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The Science Behind Superman

Steel exterior, but soft insideWhile Marvel has taken the lead in the superhero film industry, DC is now preparing a major effort to catch up. Last month, IGN posted a summary of the various cinematic projects in the pipeline from DC and their studio collaborators. It's safe to say that the coming films include a lot of exciting ideas: Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Justice League, and more. Curiously enough, it seems like 2013 film Man Of Steel sparked all the ideas.

Despite the fact that Superman may represent the biggest name in comics lore, the character itself lost some luster before the 2013 film. Spider-Man, Iron Man, and (on the DC side) Batman all had more recent adaptations that made them relatable, vulnerable, and human. Such characters make for compelling narratives and helped to drive some truly great modern films, whereas many - particularly younger generations - view Superman as somewhat stiff and, if anything, too unrealistic.

Despite these issues, however, the Superman character has been everywhere in the aftermath of Man Of Steel.

Not only was a sequel announced almost immediately, but Superman became the de facto foundation of a budding super-franchise of DC comic films. Capitalizing on the newfound presence of the character in 21st century culture, gaming companies began to reboot Superman as well. Gaming site InterCasino is home to a popular slot machine with a Superman theme called "Superman: Last Son Of Krypton." In the game, you embrace the concept of flying through meteors and defeating Lex Luthor as a means of spicing up the typical slot machine concept. It's not quite an action/adventure game, but it's certainly a fresh take on casino gaming, using characters and concepts from Superman's narrative. Additionally, Apple's iOS app store has a pretty beautiful little game (called Man Of Steel, like the film) designed by Warner Bros. as a way to let fans delve into a 3D environment that resembles the film.

As both games are in extremely popular markets - the online casino industry and mobile gaming market - the use of the character to attract consumers has served as further evidence that Superman is back at the forefront of the hero conversation.

The actual issues many young superhero fans have with Superman persist, however, and weren't exactly solved in the film. In comparison to other popular heroes, Superman remains too distant, rigid, and altogether invincible. Man Of Steel did very little to alter this perception. So while the success of the film seems to have succeeded in announcing Superman to modern cinema and pop culture, the character (at least in the eyes of many) has some work to do before he's as beloved as the likes of Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man or Christian Bale's Batman. Fortunately, we may be able to help.

If the occasional disconnect between fans and Superman is that he's just too strong and inhuman, then we found a great argument as to why he might be more relatable than you think! So, in support of Superman following the announcement of a wave of additional Man Of Steel-based films, here are five scientific reasons to view the character as more realistic and human, with a lil' help from Cracked.

1. His Environment Gives Him Strength

Cracked looked into Superman's back story, and it turns out it's essentially a formula for heroism. Based on actual statistics behind winners of the Carnegie Medal (a real world heroism trophy of sorts), the article found that a huge portion of actual "heroes" share Clark Kent's background of having migrated from a small town to a big city.

2. The Outfit Helps

There's a reason that athletes, primarily in basketball and American football, wear tights and tight-fitting leg and arm sleeves. Science says that compression clothing improves speed and stamina. So, yes, Superman's outfit helps - it's not just to differentiate him from the mortal masses.

3. The Stance Is Naturally Defensive

Apparently, Superman's signature stance - chest puffed out, hands on hips, etc. - is a natural means of defense, rather than a silly character trait. Cracked's article noted a scientific study that proved people in a similar stance could handle more pressure or pain than those in other positions.

4. His Loneliness Defines Him

Superman is weird. He's a little bit of a loner, and yet he has a keen eye for human feelings and empathy. Well, apparently the two go hand in hand. Studies show that loneliness improves people's capacity for empathy (as well as memory, which also works with Superman).

5. Wide Jaw = Good Teamwork

In perhaps the strangest observation of all, the Cracked article pointed out that there are scientific indications that people with wide jaws are "better team players." A wide jaw or prominent chin can be seen as a sign of aggression or abrasiveness in some occasions. But in settings that require people to work together, those with wide jaws thrive.

Now, none of this quite solves the issue of Superman having basically every power and strength one could imagine. However, if you think of a "super" version of each of these traits, it all adds up to, well, Superman. Perhaps he's more human than we give him credit for. And even if he's not, we have a hunch the growing DC film empire will still win over a great deal of fans.


John the Brave
2014-11-14 23:24:10

DC Comics have an uphill struggle against Marvel, but they may pull it off if they provide a different angle than Marvel offer, as I think the public may be hitting Marvel-fatigue soon. DC could step in and clean up if they are clever.

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