Summary: This is another in a youth series that parallels Superman’s super-strength with Jesus’ infinite power.
More Powerful than a Locomotive
One of the most remarkable of Superman’s powers and abilities is his sheer strength. The old radio serial of the 1940’s boasted that Superman “could change the course of mighty rivers,” and “bend steel in his bare hands.” One of Joe Shuster’s earliest sketches of Superman bore the caption, “a genius in intellect, a Hercules in strength, a nemesis to wrong-doers...” In fact, the very first issue of Action Comics spotlighted Superman’s Herculean strength, depicting the hero hoisting a car over his head on the front cover.
But, bending steel and bench-pressing Studebakers barely scratches the surface of Superman’s seemingly unlimited strength. According to Mark Wolverton, author of The Science of Superman, “Superman’s strength…is comprised of two elements: his natural muscular strength, greatly magnified by the Earth’s environment and his double-edged capacity to use and store vast amounts of energy derived from solar radiation and food; and his ability to manipulate gravity in a limited way.”#
In essence, as Superman’s body draws and stores energy from the Sun, that energy is converted and becomes available to be called upon to accomplish amazing feats. Though Superman’s strength has never been fully measured either in or comics or film, it has been unveiled in dramatic ways.
In Superman: The Movie, Christopher Reeve’s inaugural appearance as the Man of Steel begins with peril atop the Daily Planet building. Lois Lane hurriedly boards a helicopter scheduled to fly her to the airport for an all-important rendezvous with Air Force One—the President’s private plane. Unfortunately, neither Lois nor the helicopter ever make it off the roof—at least not in the direction they planned.
Just as the helicopter lifts off, the strong winds generated by the propeller blades cause an already-loose cable fastener to break free. The now loosed cable, pulled by the force of the helicopter blades, tangles itself around the base of the helicopter, sending it spinning out of control. Within seconds, the helicopter is suspended precariously from the edge of the Daily Planet roof, its pilot unconscious in his seat.
A crowd of concerned and frightened spectators forms on the street, countless stories below, as Lois tries to climb to safety. Her attempt to save herself, however, unwittingly places her in greater danger—leaving her dangling from the helicopter by her seatbelt. By this time police and emergency vehicles flood the streets. Just then, Clark Kent steps out of the building and notices a familiar hat on the sidewalk. Recognizing it as Lois’, he looks up and spots the damsel in distress.
Clark looks immediately for a place to make the change to Superman. Bypassing the phone booth, an homage to earlier Superman tradition, he spins quickly through a revolving door, changing clothes faster than the human eye can see, emerging as Superman, the Man of Steel.
Streaking through the air just as Lois loses her grip on the seatbelt, Superman catches the intrepid reporter in freefall. Carrying Lois with his right arm, his left hand is still free to catch the now plummeting helicopter. With just one hand, Superman gracefully snatches the careening copter and effortlessly lifts it back to the roof, resting it in the center of the helipad. And, of course, the crowd goes wild.
Later in the same film, Superman can be seen landing a yacht in the streets of Metropolis, lifting a bus loaded with children, and even raising portions of the Californian landscape in order to repair earthquake damage.
Not to be out done, however, Superman Returns, the newest installment of the Warner Brother’s film series, takes Superman’s strength to even greater levels. In the epic climax of the fifth Superman movie (although it really ought to be considered the third, following the original and then Richard Donner’s—not Richard Lester’s—cut of Superman II), Lex Luthor has stolen crystals from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and combined them with Kryptonite in order to create a new landmass that threatens to eradicate billions of innocent lives by destroying large portions of the world’s continents.
After his first failed attempt to confront Luther on his man-made, Kryptonite infested island, Superman soars into the sky. Dramatically rising above the clouds, Superman stops mid-air, basking in the brilliant rays of the Sun and baptizing every cell in his body with solar radiation (which, as we know, is the source of his strength). After soaking in enough sunlight to recharge his cellular batteries, Superman dives full-throttle toward the bottom of the sea, burning his laser-like heat vision across the base of the ill begotten island and severing it from the ocean floor beneath.
Suddenly, the island begins to rise up out of the water and you see Superman lifting the enormous city-sized landmass into the sky. Sweat drips from his face as Kryptonite crystals protrude all around him, yet he keeps pushing. Unrelentingly, Superman carries the several-thousand-ton rock into the upper atmosphere and with one last burst of strength, sends it slowly hurtling into the far reaches of space.