through things without harming them and damage other things.

On rare occasions, he displayed some more exotic powers, usually powers that appeared for one episode and were never seen again just as they had never been seen before. These powers are explained in game terms as a low level of Omni-Power and a few powers with extreme limitations on them.

See the game stats section for more.


Video

The immortal one-minute intro of the Adventures of Superman, where almost every sentence became iconic. 240p resolution, so opening it in a new window is unnecessary.


History

Jor-El, one of Krypton’s leading young scientists, tried to convince the Ruling Council of Krypton that the gravitational pull of its sun was pulling it in and it would be destroyed. One might question how they could not notice that they were getting closer and closer to their sun but they did not.

We are told by the narrator that Krypton is located millions of miles from Earth but presumably in a nearby solar system and that the Kryptonians are just like humans but millions of years more advanced, at the physical height of what humans can be.

Superman flying in color

It is unclear if Kryptonians all have powers. Though we never see them in use, the implication is that they do, but not powerful enough to survive the destruction of their planet. At any rate, there is no mention of gravity or the color of the sun. Jor-El wants them to build huge spaceships to carry them to Earth because the environmental conditions are almost identical to that of Krypton.

Unbelieved by the Council, Jor-El returned home and begged Lara, his wife, to go with their infant son, Kal-El, to the planet Earth in the experimental rocket ship he had built. She refused to leave Jor-El so they placed their son into the ship and launched it only minutes before Krypton was destroyed.

Strange visitor

On Saturday April 10, 1926, Eban and Sarah Kent (the reason for the changing of the first names is uncertain) were driving home along an isolated country road (presumably near Smallville though the name is never used in the series) when they saw the rocket crash land.

Hearing the cries of a baby, Eban risked his life to pull him from the burning rocket before the rocket imploded as if it had never existed. Neither the baby nor his blankets were even singed, indicating that the child was already superhumanly durable. They made the decision to adopt the child and raise him.

By the time he was 12, young Clark Kent was long since wondering why he was so different from everyone else. He knew he was stronger, faster and more durable. He came home one day, terrified.

The kids had been playing baseball and lost the ball. It was behind a boulder and he saw it right through the boulder. Sarah explained to him how they had found him and he began, for the first time, to realize that he must not be from this planet.

Superman and Daily Planet staffers

In 1951, he was an estimated 25 years old. Sadly, his adoptive father died on April 10th, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day they found him. His adoptive mother had taken the blankets they found him in and knitted them into a costume.

Although he did not want to leave her, a cousin was coming to live with her and she implored him that he must use his great powers to help the world, not forever hide them.

Daily Planet

Clark decided he needed a job where he would have quick access to major news events and have an excuse to vanish. [We know the drill. Just go with it]. So he decided to seek employment as a reporter for the newspaper, the Daily Planet.

He donned a pair of glasses to disguise his identity [again, just go with it] and tried to get in to see Perry White, the Editor-In-Chief. He finally walked around the ledge of the building and into White’s office.

Hearing about a freak accident where a man was hanging from a dirigible a thousand feet high, he got White to promise him a job if he found a way to interview the man. Ace reporter Lois Lane and cub reporter Jimmy Olsen walked into the office and were sent on the assignment. Clark ducked into a storage closet (an event in almost every episode from then on) and appeared publicly in costume for the first time.

He caught the man just as he fell. He landed and vanished only to reappear as Clark and get the interview.

Back in White’s office, the rescued man referred to his rescuer as some sort of “Super Guy.” When Lois Lane asked Clark how he got across town before them and happened to show up right where the mysterious flying man had set the rescued man down, Clark replied that maybe he was secretly some sort of a Superman.

The First Season or Film Noir

After the origin, the show falls into a pattern. Most episodes present a mystery of some sort that Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane, sometimes even Perry White, get involved in. They are stumped by it. Then Clark Kent gets involved. He solves the mystery easily and then appears as Superman to arrest the criminals.

These mysteries are sometimes simplistic and sometimes quite clever. It is interesting to note that the show was listed in TV Guide as a mystery or detective drama, not as a children’s show or “sci fi” or fantasy. But it had a fantastic film noir quality, particularly in the first season.

Reeves' Superman in color

In one story, criminals abducted a little girl and made it look as if Superman had done it. This led to the mother irately proclaiming to him that he would not get away with it and she was going to call the police and have him arrested.

Of course, he soon solved the case and returned the girl. It was interesting in that it broke from the traditional storyline of almost all of the other episodes in which Superman was almost universally respected and trusted.

Another story involved the invention of a “mind machine” that could control and destroy people’s minds. I fully expected it to be turned on Superman only for him to be immune. Perhaps surprisingly, he stopped the criminals before they ever had a chance to turn it on him.

I suppose that left the audience to assume what they wished, either that it was pointless to have it used on him as he would obviously be immune to it or that they evaded having it used on him because it was established that he did not have superhuman “powers of the mind”.

Silver and Gold

Later, an escaping criminal stumbled into Clark Kent’s apartment and found the secret alcove in his closet in which his Superman costume hung.

(This was amusing because he was always wearing the costume beneath his suit. The secret closet was a dramatic license created originally for this episode though it appeared in later episodes.)

However, it led to two criminals figuring out Superman’s secret identity and trying to blackmail him. It backfired. He carried them both to an isolated cabin presumably in the arctic until he could figure out any better solution since he would not kill them.

He cautioned them to not try to escape as it would be suicide. Of course, as soon as he left, they tried to escape and fell to their deaths.

Flying Superman carries a child

The episode (“The Stolen Costume”) was interesting and disturbing. It implied that this cabin in the arctic was a place Superman was already maintaining. Although “Fortress” and “Solitude” were never mentioned, the implication was that Superman came here to have some privacy. It was just a cabin but still a toned down version of the concept.

The episode also emphasizes that this is a Superman who exists in a time when he is transitioning between the Golden Age (what he really was in the Golden Age, not the rewritten versions of the Golden Age in later eras) and the Silver Age.

He will not kill but he will transcend the law by taking people prisoner and holding them prisoner, probably for life if necessary, to protect his identity. Nor does he seem particularly depressed that they died indirectly because of him.

During the first two seasons, the show was a drama for both adults and children. After that, it became almost exclusively a children’s show and the situations and characterization of Superman were softened.

Super Opponents

This heading is a misnomer because there weren’t any. Superman occasionally ran into something like, say, a robot that could tear through a vault door and shrug off bullets. But its strength turned out to be utterly ineffectual against him and he easily dismantled it.

Given the constraints of the budget and effects, it is understandable that there was a lack of superhuman opponents.

Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen

In the context of its time though, this was coming out of an era when most comic heroes slapped their way through hordes of normal humans like a knife through butter. The concept of needing opponents who had a fighting chance was only beginning to develop.

[Then again, when one looks at many of the Action and Martial Arts movies of the last few decades to the present, one suspects the concept of the opponent who has the slightest chance hasn’t developed yet].

You Bet

“The Human Bomb” began with perhaps the best dialogue of any episode (the exchange between Butler and Conway quoted in this profile). It sets the premise of what Superman could do if he wished or what many people might do if they could have the powers of Superman.

Mr. Butler proceeds to make a bet that he can control Superman for thirty minutes, forcing him to stand by while Butler’s men commit a crime. He then straps a bomb to himself and holds Lois Lane hostage while ordering Superman to stay there.

Strangely, even though the police know where the crime will be committed, they can’t seem to just go there and stop two ordinary criminals from robbing the place. Only Superman can stop this.

As Butler holds Lois out on a ledge, Superman uses a tape recorded message to make it seem he is in a nearby room while he foils the crime. As Jimmy Olsen goes out on the ledge and fights the criminal, Superman returns just in time to catch the falling Jimmy while the police grab the criminal and pull him in.

While it was not always consistent, this episode was among those that established that while Superman’s flight speed was tremendous and he was certainly fast in combat, he was not fast enough in overall body movements to simply step in close and stop someone from pushing a button when his finger was already close to it.

CLark Kent at the Daily Planet

Superman then went on to take out all of the crime bosses in Metropolis in perhaps the most violent episode of the series with people shown being killed right and left though not by Superman, of course. Of course, there seemed to be a whole new crew of crime bosses by the next season.

Darn right I’m taking this personally

“Superman and the Mole Men” was a movie released in theaters before the television show started. It was shown in two parts as the last two episodes of the first season of the television show under the title, “The Unknown People”.

It had a theme in keeping with some of the best science fiction of the 1950s in terms of a social message. In this case, oil drilling six miles down breaks into a subterranean world. ”Aliens” emerge from a highly advanced culture. Though meaning no harm, they are immediately attacked. Superman tries to make people see that their own fears are the problem but he must battle a mob of humans to save the creatures.

As these beings are perceived by the public as aliens although they are really from within the Earth, it is implied that Superman is taking the negative reaction to them very personally. Confronting the leader of the mob for the last time and saving his life, Superman tells the man that not only will he not shake hands with him but that, as far as he is concerned, the man does not even deserve to live.

This is a Superman who seems to know that he is accepted because he looks human and is aware that he is really an alien even if he does not know from where. Alas that this was never addressed again in the show.

Second Season or Kryptonite is introduced

The second followed a similar pattern of crime dramas. But then a gangster called Happy King hired a scientist from Europe, Professor Meldini, to find a way to kill Superman. Meldini had examined and taken numerous samples from meteor fragments throughout the decades of his life.

He then lured Superman to a warehouse where there was a machinegun rigged to open fire on him. Thinking it a foolish attempt to kill him, Superman dismantled the gun and left but touched his shoulder and winced as it felt sore, nothing that had ever happened before.

Superman flies over the city

Meldini had rigged the machine gun with one bullet each fashioned from the various meteorite fragments he had collected throughout the years. He had also developed an extreme high-speed camera to secretly record as the bullets hit Superman.

He then sifted through the shells that Superman had left behind, finding that most had flattened against him but one bounced off while maintaining most of its shape. He knew this was the one that had hurt him, a metallic substance durable enough to impact Superman at high speed and still retain most of its shape.

He was then able to synthesize a small block of metal based on the substance. He theorized that, while harmless to humans, even being in the presence of such a quantity of the substance would weaken and soon kill Superman.

When Lois and Jimmy found the gangster’s hideout, they were locked into the basement. When Superman arrived and entered the basement to save them, the metal was removed from its lead container and thrown into the basement. Superman immediately found that he could not smash through the steel door of the room.

When Jimmy picked up the substance and stepped close to him, he passed out. There seemed no way to get rid of it but Superman regained consciousness and managed to point out the lead pipe under the sink. Lois and Jimmy pried it loose and put the substance inside, stomping the ends of the pipe until it was sealed in.

Regaining his powers, Superman threw the pipe into Metropolis Bay (this was a later “reveal” as, at the time, it was implied that he threw it into outer space or that it burned up in the atmosphere). King and Meldini, having thought Superman was already dead, had been driving away when they were distracted by the fiery pipe traveling through the sky.

They drove off a cliff, the secret of how to synthesize the substance dying with Meldini. Lois and Jimmy chose not to publish the part of the story involving the substance so other scientists would not know it was possible and search for the secret of synthesizing it.

Clark Kent and other Daily Planet employees

Above, I refer to “the Substance”. In the episode, the Professor kept referring to the substance as Kryptonite and theorizing that it was from the destroyed planet Krypton. This is a contradiction of the premise of the series. The rocket ship imploded shortly after landing and Superman never knew where he was from other than the basic idea that he was probably from another planet.

In the next episode, while preventing a nuclear plant disaster, Superman was irradiated and it seemed to tire him out or make him queasy. However, he soon realized that bombarding himself with lightning bolts in a storm would burn away the radiation.

During the time he was irradiated, he took refuge in a cabin in the mountains. While there was never any reference to a previous episode, one might surmise it was the same “Fortress of Solitude” hinted at in the previous season.

Panic in the Sky

This is often regarded as the best episode of the series. An asteroid is headed for the Earth and may result in the loss of all life on the planet. Superman flies into outer space to stop it, ramming it at full speed. But there are energies emitted that weaken him.

The explosive impact deflects the asteroid into an orbital path while Superman crashes back to Earth, weakened and amnesiac. Changing to Clark [one supposes he had his clothes in a pocket of the cape as he did in the comics or was wearing them under the Superman costume], he gets a ride back to town.

Finding his apartment by information he had in his wallet, he collapses. As Jimmy, Perry and Lois struggle to help him remember, scientists realize the orbit of the asteroid is starting to cause massive natural disasters that are still going to destroy the world.

Superman rescues airport mechanic newspaper title

Clark looks at the costume and contemplates if the powers could be in the clothing. If so, then anyone wearing it might be able to save the world. But when he later questions Jimmy, he realizes it is the man, not the uniform. When he accidentally shatters a piece of furniture in frustration, he finally accepts beyond doubt that he is this Superman that the world needs to save it.

Scientists give him an explosive device that he must trigger while on the asteroid. As it is now orbiting, it may not still be emitting the energies that weakened him but he cannot be sure. If it still is reducing his powers, the explosive device will kill him.

He lands on the asteroid and triggers it. The asteroid is destroyed and Superman returns to Earth, the explosion having helped him regain his memories.

Though definitely one of the best episodes, the continuity errors abound. Superman has a secret closet again, but now it has several Superman costumes in it as opposed to the one and only made from the blankets he was wrapped in when he landed on Earth.

The scientists he works with mention that the energies from the asteroid might be unknown forms of energy or might be kryptonite and that the asteroid might even be from Krypton. That would be the same Krypton that even Superman doesn’t know about because the rocket imploded right after it landed leaving no evidence so that even Superman is only vaguely aware that he is probably from another world.

While amnesiac, Clark is seen without his glasses by Jimmy, Lois and Perry and yet none of them recognize him as Superman despite the whole premise being that his glasses change how he looks as Clark. Jack Larson (Jimmy) wanted to bring this to the producers during filming but George Reeves basically warned him not to open a can of worms that he couldn’t close again.

Superman (George Reeves) and allies, in color

Some of these second season continuity errors, which continue through other seasons, are attributable to a change in producers and production staff after the first season. Kryptonite is mentioned in several more episodes and Superman’s being from Krypton is mentioned a few times.

But, given the origin and premise of this Superman, there is never any explanation given of how anybody including Superman himself knows anything about Krypton, even the name.

Third Season or In-Color

The previous seasons were 26 episodes each. Beginning with the third season, there were only 13 episodes per season.

This was also the first season that was filmed in color (though they were broadcast in black-and-white, the producers were looking years into the future and the marketability of reruns) and marked the show’s transition from a crime drama with Superman in it, presented in such a way as to have appeal to children and adults of that era, to becoming purely a children’s show.

Two criminals used a truth serum on Jimmy Olsen to get him to tell them any secrets he knew about Superman. He revealed his knowledge of “the Substance”, alias Kryptonite, the metallic material from a meteorite that took away Superman’s powers and eventually killed him if he got too close to it.

They had no idea where to get the material but Jimmy told Clark what happened. Clark pretended Superman had fished the substance (sealed in lead) out of the bay and given it to him.

He then lured the criminals into using the substance on Superman only for Superman to show that it had no effect and tell the criminals that this whole thing about a substance that could hurt him was all a wild rumor.

This way, the word would spread that it had all been a false rumor instead of word spreading that there was a substance in the bay somewhere that could kill Superman, which would result in criminals diving and dredging the bay until they found it.

This episode was a rarity in that it referred to a previous episode and had continuity with it.

Clark Kent interviews a scared child

Speaking of continuity, a recurring theme was Lois Lane’s suspicions that Clark Kent was Superman and her attempts to prove it- at least to herself. As obvious as it must be in this world where Superman is not fast enough to be Clark and Superman at the same time and does not command the technology to build robots, she is never able to figure it out and one must acquiesce to the conventions of the genre.

Other recurring themes are Superman’s and Clark’s friendship with Jimmy Olsen and Jimmy’s attempts to get a real story and become a real reporter. Both as Clark and Superman, he also develops a friendship with Police Inspector Bill Henderson.

One does wonder, however, why supposedly ace reporters like Clark and Lois who would be in demand by other news organizations continue to work for a blustering blowhard like Perry White who is constantly screaming at them like a drill sergeant.

Fourth Season or the Human Superman

There were a number of “human interest” stories and children’s stories that were good for their day. In another story, a mobster hired a scientist who found a way to take away Superman’s powers. This was done by luring him into a chamber that radiated a temperature of two-thousand degrees below zero Fahrenheit, about four times colder than outer space.

But when the mobster refused to pay the scientist, Professor Watts, he went to the Daily Planet and told them how Superman could reverse the effects. By risking stepping into a blast furnace and hoping his own low temperature would protect him until his powers were restored, he got them back and captured the criminals. This was also an interesting display of the “machine politics” and election fixing that we hear about from those days.

Watching Superman (George Reeves) on television

In another adventure, we find that back when Superman stopped the meteor from destroying the Earth, a fragment of the meteor struck an airplane and caused a forced landing. A man looking through a telescope as Superman struck the meteor saw him falling back to Earth, weakened. He also saw the plane get hit and forced down.

He sought out information about a crashed plane and found the plane with the meteorite fragment in it, rightly surmising that it was the substance that weakened Superman. Retrieving it, he waited a few years, not really knowing what to do with it. But then, wanting money, he went to a gangster, promising him a way to kill Superman.

By freak coincidence, there was a human being that, due to something about him, was affected by the substance. By further coincidence, he was a friend of Clark Kent’s and, by further coincidence still, the gangsters encountered him with the substance and assumed he was Superman when he collapsed in its presence.

Strangely, though he was unconscious in its presence, it also gave him the same powers as Superman. Of course, since he was unconscious, the durability was the only power that mattered. When the gangsters opened fire on the unconscious man and the bullets did nothing, they were sure they had Superman.

Luckily, with the help of Lois and Jimmy, Superman was able to destroy the fragment. His friend regained consciousness, minus the powers, once the substance was destroyed.

Season 5 or Super Technology

Superman then faced various technology including teleportation and the ability to become invisible. He met aliens from Mars and again survived an attack from Kryptonite thanks to Jimmy Olsen.

The fact is his being from the planet Krypton that had exploded was openly stated as if there was a Great Untold Story that the writers and production staff had neglected to realize that they had never told.

Another recurring theme was that magic and the supernatural are absolute bunk and they are debunked again and again although the show carefully avoided ever mentioning religion when doing this.

Season 6 or Metallo

He encountered a “fortress” made of a metal a scientist had invented that was impervious to even his strength and Heat Vision, perhaps foreshadowing a day that human science and technology would surpass even him.

Jor-El and Lara evacuate Kal-El

Superman’s parents, Jor-El and Lara.

A recurring character in the later seasons was the classic absent-minded scientist, Professor Pepperwinkle. He had previously come up with several larger than life inventions so it was no great surprise when he invented a robot who he called Mr. McTavish.

This robot was far more of a true artificial intelligence than the one from an earlier season. The only problem is that its power source was a meteorite fragment the professor had found. Needless to say, it was Kryptonite.

Things would still have been okay but criminals stole the emergency control device and used the robot. The Professor had to fight for the robot’s loyalty against the head criminal with the control device as it attacked a fallen Superman.

Luckily, the robot’s loyalty overrode even the control device and it stopped. The Professor was able to substitute a more conventional power source and do away with the Kryptonite.

A Golden Age version of Metallo had existed in the comics, a man in a suit of powered armor. Metallo as a robot powered by Kryptonite was introduced into the comics in 1956.

This episode of the show was the 1956-57 season so it is quite likely this episode borrowed from the comic or possibly vice versa.

A few more adventures followed but this essentially ended the “Adventures of Superman”.

And then what happened ?

For some reason, whenever I watch an old series or any series that never had any sort of real closure or finale episode, I find myself wondering what happened after the show ended. Some folks will inevitably say, “That’s stupid. Nothing happened. These are fictional characters.”

Yes, yes, of course they are but the very suspension of disbelief that makes us love fiction to begin with leads to such a step, even when applied to shows as unrealistic by the standards of decades later as this one. I sat and pondered what happened after the show ended.

Some of the ideas involved Superman turning out to be ageless so that he was still around in our time. But this would leave behind his supporting cast. Besides, the 1950s of the show were hardly the real 1950s. So the decades that followed should not be what those decades really were but decades that proceeded in the style of the show.

The Krypton Council assembled

The Council of Krypton.

Ironically, I then realized that the show itself answered that question. In the fourth season, there was an episode that was mostly a dream sequence in which Lois Lane dreamed of what might happen between her and Superman.

Some might sarcastically say that it was the 1950s “Adventures of Superman” one episode version of “Lois and Clark” or even “Smallville”. In the 1950s show, it was just another episode presented as “an imaginary story”. Had it been done in the style of much later shows, it would have been the series finale and not a dream sequence.

Essentially, once Metropolis had been cleaned out of crime lords and a “clean” police force could now keep it that way, Superman knew his constant presence was no longer necessary. He finally revealed his feelings to Lois and that he was also Clark.

This revelation seemed harder than just admitting he loved her since he had spent a decade hiding his other identity. They ended up being married as Superman and Lois rather than as Clark and Lois. She and Clark continued working together for a number of years before she and Superman had children.

Now we get into all sorts of possibilities as to whether those children had powers or at least some diluted powers as half-human, half-Kryptonians regardless of whether that world and name were known to them. We also get questions as to whether the powers would become more diluted with every generation or maybe not become diluted and lead to a future many generations ahead in which all humans have such powers and are inspired by the legend of Superman.

Ma and Pa Kent, driving

Ma and Pa Kent.

Whether Superman is still around or not is debatable but I think he becomes more significant as an inspiration and legend from the memory as that memory inspires the human race to reflect his ideals.


Video

This is a one-minute supercut of Superman in AoS crashing through a variety of walls to make a thunderous entrance. It is… oddly mesmerizing and Mr. Reeves sure seems to enjoy this stunt.


Description

Superman is a tall, physically fit man with hair combed straight back and clean-shaven. However, he is prone to “posing” with hands on hips. He usually had a genuine smile for friends and passersby though he can look deadly to criminals.

As Clark Kent, he is usually wearing a suit and tie, glasses and often a hat.


Personality

Superman in the first two seasons is no-nonsense. He does not kill but he has little sympathy for criminals except for genuinely repentant ones and those are rare.

In later seasons, while he still has those qualities, they are subtly softened in consideration for the shift to being almost exclusively a children’s show.

In the first two seasons, there is often little difference between Superman and Clark in terms of personality. Clark is hard-boiled and tough, only feigning any sort of cowardice if Lois or Jimmy are right there to see it.

In later seasons, Clark almost always comes across as a bit cowardly no matter who is there to see it as if he has become more adept at playing this role designed to convince people that he could not possibly be Superman.


Quotes

Lois Lane: “Why is it that Superman always vanishes when you appear and vice versa, Clark ?”
Clark Kent: “Oh, maybe he doesn’t like me, Lois.”

Lois Lane: “I’ll never understand why Superman picked you as a friend. He’s not afraid of anything and you’re afraid of everything.”
Clark Kent: “Maybe that’s the reason, Lois.”

Bobby (a young man having just seen Superman use his Heat Vision): “Gee, could you teach me to do that ?”
Superman: “Bobby, there’s something I want you to remember. No one, but no one, can do the things that Superman does – and that goes especially for flying.”

Clark Kent: “Sometimes, Lois, it’s not wise for people to depend on Superman to keep their own house in order.”

Lois Lane: “Clark, would you be best man ?”
Clark Kent: “Me ? You mean stand up beside Superman at the wedding ?”

Superman: “What’s the matter, darling ?”
Lois Lane: “Oh, it’s Clark. I keep thinking about him.”
Superman: “Well, as a matter of fact, so do I.”
Lois Lane: “No. I mean, what if, after we’re married, I discover its Clark I really love ?”
Superman: “Well, that could happen.”
Lois Lane: “Oh, what am I going to do ?”
Superman: “Lois, you’re never going to worry about that again. I’m going to tell you a secret and it’s going to have to remain our secret forever. Clark Kent and I are one and the same person.”

Jimmy Olsen (after Superman crashes through a wall): “You could have just walked through the door, you know ?”
Superman: “I know but this looks more spectacular.”


DC Universe History

This is rather obvious. We already know his DCU History or, I should say, Histories. It might be interesting to see him cross over with other versions of Superman. He would fit in nicely with the Silver Age Superman but there would be a serious realism clash with some other versions.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Superman

Dex: 05 Str: 13 Bod: 11 Motivation: Upholding the Good
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 06 Occupation: Reporter/ the original Super Hero
Inf: 07 Aur: 04 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 019 HP: 040

Powers:
Comprehend Languages*: 06, Dispersal*: 05, Extended Hearing: 07, Flight: 12, Heat Vision*: 05, Invulnerability*: 11, Jumping: 06, Microscopic Vision: 05, Omni-Power: 05, Sealed Systems*: 11, Skin Armor: 05, Split: 01, Super Breath: 04, Super Hearing*: 05, Superspeed: 08, Superspeed: 06, Systemic Antidote*: 11, Telescopic Vision: 11, X-Ray Vision: 13

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Dispersal is a Catastrophic Marginal power (FC -3), is Focused (FC -1) and has the Wallpass Limitation (FC -1)
  • Flight has the limitation that he cannot hover and must maintain a speed of at least 5 APs to stay aloft (FC -2)
  • Flight causes an audible whistling sound in atmosphere making it impossible to be stealthy (FC -1)
  • Heat Vision has no visible beams and is Indirect – it ignores intervening objects and materials to affect the desired target (FC +3)
  • Microscopic Vision is a Serious Marginal power (FC -2)
  • Omni-Power is Fatiguing to the Mind (FC -2) and is Focused (FC -1)
  • Split is a Catastrophic Marginal power (FC -3) and reduces Strength to 05, Body to 04, Flight to 05 and halves all other powers rounded down (FC -8)
  • The first listed Superspeed is a Catastrophically Marginal Power (FC -3)
  • The second listed Superspeed is only usable for non-combat tasks such as typing or cleaning a room (FC -2)

Skills:
Artist (Writer): 04, Charisma (Persuasion, Intimidation): 04, Detective (Clue Analysis)*: 05, Military Science (Cryptography)*: 05, Vehicles (Air, Land): 02

Advantages
Area Knowledge (Metropolis), Crendentials (Media), Lightning Reflexes, Omni-Connection, Popularity

Connections:
Daily Planet (High), Police Department (High)

Drawbacks:
Secret Identity, Fatal Vulnerability: Kryptonite (Rare/ 0 APs), Loss Vulnerability: Kryptonite (0 APs), Limelight


Design notes

A lot of guesses had to be made in assigning abilities to this version of Superman. The official writeup from the 3rd edition (which was, of course, for the John Byrne Superman of circa 1986) just didn’t work for a lot of things.

I generally decided to just go with his best showings on some things and the majority of his showings on some. For instance, his best Heat Vision feats were to ignite some papers or burn some wiring insulation or a stick or to heat a rock or a gun until it was too hot for a man to hold.

He used Microscopic Vision only once and that is debatable because it was stated to be his X-Ray Vision which he used to see a small piece of glass lodged in someone’s optic nerve. It was said that his X-Ray Vision was more powerful than any X-Ray machine of the time. However, I am extrapolating that it was also an ability to see small objects.

His best Super Breath feats were blowing out small fires.

As is always the case with story characters, Superman’s abilities are not consistent but some showings are more consistent than others. He occasionally seemed fast enough to do things within seconds that should have taken minutes (such as typing) but it was far more common for him to be only in the upper limits of human speed as far as overall body movements were concerned (as opposed to flight speed).

There was one episode and only one where he could run across a room too fast to be seen and holding a gun to Lois’s head was unable to stop him as he was so fast. But that contrasts with four dozen episodes where he was held at bay by men with guns threatening other people and he was not fast enough to move in and take the guns away.

Possibly his best quantifiable strength feat was lifting the Sphinx. In real life, it was carved directly from the mountain it rests upon and is part of the mountain. But in an episode of the show, it is presented as a statue separate from the mountain it rests upon.

There are vast differences of opinion on how much the Sphinx (not counting the entire mountain) weighs, ranging from 200 tons to sixteen thousand tons. The higher estimate seems to be based on the assumption that the entire volume is solid rock when much of the inner volume is hollow.

In one episode late in the series, Superman survived an almost ground zero atomic bomb and even (somehow) pushed back the explosion, apparently by flying around it really fast. But this is countered by episodes in which massive levels of radiation had a temporarily debilitating effect upon him.

Another episode involved him trying to break the time barrier under his own power by reaching or exceeding the speed of light in flight but he was unable to achieve light speed no matter how hard he tried. His best quantifiable flight speed feat was circling the world within a couple of hours.

There were also powers he used only once like Split or Dispersal. It was dangerous for him to use Split and he never used Dispersal again even if he theoretically could.

During the last season, a number of these one-shot powers came up. ”Split” was particularly funny as his powers were divided by two when he divided into two Supermen. It was stated that his strength, durability and everything was halved.

It was amusing because it came to, “So, he can normally lift the Sphinx with one arm effortlessly but half that strength is barely enough to bend steel bars? He normally is invulnerable to every weapon and condition native to Earth but halving that durability allows normal handgun bullets to wound him?”

It is very difficult to estimate his Hero Points because, the time travel example and stories where his powers were lost or weakened aside, he never has to put any effort into anything. He seems capable of real effort on those very rare occasions that it is needed.

His Wealth rating is an equivalent based on a 1950s cost of living and is not meant to be dollar for dollar the same amount of money as it would be in the early 21st century.

I did not include his Superspeed power in his Initiative since he has one version that is Marginal and another version that only applies outside of combat.

There were numerous subtle powers he displayed only once in addition to the ones already mentioned. He displayed enough Telepathy to read Lois’s mind. He did a “Levitation” trick that may have been a combination of Telekinesis and other powers and/ or skills, etc. A low level of Omni-Power is meant to cover them.

His Flight limitation that he cannot hover is largely a limitation of the special effects of the era but it worked nicely to add some distinctive flavor to this incarnation of the character. There are a number of situations where being able to hover or soar at a really slow speed would have been very helpful and yet he does not do it. One episode even goes as far as to state that he cannot travel slowly enough in flight to slowly travel around looking for something.

Someone once pointed out to me that although his flight did not look realistic, the premise of it was arguably the most realistic version of his flight. The way he would run and jump to get as much speed and altitude as he could and the way he would immediately accelerate to get some speed to help him stay aloft and stable in flight was, according to some, more true to real principles of flight than any later version of Superman.

At any rate, in the show, he usually takes off from a running start with a jump at the end of the run. When he is in a position where there is no room to run, he easily gains the minimum takeoff speed by jumping alone or, in some cases, stepping off a ledge and letting the fall give him the speed he needs for takeoff.

To this day, his takeoffs and landings may be the best of any live action incarnation because, using the springboard, it genuinely looks like he took off and flew without the instinctive feeling that it was special effects and/or CGI even though we know that, just off-camera, he lost his speed and landed.

I gave him a vulnerability to “Kryptonite”. He encounters it or something like it five times and is threatened with the possibility of encountering it one other time. But he demonstrates a vulnerability to other extremes of energy on a couple of other occasions and I lump them in with it for purposes of this incarnation of the character.

As I explain in the beginning of the History section, there is no explanation in the show of how anyone, even Superman himself, knows that Krypton ever existed though it starts being mentioned in the second season.

So the attributes and powers assigned here are generally based on his best measurable showings unless those best showings contradicted numerous other showings. Some things had to be “Best guess” scenarios.

By Doug Mertaugh

Source of Character: The Adventures of Superman syndicated television series that was filmed from 1951-1957.

Helper(s): space.com  for information about outer space and its temperatures, Adam Fuqua, Peter Piispanen, Roy Cowan, Unicorn Epiphany.

Writeup completed on the 9th of January, 2014.

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