Superman is arguably the most popular comic book superhero ever. He is particularly famous for his values of kindness and justice and for his powers that make him virtually invincible.
Despite this, we know that Kal-El has weaknesses. Some, like Kryptonite or red sunbeams, are well known to us. But are there other, more intimate vulnerabilities hidden beneath his red cloak?
What We Have Always Known
Although considered nearly impossible to defeat, Superman’s enemies have found ways to weaken him. In addition to the popular Kryptonite, the radioactive crystals from his mother planet, he is also vulnerable to magic since these powers were rare on Krypton.
Furthermore, just as yellow sun rays revitalize his powers, he is weakened by red sun rays.
These are Kal-El’s best known and most obvious weaknesses, ones that his enemies use to gain an advantage in battle:
- Red Sun Radiation
- Psionic Attacks
- High-Pitched Frequencies
A Boy Alone in The Universe
While we look at Superman with admiration for his fortitude, we are actually looking at a character who lives in anguish.
To begin with, Kal-El suffers because he is the last of his race. His family and planet, Krypton, have been destroyed, giving rise to a life of constant isolation and alienation.
Although he has been raised with care and responsibility by his adoptive parents, Kal-El grows up feeling a little different from the other kids. This distinction becomes more noticeable as he enters adolescence.
By this time, his Kryptonian body had accumulated enough solar energy for him to begin to feel his superhuman abilities taking shape.
The fact that Kal-El is an orphan from Krypton makes it difficult for him to understand these changes that go through his body as he grows up. Of course, this is normal for any teenager, but in this case, the changes are so profound that they leave him increasingly isolated from the Earth community.
For many years, Kal-El has struggled to hide his true origins and to try to fit in. And as he took on his earthly identity of Clark Kent, he learned to suffer emotionally as a human.
Yet, thanks to these emotional battles he fought as Kent, he became persevering, humble, and kind. Perhaps Superman would feel invincible enough to fall into apathy and not let his bond with humanity control him if this were not so.
The Kryptonite’s Symbolism
Kryptonite is described as the radioactive fragments of Superman’s original planet. It is considered his Achilles’ heel, and its cultural popularity is so great that today it has become a synonym for weakness in the collective consciousness of our modern society.
However, it is not Kryptonite itself that weakens Superman, but what the fragments represent.
The mineral represents Kal-El’s origin and how his planet was destroyed. The memories of his broken home and lost childhood prevail and bring back the fear that dominates his life. The Kryptonite shows that behind an invincible man lies a weakened being.
The Hero That Doesn’t Sleep
It’s true that later on, Kal-El finally assumes his true identity as a superhero, but this doesn’t end his internal struggle. On the contrary, it actually added to his battles with himself.
Superman lives listening to the voices of humans in need of help and is forced to live with the burden of not saving everyone constantly. In addition, he sometimes ends up making mistakes, which leads to innocent people dying because of his actions.
A part of society is outraged when he chooses to save someone instead of someone else. As a result, he begins to be hated by those who think he has no right to decide who lives and dies.
Superman’s main weakness is just that. The feeling that he is forced to live with these pressures day after day, with no hope of changing, just because he was born a superhero.