Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive… The Man of Steel fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way. Let’s celebrate his birthday
Alias: Clark Kent, Kal-El, The Last Son of Krypton, The Man of Steel, The Man of Tomorrow
First Appearance: Action Comics #1, 1938
From his blue uniform to his flowing red cape to the “S” shield on his chest, the Man of Steel is one of the most immediately recognizable and beloved DC Super Heroes of all time. Superman is the ultimate symbol of truth, justice, and hope. He is the world’s first Super Hero and a guiding light to all.
The tip of the spear in a revolution that would change the landscape of pop culture, Superman has spent the last eighty years redefining what it means to stand for truth, justice and the American way. The last survivor of the doomed planet Krypton, raised in the quiet heartland of Smallville, Kansas, Superman is as much a legend as he is a man: the gold standard of heroism, compassion and responsibility.
Though his powers make him god-like next to his human compatriots, Superman’s story is not one of greed or conquest. Instead, he strives to represent the inherent goodness of the human spirit, and the capacity of every living thing to do right by their neighbors.
Superman’s date of birth has fallen into several different brackets on the calendar over his colorfully clad career as a crime fighter, but only one has been officially celebrated by DC Comics in recent years.
Almost every four years the Georgian calendar, which is the internationally recognized timetable used across the planet, receives its necessary realignment in the form of a leap year.
To achieve this, an extra day is supplementary added to the month of February. That extra day is today, Feb. 29.
Feb. 29 was concretely ordained as Clark Kent’s birthday in a 1976 edition of DC Comics’ “Super Calendar.”
The calendar listed a number of historic occasions and established birthdays for numerous characters, including our very own Lois Lane, who celebrates her birthday on August 17.
The date was popularized in the story “For the Man Who has Everything” that appeared in the 1985 “Superman Annual no. 11.”
DC’s reasoning for establishing Superman’s birthday on leap day is somewhat laughable.
Their decision to establish this date as Superman’s date of birth was because it only appears almost every four years. In other words, it was a way to explain why Superman is still “young” after appearing in comics for generations.
Of course this is somewhat ridiculous because the aging process doesn’t decelerate just because your birthdate doesn’t always appear on a calendar.
In later years Superman’s power source, the sun, was used as a more acceptable explanation for the Man of Steel’s stunted aging process.
When Kal-El was just a baby on his home planet Krypton, his father, a scientist named Jor-El, learned the planet’s core was unstable and ultimately doomed. He attempted to warn his people and prompt them to evacuate, but the dogmatic Kryptonian government dismissed Jor-El’s warnings completely, forcing him and his family to confront the inevitability of Krypton’s destruction.
Mere moments before the planet was destroyed, Jor-El and his wife Lara managed to load their infant son into an escape pod and launch him into space, hoping that their final act would save him from the fate of their people.
Baby Kal-El’s pod traveled through the universe until it crash-landed on Earth. Or, more specifically, in a quiet field outside the tiny town of Smallville, Kansas, where he was discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent. As they examined the wreckage, they found the infant and, as they were without child, decided to take him in as their own. The Kents hid the wreckage of the escape pod and raised Kal-El as their own, giving him the human name Clark Kent, and doing their best to ensure that he would have a normal upbringing, and remain indistinguishable from any other child in Smallville.
For most of his early life, Clark believed he was human. It wasn’t until his Kryptonian abilities—including heat and x-ray vision, super-strength, super-speed, and flight—began manifesting in his teens that his adoptive family decided to tell him the truth. Clark then viewed a holographic message from his parents that had been stored within his escape pod. It explained everything about Clark’s lost homeworld and the people he’d never known.
After Martha Kent crafted a costume for him, Clark began fighting crime and injustice in all its forms. Lois Lane, a reporter for the Metropolis newspaper, the Daily Planet, and eventually Clark’s coworker, coined the name Superman in her exposé revealing his existence to the world. Since then, Superman has become one of the most trusted and well-recognized figures in the DC universe, the guardian of not just his city, but the planet at large.
Powers and abilities
Clark’s Kryptonian physiology gives him countless abilities and superpowers. He is virtually indestructible, able to fly and run at speeds comparable to the Flash. He has heat and x-ray vision, super-hearing, and freeze breath. He can lift an incalculable amount of weight, catch bullets out of the air and withstand most environmental extremes.
Over the years, Superman has been given other abilities, including a so-called solar flare that allowed him to emit a massive, omnidirectional burst of energy from his body. When used, the solar flare would sap the majority of his energy, causing him to become as vulnerable and powerless as a human until he was able to recharge.
In addition to his powers, Superman has limited access to Kryptonian technology through his Fortress of Solitude. A sanctuary located, for most of its history, at the North Pole, it houses a database of Kryptonian history and weapons, and even a portal to the Phantom Zone, an extra-dimensional Kryptonian prison.
Essential storylines & history
HE GOLDEN AGE (1938-1956)
Superman’s earliest years were a time of experimentation and development. His first appearance, in 1938’s ACTION COMICS#1, was just the beginning of his evolution. Because the earliest issues of ACTION COMICSactually pre-dated the rest of the DC Universe, the concept of continuity was fluid at best. Though Superman’s popularity prompted a tidal wave of new Superman stories across multiple mediums, from live-action movie serials to newspaper strips, most contributed new elements to Superman’s burgeoning mythology. His powers came in piecemeal through animated shorts and radio plays which granted him abilities like flight and super-speed.
In his earliest stories, Clark was not found on the Kent farm, but by the Kents on the side of the road. They originally took him to the local orphanage before returning to adopt him properly, rather than raising him as their own from the start. In this era, Clark’s move from Smallville to Metropolis was prompted by the death of his adoptive parents—a moment that inspired him to use his abilities for the good of humanity. He began working at the Daily Star as a reporter, which allowed him to chronicle his own exploits.
The earliest days of ACTION COMICS also pre-dated the DC Super-Villains as we know them today. Typically, Clark spent his early stories fighting against problems related to social unrest and World War II. It was two years after his debut before he encountered his eventual archnemesis, the mad scientist Lex Luthor (in 1940’s ACTION COMICS#23). It would be another many decades before Luthor became the recognizable power-hungry businessman of the modern day.
Other pieces of the Superman mythos slowly slotted into place over the years. The Daily Star was renamed the Daily Planet in 1940. The concept of Kryptonite, the Man of Steel’s most famous weakness, was formally introduced in The Adventures of Superman radio show in 1943 and made the jump to comics in 1949’s SUPERMAN#61. With each passing year, no matter the medium, another part of the legend was born.
THE SILVER AGE (1956-1970)
Superman’s legacy continued to form and re-form throughout the Silver Age of comics, several decades after the Man of Steel’s debut. By the 1960s, Superman enjoyed a more streamlined and solidified mythology in his various portrayals, including 1952’s live-action Adventures of Superman television show and his very own Broadway musical, 1966’s It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman.
In the comics of the 1960s, the Multiverse was properly formed for the first time, and the division between Earth-One and Earth-Two was drawn, with new characters like Barry Allen and Hal Jordan succeeding their Golden Age counterparts Jay Garrick and Alan Scott. For Superman, this split meant that the majority of Clark’s Golden Age history was now considered to have happened to his Earth-Two counterpart, Kal-L, while his 1960s stories concerned Earth-One’s Kal-El.
Throughout the Silver Age, “imaginary stories,” or stories that were ultimately revealed to be the products of dreams or other illusions became popular and allowed for the exploration of any number of what-if scenarios. The marriage of Superman and Lois Lane was one such story, repeated several times throughout the era. Simultaneously, in stories both imaginary and “real,” Clark faced off against a growing number of costumed super-villains like Brainiac, Metallo, Bizarro and the Parasite.
Another product of the Silver Age was the introduction of an expanded Superman family, including the creation of characters like Supergirl (Kal-El’s long-lost cousin from Krypton.) The extended Superman family even grew to include super-powered animals like Beppo the Super Monkey, Krypto the Superdog and Streaky the Super-Cat.
The addition of new Kryptonian Super Heroes forced some modification to Clark’s origin story and early years, which had originally positioned him as the Last Son of Krypton, the only survivor of his race, and the first Super Hero the world had ever seen. In this version of events, Clark made his public debut as Superboyrather than Superman, and had been active ever since.
MAN OF STEEL (1986)
Following 1985’s continuity-altering CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, Superman’s history and first active decade were reimagined in 1986’s MAN OF STEELlimited series.
In this version of his origin story, Clark was found by Jonathan and Martha Kent and immediately adopted. Clark’s powers began to manifest in the midst of a high school football game. Jonathan and Martha then revealed the pod in which they’d first found Clark and impressed upon him the need to use his newfound abilities for good rather than for personal gain.
After moving to Metropolis, Clark anonymously tried to save people with his abilities, but soon found this impossible. Dreading becoming publicly known as an alien, Clark turned to his parents for advice. Martha promptly crafted a costume for him and suggested he assume an alter ego to preserve his privacy. Upon seeing him in action, Lois Lane gave him the name “Superman” in a Daily Planet article.
The seeds of Clark’s rivalry with Lex Luthor were also planted in MAN OF STEEL, as Lex was reimagined as a smooth-talking billionaire and a duplicitous philanthropist. Lex offered Superman a job—an offer Superman summarily refused.
THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN/REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN (1992-1996)
Following many years of subterfuge, Superman revealed his secret identity to Lois Lane and proposed marriage in 1990’s SUPERMAN#50. Lois accepted and the two became engaged.
Their impending nuptials were interrupted just two years later by the appearance of a rampaging monster named Doomsday who defeated the Justice League International and marched towards Metropolis. At the end of a brutal battle, Superman was victorious in taking down Doomsday, but at a terrible cost. In 1993’s SUPERMAN#75, as the dust of his battle with Doomsday settled, Clark succumbed to his wounds and died in Lois’ arms.
The vacuum created by Superman’s death saw him succeeded by four “replacement” Supermen: Steel, the Last Son of Krypton (a.k.a. the alien Eradicator), Superboy (a.k.a. the Metropolis Kid), and the Cyborg Superman, all of whom claimed to be the “real” new Superman.
It was discovered that while the four new Supermen fought over the fate of Metropolis, Superman’s body had disappeared from his grave. The Eradicator had placed Clark’s body into a Kryptonian “regeneration matrix” which had allowed him to enter a death-like stasis and recover from his wounds. Clark eventually emerged, revived but severely depowered and wearing a black-and-silver approximation of his traditional costume. Superman was eventually repowered, and he stepped in to help stop Cyborg Superman, who’d been revealed as a super-villain named Hank Henshaw.
Following his resurrection, Clark finally married Lois Lane, paying off their proposal from years prior (SUPERMAN: THE WEDDING ALBUM, 1996).
SUPERMAN RED/SUPERMAN BLUE (1997-1998)
After he was cut off from the yellow sun radiation that gave him power, Superman developed “energy based” powers (in 1997’s SUPERMAN#122) which required a new electric-blue costume to contain and maintain. While wearing his new suit, Superman was able to physically transform himself into Clark Kent; but he was completely depowered after the shift, with all the vulnerabilities of a regular human.
Not long after, Cyborg Superman was able to catch Superman in a trap—a device he’d engineered with the help of the Super-Villain known as the Toyman—which caused Superman to split into two separate entities: a Blue Superman and a Red Superman (Superman Red/Superman Blue, 1998).
Both Supermen were autonomous and believed themselves to be the real Superman. They quickly grew apart from one another, to a point where did not want to merge back into one man. It wasn’t until a confrontation with the Millennium Giants (in 1998’s SUPERMAN#135) that the two joined into one regularly powered Superman once more. The electromagnetic abilities that had first necessitated the electric-blue costume were finally dissipated.
INFINITE CRISIS/SECRET ORIGIN (2005-2009)
In 2005, a new cosmic event again altered DC continuity. A follow-up to 1986’s CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, INFINITE CRISISestablished that the Silver Age Earth-Two Superman, Kal-L, had been broken free of the “paradise” pocket dimension he, Superboy-Prime, Earth-Two Lois Lane and Alexander Luthor had been trapped in since the earlier Crisis.
Alexander Luthor and Superboy-Prime planned to re-create the Multiverse, despite the disastrous effects it would have. The two Supermen teamed up and stop them, but the resulting battle cost both Kal-L and Earth-Two’s Lois their lives.
Immediately following the events of INFINITE CRISIS, Clark was depowered. He lived for a year as a civilian before his powers returned and he was able to suit up yet again (ONE YEAR LATER/SUPERMAN: UP, UP, AND AWAY!,2006). Not long after the return of his powers, he and Lois briefly adopted an orphaned Kryptonian boy whom they named Chris Kent (ACTION COMICS#844). It was later revealed that Chris was actually Lor-Zod, the son of the Kryptonian tyrant General Zod.
The realignment of the Multiverse prompted yet another reexamination of Superman’s early years in 2009’s SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN. This version of events re-established the idea that Clark Kent had, in fact, been Superboy during his adolescence, as well as a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
NEW KRYPTON (2008-2011)
During an encounter with Brainiac, the bottled Kryptonian city of Kandor was returned to its full size on Earth near the North Pole, where it became home to thousands of newly restored Kryptonians overnight (SUPERMAN: BRAINIAC, 2008).
The Kryptonians’ sudden arrival prompted an immediate conflict between the governments of Earth and the leaders of Kandor, Zor-El and Alura, Supergirl’s parents and Clark Kent’s aunt and uncle. Tensions mounted as Lex Luthor worked to convince U.S. Army General Sam Lane (Lois’ father) that the Kryptonians were not refugees, but in fact an invading army determined to wipe out humanity.
Things boiled over when Luthor and Lane’s combined efforts resulted in Zor-El’s death, sending Alura into a spiral of rage and grief. Kandor’s engineers then lifted the city off of Earth’s surface and into orbit. Alura renamed the civilization “New Krypton” and renounced humanity (SUPERMAN: NEW KRYPTON, 2009).
Eventually, Clark elected to leave Earth and live on New Krypton in the hope of fostering peace between the two governments. But a recently returned General Zod prompted even more political unrest, and ultimately New Krypton crumbled into war and chaos (SUPERMAN: WAR OF THE SUPERMEN,2010).
THE NEW 52 (2011-2016)
In 2011, the continuity of the DC universe was altered by the event known as Flashpoint. The resulting New 52 Universe’s Clark and Lois were no longer married.
After the deaths of Jonathan and Martha Kent, their son Clark sold their farm and moved to Metropolis to pursue a career in journalism. His earliest version of the Superman costume was a t-shirt, jeans and a cape (ACTION COMICS#1-8, 2011).
In 2015’s SUPERMAN#38, Clark manifested a new superpower: the ability to generate solar flares of energy which blast out from his body in all directions. Shortly after this new power developed, Lois Lane took to the internet and revealed that Clark Kent was, in fact, Superman (SUPERMAN #41,2015). Simultaneously, it was revealed that Clark was losing control over his solar flare ability. The confluence of events prompted Clark to hang up his costume and begin acting as a street-level civilian hero around the country.
Meanwhile, through the events of 2015’s CONVERGENCE, the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois Lane were reintroduced to continuity, a bit older, still married, and with a young son named Jon. The three existed in secret. That secrecy, however, came to an end when it was revealed the new Clark’s unstable condition was fatal. In 2016’s THE FINAL DAYS OF SUPERMAN, post-FlashpointSuperman was killed and pre-Flashpoint Superman, along with Lois and Jon, again stepped into the spotlight.
• Justice Society of America
• Justice League of America
• Legion of Super-Heroes
Appearances in other media
Main Character Appearances
- The Adventures of Superman
Main Character Appearances
- Adventures of Superman
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
- Superman & Lois
- The New Adventures of Superman
- The Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure
- The Batman-Superman Hour
- Super Friends
- Superman: The Animated Series
- Justice League
- Justice League Unlimited
- Legion of Super-Heroes
- Justice League Action
Guest Character Appearances
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Batman Beyond
- Krypto the Superdog
- The Batman
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold
- Static Shock
- Young Justice
Main Character Appearances
- Superman (1948)
- Atom Man vs. Superman
- Superman and the Mole Men
- Superman (1978)
- Superman II
- Superman III
- Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
- Superman Returns
- Man of Steel
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
- Justice League
- Superman (Fleischer Studios shorts)
- Superman: Brainiac Attacks
- Superman: Doomsday
- Justice League: New Frontier
- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
- Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
- All-Star Superman
- Justice League: Doom
- Superman vs. The Elite
- Superman: Unbound
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
- Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox
- Justice League: War
- Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
- Justice League: Gods and Monsters
- Justice League vs. Teen Titans
- Justice League Dark
Guest Character Appearances
- The LEGO Movie
- The LEGO Batman Movie
- Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
- Superman (Atari 2600)
- Superman III
- Superman: The Game
- Superman (NES)
- Superman the Arcade Game
- Superman: The Man of Steel
- Superman (Sega Genesis)
- The Death and Return of Superman
- Justice League Task Force
- Superman 64
- Superman (Gameboy)
- Justice League: Injustice for All
- Superman: Shadow of Apokolips
- Superman: The Man of Steel (XBox)
- Superman: Countdown to Apokolips
- Justice League Chronicles
- Justice League Heroes
- Superman Returns
- Mortal Kombat vs. The DC Universe
- DC Universe Online
- LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
- Injustice: Gods Among Us
- Injustice 2
- The LEGO Movie Video Game
- LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
- LEGO Dimensions