Poll Position: Unsuperman

One of the more irritating customs of the comics genre is that nothing is permanent. If your favorite character or supporting cast member dies, just wait a few issues and he or she will be back, one way or another. They play the same trick with powers, taking them away and adding them over and over again, so if you follow a character long enough you end up in a constant fugue state of deja-vu, knowing you've seen that story arc before.

That remains true even for the Big Guy himself, Superman, who's been through the death-no powers-new powers-back to the old powers loop plenty of times, particularly in the recent past. But I got to wondering what it would be like in a fantasy fantasy world where Superman permanently had one of his major powers deleted:

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Thoughts after the jump!

  • Invulnerability: This is the big one, as we've discussed before. Now, Kal-El has lost his invulnerability plenty of times, but it's usually within the context of being under a red sun or somesuch, and he loses it along with all of his other abilities. But what would Superman be like if he was still super strong, still super fast, still super-everything, except he could be hurt like a regular human. Would his experience of pain and knowledge that he could be killed change how he acted, how he thought, how he related to his fellow Earthlings?
  • Flight: They're sort of playing with this in the current Superman arc, where he's walking his way across middle America to reconnect with the heartland. Or whatever. I smell a Nike sponsorship somewhere along the line. Anyway, he hasn't lost the ability to fly, he's just not using it voluntarily for a bit. I've often thought that his ability to be completely above human affairs, literally, has a huge impact on how he views us. Batman has no choice but to take to the streets. Spider-Man can swing through the cityscape but he has to be attached to it regardless. They're a piece of the city they patrol, a part of the lives of its citizens. But Superman sees everything from the vantage point of the gods, looking ever down on us like a child staring at ants. A permanent change in perspective might be interesting, although they'd have to alter his catch phrase. "Look, on the ground! It's a horse! No, it's a DeLorean! No, it's SUPERMAN!" Doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?
  • Super strength: What would it be like to be invulnerable, but the same strength as a regular person? I'd imagine you'd get pinned beneath a lot of rubble. But on the other hand, he'd still have super speed, so in essence he'd be like a Super Flash, without the molecular control.
  • Super speed: I think sometimes super-speed is the most egregious of the major Superman powers. It's the catalyst that makes all his other abilities over the edge from awesome to plain old unfair. Like in the last point, he's basically an invulnerable, super strong, vision-powered Flash. And Flash is already super! Take away the speed and at least you'd have someone who could be hit by the occasional bad guy, you know?
  • Heat vision: Heat vision never made sense to me. All of his other abilities (well, mostly) are super-enhanced versions of things anyone could do. We all have muscles, his are just super. We all can move, he just moves super fast. But how do you get from enhanced regular abilities to the power to shoot lasers from your eyeballs? Yes, yes, he's an alien, whatever -- it's one of those lame Golden Age "kitchen sink" abilities that just don't fit the character concept at all. The fact that we've all gotten so used to it that we barely notice it any more doesn't make it right. On the other hand, this is the most "second tier" of the abilities listed, and would not make much of a dent in the character overall.

For my money, I'd axe the super speed. We already have speedsters, why should Superman be the best or almost the best at that, too? Give the other guys something to brag about! I think it would help him to experience life at a mortal's pace, and would make the challenges he faces more interesting.

What about you, which one would you prefer to see taken away forever?

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