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Superman's Weapons and Gadgets


In a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way that has spanned sixty-plus years, Superman has designed, invented, and utilized his fair share of super-paraphernalia. While the Superman mythos of the twenty-first century allows for much more high-tech gadgetry than initially accompanied Superman's early career, all told there is a super-list of apparatus that accessorizes the Man of Steel.

Superman's secret hideout, the Fortress of Solitude (described in detail in Action Comics #241 [1958] and given larger-than-life status in the Superman live-action films of the late 1970s and early 1980s), originally housed one of the most well-stocked superweapons chambers in comic-book history. This might seem like a dichotomy to some, for in his battle for truth, justice, and the American way, the hero's violence is never cruel, malicious, or initiated by him. Noted a Time magazine cover story on Superman when the hero turned fifty, His greatest powers are exerted to deflect violence, by stepping in front of bullets, say, or moving huge objects out of harm's way. More times than not, Superman's powers of superspeed, superstrength, flight, and virtual invulnerability overrule the need for the Man of Steel to defend himself with anything other than his inborn, alien powers. Why resort to weaponry when you can bend steel with your bare hands? But even America's most beloved hero sometimes needs an extra line of defense; in these situations, items like the Warsuit—an ultra-high-tech suit of armor housed in the new Fortress—come in handy.

Once inside the Warsuit, Superman can cocoon himself in the chest cavity and, linked telepathically to a techno-brain, manipulate the armor shell as if it is an extension of his own body. The suit also acts as a protection device, sheltering Superman from the effects of kryptonite, radiation, and other harmful substances. Equipped with super-gadgets like environmental scanners, fusion reactor pads, and ion pulse cannon gauntlets, supervillains don't stand a chance against the Man of Steel when he assumes his protective shell. The Warsuit is one of the few weapons stored safely in the hero's hideout, replacing such Golden Age (1938–1954) and Silver Age (1956–1969) staples as the Lex Luthor–created fourth dimensional ray machine; the duplicator ray that Luthor used to create the faux-Superman named Bizarro; the enlarging ray used by Kandorian scientist Zak-Kul; and the portable shrinking ray that Superman once confiscated from supervillain Brainiac.

Within the Fortress' impenetrable walls lies other noteworthy super-apparatus. Once upon a time, dummies and robots, in the likeness of both Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent, awaited their super-orders. Called upon to carry out various super-tasks, the robots showed human emotion and possessed amazing powers. Summoned by Superman's X-ray vision or by voice command, the remote-controlled machines allowed Superman to experiment vicariously with kryptonite and participate in pitched battle with numerous supervillains. Today's Fortress houses only Ned, the sole remaining Superman robot, whose number one task is to care for Superman's dog, Krypto, who also calls the secret sanctuary home. Since the 1990s Superman has also sometimes been seen floating amidst a vast 360-degree complex of video screens feeding him information about wrongs in need of righting worldwide.

As champion of the oppressed, the Man of Tomorrow has wielded some far-fetched tools and equipment. He has used a super-blowtorch to burn off dirt from his invulnerable costume; snapped pictures with his krypto-raygun, a combination camera/projector in the shape of a raygun straight out of Flash Gordon; whipped out his kryptonite detector (that's K-detector to friends and family) to locate these powerful planetary fragments; and applied his selective amnesia-inducer to erase the knowledge that Clark Kent is really Superman from the minds of Batman and Robin. In the wake of Superman's revamping in The Man of Steel comic book (1986), most of this weaponry no longer exists. Instead, Superman dons the Mother Box, an ultra-advanced armband computer (of a type originally seen in Jack Kirby's Fourth World comics) that summons dimension-spanning Boom Tubes, heals injuries, and outfits Superman's costume for battle. He overlays his aquanaut suit for deep-sea exploration. He bedecks himself in a device known as a Phantom Zone Projector, created by John Henry Irons (a.k.a. the superhero Steel) to allow Superman to see Krypton's past. For otherworldly adventures, Superman uses his super-oxygen mask, a deep-space breathing apparatus useful in non-oxygenated atmospheres.

Whether calling upon these or an array of his backup gadgets, Superman frequently consults the expertise of S.T.A.R. Labs, Metropolis' innovative super-laboratory, and has sought advice from super-inventors like Irons and Professor Emil Hamilton. Besides providing super-gizmos, these resources allow the hero a safety net when the villainous grow too gigantic for even the Man of Steel to battle alone. —GM

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