Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to…shoot miniaturized clones out of his fingers?! Yeah, we doubt we’ll be seeing that one on Superman & Lois anytime soon. With how capable Kal-El is, it’s hard to imagine why he’d need additional superpowers beyond the ones everyone knows, but throughout the years he’s picked up plenty of far less practical powers that he’s used once or twice and then seemingly forgot all about…and us along with him. So, in tribute to the big guy and to his brand-new comic book creative team, we thought it would be fun to look back at seven superpowers we’ve all forgotten he has. After all, it’s possible one might come in handy one day.
Doubtful, but possible!
As Seen In: Action Comics #55 and various Golden Age stories
Thanks to a total mastery of all his muscles, Superman can change the shape of his face and in some cases, his entire body. In early adventures, he used it to disguise himself as disgraced sports players and as an alien creature. All of which begs a pretty obvious question: Why on earth would he rely on a pair of nondescript glasses to hide his identity when he could just change his face?
Why We Assume He Stopped Using It: If you’re already a Superman, why would you ever want to become someone else?
As Seen In: 1980's Superman II
Superman’s kisses have the ability to erase specific parts of another person’s memory. At the end of the Man of Steel’s first movie sequel, Clark (as played by the legendary Christopher Reeve) uses this power to make Lois forget the entire movie, which is a shame because it's a pretty good film. We’re not sure what the correlation is between kissing and memory, but we can’t question the results.
Why We Assume He Stopped Using It: Who says he stopped? It’s called amnesia for a reason.
Secret Identity Vision
As Seen In: 1978’s Superman #330
Superman’s Kryptonian physiology combined with the glass of his spectacles has the power to hypnotize people into thinking Clark Kent looks nothing like Superman. It’s basically “secret identity vision.”
Why We Assume He Stopped Using It: Magic glasses wasn’t an explanation anybody was asking for, so everyone collectively agreed to never mention this story again. In fact, a multiverse glossary in the back of the Crisis on Infinite Earths Absolute Edition places this story on an alternate Earth.
As Seen In: 1958’s Superman #125
After losing all of his other powers when he comes in contact with a bizarre alien ship, Superman finds he can both shoot rainbow beams out of his fingers and produce a miniature version of himself out of the palm of his hand. The rainbow beams can only do so much, so poor Kal-El has to rely on his…finger clone…to do most of the heavy lifting.
Why We Assume He Stopped Using It: He eventually got his regular powers back, and would YOU continue using rainbow hands and a superpowered mini-me when you could use heat vision instead?
Great Wall of China Vision
As Seen In: 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
After the Great Wall of China is damaged by Nuclear Man, Superman looks at the debris and within seconds the wall has been rebuilt. He doesn’t use his super speed to manually rebuild the Wall. No sir. He just gazes at it and it's automatically repaired.
Why We Assume He Stopped Using It: It’s a very specific superpower for a very specific situation. The Great Wall of China isn’t exactly a part of Superman’s daily patrol.
As Seen In: 1947’s Superman #45
Superman has telepathic abilities he can use to enter another person’s mind and take control of them.
Why We Assume He Stopped Using It: Mind control is more super-villain than it is Superman. Also, see our reason he stopped using his shapeshifting face.
As Seen In: Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #20 and various other Silver Age tales.
Superman has the power to time travel at will—no cosmic treadmill or DeLorean required. This wasn’t something he only used for life and death situations either. In Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #20 he decides to see what it's like living in a timeline where he's a disc jockey. When this gets tiresome, he returns to his old timeline.
Why We Assume He Stopped Using It: Remember the scene in Superman: The Movie when Jor-El said it was forbidden to interfere with human history? We’d like to think Superman finally followed that advice, but chances are he probably saw all the grief people gave Barry Allen for timeline-tweaking and decided to cool off.
Honorable Mention: Caller ID
This is more than a forgotten power—it’s a useless power. During the Silver Age, Superman used telepathic powers (don’t even get us started) to identify a caller from the other end of a phoneline. Now that all cell phones have built-in caller ID, this power is more useless than a slingshot in a battle against Darkseid.
Superman #29, the debut issue by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Phil Hester, is now available in shops and as a digital comic book.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.